Archives for the month of: November, 2012

Check out this excellent article about some schools in Oklahoma where the arts play an essential role in student instruction and learning. And guess what? Studies are showing that these students are outperforming their counterparts in schools not following this model of instruction within their district and state.

Go art go!

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While counting your blessings this Thanksgiving, my hope is that you will also take time to notice the many little artistic miracles that surround you, such as vibrant color, rich textures, interesting shapes and forms. When you begin to pay attention, life can truly be a feast for the senses each and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Welcome to the WeAreTeachers Blog Hop Stop #7. If you’re just joining us, head back to the BLOG HOP LAUNCH POST to find out how the Blog Hop works so you can collect all of the necessary clues for a chance to win an iPad, a $50 gift card and much more!

As a participant in this blog hop, I’ve been asked to write a review of my favorite educational gift. I’ve chosen:

Products: My First Crayola Triangular Crayons in Storage Container, Crayola Colored Pencils, and Melissa & Doug Sketch Pad

Age range: 3 years and up

Subject areas: Art — and virtually any other subject!

Hot Deals: On Amazon.com

In the high-tech gadget oriented world of today, why not give your child something refreshingly simple and fun this holiday season? (Not to mention, deceptively educational!) Offering limitless opportunities for creativity and self expression, the gift of crayons, colored pencils, and drawing paper is sure to surprise and delight your recipient. Though these tools might seem a bit “old school”, consider the fact that they are completely user-friendly, are one-size-fits-all, and don’t need batteries, or require an electrical outlet and a charge to be played with. Brilliant!

Children of all ages will benefit from time spent exploring their creative potential with these simple yet empowering art tools. Not only does drawing and coloring help develop small muscles and fine motor skills, but it also helps kids learn how to approach and solve problems. Countless decisions are made while drawing, whether the budding artist draws something they are observing, or develops creatures unknown and lands unseen. Stories are created and imaginations are strengthened. All of this helps develop critical thinking, which is an essential component of the Common Core State Standards being implemented in schools across the country.

While any type of crayons or colored pencils will do, Crayola is a trusted brand in the industry and one can be assured of their product quality, which ultimately results in a more satisfying experience for the artist. The triangular nature of the crayons in this pack means they won’t be rolling around the work surface, and the storage container keeps them tidy when not in use. Colored pencils are still fun for little hands, yet will allow the more mature artist to add detail to their work. Having lots of paper on hand for your young artist is a must! With 50 sheets of 9X12 inch paper, this sketch pad ensures the fun and creativity can go on and on.

As a teacher, and as an artist, I believe meaningful art experiences play an integral part in discovering who we are as individuals. Art helps us see ourselves and the world we inhabit more clearly, while also helping us to imagine future possibilities. Giving the gift of creativity through the tools of artistic expression is a gift that is truly priceless.

WeAreTeachers Blog Hop Clue #1: BUT

The next stop on the blog hop is: Teacher Gear We Love

More chances to win: What’s more, as part of this blog hop, I am offering a $10 gift card to Amazon! To enter, do one or both of the following by 11/23/12:

Here’s a fun way to engage your students’ powers of critical thinking while allowing them to explore their individuality and creativity at the same time. The “Secret Door Ornament” is a lesson that works for virtually any grade level, is easy to present to your students, and uses materials you probably already have on hand at home or in your classroom.

You will need the following: construction paper in a variety of colors, glue or paste or rubber cement, crayons and/or markers, tape, scissors, and old magazines. Optional items could include things such as yarn, glitter, buttons, brads, cotton balls, rubber stamps, sticker dots, and more.

Depending on the age of your students, you will want to either have large ornament shapes pre-cut, or allow your students to draw and cut out their own shapes. (I would suggest using 9X12 or 12X18 inch construction paper for this.) Invite the children to decorate their ornaments any way they like using any materials you have available for them. For older students, expectations could be set very high and be very specific about the level of involvement and sophistication you expect in their surface decorations. Once anything that needs to dry has been allowed to do so, cut the secret door flaps in the ornament. (You might want to do this part depending, again, on the age of your students.)

