Archives for category: Professional Development

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.  🙂

If you’re an elementary school teacher, you know that young students are very enthusiastic about art. They are willing to try just about anything, and they are willing to try it with gusto. The older children get, however, the more reluctant they become to try their hand at art. When art experiences are authentic, they usually say a great deal about the artist, so by their very nature can make one feel vulnerable. By the time students become young adults, many have completely shut down artistically.

As a teacher at both the elementary and the secondary levels, it has been my experience that the single most important way to engage the reluctant older student in art, is to first meet them where they are. Initial lesson designs should rely heavily on skills that they likely already possess or will find less intimidating. (For example, painting a still life realistically using watercolors would probably not be a good first lesson choice, but using a pencil to create an abstract design using thick and thin lines might be.) Beginning with art experiences that virtually guarantee success, and showing students that you value their authentic efforts, will build their confidence and enable them to move on to ever more challenging art production.

A second approach that I used time and time again was that of providing a specific age context for the work they were doing. For example, while keeping expectations for involvement and exploration of materials very high, I would ask my high school students to imagine they were creating a particular piece of art for a viewing audience of very young children. This would allow them to “play” with images and design like a child, while still remaining their “cool”, older selves. It consistently produced wonderful results.

By presenting thoughtful lessons, and by demonstrating interest through questions and constructive suggestions, the teacher can create an atmosphere where otherwise reluctant older students will feel safe and are willing to take creative risks as they explore new materials, skills, and concepts in art.

If you’d like some tried and tested lesson plans that are sure to engage students of all ages, please check out my professional development class offerings through Fresno Pacific University.

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.

 

Back to school… yes, it’s already that time of year again!

If you’re a teacher looking for an excellent, easy back to school lesson idea — and what teacher isn’t? — then you’ve come to the right place!

Lesson Idea: Create Personalized Calling Cards

For this little lesson, all you will need are some blank cards (index cards without lines will work just fine here and you won’t have to cut anything), some drawing tools (crayons, markers, pencils) and an ink pad with washable ink.

The idea here is to have every student in your class create a “calling card” that represents them. Talk for a moment about what things make each one of us unique. (Things we like to do, things we like to eat, music we like, pets we have, places and people we love, etc.) To reinforce language arts, consider making a list of some of these things as your students mention them.

Ask your students to create their special card and to include the following on one side: Their name (first and last or just first, it’s up to you), drawings and words of things that make them unique (you might want to give them a specific number of items here), and their thumb print (that’s where the washable ink comes in).

Depending on the age and ability levels of your students, modifications can be made to take this from a very simple art experience, to a much more sophisticated design problem that will challenge older students. Reading a story first about how we are all unique and special might be a wonderful introduction to this experience of card making. Asking students to reflect in a journal about their creative process while designing their cards can be a meaningful culmination to the project. Allowing students to select, cut, and glue magazine images on their cards in addition to their words and drawings can also be interesting if you choose to get that involved.

Once finished, these cards will look great displayed in the classroom, or on each child’s desk, or can even be used by the teacher to select students at random for special jobs or to answer questions.

If you’d like to be the kind of teacher who effortlessly brings meaningful art experiences into your classroom on a regular basis — check out the classes I offer through Fresno Pacific University. You won’t be disappointed and your students will love you for it!  🙂

 

Like so many people around the world, I’ve been watching the Olympic Games. Yes, I’ve cheered on the swimmers, divers, and gymnasts, just to name a few. But what’s really been interesting to me is the design of the Olympics. The art of the Games, if you will.

From the Opening Ceremonies — to the various competitions — to victorious Olympians receiving their medals of achievement, I have been captivated by the art and design of the Olympic Games.

Clothing design is a special favorite of mine. From the Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremonies, to the uniforms and warm-up/cool down clothes of the athletes — it’s interesting to see how countries represent themselves on clothing. In my opinion there have been several standout examples so far. The red and yellow dragon theme designs… the wild prints that several countries have used… sparkles… graphic elements, etc.

Then there are the various Olympic arenas. Personally, I don’t care for the color of the gymnastics arena or the volleyball courts, but I’m sure those selections made sense to somebody on some level.

And what about the logos? The block-y looking “2012” that I was unable to decipher until I asked my husband what it meant… NBC’s “London” logo that it shows during broadcasts… the font chosen to say “London 2012” at many of the event arenas…? Oh, and don’t forget the beauty and simplicity of our most enduring symbol of the games… the Olympic Rings. Brilliant! Love it or hate it, people spent time imagining and then creating all of these things and more for the games. I’ve made this point before and I’ll make it again:

ART IS ALL AROUND US!

