Teaching Art or teaching to work like an artist?

Art and Design is fun and engaging by its very nature.

However, keeping it that way while delivering your curriculum can be difficult as today's curriculums require quality idea generation.

In middle school, students tend to jump from concept to product in one go. As most teachers would attest – even in Art – engaging students in the process of idea development can be a major challenge!

When you implement a fine balance between teaching Art and teaching to work like an artist, you will notice a remarkable improvement. The latter will also reward your students with a great life skill: learning to work independently.

We’ve found an affordable way to implement this balance without changing too much of what you are already doing. It’s been yielding great results in more than 100 schools so far.

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Usually, art teachers refer our website to design, technology, media arts or well-being teachers, as the method we implement can be utilised by other departments as well. If we are already talking with an art teacher in your school, let us know here and we will send you material specific to your subject.

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I have new teachers starting this semester. How can I train them quickly?

Each teacher is entitled to their own free digital copy and we provide free training via online videos. Contact us for the appropriate links. Let us also know every time a teacher changes and we will train them.

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As the pandemic disrupts middle and high-schools, one of the most affected subjects is the Arts. Being a practical subject, it can be problematic to have students engage on a task remotely – yet alone stay on it.

The Visual Diary Guide as a digital workbook enables Grade 7 to 10 students – with teacher’s support – to run their own projects using materials available at home, eliminating the bulk of the worksheets. In addition, students have access to fun, standalone activities which are all about their home life.

Teachers have free access to project samples modified for Remote Learning as well as to Teacher Cards to help allocate activities to students.

What do we do?

We start with journaling skills then move onto creativity skills...

For example, annotation is the "canary in the coalmine" and requires close attention.

Annotation is one of the basic journaling skills but great annotations are the culmination of many fundamental skills: analysis, independent thinking, literacy, creativity and many more… Hence when students struggle with annotation, we need to look deeper. Can they observe? Do they know how to research? Do they annotate for future themselves or just for the teacher?

Fine journaling skills are also a great indicator of engagement, student agency, retention rates and the ability to produce interesting work.

Once we focus on these underlying skills, issues such as the “annotation problem” is resolved organically. Students also become more creative along the way. The key is to start as early as 7th Grade.

The first part of the Visual Diary Guide (Chapters 2 to 4) contains a lot of short activities to improve journaling skills. They are generic and devoid of project context so that the focus can be fully on fundamental skills. They can be run by any subject teacher for 5 minutes a month.

Most teachers employ these activities as starters, fill-in activities for early finishers, etc. The more teachers who participate, the faster the skills development. We have created Teacher Cards for many subject teachers to make it even easier to use. See below for Teacher Cards.

Most activities are also perfect for homework and remote learning. Hence, it is not a coincidence a couple of schools have reported a “never heard of” 100% homework completion rate!

The second part of the Visual Diary Guide (Chapters 5 to 7) contains a project framework to help you tweak your existing projects.

A few tweaks to the process – and the projects – makes it much easier to mentor students and manage their engagement. Students use instructions from the Guide to free up the teacher for personalized mentoring. We’ve spoken to well over 1,000 teachers and personalized mentoring is seen as difficult to apply without this type of support.

To tackle this we propose to re-arrange project steps a little in a way that:

  • removes creativity killers
  • convinces students to gradually improve their work through iterations
  • allows students to own the process and the project
  • allows teachers to scaffold and manage the process smoothly

To visual this, let’s consider the following typical project flow (start of the project is on the left):

When we tweak this flow a little, it makes a huge difference! Please click on “Send me more information” button below to receive our proposal…

When we focus on all of those skills, they form a potent combination with students independently practicing in their Visual Journals and applying those skills in class projects. See the Road Map section below.

“After 5 years of use across our year 7 to 10 cohorts, including Arts and Design, we are seeing some remarkable results with students drawing and annotating really well and owning their own creative process. It is now part of our Unit designs and I realize that we are really teaching our students to work like an artist. Yet, in a large team like ours where every teacher has their own style, the guides also provide the perfect flexibility. It is very rewarding and sets students up beautifully for year 11. Clearly, middle years students can learn to work independently as early as year 7.”
Kellie Muller – Visual Arts Specialist Leader

“The Visual Diary Guide has been a GODSEND during Remote Learning. I completed a series of activities with my junior art classes and changed some of them, e.g. Photographing Food into graded assessment tasks.

