In 6th grade art we just wrapped up the Zentangle/Pattern project. I love doing this project in the younger grades, because it’s one that many of them can not only practice their fine motor skills, but also feel a great deal of success. It’s very difficult to ‘mess up’ on this project, but it also teaches students to take their time and work on craftsmanship with their marks-since once you lay down sharpie, it’s pretty much forever. This isn’t always the easiest thing for students, because when the unfortunate mistake does happen, the student needs to then problem solve on how to make that a part of the work. White out is never an option, more often than not, it just makes it look so much worse.
The requirements for this project were to create a zentangle drawing with a colored pencil portion incorporated into it as well. I want students to continue to practice colored pencil (even though we did an entire unit on it to begin the year), because the techniques we learned in the color pencil unit are the foundations of all other art making processes. I expect not all students will love colored pencil, or pursue it when they get to the higher grades, but for now every grade level practices it over and over again.
I really enjoy seeing how each student approaches this project. Some take to ‘fine detailed’ patterning like fish to water, while others need more encouragement to add more lines, and make more detailed work. It’s sometimes difficult to explain to a student that they just don’t have enough lines to meet the requirements of the project, at at some point (especially if they’ve already started coloring) they just end up needing to accept that they won’t get all the points for techniques. Since I grade with only 25% of the grade as technique-based, this never causes a student to fail, they just won’t get an “A”, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t the end of the world. There’s always the next project to improve their (listening) skills on.
One thing that I struggled with on this project, compared to others, is reminding the students to not take too much time on their rough drafts. Although it’s important to plan and experiment before starting a final draft, at the same it’s also important to not turn your rough draft into your final draft. It leads to nothing but disappointment for all parties, but it’s difficult for the students to remember that I only need to see a glimpse of their vision to make sure it’ll work, not the entire masterpiece. Usually it’s not a huge problem, but this such a detailed project, some students really lagged behind in the rough draft department. It’s definitely something for me to keep in mind for the future.