Wednesday, March 9, 2016

1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Challenge

1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Challenge!

So I was tagged on Twitter this past week by a colleague to take the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Challenge.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the challenge blogs from fellow Star Academy teachers, as it has allowed me to get to know each of you a little better- even if through written text.

Full disclosure- there is GOOD a reason why I am the kind of "Arts" teachers that is missing the word "Language" before it.  I'll lay my thoughts out here in this blog for you all to read, but no promises that it will be A+ composition, grammar and the likes. I have a major run on sentence problem but what can I say, I love commas.

1. What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?

Truth be told, it was hard to narrow down between two, but if I must choose just one...I would have to say my biggest struggle would have to be CURRICULUM design. Now, I know you are all silently asking yourselves the question right now, "Art has a curriculum? How hard can that be to teach and why is that her biggest struggle?"  Trust me, the teaching part of Art is not the hard part (well, sometimes it is) rather deciding WHAT to teach and where to place value in my lessons, is my big challenge. 

There are millions of awesome art projects out there on the internet, but as I peruse Pinterest like a kid in a candy store, I always find myself asking, "What is more important in art,  process or product and what will my students get the most out of?"  In a nutshell, I can scaffold and develop a project really well (mostly-sometimes) so the end result looks like artwork that is student gallery worthy. Maybe students will grasp the objective being taught by a specific technique or element of art- but sometimes they are so worried about their artwork turning out like their bestie's that they completely lose key components of what is being taught.  

Or.....I can focus on PROCESS (opposite of end result based) and teach my budding artists the proper way to hold and use a paint brush. Or possibly experiment with a new medium, where the final product may look like a gray blob that when viewed on the Artsonia gallery, is the kind of artwork that only a parent could love.  BUT, if along the way, students learn blending, gradient and value scale, is that gray blob on Artsonia just as (if not more) meaningful than the amazing art that was framed?

I also feel a bit of pressure to have my students produce quality work.  Almost like I am validated as a good art teacher if student work turns out amazing. Let's face it folks, some projects rock and some just bomb with a capital B!  Sometimes I feel pressure to create projects that are hallway showcase worthy, otherwise I'm not doing my job as an art teacher. This is pressure I put on myself and need to weigh carefully when deciding on curriculum for each grade level and whether I want to have students create those gray blobs from time to time, and not worry if they aren't hallway worthy. However, in the back of my mind is that little voice saying "Parents want to see polished work." Still working to find the right balance here...

2. Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.

       1. Changing students mindset about art.  Heading in to the year, I had six years of middle school art under my belt and had worked all summer to develop my elementary curriculum.  I was feeling pretty good about things and was ready to take off running- until the first week of school. Kids were crying, not willing to try, acting out -it was a hot mess in the art room. I was hearing tons of the dreaded "I can't do it" phrase that makes any teacher cringe. I was at a loss.  This is art...we don't CRY in Art class!  I was completely floored by how intimidated students seemed to be by putting their drawings down on paper.  The good ol' fear of failure was clearly in charge here, and I needed to RKO it, and fast!

I knew the only way I was going to get anything out of these kids this year was to change their MINDSET about art.  We read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds (best art book ever to start the year off with) and kids began to look at their artwork as "flower-ish" and "portrait-ish" and didn't need to think it had to be perfect.  We began to create a culture of complementing each other's work and finding the creative elements in our own designs that makes it unique and different from others.  We talked a LOT about each of our strengths as an artist and I began to give "craftsmanship" awards at the end of each class, not for the best piece, but for one small thing that I saw in a student's work that I knew was a step in the right direction.  

Do kids still get frustrated or discouraged from time to time?  Of course, changing one's mindset doesn't happen over night, or even over the course of the year for some.  The good news is, I get to continue on with these kids next year, which means continued time to develop that positive art mindset.

     2. Changing my curriculum several times.  I had it ALL planned out by the end of the summer and I was made in the shade heading into this school year. Then September hit...(insert screeching tire sound here).  So many of the projects I carefully planned and units I thought would be great had to be revised or tossed all together.  It took less that two weeks into the year for me to see that I needed to go back to the drawing board for some classes.  I am proud that I didn't forge ahead with projects that I didn't think would be meaningful simply for the sake that they were beautifully linked in my Star Academy yearly curriculum doc.  Let's just say that google doc may as well have paid rent as a permanently opened tab on my mac this year, and I'm proud of it!

3. What are THREE things you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?

1. Eat lunch in the lounge like a civilized person and have a real conversation instead of scarfing down a quick sandwich at a table that has been coughed on all morning by students and then rushing around like a crazy person to see how much I can get done over my lunch hour. OK - putting that last part down about the tables in writing is probably all the push I need to make this goal happen!  Ewww!  
2. Push out a monthly Art Newsletter via email to all 1st-5th grade families. I know that kids don't always share what they are learning at school with their parents. I want to send out monthly newsletters so parents can be informed about Art class. This will allow parents to open dialogue with their children by asking them to explain what they learned about radial design last week in art instead of thinking that all their children do is make Artist Trading Cards.  Hey, what can I say, those little ATC’s are a fan favorite across the board.  You would be amazed how excited the kiddos get when I give the last 5 minutes of class for them to make those little trading cards!      

