Saturday, February 26, 2011


Spent a satisfying morning learning/reviewing bookmaking skills in a class taught by one of my cohorts, M (who's also responsible for teaching me how to blog!)

We learned/created a simple folder book

An accordion book

A 4 page/one sheet 'hot dog' booklet

A step book

'Who am I?" book

Palm Tree book

You can see the step-by-step instructions of most of these at All are designs from artist Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord. This is such a great way to combine literacy/vocabulary activities with artmaking!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Vocabulary Games & Closure Ideas

As a staff, we received a new book to develop the vocabulary of our students through games. The book is called Vocabulary Games for the Classroom by Lindsay Carleton and Robert J. Marzano.

So the MAP teachers (Music and Band, Art and PE) brainstormed during one of our collaboration meetings to come up with a vocabulary game from the many listed in the book that we could put to use in our classroom right away.

Jo (traveling art teacher) and I came up with question cards that are used at the end of our classes to review new vocabulary about materials, concepts or techniques.

We write out the Q's on index cards & keep them handy for the end of class.

You know my obsession with color sorting so each grade level has its own color for the cards.

When the table group has cleaned up their space, is quiet & waiting to be called to line up, their group gets a question from me. Answer correctly - line up! Answer incorrectly - wait for your next question AFTER every other table gets a question. So far, the kids are really into it - kinda like a mini-jeopardy game...

As the project develops, more questions/vocab words will be added. I'm hoping that over time, students will become more familiar with the new vocabulary which should lead to more frequent correct usage.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ready, Aim, Focus!

With some of my classes, I've found that counting up helps my students focus on what they need to do during transition times...

For example, at the start of class, while I'm taking attendance, my reminders are "I see 2 tables have their jackets put away and placecards out. I have 3, 4, 5 groups ready..."

"I see 2 tables are quiet and ready to start. I see 3, 4 tables are now ready. I see every table is ready now."

At the end of production time, I announce that my table helpers need to meet me at the sink for cleanup directions. I start a familiar litany, "I have 1 helper listening. I have 2, 3 helpers listening. I have 5 helpers listening and 1 helper sleeping. (Insert classwide laugh & snicker here) Now, I have all 6 helpers ready - thank you helpers!" Then I can proceed with directions.

Do you have similar techniques/tricks to help your students' focus during transition times? Please share...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rockin' Robots

Just had to post pix of my colleague's latest project with her 4th grade...

Our school is large enough to have 2 art teachers - myself with 29 classes in 5 days and a traveling art teacher who meets with 12 classes in 2 days. She travels to 4 different district schools throughout the course of the week, teaching 30 classes of K-5.

Although we have lunch together on Fridays, our class schedules are so similar that I rarely get to see her projects. This past week, she had a sub so while I was showing the sub where to find materials I glimpsed these radical robots her 4th graders are finishing.

This little guy had a secret compartment...

She collected these materials from a variety of sources - Treasures 4 Teachers, Goodwill and scavenged materials from discards here 'n there. Elmer's Glue All was used to attach most of the small stuff and a glue gun (teacher only) was used for bigger stuff.

Now that the robots are completed, students will draw their creations in pencil to compare/contrast 2D and 3D artwork.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Imaginary Animal + Habitat

First grade artists completed their imaginary animal collage and moved on to drawing its habitat in crayon...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

3 + 1 = :)

Years ago, I posted this formula high on the wall of my room as a reminder to my student teacher...

It was a visual reminder that every time things went south in the noise and/or behavior department during class, the teacher should give 3 positive comments before a corrective comment which would make for a happier teacher and a quieter, more productive environment for the kids...

"I see Juan is working quietly."

"I like how table 3 has their heads down and eyes on their work."

"I appreciate how well table 6 is sharing materials with each other."

"Karen - you need to keep your hands and feet to yourself."

Often, you don't need the correction because most straighten up when they realize you're handing out compliments & they LOVE to hear their name attached to a positive remark...

Try it & let me know if it works for you OR share a favorite technique of yours...

PS. A side benefit is it keeps the kids guessing trying to figure out the equation (I usually don't share my secrets or tricks of the trade with them). My gifted kids came up with some very unique explanations which were as creative as they were wrong....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blue Dog Progress

Second graders have begun adding clothing and objects to their tempera 'Blue Dog' paintings inspired by the art of George Rodrigue...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fun with the Sub

While I was out recovering from surgery last month, my AWESOME sub had a blast with the kids making Monster Alien Things with construction paper. The project came from a blog post of SmART Class.

