Sunday, February 24, 2013

You Can't Escape Those Angry Birds!

The "Angry Birds" are the latest craze!  And if you're following any art boards on Pinterest, you may have found tons of lessons using these adorably preturbed birds as the subject matter.

The birds are easy for teaching shape, color, and form.  My kindergarten students even draw the little piggies on my dry/erase boards!

I decided to give my 5th graders a fun little project using Crayola Model Magic.  I purchased the primary color class pack from one of the art catalogs (you can find it in Nasco, Triarco, and Dick Blick).  The class pack had lasted me 2-5th grade classes with estimated 25 students per class.  The class pack comes in 4 colors: red, blue, yellow, and white 1 oz. packages.  I also ordered a 4 oz. black separately to split in both classes for all those teeny eyes, eyebrows, and nostrils.  Not to mention...the black bird bomb!

Using my iPevo camera, I was able to show students how to mix the clay colors and how to create those little eyes and beaks of the birds.  The camera plugged into my laptop, which projected onto the screen for all the students to see.

I also printed out pictures of the birds to help students figure out what colors were needed for the different parts of the little sculptures.

Here's a few pictures I used from Google!

Since the Crayola Model Magic Classpacks are pricey, and my students shared a huge interest in the project, I had created a donors project called "Model Magic Monsters."  I wanted to use the materials for two grade levels: Miro Monsters with 3rd grade, and the 5th grade Angry Birds.  If you are interested in more about the project or would like to donate, please visit Model Magic Monsters.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Stop Me If You've Heard This One...

A parent or any person you talk to actually comes out and tells you that you're not as important as the classroom teacher.

Have you had that happen?

Luckily, I have not heard that since my first year teaching and here's why...I'm a loudmouth.  A proud, loud, crazy art advocate.

I LOVE to share with people why my class is important, and it's more than just keeping my job...I want art for my kids.  I want art for my daughter!  I want art as a core subject.  If it wasn't for art, I would not have done well in school.  I was that creative kid in school that soaked up art class and was caught every minute of the day drawing!  Go figure, I' now an art teacher!

A few years ago, I stood at the podium at a school board meeting in that same district I grew up in.  The board was trying to figure out a way to cut the budget, and what was on the list?  Art and Music.

I scolded the board in the most polite way, but then I turned to the people in attendance.  I told them it's not enough that you're here yelling at the board members, you need to reach out.  Contact your state legislators, contact the U.S. Department of Education, make yourself heard.  If art and music is important to you, make it possible.

I'm sharing this with you because I'm a traveling art teacher.  I pushed the carts and I set up the rooms.  I worked on 3 separate budgets for the three schools I traveled to.  I struggled with communication and workloads and parent contacts and supplies.  But...I love what I do.

So what's that about the art teacher not being as important?  Let me share...and music friends, you're just as important in this conversation.

I teach Language Arts to the students.  We read stories in class, have discussions, and create works inspired by the stories.  Common core ready.

I teach Math to the students.  We use geometry, symmetry, perspective, measurements, and the list goes on.  I also teach the student how to use that ruler.  Again...common core ready.

I teach Science to the students.  We learn about plants, animals, insects, fish, the weather, materials reactions, and the list is never-ending.  My students can tell you what fins are for on a fish, or what animals can camouflage to hide from predators.

We use "project-based learning"...all the time.  We are project-based learning.  The students are introduced to an idea inspired by artists, art history, art from many cultures, and/or all core subjects listed.  They research the idea by manipulating materials to create an interpretation of that idea. When the students have their finished product, they can share their work.

I teach Social Studies to the students.  We learn history from the beginning of the cavemen up until the art of today.  On top of the student's Social Studies curriculum, we also share how art has influenced history as well.  I wonder where that printing press came from...

I teach Character Education to the students.  I show how art can share positive messages with the school and local community.  I teach how students can use team-building skills to work together and create a community artwork.  I also teach students how to problem-solve.  Not every project turns out perfect, but there are ways to make it look just as awesome with one simple fix!

So in other words...I tie everything together.  I reinforce what students learn in their general classroom.  I also integrate what the students are learning in their current lessons...all while keeping a visual art curriculum as well.

I will never sit there and say that my workload is too much or that I have more than anyone else.  All of my co-workers have their workload and we're all flexible and understanding with each other.

Even though it seems like I'm ranting, I am happy to say that my own principal comes into my classroom and shares the importance of art with the students.  They're hearing it from more than just me.

I have not heard anyone tell me to my face that I'm not as important as the other teachers in awhile.  Needless to say, I'm ready in case it happens again!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Love/Hate Relationship Called Art Materials

I love art supplies.  I love opening new packages, replacing empty material bins, and pulling the materials out for the first time with a new project.

