Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Second Semester

The second semester of the 2015-2016 school year is almost upon us.  Let me tell you, my friends, I am so ready for a do over!  This first semester has been a difficult one, for reasons unknown to me.  Sometimes, I suppose things can be rough and we might not even know why.  On a daily basis. Every. Single. Day.

One of the great things about being a middle school art teacher is the chance to start over with a fresh batch of kids not long after the new year begins.  Usually, I will take my first semester and change a few things up but for the most part, I'll repeat all the projects I did in the first half of the year.  Not this year.  Not at all.  While some of the projects that I did were tried and true and pulled out of my magic bag of tricks I just haven't been thrilled enough with any of them to do them again in the second semester.  That being said, I do have a plan.  In an amazing move that has surprised even yours truly, I have planned all my lessons out, even to the point of having a lesson plan written for every project until state testing starts in the beginning of June.  IKR?

I even redid my art newsletter that I send home in the beginning of each semester.
Here it is.

I'd love to know: If you are on semesters and have a whole new crop of students the second half of the year, do you do the same things or switch things up?  Does the weather play a role in the projects that you do?  Does state testing interrupt your routine?

So tell the truth, who is looking forward to Spring Break already? 

Ah, NC beaches are the best!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Helpful hints

While we try to take care in the Art Room, accidents do sometimes happen. Here is a great site that has some great cleaning tips.  We've been painting a lot this year and even MizzSmiff has had a couple of accidents.

For smaller stains, I have a couple of tubes of Kiss Off in my desk that work pretty well.

Do you have any great solutions to art room accidents?

Monday, December 21, 2015

I'll Get a Smile Out of Him Yet

We all have that one kid.  Or maybe more than one.  The one student that is quiet, does his work, never makes a fuss, and almost seems AFRAID to talk to you.  This year in my class, that guy is Ronnie.  He's a sweet 6th grader that sits at a table with 3 other sweet girls, by his choice, and he doesn't interact with them much either.  I try to encourage him daily and often find myself at their table, trying to get a little bit of conversation going but my friend, well he just sits and does his work and only speaks when spoken to.  Ronnie, Dude, I'm trying to help you out here.  In 4 or 5 years, you are going to thank MizzSmiff, trust me. Turns out Ronnie is the same way in PE.  One day at lunch I said to his Coach/Health teacher, "Hey, what's up with Ronnie?  Does he talk much in your class?" and she responded with a hearty, "NO!  What is up with him?" I don't think he is unhappy, or frightened or anything that a good teacher should always be on the lookout for, I just think he is one of those kids.

Our last project before break was the printmaking project that will never end Printmaking. Sometime last year, I got it in my head that I was going to use some of the old printmaking ink that had been lingering in my disaster of a supply closet for the last forever.  I probably saw something on Pinterest that sparked my interest and I did an example and somehow, it got moved to the back of my brain and onto a shelf and I never got to it.  I LOVE printmaking even though that is the one major class that I never took when I was in college.  I have taught myself how to do silk screening and how to make gelli plates and how to do various other methods by reading about them.  Yes, dear readers, I am way older than youtube, but that has been an invaluable resource as well.  Some summer when I don't have a To Do list a mile long, I might just find a class somewhere that I can take.

So, some time in what feels like the last millennium, I introduced the process to my students.  I showed them a couple of videos and gave them a demonstration.  Perhaps because it was so close to the holidays and even though it's hard to believe, I think that they may be getting tired of me, they seemed to pay better attention to the videos.  This got me thinking that I might just video my lessons and send them in via GoogleClassrooms in the future, all the while sitting at my kitchen table in my jammies with a cup of hot cocoa but THAT is another blogpost.

We painted our backgrounds, did a little tutorial on radial symmetry (an idea that I will expand upon with our next and final project of the semester) and got busy with the printing.

But shall I stray from the original topic at hand, our friend Ronnie was the first one that got to the actual printing of his designs.  His little drawing was perfect and printed very clearly.  His background was bright and colorful and came through marvelously through the printed design.  I was excited!  The other kids were excited when they heard how excited I was.  They all gathered around to watch Ronnie print little square after little square.  There were Ooooooooos!  There were Ahhhhhhhhs!  Someone shouted Coooooool!  The atmosphere in the Art Room was positively electric! Everyone was so excited to get to their work because of how awesome Ronnie's work looked.  I was smiling ear to ear, which my friends is not easy as Ronnie's class is my first class of the day.  I was happy for success.  As Ronnie printed, I smiled.  And finally, I said, "Ronnie!  You are doing such a great job!  It looks awesome.  Do you like it?" and my stoic little friend said, "Yes" and kept printing.


I'll get a smile out of him yet.

Here's the process:
We drew a 3" grid on 12 x 18 white construction paper
We painted a wash of colors on the paper using watercolors.  Some students chose to paint in a checkerboard, others were more expressive in their painting. ;)
After learning about mandalas and radial symmetry, we practiced drawing our own mandalas.  We chose 2 that we liked and transferred those designs to 3 x 3 stickie notes.
Everyone got one 5 x 5 styrofoam to-go containers (I got them at Sam's club), which we cut in half and trimmed the edges off.
We stuck our stickie notes on the flat parts of the styrofoam, and trimmed it to size.  Then using a dull colored pencil, we transferred our design onto the styrofoam.  We pulled off the stickie notes, then went over our lines using a ball point pen to define the lines and add detail.
We did a test print, made any changes that were needed and started printing on our paper.  Some students chose to use both 'plates' after their test prints, while others chose to use the one they liked best.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hundertwasser Murals

I recently did a group project with my classes.  In all my years of teaching, I've never done a group project because I hated them when I was a student. Things were never fair and someone always ended up doing most of the work.

