Saturday, October 25, 2014

Aquarium Art 2.0 (3rd)

I originally posted about this idea in November 2012 but have since made a couple changes to the project... so I present to you.. Aquarium Art 2.0! **it's a long post

EQ: How can nature/our environment inspire art?

Vocabulary: inspire, camouflage, kinetic art, relief sculpture

Goal: Students will get to experience a true arts-integrated lesson which connects with science (fish species and habitats), social studies (water bodies in Georgia), and language arts (summarizing and writing). Students will summarize important facts about their fish from a paragraph (language arts), create an aquarium habitat based on what they know about their particular fish's environment (fresh water or salt water), and include a form of camouflage (used to defend against predators). Students will also experience making kinetic art (moving art) and understand what a relief sculpture is (a 3-D piece of artwork which is not meant to be viewed from all sides).

On the first day my kids come in we begin by viewing my Georgia Waters PowerPoint. It goes over freshwater vs saltwater and the type of fish that live in each. I ask students to tell me what the freshwater fish appear to have in common... and what the saltwater fish have in common. This naturally results in us talking about the color of the fish. Students notice that the river fish are all neutral colors, while the ocean fish are typically more colorful; then we talk about why they think that is. Because my students learn about the regions of Georgia and habitats in 3rd grade, they know that camouflage is often used as a defense mechanism to hide against predators (super smart)!
We also talk about why, if all bodies of water typically run into each other, are rivers and lakes freshwater while the ocean is saltwater -- this one typically stumps them.
It is because of a variety of factors- two of which are land elevation and the hydrologic cycle (or the water cycle). When ocean water evaporates up into the air, salt does not go with it... so when it comes down as rain over landmasses, it isn't salty - and rain is what feeds rivers and lakes. We also look at elevation maps of Georgia and talk about how the gradual downward slope of the landmass causes water to run downstream towards the ocean. As the water travels downstream it erodes the land around it and consequently picks up and carries small amounts of salt which empties out into the ocean.
After we finish talking about that, we move on to look at aquariums (artificial habitats for different types of aquatic life). Since my school is located in metro-Atlanta, many of my students have been to the Georgia Aquarium before, so when I show them pictures of it - they get super excited! :)
Aquariums are amazing pieces of functional art in and of themselves - and are designed specifically to be looked at (lots of things must be considered in their design).
I then introduce students to the aquarium project they'll be working on and have them come up to the front of my room to "go fishing" to determine which fish they'll be focusing on for their aquarium.
Student drawing. WOW!!
I put blue butcher paper on my chair (to emulate a higher elevation for rivers) and on the floor (as the ocean) and put a bunch of color fish cutouts on top that have a paperclip attached. Students use a pointer stick with yarn and a magnet on the end as their fishing pole. Once they've caught their fish, they go back to their table and draw a picture of their fish on a small piece of paper (3"x5") and color with colored pencil.
I also give students a heavy-duty paper plate (think Kroger-brand Chinet) that will eventually become the back base of their aquarium. On the back of their fish printout is a written paragraph giving basic details about their fish. Students must read this paragraph, then pull 3 facts from it to write on the back of their paper plate.

On the second day, students are given another paper plate (this one is heavy-duty but not Chinet-quality) and a piece of aluminum foil. Using their new paper plate, students trace a circle onto their foil then cut it out. Then they add glue (with a glue stick) to the front of their chinet-quality paper plate and place the foil on top. Then using colored sharpies, students color the foil on their paper plate to look like the environment that their particular fish comes from (saltwater or freshwater).

On the third day students come in and use silver tempera paint to color the outside rim of their chinet-quality plate and the outside ring on the back of their regular heavy-duty paper plate (from the center circle to the edge). This then gets set aside to dry until the next class.
Once students are done painting, I have them meet me on the carpet and we read the book "Mister Seahorse" by Eric Carle. The pictures in the book are a PERFECT compliment to this project as they really illustrate the idea of fish camouflaging into their environments. After reading the book I give each student a piece of transparency paper which will become the plastic cover on the front of our aquariums. Using a tracer, they trace a circle onto the transparency paper with sharpie, then draw something that their fish could camouflage behind.

