Thursday, May 21, 2015

So Amazed...

I am just so amazed and PROUD that I have to share this... 

My cousin Randi is this amazing gal who is absolutely fearless.  

She packed her bags after high school graduation from Creighton, NE (population 1,120) and tackled life at UNL (student population of 25,000+).  While there she enjoyed traveling all over the US.  After graduation she moved to Hawaii "just because she wanted to." When she (and her husband) moved back to the mainland they landed in Texas.  The last few year they have lived in Minneapolis were she works for Target corporate. (no she can't get me some sweet target family discount but that would be amazing)  

There are so many things that make her special but one of the things you will notice about her is that she is blind. So is her husband. While some people would think that would make life challenging, they will tell you it just makes life different. They just have to do somethings a little differently. She taught newly blind people how to camp the North Shore. She builds her own woodworking projects. She cooks amazing gourmet meals. 

I could go on but I am writing this to share her newest adventure. 

She is completing a triathlon.  

Yeah... she will be swimming 6 miles tethered to her trainer, biking 26 miles on a tandem bike and then running 6 miles tethered to her trainer.  

So the next time you think there is something you can't do... yeah, you can.  

You just have to figure out how.   

If you want to read more here is her trainers blog and their thoughts on their learning curve.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Descriptive Self Portraits

Our 5th graders are supposed to focus on descriptive writing for our state testing so when we started our portrait unit we started by "writing our self portraits."  

To get them thinking about how to write a descriptive self portrait they had to start by physically describing themselves to someone on the phone (someone who couldn't see them).  

Next they had to describe their personality and list 10 things they like and 10 things they dislike. 

After they sketched out their images, the wrote their portraits down onto watercolor paper.  
We finished them using wet in wet technique.  
Our watercolors were crayola marker watercolors and the kids loved them!  

I loved how different they all were.  
Some were so free while others were very structured.  
Some used just a few colors while others had to use every color.  

Some students were very brief with their writing and chose a few words to describe them.  
Others wrote and wrote and wrote. 
They were all very eye opening as to the students personalities. 

You can check out more at artsonia

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Believe it or not...

14 years of teaching and this is the first time I ever did a glaze fire...
So happy with how it turned out! 
Might just have to do it again!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


So we have two days of four done for our year end Genius Hour projects in 6th grade.  This is usually my absolutely favorite time of the year.  I love seeing what the kids come up with and how far they push themselves.

However, this year has been different.

I have had a few AMAZING projects but I have also had a lot of very disappointing projects.  It really has me thinking about what was different about this year?

Was it the kids? Not gonna lie, we have a tough crew this year but some of my best projects have come from students who have fought me on most things throughout the year.  My "middle of the pack" kids seem to be the one who are letting me down.

Was it the time frame?  I briefly introduced the project 4 weeks ago, while they were working on clay.  The next week we did the full lesson intro while they were painting the clay.  Last week they spent a lot of time collaborating and researching.  I think excessive collaboration might have started the downfall (too many projects that are way to much the same - origami animals and melting crayons - without much learning).  I also think that their attention was firmly rooted in clay work and not listening the first two weeks.

Was it my failure to teach the lesson?  Let's be honest, this is the hardest one to face but is probably the biggest part.  In the past I have spent a lot of time walking the room and checking that students had their concepts down.  This year I spent a lot of class time/work time catching students up on missing work and handing back artwork. One of the reasons I dislike teaching a lesson more than one year is that teaching it a second or third time can have you getting a little too comfortable and forgetting that just because you have taught it before doesn't' mean they have done the project before. 

I still have two more days worth of work to see.  I am hoping that things start to look up...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Perspective Project

This was our actual perspective project... PERSONAL ART GALLERIES

I told the kids they were like "bajilionaires" and could buy any artwork they wanted.  We worked together to draw a gallery and then they filled the walls with famous works of art.

We also created exteriors for our art museums.  They could make them simple, ornate or just plain crazy.  They just had to have doors that entered into the art gallery. 

It was a lot of fun to see the artwork that each student choose.  And the detail they added to the exteriors. 

You can check out more at our artsonia site
(be advised that they took their own photos for this exhibit)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Perspective Practice

We always start our perspective drawing unit by practicing our box drawing.  It is a great way for the students to really practice following the rules of drawing in perspective.  Here are a brief few of this year's practice images.  Not to shabby for their first time drawing in perspective! 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Be a Super Hero!

Drawing portraits is always an interesting challenge for middle school kids.  They developing from Dawning Realism to the Pseudo-Naturalistic Stage and they can be super critical of themselves.  It is important that they learn the rules of drawing a face but that they also have the "freedom" to make mistakes.  

This super hero project works great.  They are to draw themselves as a super hero but if they make a mistake or two it is okay because it is a cartoon version of themselves. 

We start the lesson by having them draw "the best human face" that they can.  They next class period we work together through this worksheet.  They then plan out their cover.  

I printed out a bunch of papers with the bar code and MS Comics logo.  They did they rest.  It is fun to see what their super hero powers are and how they view themselves.  

you can find more at our Artsonia site. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015


99% of the time my first instructions to a class include the words, "please make sure your first name, last name and class code are on the back!"

Why do I have a board this full of "NO NAME" projects.  Ugh... and this is just 5th grade. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Track Day

Today is one of "those days."  The crazy, fun ones that you know your students will remember even years from now.

It is the 9th annual Mr. Skiff Classic track meet.

That means we are shoving all the classes (and the wound up kiddo's) into the morning and we will spend the afternoon at the track.  It is an awesome day that is capped off with the big event:  THE TUG OF WAR.

One of my favorite parts of the track meet is the team spirit that comes shinning through.  Each team of kiddo's draws a name and then decorates their hallway to match. Here are this years teams:
The 6th grade Pink Roughnecks

The 6th Grade Black Phantoms

(probably my favorite decoration this year)

6th Grade Maroon Firebirds

5th Grade Golden Pharaohs 

5th Grade White Sabercats

5th Grade Red Fighting Pike

It is such a fun day... a lot of work, a lot of crazy but it is so much fun to see the kids come together. To hear them chant the names of their classmates who need encouragement to cross the finish line. To see teacher and students laughing together. All in all, I am glad it is done, but glad we did it!