Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Classroom and Safety Across the Internets

As so many of has have no begun (or at least will in a week or so) the school year, I want to post some pictures of one of my classrooms. I know, I said "one." I have TWO art classrooms; I'm a spoiled, spoiled girl. My school services students aged 3 to age 18, and in the past has had 2 art teachers, hence 2 classrooms. But now, I'm the last art teacher standing and am responsible for both rooms. The smaller students attend class downstairs and the older students attend class upstairs.
This summer I had the fun job of cleansing the downstairs art room. It was in SHAMBLES. And, in my defense, it has only become my responsibility this year. So, it doesn't look quite as cool as the space I have occupied for going on 4 years, but it is not (at the very least clean and inviting) a hot mess. As I read Phyl's most recent post over on There's a Dragon in My Art Room, I was reminded of my own cleaning this past summer.

If you are complacent, lazy, aren't cleansing your art room, and/or are just doing lame-o projects do everyone in the education field a favor: QUIT. There are tons of new teachers who are aggressive, up-to-date on technologies, passionate, and excited to teach. They need a job.

Wow. I went off on a rant there. And, I'm only go to rev up to another (sorry). This day in age, I want to remind all of us who are teachers that we have to extra vigilant in posting student information. My school has a list of students whose parents have given permission for their student's pictures to be published on the school website. And, every time we post something, we have to double check that list against our pictures to make sure that students who did not give permission, are not posted.

Since this blog isn't affiliated with my school, I have no right or permission to post student faces etc. etc. Also, I don't think it is safe to post student information on the web anyway. If I had a kid I would do everything I could to keep his/her face off of my blog and internets (but I'm extra specially protective so that is just me). So, whenever you see students in my pictures, you will see them either blacked-out (via paint) or blurred out (via photoshop). I've noticed a lot of teachers have been posting student faces, and I don't know all the different policies. . .But, I do deal directly with a lot of super protective parents every day and I know that parents at my school would flip out if they thought I was posting their child's face in a public forum. . . So. . . food for thought.

Okay, numerous rants over. Above you can see pics of my upstairs art room which has been my art home for going on four years. During the time I took these photos I teach two classes simultaneously: 4th grade and Art I: High School Art. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Slotin Folk Art Festival

My mom and I attended the Slotin Folk Art Festival this past weekend. We. Had. A. Blast. The art was great, the people were awesome, and the artistic atomosphere couldn't be denied! One of my Mom's classmates from high school was exhibiting, and I ran into a family of my students too.

My mom was so taken with artist Bailey Jack that she purchased a work. It is so gorgeous. . .And, I'm a little bit envious that I don't have a budget for art purchases right now.

Anyway, I HIGHLY encourage you to visit Bailey Jack online. She is an amazing artist, and is so kind and sweet. We had a blast talking to her! The above is picture is by her, and is similar to the one my Mom purchased!

It is Helpful to Have a Photographer for a Mom PT 3

Again, please do not use these images for profit or commercial use. But, you are welcome to use them as student source images.

It is Helpful to Have a Photographer for a Mom PT 2

Again, please do not use these images for profit or commerical use, but you are welcome to use them as student source images. :)

It is Helpful to Have a Photographer for a Mom

I enter a lot of my high school students' artworks into contests. They get a lot of pleasure and excitement about creating artwork that will (sometimes hopefully) be displayed. And, I've had students talented enough (and fortunate enough in some cases) to have been displayed.

But, for me, there is always a struggle for where you draw your source images for your students. In an ideal world, they would be making all of their source images themselves. Yet, this is not always possible. And, I'll readily admit, I have several students, that -if left to their own devices- would NEVER bring in a source image because they hope to get out of a more difficult project. In fact, I even had to stipulate in my syllabi this year that images on a phone will NEVER be accepted in lieu of homework unless accompanied (on the due date) with a note from a parent. And, even in those circumstances, the student still must procure a printed picture within 24 hours before loss of points.

My issue with source images, is that students have a hard time fully understanding the ramifications of just drawing something someone else took a picture of. In their mind, they drew it, so the composition is now their own. Umm, yet it is truly not. But, this is also how we learn -by reproducing someone else's results.

We all know that this is murky territory for sure, but I REALLY don't want to enter any student artwork into a competition wherein the source image was derived from a commercial source (unless the piece is a collage or pop art etc. etc.). So, yet again, where do we draw our source images?

I like to use royalty free sites. . .Those are good. And, doing searches for free images on Google. But, consider this: at a recent illustrator conference a well-published illustrator pointed out that she can tell what free Google image an illustrator sourced in many cases. This happens, because the Google results for searches are the same for everyone. EW. I definitely don't want to be submitting my own -or my student's- artwork that looks similar to others.

