9.19.2014

Second Full Week

Today ends the second full week of school.  To be honest, it is finally starting to feel awesome to be back in the groove.  This was the first year that I didn't feel ready to come back, I was mourning the loss of summer.  I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that last year was a pretty rough year.  There were a lot of changes in my school that I was struggling with embracing or even simply accepting.  This year is a bit better, mostly because I am making a conscience effort to have a better attitude - to accept the things I can not change, and to embrace and love the things I can.  There are better days than others, but it totally helps that I have some totally rockin' colleagues that are helping me to keep me accountable.


On top of having an overall better attitude, I am rediscovering my love of teaching.  I am remembering how much fun it is to teach art.  Last year I felt annoyed quite a bit by my students choices and behaviors and while some of it was warranted - it was mostly me just being grouchy.  So this year - a clean slate for all, including myself.

I have set my standards high for myself and my students.  I remind students quietly and gently (unless there is safety involved).  I am hoping that if we can start out the year with love, trust, compassion, a sense of humor, and consistent expectations/consequences that the students and I can have an even more productive and highly engaging year.  So far so good, though it still is the end of the second full week!

I started off the year by asking students to show me about their summer on a piece of paper.  I did this project last year and LOVED it.  It takes only one day and I get to catch up with kiddos - I can start building those relationships with the kids that need a little extra love to feel comfortable to succeed.  It gives me a chance to practice procedures and protocols without yacking at them for 50 minutes.  I also have a chance to fill bulletin boards with work for curriculum night the first week of school. 

Our first 'real' projects began the next time I saw them.  I am hoping to include some more 'skills' into their work this year without doing too many "draw like this" lessons.  I really love having them be creative and stretch their own ideas - but I also am seeing some holes in their skills that I need to try and boost.

For the upper grades (3-5) I am starting guided sketchbooks this year.  Each day they come I hand them a half sheet with some kind of guided drawing/thinking lesson.  The students then work on them for 5 minutes without talking.  I am hoping these will help boost their drawing skills, their observational skills, their confidence, their patience, and even their problem solving skills - as I answer no questions during the five minutes, nor do I answer "is this right?".  Before we started the sketchbooks I explained to the classes that it is about warming up the creative side of their brain.  In PE, dance, or music they do warm ups to prepare their bodies/voices - in art we have to wake up the creative side of their brains.

So far I have classes that really have embraced the 5 minutes and others really struggle with not asking for help or looking for the 'right' answer.  I ask them to do their best and to work for the WHOLE five minutes.  It has been interesting.  So far it seems that the classes that really embrace the 5 minutes seem to be more focused on their work come work time - instead of it being social hour.  I will try and remember to report back at the end of the year to reflect on how it went over the course of the year.

After the students do their warm up sketchbook page for 5 minutes - they add it to their sketchbook and prepare for that days lesson.  If students finish the day's lesson they go back and finish their sketchbook page(s) before they can do something off the Finished List.

I am doing my best to step up my program in a way that we all work smarter, not harder -- hopefully my new school year resolutions will hold throughout the year!



4.04.2014

Thanks Jeremiah

This week I had a small group of students come to art a few minutes early.  I always love moments when I have just a handful of kids, especially the normally quiet kids, because I get a chance to really hear them.  These students had just come from a pull out support group for reading.

One kid, we'll call him Jeremiah, puts his head on the table, looks and me and says, "I don't like school."

There was a pause.  I am never really sure how to respond to this statement.

He then proceeds to say, "I don't like most of school.  I do like art and P.E."

I asked him why he liked those parts of school.

He took a second and said, "I like art because I get to do things like paint and create.  In P.E. we get to run and play games."

I can't remember what I said, or if class came in - this quick conversation not only made my heart break but reminded me of why I do what I do. 

I teach art for kids like Jeremiah.  I teach art for kids that 'learning' is a true struggle.  They have to work 3x as hard to learn the same information as "normal" kids -- everyday, for 7ish hours they struggle -- then 2ish times a week, they get to be "normal" - they don't have to work so hard, they can enjoy learning.

I teach art for the kids that need a place to smart, to overcome their dyslexia, their ADD, their processing delays -- I teach art to gives kids a place to feel like everyone else, while becoming more themselves.

Thanks Jeremiah for refreshing my perspective.

3.07.2014

Best Pencil Sharpener EVER

As an art teacher my pencil sharpeners get A LOT of use - and not the sweet gentle kind of use - but rough use - pencils, colored pencils, 800 kids a week kind of use.

I gave in a few years ago and bought one of those 150.oo pencil sharpeners and while it's still kicking just fine - I have discovered this little hand crank pencil sharpener that does a way better job and wastes way less pencil.

I e-mailed the guy at Classroom Friendly Supplies to see if he would send one to me to try and out and write a review of it on this blog.  I warned him that it was going to be put through the paces in my art room and that I planned on using it for months before writing a review.  Most pencil sharpeners can hold out for a month or two in the art room before starting to spit, sputter, over heat and then die all together.

I received my adorable pencil sharpener back in the fall and I had seen other classroom blogs rave about how well it sharpens - they didn't lie.  This little baby does it all and does it like a champ!  I wasn't sure how it would do months later - but honestly, it's still sharpening like day one!

Pros:
- Compact.
- Sharpens pencils (both colored and normal) to a crazy amazing point.
- Wastes less pencil - no over sharpening here!
- Quiet
- Price
- Order replacement parts

Cons:
- Doesn't mount securely with the mount it comes with (maybe I'm just weak or my students real strong)
- Takes a little while to teach kids how to use it. (Once they know it's a dream)

That it.  I have found that it sharpens normal pencils perfectly every time.  I had a whole bunch of economy pencils donated to my room - those really terrible cheap ones where the lead isn't centered in the pencil and the erasers make pink streaks on paper instead of erasing.  I ALMOST threw them all away because my 150.oo pencil sharpener couldn't handle the crooked lead - they always sharpened having one wood side really long and no way to write with the lead.  On a whim I tried them in the Classroom Friendly Sharpener - and wha-la, they were sharpened just like any other pencil.

