Yes, You Can Write a TAB Lesson Plan

There are many teachers hoping to try out a TAB model in their classrooms that get stuck at step one: Lesson Planning. How do you create a lesson when the kids are supposed make most of the decisions? Is “TAB Lesson Plan” an oxymoron? I don’t think so. Looking at it from the perspective of a project manager can help you design a TAB lesson that gives your students the right balance of structure and freedom. 
 
TAB Lesson Plan
 
If you’ve ever spoken to a project manager, you know there is a detailed process they follow to ensure their projects are successfully completed. Whether it’s designing new software or building a bridge,  project managers follow a four phase process: Initiation, Design, Production and Presentation. This strategy also works remarkably well for designing TAB lessons at the high school level. The following is an example of how this strategy can be applied to create a choice-based lesson plan. I’ll go over the basics first, then we’ll take a look at an actual TAB lesson from my classroom. 
 

The Basics

 

Initiation

The initiation phase begins when the teacher introduces a topic or a theme. These ideas can range from open ideas, such as “Artists Communicate,” to more specific ideas, such as “Identity.” 

Design

During the design phase, students are tasked with creating written lists of ideas related to their themes. From these lists, they design thumbnails of possible art projects. 

Meanwhile….

During the Initiation and Design phases, the class partakes in daily mini-lessons, where students are introduced to different mediums and techniques they might not yet be familiar with.

Production and Control

Once the designs are solid, the students are ready to create, choosing media that is appropriate for their designs. Based on their choices, they may need to explore and practice new media techniques before completing their projects. 

Presentation

The students post photos of their work to their blogs along with personal reflections. The finished pieces are then presented for a class critique. 

 

Case Study: 3D Scale and Proportion Lesson 

 

This case study follows an actual lesson plan that used the method above.

Initiation

The initiation phase for this project began with the theme of “Questionable”. Along with the theme, two other constraints were applied to the project. The work being created had to be 3D and had to incorporate either the concept of proportion or scale. To get started, we looked at work by artists who incorporated scale or proportion in their work including Duane Hanson, Ron Mueck and Leonardo Da Vinci.

 

Design

During the design phase, students worked in groups, creating written lists of as many “Questionable” ideas they could think of. These lists were shared with the entire class. Later, each student created a personal list in his or her sketchbook. From these list, they designed thumbnails of possible art projects. 

 

Meanwhile….

During the Initiation and design phases, the class participated in several mini-lessons. Since this was an Art Two class, the purpose of these lessons served mostly as a reminder on how to retrieve, work with, and clean up materials they were already familiar with, like clay. We also reviewed human proportion.

tab 4

 

Production and Control

The range of ideas for this project went much further than anticipated. Though some students selected traditional clay as their medium, other ideas included using wax, paper mache and Sculpey. This generated the need for several new mini-lessons about using these materials. Other questions about facial proportions also sparked mini-lessons. 

 

tab 6 tab 7 tab 5

 
Note: From a non-TAB view point, this might look like excessive work. The question could be asked, ”Why weren’t these topics covered at the beginning?” However, this is the beauty of teaching in a TAB environment. In a traditional teaching environment, these question wouldn’t have been generated. In the TAB environment, the students were able to push learning about materials and techniques even further than I had anticipated. 
 

Reflection

Each student took part in three kinds of reflection, which is typically how we finish these types of projects.
 
The first was to update their blogs twice, once prior to production when ideas and sketches were done and again once the projects were completed. The second was to participate in a Feel Good Friday. On a Feel Good Friday, all the work is displayed along with comment sheets. Students walk around the room, view other students’ work and leave comments. The third reflection is a group peer critique.

Of course, this is only one method for teaching TAB at the high school level, but it’s definitely working for our students.

 
 

How do you come up with TAB lessons? Do you do something similar?

Do you have a different method or structure to share? What has been successful or not so successful for you?

 
 
 

Ian Sands

This article was written by former AOE writer and choice-based art education expert, Ian Sands.

Related

  • Clark Fralick

    Great information Ian. As an elementary art teacher who has a TAB classroom, my room/ centers are my units. I use wall space aound the area to keep kids informed and reflect. Each mint lesson I write looks very similar to A traditional LP. Except the production is open ended. Infact it could be a series of questions like “what if… Or what would happen?”

  • artteach91

    Clark-i also teach elem. And did a little TAB last year to kind of see what can happen… love how engaged my Ss were. However, bc I was afraid of failure for them, I began the lesson wwih them and let them finish it with any medium they chose… however, I feel like I am suppose to give up more control to them to be considered really doing TAB. And I did not attempt this method with my kinders… do not even know how to wrap my brain around that one!!!
    Thanks Ian for sharing this!!!
    Christy

    • Clark Fralick

      Christy, I know how you feel. Even after teaching this way for 8-9 years, I still get similar feelings. But I ask myself “who’s art is it?” This helps me focus my intentions to what the children need. It is a lot about giving up some control and having faith/trust in children. When I have 28 students in a classroom and 20 are engaged, its easier for me to float around the room and give the 8 the help they need. With Kindergarten, you have to be super patient. They’re so overwhelmed at first, I spend a lot of time on routines.