Next, have the kids look through old magazines for a picture of their own “special wish” that will be placed “inside” their ornament. These wishes could be anything such as a vacation, a toy, or even a special thought. What matters most is that it has special meaning for the child. (You could opt to have your students draw their wish if you don’t have magazines available.)

Finally, have each student tape their special wish to the BACK of their ornament so that it will show through when the secret door is opened. The kids are fascinated with this and will have fun opening the little doors again and again to reveal the special wishes of their classmates. (Be sure to display these on a wall or bulletin board so that your students can reach them.)

While these large ornaments are spectacular and fun for their own sake, opportunities abound for connections to other areas of your curriculum. For example, ornament decoration could be related to a specific area of your curriculum such as science, math, social studies, or even to a book the class is reading. You can make many language arts connections by having students share orally with the class — or even just to a buddy — about their secret wish and why they selected it. You might ask students to journal about the process of decorating their ornament, selecting their special wish, and about what makes that wish meaningful to them. These journal entries could be kept between teacher and student, or could be shared with the class.

Nothing captures the sprit of the holidays like working together to accomplish a common goal. To that end, here is a simple — yet impressive — art experience you can do with your students that is sure to delight all of you!

The materials list is simple — all you really need is construction paper. If you have several shades of green on hand, I would suggest using all of them. The variety of greens (tints and shades, also known as lights and darks) will enhance the look of your tree. If you only have one green on hand, don’t despair because that will also look great. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try making an all white tree. Trust me — it will look magnificent!

The idea here is that each child will be tearing out one or more “branches” that will be arranged together to form a tree. You might spend a few minutes talking with the kids about the fact that trees are made of individual branches, and that together, they make an entire tree. Looking at a real tree or at photographs of trees will also help them to see that the general shape of pine tree branches is sort of triangular. Give each child a sheet of large construction paper and ask them to carefully tear out a large branch/triangular shape. Tell them that their branch must touch at least three sides of their paper. (This will encourage them to work “large”.)

You may decide to have each child make more than one branch, depending on how many children you have, and on how big you want your group tree to be. When all of the branches are complete, pin or staple them to a wall or bulletin board in a “tree-type” arrangement. (I would suggest putting your tree together after school, that way you can tell your students that they will be surprised the next day to see how all of their individual pieces made something great together. Talk about building anticipation!) Don’t worry about how each branch looks, because they will all look fantastic when they are arranged together to form your class tree. 

Today’s post is about a really great series of art books that I think would make an excellent addition to any classroom library. These little books, “Getting To Know The World’s Greatest Artists”, are written and illustrated by Mike Venezia. Apart from their availability (Amazon.com) and their great price ($6.95), each of these terrific little books presents a succinct focus on one artist in an informal, engaging, and highly informative way.

Whether teaching first grade or high school, I always kept a variety of these books in my classroom’s library. When I taught first grade I read these books to my students, and they loved hearing them over and over again. When “reading” on their own, my young students would consistently select these books to enjoy by themselves or with a reading buddy. My high school students perused these same books, and I believe they enjoyed and appreciated learning about the famous artists in a more “relaxed” way than they might otherwise have through a typical art history textbook.

One look through these books will win you over to Mr. Venezia’s engaging, conversational style. He makes the artists seem like people who might have lived in your town and perhaps even been a neighbor. Through words and pictures, he brings each artist to life by revealing them to be real people we all can relate to. People who accomplished great things — yes, but people who struggled and suffered through hardships as well. Reading these books is so engaging and is so much fun, kids of all ages might not realize how much they are actually learning!

If you’d like to receive one of these books by Mike Venezia, just leave a comment on this blog post. The first 10 people to leave me a comment by Friday, November 30, 2012, 5 p.m. (PST) will each get one free book from this series of “Getting To Know The World’s Greatest Artists” books. (Artist subject of the books will vary and cannot be specified by the recipient. One comment/entry per person, please.)

Giveaway Update: As of 11/14/12, I still have 4 books left to give away!