Soooo. I try to include good pictures from my own vacations and travels. Those are good. And, I try to keep my camera with me, to snap up great compositions and/or source images. I have TONS of source images of glass bottles etc. etc. etc. But, some things elude me. I'm an illustrator, and as such, my ability to compose a great photograph is somewhat limited.

This is where my Mom comes in. She is a formally trained professional photographer. She can capture light and shadow and compose an image like nobody I know. She is also in possession of an unbelievable green thumb. Hence, she has some great garden shots. And, she lets me use them. Awesome.

And, when I asked her if I could post some of her photos here, for you to use, she said: "Sure! Do whatever you want to do!" So, I politely ask you to avoid using these for any profit or commercial use, but feel free to use them for student source images. :)

Friday, August 20, 2010


Yesterday, I had some pre-measured watercolor inks mixed with liquid soap sitting on a counter-top. They were to be used by another class later in the day. One of my high-school students accidentally knocked a few over (he was soo upset!). And, he helped me to clean it up. At one point, he was so taken with how "cool" the spill looked he asked to take a picture.

Nothing like a girl in heels with a mop.

Sol LeWitt

I love, and have always loved, Sol LeWitt. I think it may have to do with the fact that the High Museum in Atlanta, GA (my hometown), had a long-term Sol LeWitt installation when I was a kid. I associate Sol LeWitt with an exciting day downtown with my Mom at the museum.

My mom was, and is, great about exposing her kids to art. She took me when I was about five/six years old to see Monet's Waterlillies (also at the High Musem) and even forgave when (after waiting in line for a looong time) I threw a tantrum and yelled "What's the big deal about some stupid paintings, anyway?!" And, earlier today my Mom called to invite me out with her to check out the yearly folk art festival (you and I would say "primitive," "naieve" or "self-taught).


My students fell in love with Sol le Witt too. They were amazed by his use of color and his huge and dynamic compositions.

These were made by my 3rd graders.

Grouchy Ladybugs!

Every Fall my school does and Original Works fundraiser. I'm sure your school does something similar. . . I like to get an early start so I can make sure all the absent kids have a chance to get their work done too etc. etc.

So, the 3 year olds read The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle. We talked about how the paper Carle used had lots of lines and scratches on it (texture). Then, we fingerpainted red on paper and used carboard texture-makers (that I made) to make some texture. I pre-cut cirlces for bodies and eyes for them, along with leaves. Then, the next class they assembed everything. I had everything ready for them in a baggie, and they had to grab it out according to color choices. They found this activity ("Find your RED circle!") really exciting. They drew blue in the sky for wind, and green on the leaves for leaf-veins. They also added legs with a black marker.

I think they look pretty good. . .And, I was worried that maybe I had offered them too much pre-cut material, but I have to say, it was just enough. They were challenged enough that they were on-task, but still had a lot of questions and need for support. :) I feel they learned more about texture, drawing, color, and shape with this project.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Goodwill of Craft Stores

Check this out! Apron Thrift Girl posted about an arts and crafts store that only sells thrifted craft supplies.
I wish I lived in the Bay Area and could visit.

A Little Thursday Funny

My Thursday is going hard. Maybe it was the 8am fingerpaint fest I had with the 3 years olds. I dunno. But, at some point I started getting downright grouchy. In fact, I feel a bit like the Grouchy Ladybug.

But, then I saw the above guy, and had to crack a smile.

He is reposted from here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Warm and Cool!

One of the advantages of teaching at a PK3-12th grade school is the continuity you have with students. I really do get to see my kiddos go from baby to young adult. It is really special to be a part of that!
Since I teach so many of the same people every year, I have a good grip on what they know, and they have a good grip on what I expect. I like to begin every year with a reminder of warm and cool colors.

So, above are the 2nd graders warm/cool stained glass portraits and the 1st graders "cool hands/warm hearts." I'm really proud of the 1st graders because they traced those hands themselves! I just cut them out, and I was true to their lines. Didn't they do a good job?! And, they also joined all the pices together too. I'm so proud!

Art: What Is IT?!

I'm doing an exhaustive unit on animation with my 8th grade students. We are currently in-process building for the claymation portion of the unit. The coolest part, is that I am presenting this unit at the Georgia Art Education Association Fall Conference in October! But, I'll be posting where you can find links to the project here too. :)

So, the kiddos are making their clay figures. And, a group of girls in all innocence brought me the above asking how they could make their "dragon" look more "dragon-like." Ummmm. Apparently those two things at the bottom are legs. Fortunately, no one else but me say the "dragon" before it looked more "dragon-like."


