Archives for category: critical thinking

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.  🙂

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.

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!

Especially for Halloween, I’m sharing a great little art trick, that turns out to be a pretty neat treat as well.

First of all, a basic understanding of colors is helpful. Generally, all colors can be divided into two broad categories known as “warm” or “cool”. Warm colors — red, yellow, orange — are those that you associate with warmth, or with warm things such as fire, the sun, or hot lava. Cool colors — blue, blue-green, aqua — are those that you associate with a feeling of cool and with cool things such as the ocean, sky, ice and snow. (A few colors can work in either category depending on their composition. Green and purple are good examples of this duality because each is made by mixing a warm color with a cool color.)

Children are fascinated not only by colors and color mixing, but also with the idea that colors can make us feel a certain way based on their perceived warmth or coolness. Advertisers and designers are particularly adept at using our innate feelings about color to their advantage. As it turns out, warm and cool colors can also be used to manipulate our visual perception as well.

Which brings me to the art trick I promised! When creating any type of artwork, if you’d like to enhance the illusion of depth in your piece, remember this simple trick: warm colors advance and cool colors recede. Even the lightest application of cool colors over an area of your work, be it a painting, a drawing, or whatever, will make it look like it has been pushed back and is farther away from you. The opposite is true for warm color application, making that area magically seem as if it is closer to you, advancing toward you. And if you apply both in the same piece — warm colors on foreground images, and cool colors on background images — Wow! The illusion is striking!

Try this little trick for yourself and teach it to your students. The results are a treat and will be sure to delight both artist and viewer!

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!

We’ve all heard the refrain. Usually it’s shouted out much sooner than we would like to hear it.

“Teacher… I’m finished!!!”

While we frequently — and successfully — handle this situation, I’m often asked by teachers what to do when it happens during an ART lesson.

Because art is one of the few subjects where the “answers” come almost exclusively from within the child, there are always — and I do mean ALWAYS — more solutions to explore.

When a student rushes to finish during an art lesson, the solution is easy. First, I validate what the student has already done, acknowledging their efforts thus far. Then I begin asking questions such as, “What more could you do here?”, “What would happen if you tried…”, “What do you think about trying this again using a totally different approach?” And so on.

Questions like this accomplish several things. First of all, they let the student know that they are, in fact, not yet finished. Secondly, they encourage the student to think more deeply, to further explore either subject matter or materials, or both. Thirdly — and perhaps most important of all — by using questions like this, you begin to teach your students that there can be many, many solutions to a problem. This type of creative thinking is essential to develop independent, critical thinkers. (A vital skill within the Common Core State Standards.)

As you settle into the routine of being back-to-school, please consider how connecting art to your curriculum will support your students in all areas of study. The Professional Development classes I teach are affordable, convenient, self-paced, and offer flexible scheduling. Click on the Fresno Pacific University link at the top of the page  —  or write to me at <jgomasfaison@gmail.com> to find out more.