Bulb Archived: Canty ATLAS 2015-2018: Dorotiak (Year 2, 2016-2017)

School Name: Canty Elementary

Teacher Name: Nathan Dorotiak

Section I: Arts Integration – Documentation.

1. Documentation should not only provide a narrative, or story, of your project, but should also provide evidence of students’ engagement in the unit inquiry.


2. Through your documentation, please provide student artifacts that depict the range of work completed. For example, what were the various ways in which students responded to various aspects of the project?


Section I: Arts Integration – Inquiry

3. What is your Inquiry Question for your ATLAS curriculum unit? What big ideas does this inquiry question address, and why do you think the question successfully addresses these?

Inquiry Question #1: How can artists use drawing materials in new ways to produce images.

Rationale: I wanted to guide students to expand the way they utilized drawing processes so that they could think of drawing not only as way to make static images, but also a method to create moving imagery or animation. I hoped the question would compel students to think about more ways to use drawing, and lead them to the processes of subtractive drawing. Inspired by William Kentridge, the subtractive drawing process, paired with additive drawing, would be the foundational method through which the students’ animations would be produced.

Inquiry Question #2: How can artists apply drawing processes in order to create animations?

Rationale: After tackling the first inquiry question, I wanted students to begin thinking about how they could use an expanded notion of drawing, one that includes additive and subtractive processes, to form an animation. Students were challenged to work together to think about how they could use a single sheet of paper and drawing to create a moving image by utilizing their own prior knowledge. This question led the class to understand that a whole animation can be done a single sheet of paper by strategically drawing, photo capturing, erasing and changing elements of the drawing, photo capturing, then repeating.Inquiry Question #3

: How can artists utilize stop motion animation to convey challenging narratives?

Rationale: Having looked to William Kentridge, a South African artist who used subtractive drawing methods on single sheets of paper to create works about injustice, I wanted to compel students to think about how animation can be used to tell a narrative about challenging experiences from their own lives. This inquiry question was also instrumental in framing their thinking toward the topic of our project: to represent a moment where they were or witnessed another be treated unjustly.

4. How did student research help them to engage more deeply with the unit inquiry question? Explain how your students conducted research for their ATLAS project, and how that research opened up avenues for further inquiry.

The introductory form of research was the exploration of our inquiry questions described above. To explore the questions, students worked in small group discussion formats as well as large group discussions that led us to a common understanding of drawing and animation processes. After establishing how additive and subtractive drawing processes could be utilized to create imagery, students experimented with the techniques to create an image. This was meant to allow students to ‘wet their toes’ in the process, and to take an abstract understanding of the process and form it into a preliminary concrete understanding of the necessary steps involved and time necessary to create imagery with additive and subtractive drawing methods.

After the initial experimentation with subtractive drawing, students were given a set of ‘setting details’ to create a drawing with using additive and subtractive drawing. After students created this image, we looked at the work and asked ourselves: 1. Is the imagery clear and easy to see? 2. How can the image be strategically adjusted through drawing methods to clarify its content? 3. How do I alter the image in order to create movement and animation once photo capturing takes place? Such questions compelled experimentation with adjusting imagery to not only make the artworks more understandable, but to also introduce the steps to altering imagery strategically in order to create the stop-motion animation.

Once procedural understanding were established through experimentation and research, students began researching their own experiences through the project’s inspirational prompt: Create a narrative writing that tell the story of a time you were treated unjustly or witnessed another be treated unjustly. Students researched this prompt through a means that they chose: brainstorming, concept mapping, creating graphic organizers, etc. No matter how ideas were generated, all students were expected to create a 5 paragraph narrative writing on the topic. As a group, we discussed their standard ELA expectations and used the consensus on those expectations to guide the quality of their writing. For the writing, not only was the moment of injustice critical to describe, but so were characters, setting, and actions given that they a critically relevant to the creation of visual representations depicting the moment of injustice.

The above described forms of research led students to develop competency in both process and idea development as both relates to the project goal of creating a stop-motion animation. Other forms of research included sketching, story-boarding, and experimentation with iPads, but those processes will be described later in this reflection.

