Archives for category: 21st Century Skills

DSC01110As a teacher of professional development art courses for the past 17 years, I’ve noticed one consistent truth: teachers are reluctant to teach art because they are afraid. Afraid that to effectively teach art, they must “perform” artistically in some way for their students. They repeatedly tell me things like, “I can’t draw” and “I’m not an artist”. My message to them is twofold. First of all, experience has shown me that everyone is creative to some degree — we all just have different levels of art experience and exposure. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, a teacher doesn’t need to be a trained artist, or to be able to draw, in order to present successful, meaningful, and powerful art lessons in their classroom. In fact, I would argue that the most important thing a teacher needs to be when teaching art, is what I would call a “monitor/motivator”, and one of the most profound phrases in the motivator’s toolkit is, “take another look”.

Just as adults can be intimidated by art, so too are the students we teach. It’s no surprise that the higher up in grade level one looks, the more fear and trepidation one will see in the students. This is where the power of the “monitor/motivator” role comes in. By closely monitoring your students as they work on any given art experience, you will be able to support and motivate them as needed, helping to build their confidence. Actively move around the room offering constructive, encouraging words and comments while you closely look at what they are working to create. When students ask for help and want you to solve an art problem for them, resist the urge to do so and suggest that they “take another look”. Ask questions that will encourage their thinking and analysis of their own work, and of the problem at hand. This is critical thinking made manifest.

Because of a limited exposure to art among other things, students often think they are finished with an art making experience long before they really are. This is the crucial point where you can acknowledge what they’ve already accomplished by saying something like, “That’s a really great start!” and then offer the empowering questions, “What else can you do here? Take another look… what else can you explore?” This suggestion to “take another look” lets the student know that there is still more to see and to do, and that your expectation is that they will continue to search for it. You are challenging them to push past what might have been a quick, simple, and safe solution on their part, while letting them know that you have faith in their ability to go beyond it. As you consistently monitor and motivate your students during art experiences, you will see your students look to you for answers less and less, as they begin to trust themselves more and more.

As Maria Montessori once observed, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” Helping your students develop into inquisitive, self-directed, life-long learners is possible, and connecting meaningful, authentic art experiences to your curriculum can foster this development. Please click here to see the affordable, convenient, and self-paced professional development art courses I teach through Fresno Pacific University. (* No art experience needed or required!)

IMG_1679For many of us, creating something is much easier with some sort of visual reference. Whether we’re making a drawing, a painting, or a sculpture, having something in front of us to look at helps us get the details right. It helps us with things like proportion, texture, pattern, and color. Here are a few easy suggestions that will help you establish a valuable set of image files that your students can use again and again when they need a visual reference. Why the need for such files you ask? Well, if one is drawing a rose, for example, it’s not too difficult to simply bring one into the classroom. The same holds true for any number of fruits, vegetables, and small objects. But what if your students are trying to draw or sculpt say, an elephant, or a particular type of fish? Not so easy. Enter the image file.

My suggestion to you is that you create a series of files filled with photographs that your students can reference as needed. I want to be very specific here about saying that your images files should contain only photographs — not drawings or paintings of things. The problem with using drawings or paintings of things as a reference is that someone else has already made all of the decisions about color, line, texture, etc. When you have your students work from photographs, they must decide how to interpret the “reality” of that photo into their work. This involves a tremendous amount of observation and problem solving skills that are essential to student growth and learning.

For my own classroom files, I purchased some very inexpensive books of photographs of whatever I was looking for. (Yard sales can be a fantastic source!) Because having an entire classroom of students share one book is not practical, I simply tore the pages out of the books I collected. (As a lover of books, this was kind of hard to do at first, but I persevered and it worked so well, I never looked back.) I used hanging file folders to store these now single sheets of photos, and labeled them by category such as, insects, fish, mammals, reptiles, birds, flowers, etc. (Often these photos also have an accompanying paragraph about whatever is in the photo, which I find to be a real bonus as far as student learning is concerned.) Once these files are established, it’s simply a matter of pulling them out when you need them. So for example, if you’re working on an art project that involves reptiles, you simply bring out the reptile file and you’re all set. If only one topic is being used, I simply spread out that file’s contents on a table for students to peruse. If we’re using multiple subjects, I place the files we’re using in a small hanging file container someplace where the students can look through them.

When I initially set up my image files, the internet was not something we had access to in classrooms. And while it might be tempting to let students search for images on the computer, I would advise against it. In my experience, students will make a selection from this type of photo file within a minute or two of looking over the photographs. How long do you imagine they might look on the internet…?

Trust me that after only a small initial investment of time and money on your part, you will end up with files that will serve you well for years. You won’t be able to imagine how you ever lived without them!

Need other ideas for great art experiences YOU can do in your classroom or with your homeschooled kids? Check out my affordable and convenient professional development courses here. You can register at any time for my distance learning classes, and best of all, you complete them on your schedule. I hope to “see” you in class soon!

