Thursday, June 8, 2017

Free! Curriculum Guide Template

There is a lively thread over on the Facebook group, Elementary Art Teachers about a curriculum map. I've recently written about why you should write your own curriculum and the challenges that come with it. The whole process seems daunting. . . And, that first bit? That first part where you map the curriculum so you can write it? Well, that's the "blank canvas" I'm-scared-to-death place.

So,  let me help you with that. Here is a copy of my empty and blank curriculum map.



Here is my process:

1. Decide how many projects you want to do per year per grade level. These are your units. I chose 10 because that seem realistic based how many times I saw students in my past experience.

2. Decide how/if you will use themes. I like themes; they keep me on track. I chose themes that aligned with other things the students are doing and learning. I strongly believe in the power of arts integration and in cross-curricula learning. The themes for the curriculum I am currently writing are, "Government, characters, life science, perspectives, technology, narratives, history, earth science, economy, and physical science. It's important to avoid just arbitrarily picking themes. If you don't know where to begin with themes, try examining the Visual Arts standards and the standards of the other subjects. For example, if your Visual Arts standards make mention of art history per grade level, then it makes sense for you to have History unit.

3. Begin to conceptualize what project you will teach for each unit. This is where you need to deeply examine your standards and (hopefully) the standards of the other subjects.  If the students in fifth grade learn about the American Civil War, then it makes sense that for the History unit they create artwork that somehow links to the American Civil War. This type of academic integration helps students to understand that what they learn in one place transfers to other places; it builds context and relevancy. I like to develop an essential question and/or "the learner will" statement for each project. Then I put that statement along with a thumbnail image in the project slot on the curriculum map. In the case of the curriculum I am currently working on, I am using essential questions from the newly adopted English language arts text; I liked them that much!

My curriculum map; thumbnails are for my reference only; many are images by other Visual Arts teachers; the image prompts me to remember what I want to do for a project etc. 

Enjoy guys! And please enjoy the free. . . But play nice! Do not upload to Teacher pay Teachers etc. etc. etc.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Magnetic Slime Package Design


I know the spinners are currently driving us all crazy. . . But, has the slime craze died down? I'm still riding the wave. . .And, honestly, my preference is for slime ahead of spinners.

I was researching some possible arts integration entry points for a science unit on magnets when I thought about combining slime with magnets. I wondered if anyone had already made magnetic slime (yes, yes they had!), and I wondered about their recipes. There are LOTS of magnetic slime recipes out there; truthfully, most of them are waay too step-heavy, adult-heavy, and/or expensive for a teacher to try in a classroom. I know, I tried them all for you. I ended up making my own magnetic slime recipe by combining a few different recipes for both magnetic and plain slimes. Heavy in my consideration was cost, ease of the recipe, and safety/classroom management for kiddos. Part of what I love about this slime recipe is that it uses iron oxide to make the slime magnetic. Iron oxide is the pigment often used to make black, brown, and even green paints and pastels!

Here is my slime recipe:


Ultimately, I made a lesson out of it! Wheeee! Here is my Magnetic Slime Package Design lesson. I wrote it with third graders in mind, but there is no reason to not include older students by tweaking the lesson as needed.

1. Define the 3 types of magnets
2. Hypothesize what is / is not a magnet. Provide a pre-set list of items for students to try. Include in this list a small bag of iron oxide (link to purchase here).
3. Make magnetic slime according to recipe
1/2 cup of white school glue

1/2 TBLSP of baking powder

stir until mixed

1/4 -1/3 cup of iron oxide powder. The consistency is that of powdered sugar; it gets messy quick! Stir slowly and carefully

Stir until mixed

Add 1 TBLSP contact lens solution

Stir until goopy

Knead with hands. Some fluid will be left over; that is fine
4. Play with the slime using neodymium (super strong) magnets




5. Identify and define package design. I like to use these videos. 


and parts of this one (I avoid the few curse words by pausing, fast-forwarding etc.)

6. Students use this critera to develop a package design:


7. Students design and affix their label to their baggie to store the magnetic slime

8. Students reflect on what they learned using this rubric




Let me know if you decide to make magnetic slime with your students; I'd love to see what they create!


