Saturday, August 6, 2016

The "No-No" and "Yes-Yes" Boards

5 years ago, I was inspired by fellow art educator, Ted Edinger (author of Art with Mr. E) to do a "no-no" board in my classrooms at both schools I worked at.  I immediately found the board to be positively effective as students would correct themselves from their corner suns and lollipop trees.  I would hear them say on the side, "Don't do that, it's on the no-no board!"  and I would chuckle.

The No-No Board

The reason why I wanted the no-no board is because even though I want my students to be as creative as they can, my students needed a form of structure within the subjects they use in their artwork.  Too often in my first year of teaching I would see the corner suns, blue lines for skies, and full blank spaces in their artwork.  The no-no board had prompted my students to think about the space they work with and push themselves a little harder.  I have noticed a HUGE difference in their effort and projects have improved over time.  I especially like how students check with me to see their progress!  We are not a TAB classroom and we very rarely do "cookie-cutter" projects, but with the parameters set, the students took off with their creativity.

I have also been asked about my kindergarten students at their developmental levels.  I do not strictly enforce this board in the beginning of the school year because many of my students come in at scribble stage.  I instead focus more on fine motor before pushing their limits.  Mid-year, I have my kindergarten students create a self-portrait for measuring their growth in my class, and from that moment on, I start to introduce the "no-no" board throughout the next year.  By 6th grade, they know it by heart.

Here are the boxes I have within my no-no board:

-No corner suns
-No stick figures
-No stick objects
-No floating objects
-No wasted space
-No blue lines for the sky
-No messy coloring
-No violence (I make an exception with certain weapons, like swords or bows, as long as they are not portrayed in a violent manner)
-No paper airplanes (I despise seeing a paper airplane flying across my room.  They can make it, they can decorate it, they cannot fly it unless they are outside.)

The Yes-Yes Board

This week, I could not sleep a wink.  I moved into a new classroom (with a sink!!!!!), and there was so much to do.  After my first day of setting up, I put up the main board in my classroom, bordered it in half, and set up the no-no side.  I was stuck on the blank side and decided to ponder the possibilities.  Around 2 in the morning, the lightbulb went off in my head to do an opposite "yes-yes" board.  While one side shared what habits we dampered, the other side of the board shared habits to promote.  I had a 6th grade helper the day I set this board up and we both were very pleased with the results!  Some of the squares reflect the opposite of what's on the no-no side, while others help to promote creative thinking.

Here are the boxes I have within the "yes-yes" board:

-Use your shapes
-Color your sky
-Use perspective
-Fill your space with art
-Add details
-Find your inspiration
-Use your imagination
-Express yourself in the best way

I am still thinking of more squares for the yes-yes board!  What would you add?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

How Artsonia Became a Resource for our Child with Special Needs

I have been using Artsonia as an educator for the past four years.  I enjoy having students excited to see their artwork in our school's online gallery and seeing the smiles on their faces when parents and family members comment on their artwork.  I could not wait until my child had her own account at school!

When my older daughter entered 1st grade, her art teacher created her account and posted all of her artworks for my family and I to see and comment.  She would ask us all the time if Nana or G.G. had something to say about her artwork.  I even been using Artsonia to upload her personal artwork from summer classes and home, and I kick myself for not starting one sooner with all her little drawings she created at home or in Preschool.  I have raved about how Artsonia helped improve my classroom and even how parents can benefit from the online gallery as well.  With our recent family developments, we have discovered another benefit that helps me as a parent and educator.

A year and a half ago, our younger daughter was diagnosed developmentally delayed with sensory issues.  We received therapy for her through Early Intervention, where therapists would come to the house each week to assist her with her speech, motor, and sensory development.  I was noticing her therapists were creating projects with my daughter to help her with fine motor, and a lightbulb went off in my head: creating an Artsonia profile for my younger daughter to document her artworks throughout her therapy.