What is an RSS Reader Anyway?

After my last post, I've received a few questions about just what an RSS reader is. You can go and search for definitions for it online and they are good answers. . . But they answer in a very geek-speak sort of way. I'm a visual lady, so I'm gonna break it down in the way that makes the most sense to me.

Let's say that you could custom design a newspaper that was delivered to you everyday. Somehow that newspaper knew exactly what authors you like, what topics you want to read about etc. etc. etc. And, everyday, when you read that newspaper you didn't have to "sift." You had, right in front of you, articles and information from sources you want to read about/hear from. An RSS reader works in (pretty much) that same way.

To begin, you would sign up for a free RSS reader service. My favorite is Bloglines (because I've been using it for years), but I've heard great things about Google Reader (and I think that it offers more features for users than Bloglines too). Signing up is a bit like signing up for a free email service: You have the ability to read blogs from this service, but since you haven't told the service you want to read any blogs you don't have anything to read.

Your first step after signing up, is to tell the RSS reader that you want to read certain things. All of these services are super user-friendly (just like your free email service) and have great tabs etc. In Bloglines you would click on "add" and you will be prompted to enter in the url for the blog. Let's say you want to read my blog, Artful Artsy Amy. So, in that space you would enter: and click "add." Once you do that, everytime I make a new post HERE, you can read my post by logging into your RSS reader account.

How cool is that?!

Well, you may be thinking: "not very." But, consider the implications. Say, you like to read tons of blogs, but you are always forgetting about your favorites, or you find it hard to find the time to sit down and go and visit all of your favorite blogs. By entering in the url of your favorite blogs into the RSS reader you have created your own blog-delivery service. All of your favorite blogs delivering ONLY the NEW postings the second they are updated to your RSS reader. And, once you read the new postings in your RSS reader they automatically disappear! So, no deleting of archived information etc. etc. The reasoning is, you can always go and visit the actual blog if you want to re-read an article etc. etc.

And, the more you use an RSS reader the more addictive it gets. At first I just had all of my blogs lumped together. But, the more I accrued, the more I wanted to create categories. . .So, I did! All RSS readers (to my knowledge) allow you to do this. So, now, when I log in to my RSS reader I can select only certain categories to read at that moment. In this way, I'm able to retrieve the information I want/need in a more timely and more enjoyable manner. For examples, I have a category devoted to home decor and home shopping blogs. Well, I don't always have time/desire to read those. Sometimes, I'll go weeks w/o a reading from them. But, I like to read the new postings from my Art Teacher category ASAP (cause y'all always have great stuff to say). So, I'm able to quickly read what is going on in your classrooms in a really timely way.

I HIGHLY reccomend getting an RSS reader if you don't already have one!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Character Ed

The counselors at my school asked me to help create a little illo for their character education unit. They named him "Character Ed." This isn't the finished version (we decided to go for an Ed who is a little bit older), but this guy just slays me!

A Cool Classroom Management Idea

Have I told you that I'm blog-obsessed? I have an RSS reader wherein I follow nearly 1,000 blogs. It is the BEST way to keep track of all the different things for which I have an interest. Admittedly, most of mine are artistic in nature, but I have a few other things too. And, the best part is that I can catergorize my art followoings. For instance, I follow jewelry-fabricating blogs, general crafting-blogs, clothing-creating blogs, art teacher blogs, plush-creator blogs, and fine-art blogs. WHEW. By having different categories, I can pinpoint EXACTLY what I am looking for.

Sooo, this week, while perusing some back months of TeachKidsArt I came across the best classroom management tool. She has taught her kiddos sign language to indicate which kind of question they need to ask. You REALLY should go and check it out!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Things I've Learned About and From Pre-K Students

Wow. So, teaching itty, bitty, teeeny, weeny kiddos is totally different. I knew they had short attention spans, but I didn't REALLY know. It is a big learning curve, and I'm having a lot of fun. Here are some of the things I've learned already.

1. Little kids are literal.
After I had the kids trace their hands out on paper, I intended for them to paint them. So, I said: "Okay, boys and girls, get your paintbrush and paint your hands!" AND, everybody held up their little hand and streaked it all over with paint. HA! Ooops. I guess I should have specified I meant the PAPER hands.

2. Little kids love to play in the sink.
Hand washing takes F O R E V E R. And, if a little water is good, a lot must be awesome, right? The first day I sent several back to class looking like they'd been through the sprinkler.

3. They are in full-on discovery phase all the time.
I gave everyone a bunch of tissue squares to glue down. But, they discovered if they blew into the squares that they would float in the air. COOL! Tell all your friends. righnow! EVERYONE BLOW!

