Thursday, November 29, 2012

Music to Soothe the Savage Beast(s): Part II

The last time I wrote about music in the classroom I was teaching K-12 students in a private school environment. We listened to a lot of Glee, Beatles, 50's du-wop, and classical music. My current middle school students would not appreciate that mix.  Some of them do, I'm sure, listen to similar music. . .But not many.

My students love to brag about the different types of urban, underground, indie, rap, and hip-hop music to which they listen.  Yet, at the same time, they talk about Carly Rae Jensen, Lady Gaga, and other assorted top 40 artists. This is to say, they aren't quite as sophisticated or hard as they would like me -and others- to think.

I struggled a bit last year to find playlists that were both amenable and appropriate for my students. We listened to a lot of classical music. The 6th graders liked this a lot. . .But, mostly, I think they just liked getting to listen to anything. My older students were over the classical music quickly.

My partner, Nick, is a former DJ. . . And, I didn't think to even ask him about this quandary! It was only when I was complaining one day about a lack of urban, modern music without sexually explicit and/or crude language that he swooped in with tons of aid.  He suggested looking at transcendental house musicians (down tempo) such as Thievery Corporation and General Fuzz.  It is the sort of pleasant, mellow, modern-esque music that you might hear at a spa or modern bar (not dance club). If you are a child of the 90's, it is very similar to the artist Moby. There is very little voice, and what voice there is tends to be quiet, uplifting, and appropriate.

And, my kids LOVE it. I mean they REALLY, REALLY, REALLY love it.  The hardest of my male students will ask what "that beat was."  Apparently, their intent is to find it, sample it, and make their own music using it. I think that's a pretty good endorsement.

So, I made a Pandora "Thievery Corporation" channel. It is pretty much 100% on the mark.

Additionally, I visited SoundCloud and searched for "transcendental house music." SoundCloud is a place wherein DJs and DJ hopefuls can upload their mixes and you can download for free (or sometimes for a very small cost).  I found a ton of DJs on there that I love, and I am continually downloading and adding to my playlist. I quickly got immersed in sounds beyond transcendental and it is just. . .wow. Really amazing stuff.

You do have to listen a bit more to the mixes on SoundCloud as they aren't always as clean as the Pandora Thievery Corporation channel. . .But, if you have limited access to Pandora at school, it is still an amazing (and cheap!) option.

Here are a few of my favorite SoundCloud artists:
Mr. Scruff
Bobby C Sound TV (my hands-down favorite!)

P.S. Yes. I do allow my students to listen to their own headsets (ipods, pads, shuffles, mp3 players etc. etc.). But, they can only listen to their own music, they may not share headphones, it must be on shuffle, and it must be in their pocket.  Even thought I allow this, only about 5-6 kids in each class actually bring their device and/or bring the device and headphones or want to play their device.  The majority of my students ask me to play music every day. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lesson Plan: Art, Typography, Literacy, and Common Core

Art is very fun/ a way to express yourself/ painting, drawing, art (student initials)

I've been waiting for sooo long to show these amazing works off to you!  I wrote and taught this unit for the first time during the 1st quarter. . .The results, honestly, were a bit mixed. But, the student feedback was ah-mazing and helped me to tweak it here and there to make it even better for my 2nd quarter students.

This project is the result of my attempting to incorporating visual art, art careers, literacy, and Common Core Standards all into one project. I mean, you know, why not?! lol. I taught this unit to my 6th graders and estimate it would work well for 5th-7th grade students (maybe advanced 4th grade students).


1. I introduced typography to my students using this great video about graphic design:
what is graphic design from Steve Quinn on Vimeo.

And, this great ppt about typography:

2. We learned about the haiku poetry style and discussed how syllables correspond to beats. We compared syllables to beats rapper use in music. . . We used words like "count," "beat" "pump."

3. Students identified a topic important to them and their lives and wrote a a haiku.

4. Students took a square sheet of paper and made 4-5 wavy lines. Next, they wrote in their haiku making sure that each letter touched the line above and below. We didn't worry about each "line" of our poems corresponding to a "line" on the paper.

5. Students inked their text. We discussed (and reviewed) line weight. We re-examined different styles of typography and students manipulated their text as desired.

6. Students used tempera paint to create color in-between the text.  We could've incorporated color theory at this juncture, but I felt that they needed a little freedom and let them run wild with the color choices.

Football is awesome/ you can get a lot of money/ it is so much fun


Basketball is so cool / I will play it all all day long / it is so awesome

soccer is very cool/ my favorite team is ????/ espanol?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Art of Literacy

Happy Thanksgiving. . .Y'all!

I've been busily working this week to wrap up a few end-of-term papers and projects for grad school.  One of the nearest and dearest to my heart is the creation of this new little website, The Art of Literacy, which is all about how to use Art to drive Literacy curriculum (and vice versa).  It is set up to provide educators with a few, introductory projects. And, to provide a bit of background about both Art and Literacy to help respective teachers feel more confident about driving instruction in a new-content area.

