Friday, November 29, 2013

The Wrong Rabbit Hole

With the Thanksgiving holiday break and the fact that I have an almost six month old who isn't too keen on letting Mama sleep at night, I've had a lot of time to think about the state of education right now.  I'd like to start by saying these are my OPINIONS, so take 'em or leave 'em. Now, that being said, I've been a mama for 18 years this January (when my oldest turns 18),a teacher for 14-almost-15 (start my 15th year teaching this January) and so I'm not new to the game. 
It's not that I have a problem with The Common Core.  I don't really even understand it all (or really even kinda) right now.  The thing I have a problem with is all this testing.  REALLY? Is this what we want to do to children?  Pre-test, post-test, summative test, formative test, state test, DRA, DSA.  WHY?  I see the love for learning being ground out of their little souls with each test pummeling them.  It's being ground out by the heel of a test-writer's boot.  And then rubbed further into the dirt just for extra spite. I thought our goal was to help mold productive, responsible, respectful, independent, hard-working, honest human beings, not test-taking robots.  If I hear one more word about "data" I may seriously lose my mind. 
You know who I strive to be?  I strive to be more like the amazing art teachers I see at every conference from across my state.  I want to be more like Keeli Singer and Mary Franco and Sharon Williams.  I want to be like them: teachers who've been around the block and still show up with passion for what they do.  They strive to be better, to push their students harder, they bring new things to the table all the time. Every. Single. Day.  It's easy to have passion when you're new and you don't know any better.  You don't know the struggles with curriculum and grade cards and parent contacts and burnout.  It's hard to keep passion when you're pushed underwater with assessments and evaluations and adminstration.
I'm a long-range person.  A "what's your plan?" person.  I don't understand this plan.  I don't know where this ship is sailing.  I thought we wanted to educate children to THINK and ANALYZE and BE CREATIVE.  But this isn't the ship I'm currently sailing on. Pre-testing five-, six-, ten-year-old children to see what they don't know about something they've never heard about so then you can teach them and test them again isn't progressive.  It's the definition of insanity.  ENOUGH ALREADY.  Where do I get off this train and find the one that I agree with?  I feel badly for my current students, and terrible for my future ones if this is what we have to offer them in American education today.
And I can hear it, from the fresh out of college education major or the politician or the grandparent "She just needs to find another job, this one isn't for her!" But you know what?  I love school.  I love the smell of it, the pace of it, the organization--there's KIDS THERE, EVERY DAY, and there's really no place I'd rather be day-to-day.  And I can jump through some hoops, I really can, but WHY?! Who is this benefiting?  It just seems like a weird experiment gone wrong.  Test-taking is not a 21st century skill.  It's not "outside the box" or "tech savy".  It's just wrong for children, developmentally and educationally and I don't want to be a part of it.  I just want to say NO to testing.  No more.  We've had enough, so NO THANK YOU.  I can't whine about it and drag my feet.  I have to Al-Sharpton-stand-up-and-shout-it-refuse-to-do-it. Let's start a counter-movement, art teachers UNITE (we need superhero costumes, complete with masks and capes, and they'd be COOL, goshdarnit, because we're ART TEACHERS) and just say NO and do what's RIGHT FOR CHILDREN.  I want them to love learning and be life-long-learners for their WHOLE lives, not just until all the tests have worn them down and they get out of school and get to breathe and say "wow, all those tests really sucked, I'm done with that learnin' crap." So let's do what Nancy Reagan advised and JUST SAY NO.  In an art-teacher-made superhero mask & cape or with James Brown hair, a track suit and a medallion, let's turn the tide to the side of children and thinking and real learning.  
Consider this your call to arms.
Share/pin/hell, copy & paste this entire post if you must, but let's get the word out.  Let's not ignore the direction we're sailing in any more.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Everybody Clap Your Hands CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAP

There's always applause in adaptive art class! I team teach adaptive with the other art teacher in my building four days a week (every day but our late start/teacher collaboration day).  I've explained this before, but it bears repeating: the elementary school where I teach is a large one (around 1000 students).  We have two of everything except the cafeteria (two libraries, two gyms, two music classrooms and two art rooms). It's a HUGE advantage to have two art teachers. Last year, adaptive art met in my room.  This year, I've got an almost-six-month-old baby boy and I'm pumping 2x a day (oh the drudgery, but that's a whole different topic) so it's not really conducive to my usually-early adaptive students.  Thus, this year, adaptive art meets in the other teacher's art room.  I thought I'd use this post to share some of our adaptive art projects from this year:

These are paper quilts that the other art teacher was doing with her fifth graders and we (well, mostly her, because when they're meeting in your room you tend to do more of the planning, just how it's worked out for us these past two years) decided to do.  They spend a day painting with tempera blocks, then traced a diamond shape and cut them out, then folded a 12 x 12 construction paper in fourths and glued their diamonds to the middle making a star shape, then used Sharpie to do their "stitching".  They'll be displayed taped together as one large quilt (we have 19-20 adaptive students total, but they're split into three groups for art/music/pe).