Friday, May 5, 2017

Write a Visual Arts Curriculum: Breaking the Cycle of "What am I Going to Teach on Monday?"


Fortunately, I already had this blog entry ready. ;)

It’s a fair question, and it has a semi-complicated answer. Last July, I accepted a position as a Visual and Performing Arts and STEAM Coordinator with a county office of education in California. It’s awesome and a dream job for me. There is not a one-sentence description for my job, but a lot of it surrounds designing and delivering professional development for General Education and VAPA teachers regarding visual and performing arts in the classroom.  Frequently, I design lessons and/or presentations that are customized to the needs and wants of school districts in my county.

And, therein lies the crux of my lack of blogging: Where does my professional life end and my blogging life begin? Technically and ethically, what I create in my capacity as a coordinator belongs to my county office. The ethics of sharing it on Artful Artsy Amy get blurred. What I have shared on here since July, I have actually asked (and received permission) to share with you.

I haven’t shared much in recent months, because I am in the process of designing and writing a Visual Arts curriculum for K-6th grade General Education teachers integrating English Language Arts curriculum (and connecting to Science, Social Studies and Math as appropriate). This curriculum encompasses 70 visual arts lessons from start to finish (visual how-to steps, pre-planning information, background information, videos, texts, and rubrics for assessment); it’s keeping me more than busy. My employer owns the curriculum I create (and we intend to sell it), so sharing it on Artful Artsy Amy isn’t appropriate (at this time). I AM hoping that once this curriculum is completed, it is something I can share with you and/or give you a link to where you can purchase it from my county office (and trust me y’all; it’s affordable!).

Proof Copy Cover of the 6th Grade Visual Arts Integrated Curriculum 
In the meantime, I thought I would share with you the process of developing and designing a curriculum for Visual Arts, and why you should consider doing it for yourself and your students.

As a visual arts educator, you probably enjoy the fact that our discipline has no set curriculum or textbook beyond your site or state standards. The classroom-learning-creation-from-scratch daily life of an arts educator is something most general education teachers fear. Arts educators love the fact we get to create every day, and that daily creation is incredibly intimidating to others. Anytime, there is talk about developing set curriculum for Visual Arts teachers in a district and/or purchasing set curriculum for Visual Art teachers in a district, those Visual Arts teachers hotly and swiftly shut that down. We know what is relevant, working, and meaningful to students in one school is often not the same for another. We love developing our programs with our own trademarks. And, we LOVE the freedom to swiftly replace a project that is not working with one that does. So, you don’t often see set Visual Art curriculum in that is universal in a district.

Uncomfortable Truth #1: You should adopt a curriculum.
I’m sure that is not a popular statement, and I know why. Here are some of the statements contesting set curriculum in Visual Art:
1.       I don’t want to do the same thing every year; doing the same thing every year is boring
2.       Those people [curriculum authors] don’t know my kids
3.       The curriculum isn’t inclusive of the materials to which I have access
4.       Most curriculum is really watered down compared to what I can do
5.       The curriculum doesn’t have enough [media of choice] in it
6.       I don’t know how to use my kiln / I don’t have a kiln; I can’t teach clay
7.       I teach whatever I want right now; it works for me
8.       My administrators have no idea what the standards for Visual Art look like in a classroom. As such, I can teach whatever I want with none of that “core curriculum” and testing nonsense. Basically, I teach art however I want.

Uncomfortable Truth #2: If you’re not mapping your curriculum ahead of the year, planning around thematic units, making a plan for STEAM and/or TAB in your classroom before the year starts, you’re not teaching art; you’re just doing artsy stuff. You’re undermining your own career path and the career paths of others. It is hard for administrators to respect arts educators because all too often they see us as the “fun time craft time” people. When you don’t pre-plan what you are going to teach (with a school-year concept in view) you are just having fun with art. Don’t be that person.

It’s all great and fine for me to recommend a curriculum adoption for visual arts, but which one is good and how do I know if it is good?

Uncomfortable Truth #3: The best curriculum for visual arts is the one you design.

You know your students, school environment, administration, and stakeholders. You already have a strong idea of what does and does not work at your school site. You probably have projects that are “famous” and students look forward to doing that project when they are in that grade. You already have the skeleton of a curriculum.

But, like, HOW do you design a curriculum? 

