Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Do You Prepare for the End of the School Year?

In our wonderful area of the United States midwest, many schools will be finishing up their school year by June, or end by mid-June.  This is the time many of us wrap up with last minute projects, pack away our supplies, and lock the doors until the next school year.  Some teacher are year round, and return in another month, while others report back in mid-August.

As a former cart-pusher, I loved the end of the year.  I always spent time re-organizing my cart for the next year, cleaning out over-used materials, and re-labelling my storage boxes on the shelves.  I would -re-order my lesson plan boxes from Fall to Spring, and wipe down all the surfaces.  All was done in less than a day, and once that cart was pushed pack into the storage closet, I just handed in my keys.

As much as there are frustrations about being on a cart, my favorite part was setting up at the beginning and cleaning up at the end.  I no longer have that now that I teach from two classrooms, so my beginning of the year prep for three schools in two weeks (one classroom, two carts) went to three weeks (two full classrooms).

Everyone is different in setting up and cleaning up.  Many have one classroom, others have carts, some share a room.  We each have our own ways of preparing for the end of the year.  Currently, I'm doing this in my third trimester, which has a whole new meaning to cleaning's called nesting.  As I'm preparing my new nursery for a new baby, I'm preparing two classrooms for a maternity sub and easy transition for coming back.  Fun!!!!

I wanted to offer a few tips I use when preparing at the end of the school year.  Everyone handles it their own way, and I'm interested in hearing how others prepare to pack up their room, or what activities are given in those last weeks of school.

Make a checklist of what has to be done.  Have you ever stumbled across a display you forgot to take down in the last hour before you check out? happens.  Make an inventory of what needs to be taken down, what deadlines you have, as well as other end-of-the-year requirements you may have, such as:

1. When grades are due (report cards need to be sent out on that last day!)
2. Awards that need to be written out
3. A tally of assemblies and odd days that interfere with your curriculum schedule (6th grade days,  
    concerts, sports days, 1/2 days, etc.)
4. Handing back last minute projects collected for classes and/or entries for art contests
5. Areas in your room that need to be organized

Yes, reorganize.  It's a big word and very stressful, but you'll feel much better in the beginning of the year when you know where everything is and where to place new supplies.  The thing I disliked about having a storage room was packing everything in boxes.  When a box is buried, you forget what's in there.  After a few years, you discover a back-up of supplies you over ordered because you simply "forgot" what supplies were hidden, or even where they were.  Then you say,"I could have spent that money on something else when writing up my supply budgets!"  Re-organizing can prevent that from happening over and over again, so take the extra time to do it, especially when you're on a tight budget with little space.

Make another checklist of what you need for the next school year.  For classrooms, this is extremely helpful because you can walk in on that first day of setting up in August with a bag of new items.  I'm referring to cleaning materials, new wipes, little dust brooks, and random teaching supplies that can be purchased at the dollar store.  When I cleaned up the cart, I had to purchase new magnets every year, new dry-erase markers, and other items to help ease the challenge of pushing the cart.  Do you refill glue bottles?  Funnels are incredibly helpful when holding the gallons of glue.  Plan your lists according to your situation.

Slowly pack away your supplies.  I made a big mistake this year: I'm still acrylic painting on the very last full day of school.  Within an hour after that last class, I will have traveled to my second school to teach more classes in the afternoon with no time to clean up all the materials and pack it away correctly.  It happens.  Many of my end-of-the-year projects are set up to be basic materials from my "creation station" cart, which are crayons, colored pencils, and markers to completes artworks.  Scissors and glue are also available, with some colored paper left that wasn't packed away.  

Create end-of-the-year projects using light materials, but keeping the concepts.  If you're reading this with the idea that "You must teach the best to the very end," you're long as you still stick with the concepts and not waste time with "free draw." Some of my favorites are 1 or 2 point perspective, shape drawing assessments with primary grade levels, and parody projects.  If planned correctly, your students still have plenty of fun with simple materials, and they're learning valuable ideas in art and design.  Projects mentioned will be shared in near-future posts, so stay tuned.

To everyone reading, good luck with your last few weeks, and keep in touch this summer.  I love summer not only for time with my family, but for finding new ideas to use in my classrooms for next year!