And some painted name designs:

For these, they painted a letter at a time and then rubbed to transfer.  With our middle-abilities and intense needs group, we wrote their name out in pencil and they just traced over that with paint.

This past couple of weeks, we spent a day being a paper painting "factory" with sponge rollers to make interesting paper:

And then we made these awesome robots with our paper we made, some paper and foil paper scraps, marker and pipe cleaners:

LOVE the robots! They've got SO MUCH PERSONALITY.  Every single one is different, and it really worked their cutting and gluing skills.
I do enjoy teaching adaptive--they're enthusiastic and what they need is practice on skills, not a lot of background or history.  And it's time I see other adults (the other art teacher, paras) which I usually don't see due to my aforementioned pumping life ;-)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More Pollock, More Thiebaud and Some Tinwork Too

My other fifth grade class finished their Jackson Pollock paintings and their Wayne Thiebaud cupcakes this week:

I did this class on black paper to make it easier to return them to the right classroom.  Here's a display shot (they're across from each other):

Students and staff alike have commented on how much they like them.  
Here's some of this second group's cupcakes, too:

So sculptural!

A moustache AND a sticking out tongue?!

I don't really know what the artist was thinking,
but I'm lovin' the floating ring-type things.

The white dripping down is supposed to
remind the viewer of wax.

She's every bit the perfectionist she would appear to be
from the making of this cupcake.
And a few shots of them in the [now crowded] display case:

Fourth grade is working on a Mexican Crafts unit, so we took some notes:

And then made some tinwork frames out of 5" x 5" 38 gauge metal (used for tooling).  A couple of years ago I figured out it was much easier to press in the designs with a piece of folded felt underneath.  

We "X" where our photograph is going to go.

Sorry about the glare, they're IMPOSSIBLE to
photograph glare-free.

The color is just permanent marker.  After all our coloring is done, we use a paper clip (open) to rip through our X and fold back:

Front view after it's been folded back.

Back view
This is my completed example, complete with adorable picture of my stepson when he was in first grade (he's a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR NOW, HOW did that happen so fast?!):
Not the greatest photo,
but you get the idea.
I love to do this Mexican crafts unit right before Christmas so they can give them as gifts if they want, because they're so darn cute.

Monday, November 18, 2013

First Grade is Going to the Birds

I didn't really realize how many birds lessons I do until this year.  First grade started out making Strange Birds, and we finished our owls a few weeks ago, and now we're finishing primary and secondary-painted parrots.

We started out with a Smart Notebook lesson, a really basic one.  To get the parrots smart notebook file, click here.  The same day we did our Smart Notebook activity, we painted our primary colored parrots.  

I led them through this, painting on the board while they painted at their tables.  We all started by painting a black dot (to be the eye) and then painted the beak (also with black).  Students then chose a primary color (we were using regular tempera for this)to paint their head and neck (we made a circle around our eye, and filled it in, leaving white around the eye).

They then chose a different primary color to put near the eye and on the chest.  The final primary color was the body and tail feathers. I really worked with them on CLEANING THEIR BRUSHES between colors.  I've been working with the younger grades on this a LOT in the last several years.  Mostly just for my own sanity, and so that maybe someday I won't hear "All the colors are mixed!" or "He's mixing all the colors!" while someone is gleefully mixing everything to yucky brown.

After the parrots were done, they left the last color on their brush (not rinsing) and painted the tips of their non-dominant hand.  Then rinsed their brushes, blotted them dry and painted another bit of their fingers (but not their thumb) another primary color.  Another rinse and blot of the paint brush, and they painted the rest of their fingers (where it meets the palm of their hand) and their hand the final primary color. [Although I'm looking at the above photographs and they didn't do the greatest job painting the palms of their hands.]  The painting of the hands had to be done quickly so they could print their hand twice before the paint dried.  

The next time they came to art, we painted parrots again (step-by-step) using secondary colors:

When they returned to art the third time, we looked at the final page of the Smart Notebook file, to really look at some jungles.  And we talked about them--how we saw so much green, how many trees and vines and leaves there are.  i should've probably used the word lush with them.  It's such a great word.
I showed them how to accordian fold paper to make trees, and then they worked on their own, making jungles for their parrots to live in:

Trees without leaves or vines yet.

Love the vines on this one!

At the end of that class period, we began cutting out and gluing on our parrots.  We cut out our handprint wings separately and then glued them so they were flappy.  The final time they came, we finished up any cutting and gluing we needed to do and added a When-I-did-this-project-I-learned strip.  We brainstormed a list and wrote them on the Smartboard.  Students could write their own or copy one from the list. My first class of first graders finished, and this is what they look like hanging in the hall:

I also always post an explanation/learning targets/student objectives by the work, so people know the What What:

I really like these in the hall, it's a little bit of the tropics for us here in the midwest in November.
And later on this year, we'll even make Peacocks, so the bird theme will continue!
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