5. Describe how the unit inquiry opens up avenues for interdisciplinary connections between the arts and academic content. How did arts processes and/or research practices facilitate students’ understanding of the academic topics addressed in the inquiry question?

The primary connection to academic content was the narrative writing rooted in ELA. I contextualized our use of ELA as a creative starting point that would be translated into a stop-motion animation through various arts processes that start with strict writing that then leads to a story board that bridges writing and image-making, which then leads to a stop-motion animation that is strict image-making. Given the nature of animation and movie-making, a form of visual representation that is heavily dependent on developing characters existing within a setting whose actions propel the narrative being expressed, it was important to emphasize the connection between those elements within a narrative and within an image.

6. How did the curriculum evolve based on the unit inquiry process?

I do not think the project evolved far from the original intention and trajectory. However, time is always an issue and student experimentation with the processes utilized for making the artwork always take longer than I expect. For me, the main evolution that took place was allowing time for experimentation to take place. Sometimes, students would form small learning groups particularly when figuring out the best methods for image capturing using the iPads. It can sometimes be hard for me to be comfortable with this because my classes do not meet often and time is precious. However, I know it is vital to allow time for such student-driven experimentation because so much learning takes place and can be, in the long run, more beneficial than a final product.

Section I: Arts Integration – Create Works

7. How did students self-direct while creating their artistic work during the ATLAS project? Please provide any examples for the ways in which students made their own aesthetic choices and direction for creating their artwork. Examples might include but are not limited to: how did students make choices about the use of materials, how did they decide what they wanted to communicate, how did they make decisions about how to present work?

For this project, I tried to enable students to make as many choices as possible outside the drawing methods utilized for the project and the inspirational prompt. Through the drawing methods, students were able to set their own individual process for developing the image that worked best for them. Obviously, there was not a huge range of different approached because the additive and subtractive drawing method restricting the approaches that could be utilized, however I did not provide a step by step list for how to create the images through those methods. All students had to work with was their idea, the paper, and the pencil/eraser. Everything outside of that the students had to develop through experimentation and planning.

Regarding the ideas students utilized, they were enabled to write about any moment of injustice they experienced or witnessed. When writing, we all had a standard set of expectations relating to the length of writing and the format. However, the methods students utilized for coming up with writing ideas and planning for their writing were completely their choice.

One of the major ways students self-directed was through the use of the iPads for image-capture. I was very upfront with the students when I said “I do not use technology much and I think you know more than I do.” As such, I discussed with the students the need to capture images in a sequential manner with iPads that we were to share. Given this, we all agreed that keeping them organized would be very helpful. After, students experimented on their own and figured out the best methods for using iPads to capture their stop-motion animation image in an organized matter. Essentially students formed small learning communities once the best methods were figured out be select students. At the end, they gained an ability to follow necessary steps for image-capturing in a completely self-directed matter.

8. Please explain what opportunities the students had to reflect on their experiences and react to the work of their peers.

The class conducted a peer assessment when developing the narrative writings. They were given a peer assessment check list that asked assessors to focus on the clarity of their idea, development of setting, description of action, and description of characters. These were important in order to develop the visual representation of the narrative, so assessment focused on it. 

9. How did the students’ artifacts from various stages of the ATLAS Unit impact your teaching practice? Please provide artifacts that exemplify your points. What did you learn about your teaching practice from looking at these artifacts?

My teaching is directed toward and based on student artifacts. If I am identifying a need in the classroom, whether it is a procedural need or conceptual need, based on the artifacts of the students, I will direct instruction toward that need. Additionally, student artifacts allow me to celebrate success, if I see a student who is exemplary of a skill I will point it out. I do not praise the student necessarily, but say something like “I see that this student has really found a way to control the skill. If anybody is challenged by this skill, maybe have a conversation with this student to see how they approach this challenge.” I like to use these comments to create a learning community amongst the students.

Essentially, I feel that artifacts guide teaching, and as an instructor I use them to check the pulse of students’ understanding and gradual acquisition of skill. As such, instructing through them is part of my class environment.

10. Describe how the students’ work was shared in the school or publicly. Why was this an important part of this unit?

Given that the project took place at the end of the year, we were not in a position to display in progress works.