Before students come in on the fourth day, I use scissors and stab a hole into the middle of their regular heavy-duty paper plate. When they come into class I explain that they will use this hole as a starting place for their scissors to cut out a circular hole in the center of their plate (they cut up to the point where their plate gets its bumpy/wavy texture). Once this is cut out, I have them go back and cut out the transparency paper from the class before, and their fish drawing. Using scotch tape, they attach their transparency paper camouflage onto the back of their remaining paper plate ring.
I also give them a piece of fishing line to tape to the back of their fish (probably about 9" long or so).
As they are working on all of this, I walk around the classroom and punch a hole into the top side of their chinet-quality plate using a needle tool. Once their fish has the fishing line attached to the back, they string the line through this hole so the other end is hanging outside of their plate. A bead is tied onto this end to prevent the fishing line from slipping all the way back into the plate.

On the fifth day students finish anything that they still have to work on. Once everything is ready, they bring all their materials to me and I hot glue the top cover (with the camouflage) onto the chinet-quality plate. ANNNNNNDDDDDD DONE!

I've gotten SOOO many compliments from classroom teachers about this project. They absolutely love it! :)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happy 6th Birthday Brody!!

Today we celebrated my son's 6th birthday (even though it isn't until tomorrow) with a party at the park! This year he wanted a construction theme and I was happy to oblige! Whenever I do... well pretty much anything.. I feel the need to go all out (see previous post on last year's ninja turtle birthday party) and this year was no different! I scoured Pinterest for ideas.. then got to work!

Hard hats from Party City! Just added the label for my son's!

Ehhh so the goodie boxes were a little meh.. so I added the labels to jazz it up a bit.

Definitely saw this on Pinterest.

Another wonderful idea from Pinterest!

My sister. Never leaves the house without a hat.. and in this case.. two. :)

My fiance, the birthday boy, and myself. :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Love my new sign!

I was so excited to get my gorgeous art room sign in the mail today made by fellow art teacher and blogger Katie from 'Adventures of an Art Teacher'. She is selling custom painted signs in her etsy store to help fundraise enough money to go to the NAEA conference (what a great idea)!!
If you haven't been to her blog yet - check it out! :)
I can't wait to hang this up in my classroom!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Standardized Testing in Art

PLEASE 'pin' this to help me spread the word! :)
Hello fabulous teachers!
I am currently working on an art project for one of my grad school classes and am very interested in hearing your opinions on standardized testing in art for the purpose of teacher evaluation!

  • What are the ramifications of using standardized testing in art teacher evaluation?
  • Do you think standardized testing has a place in art?
  • Can teachers be fairly evaluated based on these scores
  • Can the value of a teacher be assessed this way?

If you have anything to say about these questions or any other questions related to this topic, I would LOVE to read about it!
Please feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below or if you'd prefer, you can email them to me at
The purpose of this collection of information is only to look at the matter of standardized testing in art from multiple perspectives.. no one's names will be used.
Thanks in advance! :)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Donors Choose Project - Sketchbooks!

Even a repin will help!!
Feeling particularly generous? Check out my project on Donors Choose! If you enter the word 'INSPIRE' when you make a donation, Donors Choose will match that donation dollar for dollar for the net 7 days!
Even if you are unable to help - if you know someone who can.. please send them my way! Thank you so much for the support guys!

My Students: One of the biggest challenges at my school is how often I see my art students. Because of our massive size, I only see my upper-grade students for one week every month and a half. Knowledge retention suffers because of this.
My school now has over 2,100 elementary students and I teach art to half of them (the other half see our other art teacher). We are a very high-poverty (95%+ free and reduced lunch) transient school, so students are constantly coming and going (our school services 30+ apartment complexes).
Because my school is so large I only see my students for a week every month and a half (to two months for my lower-grades). Because I see them so infrequently, they often lose the knowledge and concepts taught to them weeks/months before. If my students had sketchbooks we would have a secure place to take notes and draw sketches, so students would have past knowledge available to them every time they come to art.

