So much to do, so much going on.  Let’s get into TAB for a moment before the moment’s gone. 

If you don’t know what TAB is, no worries.  It’s short for Teaching Artistic Behavior and lots of art teachers I follow are converts.  The idea is to give students more choice in the art room in what and how they create art. Allowing choice will enable students to become more creative and confident as artists.  The job of the art teacher in a TAB room is to facilitate learning.  There is more inquiry, more process-based artworks, and simply way more engagement in the art room because students focus on what they want to learn more about.

The art room is already a high engagement kind of place, so when I heard TAB was a way to take learning to a whole new level, I was sold.  My students, who are sweet as pie, love art. I thought making the switch to more inquiry-based learning would be an easy leap and one that would bring shouts of joy from the sand dunes.

Over the summer I organized my room to be more TAB focused. Tons of visual cues all over, lots of centers.  It looks way busier in here than I would like, but the materials need to be completely accessible in order for my vision to pan out.  Independent learning does not happen overnight.

I got this poster from a TAB blogger who posted on Pinterest.  I try to reference it as often as I can but think the kids may be too young to really grasp its meaning. It’s helping me as I create MY art though.

artistic process

Art of Ed rules.  They offer tons of posters to make setting your art centers easy. The posters at the bottom are mine.  Right next to this sign, I’ve got all the brushes.  In the cabinet are all the paints.  Everything is clearly marked.

painting center




Drawing and art history center.

This center also has lots of folders with mini-lessons on value, perspective, watercolor techniques, etc.

collagefiber arts

The fiber arts and collage station sit together simply because they use some of the same materials.


I just purchased four gelli plates for my printmaking center.  So much fun.

Everything in my room looks great.  There’s scrap paper, bags, and plenty of storage.

Needless to say, I felt ready to start.  I felt like the clouds were going to open up and children would embrace this concept with love in their hearts and creativity just oozing out of their hands.


What has happened is making me not want to do TAB. What has happened has made me really rethink direct instruction and see the value in my lessons and lesson planning.  As I reflect on the past few months here are some insights gained (or maybe I SHOULD have known all along?)

  1. Kids are really destructive little beings.  I don’t know if it’s just the ones I teach or if this is universal, but I am really amazed at how quickly things are destroyed, and how little remorse children have.  They look at me like, “Well, what did you expect? I am a child.”  I know children to be pretty capable human beings.  They love to clean when I ask, so why do I always have to ask?  Can’t they just do it? No.

2. Kids have selective listening skills.  Same for reading skills. Students need to be reminded to think for themselves.  Again, how did I not know this?  We are now in December.  I’ve taught some of these kids for three years.  Procedures haven’t changed in three years. Kids still ask me where they should put their work (after three years?).  In the IN basket if dry, if wet, the drying rack.  They still don’t write their names on their papers unless I threaten to throw their work into the bin. How did I think they could just magically do centers independently?

3. Some kids like to be told what to do.  Now, this is not true for everyone, but a lot of my kids just stare at all the choices and just sit there until I tell them which center to go to. I maybe should have figured this out beforehand.  I do have TAB checkoff sheets for this to encourage all centers are visited, but there is still little buy-in from a lot of kids. The majority of my students like to color.  I can’t explain it.  It’s a meditative and relaxing activity perhaps.  Some of these kids rush through their art project work so they can go to the coloring station and color.  It drives me crazy.  The only thing they want to do after coloring is free-draw and origami.  Which would be fine if they concentrated on drawing skills or made things other than paper airplanes, but this is not the case. Students look at my centers like they are learning traps.  When I suggest a center to some of my students they look at me as if to say, “Why would I want to do MORE work?”

4. Some kids just want to do whatever they want.  Some of my students look at my TAB lessons or centers as a way to do whatever they want.  They make a huge mess, have little to show for it, and don’t want to reflect on their learning.  I completely recognize that their work is not going to look great, but I would hope that they could see the flaws in their work and try to do better on the next project. My feedback is to encourage further exploration, right? Flitting from one idea to the next without really wanting to dig into a concept is not what I was hoping for when starting these centers.

Rant done.

I am not throwing TAB out of my room but I am going to change my approach to TAB.  I knew going in that there was going to be an adjustment.  I knew there was going to be trials and it was going to be hard.  But, to be honest, I’ve only got my students for a short time before they go to another part of the building and I never teach them again.  I want to help them gain independence AND skills.

So, as of right now, I’m going back and forth between TAB and direct instruction.  I’ve started to teach another way, one that really works for me.  It helps students learn AND gain independence, and, I’m not losing my mind.  I feel good about what I am teaching and how I am teaching art.  My students may not have the same amount of choice as a TAB room provides, but I am okay with that.  I’m going to keep trying though.  That’s all I can do.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Sonia Chapman

I am an art teacher, living in the Middle East, following my passion for art, teaching little children about the finer things in life, and loving every bit of it.


Projects by Grade Level, TAB