Here is the main page illustration (drawn entirely on the iPad app Procreate)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Scavenger Hunt Pictures

As, I wrote about earlier. . .I just finished participating in G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen).   It was fun. It was grueling. It was awesome. It was. . .so. many. things.

Participants were asked this week to send in a 1-2 sentence testimony about the event. Here is mine:
"GISHWHES serves to remind us that the concept of being "grown up" is not only stifling but limiting to the human experience. It may have only lasted a week, but the friendships made, creativity gained, confidence renewed, and emotional growth will last a lifetime."

It really was a rare experience. And, I'd like to take the opportunity to remind you that if you have the chance to push yourself beyond your boundaries and explore your status quo. . .You should. It is not only a learning experience, but an empowering one as well.  We see a lot of quotes and sentiments online (and in the world) encouraging us to do this every day. . .But, well, we simply don't. I think we get caught up in our routines and intend to do it later and never do.  I did GISHWHES while in school full time, teaching full time, and living my life.  I made time for it, and I don't regret it.  My partner, Nick, participated as well, and he loved it too (and he worked 55 hours the week of GISHWHES).

Here are a few (of the less threatening to my respectability as an educator!) things we did:

A team picture. Our directions were to look like we were from the 70s and very emotionally disturbed. My teammates are from Scotland, Germany, Turkey, Texas, Oregon, and California.

"What would Tickle Me Elmo look like if he had a serious meth problem?"

"Catch the legendary snipe and render in oil paint."

Film a scene from a movie scene-for-scene. BUT, you must film in the exact same location as the original movie.

Make a mock news show about GISHWHES. The more realistic, the more points.

Commit and film a Random Act of Kindness

Make a human abacus and solve problems

Here are just a few of the tasks we completed as a team (yes. I did a few of these too):
went skydiving
went shopping for diamonds wearing a wig made of buttered popcorn
made a kilt out of cucumbers and had a guy wear it
went grocery shopping with 50 stuffed animals
bedazzled a bosom
made a public petition for p does not equal np
explained Kant with sidewalk chalk
had a group of 5 year olds sing "it sucks to be me" from Avenue Q
Had a talk take us for a walk on a leash (the human was leashed)
took awkward family photos with cucumbers
had a battle in the kitchen wearing only pots/pans/kitchen tools
made a 2' x 2' portrait of a celebrity's face in Skittles
unionized Gishwhes
donated coats to a shelter
held up a quote in front of a famous world monument
made a dress of just cheese and posed in front of a classic car
made a jello angel on the kitchen floor
kissed someone with 11 food items between our mouth and theirs
knitted a sweater for a cat and made her/him wear it
dressed up as eve and posed at a bus stop with an apple
made a 2 foot tall dinosaur out of sanitary napkins
built a tea house from recycled materials and had a cup of tea in it under a bridge
roasted barbie and ken with assorted root vegetables
took a picture of ourself, holding a picture of ourself, holding a picture of ourself, holding a picture of ourself
made a Burger King employee eat McDonalds
hugged a veteran
let a toddler make brownies
made a hair crown
dressed up like a burrito and a taco in public
threaded a four leaf clover through someone's nose piercing
got advice from people married for 60 years on successful marriage
baa'd like sheep at a drive thru window
dressed up like a cheerleader and cheered on morning commuters
did a time lapse photo of a bride and groom standing in a grocery store for 20 minutes
made running shoes out of pumpkins and went for a run a public place

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Playing with Perspective

 I am in a bit of a post-scavenger hunt daze. My life right now seems to be split into two parts:  pre-scavenger hunt and post-scavenger hunt.

As the clock ran down for the scavenger hunt, one of the organizers of the event sent of this missive:  "We create, therefore we live."

Alright, so if you are a long-time reader you know I'm a bit of a free spirit, a bit of a hippy, and a serious believer in the high-value of play in life and education.  I'm confident.  But, this scavenger hunt thing? It pushed me waaay outside of my boundaries. I grew in leaps and bounds creatively, emotionally, and personally.  I like working alone, and instead, I had to work collaboratively and closely with people whom I still have not yet met. I had to rely on others. I had to ask for help. And, I had to do bizarre things that not only made me laugh (and remind me that I should laugh so much more), but also helped me to understand that being a bit different isn't something we should accept; it is something we should celebrate.

Also, doing funny stuff is (hella) fun. And, giving yourself constraints simply because you are a "grown up" is not only ridiculous, it is stifling. 

"Make sure you get one of Ms. J. acting weird!"

It was such an amazing experience. And, this is the kind of confidence and creativity I want for my students. 

So, you know me. . .I designed a day of class in the spirit of the scavenger hunt!

No lie: teaching traditional one-point and two-point perspective sucks. It is boring. Ugh. So boring. I hate teaching. I loathe it. . .I work really hard to avoid it. Blergh.   So, today, I decided to turn perspective a bit on its head.