My current issue with sketchbooks is that because of how transient our population is, it is nearly impossible to keep up with personalized handmade paper sketchbooks. When students leave our school they often leave without their sketchbooks and due to their personalized nature, I can't reuse them for another student.
I need something that can easily be swapped out for a new student to use (take out the old papers and put a new name label on).
By having these durable poly folders, my students will finally have a place to store all the notes, sketches, and knowledge they learn in art over the year. Hopefully this will allow for better knowledge retention, so my program can continue to build on itself and I won't have to spend so much time remediating old concepts.
My students need durable folders for art sketchbooks which can be easily swapped out when students move away or I get new students.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

MGAE Conference 2014 - Classroom Management

So Ms. K and I were talking at Starbucks today about all things art education.. when I told her about my classroom management system this year. She was intrigued by what I had to say and suggested creating a blog post exclusively about it to share with all of you -- so here we are! :)
**Side note before we get started: MGAE Conference stands for (Ms. Gram Art Education).. didn't want to confuse anyone. ;)

Upon reviewing my first post.. I realized I really didn't have much more to say... so I'm just going to straight copy and paste this.. then add some commentary to the end.

This year I also decided I wanted to change up my classroom management system. For the past two years I'd been doing the 'ART' letters on my board. When a class was disruptive or talking too loudly, they lost their 'A'. If the behavior continued, they lost their 'R' and their right to talk. Then if they lost their 'T', they lost the rest of their art lesson that day and had to clean up early.
Last year I even took it a step further and tracked what letter classes ended up on at the end of class. Then at the end of the year as an added incentive.. the class with the most greens won an art party (which ended up being an ice cream party - yeaaa needless to say I gained some weight). Unfortunately although it started out as an effective classroom management system, it lost steam as the year went on. Whole classes ended up losing letters because of a few students.. and classes who left many times on yellow and/or red figured they weren't going to win the art party anyway and gave up caring.
Class Dojo app on my phone!
Well not this year! I'm over the 'whole class' model of classroom management as well as end of the year incentives! So this year I'm doing a table group point system on class dojo!
I've set up my class dojo account with 6 classes (one for each grade level). Then inside each class I've added 6 "students" (my table colors). When students are doing well (come into the room quietly, participate, use good manners, work hard, share well, clean-up ON TIME, etc...) they can earn dojo points! When they do the opposite, they can lose dojo points! *I also love class dojo because you can download it as an app on your phone.. so you can give and take away points from kids even when you aren't at your computer!!
So whhhhhyyy do the kids care if they win points or not? Great question!! Because now when we do art centers (if they finish their projects early or I decide to have a centers day), they can only pick from centers that they can "afford" with their dojo points! Hehehehee! Ingenious!
Naturally all of my super awesome centers (window drawing, jewelry, modeling clay, origami, etc) require a larger number of points.. while some of my less exciting ones require less (weaving, pattern blocks, etc). Table points reset at the end of the week so the next time my group see's me, they have a fresh opportunity to win points!
Now there is no more class vs class competitions, waiting until the end of the year to be rewarded, and no more buying prizes! Instead the kids are rewarded weekly with new art opportunities and experiences!
Point values are listed on each center.

The only thing I want to add is HOW AWESOME this classroom management system has been for me thus far. When I walk into my classroom these days, 70% of the time every student has their head down on their table and are waiting quietly to get started (they know this is a way to get points). IT IS AMAZING.
The main thing with this system is that you have to stay absolutely committed to giving/taking away points! You cannot let anything slide and when students are being awesome you have to recognize that immediately -- this is why I use the app from my phone.
Ways students earn points: Going to their tables quietly and putting their head down at the beginning of class, volunteering to answer questions, having manners (this is so important to me), sharing really well, being helpful to other students, cleaning up WHEN I ask them to (not 2 minutes later), being the first table to clean up (correctly), working relatively quietly, staying on task, and at line-up the whole class can earn a point if line up is very quick and quiet.
Ways students lose points: Coming into my classroom loudly, fighting (usually over not sharing), getting off task, being way too loud when working, not cleaning up when asked, talking after I've asked for their attention (I say "class", they say "yes".. then if anyone speaks it's a point off), taking too long to clean up, excessive talking during lineup, etc.

