Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Signs They are a Changin'

Here is another great lesson inspired by the work, lessons, and idea of Olivia Gude.  In this case, students examined popular signage and altered the ideas slightly to make a completely different sign. My students loved this and had a blast.

I really stressed to my students this was a "creativity" project.  It was important to me for them to stretch their creative thinking skills as far as they could. . . And, I am so proud of the results.


classroom signs










Sunday, August 26, 2012

Making Personal Connections to Create Meaningful Artwork

My school district provides for one day of pre-planning wherein teachers get to focus solely on their subject area.  This year, the arts teachers in my district were treated to guest speak Olivia Gude. Gude is a winner of the Lowenfeld Award from the NAEA, which pretty much marks her as one of the best in our field.  She had so much to say; and I had (have) so much to learn.  The most vital part of what she had to share was that it is critical we create lessons that are thought-provoking and relevant to students.

Student beginning his collage

She showed us a few exemplars of one of her units wherein students view images from The Great Migration series by Jacob Lawrence and then create their own artwork inspired by one of their most meaningful memories. Her lesson was really for high school students, but I made a few tweaks to suit it for my middle school students.

I began by asking students to complete this worksheet (inspired by ideas of Olivia Gude), which helped them to streamline their thought process:
you can download the planning sheet here

Students then drew their most important memory of 18 x 24 paper.
I modeled how to cut apart their memories and trace onto painted paper
Students made a collage of their memory
Students wrote a reflection about their artwork (and incorporated Common Core vocabulary)

Here are a few exemplars from my students:
"This is my brother in his green room. My brother's favorite color is green and I helped him paint his room green. This is my favorite memory because it made my brother very happy."

"This is the plan I took from New York to Georgia when I moved here. It was a very sad day. It is an important memory because this plane ride changed my life."

"My favorite memory is my grandmother's 100th birthday party. My whole family and everyone I love was there. It is an important memory because I don't know anyone else who has lived to be so old."

"My favorite memory is the first time I went to the beach and saw the Ocean. I was so excited I couldn't believe I was finally seeing the ocean."

"This is my favorite memory because this is the day I met my brother for the first time. It was my brother's 11th birthday and I was so excited to meet him."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What is on My Desk?

On a fun note, here is what my desk looks like right now:

my desk2
I use all this stuff daily:

1. overhead projector. My document camera software needs to be re-installed, but I don't have the computer administrator privilege to do it. So, I have to wait for the roving technology person to come to my school and do it for me. Since there are about 50 computers at my school that need software so students can complete classwork, I expect my needs are a bit down on the list. So, I'm improvising with this bit of old-school technology.  My media specialist hunted this down for me and was shocked the school still owned one. Actually, we found two, which she told me I could keep (great! I'll use them for tracing etc.!)

2. clipboard with rosters. We had a fire drill today and I had to take 43 kids outside during that. Glad these rosters were handy!

3. tray with current paperwork. It is sort of my non-system-system. "Where is that thingy we got from that meeting last week?" Here. Here is it.

4. Bottled water. duh.

5. iPad. I've falled down the iPad rabbit hole. How did I live without this amazing device?! I also use it quite regularly with some inclusion students. They love it too.

6. Bamboo digital stylus with functional pen. One side words as a stylus for the iPad, the other is a real pen. I have quite a few. They are awesome.

7. Tracing table. I'm tall and it works as a platform for my laptop. AND, I can move my laptop for an easy tracing space for students. I let them trace all the time. . .as long as what they are tracing is their original work.

8. laptop. Everything I do is digital: lesson plans, gradebook, attendance, email, presentations, calendar, class website. . .

9. Pink eraser USB drive. The kids get such a kick out of the fact is is both a functional eraser and a USB drive.

10. Keys. I have, like, a bajillion keys to cabinets, doors, and desks for my room.

11. Stapler. I randomly am always using this thing.

12. DLP projector remote. Don't underestimate the power of your remote!  My favorite function? I can "freeze" the screen. This means what the kids see stays the same (frozen), while I can navigate around on my laptop. ha! love!

13. Day of the Dead sculpture. I just like him, and so do the kids.

14. Wooden posing figure. He is sort of a class mascot. The kids see my owning this as the most visual evidence that I am a "real artist." Which, cracks me up. hey pose him all the time, and NEVER ONCE has it been inappropriate. . .Which totally surprises me.

