Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Value of Peer Review in Visual Art

Critique is vital to the creation of artwork. While we are creating, we are constantly assessing, thinking, revising, formulating, and changing. We are in a near-constant state of critique. Yet, we don't always learn as much from self-critique as the opinion available is our own. Regardless of whether or not we heed it, receiving feedback from others provides another voice in the void; it provides contrast, it provides confidence, it provides perspective. 

Critique, review, or peer review is a familiar part of any successful high school or college-level art course. Critique, however, is less seen at the middle and elementary school levels. Why is that? I think it is partly due to the age of the students, and a popular but completely unscientific belief that to critique young students' artworks is somehow scarring and/or may take joy away from their art-making. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider critique for high school students: Teachers set out guidelines for the process, and define behavior expectations. This careful planning ensures a valuable critique and helps keep things positive, supportive, and polite. This same planning can be applied, in an age-appropriate manner, to elementary and middle school classrooms. 

Critique doesn't always have to be formal. Consider asking students to take one minute to look at their peer's work, and provide a comment. If working with especially young students, provide a sentence frame or a reflection frame that refers to the rubric. For example, "Take one minute and look at your neighbor's work. Think of one helpful comment you can give him or her about the illusion of depth using either foreground, middle ground, or background."

In the book Interpreting Art: Reflecting, Wondering, and Responding Terry Barrett states, "Self-knowledge can come through interpreting works of art, those that we are drawn to, and those that repel us." The strongest value of a critique is not for the person receiving it, but for the person giving it. Think of the last strongly worded comment you made on social media (it was most likely in response to something). Did the person heed your advice? Did you expect the person to change his or her mind? OR, did you learn a lot more about the topic because you were reflective and thinking deeply as you wrote your comment? It is the same for students. When students observe, draw conclusions, form statements, and provide feedback they are DEEPLY engaging their brains in the topic. They have to understand the question, observe an artwork, form a statement with supporting evidence, and synthesize all of that to provide thoughtful feedback. 

Whoa! That's the kind of learning we strive for, right?!

Next time you have an "extra" five minutes with students and you don't know what to do, consider utilizing that time for a bit of informal critique. You'll be impressed with the insights of your students, and it will challenge you to develop even more rigorous learning experiences.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and do not reflect Stanislaus COE. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

It's (Almost) Fall Y'all: Elementary Arts Integration Lesson Plans

View All Lessons Here

Every fall, winter, and spring, I host an Arts Integration workshop highlighting the season through integrated Visual Art lessons. I do this for a few reasons. First, a lot of us educators fall (see what I did there) into the habit of engaging in seasonal "craftivities" and forgo real, rigorous Visual Art lessons. Second, it is SO easy to integrate Visual Art, Language Arts, and Science standards to create seasonal lessons that have rigor and relevance.

If you are local to Modesto, CA - I encourage you to come and hang out with other awesome educators and me on September 11, 2018 from 4:00-6:30 pm as we focus on integrating elements of fall, books about fall, and science standards into classroom curricula and the Visual Arts. Attendees will participate in the making of four full arts projects and will receive lesson plans for four projects. Provided lesson plans align to California VAPA and CA Common Core State Standards. Click here for flyer with registration information.

If you are not local (or are local and just want MOAR fall Visual Arts Integration) here are a few of my favorite lesson from past years:

Fall Y'all Harvest House (Spooky or Non-Spooky)

Paper Squirrel Sculpture

Silhouette Owls

View more lessons and view available workshops at

Monday, March 5, 2018

Creating a Mugshot Using Google Slides

Edit 8/27/18 - Since uploading this project, I've had some misgivings about the appropriateness of it. For some students, this project could be especially problematic and/or be triggering. Yet, I do like the process of uploading an image, taking a selfie, editing away the background, and having a new image with yourself in it. The essential process used here could be used in a myriad of ways (and far beyond a mugshot). Please, if you choose to do the mugshot project with students, consider your students, their lives, and plan accordingly with empathy and grace. 