Section I: Arts Integration – Collaboration

11. How did students collaborate at different stages of the project? Examples might include but are not limited to: did the students research together, did they create together, did they critique together, did they present together?

Throughout the project, students would form small learning communities either organically or through my recommendation. This happened mostly when learning how to utilize the additive and subtractive drawing processes to create imagery since the subtractive element of drawing was new to them. Students would tend to identify a student who developed some quick competency in the skill and ask them their approach, or observe what they do and try to emulate. Another major collaboration occurred hen students worked with iPads to image capture in a systematic manner so that images were ordered for their animation. During this time students worked together in learning communities—some students took on the role of traveling teacher—in order to teach others how to save their images into a gallery, or how to email their archive of images to their student email address for later use. Finally, students collaborated in small groups when peer assessing their narrative writings before those writings were translated into imagery for the stop-motion animation. 

12. In what ways did you collaborate with the students for this unit. How did the students impact the way in which the curriculum was implemented? For example, how did students help you plan, develop, and/or implement the curriculum?

Students did not collaborate with me to determine the parameters of the project. 

13. How did you collaborate with other teachers in your school to plan and/or implement the unit?

I strived to make the relevant ELA teacher aware of what was happening in the classroom and when. However, when it came to scheduling, direct and overlapping learning experiences between our two classrooms was logistically very difficult. 

Section II: Technology Integration

14. What was your process for selecting this form of digital media technology? Why did you think this form of digital media technology would be ideal for student learning?

iPads were utilized for their photo-capturing potential as it relates to stop-motion animation. Further, iPads are the only form of digital technology in my classroom that are readily accessible to students.

15. How did students use digital media technology to direct their own learning? Provide artifacts to show evidence of how students used the technology to direct their own learning. Examples might include but are not limited to: making choices about technologies to use, using technology to facilitate experimentation, using technology as a research tool, to express themselves artistically, and/or to make meaning of their experiences.

As described in previous responses, students collaborated in learning communities when working with the iPads. The primary goal of these collaborations was to determine a method for systematically capturing images so that they were prepared to be sequences into a stop-motion animation. Outside of the image-capturing, students did not artistically express themselves through the manipulation of the digital media. I feel the best way to describe how it was used was as a tool rather than a medium through which to express a concept.

16. How did you use technology to enhance the learning environment for both you as a teacher and for the students?

I utilized the iPads to model the process through which images would be captured and sequenced. Through this, I feel the learning environment was enhanced because it made abstract procedures concrete.

17. In what ways do your chosen technology resources align with your goals and outcomes for student learning? Looking back at the unit, how did the technology meet, not meet or exceed your expectations for facilitating student outcomes.

The iPads met the goals of the project because they provided a means for strategically image-capturing drawn images made through additive and subtractive drawing in a sequential manner that could be strung together and play as a stop-motion animation. I believe they are effective because they are a tool that students are familiar with from other classes, and they are large enough to manipulate as a group in order to enhance group learning. In these ways, they met my expectations.

18. How did the use of technology contribute to students’ application of higher order thinking skills? Examples of student higher order thinking skills include metacognition, self-reflection, analysis, and application of knowledge or skills.

As described before, students were able to utilize the technology to form learning communities in order to think through the logistical aspects of capturing a large series of images over an extended and broken apart period of time. Further, they had to determine how to manipulate the device in order to standardize the distance from which the images were captured when necessary.

19. How did the use of technology drive student creative artistic expression? Please provide student artifacts that exemplify how technology supported their artistic expression.

iPads drove artistic expression because they were the means through which images were captured through stop motion animation. Further, students experimented with depth because the distance between the iPad camera and their image could be manipulated. 

20. How did the integration of digital media technology impact your teaching practice?

Yes. Given that I am a bit uncomfortable with digital technology as it applies to art-making, I had to put a lot of trust into the students to learn through experimentation and collaboration without being able to provide my thorough guidance. However, I celebrate this because I think that it increased student engagement and interest. Further, I feel students had a stronger sense of accomplishment because they were able to figure out a process I knew nothing about and then teach me what they learned.