Archives for category: independent thinking

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhether art is one of many subjects that you teach in your classroom, or you teach in a dedicated art room, organization of your art supplies is a must. And what better time to get organized than spring?!

As one who has taught in both a multiple subject classroom, and in a high school art room, keeping my art supplies organized has made every lesson I’ve taught easier. Whether I’m pulling supplies out in preparation for a lesson, or taking a quick inventory to see what I need to replenish, keeping things in order has really paid off. My sister — a professional organizer! — likes to encourage her clients to think of their spaces as big containers, and then to think of breaking down the things stored within those spaces into smaller containers. This has helped me tremendously over the years both at home and at school.

So let’s get down to business shall we? If your art supply organization is long overdue, I suggest you begin by pulling all of your art supplies out onto tables where you can see them. Gather like items together, such as all of your paint brushes, color pencils, crayons, and glue bottles. (As you do this, be sure to get rid of anything that is no longer usable.)

Once like supplies have been grouped together, I would suggest that you begin thinking about storage containers if you aren’t already using them. These don’t have to be anything fancy or new, just some sturdy containers that will hold your supplies. I also strongly encourage you to think about choosing containers that will serve “double duty” for you. For example, I use little stacking plastic drawers, 4 drawers to a “unit”. These can sit out or be placed in a cupboard, but the main thing is, they not only store things like crayons, color pencils, chalk and glue sticks, but they can also be carried to work tables and desks for the students to work out of. When the work session is over, the supplies go back in the drawers, and the drawers go back into the little “unit” that holds them. As simple as that. Again, nothing fancy or expensive, but highly functional. When smaller art supplies have been “containerized”, you can begin placing things back into cupboards and cabinets in any way that makes sense for you. The beauty of this time that you’ve invested is that now when you need glue, you know right where ALL of your glue is. Crayons? Just pull out some containers and you’re ready to go!

Here are a few other quick and easy storage tips that might work for you. Three coffee cans hold my paint brushes — handles down, brush tips up — roughly separated into small, medium and large sizes. I’ve also found that storing construction paper on edge vertically, makes it easy to pull out what I need, and put back what I don’t, without unstacking everything. (They look like very colorful little book spines.) If you place them in order (ROYGBIV: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) they look beautiful too! This type of construction paper “filing” also makes it easy to see when you are running low on a particular color. Having some sort of scrap paper box is also important for gathering up any usable bits of paper that are too big to be thrown away.

Scissors can present their own unique storage problems. When I taught first grade, our scissors were all kept one of the storage drawers mentioned above. Students knew where they were and took responsibility for getting them out and putting them away when they were finished with them. High school is a different situation. I needed them to be accessible to students, but I also needed to be able to account for every pair at the end of each class period. The solution was to hang the scissors up on nails. The students could easily get a pair if they needed one, and at the end of each class, I could glance at those nails from anywhere in the room and see if all of the scissors had been returned to their place. (The class was NOT excused to leave until all scissors were accounted for and my students knew it.) Very effective.

I’m a big fan of encouraging students’ independence, and the more organizational systems you establish and teach to your students, the more independent they can be. When materials need to be put away, everyone knows where things are supposed to go, and so everyone can help pitch in to get things picked up. For this reason, I would also suggest that you gather some all-purpose containers that can be used for different things during projects, but not necessarily be used for long term storage. For example, I would suggest 3 or 4 round, metal cake pans, and maybe a few rectangular pans as well. These are great when you need to set out things like cotton balls, beads, buttons, and brads for the students to use. During an art experience, my students are able to help themselves to whatever they need, and return items they don’t need for others to use. When the project is over, I then return those items to their long term storage, and the pans are ready to go for the next art experience. A few scotch tape dispensers, a stapler, and masking tape rolls tied to something are also a good idea. (Tying the masking tape rolls to something simply means they’re always where they’re supposed to be.) I also like to keep two stacked paper trays out and accessible for the students — one filled with blank, white copy paper, and another filled with newsprint paper. This is great for a variety of things including quick sketches and notes.

Finally, I’ve listed a few items that I’ve found to be invaluable over the years and that I always keep on hand for art experiences. Small paper cups can be purchased in bulk at restaurant supply stores and can be “pulled open” so that they almost lay flat and can be used as mini paint pallets, as well as a place to hold a small amount of glue. When left in cup form, they are great for holding small items such as beads and brads while students are working. Paper plates, plastic tubs for water, disposable gloves, baby wipes, paper towels, and old men’s shirts (to cover up when things get messy). If you do anything like papier mache, having a “dedicated” small plastic bucket (like one that might hold ice cream), a plastic ladle, and plastic plates are a great idea. The bucket can be used to mix your papier mache, and you can ladle it out onto plastic plates for students as they need it. Plates can then be thrown away at the end of the art experience.

Once you’ve invested a little time and energy getting your art supplies in order, you’ll discover how much easier and more fun it is to plan and then implement exciting, successful art lessons for your students. You may just find yourself connecting art to lots of lessons, because your spring cleaning and organizing has made it so much more convenient! If you have any tips you’d like to share, I’d love it if you’d join the conversation and leave a comment on this post.

Advertisements

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!

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!

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.