  • Alison Bergman

    Thank you for posting this. It is so helpful and I will definitely consider these four stages of project management in the future for my students.

  • Cat Johnston

    How long does a typical choice based project span?

    • iansands

      Ahh, you might be opening a can of worms with this question. Remember the old commercial with the owl trying to figure out many many licks it takes to get to the center of the tootsie roll tootsie pop?

      TAB isn’t unlike other methods of teaching in that some students will finish sooner while others take longer. This concept is increased with TAB because students may be using different materials and need different amounts of time to render their ideas.

      The best solution I have found is to set a period of time for working in class. I allotted about 2 weeks for the project described above but the time would vary depending on concept and grade level. The 2 weeks was for time working in class on the project. That isn’t to say it was the due date. Students could continue to work on the project at home or during lunch or even in class but after the allotted time, I would be moving on to another project.

      If you read into what I just wrote, the can of worms would be questions about due dates and grades.. But that for other posts.

  • Jody Chapel

    I love that this is a great example of TAB being used in HS. The design phases are so relevant and is really what our standards in Colo are based on. This case study shows how easy it is to fit TAB into backwards design planning. I look forward to more posts!

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  • Guest

    Hello Ian,
    I’m taking Cassidy amazing class Choice
    Based Art Education! I love when you said “In a traditional teaching
    environment, these questions wouldn’t have been generated. In the TAB environment, the students were
    able to push learning about materials and techniques even further than I had
    anticipated.” I feel that you are
    helping to guide them as artists in this type of environment. I think that the rules that you put in place
    allowed students to think with the theme of “Questionable” to brainstorm a list
    of topic ideas. This long list gave
    students a jumping off point. The other
    requirements were that it had to be 3D and include proportion or scale. This reminds me of a Product Design project that I love doing with my students, in which we
    talk about functional art work. Students
    are then asked to design something that functions, or build a prototype, much
    like industrial designers would do. I
    love the results that come from this lesson.
    Students dream up ideas that I would have never thought of. I also feel that what makes this TAB Lesson
    successful was the ability to have many different solutions to the same problem. The problem is large enough that students can
    find their own solution to it, thus giving them control to guide their own learning
    within a broader topic. I also have my students blog about their
    artmaking, but I have never made them blog “prior to production,” which would
    be a great idea to share out their thoughts before they start creating!

    Thanks for the great article! You are a genius by the way! So inspirational to so many!

  • Guest

    Hello Ian, I’m taking Cassidy amazing class Choice
    Based Art Education! I love when you said “In a traditional teaching
    environment, these questions wouldn’t have been generated. In the TAB environment, the students were
    able to push learning about materials and techniques even further than I had
    anticipated.” I feel that you are
    helping to guide them as artists in this type of environment. I think that the rules that you put in place
    allowed students to think with the theme of “Questionable” to brainstorm a list
    of topic ideas. This long list gave
    students a jumping off point. The other
    requirements were that it had to be 3D and include proportion or scale. This reminds me of a Product Design project that I love doing with my students, in which we
    talk about functional art work. Students
    are then asked to design something that functions, or build a prototype, much
    like industrial designers would do. I
    love the results that come from this lesson.
    Students dream up ideas that I would have never thought of. I also feel that what makes this TAB Lesson
    successful was the ability to have many different solutions to the same problem. The problem is large enough that students can
    find their own solution to it, thus giving them control to guide their own learning
    within a broader topic. I also have my students blog about their
    artmaking, but I have never made them blog “prior to production,” which would
    be a great idea to share out their thoughts before they start creating!

  • Hello Ian, I’m taking Cassidy amazing class Choice
    Based Art Education! I love when you said “In a traditional teaching
    environment, these questions wouldn’t have been generated. In the TAB environment, the students were able to push learning about materials and techniques even further than I had anticipated.” I feel that you are
    helping to guide them as artists in this type of environment. I think that the rules that you put in place
    allowed students to think with the theme of “Questionable” to brainstorm a list
    of topic ideas. This long list gave
    students a jumping off point. The other requirements were that it had to be 3D and include proportion or scale. I love the artists you chose. This reminds me of a Product Design project that love doing with my students, in which we
    talk about functional art work. students
    are then asked to design something that functions, or build a prototype, much
    like industrial designers would do. I
    love the results that come from this lesson.
    Students dream up ideas that I would have never thought of. I also feel that what makes this TAB Lesson
    successful was the ability to have many different solutions to the same problem. The problem is large enough that students can
    find their own solution to it, thus giving them control to guide their own learning
    within a broader topic. I also have my students blog about their
    artmaking, but I have never made them blog “prior to production,” which would
    be a great idea to share out their thoughts before they start creating!

    Thanks for the great article! You are a genius by the way! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Wendy Rausch-Balfe

    what about an elementary lesson plan? Same categories or?