15. Non-functional electric pencil sharpeners. Well, they do function, just not electronically. Sigh. I purchased them at Target and they do "turn on" and "buzz" but the pencil doesn't sharpen. One of my brightest students asked to take it apart to "investigate," which I allowed. The spinning mechanism moves backwards from the direction it needs to spin in order to sharpen the pencil. But, my student wasn't able to fix it. So, we use them as manual sharpeners. . .And, actually, I like them better that way. They are big, so they don't walk off. And, the kids really like using them.

And, on the floor? 5 bajillion million cords. Where do all the cords come from?
-connection to DLP projector panel
-fan (no air circulation in my room)
-overhead projector
-glue gun
-other random cords; I swear they breed.

Behavior Management: Garbage Can Hoop Dreams

Sports are a big deal at my school; especially basketball.  My little darlings just looooovveee to practice their "hoop dreams" by shooting crumpled-paper-practice-wads into my garbage cans. I've observed they do this for two (very Middle School) reasons: For one, they want to show off their "skills." And, two, it is a narcissistic "look at my form" thing. One kid even practices his free throw hand motions all the time with or without garbage. I've tried everything to get it to stop (everything).  Here is why "hoop dreams" is so annoying:

1. they shoot from too far away and don't account for the lightweight quality of paper and they miss and/or hit another student.
2. Their friends make of fun of them and this starts a situation I have to mediate/the kid who got hit is mad and insists the thrower "did it on purpose!"
3. Getting them to pick up their missed "hoop dreams" garbage forces them to admit they missed and this starts another situation. 

I don't really so much care about the "hoops dreams" if they just picked up the garbage and refrained from all the heckling! What I mind is all the management I have to do as a result of this simple action. So, in that spirit I made a new rule.

Garbage Can "Hoop Dreams" are allowed in the art room. . . on a few conditions:
1. student must shoot into the 1 designated garbage can (tucked into a corner, just for this purpose)
2. student may only shoot from the designated area; denoted by a nearby table (about a 4 foot radius from the can)
3. If (when) a student misses, s/he must pick up the garbage and place it in the garbage can
4. Any heckling will result in an immediate, no-discussion, conduct infraction

I didn't expect this to work. I fully expected paper to fly everywhere. But, OMGosh you guys, it really works. The kids loooovve it, and I'm no longer having to manage the behavior. They are managing it themselves. They remind one another to pick up misses and refrain from heckling.

Do you deal with "hoop dreams" behavior too? What age group do you teach? I'm wondering if it is more of a Middle School thing. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Color Theory Review & Painted Paper


I used to hate teaching color theory; I really did.

I'm one of those random freaks of nature whom inherently understand color. The fact that orange and blue degrade one another when mixed makes perfect sense to me. I can't explain it, but when I'm mixing colors, I know which exact hue of green and in what amount will yield my desired result. I can color match like nobody else. And, incidentally, I'm my friends' and family's go-to-gal when it comes to picking the exact shade of wall color.

But, I digress.

Being such an (idiot) savant comes with a caveat: Since I never had to learn color theory; I don't have any personal history on which to build when it comes to teaching color theory.

I'm all like "Students! RED and GREEN are sorta opposites! Memorize this! Quickly! Y U NO GET THIS?"


Also, most kids make a color wheel (of some sort) in Art every year. In my experience, none of that information is sticking to them. So, uh, clearly, this method isn't working. And, making colors wheels is boring. Instead of teaching color theory as an isolated unit, I try to incorporate it into something larger, and preferably, something to which my students can build a personal relationship. Kids make better Art (damn, actually all humans) when they have a personal connection to the topic.


I want to make more collages in Art this year, but my budget is tight and all I can afford are those cheap, multi-color, fading construction paper sets. These sets typically have one version of every color. Not only is that limiting in and of itself, but there is only one brown. My students come in all sorts of colors, and they want to have a color that is at least close to their skin color when working on collage portraits. Back when I used to teach elementary school, I did a lot of Eric Carle inspired projects. Every year, I'd have students use bright finger paint to make painted paper, which we would later use on our projects. I had the opportunity to take in a lecture from Olivia Gude last week (ah-mazing) and she showed some exemplars of high school work using painted paper.

I was all "duh! Amy!! paint some paper for your collages!"

So, on the second day of school we did. Which, um, is kind of insane considering my smallest class has 39 students and my largest class has 44. Yes, that is correct. I had 44 middle school students painting. Truthfully? It was pretty awesome.