For the past year, I have been taking photos of my daughter's artworks to document her growth in fine motor development (and because I'm a proud mommy).  I've even added her therapists as fan club members so they can see her progress as well.  Now that my daughter has aged out of Early Intervention, she will be attending school at a Special Education Center, which also uses Artsonia!  It was very easy for me to contact the online gallery and have her account added to the school.  Now having previous documentation of her progress, her new art teacher will see how far she's come along and can continue her artistic skills and motor development.

It means a lot to my family and I that a program like Artsonia is available, especially for monitoring our child's growth in creativity and motor skills.  The online art portfolio became another tool for our therapists, social workers, and educators to use to document our daughter's progress and we plan on continuing our use of the online gallery for many years to come.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Recharging Your Creativity in Summertime: June's Stepping Stones

Burnout happens to any teacher in every grade level and there are some years that push us so much to the brink, we feel a loss of control with everyday tasks at work and at home. With political opinions, common core push, testing, and teacher evaluations, many educators are feeling more and more helpless as the years goes on.  Many art teachers on a cart or traveling feel the burnout sooner due to physical exhaustion and balancing workloads from multiple schools.

Teacher burnout should not be a taboo subject.   The reality is that we all face the low point of burnout at some point in time in our career, and once the exhaustion takes place, we need to find our ways to cope and keep moving forward.  As much as we may feel isolated, we are not alone!

We enter our profession with a need to share our passion for the arts with our students, staff, and community.  Knowing full on that the arts are not considered a core subject in most schools (when it should be!), we take on the task anyway.  We walk onward with our head up high and are paintbrushes raised, advocating the importance of creativity in a child's education.  Many of us knew it was an uphill battle taking the job, but we were determined to share the importance of the arts in our children’s education.

As some of us feel like we’re falling backwards in our journey, we must first take the time to identify the triggers that cause our burnout so we can keep moving forward. 

Identify the triggers.  Believe it or not, if you take a moment to "sit down" and write a list (yes, take a pen and paper) of what's troubling you at work, you can identify the causes of your troubles.  Don't worry about complaining too much or sounding whiny, sometimes you just need to get it out.

You've identified your troubles, can you create solutions?  For example, if you feel a lack of support from your administration or colleagues, find a way to open that door for communication.  I find that over 90% of the issues I’ve faced have been due to lack of communication, as well as flexibility!  You never know if someone else is fighting a battle we are unaware of.  Be kind and try your best to work with your situations.

For those troubles you can't fix, find a creative outlet to release the stress.  We are artists, so take the time to do something for yourself.  Create art, write a story, or do a dance.  Sometimes our burnout occurs from lack of our own creativity, so take the time to release your bottled up emotions.  And since it’s summertime, now is the best time to recharge!

You are not alone.  Do you have a colleague struggling with burnout?  You can take the first step to brighten someone's day.  We may feel that we are walking in a dark tunnel, but shining your inner light can help guide others along their path.  Take time during the summer to go visit a museum or gallery.  Sign up for a studio class.  Even going out for coffee can help alleviate that yucky burnout feeling we could be carrying.

Take time for yourself.  Get away from Pinterest and lesson planning.  Close the laptop and go for a walk.  Clearing your mind can help in organizing the multiple browsers in your brain.  Exercise, go shopping, read a book, or take a nap! Do you have kids home during the summer like I do?  Find a sitter and take time for yourself!  My favorite time is when my children are in bed and I have my art studio to myself.  Sometimes, I lose track of time and suddenly it’s one in the morning and the kids wake up at seven!

If need be, get help.  Burnout is not just a physical strain on your body.  It takes an emotional and mental toll as well.  Some of us fight so hard that we overdo it, and need to step back and recollect ourselves.  It is not a bad thing to go and talk with a friend, family member, or even a counselor.  Sometimes we need some extra support to keep going, no matter what anyone thinks. 

For every art educator who has gone through burnout, depression, and high anxiety over our careers that we love, I wanted to say that I am very proud of you.  Taking the time to identify your troubles is the first step in moving forward in a positive direction.  It's very easy for others to say to "get over it," but in order for us to "carry on," sometimes we need a helping hand. Continue teaching your artistic passion!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Art Games and Activities: May's Stepping Stones

Throughout the school year, you spend a majority of time in your classes discussing artists, cultures, concepts, and history, on top of creating projects inspired by those ideas.  Having a variety of teaching strategies in the art class helps students of all learning styles develop their skills.  One element you can include is using art games in your class.