Later in the year we were doing a project with colored pencils and colored pencils are terrible for normal pencil sharpeners.  The colored lead is way softer and almost gummy - it messes with the blades and motor of normal pencil sharpeners.  Most art teachers won't allow colored pencils and normal pencils to be sharpened in the same sharpener.  Kind of like having paper scissors and fabric scissors - same idea.  In my opinion I don't have time to hand out hand sharpeners to kids and then police them to make sure the shavings get in the trash or that they aren't making rosettes out of the sharpened pieces... so I just have the kids use the electric sharpeners, which is hard on the sharpener.  See the circle of issues?!?!

Okay.  So I took my Classroom Friendly Sharpener and I put it to the test.  We sharpened colored pencil after colored pencil.  It sharpened them BEAUTIFULLY.  The only thing I had to be careful of was that the over sharpening protection for normal pencils doesn't work with the colored pencils - the lead must be too thick or too soft.  About 4 full cranks and the colored pencils were sharp.  The only other issue was that the lead of the colored pencils would occasionally break in the sharpener and I'd have to take the blade out and get the lead out.  This extra step took about 30 extra seconds when needed - nothing crazy or hard.  The best part was that after sharpening all those colored pencils, the next class needed normal pencils - and it worked just like it did when I pulled it from the box.

This pencil sharpener in the REAL DEAL.  Kids love using it (even so much that one class I had to take it away because they were purposely breaking their sharp pencils to use the sharpener again and again).

So if you are tired of burned out sharpeners that seem to last a few days past their warranty and then sputter and die - get yourself one of these sharpeners!  It has been used EVERYDAY by hundreds of kids ALL year and it's still going strong.

I am impressed! 

**I also just used it last hour to sharped some chop-sticks to use them like shish-ka-bob sticks for making holes in clay for beads.  It sharpened the wood sticks perfectly and still sharpens normal pencils like I just took it out of the box.  Try that with an electric sharpener!!! **

2.07.2014

I'm A Finalist!

It's been a CRAZY week, but I found out that I am a finalist for The Art of Education's "Art Ed Blog" contest. hooray!  The first year I ranked 4th, last year 1st -- this year is yet to be determined.

If you enjoy reading Organized Chaos please go to:


http://www.theartofed.com/2014/02/03/finalists-announced-and-voting-open-2013-art-ed-blog-of-the-year/


And vote for me!  

Here's the kicker - the contest ends tonight February 7th.  So don't delay!

(If there are other blogs there that you love - you can vote for more than one.)

1.31.2014

Last Day To Nominate!

Today - January 31st is the LAST day to nominate your favorite Art Ed Blog(s).  Don't assume your favorites are already nominated! 

All you  need to do to nominate a blog is click on the link below and leave a comment stating which blog you'd like to nominate and why you love it.

Click here: http://www.theartofed.com/2014/01/27/nominations-now-open-2013-art-ed-blog-of-the-year/#disqus_thread

1.26.2014

If You're Not Prepared to be Wrong....

A very eloquent and wise man, Sir Kenneth Robinson, once said, "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original".

Not only do I feel this statement is very much true - but it happened in my classes the other day.  I was working with my 2nd and 3rd graders on their piece of artwork for Young Masters.  I always do projects that are high success, but also highly original - I decided that 2nd and 3rd graders would be doing zentangles this year.  I know all my students can create with lines and shapes, but this would be one of the first times I would not be allowing pencil first - but straight to Sharpie.

To get my students creativity warmed up for this project I showed them part of a zentangle video on youtube.  I asked them questions like, "What are they drawing?" -- I would get a laundry list of answers like: scales, hills, bumps..... I then would ask the question again.  The students seemed confused.  I would wait a few seconds and there was always one kid that would see through the design and realize they are actually drawing curved lines which then remind us of things like hills, scales, bumps... 

So we go on with the video and notice they use squares, circles, dots, straight lines, coloring in spaces and leaving other spaces open.  We discuss pattern and rhythm in each section.  I then asked the students if they know how to draw straight lines, curved lines, squares, circles -- etc.  They agree they know how and are starting to get real excited.

I then explain that they will be doing a warm up zentangle on a post-it.  They will be doing it with a Sharpie and any 'mistakes' they make will need to be problem solved and pulled into their design.  

This is where it got interesting.  

At one of my school the kids were excited and ready for the challenge.  In fact I had to wait multiple times for them to stop talking so I could finish my instructions - they were so excited they couldn't wait to share their ideas!  They were jumping at the bit to skip pencil and use sharpie straight away!

So then at the end of the week I went to my other school and these kids panicked.  Full out, panicked.  They were almost arguing with me to use pencils or to get an extra paper incase they messed up.  I spent far more time with these kids building up their confidence and convincing them they would be fine.  The post it note was just practice and it was okay if they didn't like it in the end.

Whats the difference between the schools?  Socioeconomic? Atmosphere? Personal relationships?

There are many small differences between the schools - but they are mostly the same.  My kids at the school that panicked are often better at following rules and expectations, but their socioeconomic status is similar to the other school, and most of the kids, at both schools, I have had 2 or 3 years -- so our relationship is pretty strong.  I personally believe that the reason I had students in one school panic and the others not is due to the fact that non-panic school is a school of the arts.

My school that is a school of the arts is NOT a fine arts school.  We are not a school that trains kids in the arts - we have no band or dance troupe.  Instead we infuse arts into the whole educational system.  Students transfer and connect ideas between classes - they learn about texture and patterns - they are asked to compare relationships, look for symbols...etc across disciplines.  These students also have dance and drama in addition to their 'normal' special schedule.  

Kids that come to the school for the arts are continuously asked to take chances, take risks, throw out an idea, perform in a small skit, join in conversation, think about something from a different point of view, problem solve and critically think about questions.  Students at this school are prepared to be wrong, to make mistakes.  Students at this school are encouraged to take a chance, and are supported through their thinking/exploration.  While music and art provide this -- dance and drama really help to drive these concepts and ideas home.  Asking kindergarteners to act out simple fairy tales, teaching 3rd graders to do improv -- it not only enforces their reading/writing skills -- but teaches them to 'prepare to be wrong'.  In dance they are asked to come up with movements that inspire or represent a concept/word/idea.  Students at this school are asked to explore answers instead of giving the correct one.