Here is what we did:

1. We looked at this Power Point about literal, figurative, drawn, and observed perspective. Then, we looked at playing with perspective.

2. Students broke off into groups of no more than 3 and were given a digital camera.

3. Students had to come up with five different ways of playing with perspective. . .And,their groups will be awarded 5 points for each different perspective.  But, I can award up to 3 extra points per image based on originality, creativity, awesomeness, or hilarity.

4. On Monday (after students have cropped and edited and submitted their work to our online page in Edmodo), I will assign points and identify a winner.

5. The winning team will each get a FREE Chick-Fil-A biscuit.

Oh. OH. oh. The THINGS my students will do for a bit of fried chicken on a biscuit!

They had so much fun. . .And, they learned a lot. Their pictures got progressively better the longer we were outside. . .And, it was great to see them work to problem-solve the issues they were having with initial ideas etc. etc. The coolest part is that we were outside for about an hour, and not one kid was off-task.

And, as a bonus, I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. 












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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Breaking World Records!

This past week, I helped to break 2 Guinness World Records:

1. I participated in the largest international scavenger hunt in the world -15,000 participants worldwide

2. As part of the scavenger hunt we collected over 100,000 pledges from people asserting they will commit a random act of kindness (the previous record was about 73,000)

One of my "challenges" for the hunt:  "Build a teahouse from recycled materials under a bridge. Have a cup of tea in it."

Hey, and guess what?!  Many of YOU were a part of breaking that 2nd record, so CONGRATS to you.  I can't tell you how heart-warming your confirmation emails were. . . So many of you have wonderful, generous hearts and it really warms mine.

Thanks so much for your participation.  Lesson plans will arrive in your in-boxes on or before 11/9/2012.

P.S. I will post more pictures of the insanity; I promise.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Blogs

I'm such a lucky lady because I get to teach all about digital art to a few of my colleagues.

And, I'm sharing my favorite Art Education blogs with them. . .And, by proxy, you.


These Are a Few of My Favorite Blogs!

Friday, November 2, 2012

FREE Lesson Plans and Random Acts of Kindness


I want you to pledge to committing a Random Act of Kindness.  If you pledge, I will give you 40 of my best lesson plans!!

Want the lessons? Here's what you can do:
1. go to
2. pledge to doing a Random Act of Kindness
3. use my email as your reference
4. email me and let me know you pledged, put "free lesson plans please!" in the subject line
5. I will send you 40 free lesson plans by 11/9/2012
6. You must email me on/before 12 a.m. EST on 11/5/2012 11 p.m. EST on 11/5/2012 to get lessons


Does this sound like an unusual request from an Art Education blogger? Well, it is because I am participating in an amazing, world-wide, creative, event!!

 Apparently, it is not enough to teach at least 40 hours a week, commute 3 hours daily, and work on my doctorate. Oh, no. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands, so I signed up to participate in G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. (otherwise known as Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen).  Also, I got pneumonia this week.

G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. is the brain child of actor/activist Misha Collins. Essentially, people use the internet to form international teams of 15 and work over 6 days to complete a list of over 150 bizarre, creative, altruistic, tasks that defy normalcy. There is a sliding scale fee to participate that goes towards Collins non-profit, which encourages people to commit random acts of kindness to promote a better world. There is a prize, a trip for you and your team to Scotland. . . But, honestly, the prize is all the fun you have, the people you meet, and the creative personal growth that happens doing this hilarious hunt. 

So far this week I have:
-completed a Freedom of Information Act Request for my personal files
-bejeweled a bosom
-completed an oil painting of the legendary snipe
-made a draw of a woman riding a bus like a horse going off a cliff into an active volcano
-kissed a loved one with 11 food items between our lips
-committed and filmed a Random Act of Kindness in my community
-gathered 33 people, made a human abacus, and solved math problems
-created a fake news report about the scavenger hunt
-made a Brady Bunch style photo of myself in full on 70's gear
 -created a scene of what a drug-addicted Tickle Me Elmo would look like

I'm wondering if you'd like to help?  One of the goals of the hunt is to break the current world record for the largest # of people committed to completing a Random Act of Kindness.  For each person I can get to agree to committing a Random Act of Kindness this year, my team will earn two points. . .And, the whole group of players will be that much closer to breaking an awesome world record.

I'd really like your help. . . And, I'd also like to do something for you: I'D LIKE TO GIVE YOU 40 OF MY BEST LESSON PLANS

Want the lessons? Here's what you can do:
1. go to
2. pledge to doing a Random Act of Kindness
3. use my email as your reference
4. email me and let me know you pledged, put "free lesson plans please!" in the subject line
5. I will send you 40 free lesson plans by 11/9/2012
6. You must email me on/before 12 a.m. EST on 11/5/2012 11 p.m. EST on 11/5/2012 to get lessons