Monday, September 29, 2014

The Art Store

I'm loving our new "Art Store" for a couple of reasons. 
1. The name is catchy and the kids are right in synch with it and 
2. This counter area is staying super organized and neat due to having a specific purpose. I chose this long counter because it is an under-utilized, central space in the room. 

The Art store isn't new, but the name sure is. We've always had a "supply table" but how blah does that sound in comparison? I found myself reminding the kids where the particular supplies were and now they just gravitate right to "The Art Store" for those dry, everyday supplies like rulers, tape, colored pencils, Sharpies, oil pastels, paper, etc. Who doesn't love to shop? I told the kids to leave their wallets at home because the art supplies are for their use, free of charge. We all kind of daydreamed a bit about shopping at a free store....
Thanks go to Tennessee Rock Star art teacher and fellow blogger Cassie Stephens who has a similar name for her supply area which is where I got this neat idea. I think she calls hers "The Art Supply Store". 
Check out her blog:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grade 2- Cubism, Self- Portraits and Painting Set-Up

Why would we draw lines through our faces to fragment them? It's all making sense to my students as we explore Cubism more. Georges Braque's "Violin and Candlestick" helped more so than Picasso's work since we are working to abstract our self-portraits by painting in segments that divide the background as much as the actual face.
My second graders are doing a nice job. We talked about how delicate watercolors are and how to treat them carefully. Mrs. Finnegan's class was the first to use the brand new watercolor sets for the year that have 16 colors. Students gasped as they saw the beautiful color choices in the set. I have to say, I was quite impressed as well.

What supplies do you need for painting? It was a joy going over materials needed and the uses. 

Violin and Candlestick

Last week we looked at some of Picasso's work and then drew a self-portrait that was "a little bit off". We used rulers to create lines all over the paper being careful not to create too many spaces. Next up was a Sharpie, erasing and painting. students will work to finish in the next two weeks.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Schedules, paperwork and praise

It's amazing that September will be over so shortly. I feel as though I have spent half the month on paperwork-either doing paperwork or reading it!
It's been a relief and a bit fun using existing posters and things and tweaking them. Here are a few things that routinely make life easier for me.

Schedule: My huge schedule has been so great. Each year, I unstick and rearrange where my classes, lunch and duties fall in a week. It's big enough that I can see it from the other side of the room. The kids also can look to see if the room is empty during their recess if they have something they want to work on in here.
Huge Schedule
 Art Jobs: A few years ago, I had 5 tables and 5 jobs. Things worked well and then I decided to combine tables and make 3 large tables. I bounced the 3 tables around in the 5 jobs last year but decided to create 3 main jobs. (Hope you're still with me!) After some discussion, we decided on the 3 jobs we're using this year and I created the new chart. I penciled in "music volume" under "Noise Monitors" because I have to try it out a bit first. 

Old jobs chart
New chart

Praise: When I was a child,  remember getting "Happy Grams". Very few of my colleagues seem to remember these (perhaps it was an 80's North Jersey thing) but I love to give these yellow forms with a smile on them out. This is the GOOD, FUN kind of paperwork. Other forms that I have given out in years past have been slips that say "Art Rocks and so does_____!" with a little handwritten note.
Happy Grams :)
Now, here is my saving grace! Probably the one thing I can't live without. Forget seating and job charts. Forget my plan book (just kidding).. this shelf keeps my sanity on the busiest of days. I was nervous that this year having two additional classes that I would not have enough slots but I did! I write the HR teacher name and day of the week on colored masking tape and each class has a nice, organized, roomy shelf. The students 2D work goes in colored table folders and right on their shelf. 3D work of small size goes in a copy paper box lid and on the shelf.
Art Storage

...And, the return of my art letters. A-R-T. 
Last year I discontinued using my ART letters on the dry erase board because a retired art teacher who I consider the-most-phenomenal lady came into my room and we discussed so many things. One thing she said is that my removing a letter when the kids are not doing X-Y-Z, it sets a negative tone. Basically, I was keeping tally of the classes that kept the A-R-T on the board and they earned something. 
The kids liked the A-R-T but I wanted to keep the tone positive each moment. After a year of thought, I decided to do the reverse... I am giving the kids each letter as they work wonderfully. The reward is in knowing and feeling how great our 57 min together were. Naturally, I can give little bonuses along the way but generally speaking, the BT art room IS a fun enough place already without additional rewards. I'm sure the kids could think of a ton of things they'd love me to give them though.

Desk, bye bye!
I finally got a nice desk last year and sat at it ZERO times. I didn't need a big clunker just for show so at the start of the year, I got rid of it and downsized to my little table at the front of the room. 
More so than space, what I gained is one less "hot zone" to get cluttered. My new little space is just the right size for my laptop, writing instruments and a few papers. I'm on my feet all day so I can crash here when needed. 

Out with the old....
 Ah, less is more! 

The school year is off to a wonderful start and in part to these little, organizational parts of my everyday. 