How do you prepare for the end of the year?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Literacy and Art: Pop Up Books with 1st Grade

Toward the end of the year, I like to have my 1st graders create their own books.  The teachers love the idea, and with little space to hang projects when traveling or on a cart, the teachers have offered to hand the books in their own space to show off the cross-curricular artworks. 

                                                                       (front cover)


This is a 2-day (40 minute period) project.  I start by introducing the book "Tuesday" by David Wiesner.

I explain to the students that books do not always need words to tell the story; the artwork can do the same exact thing.  Together, we describe the story as we see it.  The students always crack up at this page (when the frog is changing the channel using his tongue):

When we finish with the book, I start to explain how the students will create their own storybook.  Here are the materials we use for the project:

-9" x 12" white paper (folded in half, cut a small slit in the middle of the fold to create a talking pop-up mouth, and with over 100 of these to make, I have student helpers)
-9" x 12" colored paper (for book cover)
-4" x 5" white paper (for front cover illustration)
-Black Markers (for tracing art and words)
-Colored Pencils

My objectives are to create a pop-up drawing of their favorite animal, create a book cover illustration, and write at least two sentences about their animal that describe what the animal, if it's a boy/girl, and what it's name is.

After reading the book, I show the students how to start the inside drawing of their animal.  I have posters of animals on the board (with the spelling of the words when they write their sentences).  I show the students how to start the animal drawing around the cut-out mouth by drawing a big circle, then adding the animal parts.

When the students finish the animal drawing, they are told to write the two sentences.  I assist their spelling by writing the names of the animals on the board, as well as the two main sentences:

This is my _____________. (fill in blank with animal word)

His/Her name is _____________. (fill in the blank with animal's name)

I encourage students to write an extra sentence or two if they want to describe what the animal does.  With the variety of students learning styles in the classes, I adapt for gifted, ELL, and tiered students.

Once the sentences are written and the animal is drawn, I encourage students to trace in black marker and color in with crayon.

On day two, students finish up with the inside of the book, them bring it to me for a front cover glued on.  If you have students glue the cover on themselves, have them glue an "X" on each side of the fold like this:

After handing me their books, I give them the small 4" x 5" white paper and instruct them to draw a picture of their animal again for the front cover.  Be sure to describe what you want them to draw..if you just say "draw the animal," you will get a stick figure colored in dog with no background.

When the students complete their little cover drawings, they glue it to the cover of the book.  I also instruct them to write the name of their animal as the book title on top, and "By (insert student name) at the bottom because they were the authors and illustrators of their own book.

Yeah, that's right...we talk about the parts of the book they should know about!

1. How the book is opened (you will get students who glue it backwards Eastern style)
2. Who the Author and Illustrator are
3. What a "Title" is
4. Where to put the author's name
5. How drawings and words describe the story

Here are a few finished books!

                                                                      (front cover)


                                                                      (front cover)


                                                                       (front cover)


                                                                         (front cover)


                                                                        (front cover)


                                                                       (front cover)


Sunday, May 12, 2013

From the View of a Mother, Artist, and Educator.

Today is Mother's Day, and like most moms out there, I am enjoying my time with my family.  I'm only able to write this because 1. my amazing husband came home from his late night shift with a decaf iced mocha and his apron on to make a hearty breakfast for the family, then took a hard nap from being awake too long, and 2. My daughter is obsessed with Sofia the First on Disney Jr.

While I was browsing the internet, I came across a nice article written by a teacher and a parent, which you can read for yourself here, called "Being a Parent and a Impossible Combination?"

In the article, the author retells her daily schedule and offers advice for teachers who struggle with the balance of teaching full time and parenting full time.  I commend her for what she does, and as I was reading, she's just the view from the high school teacher perspective.

As an elementary teacher, I can't recall when I've been home before 4:00 on most days.  Since we can't afford day care, my husband and I balance a schedule to make sure our daughter is with one of us most of the time.

I felt compelled to write this post because as teachers, travelers, cart pushers, and caretakers of entire schools, we feel that pressure whether if we are parents or not.  Our schedules do not begin at 8:00am and end at 3:00pm.  Our brain is constantly multi-tasking on work and home.

In my title of this post, I named three main components of who I am in that exact order.  

I am first and foremost a mother, and family should come before career.  I learned that the hard way.