Y'all!  The digital manipulation tools in Google Suite (and in other free, online apps) are getting so good that I'm developing digital projects relying on Photoshop and/or Pixlr less and less. Where once I was breaking down how layers work to third graders, I can now tell them to just move items forward and backward in Google Slides or Google Drawings. It's crazy. 

A high-school Social Studies colleague asked me if I knew of any free, easy, and safe-for-student-use mugshot apps online. His students are currently studying the American West, and making "Most Wanted" posters would be an interesting connection. Alas, there are very few tools that meet those criteria. . . .But, I love teaching about Most Wanted posters (no idea why really; just that it is super fun and has great ties to American history), so this has been turning over in my mind. 

Whelp. All at once it came to me how to easily put a project like this into Google Slides. 

Here are my steps:
1.      Make a copy of this presentation for your Google Drive

2.      Share the Google Drive with students (give them editing rights)
3.      Students take a selfie (preferably on a green screen).
4.      Students edit away the background using Photoscissors App

5.      Students go to the “Green Screen Mugshots” Google Slides Template

6.      Students make a copy of the template slide
7.      Students insert their edited selfie
8.      Students arrange their selfie backward until it is behind the mugshot sign

 Optional Steps:
 9. Students go to “File” and choose “Download As” and choose “PNG”
10. Students print/share their PNG mugshot file

Here is a video I made of my process (I'm a visual person!):

Let me know if your students try this out!


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Illuminating Islamic Stained Glass with Sacred Geometry & Parallel Circuits

One of my most popular posts is the Islamic Stained Glass Project. I love, love, love that project because not only do students deeply enjoy it, the project integrates Visual Art, Math, and Social Studies. I've been going back and reworking "good" ideas to see if I can make them even better by turning them into STEAM projects.

Well, you know I love me some simple circuits! I applied a parallel circuit to the original Islamic Stained Glass Project and voila! and simple and lovely STEAM project emerged.

1. Students begin by designing sacred geometry via this free, online application.

2. Students print their design and slip into a sheet protector.

3. Students color the sheet protector with permanent markers.

4. Students find a small box (a shoe box or similar box works great).

5. Students color or paint the box black (optional step).

6. Students use metallic permanent markers, gel pens, white colored pencils or crayons to create an Islamic sacred geometry design on the black box (optional step).

7. Students apply their knowledge of parallel circuits to create a parallel circuit inside the box using copper tape, 3 mm LED or Chibitronics stickers, 3-volt button battery, and electrical tape.

8. Students use clear packing tape to affix their colored sheet protector.

9. Students use the copper tape switch to illuminate their lightbox.

Here is a copy of the full lesson plan including National Core Arts Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and California Social Studies Standards. If you would like to download a PDF copy of the lesson, you can do that by visiting here.

If you need just a few more pictorial directions of how this was created, you can click through the images of my entire process here:

Here is the original presentation I used to introduce students to Islamic stained glass.

Enjoy the free! 
You are welcome to download and share this within your classroom. You are welcome to point teachers towards this post so they can download the lesson. You are welcome to link to this post from your website, blog, and/or social media account(s).  But, please do not take advantage of my free-sharing of lesson plans by recreating and reposting this lesson plan to your blog or putting it on Teacher Pay Teachers etc. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Art Ed Blogger's Network: Artists that Inspire Me

Have you heard about the Art Ed Bloggers Network? It’s a collective of Art Education bloggers who all write on a given topic and publish on the same day. It’s a great way to see how different people interpret the same question and/or a way to learn more about this thing we call, “Art Education.”

The inaugural theme is “Artists that Inspire Us.” Well, I (not unlike you) could write chapters on that topic. I have a penchant for medieval art, I adore Botticelli, and will always have a soft spot for Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millias. But, you probably already know something about these genres and artists. I happen to really adore many (so many), contemporary artists. My husband and I have made a decision to collect artwork. We already have quite the collection, and add to it on a regular basis. We have very different tastes, and this makes the collection interesting and eclectic.

So, instead of waxing poetic about the artists of yore, I’m going to share with you 14 contemporary artists that inspire me.