Now, lets take a moment and realize that my other elementary school is VERY supportive of their students.  Students feel safe and get a an amazing education there.  Students are very thoughtful and take learning risks there as well -- but in a different fashion.  

I truly believe that both my schools offer an exceptional education to students and the point of this post is not to give more props to one over the other, but to try and understand why two similar groups of kids would respond so differently to the same project.

Back to the project.  As the students were doing their warm up post-its.  I had them work silently for 5 minutes.  I wanted the to really concentrate on their visual thinking and felt talking would be too distracting.

After the 5 minutes was up - I let them share their ideas from their tables, then bring them to me.  I put them on the board and we quickly discussed that when they were working on their 'final' paper that if they needed some inspiration that they could come look at their class's thinking for ideas.  

It is important to note that after the warm up both schools were ready and raring to go, and that their warm up thinking/solutions were very comparable.  The warm up provided my traditional elementary school students with the chance to be wrong and when they worked through those mistakes without an eraser or a new paper - they had the confidence to be original, just like my school of the arts kids.

So in the end both sets of students had the same outcome - but that initial jump into a project was so very different.  As much as working at two buildings can be frustrating - moments like these, I find fascinating.  

1.20.2014

TenThousand Hours -- Thank You Mackelmore

For some reason, this year I have often felt frustrated and tired about continually trying to voice the importance of art.  In the past it was a much more positive venture for me and this year it's harder.  Perhaps it is because I feel like I have less support - more people I'm trying to convince and show that Art is more than singing notes or learning to mix colors.....

But even though I have struggled more with this, this year - I by no means plan to give up or give in - I am far too stubborn for that.

In times when I feel this way the song Ten Thousand Hours by Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis always gives me a spark of energy and truth.  This is not the whole song, and I have underlined the parts that feel so very real to me.

(There is a verse before this part)

A life lived for art is never a life wasted
Ten thousand

Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me
Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me

Now, now, now
This is my world, this is my arena
The TV told me something different I didn't believe it
I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential

And I know that one day I'mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone's greatest obstacle, I beat 'em
Celebrate that achievement
Got some attachments, some baggage I'm actually working on leaving
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I study art
The greats weren't great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
I will not be a statistic
Just let me be
No child left behind, that's the American scheme

I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is
Ten thousand


Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me
Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me


(more verses after this)

1.17.2014

Kiddos in the CI program and I

I have been wanting to write this post for a while - but I wasn't exactly clear on what I wanted to say - or I guess more how to say it.  In fact, I am still not sure - but it keeps rolling around in my head and needs to get out, so here goes.

When I first started in the district I am at - 3 years ago - I was both excited and nervous about the idea of having CI students.  Turned out that the way the schedule fell I didn't have them - the other art teacher in my building did.  To be completely honest I was disappointed, but mostly relieved.  I was nervous about starting in a new district and I had NO idea what to do with kiddos in a CI program.

Over the years I have been itching to get time with them - but again the schedule kept them with the other art teacher.  Then, this year it happened - the schedule was changed and not only did I get them, but so did the other art teacher!!!  Instead of having art once a week for 50 min (which is really not appropriate for the level of student) - they have it twice for 25 minutes!  It's really brilliant.

So I started to think about things I could do with my new students - and I realized that I really had NO idea what I was doing.  I tried to look on the internet for things, pinterest... I looked for blogs.  Honestly, I found little to nothing for art.  I found tons of picture charts, adaptive tools for the grade level teachers - squat for me.

I dug out a textbook from college called The Special Artist's Handbook.  This gave me some actual information I could work with.  I was excited and also totally overwhelmed.

My first class with them, I was a nervous wreck - it felt like my very first day of teaching all over again (which it kind of was).  I had read quick bios about each kid, but those rarely help me until I can put a face to the information.  It is hard for me to understand that Jessica might bite if you are too close, and that Michael needs to be apart from Sally...... that is until I meet them - then it all makes sense.

I decided there was nothing more I could actually do to prepare other than to just jump in.  It was time for some trial and error.

I have had the kiddos once a week since September and here are some things I have learned.

1) Baby wipes.  Have a lot.  Buy a container and then the HUGE packs of refills.  A lot of my CI kiddos HATE being messy - even if it's just marker, they will want it off before they move on.  So - have baby wipes.  It's faster and easier than running to the sink every couple of minutes.

2) Be prepared to have a HUGE range of abilities.  I have two separate groups and even within those groups their skills vary A LOT.  In both groups I have students that are non-verbal.  In both groups I have kids who will talk all class.  Some kids can cut on their own and write their own name - while others need assistance to cut and write.

3) Be prepared to laugh and smile.  The more I get to knows these kids the more I come to really appreciate and love their individuality.  They tend to surprise me - not just in their artwork - but when they come to class in a super mood and are silly all class, or are extra helpful, or even how they communicate without words.

4) Music Videos.  I'm not talking MTV - but Sesame Street, kidsongs, Harry Kindergarten.  They love to move to the music - dance - sing!

5) Be prepared.  I am still trying to find materials and projects that are both engaging but not too hard for my students.  I often think something will take them 15-20 minutes and they will be done in 5.  Or something I think they will enjoy for only 5 minutes will keep them engaged for the whole 25 minutes.  Be prepared with a back up plan - and maybe your backup should have a back up.

6) Be Alert.  Even though there are multiple adults in the room, with the door shut - they can escape.  It amazes me how quiet and fast some of the kids are.  I always keep my eyes and ears ready for certain movements or sounds.  Not to mention some of the kiddos like to be in other kid's spaces - which often are the kids that don't like people in their space.....

7) It's a challenge.  It is definitely a challenge - but I truly love my time with these kids.  I am learning a lot about these kids, about society, about me.  I am doing my best to embrace it and learn everything there is to learn.

8) Absent.  At least with my kids - they are absent a lot.  The kids are out for doctor appointments, or are kept back in the classroom because their choices and behaviors are too wild and inappropriate to venture to art..... Kids will be absent.  I try and do one day projects because of this.  It is hard to have 3 kids working on something from the week before while 2 others are doing something else.

9) Ask questions.  I asked a lot of question up front.  I asked about personalities, I asked about sensory, I asked about abilities - ask questions.  Let people know you are open to suggestions.