I also hate art supplies. I hate writing up the orders, squinting at the order codes, typing them into the small order forms, squeezing in as much as I can into my sometimes tight budget, and realizing I forgot and item after the orders been sent in.

Working with art materials is my biggest love/hate relationship with my job.  And it's on my mind because I have to work on next year's supply budget already!

If you're an art teacher like me, you have orders coming out of more than 5 different catalogs...clay comes out of one, Triarco, United, Nasco, Sax,and Dick Blick fight for the best prices (and there's even more catalogs to order from than I listed!).  Then you have your basic teaching supplies: tape, pencils, staples, etc...

Ahhhh!!!! It's so much!

And you do it all to get the most for your money.

Here are a few tips for when you plan your supply budgets.

1. Use excel to create your order forms.  Make a separate form for each catalog you order from.  You can save it for the next year, which makes it a little easier to repeat items you order every year without re-typing all the product codes and descriptions.  All I do it update the page numbers and product prices.  I also print the order and tape it on top of my school's requested budget forms.

2. Spend at least one year in depth with researching the best prices out of all the art catalogs you can.  This will also make it easier to complete #1 in the next few years.

3. Find the free shipping.  That will save you at least $50-$60, which can go right back in for more supplies.

4.  If you can do it, order bulk in just a few items every year.  I did this with markers and oil pastels, and with prices that go up every year, I have at least 3 years backup supply.  Change around the items each year, and you're golden.

5. If you are short on your budget, create an account with Art Room Aid or  If you start both projects a year ahead of time, you will have extremely generous donors help you out with your budget woes.  I would recommend setting up projects with materials that are special (crayola model magic, acrylic paint, printmaking, etc...) so you can use your actual budget for your most needed materials.

6.  Know your space and storage.  This is one piece of advice I need to follow myself!  I am overbooked in my main classroom because I teach the most there.  I need supplies for 23 classes, averaging 25 students per class, plus I host an after school art program.  My second school used to be on a cart.  I have everything on boxes and bins, and even forgot what items I had because they were stored away so deep.

7. Label your stuff.  Have you ever thought you were out of supplies, then ordered them, then found that supply you thought you were out of, which left you with double the supply?  Yeah, that happens to me a lot.  Labeling my cabinets helped alleviate that problem.

8. Leave some money for the middle of the year.  I always have to order more supplies mid-year, either because I don't have enough and ran out, or I need fresh clay.  It sucks to have to write out another order, but it helps.  My principals automatically hold back a small amount every year, and around December, I place a second, much smaller order.

In the beginning of the next school year, you get your biggest reward from all that hard work: boxes of new art supplies!

You hate to create the lists, and budget, and scrimp/save, and label, and re-type...but the end result feels like Christmas.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Charity Project: Butterflies for Children's Memorial Hospital

Back in January, the Jr. High art teacher and I began a project for Children's Memorial Hospital. The butterflies were made for a service to be held in the Spring.

As explained in a previous post, the service will be a time for families and staff to come together to honor and celebrate the lives of children they have cared for and who have died.  The butterflies have become a special tradition at the service where families are able to pick out a butterfly that uniquely "speaks" to them.  Butterflies are commonly used as a symbol in a child' death, paralleling that even though it was for a brief moment, we feel blessed to have known them.
After creating over 200 clay butterflies, we fired the clay, and had two seperate after school dates available for students to glaze the fired pieces.

While working on the butterflies, we asked the students why they wanted to participate in the charity project.  Many students said it was because they wanted to bring a smile to the family's faces when they saw the butterflies.  Other students said they wanted to help others out who have lost loved ones. 

The butterflies will be mailed out within the next month to the hospital in time for the memorial service in April.  Thank you to all the students who had participated to make this project happen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thank you, iPevo...You Rock!

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to iPevo, a company that creates digital cameras that are portable and easy to use in the classroom.  Previously, I was having issues trying to display demonstrations or taking photographs of student work.  With iPevo, I can connect to my laptop, which connects to the projector!

iPevo currently has a wish pool set up on their website at  When you go to the site, you give information about your school, and why you feel the iPevo would be a valuable tool in your class.  The iPevo team then reviews the wishes, and they may grant your wish and send the camera to your school!

Thanks to iPevo, I was able to show my students how to create miniature clay sculptures (obviously they're little angry birds!).  The students loved the project and were talking about how much easier it was to see the lesson!

