Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ideas for Early Finishers: October's Stepping Stones

So your students are in the middle of a project, but some of them are starting to approach you with their completed artworks.  There are quite a few options you have for your early finishers until the entire class completes their own masterpieces and help pace your quick finishers.

Encourage students to enhance their pieces.  If your students followed all the objectives and finished far ahead, consider encouraging your student to add more.  Sometimes those extra finishing touches can make your student’s piece stand out!  With teaching in a K-6 school, I encourage students in every grade level to add a little more detail to make their artworks pop.  This is also a good opportunity to do a formative assessment with your students to help them see their work from different perspectives.

Use this time for students to write artist statements or self reflections.  Since our school uses Artsonia, I have students include an artist statement along with their artworks.  I start small with 1st grade by having the students fill in a sentence, such as “My art project makes me feel…” and the students fill in the rest.  We progress each year from one sentence, and by 6th grade, they write up to a paragraph.  There are many options to writing their reflections and statements.  If you use Artsonia, consider adding a place for their statement to their grade sheet, which can be typed into the computer at a later date, or if you have access to tablets, have students add their statements directly to the app.  You can also use Google Classroom with the intermediate grade levels, which makes it easy to copy and paste artist statements into Artsonia.

Create or find worksheets related to the project.  This also works as a good wrap up to a unit!  For many of my projects, I utilize worksheets to help build upon the objectives of the lesson.  For example, After doing a Joan Miro-inspired project, I can use a worksheet called “create a Miro” for students to work with on their own.  I especially use this with the 6th grade level since they often finish at different times throughout the lesson.  Another example can be having students create their own names in hieroglyphs after creating an Ancient Egyptian-inspired project.

Create a resource center.  A resource center provides additional materials for students to use independently until all the students have completed their work.  Your resource center can be as small as a bin on your cart, or as large as a shelving unit in your room.   In my room, I have an art library shelving unit filled with many options for students to use once they have finished with everything listed above.   Your resource center can hold many of the items listed:

Coloring pages are not just for the kindergarteners! Even though I encourage the kindergarteners to practice coloring in the lines, all grade levels enjoy time to just color without worry.  With the new adult coloring book craze, students in the upper grade levels are enjoying more advanced coloring pages to fill their time.

Blank paper is always good to have on hand.  There will always be a handful of students to want to use the time to practice their own drawing skills, and what better way to help inspire them to use “How to Draw” books.  My students are always borrowing drawing books for everything, but because they’re so popular, I never let them leave the room.  Students use the drawing books for projects, art contests, and practicing on their own!

Scrap paper is another resource to have on hand since many kids enjoy making their own collages.  After trimming down paper for project sizes, I always have a pile of multicolor scraps that students love to use.  And if you teach them paper sculpture?  Your scrap bin will empty out faster than you know!

Art games can be fun and educational, without disturbing other students to are completing their artworks.  I have a bin in the art library containing games that students can play with two or more people, such as Art Lingo (a visual bingo that helps students with their art vocabulary), Hue Knew! (to help students match colors), Tangoes shape puzzles, and art puzzles.  The games are labeled in baggies for easy clean up with the art class is finished.

Art-inspired books are also a good resource to have in your stash.  This year’s favorite was “The Day the Crayons Quit” and Peter Reynold’s “Creatology” trilogy!  Students love to borrow books from the art library, and many times, I catch them creating their own artworks inspired by the books they read!

 Throughout the year, you will find many resources to help you balance your time with your early finishers and last-minute crunchers.  Find what works best for you!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mapping Out Your Teaching Environment: September's Stepping Stones

This school year marks a first for meIm in my own classroom with a sink!  It may not sound like that big of a deal, but many art educators struggle to find all the resources needed for their projects in their curriculum when they’re in alternate teaching spaces.  Here’s a few things to check off your list when setting up your space!

Find your water source.  If youre one of the lucky art teachers who have a room with a sink, you’re golden!  Many of us do need to search other avenues to supply the element that cleans our paintbrushes.  If youre working from a room without a sink, I recommend finding the closest water source. When I was on a cart, I surveyed the closest bathrooms, found the classrooms with the sinks, and carried 5 gallon jugs from room to room.

Find your electricity. If you push a cart from room to room and you need the projector or laptop, you need the outlets.  Before starting the school year, I would walk through all the rooms I pushed a cart into and surveyed the space.  If youre in your own classroom, set up your projection or computer station that is convenient for you.

Find your storage. If youre on the cart, you can get creative with your storage.  If you have a closet, plan a space to store your students flat projects in labeled portfolios (or folders) that are easy to change out.  I recommend labeling boxes and bins to make it easier to find the materials you need to load the cart or switch out throughout the day.  If youre in your classroom, figure out a space that you can store projects.  I use metal file holders to hold folders of student 2-dimensional artworks and bins for the 3-dimensional sculptures.  If you struggle to find space on the cart, talk with the classroom teachers to see if there can be a space above cabinets and out of the way of their instruction time.

Find your display space.  Some schools have a dedicated space for art teachers to display, while others think outside of the box.   In the past, I would set up a length of long paper on the wall and tape projects to it that can be changed out.  A colleague of mine uses string and clothespins to hang the artworks, which makes it so much easier to change out.  You also need to find display space in your classes to show project examples.  If youre on the cart, check the boards in the rooms.  I recommend getting your own magnets and labeling them.  Even if you forget them in the rooms, students will still make sure they get back to you!

Find your method of organization.  Being an art teacher means we are masters of organizing chaos.  We have multiple classes, students with different accommodations, material adaptations, and more.  Every teacher I know has their own method of organization that works for them.   If you have a classroom, create seating charts, even if you have 20+ classes a week.  Make sure those charts are written in pencil in case you need to move anyone around throughout the year.  Do you have a list of IEPs?  Organize your paperwork in files and make sure to highlight the adaptations you need to provide for your students.  If you’re on the cart, get yourself a file system that works for your space.  I had a small plastic file container that held all my paperwork in the space I had, which could also travel with me on the cart if I needed to!

Find your privacy.  Every teacher deserves his or her own space, which I refer to as your desk! If you are on a cart and do not have your own desk, I highly recommend you ask for one.  Having your own space provides you with the comfort of having a place within the school to plan, plus, it’s much easier to do all the work you need to accomplish before and after your classes!  If you have a classroom, it’s your choice where you position your desk space.  Find what works best for you, but remember to take the time to sit and take a breather even for a few minutes during your time!

Find your creativity.  Throughout the school year, you may go through lulls with your lessons, even if you pre-plan your curriculum.  Most of you are aware of Pinterest supplying many pinned lessons created by art educator bloggers, but do not hesitate to turn to social media for ideas!  There’s so many different ways to achieve the objectives of your lessons, but don’t lose your creative spark in teaching your lessons! I hope you have a wonderful school year, and let your students’ creativity shine!

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.