IMG_1659What better way to show we love the earth, than by creating some gorgeous Valentine’s Day inspired art work that encourages recycling as well?! Enter “Giant Stuffed Paper Hearts”.

The materials for this spectacular art experience are outrageously simple. You will need butcher paper, “stuffing”, a stapler, any sort of decorative materials, glue, and string or fishing line. (If you have access to butcher paper in “Valentine” colors like pink, red, and purple, that’s great. If not, white and even black will work just as well.)

The idea here is that you are going to have your students cut giant — and I do mean giant — hearts out of butcher paper, decorate them, stuff them, and then hang them from the ceiling. (If your school won’t allow you to hang anything, these could just as easily be stapled to a wall where they will still look puffy and three dimensional.)

While you could use anything for the stuffing of the heart, this experience presents a perfect opportunity to talk about things like recycling, and campus beautification. If you are so inclined, you and your students might walk around the school yard collecting trash and bits of paper. (Gloves might be a good idea here.) Or maybe you could use paper from your own classroom that would normally be thrown in the trash? Newspapers collected from home work well here too. The point is, this art experience is tangible evidence that trash can be transformed again into something else — in this case, into something beautiful.

When cutting out their paper hearts, each child will need two hearts exactly alike, so you can show them how putting two pieces of paper together and cutting them out at the same time will accomplish this. (An alternative to this would be to have them cut out one giant heart, then trace that on to their second piece of butcher paper and then cut that one out.) Depending on how involved you want them to get, and on how you plan to display them, you can instruct your students to decorate only one side of one of their hearts, or one side of each of their hearts. I would really let them go wild here with lots and lots of different decorative materials. Things like paint, construction paper, tissue paper, crepe paper, glitter, lace, ribbons, yarn, buttons, cotton, etc. would all be super fun for the kids to work with. (Because the hearts are large, I would probably not put out any drawing tools for this one, as any drawing the children might do would tend to be small, and the surface decoration for these should really be bold and large.)

Once all surface decorations are finished and have been allowed to dry, place the two hearts together and begin stapling around the edge to connect them. (Staple at least one inch or so in from the edge.) Remember that if you had students decorate two sides, make sure each of those decorated sides face out, and that the plain sides are on the “inside”. After you’ve stapled about half way around the hearts, you may begin stuffing the heart with very loosely crumpled paper or trash. You want to keep these hearts very light, so there’s no need to stuff them full of tightly wadded paper. Use just enough lightly crumpled paper to “fill out” the heart and give it a puffy shape. Finish stapling the remainder of the edge to close the heart, and you’re done. The resulting hearts should be very light, so it will be easy to hang them from your ceiling if you choose to do so. Don’t worry about hanging them at the same height, because hanging them at different heights adds to the fun. You will be amazed at the magnificent display these create and your students will love them!

Share the love! If you decide to do this art experience with your students, I’d love to see the results. Email photos to me at JGomasFaison@gmail.com and with your permission I might even share some of your photos on this blog. Happy heart-making!

IMG_1649With February right around the corner, here is a simple and fun art lesson that will teach your students some important lessons about giving, and about the value of working together, all while challenging them to be creative.

The basic materials required for the Bouquet of Hearts lesson are things I’m sure you have on hand already such as, construction paper, glue, tape, staples, and scissors. For extra embellishments, check around for any fun and unusual materials you might have for the kids to work with like, glitter, ribbon, yarn, buttons, rhinestones, cotton, lace, brads, and so on. You’ll also want something to use as “stems” — like small wooden skewers that can be found in most grocery stores.

Begin by talking to your students about flowers and bouquets. Talk with them about Valentine’s Day as being a day traditionally reserved as a day to proclaim love for others, and tell them you have an idea for how they can participate in this. Tell your students that they will make their own “flowers” out of hearts using all of the fun materials you have provided for them, and that you will be gathering these special paper “flowers” that they make into bouquets that can then be given away. At this point it would be a good idea to have decided how you’re going to distribute their bouquets… will they be going to someone at your school such as your principal, or maybe to a local senior citizen’s center or hospital? In my experience, the students love knowing who the recipient(s) will be. I’ve also found that it’s important to ask them before they even begin, if they are ok with the idea of making their art specifically to give it away. They always are.  🙂

So using heart shapes as the basis for their “flower”, allow students the freedom to explore both cutting and tearing construction paper. They might want to use layers of heart shapes to create their flowers, as well as combine several different colors of paper. Once the foundation of the heart “flower” has been established, encourage your students to utilize the variety of decorative materials you have made available for their use. Once their “flowers” are complete, and have been allowed to dry if necessary, attach their “flower” to a stick or “stem”. You may also want to have them use crepe paper to wrap the stick and perhaps even make construction paper leaves.

When all of the “flowers” have been completed, stand them in a container such as a vase or flower pot. If desired, you could place a small ball of clay in the bottom of the container first to help the “flowers” stand. Lead your students to see that while each of their “flowers” are fantastic on their own, when grouped together, they become magnificent! Each individual “flower” makes an important contribution to the whole bouquet.