Uncomfortable Truth #4: There is no right way or easy starting point for designing a curriculum.

I’m going to share my process for the curriculum I am currently writing. But, keep in mind, my audience is General Education and not Visual Arts teachers. And, almost all of the students in my county do not have consistent access to Visual Arts until middle school (I know!!).

Curriculum map, ELA text, and Science standards are open my desk. The Visual Arts standards and the PPT for the lesson are open my computer. 

My Curriculum Writing Process
1.       What is my goal for this curriculum?
a.       To expose as many students to a variety of visual arts media over the course of a school year
b.      To integrate Visual Arts projects and activities to existing English Language Arts curriculum. .BUT,  still maintain an art-centric viewpoint regarding lesson/unit design
c.       To incorporate standards from Science, Social Studies, and Math as appropriate
2.       Do I want to integrate other curricula? If so, which ones?
a.       Integrate ELA curriculum as it is thematic and is a natural starting point for Visual Art
b.      My county’s schools have recently adopted new ELA curriculum, and this is a great time to inject Visual Art into the classroom (i.e. there is not pre-existing structure for this curriculum, and I can make art a part of the structure from day one)
3.       How are the Visual Arts standards structured? How will I use this structure?
a.       There are 5 Visual Arts standards strands (artistic perception, creative expression, historical context, aesthetic valuing, connections, and applications)
b.      There are 10 thematic ELA units per grade level in the new curricula
c.       10 Visual Arts integrated lessons per grade level per year
4.       How will I start writing?
a.       Make a spreadsheet with 10 empty projects (units) for each grade level
b.      Put in the essential questions/theme (from ELA text) for each unit
c.       Examine the ELA text for each unit
                                                               i.      Which Visual Arts standards would naturally fit best with the unit?
                                                             ii.      What Science, Social Studies, and/or Math standards could also be incorporated?
                                                            iii.      What kind of project could encompass i and ii?
d.      Research inspirational projects, concepts, and/or inspirational artwork via
                                                               i.      Google keyword search
                                                             ii.      thesmARTteacher.com
                                                            iii.      Artsonia
                                                           iv.      Art of Ed
                                                             v.      Google Arts and Culture project
                                                           vi.      Pinterest
e.      Consider how I can take the inspirational work from above and make it rigorous enough for my curriculum, students, and standards.
                                                               i.      No copying existing projects exactly (I just like this challenge)
                                                             ii.      Important to remember rigor and fidelity regarding standards
f.        Finish the curriculum map
g.       Begin writing the lessons
                                                               i.      Use the same format if publishing
                                                             ii.      Handy to have from year-to-year and for potential interviews etc.
                                                            iii.      Excellent for explaining to admin what is going on, and for showing connections to other subjects

Curriculum map open (with thumbnail reminders of my inspirational images)
This brings me back to Visual Arts curriculum adoption naysayers:
1.        I don’t want to do the same thing every year; doing the same thing every year is boring!
-Most schools don’t adopt a curriculum for life. They adopt it for about 6-8 years. At the end of year 5, they started researching what they will do next. You’re not stuck with it forever.

2.       Those people [curriculum authors] don’t know my kids.
-If you write your own curriculum; you can write it for your kids.

3.       The curriculum isn’t inclusive of the materials to which I have access.
-If you write your own curriculum, you can write it based on your materials.

4.       Most curricula are really watered down compared to what I can do.
-If you write your own curriculum, you can write it based on your strengths.

5.       The curriculum doesn’t have enough [media of choice] in it.
-If you write your own curriculum, you can write it based on your strengths.

6.       I don’t know how to use my kiln / I don’t have a kiln; I can’t teach clay.
-If you write your own curriculum, you can write it based on your strengths.

7.       I teach whatever I want right now; it works for me.
-It’s not working for you as well as you think. You’re frequently stressed about “what to teach on Monday,” bored of teaching the same thing because you don’t have time to plan something new, have no creative juice to design anything new, are deploying lessons that aren’t fully conceptualized and aren’t as rigorous as they could be with pre-planning.

8.       My administrators have no idea what the standards for Visual Art look like in a classroom. As such, I can teach whatever I want with none of that “core curriculum” and testing nonsense. Basically, I teach art however I want.
-Dude. That’s fun-time art doing; you’re not teaching art. You gotta step it up.