10) Play.  Take the chance to play.  Today we were done drawing and danced around the room to What does the Fox Say?  They loved it and so did I.

11) No Control.  Be prepared to feel like everything is wildly out of control - even though there are many adults in the room - prepare for a Murphy's law day.  Anything that could go wrong, will.  When it happens - remember safety first, then clean up the mess.

12) Rely on a balance:  Keep a balance of your own intuition and those of your para-educators.  The paras are with the kids all day, so I tend to lean on them with communication or how to get kids to respond to certain directions.  I perhaps lean on them a little too much - but they are teaching me how forceful I need to be with my voice, or what words/commands the kids know, what signs they know or what particular grunts mean.  It also helps when one of the kids is 'off' - whether its a kiddo that has extra energy, no energy, doesn't feel well, or keeps squawking.  The paras almost always know what they need.  One of our students one day who isn't verbal wouldn't stop crying/yelling -- took off their leg braces and the kiddo almost sighed with relief.  There happened to be something in their sock that was uncomfortable.  I would have NEVER thought of that -- but I will now!


I hope in the future to find someone or something that will help me on this journey.  I feel like there is a whole ocean of information I could be using - but I haven't found it yet.  I often feel like I am shooting in the dark - hoping things will work.  I'd have to say, more lessons have worked than haven't - but I also don't feel like I am doing enough.  I figure each class teaches me something new - don't give crayons to Erica (she eats them like carrots), Joseph likes to be in Abby's space - but Abby bites.  Karley can use scissors on her own, but Brian needs help.  Cathy likes to manipulate small items, but also likes to stick things in her mouth.  Sally is always eager to share her ideas, and Riley doesn't talk or watch but somehow always know what to do.  I could go on and on about the differences between my kiddos - it's great.  They are great. They teach me more and more each class.  I will continue to plan lessons and watch which ones work (puppets and bleedable tissue paper seem to be the biggest hits so far) and which ones don't.  I will continue to learn about their abilities, their personalities, and how the communicate with the world.  One class at a time.


1.11.2014

Arts Integration vs. Arts Infusion

I just got back from a Arts Integration Seminar/Conference thing.  The day was helpful, but perhaps not in the way the presenters expected or hoped for.  I left the conference today with a love-hate relationship of arts integration and a further understanding and passion for arts infusion (which my home teaching building is based on).

Today was all about arts integration - how to integrate core subjects into art.  While this sounds amazing and something that would benefit everyone, there are a few drawbacks that weren't discussed today - or perhaps others don't see them as drawbacks.

When it comes to arts integration, I have a love-hate relationship.  Which comes from the fact, or my interpretation, that it is all about connecting core subjects into the arts - but not the other way around.  Rarely are there grade level teachers looking to find art standards to fit into their subjects - if anything they look at their core subject and try and add art.  The presenters today stressed that true arts integration would hit standards in both the core subject and the art subject at the same time - making them equal partners in the project.  Don't see an issue with that?  I didn't at first either - I thought "Great- I love this! - Kids learn about pattern and texture in my class anyway, why not teach it through the african animals unit the 1st graders are learning about in class."  Then is slowly started to sink in - the hate of arts integration.

So wait, the core teachers teach what they teach and then I bend my ENTIRE curriculum around what they teach.  That doesn't seem right, but if it is better for the kids - then okay I can get past that.

Then I started to think more about how I would have taught patterns, with out integration  - perhaps the kids are missing out on a bigger world and a bigger picture if I teach it focused on African animals.  Perhaps I was going to teach pattern and texture through famous artworks and illustrations like Vincent Van Gogh and "Where the Wild Things Are".  So now the kids don't know about patterns and textures in other contexts - but they know A LOT about African Animals.

I suppose you could argue either way for which one is better.  Do they master one subject or have knowledge of many, but mastery of none?

But wait -- maybe we are missing the whole point!!  Was the point that the kids learned about African animals or was the point to learn about patterns and texture or both?

If the point was to learn about African animals - then the arts integration did it's job just fine.  If the idea was to enhance and learn about texture and patterns then arts integration failed the students, because it pigeon-holed their learning experience.

This is where my deeper understanding and growing passion for Arts Infusion comes in.  If the idea was to teach kids more about the concept of patterns and textures than about African animals - then using different world experiences to explore this concept is better.  For example when they come to art and they look at Vincent Van Gogh they can use that prior experience with the animal print to understand texture in a new way.  They will read the illustrations in 'Where the Wild Things Are' and have another understanding of pattern and visual texture. - it will help them understand quicker but also deeper.  Perhaps then when they go to music, in a month, and the word 'texture' and 'pattern' shows up there they will be able to expand their thinking even further - deepening this concept that keeps popping up.  THEN, what if when they are learning long division they recognize that there is a pattern - which helps them learn long division faster and deeper because they understand truly what patterns are.  Once you learn about African animals, you can compare them to other animals - but that doesn't translate to math very well.

This, to me, seems like a better use of my time and my student's brains.  Could I do projects that coordinate with grade level curriculum - sure could, but not a normal basis - (there are times for integration, more on that later.)  I will, however, provide opportunities for my students to connect concepts and ideas across subjects and ideas.  This, I feel, will deepen my students learning as well as enhance their own education - it provides the students with the control of their learning as opposed to me telling them what they should learn.


In other words - which might be more concise than my reflective ramblings above.

Arts Integration: Art Subject = Core Subject  Standards in both should be equally met and explored.  This is planned by the teachers, it is quantifiable.  The arts are USED to enhance core subjects.
"Arts Integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form" -- (Defining Arts Integration by Lynne B. Silverstein and Sean Layne)

Arts Infusion: Art Concept or Core Concept is taught in a way that provides an opportunity to connect to another subject for deeper understanding.  The opportunity is planned - but the connection is up to the student.  This is far more organic and non-quantifiable.  Arts are not used to enhance - but rather both subject areas are providing equal compliments and connections to each other and the real world. "Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area that meets evolving objectives in both." (Defining Arts Integration by Lynne B. Silverstein and Sean Layne)

While the quotes from above are from the same "Definition" of arts integration - I feel they mean different things, thus why they are split for me.  Often times people use "arts integration" and "arts infusion" interchangeably and I don't believe they are the same thing.  Arts infusion can be arts integration, but arts integration is not arts infusion.

