Posted by: keepingthemistakes | February 26, 2011


Ok, so I teach middle school art in addition to elementary.  Elementary has always been my great love.  I’ve also always said that those who teach middle school have, and need, a special gift.  I have always said I wasn’t gifted in that way.  Oh, I helped with middle school at church when my own kids were that age.  And believe me, it was hard!  So, when I got this job teaching art, it included part of my time at a parochial school that has students through grade 8.  Let’s just say that the middle school part has challeneged me more, on a more regular basis anyway, than any other level.  I will also say that I have grown to actually look forward to seeing and working with the older kids too.  I appreciate them in a way I couldn’t before, and that’s a good thing.  And, I look forward to working with my younger students THROUGH middle school — having already formed a strong relationship with them as their art teacher.

This lesson, which I’ve called “Labels Don’t Define Me”, is one that was inspired by one of my middle school classes last year. They were so quick to label . . themselves, their classmates, complete strangers.  I thought long and hard about being that age, and how that felt (and still feels) to be labeled, even if the labels were accurate. 

This lesson starts with a worksheet, where the student think about labels that are put onto them by others and by themselves.  They then reflect on whether they are positive or negative, whether they truly define who they are, and what parts of themselves are left out when they are labeled, by themselves or others. 

Then we begin preparing pieces of wood to make a box.  We sand and prepare the wood.  Finally, we paint and just recently I’ve given them free-reign in the art room to create collage.  Inside the box is who they truly are, outside are the labels put on them.  They have really taken off with this.  They have brought things from home to add to their collages.  I think this project really hits home with them, and possibly with all of us (I’m making my own too).

Below is the inside of my own “Labels” box so far.  I started it to show them how collage could be done.  I’ll post photos when they are finished.  We will end with a writing project telling about the labels, how they feel, etc.  I told them I would be the only one reading them, that they would be private.I’m excited by this project, and how my students have responded to it!

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