Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lines that...

A few years ago I went on a book buying spree.  Since then they have sat on my bookshelf.  


illustrations from the book

This year I finally pulled out Candance Whitman's book "Lines that Wiggle" to start our year off learning about lines.  It is a fun book filled with simple illustrations done by Steve Wilson. The students were given a small paper with a specific line drawn on it.  They were then challenged to create an image using their line.  Since the book is finished with glittery lines we went ahead and added glitter glue to our images.  I think they turned out awesome!

You can check out more of the images at
and find the lesson plan here.

Finally... some projects

The start of the school year is always a little overwhelming.  Teaching/reviewing all the expectations.  Working hard to demonstrate the best of everything.  Introducing students to new things.  Creating and then grading all they have been working on.  Finally, I am getting around to blogging a little about what we have been up to.  It may take a few days to get all caught up but here we go!

Sparkly Zentangles

Each year I have my 5th graders work on a collabortive piece for the back of the art room.  You can look here to see some of the past ones. This year each student was given a 2" square of sparkly contact paper (lovingly given to me in 24"x36" sheets from a para who had left overs from prom) and a 3"x5" index card.

On the back they are to write their name, age, previous school, family, friends, art goal and "word for the year."  On the front they were to cut up the contact paper square and adhere it.  Then they added zentangle patterns to the rest of the card.

They did a pretty nice job of drawing in their zentangles... especially since I only gave them one class period.  Of course some found it harder than others to be "patterny" 

But they still turned out pretty neat.  During one class I forgot to put away the markers and colored pencils that 6th grade was using so they added some "pizazz" to their pictures...

You can check out more of them at Artsonia.  I hope to finish up their big display this weekend and share that sometime next week... maybe even tomorrow if Parent Teacher Conferences are slow.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I am pretty sure that I have mentioned how much I love Artsonia before but I have to share a few HUGE improvements that help make it EVEN BETTER!
The first thing is HUGE help when setting up your artsonia account.  I have 300+ new students every year.  I used to have to type in each student (first name, last name, grade, parent email, parent approval) and hope that I remembered to hit tab and not enter.  Now I email our guidance counselor and ask for a spreadsheet off our attendance program that lists students first name, last name, grade and parent email (5 minutes on her part).  I upload said spreadsheet to Artsonia and the next day all 300 students are listed in Artsonia, ready to go.  Artsonia even sends a "welcome" email to the parents for you.  Without doing anything I already have close to 1/3 of my 5th grade students who have parent accounts set up and ready to go.  
I always put the students into class groups to make uploading easier.  Artsonia kept the same groups as last year for me so all I had to do was "choose" the students who needed to be in each group.  Total time for uploading names, getting parent permission and sorting into groups for over 300 students was less than 45 minutes.  

The other super, duper awesome and exciting new thing is Artsonia Classroom.  This save me SOOO much time in grading and helps me achieve the writing requirement for my class.  
Whenever I create an exhibit for my students artwork, Artsonia creates a "classroom" for the exhibit.  They provide me with a class code and a QR code.  I can open the classroom to every student or to a specific group of students.  I can ask them to answer specific questions when writing an artist statement.  
I can also quickly monitor who is done and who is not.  I can provide them with feedback on their project.  I can also approve or deny each entry before it is ever seen by the public (which is nice when students try to title their artwork "big...." it has happened).  
An example of how Artsonia Classroom makes my class run so much better is my Wednesday "technology art."  We do all of our projects on the computer/ipad.  I enter the exhibit into artsonia and print out the code or QR code.  Students create their images on the computer, save them and use the letter code to upload their image.  They enter their title and artist statement before "submitting to teacher."  In about 45 minutes I can grade and "post to Artsonia" a whole days worth of projects (about 75) with artist statements through the "Classroom" feature.  
               ** another teacher in our district who is in a 1:1 building has her students turn in ALL their artwork using the classroom feature. She prints out the QR code for every assignment and the students are expected to photograph and upload all their work.  check her out here.  

Another reason to use Artsonis is the positive parent feedback and the fundraising.  I have lots of parents/grandparents who tell me they love being able to see what their children are creating throughout the year (I hand back all the work at the end of the year). They also love ordering stuff with their childs images on them.  I average about $350 a year without any "work" on my part. 

It is also awesome that Artsonia follows the students.  This years Junior High students still have access to their middle school art images.  This allows them to look back at what they have accomplished. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Telling on myself...

Last night I was out to eat with my family (that is what happens after cutting your finger on the mandolin while making pickles) and a student approached me smiling and waving.  I smiled back and asked her how she was liking the Jr. High.  She laughed and reminded me she was still in 6th grade and that she is in my class this year.