Why include games in art?  Students enjoy a change of pace, especially when their given small challenges to improve their creative thinking skills.  You can include games and mini-challenges in quite a few different ways, such as time-fillers, beginning activities for lesson units, or quick tests in the middle of projects.

Time Fillers for Those Who Finish Early

Challenge Capsules: My 7 year old daughter loves those quarter machines that give you the capsule with a tiny toy inside.  Over time, those little capsules end up all over the house or in recycling.  Now imagine if you saved those plastic capsules for your art class?  Similar to a fortune cookie, write out artistic challenges to place in the empty capsules.  When a student finishes early and doesn’t know what they want to do to fill their time, have them choose a capsule challenge to complete on their own!  The challenges could include drawing exercises, origami designs, or low-key collage work.  Keep your capsules in a large Tupperware or jar for the students to choose from!

Hue Knew!: Hue Knew is a small game that multiple students can play together.  The game has different circles with over 9 different color names (printed in different colors), and 10 pegs total.  The game helps students to identify the color with the word while helping them to think faster than their opponents.  I’ve had the game in my classroom for years, all the pieces are still there, and students love to team up and play when multiple people are finished!

Tangoes:  Tangoes is an excellent art game that exercises critical thinking skills.  In the game container, you’re given a few geometric shapes (triangles, squares, etc.) and cards with random designs.  The trick is to fill in the designs with the shapes provided to the player.  It is amazing watching my students figuring out the puzzle to each design given.

Project Starters

Art Dice-While floating around on the Pinterest site, I found many bloggers who created their own “dice” exercise to help build a drawing.  My favorite one to use is the worksheet with shapes seen in Joan Miro’s artworks.  Students at their tables roll the dice, then whatever number they get corresponds with the shape given in the worksheet.  In the end, you get a Miro-Inspired creation that students can use for bigger projects!  I’ve also seen this exercise used to build monsters and Keith Haring-inspired drawings!  These worksheets can be designed by you, or you can find then in a Google search as a classroom resource.

Exquisite corpse is a creative method of collecting words or images in an assembled collaboration. Each person involved add to the sentence or artwork without knowing what was previously written or drawn, then once passed around, you can reveal the completed sentence or artwork.  The technique was invented by surrealists back in the early 1900’s, but artists and students use the fun activity to see what imaginative designs they develop.

Interactive Online Games

Create your own Jeopardy Game-If you go to the website SuperTeacher Tools, you can create your own jeopardy style game to use within your classroom!  Whatever game you create, as long as you save the link, you can re-use for any classes you have over time.  You enter in the categories and the answers, while the students guess the question!  I used this tool for my 6th grade students at the end of the year once they finished their art history units.  Each category was a time period and sub-categories were vocabulary they had learned throughout the year. 

Symbaloo is a website that helps create a bookmark page of your most visited sites.  Unlike Pinterest, which bookmarks sites into categories, Symbaloo is designed for you to see thumbnails of your bookmarked sites in one page.  This page can then be added as a widget to your website or blog.  Since I have a classroom website already created, I added my Symbaloo widget to my home page.  When students are finished with projects and have access to computers, all they need to do is visit my website and click and choose which sites and games they wish to play online!

Psst...would you like to see my symbaloo board for art games?  Click on my link on top of his page, Art With Mrs. O'Hanley!

There are so many ways to include games and challenges in your art class, no matter if you’re in a classroom or cart.  It’s amazing to see the faces of my students when I spring a game on them to exercise their imaginations!  

Monday, April 4, 2016

Setting Up Your Art Show: April's Stepping Stones

One of the many responsibilities we have as the art teacher is promoting student work with the community. Even though the task can be challenging, once the artwork is up and the attendees come to view the work, we’re filled with overwhelming pride and joy in our students’ creative talents.