What organizational tips help you through your day?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Oxie is up for Auction!

Dexter Philip Oxford, III "Oxie" is up for sale! The online auction closes October 19th. Check out Oxie and friends and bid on an ox you love. There is an ox for everyone!

Proceeds from the auction go to development of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Unlocking Mona Lisa

Boy do I have some art history buffs here! We are learning about Mona Lisa and friends as we kick-off a unit on portraiture. It's been over 10 years since I've been to the Louvre in Paris but it's personally nice when I can share information about art that I have seen the original version of. Several students have travelled to Paris recently which was neat to make the recent connection. How do you spell "so much fun"?!

Ok, so on the art room door, I've had a poster of Mona Lisa for years. I put her there because she is insanely famous and fit so nicely at the entrance with different messages I have coming from her smile.
I projected her picture today and asked the kids who has seen her image before and where. I was so glad that most hands went up and with answers like "on my mom's umbrella! On the art room door! I have that painting at home!"
I asked the kids what they liked about the painting and what they observed. So glad they noticed her soft veil, the amazing background, her missing eyebrows and her traveling eyes.

Outside my window I hear kids in after-care talking about Mona Lisa and the secret codes...

Back on track, the kids were so observant and so intrigued. Well come on, a painting behind bulletproof glass that is priceless and has eyes that follow you??!

We talked and talked and talked. And they didn't mind their Mona homework either. I am really looking forward to doing 6 different self-portrait projects at once for this years Square 1 Art projects.

Celebrating Dot Day

"Make your mark and see where it takes you" is a quote by "The Dot" author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds.
I love the powerful messages in his books and read his stories each year. This year, we participated in International Dot Day by creating circular shapes with designs on simple construction paper with markers and/or oil pastels. We are now working to collage the designs together for a hallway display.

I love the hand drawn and cut shapes as much as the beautiful, individual designs that my students created as they are a reflection of how individual and special each artist is. So many students and staff members wore dots (or stripes) today as a visual reminder of Reynolds' quote. Being a Monday, I was impressed by how many members of our school community actually remembered. And the funny thing is that this message is a special one for adults as much as children. Have the courage to make a mark and see where it takes you.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Day One of Art Class we always spend the bulk of the class period creating art. I personally am a bit Attention Deficit in meetings so I can't expect my students to sit in our colorful, stimulating art room and not create! We tackled some simple rules, got seats and then moved into our first projects....... the first of which was a simple piece of functional art.

It was hard keeping a secret but I made it to day one of art today without telling the kids what the cereal boxes were for that they collected.
I'm excited because, after a 3 year hiatus, we are using formal sketchbooks again... and this time we're making them with a few simple supplies. 
Zooming back a few years: Every student had a sketchbook AND I gave them all weekly drawing assignments AND I vowed to check that they completed the drawings AND all before the end of the class period/school day. It was CRAZY. Half the kids loved it and half said "ART HOMEWORK??!" and didn't complete the simple assignment. My intentions were in the right place but what a task. So, I canned it and gave out optional vacation and summer drawing prompts. 
But, I really love the idea of the kids having a sketchbook and how easy it is for the kids to make them while being "green" in their art so that's what we did today.
My students made two sketchbooks today: one to keep in art class and the other to take home. The home book has 30 weeks of optional sketchbook prompts inside if the kids want to use them. Of course, they can just fill up the pages as well with drawings and writing of their choice.

I started to think "here we go, again!" as the piles of recyclables started to pour in. I have found myself in this situation all too often having a classroom filled up with "trash" or cumbersome materials. Fortunately, this is a one week project, the kids are really liking these sketchbooks and (here's the big one) the cereal boxes do not attract bugs since they are clean and.


Fold and cut

Add a binding

Pages and rubberband so that more pages can be added easily

Mrs. Drake checking out the sketchbook

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Happy September!

Happy September and Welcome Back! So, it's 90 degrees here in New Jersey but the heat couldn't slow down the awesome start to the school year today. It was so great to see the Bear Tavern students excited for another year. Ten years ago I was a first year teacher. Time truly does fly. I think about those years, eight of which have been spent in public schools, in terms of the experiences and the faces. This school year, I can only think about my current 5th graders and how it was just yesterday that they were tiny first graders, had the cutest little smiles with two front teeth missing and how we used to sing songs while making art. Every single time, the sun would find a way through the window to those little, happy voices. And at the time, I remember always feeling pure joy from those moments because the rest of the world stopped. Any feelings of nerves that I had from being new to the building back then would just disappear. My 5th graders don't necessarily know what exactly those special times meant to me or that I even remember those little moments back in 2010.

The hardest part about being an elementary art teacher is missing the kids when they move up to middle school. After seeing the kids grow and mature and become such talented artists over several years, it truly is tough not to see them daily/weekly anymore. It's so tough. So, I kind of see each class as a special moment because what other choice do I have?
...and Now.

I begin this school year feeling so glad to have the opportunity to teach art to such wonderful children.