Community Building From A Distance: Desmos Art

I teach 8th grade math in Berkeley, CA and we are 100% distance learning and will be for the foreseeable future. Like so many of you in the same situation, community building has become more important than ever since we are teaching students whom we have never met in person. One tiny slice of this complex work has been doing art projects in Desmos to give students the opportunity to be creative and teach one another the techniques they discover. I have always had students writing their name in Desmos on the first week of school. It is such a great way for them to express themselves creatively and run around the room learning tips and tricks from students who create something that they want to emulate. I found the prospect of teaching art on Desmos over the first week of school in distance learning VERY DAUNTING. But I decided to go for it.

It is MUCH HARDER to teach art via distance learning than in person because kids can’t run around the room to see what others are working on. Finding efficient ways for kids to help other kids is far harder on Zoom. But I’m so glad I stuck with it as there was so much joy in my classes as students celebrated the gorgeous fonts they had created. Below are some examples. These 4 names are from this year, distance learning, using only tables and connecting coordinate pairs with lines.

This next group of 4 names are the project I am doing just after winter break where they write their names with horizontal and vertical line segments. These are some examples from last year.

For anyone looking for a project to build community right after winter break, this one could be ideal. At CMC-SOUTH and CMC-NORTH this year I presented on how I scaffold my art projects. Below are the handouts which include links to each of the 3 projects I do during the year, student work samples and rubrics. I’m sharing my hour-long presentation if hearing me explain the scaffolding step-by-step would help you know how to get started.

Over the year I have 3 projects:

  1. Writing your name in Desmos using only tables to connect coordinate pairs to review graphing in 4 quadrants. I do this the first week of school or just after a long break to build community as kids love writing their names and seeing each other’s artwork. You can also do this whenever you need to teach/review 4 quadrant graphing.
  2. Writing your name in Desmos using horizontal and vertical line segments. I do this as we begin our unit on linear equations in 8th grade We do the exact same project as we did earlier in the year, but this time they are expected to write their name using all equations of vertical and horizontal line segments. I teach them how to do restrictions for this project.
  3. Designing and creating a Pet House. I teach this project in the middle of our unit on linear equations when students are comfortable graphing equations of lines. They already know restrictions from project #2. I have also taught this project to 7th graders who don’t know equations of lines and they simply design their pet houses using only tables and polygons.

I hope these resources are useful and I and so many others are available to help you in your Desmos learning journey.

Here is my presentation from CMC-SOUTH on how I scaffold each of these projects which also includes some instruction on using the Desmos graphing calculator for art.

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