1. Why have an art show? An art show is a great way to share the amazing works created by your students. No matter what grade level you teach, parents and community members will flock to see your students’ creations. One of our national visual arts standards is “presenting,” which focuses on analyzing, interpreting, and selecting artistic works for presentation. Within the anchor standards, we should work with students in identifying and explaining the purpose of a portfolio or collection of work, as well as how exhibiting art inside and outside of school can benefit the community.
2. When is the best time for a show? The timing of your show depends on your schedule. Many schools offer art shows in the springtime to share the student artworks collected over the recent school year.
The elementary schools in my district hosts an art show in the late spring to showcase the winners of our annual art contest for third through 6th graders.
Some schools choose to work with themed shows, like a multicultural fair or holiday extravaganza. A few years back, my previous school held a multicultural fair for all teachers and students to participate in. Around the perimeter of the fair, I displayed students artworks inspired by different cultures for attendees to view. You can also host an art show in the fall! In our district, the Jr. High hosts a gallery night in the mid-fall to showcase student work current and past, as well as promote the artworks of the staff and local high school.
3. Who should I recruit to help? The students and their parents would be the best people to contact first. If you have a school newsletter or a website, I would recommend creating a “call for assistance” to help in setting up the show and prepping the projects. You can also try to ask the student council, art club, and even administration! In some schools, teachers are even required by contract to stay for one event of their choosing during the school year. You may even wish to ask teachers in your school (if you have that option) for their assistance to fulfill their requirements.

4. What should I prepare for the show? Depending on the theme of your show, you can hang anything your students have created! For two-dimensional pieces, try framing them with either paper or matt board. Use dots of glue, spray adhesive or tape to attach the frames. Most of my students’ 2-D projects are always framed with colored paper once completed. A frame helps make the artwork more presentable and gives you less work to prepare before a show.
Once the artwork is prepped, think about how you plan to share information about the projects. You could print out a description to matt, or you can create and print out a QR code that leads to the website connected to the artwork. For example, if your students’ work was inspired by the artist Keith Haring, consider linking the QR code to the Keith Haring website for parents and attendees to view a biography about the artist. You can do this for any artist, time period, or cultural reference.
Are you planning on adding student names to the artwork? Consider printing labels with students’ names and dates to place on the frame.
5. How should I advertise? If your district has a website, newsletter or any social-media outlet, make sure to send them a press release statement about the show! I would even utilize Artsonia’s digital newsletter to help remind parents and family members about the upcoming show. You can also create invitations to go home with students.
6. I don’t have time for an art show. What else can I do to promote my students’ work? If you do not have the time to set up your own art show but still want to host, there’s a fundraising company called “Artomé” ( that offers assistance in hosting art shows.

They provide the paper for each student, professionally frame the original artwork for each student, and their team delivers and arranges the gallery with their displays. The parents can choose to purchase the frame for their children’s artwork at the show. Artomé also disassemble the gallery, un-frame and return any remaining artwork. All you need to do is coordinate when the show will be set up and then advertise!
If you’re planning your art show for the spring, the best of luck to you and your students! Once the artworks are set up, enjoy the show with your young artists.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reflections from an Art Education Blogger

See all those smiling faces in the photo?  Everyone in this picture is a blog author.  This is just a small chunk of all the amazing art educators who share their expertise on their own personal blogs.  This picture was taken during the Art of Education's Blogger Meet and Greet during the National Art Education Association's 2016 convention in Chicago.  Some of the faces you may recognize, but these are the many faces behind blogs that you may be familiar with!

I've heard many times throughout the convention from attendees that it was awesome to place "a face to the name."  Once they hear the blog name, their faces lit up as if they were meeting celebrities.

"Oh my Gosh!  That's Cassie Stephens!"

"There's a Dragon in the Art Room???  I LOVE that blog!!!"

"So you're Art is Basic!  I use your lessons all the time!!!"

"Mini Matisse?  I've learned so much from her!!!"

"No Corner Suns?  I LOVE that name! I love the lessons!!"