Go to the website and set up your wish today!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Celebrating Black History Month in Art

There are many artists we like to celebrate and recognize in our classrooms, and I have a few favorites I like to revisit.  In this post, I would like to share the projects I have done with my students in the past to recognize artists during the month of February, Black History Month.  Since I was setting up a bulletin board recognizing certain artists, I wanted to show a few I use.  If you know of an artist that is inspiring in teh art world, PLEASE share in my comments.  I would personally like to hear of more African-American artists who have inspired you.

Faith Ringgold

I am excited to say that I have personally met Faith Ringgold on two seperate occasions.  In 2001, she was the guest speaker at my graduation ceremony at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  I had the joy of greeting her again while I was 6 months pregnant in New Orleans at the 2008 NAEA convention.  This is how much of a dork I am...I get to tell my daughter that my favorite artist patted my baby belly when I was pregnant with her.  Yes, I am a geek and love it.

I love to tell the students how Faith began as a teacher and became a famous artist by creating story quilts inspired by her community. 

Here are some project examples I have introduced in class to my students.  In 3rd Grade, we read Tar Beach and create our own bodies flying over places we wished we owned.  In 4th Grade, we make community quilts that are displays in the hallways.  Each piece of the quilt are painted self-portraits of the students.

Alma Woodsey Thomas

Alma Woodsey Thomas is another artist I like to share with my 4th grade students.  Since she paints abstractly, I like to have my students create their own abstract pieces similar to her style of work.  Here are two different variations of artwork created by students.

William H. Johnson

I share William H. Johnson's work with  my 1st grade students.  I show the painting "Going to Church" to the students (see above) and have them create a picture of themselves going to school.

Elizabeth Catlett

I like to share Elizabeth's work with my 6th grade students.  At teh 6th grade level, students are more understanding of creating artwork that shows a message, whether it's political or positive.  I then have students create prints of their own images, similar to Elizabeth's work.

Here are a few other artists that I share with students, but have yet to make artworks inspired by them (which I plan on doing in the near future).

Preston Jackson was my sculpture teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  In 2000, Preston created a bronze figurine series titled "From Bronzeville to Harlem" that travelled across the U.S.  His bronze artworks are displayed across Illinois, and you can still visit him in the college studios at SAIC.

Jean-Michal Basquiat was an American artist. He began as a graffiti artist in New York City in the late 1970s and evolved into an acclaimed Neo-expressionist and Primitivist painter by the 1980s.

Jacob Lawrence was an American painter. Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism".  His subject matter focused on the shapes and colors of Harlem.

Kerry Marshall is known for large-scale paintings, sculptures, and other objects that take African-American life and history as their subject matter. His work often deals with the effects of the Civil Rights movement and popular culture.

Here's a picture of my bulletin board I created for the month!  How are you celebrating Black History Month?  What artists have you introduced to your students?  Please share!!!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Kindergarten Mid-Year Assessments

I teach in a widely-diverse neighborhood.  We have a huge population of Arabic, Polish, African-American, Hispanic, and more.  Besides their ethnic backgrounds, we also have a variety of development levels, especially in Kindergarten.  I can tell on a kindergarten student's first day in art if they had been in early childhood, daycare or preschool by the first drawings they make for me. 

For my first day of art every year, all students are asked to create a full-body drawing of themselves.  The art teachers in our district use this drawing to measure long-term growth.  After 8th grade, the students will receive their drawings as a final portfolio.  With kindergarten, I can get anything from scribbles to full bodies made without sticks.  My goal by mid-year is to have all students draw bodies with shapes and move away from the dreaded "m & m" heads and stick figures.  I even push away from those corner suns.

Throughout the years, I still remind the students NOT to use sticks or corner suns, but it improves in every passing year.

Before I start the mid-year drawing assessment, I have my students start a book in class that I made to help practice their shapes.  I then have the students take the books home to complete on their own.  Since kindergarten does not receive an art grade on their report card, I give incentives to students who return their books completed (ex. candy, stickers, pencils).  I make sure the students know that if they do not finish their books, they will have a hard time with their next project!

If you would like a copy of my shape book that I created for kindergarten, please contact me and I will email you a pdf. 

The following week, I show students how to draw a full body using shapes.  We go over the head, neck, torso, arms, and legs, as well as the features of the face.  After the students draw the entire body, I have them traced with black marker, and colored in with crayon.  This is also where I push students to color the sky ALL THE WAY and not leave a little blue line at the top of the paper.

Here's some finished products!

After students draw their pictures, they trace with black marker before starting to color. 

Still, we find those that show emerging skills that do not meet the standards at the level they should be at.  This is the reason why it is importrant to have you can document student growth and know which students would need additional assistance in improving their visual skills.  The same goes with any subject in school!