The tasks contained in the VDG were achievable and accessible to all students. They were also easy to modify for differentiated learning.” 
Sandra Greed – Art Teacher

“We have really been enjoying using the Visual Diary Guides. One of my own children is in the class and I am able to see it as it’s working. It has been an excellent learning tool.” 
Lizette Richards – Classroom Teacher

“Hilary, your Visual Diary Guide has been such a huge help and very popular with my students. It’s been soooo very helpful during the distance learning as I encouraged the students to complete the home tasks! There are a variety of successes and the opportunity was too great to miss. Thanks for all your help. I will advise for this to be added to the student book list.” 
Linda Bryan – Head of Art Department

Feedback after 2 years of use

“This year, I had a chance to compare results between two groups of students: one with the guides and one without. There was a stark difference. The ones with the guides were more driven to investigate on their own, confidently approached tasks, produced individualized work and developed their own aesthetic. Students were engaged and even excited to do the homework! In summary, they had the skills needed to produce good work. All of this created a positive air around the subject. In contrast, the other group required a lot more attention, developed competitive tendencies (as their work became versions of the same idea) with some students switching off. Significantly, since using the guides, retention has increased.” 
Stacey Coralde – Head of Art Department

Feedback after 1 year of use

“It took a little to get used to, but after using the guides for a year, I see it really helps students to observe. It provides a positive air around the art subjects, which is wonderful to see.” 
Stacey Coralde – Head of Art Department

“Visual Diary Guide is working fabulously well in Home Economics, Dance, Drama, Indonesian and Personal Development classes. The teachers I asked to join me in this endeavor have taken it and rolled with it. It is amazing.” 
Madeline Lynam – Middle Schooling Coordinator

“As an experienced teacher, at first, I was not sure how to integrate this into my program. I started with the build-up activities and followed the initial advice from the training: keep drafts small & rough, and get students working fast! I used music to stop the students when the recommended activity time elapsed. Working fast is really successful, keeps them motivated and brings out their creativity (and they’ve learnt to listen to my voice). Now that they can work fast, it is possible for me to shift to a student-led approach, which the project framework in the guides scaffolds. I quite like it.” 
Kate Langridge – Art teacher

“I have to say the Year 10 class that has had the books for two years now do indeed know how to annotate and explore media and ideas before embarking on projects. The guides have indeed fulfilled the purpose I acquired them for.” 
Catherine Grimwood – Visual Arts Teacher

“The books have been amazing and I am getting far more out of the students in terms of filling their visual diaries than I did before! It is totally awesome!” 
Laura Morley – Head of Art Department

“There is a lot happening in each book and the layout helps to create a sense of fast-paced thinking, then deeper thought, followed by connection of ideas, resolution then reflection. I really like the way that the language and focus changes with each year level, particularly with the emphasis on creativity being shifted from a personal expression standpoint to being presented as an advantageous trait in future careers. This addresses the issue of students frequently underappreciating the value of creativity and failing to realize the vast number of employment opportunities in creative industries. Top stuff!”
Michael Kapadia – Head of Art and Technology Departments

See more here…

What do you get?

You get lots of free teacher resources while students get digital access to the Visual Diary Guide for a duration of your choosing.

The teacher resources include Teacher Cards, Activity Selectors, a Project Library and more...

Teacher Cards are a single-page compilation of Visual Diary Guide activities suitable for different subject teachers. The journaling activities are grouped in areas such as:

  • Annotation skills
  • Drawing skills
  • Visual Research
  • Analysis

The creativity activities are grouped in areas such as:

  • Observing skills
  • Visual Thinking skills
  • Idea Generation skills
  • Iteration
  • Working fast

I am a student

You’ll be doing a lot of fun activities that push you to think quickly and develop ideas. You’ll get an opportunity to play a bit, maybe, even in the middle of a Maths class!

I am a parent

You’ll see the extent of the important work that goes on in your child’s art classes. Also, for the price of a loaf of bread, you’ll find activities in your child’s school bag that even you may want to do yourself (that’s what parents are telling us!).

I am a Visual Arts teacher

You’ll quickly notice your students are engaging more, filling their visual diaries with great annotations and working faster. Gradually, you’ll notice that they can work independently, that they like your subject more and their work becomes much more interesting.

I am a non-Visual Arts teacher

Doing activities from your subject’s perspective will give students a deeper experience and understanding. We help you to choose activities to suit your class with our Teacher Cards. You’ll notice your students enjoy doing the short activities as it breaks up the regular delivery a little. You’d hardly need art teaching skills. In addition, the mobile nature of the guide is good for excursions. Overall, you’ll be contributing to an accumulative process.

I am a non-Visual Arts teacher tasked with teaching Visual Arts classes

We provide all the training at no charge and provide the support material you would need to make delivering art projects easy and enjoyable. The guides do have a Project Blueprint that would make designing projects very easy. This is complemented with activities designed to be fun and engaging.

I am the Coordinator

You’ll find it much easier to convince multiple subject teachers to work together on creativity.

I am Head of the Department/Chairperson

Your students will have much better skills in High School, especially the ability to work independently and generate their own ideas. You’ll notice the more this is established, the more your department’s profile will increase.

I am the Principal

You’ll find your students literacy, creative and critical thinking skills will improve before High School. You’ll be pleased to find a resource which can facilitate a simple way for staff to work together and across departments.

Send me more information...