I feel arts infusion allows the arts to be as they are - to be honored as their own curriculum, their own history, their own specialized field that has something to give to humanity.  Where in arts integration I feel the arts become second to the grade levels - less important, and used as a tool.

I strongly feel that the arts have plenty to offer and can stand on their own --- they don't need to be watered down and attached to math problems.  Visual art, music, drama, and dance connect us as humans - all the arts have been with us since the beginning of man.  There is no reason why the arts can't be important on their own and still contribute to core education.  I believe it should be done through connecting concepts (pattern, categorizing, visualizing...) instead of connecting subjects (african animals, pilgrims).

The world is so much bigger than subjects and it seems to me that students would be stronger thinkers and problem solvers if they learned to see connections between events rather that a specific event.

Now, don't get me wrong learning A LOT about a specific event is valuable and needed, but, I believe, in moderation.  Arts integration does a fabulous job approaching a specific theme/event from different perspectives - which, in the right context I love (back to that love-hate of mine) and find valuable.

 For example - we do a HUGE 5th grade production.  Students help us from the beginning to the end.  They brainstorm settings, character, plot, endings - you name it.  The drama teacher writes the majority of the script, but takes student suggestions.  Then later the kids get jobs they audition/sign up for.  Students can be actors, set designers, dances, or musicians.  Then for 8 weeks students go to those jobs and learn about them in relationship to the 5th grade production.  The set designers do the sets, dancers choreograph, musicians compose, and actors learn their roles (voice inflection, blocking... etc).  This is arts integration at its finest - the kids learn all about one subject from different view points.  It's AMAZING (and a lot of work).  So I totally understand and appreciate the value of arts integration, but i also feel that arts infusion, as a general rule -- has
more to offer to students.  Arts infusions asks students to make connections and be present with their learning - where arts integration lets them be more passive.

Overall - both arts infusion and arts integration provide kids with deeper experiences surrounding their life.  Neither is bad nor good - neither is right or wrong.  Do I think one provides more opportunity for deeper thinking - yes.  Does one do a better job mastering knowledge of one event - yes.

I feel arts infusion helps "students make meaningful connections, become agents of their own learning, take risks through exploration, develop flexible thinking skills, envision different vantage points, and respond to new possibilities." (Studies cited in Changing Education Through the Arts: Final Evaluation Report 2005-08)

1.08.2014

Art Education Conference!!!




Have you signed up yet for the Art Ed Conference through The Art of Education?!?!

 If you haven't - why not?!

You get to go to as many sessions as you want in your pj's (even sipping wine if you dare)!

Can't be there live - its okay, Jessica has made all information available for a year after the conference!

You can't find more relevant PD for art teachers - you even get PD credits!

Check out all the extra amazingness here: http://www.theartofed.com/aoeconferencewinter2014/

Yours truly will be presenting on WEAVING successful projects!

11.22.2013

CI - Turkey Puppets

This week's theme for our CI kiddos is all about Thanksgiving, turkeys and the whole works.  I decided today that for art we were going to make turkey puppets!

I printed out some simple feathers onto white paper - had the kiddos color and cut them out.  (A few of them need help cutting, but most of them are capable of doing it on their own.)  Next we glued their feathers to the back of the bag.  Then we flipped the bags over; glued down a beak and two googly eyes (I had the gobbler part already glued down).

Last but not least the kids slid their hands inside the bags and made their turkeys talk, sing, and gobble!

I have NEVER seen such pure joy and excitement out of a group of kids.  They were all grins, smiles, and even vibrating with happiness.  I had no idea puppets were such a big deal for these kiddos - we will most definitely be making puppets again this year!!! 

11.20.2013

Rectangular Prisms (3-D Buildings) and Making Thinking Visible

Okay - so I have been thinking about updating this blog for weeks now - but I have been SO busy, that by the time I get home, I just don't have any energy to write a coherent blog message.  Which is kind of hilarious because it is currently 9:30 pm.  I was at school at 7:50 this morning and left tonight at 9:00...... one word:  conferences.

Anyhow, something amazing happened today in my room and I just need to share!

I have posted on here about my exploration into Making Thinking Visible - my struggles and ideas of how awesome it is.  Today I didn't do a thinking routine, but the thinking routines gave me the foundations for a discussion we had today in third grade.

Lets back up a minute:

Last week we reviewed 3-D shapes: sphere, pyramid, triangular prism, cone, cylinder, rectangular prism, and cube.  After we reviewed shapes I told them we were going to draw rectangular prisms - but from the corner and we were going to pretend that they were VERY tall so we couldn't see the top.  This means we would see the front corner, two flat sides, two far corners and the top edges but not the top itself.  (I got this idea for this project here).

I had the kids draw a bunch of arrows - varying in height and size.  Next we drew straight lines down from the tips of the arrows - if the line touched another arrow then it stopped.  Low and behold tall rectangular prisms.  We then decided to add windows and doors to our shapes to make them into buildings!

Back to the present:

So this week we are painting their buildings.  I first thought about making them use certain colors to help them with their color theory - but at the last minute I just let them paint.  We talked briefly about colors that work better together and having a high contrast between the buildings and the sky.  As students worked it seemed more that they just painted with colors they liked and didn't really plan ahead.

This was a little frustrating, but I also had told them to paint however they felt moved to paint, so I couldn't be too upset.  (The only rule I really put on them was that they needed to paint IN their picture and not over.)

So, TODAY is where it got really interesting!  Instead of telling the kids about contrast and how different colors work together - I wanted them to find it on their own.  This is where my new foundation in Making ThinkingVisible helped out!

I took three paintings from yesterday's class (a different class) and hung them on the board before my new group came in, making sure to cover the names. (I also waited till the class left to take them down).  I wanted to make sure students could participate without fear or worry about someone critiquing their work.

I started by asking the kids to pick their favorite one.  No voices, no comments - just look and decide which one they liked best.  Then I asked them 'What made you pick that one?".  This time when they had an answer I wanted them to raise their hand.  When most hands were in the air I asked them to share with an elbow partner.