3. Try out TAB based learning. TAB is a big thing in the art world and is an acronym for Teaching for Artistic Behaviors. Basically, it is an alternative to every student creating the same cookie cutter art project. Ex: I want my students to learn about color theory so I put out several medium choices, teach them about color theory and then set them loose to create whatever they want, with whatever medium they choose, to demonstrate their understanding of color theory. Why would I ever open my classroom up to this kind of craziness, you ask? ENGAGEMENT and AUTHENTIC LEARNING. I have wanted to experiment with a TAB unit since starting at Star this time is running out. Grateful for this 1,2,3,4,5 challenge to remind me of this goal!

4. Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today's rough culture.

1. SUMMERS OFF!  Awe come on y'all, you know you were thinking the same thing but didn't want to put it down as one of your reasons.  All jokes aside, in what other profession do you have the ability to pause, allow your spirit and mind to refresh and reflect, only to have an opportunity to begin the amazing journey all over again a few months later later with a little more experience under your belt, new goals, some things you would change, and welcome challenges for the year?  Such a wonderful thing, those summers are. (Also such a run on sentence, yikes!)

2. The ability to be the captain of your own ship. Well...if you teach at a school like I do, that is.  I LOVE that I get to go to work each day, excited about a new project or art technique I am going to introduce to my students.  I am in charge of the path I choose to travel my kiddos down and if I teach it with passion and excitement, they will receive it with an open mind. Disclaimer- not every day is all kumbaya and coming up roses in the Art room like the picture I just painted you, but I will say that every day is a new adventure that I get to take my students on, and that is all kinds of awesome! 

3. The kids- they are so fresh, eager to learn, open minded (sometimes) and Krazy with a capital K, that I just have to pause when I think of what I do for a living, the audience I am reaching on a daily basis and say to myself, man I have it good. Sure beats being in a stuffy office building all day, if you ask me.

4. The hugs.  I have three children myself so by no means am I running low in the kid hug department, but seriously, receiving hugs all day long from the pint sized variety makes me want to work so hard to provide them with meaningful and engaging projects to make them as happy as they make me (on most days).

5. Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge by answering these questions?

  • Marcia Meindl @MarciaMeindl
  • Sarah Hausman @misshkinder
  • Maria Evans @buckeyeatheart
  • Susie Steinlein @SusieSteinlein
  • TJ Fassler @TJFassler
 Have to give a shout out to this little man pictured here... while I was brainstorming how on earth I was going to answer all these questions, I was mindlessly doodling the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the word "Challenge" over and over again on a scratch piece of paper. My youngest son came over and said, "Mom, you're an Art teacher, you should not draw that sloppy (insert smile). I can help you if you want."  His 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Challenge drawing is pictured at the top of this blog, and I have to say, is SO much better than what was on my paper. Gotta love it when kids show you up!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Students Rebuild Pinwheel Challenge

Hi Star Academy Parents!

You may have heard your child come home talking about the "pinwheel challenge" taking place in Art class. Every year, creates a new challenge for students to get involved in helping those in less fortunate situations than ourselves.  I have had students participate in Students rebuild challenges for several year now and find the experience to be very rewarding.  Please read the blurb below from regarding this year's challenge:

Join Students Rebuildthe International Rescue Committee and Global Nomads Group to help Syrian youth from conflict areas recover from crisis and grow into happy, healthy adults. We're hopeful you'll learn more about the situation Syrian youth are experiencing, and then participate in the Challenge by making and mailing in pinwheels. For each pinwheel you send in, the Bezos Family Foundation will donate $2—up to $400,000—to IRC’s Healing Classrooms program. The more pinwheels you send, the more children you’ll help!

We have set a school wide goal to create a total of 750 pinwheels, which will raise $1500 for Syrian youth.  I am excited to report that we should meet our goal!  Many students have also been making pinwheels from home and bringing them in to help reach our goal.  So exciting to see students engaged and getting involved!  You can visit for additional information on this pinwheel challenge.

Emily Shane

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

January in the Star Academy art room

January is such a fun month for Art!  Students are back from a long winter break and are eager to get back in the swing of things, particularly, creating art!  We are starting the month off by turning the Star Academy hallways into a winter wonderland.  Students from all grade levels are learning various art principles and techniques such as:

foreground, middle ground, background
positive and negative space
chalk blending techniques
watercolor tape resist
watercolor salt effect

Here are a few examples of the masterpieces going up in the hallways of Star Academy:

We will continue the month of January by participating in a community service art project and will create a collaborative Kindness Quilt during the great Kindness Challenge week at the end of the month.  Stay tuned for details and pictures of these two exciting events coming soon!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Artist Trading Cards

I can hardly wait to introduce Star Academy students of all grade levels to our Artist Trading Card project in a few weeks!  This project worked its way into my curriculum over the summer when I participated in a daily Twitter art challenge for a month with a group of fellow Art teachers from schools across the United States. One of the many amazing things that the Twitter challenge provided me with, was learning about an Artist Trading Card swap for art students at schools all across the United States.