While I was pregnant with my first, I thought I was going to be supermom.  I was the president of the National Art Education Association Student Chapter and a first year teacher traveling to three schools, pushing carts at two of them.  I was proud of what I could do, but once my daughter was born, I didn't realize how much pressure I was putting on my husband.  I was combining my three priorities into one without understanding the consequences.

After completing my presidency, I decided to pursue National Board Certification.  I wanted to refine my teaching practice, and take steps to move toward leadership roles in art education.  I did communicate this process with my husband, but again, with time to write entries, document class time, and travel to mentor meetings, I still had my husband giving extra support.  By the time I completed the certification process, I burnt him out.

This was the time when I had to realize that I had to separate and organize my priorities.  In the article I posted above, the author lists some dos and don't to help balance family time and work time.  I failed miserably with keeping technology out of the picture (and again, I'm writing this while my daughter is watching Disney Jr.).

I put my career before my family, and it had consequences.  It took time to heal, and we are much better now that we worked it out.  I can sit with my daughter making sculptures out of play-doh, show her how to draw people out of shapes (wanting her prepared for kindergarten art next year!) and read stories to her every night.

I am an artist.  I placed it before being an educator because I feel the need to know and understand what it is that you teach.  Before you are a history teacher, you must be a historian.  Before being a math teacher, you must be a mathematician.  I am always learning as an artist, and I enjoy teaching what I have learned.  I want my students to experience the "a-ha" moment like I did when learning a new technique or experimenting with a new material.

I am an educator.  I teach an estimated 800-900 students per week.  An educator may be the top word for my job description, but I am also a therapist, grader, traveler, student, colleague, resident visual artist,and the list goes on.  I not only take care of my own daughter (and very soon a second on the way), but I do my very best to meet the needs of all 800-900 students a week.  Many students are in similar situations as my daughter in our district, because as a low SES area, both parents have to work, or can't afford a car and/or food on the table.  I am one of many teachers in my district that nurture the students, and help them to understand that they are cared for and loved, while teaching them to be well-rounded citizens.

The author of the article above is able to make it home around 4:00 on most days, but in my situation, half the time I do not get home until much later.  We have mandatory meetings, after school activities, assessments, set-ups, musicals, and the list goes on.  I'm sure I'm not the only school district that goes through that.  Oh...and plan time...20 minutes is nothing for an art teacher setting up lessons.

So here's my list of what I recommend for those who travel, push a cart, and are parents as well (or those who need a little organization in their lives).

1. Keep your work at work.  In the article, I understood the first bit of advice right away.  You can easily get lost in your work when you bring it home, plus you can also have milk bottles or crayons covering those student papers if you leave them out.  It's your child's way of saying, "Pay attention to me!!!"  I get to work early in the morning and use that as my plan time.  Prep your projects, go over a checklist of materials on the cart, and try not to forget anything (better said than done sometimes).

2. Keep home at home.  Enjoy your few hours you have in the evening with your kids.  They need you, and will remember if you had your face focused on the computer.  My own daughter turned my cheek toward her to make sure I'm paying attention to her, and she's done that since she was a year old. Yes, she's the reason I'm telling you this.  Keep your kids involved with everything.  Give them little jobs of washing dishes, feeding the animals, cleaning up their rooms and common spaces.  Watch their favorite tv shows.  Read them books.  Do parent things, because they grow up fast.

3.  Don't leave everything on the spouse.  Yeah, you work.  He or she may work too!  And when you're not home, you don't know everything they do to keep the household running in order.  Even if your spouse or partner works the same time as you, share the responsibilities.  Organize what has to be done and it will save you headaches.  Another thing I learned the hard way...Communicate!!!!

4. Keep track of the dates you will be home late from work.  With open houses, art shows, meetings, and evening events you need to attend, pre-plan in advance.  Don't leave that key detail out from your partner or spouse until last minute.  Since my husband works nights, I need to find babysitters so he can sleep.  Don't wait until last minute.

5. Leave your work space ready for the next morning.  Yes, be prepared for things to pop up last minute in the morning, so have your checklist ready before you turn the lights off.  When I have a data team meeting at another school after school hours, I am sometimes late because I need to be prepared.  I'm not the only teacher that does it, we all need to pre-plan for the next day activities!

