Engaging Art Students with VoiceThread

This is a guest post by Art Teacher and VoiceThreader, Hannah Zecher-Freeman.

Everyday students come into my classroom afraid to create. The art of making has become insignificant in the shadow of standardized testing and rigorous curriculum standards. How do you engage students in the making process, when they are afraid and see it as obsolete? During my 1st year of teaching I realized I needed to engage with students at a level they understood. What do todays students understand more than anything? Technology. I began implementing technology into my classroom by having students design shoes using a stylus and a drawing app on their computer. I taught this lesson for two years; splitting between teaching whole group direct and independent work on our devices.

This year I have had to rethink the way I am teaching in many ways. When I began this school year it was a battle to keep a specific grade quiet during whole group and keep them engaged in independent work; even though I was teaching the same lessons, the same way I had in the past. The first time I heard about VoiceThread was at a meeting when a colleague mentioned how she used VoiceThread every day to deliver her instruction. Instantly when I got home, I began trying to figure out how I could incorporate VoiceThread into my instruction. I contacted my STAT teacher for help and got to work.

It was a slow start but the more I learned about VoiceThread, the better my instruction was using it. The longer we have used it, the more engaged my students are in their learning. One aspect I really love is the ability to video record myself on top of an image slide. For example, this allows me to upload an image of my objective and project examples and simultaneously have a video of me playing. In the videos I will read the text to my students and explain any imagery shown. The video helps show them, this is still me teaching you, just in a different way.

VoiceThread also allows students to learn at their own pace. In art, demonstrating the technique is vital to student acquisition. By having VoiceThread available in front of them, they can go back and review any demonstration they need clarification on, as many times as they need to. Since implementing VoiceThread, students have 30-40 minutes of work time, up from 10-20 in previous years. They now come in and instantly start on their work. There is no time lost waiting for students to stop talking to begin instruction. When they only have 50 minutes of art time a week, even a minute is a lot to waste. Their time is utilized more effectively, and they are producing higher quality work at a faster pace than previous years.

Their ability to create incredible artwork has only grown since I began using VoiceThread. They are more comfortable approaching new topics and techniques. VoiceThread has allowed a group of students that were afraid and unengaged to become excited and not just engaged but excited by what they are creating.

Shoe Design Project: Guided by instruction via VoiceThread, created digitally.

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String Art: Guided by instruction via VoiceThread, works in progress

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Instructional VoiceThread link: https://voicethread.com/share/13414197/

About the Author:

Hannah Zecher-Freeman is a K-5 Art Teacher at Riverview Elementary School in Baltimore County. She is a Towson University alum, with a degree in Art Education and Art & Design. She is currently working on her Masters Degree in Art Education. You can find her on Twitter_ @MsFreemansArtRm_