The pix are teacher examples - the kids couldn't wait to take their work home!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Art Contests

It's not too often that my kids have class time to work on ideas for the many art contests out there but this past month we had some 'wiggle room'. One or 2 classes were ahead of the others and had time to spare so we indulged ourselves!

Triarco and Sargent are sponsoring an oil pastel project featuring an 'eye' drawing. The students will continue to work on it when time permits until the deadline. Per their entry form: Entries must be postmarked no later than March 30, 2011.

The annual Doodle 4 Google appealed to a lot of my artists so they've been putting in extra time this month before school and at the end of class when possible. From their entry form: Registration closes at 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Time (PT) on March 2, 2011, and entries must be postmarked by March 16, 2011 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Time (PT). The winning doodle will be featured on our homepage on May 20, 2011.

Any recommendations for other contests out there?

If I Ruled the School...

Today, I had a first hand reminder about the effect of class size on learning and classroom management.

My first grade classes each had an extra 4 - 5 students. One of our teachers has been out due to illness and while we wait for her return, the grade level felt it best for the students in that class to be split rather than have a revolving door of substitutes. What a great, caring staff we have! However you can imagine the strain it puts on each of us to have extra squirming bodies in the room...

The exact opposite happened in 5th grade. Today was the district track meet qualifying trials for our school so I had fewer students - missing 6 in one class, nine in another. Fortunately we weren't starting anything new - just finishing up some contest entries.

What a difference between groups! Smaller classes had more of my time, quieter work sessions which reflected in better quality artwork. Larger classes were much noisier along with more behavior issues. Of course EVERY teacher knows how class size affects student learning and classroom management. Wish our legislatures would understand this...

So anyway...If I ruled the school, I would limit grades K - 1 to only 15 - 20 students and Grades 2 - 6 to about 20 - 25. 'Course schools would have to win the lottery to pay for that ideal situation...

What do you think?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In the World of Imaginary Animals

First graders are loving their imaginary animal collages so far...

Next stage will involve details done with paper curling and folding to add a little depth to the work. Backgrounds will require an environment where their animal lives, drawn with crayon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Take a number please...

A frustrating past 2 days as I instructed my 'printmakers' (3rd and 4th grade artists) how to prepare/assemble their prints, printing plate and assessment for turn-in. Diagrams, written directions and verbal instructions led to about a 20% compliance rate on the first try...

This year, I'm including a self-assessment on all major projects which include an artist's statement. This ties in with our visual art standards: Identify successful aspects of his or her own artwork and possible revisions. Develop and use criteria to evaluate craftsmanship in an artwork.

I consult with each student one-on-one about their assessments. Unfortunately, this can lead to a long line of over-eager turner-inners. You know the ones - still don't have their name on their work, didn't follow completion directions, used the same written answer for every fill-in-the-blank, etc, etc. So... many students are sent right back to their seats to do what they should have done before getting in the 'checkout lane'.

I don't know about you but I find it terribly distracting to talk with a student one-on-one while there are 10 different conversations going on in the line behind us. So - light bulb moment - how about handing out numbers?

Anyone lining up behind the first 2 students was handed a number and sent back to their seat to wait quietly (I can hope, can't I?) until their number was called. This way my line was kept to only a few students at a time. With a quiet short line, my one-on-one conversations went much better!

Oh - and those over-eager turner-inners? When they reached the front of the line, they were sent back to their seat to re-do/finish and given another higher number for their next turn in line...

It worked in my last 2 classes of the day so I'm hoping it can be a new routine to help ensure a quiet line while waiting for the teacher's undivided attention...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Today is my last day of sick leave and I'll be heading back to the classroom tomorrow. I've been fortunate to have had 2 very competent subs while I've been gone so it won't take long to get back into the swing of things.

Most grade levels have to finish up work we started before my surgery so lesson planning won't be too difficult.

First graders will use their crayon rubbings to create an imaginary animal in its habitat.

Artists in 2nd grade will start to add final details on their Blue Dog paintings - can't wait to see what they come up with!

Both 3rd and 4th graders have to pull together their prints made previously, assemble them according to the edition numbers and complete the self-assessment rubric.

Fifth graders will soon start on their ceramics - a Wabi Sabi pot (hope I spelled that right...). I took a great hands-on workshop at state conference last fall on the subject and thought it would be perfect for them !

I hope all of you out there enduring the Snowpocalypse make it through the next few days days warm, dry and safe from accident or injury! Most of my immediate and extended family is in the direct path so even though I'm sitting here with the sun shining through the window my thoughts are with those in the Midwest right now. Enjoy your snow days!

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