Now to answer the big question:
Q: Do you project the class dojo screen on your LCD projector throughout the whole class?
A: No. I definitely have it up at the beginning of class when students walk in (this reminds them.. 'Oh yea.. I wanna earn points').. but as far as the rest of the class time it just depends. If I'm showing a PowerPoint or using my projector for anything else.. then no I can't.. but that doesn't mean I stop giving/taking away points. In fact it's almost even better this way! My phone still makes the noise when I give or take away points, so my kids hear that.. then ask me "What table lost a point?!" I like responding with - "It doesn't matter.. if you're table is following directions.. then it wasn't you."
This gets EVERY table back on task and working at a reasonable noise level REALLLL fast. :)

If you have any other questions.. please feel free to comment below! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

NAEA 2015 - New Orleans

So excited to say that Mollie (from Art with Ms. K/Please Don't Eat the Artwork) and I have had our presentation accepted for the NAEA 2015 convention in New Orleans! There isn't a session schedule out yet.. but we'll definitely let you know the exact when and where when we find out!!

Connected Classroom: Building your network through blogging and technology   
(Gram & Katzin)
Explore how to use personal blogging and other interactive resources to incite professional growth, build your own personal learning network, and renew your enthusiasm for teaching.

This will be the 5th national conference I've attended (Seattle, WA in 2011; New York City, NY in 2012; Fort Worth, TX in 2013; San Diego, CA in 2014).. but first time presenting at the national level! So excited! Please plan to come out and chat! :)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Color Mixing Trees (1st)

Student Sample
The first project I decided to do with my first graders this year was a primary/secondary color mixing review/learning it again for the first time because they don't remember anything they learned in art last year. :)
We started out by reading "Monsters Love Colors" by Mike Austin and reviewed/learned how the primary colors red, yellow, and blue can be mixed together to create secondary colors (and beyond!). 
After discussing this, and filling in a color mixing chart, anddddd singing the primary color song and the secondary color song (to the tune of "Are you sleeping?"), students got to experiment with primary-colored glitter liquid watercolors to paint a background for their art piece. 
Mini-tangent: The song goes like this..."Primary colors, primary colors. Red, yellow, blue. Red, yellow, blue. They're primary colors, they're primary colors. Red, yellow, blue. Red, yellow, blue."
The next day students started cutting out the trees that their color mixing "leaves" would hang on. Each student started out with a piece of 6"x9" black construction paper. After reviewing scissor safety, students cut a large triangle into the side of their construction paper. Once the triangle was cut, they left some place next to the triangle and cut out a "Y" shape (see diagram - I'm sure it will make more sense).
Once the base of the tree was cut out, students cut out additional rectangular shapes to be added onto their trees for branches. I made it a point to explain to my first graders that trees grow UP from the ground.. so it made more sense to have the branches pointing up instead of down. Then students glued these to their painted paper.
The next day we reviewed our primary/secondary color mixing knowledge - then students went to work creating their primary/secondary Kandinsky-esk "leaves"! The only requirement was that the leaves had to have 3 individual shapes (that composed the larger "leaf") and they had to show how to mix the featured secondary color. After my first rotation teaching this, I found that it was really effective to explain it to students like this...
They needed to cut out a big mommy and daddy primary color shape, then in the center cut out their baby secondary color (the color they would make when mixed together). We also talked about how it didn't matter which order they glued their primary color shapes down on their leaf. Red+Blue=Purple and Blue+Red=Purple... just like 1+2=3 and 2+1=3.
Overall I really like these! I've seen projects similar to this before.. but never with the specific primary/secondary color mixing leaf combinations.