At this point, the bouquets are ready to be presented to the lucky recipients. For a meaningful language arts connection, students could be asked to write a brief note to the recipient(s) of their work. I did a project very similar to this one with my continuation high school art classes, and I’m telling you they worked harder and with more focus on this experience — that they knew was going to a local residential facility for senior citizens — than on anything we did before or after it. They encouraged each other to keep working so that every person at that facility would get something from them. It was touching and inspiring.

IMG_1435As we all start this bright new year full of fresh hopes and dreams, my wish for you is that 2013 is a year filled with art. Whether you make art yourself, teach art to your students, or appreciate the art of others, make the time to enjoy the pleasures that an art-filled life has to offer. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Happy New Year!

If you’d like to incorporate some art into your classroom but don’t know where to begin, check out the classes I offer here through Fresno Pacific University. My distance learning classes are affordable, convenient, and flexible.

Like the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”. In so many ways, this wonderful season is especially beautiful, and I encourage you to take a few moments when you can, just to notice it. Really look around you right now. This time of year is heavy on the sparkle and glitter, the warm glow of candles, the riot of color, pattern, and texture. Savor it. Let your eyes just drink it all in. And while you’re at it, why not help your children and students notice this bounty of beauty as well? Amid all the hustle and bustle, show the children in your life how easy — and rewarding — it can be to just stop for a moment, take notice, and enjoy.

In the classroom, this type of “visual study” could be the jumping off point for some very meaningful writing, whether it be reflecting on past holidays, thinking about wishes for the future, or writing about what’s going on right now. Maybe it could be a piece of descriptive writing, filled with as many adjectives and details as possible. Observing something thoughtfully, and then drawing it as carefully and as accurately as possible, is also another worthwhile experience. (This is especially good for quieting down energized little ones while helping improve their focus too.)

Teachers: don’t forget that winter is the perfect time to sign up for professional development courses! The art classes I teach are affordable and convenient — and you have up to one year to finish your course work! Picture yourself… hot cocoa in hand, with warm slippers on your feet, earning 3 units of graduate credit in the cozy comfort of your own home… Click here to find out more.  🙂

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!

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:

Do you remember the simple joy of creating one of these? Consider sharing this wonderful experience with your students this autumn. It couldn’t be easier and the rewards are great!

For supplies, you will need only three things. Paper… nothing fancy… copy paper works great here. Crayons… broken into easy-to-hold chunks with the paper peeled off. An assortment of leaves and maybe even some small twigs and branches.

Your students will love exploring outside to find just the right leaves and twigs. If you have magnifying glasses — even the super inexpensive ones — give them to your students to use. (You won’t believe how focused they get!) Once back inside, explain the process of placing their leaves and twigs underneath their papers so they can rub over them using the sides of their crayons. A simple pantomime of how they will rub over their paper using the crayon is enough — you don’t have do actually do it — let them have the thrill of discovery themselves.

And they will be thrilled! When the rubbed images appear, it’s like magic and they love it! And don’t be fooled into thinking your kids are “too old” for this experience. As a high school art teacher for many years, I was consistently shocked by how many of my juniors and seniors had never done this. And the ones that had, had such fond memories of it, that they loved the opportunity to do it again.

So why devote time to an art experience such as this? Besides the obvious — it’s fun! — so many important things are going on here. Being outside. Exploring. Talking with each other about what they’re finding and doing. Analyzing and making decisions about their leaf selections… colors, shapes, textures, sizes. Using small muscle control to make the rubbings. Deciding on colors and placement of objects. Talking to others about what they’re making. And what if you incorporated writing? Depending on your approach, the curricular possibilities are virtually endless. And then, what if you incorporated science and scientific observation? What about math? The point here is that this simple, joyful activity suddenly becomes the catalyst for a profound level of learning and involvement. (And did I mention that it’s fun?!)

For other simple ideas about how you can easily incorporate art into your classroom and support the curriculum you are teaching everyday, please check out the affordable, convenient, self-paced Professional Development courses I teach through Fresno Pacific University.

At last it feels like autumn has arrived. In my little corner of the world — northern California — the temperatures are cooler during the day and are dropping even lower at night. I’ve noticed the leaves are beginning to change colors too, another sure sign that fall is here.

Another thing that signals fall, is the fact that a new school year has begun in earnest. If you are a teacher, chances are you and your colleagues are working hard to bring the Common Core State Standards into your classrooms. Central to these standards, are critical and independent thinking, learning that encourages depth and complexity, and working at the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I invite you to consider that the inclusion of one subject in your curriculum can help you accomplish all of this and more. That one subject? Art.

The Professional Development art courses I teach through Fresno Pacific University are affordable, convenient, and self-paced. This means you’ll learn how to strengthen your existing curriculum with art from the comfort of your own home, on your own schedule. (And the best part? No artistic talent or skill is required to successfully complete my classes!)

As the weather turns chilly, think about staying cozy inside with some fun art lessons that will be easy to implement in your own classroom. You and your students will be so glad you did!