Next I asked them "Which is your least favorite?" then "What makes you like it the least?"  - I had them share.

Then we went through each picture and students raised their hand if it was their favorite - I then called on a few kids to share why.  For the same picture I asked who liked that one the least.  I, again, asked for students to share what made them decide that.  It was great to hear that some students like number one because of all the colors, but others didn't like it because they found the colors to be too much.  We repeated this for the next two.

While we were doing this I learned A LOT!  Turns out third graders enjoy lots of color - almost the whole class picked the first one as their favorite.  Interesting enough students didn't like three as much because the sky was green and not 'real' (which is also why it was the favorite for some kids).  I then pointed out that number one doesn't have a real sky either.  Hmmmm.....

So as we were doing this I realize that the whole reason I was asking these questions was to see if they could notice which buildings were easier to see - but no one was headed that way.  Most of the kids liked the pictures based on colors or craftsmanship.  This in itself was interesting.  Sometimes I forget that kids are kids and have a different aesthetic on art than I do.  I look at the pictures and find the contrast to be more pleasing, even though I love lots of bright colors.  It was helpful for me to learn this information about my students to see that their color choices were indeed choices and not as haphazard as I originally thought.

I then asked them two more questions:

1) Which one has the best craftsmanship? What makes you say that?

2) Which one is it easiest to see the buildings on?  What makes you say that?

This got even MORE interesting.  Students were all over the place for craftsmanship.  Some decided having white spots made it have poor craftsmanship, while others based it on how much the paint bled into other colors.  Ahh the lens of a 3rd grader.

I was expecting students to pick their favorite cities for the one you could see the buildings best in - being that those they already had a bias to.  Interestingly enough almost every kid in the class picked number two as being able to see the buildings the easiest.

We then spent some time exploring why number two was easier to see -- they all had buildings, all windows, all had doors, and all had the same kind of sky.  Number two had less colors and was most like number three - but number three was still kind of hard to see the buildings.  Students started to talk about light colors and dark colors and how the orange was a lighter color and blue more medium or dark.... this is where I jumped in and we talked about having high CONTRAST.  Colors opposite on the color wheel have a higher contrast and stand out against each other.  Colors on the color wheel that are close to each other have a lower contrast, meaning the colors are more similar.  So the third picture has yellow buildings and a green sky -- yellow and green are close to each other and have a low contrast.  Blue and orange in number two have a high contrast because they are across from each other on the wheel.  The first one uses the same colors on the building as in the sky so it all blends together.

At this point we talked about actively choosing the colors they wanted for their desired outcome.  Did they want LOTS of colors all over, but see the buildings less?  Did they want to be able to see the buildings easier?  I even had a kid pipe up and say that you could use cold colors on the sky and hot on their buildings because they are different.  Totally!

The class today I think had a better idea of what contrast means and what it looks like - I have no idea what their papers will look like... they didn't have a tone of time to paint today.  It will be interesting to see if there are more high contrasted pictures or more color everywhere.

10.18.2013

Art and the MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program)

Wow!  How has it been almost a month since I posted last?!  Time flies when you are having fun!

The last few weeks have been packed with craziness - I was sick for a bit, field trips, National Testing for the upper grade levels - it's honestly been kind of a mess.

I halted all 3rd, 4th and 5th grade projects for the last two cycles due to MEAP tests.  I realized that their brains were complete toast by the time they got to me and we needed to do some relaxing, other side of the brain thinking in art.  My goal was to not only rest the one side of their brain, but to re-energize and almost reset their day.

My fourth graders were finishing up their collages from their visiting artist and while this is a 'simple' enough task - it wasn't the kind of way I wanted them to use their brains.  Instead we worked on a value project where they needed to mix colors and paint - much more therapeutic. 

We started out by BRIEFLY looking at pictures of the moon at night.  (*Normally I would make the observation part longer, but it is not what the kids needed this week.  Also, the kids are observing the moon in science!  Who knew!).  We talked about what they saw - the colors, the sky... etc.  Next, I showed them how to use a safety compass.  (Honestly, best compasses EVER!).  They drew concentric circles.

At this point some classes were done for the day because I only saw them for 20 minutes - other classes got a chance to get to the paint.  I set out trays with white, black, blue, and purple.  The students painted their moon white, the first ring was their sky color with white, then after that they added a little bit of black for each circle till it got darker and darker and darker.

Students went from loud and squirrel-y to mellow and focused.  I asked the group how their brains felt - many replied with a sigh and a 'much better'.

This lead me to realize that I could help out the grade level teachers as well as the kids.  I sent out an e-mail to the teachers suggesting that they do a little bit of art after their testing.  It wouldn't need to be much 10-20 minutes and it could be as easy as coloring a geometric coloring page.  The rhythm of coloring/painting helps to calm and refocus the brain.  I know that in college during finals I would put out a stack of coloring books and all my crayons in the common area.  Almost everyday I would find the majority of my suit mates bent over coloring books after long bouts of studying or tests.  They would exclaim how much better and more relaxed they felt.

After I sent out my e-mail offering to print some coloring pages - one of the 4th grade teachers e-mailed me back.  She said that their writing assignment that day had to do with some characterization and instead of jumping right into the writing she had them spend some time drawing their character - she said the lesson went smoothly and the students produced a lot of information about their characters!

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My third graders have been hard at work exploring landscapes (horizon lines, foreground, middle ground, back ground... etc).  So, again, I decided that wasn't quite the way I wanted to exercise their brains after a morning of MEAP testing.  So, we took a break and did chalk leaf piles.  I have done this lesson for quite a few years now - and they always turn out beautiful.  The students fold a piece of card stock in half, draw half a leaf, cut out the leaf in one long cut!  They should have two stencils - a positive and a negative.  (Sometimes it takes kids a few tries to get it.)  Next they charge their stencil with leaf colored chalk, place the stencil on their paper, smear the chalk from the stencil to their paper.  The students repeat this process with both stencils and then with each others stencils until their paper is filled - overlapped leaves and leaves that go off the edge.



Again, students start out loud and a little over the top - by the time they start using chalk the energy and noise level evens out.





