Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Would You Do?

This is what is on my easel today.

Last week, I got an email from one of the coordinators at my school. I have $138 to spend within a short time frame. If I do not spend the money, it goes back into the larger school account.

I have SO MANY items for which I want to use the money!! Here are a few of my items:

1. markers, ours are dying. . .yet, we don't use the markers much for our final drafts, so is it really worth it to me? I'm not sure.

2. Acrylic paint. I'm teaching 3 (THREE!!) advanced art courses this quarter and I'd love to use some "real professional" paint. But, is $138 enough to make an impact?

3. Colored permanent markers. Those things just have SO MANY uses. But, I'm concerned about the theft issue and wondering if it is really worth the cost.

4. Encaustic paint pans. I'm just dying to teach a more traditional form of batik (as opposed to drawing with crayon/oil pastel on paper and washing with black dye). . .And, I've been hoarding all the tattered old crayons, so I already have the media!

What would you purchase for your classroom if you had a sudden $138 windfall?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lesson Plan: Creating Digital Graffiti

My Digital Graffiti Wall (brick wall "base photo" from here)

My students love graffiti; they have been clamoring for me to teach a graffiti unit all year. But, honestly, I've been torn.

lifestyle4 (1)

Personally, I adore graffiti. When you look at what artists like Banksy contribute to society, it is hard to ignore the visual and societal artistic impact of graffiti. Yet, it can be hard to translate the lofty, idealistic virtues that graffiti often attempts to impart to middle school aged kids who want to use spray paint to tag up the world.

I've taught graffiti before. And, every single time, a student has gone out and illegally tagged something. So, uh, yeah, I had mixed feelings about teaching a graffiti unit to my Title I students (who have been actively thieving from the Art room all year).

Eventually though, their interest in graffiti won me over. My students' behavior is best and they learn the most when they are actively engaged in the subject. I knew that with graffiti, I would have their full attention. But, my huge -EPIC- concern was that they must understand the philosophies behind graffiti, the origins of graffiti, the usages of graffiti, the many mediums of graffiti (not just spray paint!) and legal and societal ramifications of graffiti. I made a pact with myself that I would not teach graffiti unless I could address all of my concerns.

Fortunately, I found ways to do that and I've created two graffiti units for my students. For one, they create mini, 3D, paper, subway cars that they "tag" with colored pencils. For another, they use digital media to create a digital urban landscape full of graffiti. Today, I'll be writing about creating digital graffiti. Later this week, I'll post about the mini subway cars.

I have a little secret to share with you. I taught Digital Art for four years and I love finding ways to incorporate it into my classroom. And, I love the idea of creating virtual graffiti, as there are no legal issues. But, my school does not have Photoshop or much in the way of digital art materials. I'm working on a grant to get Photoshop in the school, but I also want to provide free resources for my students. They love working on the computers and most of them have internet access at home. So, I decided to do a bit of sleuthing and find free resources with which to complete this project.

This means that those of you without photo-manipulation-software can do this same Digital Graffiti project with your students!! Yeah! I used GraffitiCreator and for this project.

Step 1: I blow their minds -and perceptions of graffiti- by showing this stop-motion graffiti film by artist blu blu:

Step 2: I introduce graffiti to my students using this AMAZING graffiti presentation from the University of Alabama

Step 3: We watched this clip from the PBS series, Art:21 about fine artists Margarent Kilgallen and Barry McGee who are both inspired by graffiti.

Step 4: I had students practice drawing their own graffiti tags using this worksheet and sample graffiti fonts. My worksheet was inspired by this one seen on Pinterest, I made my own because my students LOVE it when I draw for them.

Step 5: I introduced the students to digital graffiti by performing a quick demo of the project using GraffitiCreator and

ms j graffiti
Step 6: I ask students to create their own graffiti tags using GraffitiCreator. Even though I give a full demonstration, I provide them with this click-by-click set of directions.

Step 7: I showed this stop-motion graffiti film that focuses on DIGITAL media instead of spray paint. The purpose is to really get them out of the mindset of graffiti being only a deviant and/or spray-paint related genre.

Step 8: Students are asked to use, which is an online photo manipulation tool that is very similar to an old version of Adobe Photoshop Elements (think of it is as "Adobe Light"). I allow them to "play" with Pixlr for several days and even create several graffiti walls. I also provide them with these click-by-click directions. . .But, also hope that they will deviate and explore on their own.