Similar to trading cards of any variety (Pokemon comes to mind) Artist Trading Cards are small, baseball sized cards that are original works of art that can be traded with other artists, in this case, other art students from schools all over the United States.  Star Academy students will make several ATC's exploring various art techniques, mediums, and focus on specific elements of art to create their very own 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" masterpieces.  They will each select one card to send off to the swap and wait patiently to receive ATC's from students at other schools in exchange for our cards.

I am excited to introduce this project to students for a few reasons:

  • Creating art on 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" canvas is FUN!  The space is small, so students are more willing to take chances with their art, knowing that if they don't like it, they can simply make another.
  • I like how ATC's lend themselves to introduce students to a variety of art techniques, mediums, elements, etc and students get choices with their artwork!
  • I am secretly hoping that ATC's will take hold at Star and students will be creating and trading their ATC's with fellow classmates beyond the organized swap.
  • My wheels are spinning with thoughts of turning ATC's into a year long early finisher activity. An Artist Trading Card station could easily be set up in the Art room and students could demonstrate mastery of techniques and art skills by creating ATC's when they finish their class projects.  

Here are a few example ATC's that I made.  I had SO much fun creating these little guys and can't wait to see how my students take to Artist Trading Cards!  Stay tuned for ATC update in a few weeks!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Adventures in Watercolor

Watercolor is such a great "go to" medium to expand from the basic markers and crayons for younger grades a few weeks into a new school year, once basic Art room rules and procedures are established. Not too messy for end of class clean up procedures still in the works, but still provides the satisfaction and magical element of painting that most children seem to love.

Magical and practical elements aside, I have two major issues with watercolors; muted color effect and short lasting color palettes.  I have yet to find a brand of watercolor paints that provides a vibrant enough color to make the medium worth the while.  These two frustrations, paired with a warm and cool color lesson that I've been dying to try, set me out on a google search to find vibrant watercolors.

I was shocked to find the top of my vibrant watercolor google search to be "homemade watercolor recipes."  I compared a few recipes and was off to the local Dollar store for supplies and ingredients.

The supplies:

ice cube trays (or other individual containers such as mini muffin tins)
food color (gel variety was voted as providing most vibrant color)
baking soda
corn starch
light corn syrup
white distilled vinegar

The proportions:

1/2 C baking soda
1/4 C white distilled vinegar
1/4 C corn starch
1/2 t light corn syrup

  • mix the above four ingredients together, pour into divided containers, add several drops of food color to your desired color intensity, mix well and set aside to dry.  Allow 2-3 days for the watercolors to be completely solid in form and ready for use.
  • The above recipe will yield one ice cube tray of primary and secondary colors.  I was able to get 5 palettes made with the food color packets before running out.
The Outcome:

The most vibrant, color intense watercolors I have ever seen!  So happy with the outcome, I'm making a second batch this weekend so each tabletop has two full color palettes to share from.  Can't wait to test them out with 1st and 2nd grade Color Exploration Unit this month!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Faces of Star

The first round of our Monochromatic Self Portraits was a HUGE success!  Students utilized scaffolding strategies from the week prior (yay!) to create amazing features on their faces.  We have been talking a lot about the word "Craftsmanship" in Art and what that means.  Does it mean you are the best artist?  No, craftsmanship in Art class focuses on two very important skills...effort and detail. Boy did I ever see great craftsmanship out of these kiddos today! 

We will continue our Monochromatic Self Portraits on Thursday and then on display they will go.  Can't wait to see the rainbow of bright, smiling faces of Star on display for the whole school to see. Here is a sneak peek at our soon to be wall mural, that will span over 8 feet tall and 18 feet long!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Using Books to teach Art Attitude!

I decided to start the new year in Art class reading a book to each group of students.  I chose "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds for 1st and 2nd graders and "Ish" also by Peter H. Reynolds for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

The Dot storyline is about a girl who doesn't feel confident with her Art skills and won't take a risk to try and create in Art class.  Her teacher pushes her to just make one single dot on her paper and then asks her to her sign her work.  This one little dot and her willingness to try sparks her journey in Art. This is a great story for younger kids, as many can relate to the feeling of not thinking they are able to draw- a mindset I plan on changing this year in Art!

Ish is my all time favorite art book about not feeling like your work has to be perfect.  We've all heard the phrase, blueish or greenish but may not have given the true meaning of "ish" much thought. This story is about a boy who gets teased because his artwork doesn't look like what it is intended to be. Naturally, he shuts down and nothing he draws is good enough anymore.  That is, until his sister helps him see his artwork in a whole new light.  She shows him that his artwork doesn't have to look exactly like what he intends it to be, that having it look art-ish is good enough.  Thinking "ishly" opens up a whole new world of creativity and feeling of content for the boy.

The best moments in the art room for me today? When students were practicing facial features for our upcoming Self portrait wall mural and I would overhear "I don't like the way this nose is looking" to which a fellow table mate would reply, "I don't know, it looks pretty nose-ish to me." Awww!

We could all use a little more "ish" in our lives.