43 kids are in this class

This also served as my general review of color theory. Here is how it all went down:
1. reviewed color theory and incorporated Common Core vocabulary (see what I did there?)
2. each table was assigned 1 color (red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, brown, grey), we talked about how messy is fun (personal connection)
3. each table was given 1 laminated paper with pixelated versions of their color to help them identify different hues
4. I put out 1 huge tray of each table's assigned paint color
5. students used paint palettes to acquire other colors they wanted/needed to make various hues and values
6. I made "texture makers" out of small pieces of heavy cardboard for students to drag through wet paint
7. students painted
8. drying rack
9. rinse and repeat


OMGosh you guys, I have so many gorgeous, beautiful, incredible pieces of paper for my kids to use for collage!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Permanent Marker Caddy Take 2!

Remember when I posted about how frustrated I was with permanent markers "walking" out of my classroom? Remember, how I shared my solution: a marker caddy made of tape of floral foam?

Well, that is one of my most popular blog posts of all time; I guess we can all appreciate a system of tool management. I am thrilled to see some of you share you versions of the marker caddy online.  My favorite share, is from Syallatham.  She took the original idea and made it even better by adding colored duct tape!  You can see her (awesome) adaptation of the caddy on her blog at http://syllatham.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-sad-goodbye.html

I was so inspired by Syallatham's adaptation, that I decided to add duct tape to my caddy too! Here is my new (and much improved) caddy:


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Welcome Back to My Art Room

Whew. School officially starts for me. . .and the kiddos. . .tomorrow!
I wanted to share my room set-up and decoration with you.  I did add a few more posters after these photos were taken, and I'll share those with you later.

It is always so much fun to see the photos of your classrooms; I enjoy them so much. Since so many of you are Elementary Art teachers, your rooms look very different than mine.  I try to make my room warm and inviting, while still maintaining the functionality and "coolness" needed to keep Middle School kiddos on-track!

Also, I blog at least once a week on my school art blog. If you want to see how I pace my classes and what I do each week, please follow me there too. http://cobblearning.net/cmsart


Hanging to the side of the entrance to my classroom. A parent made that sign for me years ago. I love it!

The view from the door of my classroom

Just inside my classroom door

My "Monas"

Posters on the darkroom door

Supply shelves. Students are allowed to use any item off of these shelves without permission. We are learning the art of self-discipline and personal responsibility

Close up of the supply shelves. I bought this magnetic paper at a garage sale years ago. I cut it down, and use it to label all sorts of stuff!

Common Core vocabulary posters on the cabinet doors

Computer station

View from the other side of the classroom. I have 8 tables for student seating in total.

My work station at the front of the room. This is where I go over PowerPoint presentations and use my Document Camera for demonstrations.

Bulletin board for student drawings. As the kids give me anime and cartoon copies, I hang them up here. I like to celebrate all of their art-driven endeavors.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reflecting on This Summer

Tomorrow, I go back to school. I know for some of you in the New England area, this sounds terribly early. . .But, keep in mind, my last day of school was May 31st, so I've had a pretty nice size summer vacation.

Since I didn't blog too much over the summer (at all really), here's a quick view of what went down:

1. The last day of school; May 31st, we waved good-bye

2.  On June 4th, I began my E.d.S. in Inclusive Education. I had a good study buddy.

3. I presented at the 20th Annual Model Schools Conference

4. I hung out with old colleagues. Here are some of my favorite former co-workers (from the private school)

5. I bought a DSLR Nikon camera.  I gave my old point-and-shoot to one of my siblings in Kenya, and had been using my school's point-and-shoot all school-year. Since my mom is a professional photographer, I figured it was time to buy a legit camera for all my camera needs (they are endless).  Here is my Mom doing her thing.

6. I modeled in a plus-size fashion show. It was very liberating

7. My mom and I collaborated for a visual for one of my grad school projects, which focused on her home town. This is her (the smaller one) on the steps of her grandmother's house.

8. I rested a lot; so did my spoiled furry children

9. I dyed my hair white-blonde. Well, I didn't, my amazing hairdresser did.

10. I got faux hardwoods installed and inherited some amazing new-to-me leather furniture.  You can see I have some decorating reconciliation to do!

11. I wrote over 80 pages of research stemming from peer-reviewed sources.

12. I got to present my Model Schools presentation for my local school leadership. There were more people in attendance than I expected; it was awesome!

13. I visited a new public garden not twenty minutes from my house. They have a large, and incredible Japanese garden.



14. I went to Lake Wedowee with some fun women


15. I worked on my photography skills

16. I framed 20 pieces of student artwork for the hallways of my school

17. I bought some much needed art supplies during the back-to-school sales

Tomorrow, I head back to school! If you are already back, I hope you are having a great time. . . And ,if you are still enjoying your summer, may it be awesome!