Step 9: We print out color versions of our graffiti walls to be displayed in the hallway!

graffiti wall

I did this project with my 6th graders. I'm so thrilled about the Digital Art opportunities that I will have with them as they go through Middle School. I'm also really excited that as a free resource, Pixlr is something that they can use at home and for other art and project-related purposes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Classroom Management: Keeping Art Materials in the Art Classroom or Preventing Student Theft

Do you have trouble keeping Art materials in the in the Art classroom?

Maintaining Art room resources is one of the biggest concerns for any Art teacher. Often, we are seen as a supply closet of sorts and colleagues forget that in lieu of textbooks, we have materials. When the materials run out, our class is very difficult to teach. Finding the right balance of being warm and sympathetic enough to share, but still keeping boundaries can be tricky.

But, this post is not about that. It is about flagrant student theft. I've taught for seven years and I've never seen such a student thieving problem.. Most of my students are on free and reduced lunch, and most come to school with literally the clothes on their back and nothing else. They (or their parents) know that teachers will give them paper and pencils to do their work in lieu of having them fail for lack of those materials. I haven't figured out if this is a game of sorts, or if it is a real need. I suspect it is a bit of both. Either way, let's keep in mind that nearly all of my students wear $100 plus Nike Air Jordan sneakers. So, they can afford expensive shoes, but not pencils, paper, breakfast, or lunch.

My point in saying this is that my students have a bit of an attitude about what they are owed. I'm at the point wherein I think that so much has been provided to them that they and/or their families feel that everything should be provided to them. My students seem to have no sense of boundaries when it comes to ownership. They take what they want, when they want, on the basis that they need it and it should be given to them. For instance, earlier this year, my iphone went missing. It is a very bizarre and troubling attitude to manage.

I received 120 permanent markers in my supply order earlier this year. As of the end of last quarter, every single marker has been stolen. I went and purchased 40 permanent markers at my local Target on Wednesday night for my classroom. On Thursday, I explained the theft and the new marker purchase to my students. I told them I would count out and count back in the markers. By 2nd period I was already missing one marker. When I held the class from dismissal, we waited ten minutes with the marker still not showing up. In exasperation, I let the kids go. I repeated this process two more times, and by the end of the day, I was down six markers.

I was also seeing red.

Today, I came up with an even tighter system. I explained it to students and was met with a lot of disrespectful comments about how permanent markers only cost a dollar. I explained that those dollars add up and they mostly add up to us not having markers in Art when we need them. . . And, that adds up to us not doing cool projects because we lack the materials. As they say in the South: "I'm done playin' with y'all."

At the end of the day, ALL of my markers were back in my classroom.

Here is my new, tighter, system:
I built a marker caddy labeled with a number. I then put a masking tap flag on each marker and numbered that. Then, I created a logout/login sheet with the names from my student rosters. Students have to come to me to get a marker. I dispense the marker and the students must write that marker number next to their name on the class roster. When students return the marker, they must initial next to the marker number on the class roster. If any markers fail to return, the student responsible for that marker receives a zero for his/her daily grade. It is timely, but it creates a lot of accountability. I also noticed that students were more likely to turn their marker in as soon as they were finished with it. I believe this is because they were afraid of losing the marker and/or having a friend pick it up when they weren't watching.

I'm so proud of the marker caddy I built. The kids actually really like it. One student said: "Did you build that Ms. J.? That is swagg!!" In fact, I liked it so much I built a few more caddies for scissors, glue bottles, and lino cutters. I was playing with the idea of making one for Xacto Blades, but I prefer to keep those safely locked away in a metal sharp box. The caddies are super cheap, super easy, and super fast to make.

Step 1: Procure some floral foam. A lot of small floral foam bricks were donated to my classroom years ago.

Step 2: Use some cylindrical object to push spaced holes in the foam. I used a crayola marker.

Step 3: Join several pieces of smaller foam together to make one larger brick.

Step 3: Cover the foam brick with masking tape. You don't have to cover the foam, but I suspect the students would smoosh their fingers into etc. You could also wrap the foam brick with paper, but the masking tape sticks and helps it keep shape better in my opinion.

Step 4: Use an Xacto Blade and cut small x's into the holes you just covered with tape.

Step 5: Number your holes with permanent marker.

Step 6: Put numbered masking tape flags onto your markers if you wish.

Step 7: Push your markers into your holes.

Step 8: Voila! You now have a marker caddy.

Here are a few of the other caddies I built:

A glue one to aid students in storing the glue bottles upright.

A lino cutter one to keep track of all those blades!

A scissor one to do a quick eye check that all sharps have been returned.