YIKES!  I know that I have 600 students and that I have only seen her class twice but wow... I felt awful!

I was talking to my husband later sharing how I spend so much time in her class period "dealing with" a few high needs students (code for unable to follow directions, stay on task or be respectful) that I didn't even realize who all the other kids in that class were.

Today I was reading through my feedly account and this great article from Connected Principals was waiting for me.  It is about a teacher and her preconceptions about a students.  It got me wondering if I was approaching my T8 class with the same attitude.

I also got to thinking about something a friend put on facebook this week. She grew up in poverty and her status update was just her sharing that "as a child of poverty, the idea of being anything she could dream of was unrealistic.  She was so focused on surviving that there wasn't time to dream of the future."  It  got me wondering what my high needs students might be surviving outside of school.

Funny how things happen when they do... here is to a new week with new viewpoints!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Random Tidbits...

We have lots of things started but nothing finished so I am posting some random tidbits...

A sampling of my Jon Gordon notes... Love him! 
Jon Gordon came to school and spoke at our opening assembly.  It was so AWESOME!  If you haven't read his book "The Energy Bus" yet, I highly recommend it.  It is really common sense stuff but put in a great way.  Basically you want to be feeding the "positive dog" while slaying "energy vampires" on your bus. 
now if that sentence doesn't make you want to find out more...

My classroom's windows covered in Jon Gordon quotes...
My spotlight artist display that is going to change every month.
I am going to try to make it focus on an artist who has overcome a disability of some sort. 
My art display case as inpired by Art with Me!
(check it out here)
Love using iPads for looking up visual references in the classroom.
Love getting the students the information they need, when then need it.  
So there is a few random tidbits... hopefully I will have some lessons up and ready for you soon.  

If you haven't checked out my google site you will have to take a look.  I created it during one of my summer classes. I view it as a "filing cabinet" for all my stuff.  You will be able to follow along on the calendars to see what we are learning and even access my lesson plans.  Hopefully this online accountablity will help me be accountable as the year goes.

Friday, August 15, 2014

First Day and We Are Playing Candy-land...

Just kidding... but prepping for today I couldn't help but feel like I was getting ready to play candy land.

I decided to try something new for our first seating chart.  If your kids are like mine the first quarter is always a bit of a honeymoon.  They are so happy to be in your room and hang on your every word.  They follow directions and do EVERYTHING you ask.  
okay more like first day, maybe week, but you know what I mean...

Anyway... my seating chart planning started at the paint store.  I picked up three matching samples for each of the primary and secondary colors plus a neutral as I have 7 tables.  One paint sample was taped to the middle of the taped to identify it as that color of table. The other two were cut into color squares.  Once set of the color squares were taped to the corner of tables.
I taped the second set to white paper and laminated it.  As the students walked into the room they were given a colored card.  On the board was the directions to match their colored card to the table and have a seat.  When I entered the room we started into the "Rules and Regulations."  About 1/2 way through the class they get to work on their information card and I walked around the room writing down names and putting together the seating chart.  

A few things I realized:
  • in 6 classes I ended up with only 1 table of all boys/girls
  • students told me their names vs. me guessing pronunciations or abbreviations
  • students were active and engaged from the start of class, no more listening to me read names for 5 minutes
  • students started collaborating already, working together to get everyone to the right spot
  • it was easy to accommodate for class size.  My neutral table is my "extra" table and I would just add/remove the neutral paint samples as needed. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Lovin...

I have been blissfully absent from blogging for most of the summer as I decided to unplug and recharge myself.  We moved into a new house last September and I have been itching to attack some projects.  Here is photographic proof of what I was doing (since we know I wasn't blogging)
The Original Landscaping (rocks and dead grass)

New Landscaping (flowers, mulch and lighting)
The girls' room when we bought the house
And the girls room today (remember the chandelier from last summer)
Our room when we bought the house (yeah there was wall paper in weird places)

Our room today
Then entry way when we bought the house (yes those are real rocks glued to the wall)
the entryway today (still have to finish the floor but it might be an improvement)
the downstairs "office" when we bought the house
my "office" today
Those are the house projects.  Of course we still have more to do but I think we are off to a pretty good start.  I also enjoyed watching baseball games, gymnastics practice, dance camp and swimming pool tricks.  We didn't take any big vacations (no money or time) but made a few day trips to friends in Iowa and my grandparents farms.  We enjoyed some camping close to home and spent a lot of time laughing and hanging out with friends.  
And now I am ready for a nap... 
but wait, school just started!