Student choice engages sixth-grade art students

Three students wear masks and hold up the portraits they drew of civil rights leaders.

Eisenhower Elementary sixth-graders enhanced their art skills while focusing on deepening their knowledge of the lives of Black historical figures like Malcolm X, Ruby Bridges, Fannie Lou Hamer, and more.

Katie Dickerson sees herself not only as a teacher, but as a constant learner. That’s why she has been incorporating more and more student choice into her lesson plans. She is always trying to find better ways to engage her students.

Adding student choice to the classroom requires a lot of prep work. Dickerson tries to allow as much choice as possible which means she has to do a lot of pre-planning for the variety of paths that a project could go down. It may be a little more up front work, but Dickerson said she is able to act more like a manager once the projects begin.

“I think for the most part it has really increased student engagement and they stay on task,” she said.

Students were asked to draw a portrait of a Black historical figure. They chose which method they use, if their portrait would be in color, and then they used a value scale to learn how to use shading. In addition to the art skills, they also had to research the person they were drawing and write what they learned about them.

Dickerson said her students remained engaged in the art project and learned something new about someone of color who has done something fabulous in our history.