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5th grade was a little bit different.  They were finishing some 2-point perspective words and then starting their t-shirt designs for 5th grade production.  So, while I didn't restructure their lessons like the other two grades - their assignments already focused on using their brain more creatively.




9.21.2013

Visiting Artist: Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson of Paper Paintings

Her cows are my favorite!
Total awesomeness!  Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson of Paper Paintings came to one of my schools and talked with my fourth graders!!!

Okay, lets back up to before the awesome visit and talk about how we prepared for the event!

A couple of weeks before Mrs. Nelson came I passed out a bunch of pictures (from a calendar) of her work and asked students to look at them - notice them.  We then talked about things they noticed, what the pictures had in common, what was different and even came up with some questions for the artist.



Next we watched this short video:





After the video the kids were pumped and we set off to decorated some collage papers with crayons, tempera paint and watercolor.  I assigned tables a specific color so that we had the correct color combinations when we went to collage later.

The following week we watched a DVD that Mrs. Nelson sent me.  In the DVD she went through her process from beginning to end - making papers, sketching, under painting, and then collaging.  After the video students did their own "sketching" and under painting.  Normally I am against making all the students do the same exact thing, but this time I decided the students needed to focus on the visiting artist along with the collage process - so I decided they would do our school logo.  We have a die-cut of our logo in two sizes, so I made a bunch and let my students pick which size and where to place it on their 6" square pieces of wood.


Back to the amazing visit:

Mrs. Nelson began by talking my students about her love of art, her journey to where she is now with art, and specific techniques to her collage style - and maybe most importantly she explained that making art is her job, she gets paid to make art! After her powerpoint she demonstrated how she works - she impressed the kids with her ability to work on her artwork on planes, in doctor offices and anywhere she can sit for a few minutes! The students "ooo-ed" "aww-ed" and whispered "this is awesome" "so cool" "best day of art ever"!

So, after Mrs. Nelson demonstrated how to directional rip, placing glue UNDER and OVER each piece, correct mistakes, and all sorts of other tips and strategies - we passed out glue, paint brushes, collage papers and their block of wood.

The students TOOK OFF! It was AMAZING to watch them work.  They totally understood and went for it.  Some students used too much glue, others too little - but everyone learned by trial and error and their projects look amazing.  When we had to clean up all I heard were complaints and moans - which is always a good sign.

I think one of the best things about the day was how much my students loved her right from the beginning.  They brought paper for autographs and gave hugs left and right.  Hopefully Mrs. Nelson had a great day just like my students and I did.




9.08.2013

First Adventures with kiddos in CI and EI Classrooms

This is the first time that I have ever had self contained CI and EI groups of kiddos.  All students I have ever had up to this point have been integration for art class.  So needless to say I a total newbie at what I should be doing, how to structure projects and even how to manage the energy.

My very first project with them went something like this:

I cut clear contact paper 12x18 sections.  I then took black construction paper, placed the smooth side of the contact paper on the black, then peeled off the backing - taped down the edges to the table.  I did this so that the students knew where the contact paper was easily and I taped it down so that it wouldn't fold in on itself when the students stuck themselves/paper to the sticky side.  (I did learn to tape down ALL sides really well when doing this -- I only did the short sides and it wasn't enough for many sensory energetic students).  For one of my students who is vision impaired I taped sand paper around the edge of their paper - and for another student in a wheel chair I taped their paper to a giant clipboard.  I want to be as adaptive as possible from the beginning.

Next I prepared buckets with chunks of tissue paper.  When students arrived I asked to see their muscles and asked them if they were strong enough to tear paper!!  They then tore paper into small pieces and stuck it to their contact paper.  This was fun to watch as some students didn't rip, others did, and then there were some that just want to stick their hands to the contact over and over.  It was interesting to watch their different sensory levels.

After students were done with the tissue paper - I prepared another area with white construction paper the same size as the contact paper.  Here I provided students with DARK colored markers and asked them to free draw me a picture.  Some students drew their families in a recognizable format - others scribbled their pictures - but had plenty to say.

When students were done drawing we stuck their drawings to their tissue paper contact paper.  The tissue magically colored their drawings -- students LOVED their creations.  I wanted to hang them in the hall but they all were far too attached to let me keep them.  I made sure to snap a few pictures before they took their creations home.

I did this with both of my groups and while the higher skilled students succeed in this projects - and my lower group struggled a little.  I had two kids in the other group try and eat the tissue paper, one just sat and stared at me, and one laid on the floor all class.

Needless to say it will be a new adventure for me teaching kiddos in the CI and EI rooms.  I am excited for the challenge as I am sure some of my lessons/activities will be amazing and others will fail miserably.  I will post about both throughout the year.



9.07.2013

First Project

This student went to Germany and Austria!
I have tried multiple types of 'first projects' over the year - names, portraits, just jumping into projects and others.....

I *think* I may have found a solution - a project I really love for the first day of art class.

This is the 3rd year at these two schools and I really do love all my kids - so much that it bothers me I can't talk with each and everyone about how awesome their summers were.  Which inspired this years first art project - well that and pinterest.

This student went to a water park (I love how he started off the page)


I found this awesome project on pinterest, and while the page is in German - the pictures explain enough.  Each student gets a square piece of paper with a quarter circle on it, they then decorate it and when assembled together the quarter circles form a large circle.

I used the pinterest idea and made my squares with a quarter circle on them.  Then in class I spent 5-10 minutes calling on kids and having them tell me something about their summers.  I wrote it down on a LARGE word web on the board.  It was fun to see what states they went to, what water/amusement parks and all sorts of other cool things.

I then explained that I was going to give them a square with a quarter circle.  I asked them to rotate their paper till the arch would work with their assignment.  Their goals were 1) FILL the space  2) Use pictures that represent their summer  3) use colors that make sense.  The catch is that they needed to USE the arch in their picture and not just draw over it.  They also only had that one first class to finish it - which turned out to be anywhere from 10-20 minutes.  I encouraged them to either pick one totally awesome thing to draw or combine as many things as they wanted!!!