6. Communicate your meal plans with your partner/spouse.  With our schedules, we can't think about food beyond the next day, and giving examples to you would take up another blog post.  All I have to say is, don't call up asking "What's for dinner?"  Plus, you can very easily get caught up in picking up meals, which can be very costly and unhealthy.  There are days my daughter and I have bowls of cereal for dinner because my husband needs to sleep, and as long as I spend that time with my daughter, I'm not too worried about it.

7.  Understand that messes can't always be cleaned up right away.  Summertime, I feel I have the cleanest house on the block.  During the school year, good luck having the trash taken out on time.  Don't drive yourself crazy trying to be as neat as everyone else.  With both parents working, many of us don't have the time to put the laundry away.  On most days, as long as the food is in the fridge and I'm not tripping on blocks, we're okay.  That's what weekends are for, or Friday nights (depending on your tolerance of messes in the house).

8. "Pin" everything you need for work.  As a traveling art teacher, I find that I forget many things from one school to another, and what's saved me from forgetting my worksheets and tests is Pinterest.  All documents are online, I can get there quickly print it up, and send jobs to the copy machine faster than driving back to my other school.  Speaking of which, once you make your copies, save one copy for a binder in case the internet doesn't work in your district one day.  It happens.

Some things do not work for everybody, but when advice can be given, I'm willing to hear it and share it.  We all have unique situations.   Understand your priorities and hug your children to no end.  They grow up fast before your eyes.

And speaking of daughter is getting my attention!  Happy Mother's Day!!!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Do We Need Pacing Guides?

It's been over a week since I created my last post, and I'm going through blog writing withdrawal.  At the end of the school year, it may be time to wind down, but the workload does not get any lighter. 

One of the many reasons why I started slowing down in my posts is because we are a "Rising Star" school district.  "Rising Star" means that we are under review for refinement in our curriculum, environment, and everyday school practices.  As the art representative for our district, I report to the curriculum department whenever the state is in need of evidence of our visual arts practices.

Recently, we were asked by the state to create a month-by-month pacing guide of the art curriculum.  A pacing guide is a document created to show what concepts and standards you are incorporating month by month.  Many districts have adopted pacing guides to keep classrooms on task and ready for ISATS, as well as prerequisite knowledge for the next school year. 

From many conversations I've had with art education colleagues, many art departments have also adapted this method of pacing as well.  It helps to keep all visual art teachers on track to scaffold student knowledge and experience with materials.  Not all school districts require the art department to follow a guide.  If you do not, you have the freedom to choose which lessons to teach in your class, granted they follow any state standard you are required to teach.

In our district, we have four art teachers total:  one stationary elementary teacher (has a room without a sink and no kiln), two traveling art teachers (I have two rooms with sinks, and a kiln at one school, while the other traveller has two rooms with sinks and no kiln), and one junior high art teacher (room, sinks, and kiln).  When we were told to create a month to month pacing guide, we were given a challenge. 

How could we follow month to month when we each have different situations? 

With seeing students once a week for 40 minutes, how can we stay on task when days off, assemblies, and school wide events get in the way???

It's not as if we haven't combined lessons before.  We have made sure in the past to scaffold student learning year by year, so when they reach jr. high, the students are at the same level of learning.  One teacher may focus on the concept of perspective one month, while another visited perspective in a different month since her school was focusing on another theme at the time.

Another challenge was materials.  Not all art teachers have a kiln, and half of us previously pushed a cart froom room to room.  With lack of storage space, we found ways to work with what we had.  When students reach the junior high, my previous students may know the methods of ceramic clay, firing, and glazing, but the elementary students from the other schools may only know air dry clay (and not all elementary teachers work with clay).

With all the challenges presented, we still had to divise a plan, which is currently in the works.

So to share what we have so far, we designed the guide in a table format.  We have a column for the month, standard, concepts, and overall idea of the lesson.  The guide is in progress, but it's a start to show the state that we are working toward refinement.

I apologize for the poor image (I'm writing this at work), we started each grade level guide with a list of the state standards.

This is an example page of our 1st grade pacing guide so far.  This is an in-progress document, so a full document will be posted once finished (and when I figure out how to post a microsoft document into my blog posts, it will look MUCH better).

So if my pacing guide isn't finished...why am I writing about this? 

Every art teacher has a different situation.  Some have guides to follow, others have free reign.  I'm curious to hear what you have.  If you browse passed this post by chance, please take a moment to share what your district does.  It would be nice to gain a perspective on how common or uncommon pacing guides are in the art curriculum.