Looking through Pinterest I found several projects by Friedensriech Hundertwasser,  an artist that I was unfamiliar with and I became fascinated with his work.  His work is whimsical, colorful and fun.  Recently, my district has made it easier to show our students YouTube videos and I was able to find several short videos that featured Hundertwasser and the students were able to hear the artist himself speak about his work, via video. 

I knew I wanted to do something with paint because my students were getting tired of pencils, colored pencils and markers.  One of my fellow art teahchers had recently done a project using black glue and I knew I wanted to give that a try as well.  I had a couple of rolls of butcher paper and I thought that murals and a group project might be a nice change.

I allowed students to pick their groups and they got busy.  They sketched out their ideas, making sure that they included all the elements of Hundertwasswer's work in their painting.  
They worked hard, with the black glue being the hardest part.  I think they enjoyed working in teams and while I don't think I'm going to do that again for a while, I would say that the project was successful.  The students are super proud of thier work and it brings a dose of much needed color to the hallways.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's Report Card time!

Report cards come out this coming Friday, November 6th.  Invariably, I will get a few phone calls, emails or visits regarding grades.  Hopefully, this post will answer some of the questions that I will get.

Grading is my least favorite part of my job. Art is so subjective, however I try to be as objective as I possibly can be when it comes to assigning grades to the projects that my students turn in.

Today marks the last day of the First Quarter of the 2015-2016 school year. The last 4 days of the quarter have been used as "Ketchup Days". Students have the opportunity to use class time to finish any projects that they may not have completed. It is up to students to get their work done and to use their time wisely. I conference with each student, showing them their grade for the quarter and give them the opportunity to complete or redo projects.

In my classroom, I have visual reminders of the expectations for the level of craftsmanship for middle school students so that there is no question about what is expected from them at this point in their school career.

This rubric is on my door and is an example of the expectations for craftsmanship and coloring.  Often, I will redirect students to the rubric when they turn in a project so that they can self-assess.  

This second image is on my front board (in a different direction!) and shows the expectations for different media.  I want to make sure that students have absolutely no question as to what is expected of them.

I also use a modified rubric fashioned from the Studio Habits of Mind.  This outlines expectations in the Art Room (studio) and demonstrates to  students that they need to participate in taking care of the classroom and materials, not giving up when learning a new skill and learning to think like an artist.

Studio Habits

A (90-100)
B (80-89)
C (70-79)
D (60-69)
Learning to use materials and tools correctly and caring for your space and the art room.
Art materials were cared for and returned to where they belong in excellent condition.

Space was clean and ready for the next class.

Art work was neat
Art materials were cared for and returned to where they belong in good condition.

Space was clean and ready for the next class.

Art work was neat with few extra marks or mistakes.
Art materials somewhat cared for and returned to where they belong in fair condition.

Space was not left as clean and neat as it could be.

Some of my work was sloppy.
Art materials were not cared for and not returned to where they belong.

Space was left messy.

Art work was sloppy and evident that time and care was not taken.

Engaging and Persisting

A (90-100)

B (80-89)

C (70-79)

D (60-69)
Learning to work through problems, to develop focus and perseverance at art tasks.  
Artwork was complete.  The artist took his time and was thoughtful about the process.
Artwork is mostly complete and the artist worked hard.
Artwork is still in beginning phase or it is evident that artist has rushed through the project to complete it.
Artwork is not complete or was rushed through with little to no regard to technique or process.  

Envisioning and Expressing

A (90-100)

B (80-89)

C (70-79)

D (60-69)
Learning to imagine and brainstorm.  Thinking outside the box.
Artist came up with more than one idea and chose the one that was the most unique.
Artwork is clearly thought out.
Artist came up with one idea that was somewhat original but many components were copied.

Artwork was not original.  Artist put little thought or effort into coming up with a new idea.
Artwork was copied and the artist put no effort into being original.

I hope that this information gives a little bit of insight as to how I grade student artwork and why your child has earned the grade that they have earned in Art.  Of course, each project also has different criteria that are explained at the beginning of a project.  For example, we recently finished an abstract drawing that was to show the use of value.  In that project, students knew that they need to show me that they understand how to show value, use the space on the paper and follow the steps to create the forms that were expected along with the requirements in the above examples.

I do tell my students that effort does go a long way in my class.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Harry Potter and the After School Art Club

We are in our third week of after school art club.  It's been a lot of fun and every day I have one or two students ask me if it is too late to join.  It's not and I make sure to get them a permission slip that I conveniently put on the table by the front door of my classroom.

Art Club is a little more relaxed than regular class.  We do a lot of projects that we just can't do during school because of time, supplies and materials.  For our first project, we have been making "Harry Potter Wands" mostly because I wanted to make one myself.  

I bought a bunch of chopsticks and a ton of glue sticks, showed them a couple of YouTube videos and let them loose.  I've had a container full of beads and sequins and other assorted baubles since I've been at AMS and I let them sort through it to find things to add dimension and interest. 

Don't tell anyone but I think there may be a few Bulldog moms, dads, sisters and brothers that might find some magic under their Christmas trees.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Hmmmm.  According to the Art of Apex High School site, this very Friday is National Bring a Scone to Art Class Day.

Why is this the first I have heard of this holiday?

Gluten Free scones would also be nice.
Just sayin...