        Tuesday Bassen
Tuesday Bassen is an American illustrator living in Los Angeles, CA. In addition to illustration work she designs buttons, patches, and clothing. All of her work as a theme of strong and powerful women. Her work is so tremendous it is often stolen by larger commercial enterprises (and she is not given credit or pay), so chances are – you’ve seen a derivative of her artwork somewhere. So, stop paying for the derivative and buy an original! I have a few of her patches and pins and I adore them.
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2    Sarah Burford
Sarah Burford is a British illustrator and soft-sculpture inspired by the styles of the 1930s and 1940s; she sometimes goes by the name, “Curious Pip.” As much as I love her illustrations (and I do), it’s her vintage-style-inspired dolls that blow my mind. I’ve been trying to desperately snag a doll for at least a year; They sell out within seconds of her listing them online for sale. They somehow walk a fine line between homage and individual creativity. She shares the numerous maquettes and sketches behind her process on her blog.
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        The Clayton Brothers
I’ve been obsessed (o b s e s s e d) with the Clayton Brothers since I was an undergrad. A team of two brothers collaborating to make provocative, challenging, and colorful artwork on interesting themes. Their website said the collaboration officially ended in 2016, and I’m looking forward to what comes next for the duo.
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      Lisa Congdon
Lisa Congdon is a former art teacher (!) who is now an artist,  illustrator, and author. She is best known for her colorful style and hand-lettering. Aside from loving her style, I love her emphasis on how growing older is an awesome adventure.
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      Leah Giberson
If I could paint like anyone on this list, it would be Leah Giberson. Alas, I lack both the artistic and technical ability and the patience. I adore all things mid-century, and I especially appreciate Giberson’s emphasis on the shapes and lines of this time period. Her artworks often feel stark and lonely; she frequently removes other reminders of humanity (like power lines etc.) from her artwork. I want to own an original one day.
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Heidi Kearney is the genius behind My Paper Crane, and some would say the revival success of plush is due to her incredible talent. Her artwork permeates our visual culture; whether you know it or not, you have seen her work. She is especially prolific, and is always dedicated to discovering some new way of making things. I love how she shares about her process on her blog.
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      Tatsuro Kiuchi
Tatsure Kiuchi is a Tokyo-based illustrator and painter; his artwork reminds me of the illustrations popular in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. The colors have that richness and deceptively simplicity that makes me think of more innocent times. I think Mary Blair would be a fan of Tatsuro Kiuchi.
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I just purchased my first artwork by Sonia Lazo. Sonia Lazo is an artist and illustrator from El Salvador. Her artwork has this charming and cute style, but it has teeth! Her themes are often thought-provoking and adult. I also deeply admire her ability to use a simplistic color palette to tremendous effect.
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(I didn't post the NSFW image I originally intended; you're welcome. Go look at her stuff! It is tremendous!)

I just discovered the artist, illustrator, and author Laura Ljungkvist a few weeks ago, and I’m already dropping heavy hints to my husband about what I would like for my birthday. Laura Ljungkvist is an artist and illustrator whose simple and graphic style defies wonder. How does she infuse so much meaning with twelve lines and two colors?! I don’t know! I don’t care. I just want to look forever.
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      Peter Max
Okay. So, Peter Max isn’t exactly contemporary, but he’s still with us. He still counts! Peter Max is famous for his Yellow Submarine illustrations that were used in the video and album cover of the Beatle’s song of the same name. I’ve always loved his high-color, exuberant style, but have fallen more in love with his universal ideals of joy, love, and peace. Also, I attended an estate sale a few years ago and scored an authenticated, original Peter Max. Yes. I know!! Squeeee! I’m starring at it while I write this.
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If there is someone with a more profound understanding of color than Mark Rothko, it might be Martina Nehrling. How does she get me to feel with just drips of paint on white paper? I don’t know. But, I’m mesmerized by her style. She’s another artist whom I hope to soon collect.
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      Steve Thomas
      I’ve always loved the murals and paintings created during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration. Can you tell yet that I love rich color? Well, Steve Thomas appears to be the inheritor of that great style. From tongue-and-cheek images of vinyl to re-worked posters celebrating American national parks, I’d fight you for an original.
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I came across Phoebe Wahl’s blog when she was still a home-schooled high school student living in the Pacific Northwest. I was astounded by her talent and topics. Fast forward a decade and she’s a graduate of Rhode Island School of Art and Design and an award-winning children’s book illustrator and author. I mean, what can this woman not do? I love how she uses a romantic, charming story-book style of illustration and infuses it with contemporary ideals. Many of the families depicted in her books are multi-cultural and multi-racial, for instance.
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So, Kristen Liu-Wong is my NSFW (not suitable for work) artist on this list. I realize we are art educators and often look at work that is safe for everyone. But, hey, provocative work challenges me. And, for me, no one is pushing the envelope of femininity and sex in art right now better than Kristen Liu-Wong. She’s another one I drop heavy hints about to my husband. 
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Hey! Make sure you go and check-out how the other bloggers in the Art Ed Blogger's Network answer the question, "Artists that Inspire Us." 