How amazing would it be to start in the fall and know you have your WHOLE YEAR planned out?! This doesn’t mean you can’t change lessons or swap out units (or even not do a few units), but you have a quality structure. How much more meaningful will the learning be for your students when you don’t have to make connections and/or problem solve on the fly? How nice would it be to know you have this same “map” for the next five years? How much more could you build your program if you weren’t mired down every week trying to figure out, “What am I teaching on Monday?”


Writing a curriculum will take you to the next level professionally in and out of the classroom. It also injects more relevancy into your art classroom. We all love to “make art for art’s sake.” I’m not saying to never make art for the sake of art (ever). But, art isn’t created in a vacuum. Your students are already learning about other stuff at school; why not use that foundational learning and reinforce it in your class? That doesn’t mean Art should exist as a supplement to Science, (for example), but you can have meaningful “conversations” between art Art and another subject and meet the objectives of both!


Do you write your own curriculum? Do you think you want to try? Let me know! I’m always here to help!

Friday, March 3, 2017

STEAM Simple Circuit Operation Game



I loved the game, "Operation!" as a kid. It was awesome and ridiculous fun. When I saw that the 6th grade Next Generation Science Standards reference body systems, I knew there was a STEAM project in there somewhere. This simple circuit, "Operation!" game is the result.

Here is the full lesson:


Here is a link to the presentation that explains the lesson, and provides a visual, step-by-step process of how to build the game:


And, here is a template I use for the body:


Enjoy!

P.S. If you try this out, send me pics of your kids' works! artful.artsy.amy@gmail.com



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Black History Month Visual Art Projects

February is Black History Month, and now more than ever I see my friends, colleagues, and just simply people discussing race, gender, society, and the intersection and interaction of both (sometimes politely; sometimes less so). While I strongly feel we should be consciously engaging in critical discussions about race on a near daily basis, I also strongly feel it is important to take the time to recognize the amazing Black voices that have so richly contributed to our society. 

With that spirit in mind, here are a few projects that lend themselves to the celebration of Black History Month.

Images of Social Justice


Split Portrait with Text





Yes We Can


Digital Anti Bullying Posters 
(incorporate Black heroes and/or issues relating to Black civil rights)



Text Portraits
(use text and/or portraits from Black heroes)




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Digital Visual Idioms: Visual Arts and Language Arts Integration

It Costs an Arm and a Leg (my digital visual idiom example)
I love anything that is a play on words. Metaphors, similes, double entendres, and idioms; I love them all! Lately, I've been focusing on integrating visual arts into "general" (non-arts) classrooms. Figurative language often relies on highly visual wordings; it is a natural way to integrate visual arts and language arts.
Bad Hair Day by Robert Deyber, source

by Keren Rosen, source

This lesson is designed for 4th-7th graders (the lesson I wrote is specifically with 6th graders in mind) and focuses on using idioms. We used www.pixlr.com/editor for the digital design aspect.

Here is a copy of the full lesson plan:



Here is the process:

1. Identify and define idioms
2. Identify and define visual idioms
3. View various examples of visual idioms
4. Discuss the meaning of the idiom textually vs. idiom meaning visually (figurative vs. literal)
5. Review popular idioms / make a class list
6. Students select an idiom
7. Students brainstorm what images are needed to create a visual idiom
8. Students use Google Images or Open Clip Art to source copyright-free / royalty-free images

9. Students view a live or video demonstration of how to search for royalty-free and/or copyright-free sources images and using Pixlr to create their visual idiom

10. Students use the "Pixlr Tips and Tricks" handout for reference 

11. Students create their artwork

12. Students self-asses their artwork


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Digital Art and Math: Animating Fractals

Oooh-wheee! I have been studying up on the maths lately. My high school math teacher buddies tasked me with coming up with a new (no proportion grids or tessellations) math arts-integrated lesson (and if it could include digital art, too?).

Everything you need to know how to throw this down is below. We used the free, online program PiskelApp.com to make these animated fractals. All is free. Please be cool and attribute if you re-post and do not sell my work.




Project overview 


Project Presentation


Fractal Tiling Cheat Sheet


Fractal Tiling Rubric


How-To Videos