Even at the Olympic Games. As teachers, we can help our students see this. Even if you don’t feel comfortable teaching an “art lesson”, how about helping students see the simple fact that art is everywhere in their lives? Help them begin to think about the idea that someone, somewhere had to first imagine an idea in their mind before it could be made into a reality and then shared with the world. Imagine the critical thinking that has to happen as options are explored and decisions are made about — well, virtually everything! Imagine fostering that kind of thinking and creativity in your classroom. You can.

Don’t despair! If you find yourself in need of Professional Development this summer… all is not lost!

There’s still plenty of time to register and complete your course prior to the start of school. Click on Fresno Pacific University at the top of this page to find out more about the art courses I offer.  Once there, you can easily download syllabi, read comments, and check out “ratings” by other teachers who’ve taken my courses. You should also feel free to email me at JGomasFaison@gmail.com and ask me any specific questions you might have.

Once you’ve registered, your course materials are sent to you via email within a day or two so that you can begin immediately. You work at your own pace, and can finish your course in as few as three weeks, or take up to one full year — the choice is yours. As your instructor, I will review your work and respond to your questions in a timely fashion… no worries about waiting and waiting for a reply from me.

And the best part? Have some fun while you’re learning! My courses have been written and developed specifically for the teacher with little or no art background — so the stress factor is low!  🙂   Learn lots of easy and fun ways you can incorporate art into the curriculum you’re already teaching! Critical thinking and creativity are emphasized to help boost the academic performance of your students in all areas.

I hope to “see” you in class soon!

(Note: The photograph above highlights a technique taught in my course ART 902: The Magic of Paper.)

At long last — summer is here!

If school is finally out for you, I hope you are enjoying some well deserved rest and relaxation. Teaching is an incredibly demanding profession, and there’s nothing like spending some time doing things you enjoy to recharge your batteries. Look around you. Really see the beauty that this season has to offer. Maybe you’ll write some thoughts down in a journal or notebook… maybe you’ll take some photos… maybe you’ll even try drawing a little sketch or two of something you see in your environment.

Whatever you choose to do… really do it… completely. Savor it! Make relaxing and recharging yourself this summer into an art form.

P.S. And if you find yourself in need of some Professional Development credits, have fun earning them while taking one of my art classes offered through Fresno Pacific University. Learning from home on your schedule… what could be easier? Click on the link above to find out more.

A recent article in the February 2012 edition of Educational Leadership magazine — published by ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) — had me cheering and wanting to share! This article, entitled All Students Are Artists, by Linda Nathan, makes a wonderful case for the importance of including the arts in education — something I have known and felt for years — and she presents the facts to support her case.

One point that really grabbed my attention, was her discussion about how much of today’s educational system is focused on “doing well on the test”. Nathan says, “What if arts education, with its emphasis on process, could help us think about not being finished, instead of failing?” What a concept! Since art expressions come from within, there are rarely “right” answers, but rather “explorations” that cause students to think, question, and puzzle things out for themselves. (As opposed to math for example, where 2+2 always =4.)

As our world continues to grow, expand, and change in ways inconceivable only a few years ago, perhaps our expectations need to change as well. Can we embrace the fact that learning — in any subject area — is a process, and that what’s important is the desire to learn, accepting that all students will not “arrive” at the same time? In fact, what if there wasn’t a “learning destination” at all, but rather a continuum of curiosity and a thirst for learning that lasted our entire lives? This doesn’t mean that there are no educational standards. On the contrary, as an art teacher, I continually push my students to higher levels of learning, making sure that everyone understands my expectations of hard work, patience, and practice. I fully expect that everyone will work to the best of their own abilities — pushing themselves to meet the objectives set before them. What I don’t expect is that everyone will be able to meet those objectives at the very same time. Making measurable progress toward the objectives? Certainly. Meeting them all on the same day at the same time — as with standardized testing? Not necessarily.

As Nathan puts it, “Students crave opportunities to figure things out — things that matter.” Including meaningful art experiences in the classroom curriculum can inspire this type of meaningful engagement with school and with learning, which in turn will have far-reaching effects on the students and their lives beyond their involvement in the arts.

To learn more about this article and Educational Leadership, go to ascd.org

To learn more about my Professional Development art courses, click on Courses for Credit, or Fresno Pacific University at the top of this page.