Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Chicken in Every Pot, A Bucket for Every Table

I'm a big believer in preventative discipline. I've found that most student-to-student altercations happen when those lovely kiddos are out of their seats so I try to limit the need for that.

One way is to provide a wastebasket at each table group. We actually call them 'wastebuckets'. I collect empty 5 gal. wax buckets to use for wastebaskets - cheaper & VERY durable as well as washable! There are usually several left over after the custodians wax the floors every summer. You can also purchase the buckets at your local home improvement store fairly cheap.

With a bucket at each table, there's no need to travel between and around every other table in the room while on the way to the large trash can at the far end of my room. My students often find the need to stop and visit/tease/torment/gossip/distract their classmates on these excursions. It's also less of a thrill to sink that 2 or 3 pointer from a distance of 2 feet vs. 10 feet.

The buckets also come in handy for tie-dye activities or washing out those dusty clay placemats. A bucket with several inches of water in it helps cool down piping hot ceramic pieces that just have to be glazed the same day they come out of a hot kiln. Grab 'em with a long set of metal tongs, dunk them, and they are dry & cool in no time!

One of the best & most valuable uses for the buckets is as a receptacle for a student's stomach contents. Happened to me just this past week - just grabbed a nearby bucket as I went over to help a 2nd grader & kept most of the mess contained. Will have a chat next week with this child about adequate notice for a trip to the nurse's office if the occasion should present itself again at school....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A sense of timing

You know how sometimes kids will take FOREVER to do something as basic as drawing a straight line or choosing a piece of colored paper or writing their name or...? Well, in my room I use a 10 second countdown to speed things along.

For instance, this past week we were labeling our printing papers with basic info: first name, last name, class number & registration number. I had already gone over directions & demonstrated info placement on the white board so as soon as students had the necessary ingredients (paper & pencil) I began my countdown. Now between you and me, the countdown is not exactly 10 seconds - just a s-l-o-w ten count.

I also use the countdown when we do our assessment step-by-step drawings. With the added time limit, students quickly make their marks on the paper so as not to fall behind. As they've learned through experience, there will always be sufficient time to go back and make changes later along with the creative touches that make it their own. Most kids need an incentive to get past their fear of seeing that clean, white sheet of paper and put the pedal to the metal...

The countdown gets everyone to focus & get the job done - even my worst ADHD kids! With time so precious in a 45 minute class, why waste time on anything that doesn't require creative thought?!

Another indispensable tool is my timer. It has a magnet on the back so I can stick it to my white board and a clip so I can attach it to my apron if I prefer. I can set minutes or seconds - it counts down and has an annoyingly piercing beep when it goes off. I use it to time cleanup at the end of Open Studio (if tables aren't clean by sound of beep, those students may not attend the rest of the week). Whenever I use it, the room is clean with time to spare.

It is also used to remind me to begin cleanup during those classes when there are several things going on at once. The beep signals me to gather the table helpers for cleanup instructions so class can be dismissed on time.

Nothing like a good sense of timing to keep things on track...

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Fifth graders are finishing up their printing plates for their collagraphs. Students glued a variety of visual and tactile textures to a backing of tagboard.

I browsed through my storeroom to find stuff: a variety of beans/seeds gleaned from science kits destined for the dumpster, an assortments of lace trims (some purchased from my favorite place: Treasures 4 Teachers), toothpicks, Qtips, dried moss, a collection of cardboard & chipboard pieces, pieces of cord, string & yarn.

Students were given the option of making a 'picture' or a planned design with their materials.

I'm hopeful that the resulting prints will turn out well...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's in a Name?

Can there be anything more frustrating than trying to grade a stack of artworks only to find that several have no names? Auugghh!!!

Fortunately, I have a few routines in place that cut down on this immensely!

During the hands-on demo, the first thing I do is demo 'First Name, Last Name + class number' on the back of the work if 2D. In 3rd & 4th grades we have begun our printing plates for collagraphs. The first day of the project they were required to show me their 'ticket' (the back of their base tagboard) before they could dive into the textures on the counter.

For ceramic pieces, everybody creates a 'name tag' (usually a piece of scrap construction paper 2" x 3") with same info that is applied/placed on the base of their clay work for easy identification (again first step of the demo). And again, they have to show me their 'ticket' before receiving their hunk of clay. To help with distinguishing the various classes, each class gets a different color of name tag so when it's time to write names on the ceramic pieces, I have a quick visual reminder of which class I'm dealing with... During the course of the project, we will probably have to make a 2nd name tag due to clay moisture but that's no biggie - I cut extra and keep them in the class drawer. And - yes - I am the one who writes the name on the base of the work!! In my early days/years of teaching, amnesia was a HUGE problem for my students!! Either I couldn't read the writing on the ceramic work or there was no name or no class number. Much time was wasted debating ownership rights...

I'm usually the one passing out the work - I call out names & place on a counter for the student to retrieve while the table helpers get materials to their groups. This way I identify unnamed work soon enough in the project to correct it. Sometimes, if the work is dry media starting with a drawing, it goes straight into the table folders and then into the class drawers. In that case, I need to check for names individually as I circulate the room during class.

Having said all this, there are some pieces that slip through the cracks but usually the number is very small & through the process of elimination, I can figure out who the anonymous artist is.

My worst nightmare came true a few years back when I had a less-than-stellar student teacher. In her haste to grade the work, she dumped out all the work from every table folder for one grade level (5 classes,approx. 7-8 folders per class) into a box to take home. She had been less than diligent checking for names during the course of the project and ended up with about 30 pieces (out of approx. 180) with no names, no class. Unfortunately, she didn't say a word until her last day (a week before grades are due) when she turned in her grade sheets. She casually mentioned 'a few' had no names so were missing grades and I would need to find out whose work was whose.. What a mess! Fortunately, the work was very individualized so students were less likely to mis-identify their work but it still took several days of tracking down the owners...

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