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the first Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

Monday, February 5, 2018

I'm Hosting #K12ArtChat on Twitter on February 8, 2018

Hey all! Join me on Twitter this Thursday, February 8, 2018, from 8:30 - 9:15ish PM CST for the #K12ArtChat. Participating in the discussion is a great way to not only learn something but to make friends and grow your PLN. I'm especially excited because this week I'm hosting, and the topic is "Visual Art & Core Subject Integration." I hope to "see" you there!

P.S. For the time-zone challenged (i.e., me): 8:30 CST is 6:30 PM PST and 9:30 PM EST.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Video Tutorial: Using an Animated Gif as a Sprite in Scratch (AppSmash with Scratch and Piskel)

I loooove animated gifs. I'm also falling in love with coding. What's more fun than combining two things you love?!

Did you know you can use an animated gif as a sprite in Scratch? Yup! I appsmash with Piskel and Scratch to do this, and I've made a video to show you how!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Behavior Management - Student and Teacher Reflection

The beginning of the second half of school (January to May/June) is a wonderful time of year to review and revamp your classroom rules and procedures. All teachers struggle with behavior management from time to time; managing humans is a tough job. One of my favorite (and tried-and-true) methods of behavior management is a behavior reflection form.

Ultimately, the goal of educators in managing behavior is not to punish, but to create the ideal circumstances for cooperation, consideration, and learning. I don't like to punish students. I don't like being punished or penalized, and I loathed it as a student. We can all think back to one or two times in elementary-high school wherein we received a punishment. And, most of the time we feel it was unmerited and/or too severe. The fact that we reflect on the unfairness of punishment lets me know it isn't an effective tool for long-term behavior changes. It's a fear tactic. Educators can't build circumstances for cooperation, consideration, and learning using fear. 

Incentives and positive methods of behavior management are the most powerful tools a teacher has for classroom management. Having said that, sometimes a consequence is needed. 

Consequences have more meaning than punishment. 

For instance, if a parent scolds a child for walking around barefoot, the child understands s/he gets scolded for going barefoot. But, if a parent explains the consequences of walking barefoot -hurting your feet- a child understands walking barefoot is potentially dangerous. If a child walks barefoot and cuts his or her foot, s/he has a profound understanding of the consequences of walking barefoot. 

Consequences > punishment. 

I firmly believe any rule should have an accompanying consequence for rule-breaking; students need concrete boundaries. If a rule cannot have a consequence, then why is it a rule? Perhaps, it should be a procedure or an expectation. . . 

There is often a disconnect between in-class student consequences and guardian understanding of student in-class behavior and consequences. Phone calls can't/don't always happen when the student behavior happens, and sometimes there is a lapse of days between the student behavior and guardian-teacher communication (it's not ideal, but it does happen). Early in my teaching career, I dealt with this disconnect one too many times. I decided to devise a system wherein there is more direct communication about student behavior. 