4. They like to clean up and be helpful.
If someone can't sit still, won't be quiet, or is just driving you crazy - give them a job. Pretty soon, everyone wants to be a special helper. "Special" helpers, indeed.

5. They don't get nuance at all.
Is someone unexpectedly crying? It is probably because he didn't get to the special helper (because he was on task and doing what was asked of him).

6. They literally have the attention span of a puppy (because they are sweet little babies).
Is your story more than 5 pages long? Good luck. We barely made it through Where the Wild Things Are.

7. Little kids are conflicted about sticky stuff.
Some of them love getting messy. Some of them freak out about getting messy. Usually, because the world is funny like that, the polar opposites sit next to one another.

8. Adults are all-powerful in their world.
I showed them a flip-book. After viewing it they asked how I made it work. I winked and said: "magic." Instead of being met with the expected giggles I received wide eyes, shock, and awed whispers of "Ms. J is magic."

9. Simple works best.
I use clean-up games. My favorite is "magic trash." You pick a piece of trash on the floor and tell the kids to try and find it by picking up the rest of the trash. They will go nuts trying to find it. If someone finds it before all of the trash is picked up, simply don't say anything and pick another piece of trash. You can use the hot/cold technique if you like to let them know if they are close. The winner gets the teacher's congratulations. Your floor will never be so clean.

10. A little goes a long way.
At the end of class, when everyone lines up, I like to give them a little something. It isn't a reward, because they always get it. . .It is more of a "Ms. J. loves you," kind of thing. I'm smooshy and gooey like that. I don't like stickers cause they get expensive, and stamps can stain the kids hands for a loong time (you hate to send them home with a big stain on their hand if they have somewhere important to go etc. AND, they will stick the wet stamped hand on their face etc.) So, at the end of class the kids get "Smellies." "Smellies" is a swipe of any particularly good-smelling chapstick (devoted to this purpose) on the top of their hand. It is super exciting and the kids love it. :)

YAY 100 Posts! and Funny Stuff I've Heard in My Classroom

This is my 100th post!

I'm excited. . .For a lot of reasons.

1. I started this blog to document my work for grad school, and I'm loving sharing about both grad work and teachery work here.

2. Next week I start my last semester of grad school (my practicum semester) and it promises to be the least taxing so far (praise all!)

3. It is already the 2nd week of school!

4. I'm teaching 3 years old students through 18 years old students.

See, LOTS of exciting stuff! I don't have any pictures yet, but promise them soon. Instead, I thought I'd give you a list of some of the funniest things I've heard in my classroom in my 6 years of teaching:

- "My golden beaver, I like to pet you."
(in a sing-song voice from a 4th grader about his mask of his totem animal)

- "What?! Since I'm black I must know what crunk is?"
(From the only non-white student in a large private school with regards to racism)

- "THIS is the BEST day of my LIFE!"
(From a 6th grader covered head to toe in papier mache)

- "Asian Pride Wha-What!!"
(do you need an explanation? lol)

- "Ms. J, Check it out! I grew some more pit hair!!!"
(and he grabs his shirt up to show)

- "I didn't steal it. I liberated it."
(a middle school student in response to my questioning him on if he stole the valentine's day present he gave to me from the convienence store which he allegedly robbed earlier that morning.)

- "Grrrrrrr."
(a student spoke to me for most of the year in dog-speak. I could only get him to work when I growled back. for reals.)

- "I'm gonna do my art project on Michelangelo, cause I really like France."
(middle school girl)

- "So, was Van Gogh's girlfriend a ho?"
(high school student after watching a video that mentions Van Gogh's girlfriend gave him a VD.)

- "If you go to art school, do you get to look at lots of naked people?"
(middle school boy considering the advantages of fine arts.)

- "I was gonna ask him if he wanted some water, but I figured his family had had enough for the day."
(a high school student regaling the class about the man who drowned in the lake behind her house. She realized she had offered all the emergency workers water and crackers, but hadn't extended the same offer to the victim's family. This was her explanation.)

- "Steap 1: I got a pencil. Steap 2: I got sum paper. Steap 3: IT HAPPENED!"
(4th grader writing about the process of creating a crayon batik that he titled "The Rockin' Goat."

- "Dear Ms. Jhonson, I hate art. Art is *** and dumb you nasty *** *****. No one lykes you, you gothic looking ***. **** you and ***** art. Sincearly, [student name]"
(a student left this for me on my desk on the 2nd week of my 2nd year of teaching. The starred-out places are the expletives. I have it framed in my house because I think it is soo funny. This student went on to love me quite a bit, and he would also be the one that robbed the quickie mart to bring me a valentines day gift. Misplaced, but sweet.)