The Art of Education have been hosting the Blogger Meet and Greet for a few years now and this is the first one I've been able to be a part of.  It was so inspiring to be around so many art educators who love to share their passion as much as I do.   With being around so many inspiring faces, I wanted to share a little encouragement for those of you considering on starting your own blog, website, or entering into the blog and social media atmosphere.

We are all just like you: first year teachers, early professionals, veterans, and retired art educators.

Even though we may be leaders in our field, we still work everyday just like you.  We are all hardworking professionals, moms, dads, grandparents, artists, and ambassadors.  Yes, we do need our sleep as well! Not one blogger acts above their station.  We love meeting other educators and bouncing ideas from one another.

We share what we learn, and we learn from sharing.

Just because we bloggers are sharing our opinions and ideas, it does not mean we set our standards in stone.  When I find a method that works in my classes, I love sharing to see if my method works for others.  From sharing my ideas with this blog, I have in return learned so much from others who teach in similar situations and I continue to adapt my practice to refine my skills as an art educator.  As the great Michelangelo had said...

I am still learning.

Many times I've shared methods that have worked in the past in many situations, but have not in others.  As educators, we are constantly adapting to our surroundings and trying to find what works best in our situations.  I am grateful to know many other bloggers have so many inspiring ideas that I can try out for my students.

We encourage you to take the next step.

Starting your own blog may be scary, but if you take that first step in creating your own, you will never regret it.  Having a blog is not only a great resource for others, but it documents your own growth as well.  It also works as a great tool to provide evidence for teacher evaluations, especially in reflecting on your own practice as an educator.  You are also not required to post at specific times! Every blogger has their own life to live; kids to raise, personal activities to attend to, as more.  Posting at your own pace is perfectly fine!

If you are interested in starting your own blog or website, I encourage you to check out this post from Edutopia to help you get started!

Monday, March 14, 2016

How to Follow the 2016 NAEA Convention from Home

The NAEA 2016 convention will be taking place this year in Chicago, Illinois from March 17-19. For the past two years, I was unable to attend the annual convention and I sat on the sidelines reading Facebook and twitter posts on all the fun activities I could not attend. This year, the convention is in my home city and I am totally excited to finally attend again!  

For the past few years, I've shared ways for those who could not attend to follow the convention and still have takeaways from your own home.  Even though many are stuck at home, there are still ways to keep up with the national convention.  Thanks to the awesome superpowers of social media, live streaming, and online resources, we can keep up with our professional development the best way we can!  

#1 Twitter

If you follow #NAEA16 on twitter, you can see all the posts from the many art teachers attending the conference.  They will be adding photos, details, and online links to help followers catch a glimpse of what will be happening during the convention and what they have learned from their experiences.  There will even be  "Tweet-Ups," where you can see the fellow tweeters in this year's shirt design of popular landmarks of Chicago!  Can you name them all?

Look out for the following hashtags to view the convention on Twitter or Instagram:


#2 Watch for Articles from the Art of Education

The Art of Ed will be in Chicago!  They will be posting articles with the sights and sounds throughout the convention on their site and through social media.  Please visit The Art of Education to view their updates!

#3 Download the NAEA Chicago 2016 App for Your Phone or Tablet

So you can't go to the convention, but did you know that many presenters will have their resources within the app?  In the past few years, I did notice that presentation handouts were available depending on the presentation through the app.  Maybe this year?  Just go ahead and download it from your app store or google play to view what resources are available!

#4 Follow the #NAEA16 Tagboard

NAEA's tagboard is the quickest way to gather all the #NAEA16 tags from different sites.  Just go to to view all the posts and follow what's happening!

If you're staying home this year and you know other ways to stay involved from the comforts of your computer, let me know how you plan on following the convention!  

#5 Make a Flat "Art Teacher"

When I missed my first convention in San Diego, a dear friend took a "Flat Heidi" around the convention and took pictures with all my friends and colleagues in attendance!  If you have a friend who's attending, but you can't go, consider asking them to take around your "Flat Art Teacher!"  It's like you're there in spirit, and you have great photos for memories!

If you were not able to attend #NAEA16 in Chicago this go-around, we hope to see you in NYC in 2017!