When a student displays a rule-breaking behavior, I ask him/her to fill out a "Student Behavior Reflection" form. On the front side, the form asks students to reflect on their poor choice, what led up to the poor choice, what choice they will make next time, and what they think the consequence of their behavior should be. On the back side, the form asks the teacher to describe his/her observations leading up to the student behavior, the actions s/he took, reflect on the consequences selected by the student and/or list the teacher assigned consequence, list the number of times the student has completed the form previously in the term, and outline the overall impact (if any) on the student's grade. 

The reflection is powerful because the student is able to reflect on his/her behavior in real-time, and it provides for teacher notes and actions. When the reflection goes home (via student, email, or fax), the guardian has a well-rounded idea of what happened and can see any immediate issues between teacher and student accounts. Finally, it also prevents the student from changing/developing a different story about what happened in the time between the incidence of the behavior and guardian-parent communication. 

Here is a copy of my Behavior Reflection Form. You can download a free PDF copy by clicking here. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Visual Art, Science, & Math Integration: The Bear Snores On

The districts in my county spent the last year determining which new English Language Arts curriculum they wish to adopt. Ultimately, the districts split between two different curricula, each with their own pros and cons. It was exciting to me to witness this process.  As a teacher, I've always assumed that such adoptions were done with little teacher input and/or little examination. I think that speaks to the not-so-unusual teacher frustration with district-level-decisions. In this process, however, so many factors were examined and each district picked the curriculum they feel best suits the students and learning goals in their district.

Another thrilling aspect of this curriculum adoption is two part: 1) the readings are aligned to other subject standards, and 2) at least half of the readings come from popular picture-books and chapter books. When I was in grade school, it seemed each subject was its own stand-alone entity. What we read during ELA time didn't seem to have a lot of connection to what we were doing in Science etc. Now, what students read during ELA time is reflective of what they are learning across the curriculum. This type of thoughtful integration, coming all the way from a curriculum publishing company to the teacher, is so important. It lends deeper relevance and meaning to what students do.

Furthermore, incorporating popular children's books is so ah-mazing. I know you remember how dull those text-book readings could be when you were an elementary student. I swear, back in the day, it was like textbooks found the most sub-par, yet vocabulary inclusive readings (ugh. boring!!)!  I frequently use the new ELA curriculum texts as inspiration for my next Visual Art lesson plan. And, it is so much fun to see authors like Eric Carle, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, Jean Craighead George (to name a few), and stories like The Princess and the Pea, The Three Little Pigs, and Jack and the Beanstalk represented.

Some of the books are new to me (I don't have children of my own and am sometimes out of the loop when it comes to picture books), and I get to "discover" amazing new texts! A few exceptional Kindergarten teachers turned me on to the book The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson last year, and I am delighted to see it included in one of the newly adopted curricula.

I set about designing a visual-art integrated lesson for general education teachers inspired by hibernation and The Bear Snores On. This project is designed for pre-Kindergarten - 2nd grade students, and includes connections to Science, Math, and Visual Arts.

Generalized Visual Arts Standards
Artistic Perception
- Identify the elements of art in objects in nature, in the environment, and in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, and texture
- Name and describe objects by color and relative size

Creative Expression
- Use elements and principles to create artworks
- Make a collage using cut or torn paper shapes/forms
- Use geometric shapes/forms in a work of art
- Plan and use variations in line, shape/form, color, and texture to communicate ideas or feelings in an artwork

Aesthetic Valuing
- Describe how and why they made a selected artwork, focusing on the media and technique

California Common Core Reading Literature Standards
- Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate
understanding of their central message or lesson
- Describe the story with prompts of who, what, when, where, why, and how
- Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its
characters, setting, events

Next Generation Science Standards
- K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive
- K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals and the places they live

Math Standards
- Identify and describe shapes
- Analyze, compare, create, and compose shapes
- Reason with shapes and their attributes

Book Link

Book Link

More about Visual Thinking Strategies

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Pusheen Hibernating Bear

Shape Song Link

Roylco Decorative Papers (you can always have students make their own, too!)

Link to Non Reader Rubric

Please enjoy the free share. Do not re-create this project for sale or for publication. An honest attempt was made to credit sources used to design this project; if you believe a source is missing, please let me know.