The braces this student got over the summer is the sun!
This project was totally awesome!  Not only did I hear highlights from my kiddo's summers, then get to hear even more while I walked around - but ALL kids succeeded in their very first art project.  There was no, 'I can't do this' 'this is stupid' blah blah blah.  All the kids were excited to draw about their summer.  It also provided me with a quick glimpse on abilities of my new students, how attitudes have changed over the summer, and the work habits of the students.

At the end of class I made sure to have students write their name and teacher on the back - then I put them on a bulletin board.  I love that there is already artwork up in the halls, and MANY teachers stopped to look and express their happiness of having artwork up as well!!!

Top Left: A baseball game  Top Right: One of those scary funnel water rides and camping.  Bottom Left: Plane rides and amusement parks.  Bottom Right: The Zoo and Mackinaw Bridge.





8.28.2013

Go. Be Awesome.

I have spent the last few days in my classroom(s) preparing for the new year!  I am super excited about a few small changes to the art room.

1) STOOLS!!!!!! Okay so maybe I am a little too excited about this purchase (shout out to all you awesome parents who purchased their kids artwork from our Young Masters program last year!).  My room at my home school is pretty small and once it is filled with 28 kids - some sitting, some standing.... Basically the chairs stick out and we all end up high-stepping over them - or tripping.  The stools can be pushed UNDER the tables when kids stand!  YAY STOOLS!


2) Go.  Be Awesome.      Enough said.       Okay, I will explain.  My awesome friend, Lisa, who I have known since 5th grade (she teaches in North Dakota - middle school - bless her) inspired this little diddy above my door.  Years ago we were visiting and she pulled out her laptop to check something and in the corner there was a small label that simply said "live with purpose".  I can't remember if I asked her about it or not - but it stuck with me.  A small little reminder in a location you always pass - a reminder to live with purpose.  I decided to transfer this to my classroom with a little more pizazz and a little less philosophy.  Go.  Be awesome.

3) A new layout.  I had never thought about putting my tables like this, but when the custodians put back my room after the most amazing wax job, they put it back like this.  I love how much extra room there is to move around - more room at the sinks, more floor working space.  The cons if this arrangement might be that kids are too close and end up in each others space or are too close to their  goofy friends.  I am going to test it out and see where it goes.


4) (there is no picture for this).  Today at our District wide kick off assembly our superintendent was recapping positive things from last year..... improved test scores by so much percent, awards to awesome teachers and staff, number one art Ed blog..... Wait.... What?  Yup!  My blog ended up on the highlights roll from last year.  I was surprised.  It was pretty awesome.  

 

8.22.2013

A New Beginning

It's that time of year, summer is done, but not quite over.  There are still a few days left to enjoy afternoon naps on the couch or by the pool on sunny days.


This is the time of year where I get excited and nervous.  This fall will start my 6th year of teaching and while I don't pretend to have this job anywhere near mastered, it also feels kind of silly that I get so anxious.  I start to have dreams where I show up and have no idea what I am doing, that the kids are out of control and they won't listen to me - that I miss the first day of school because I have it written down wrong.  None of these things have ever happened, but clearly they are things I fear - perhaps all teachers have these thoughts/feelings.

While these things run through my subconscious, my excitement grows as I put my room back together after the summer deep cleaning, and plan lessons.  


As I start to plan the beginning of the year lessons, I remember and realize that my kinders will need to be taught how to put caps on markers, how to use scissors (including what scissors are allowed to cut), and so many other things we forget we learned at some point.  Kinders at the beginning of the year are a lot like a pack of energetic puppies - they love school, have no personal space, and totally out number you.  The older kids are a bit easier to plan for as they can hit the ground running since this is our 3rd year together - but new seating charts, new classes of kids, and a new art room set up will require some instructions.

Actually, if I am to be frank - while I love the start of the school year with the new beginnings and  seeing how much the students have grown emotionally, mentally and physically - I DESPISE the first 3 or so weeks of school.  It's a lot of rules, procedures, reminders, practice and enforcing it all.  I prefer when we all get in a groove and the kids have tested all (most) of the rules, we have established expectations and we can get on with art.   The first few weeks can be exhausting and tedious, but are totally worth it for a smoother year!


Keep posted to Organized Chaos for a year of projects, stories, and pictures.



7.29.2013

Arts Education

An art educator friend of mine pinned the following video on Pinterest and I can't quit watching.

It is short.  It is powerful.

Watch.  Digest.  Support.





At one of my buildings we will have a new Principal in the fall.  I was lucky enough to meet and go through a conference/workshop with him and a few others from my building.  Something he said struck me, "We are educating kids for jobs that don't even exist yet."  While I have heard this before, for some reason it stuck with me when he said it.  Perhaps it was because my mind was exploding from all the Making Thinking Visual learning I was doing - but yes!  Yes!  We are educating kids for jobs that don't yet exist.

So yes - "normal" things are needed - reading, writing, math, history, science and so forth.  It is all needed and important.  I am a huge advocator of well rounded educations - I choose a liberal arts college (Go Norse!)  Anyhow, I strongly feel that while we need to teach the basics of these subjects and encourage kids to grow further and further - I also feel that we are desperately missing a huge section of education.  Where is the education on helping kids learn how to think, how to problem solve, work together, try again and again when something doesn't work out right?  This is where Making Thinking Visual and Arts education need to be emphasized and encouraged.

While kids need concrete quantifiable skills for the real world - they also need things like perseverance, problem solving, critical thinking, the ability to work productively in a group - giving and taking constructive criticism.  Students need to know how to write and speak, but they also need to be able to have innovative ideas.

Kids need an education system that is aimed at giving kids skills they can use to adapt to the work environment.  Jobs today are not what they were 20 or even 40 years ago -- the same goes for the future.  Kids need an education system that provides them with the opportunity to think and to reason - not to memorize and report (while there is some basic need for this, as some skills need to be mastered - it can't all be feeling and thinking).

I honestly believe that an arts based or arts integrated education is the way to get this accomplished.  Is it the only way - probably not, but I feel it is the most natural and non-forced way to achieve this.  One of my schools is arts integration - we don't plan connections, but rather provide opportunities for connections.  Students and teachers make organic connections between disciplines which then provides for a wider and deeper understanding of subjects - which often leads to other connections and deeper questions.  It is a beautiful thing.