Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nothing Like Some Last Minute Panic Setting In

There's so much to keep up with! I knew I'd switched half the elementary schools to the fall show date at our central office as the other group had done the fall date for years.  I knew it was coming.  I knew I was supposed to fill half the display case, but for some reason September 20th seemed so far off.  
But it's not, it's tomorrow and I had NOTHING for the display case as of 8:30 am this morning, September 19th.
In true professional art teacher fashion, I ditched my plans for sixth grade (finish binding their sketchbooks and start their t-shirt designs) and had them make paper sculptures (working alone or with a friend or two).  I had some leftover foam core pieces for the bases, and they had 35 minutes to work.
Here's a few of what they created:

Dinosaur by a student who literally started at our school last week.

Sponge Bob's house by a student who spent her recess finishing it all up.

Some sitting on my [newly-cleaned-this-year counter top] to dry.

A collaborative rainbow.
Now they only need to dry for delivery to central office tomorrow afternoon.
Friday this class will be back to their regular plans, but they really helped pull off a miracle for me today!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Poster Outside My Door This Year

Every year I do a different poster outside my classroom door to welcome students to my class/be interactive/let students know more about me and my family.  You can read about previous posters here, or here.  The 2015/16 poster went over really well because it was interactive, so I went back to that buffet and made a spinner for this year's poster:

The top says "Mrs. Fresia likes to begin with the end in mind.  She uses Habit 2 when she. . . " 

It's our third (?) year as a Leader In Me school, so our students are working to live the seven habits.  I wanted them to see it as it relates to real life (thus this year's poster).

The spinner choices are:

  • plans activities with her family
  • makes dinner 
  • plans and grows her garden
  • makes artwork
  • develops art lessons for YOU

The spinner arrow is cut out of foam core.  For the spinning parts,  I pretty much wandered the hardware section of my local Westlake Hardware and found flat-head screws, washers and the end piece that I thought would work (I think I spent 53 cents total).

I (of course) had the photos developed super last minute and the colors are horrific, friends.  I kind of doubt elementary students are going to remember that the colors of the turkey-and-stuffing-dinner-that-my-husband-actually-made-and-not-me are way off, so I just went with it. The mirror is one of those breakable locker types that I found in my basement from my oldest daughter's seventh grade locker (she's 21, don't judge my hoarding-ness).

It's been a fun poster for students--there's lots of spinning as they walk by my room. It's always interesting to watch the students who won't touch it and then ask incredulously, we can touch that?!  The edges of the arrow are getting a bit frayed, so I may have to add some tape, but this poster is a winner winner!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Teacher Life Without The Network

We've been back to school for about two weeks now.  I decided to change things up with my fourth grades and start the year with Ancient Crete and Greece.  I made a Smart Notebook presentation with all these little video clips, and kind of stumbled through it with my first group (it felt kind of disjointed or something?).  I was really hitting my stride with my introductions with the second group. . . and then the network went down.  Which meant no internet.  No showing video clips or external links.  My whole introduction was ruined!  Right in front of the class! So, I decided to act out the links.  Like some weird improv, I danced and galloped and did lots of jazz hands.  And sweated.  Lots.  Did they get the information??? I sure hope so.  
And the network stayed down.  For two days.  Goodbye video'd demonstrations loaded onto an external site for sixth grade, hello demonstrating over and over.  
A class would come in and I'd start with whatever was planned and then realize 'I can't show that/do that.'  It was like someone had cut off an arm or something.  
But somehow we survived.  The internet connection was restored and we kept on keepin' on.
I'm not AT ALL saying the Greece Smart Notebook lesson is a great one (at this point I'm not even sure it's good), but if you're interested, let me know and I'll drop it in my Smart Notebook files for you to use.  And maybe your internet will work, all day.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Glue, Glue, Glue, What To Do?

Alternative titles for this post include "Glue, The PITA For Every Art Teacher" or "Ways To Make Glue More Interesting That Don't Involve Sniffing".  But neither felt very professional (hmmmm, I wonder why?)
Disclaimer: this is not my original idea.  I saw it somewhere, on some blog and I can't find the original poster to adequately credit them (so if it's you, or you know where the original post is, let me know and I will link it to this post).
As I said in my last post, I've been at this gig of elementary art teaching for a while, and glue--uuuuuggghhhhhh.  I've always kept glue bottles separate from table boxes in my room to minimize the mess (they just don't close them!), but lately the build-up of hard dried glue has caused some cuts, and I felt like they really weren't learning how to adequately use/care for glue bottles. (GRAVITY affects glue, children! Just wait, and glue will come out.)
So, in my purge/cleaning fest, I made sure I had one low shelf (low enough for kindergarten to reach easily) empty to carry out this upside down glue idea:

A co-worker had the baking sheets, and I covered them with Contact paper and used Command velcro-like strips to attach them.  The glue bottles have magnets E6000 glued to them.  

I bought two different types of magnets, the craft kind that come 50+ in a package, and some super-strong ones that I found by the Command hooks.  I actually liked the craft kind (that I glued two per glue bottle) more that the bigger ones, which was surprising.

Sorry, my continuing inability to turn photos
means you'll have to turn your head like a
German Shepard trying to figure something out.

Viola! 'This is going to be awesome,' I thought, 'Glue will always be near the tip, ready to come out, the bottles will have to be closed so they won't drip!'  Until I came in the next day and the weight of the glue bottles pulled a corner of the baking sheet down AND whenever you try to put the bottles back up your hand knocks about half of them down.  
Back to the drawing board. 
In that trying-to-go-to-sleep time (when I get most of my ideas, honestly), I thought cupcake pans would work--but the glue bottles are too wide.  My backup idea was bread pans, but I didn't have enough.  So the next day, after a seven hour meeting (great idea the day before school starts), I began hunting for new (so I wouldn't have to clean grease off to get them to stick) cheap ('cause I've got two children of my own to buy school supplies for) bread pans.  At Walmart I found these for 88 cents a piece:

I also bought more of those Command velcro-hook-thingys:

It worked out that three pans hang over each baking sheet, and each bread pan can hold 6-9 glue bottles comfortably.  I've talked to most of my classes about it, and the ones who've seen them are super-duper excited to use upside down glue.

We're going to give it the old college try, this upside down glue idea.  I'll update later in the year.  

Happy first days/weeks everyone! The whirlwind has begun!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I'm Going To Be A Realist Now

Here it is, year 18.  EIGHTEEN! I can't really believe it.  It's my 11th year in my current classroom and you know what? It's TIME, friends, time for a major clean out.  I don't know why, but I've been big time in the purge mood lately.  All summer I've been pitching and donating all around my house, so it's not very surprising that it carried over to my classroom. 
Here's a short list of things I've found in the recesses of my tiny little room: 

  • a clear tub, with lid, full of rusty nails, bits of rusty metal and those old-time all metal kid scissors that don't cut anything (but do cut into your thumb when you attempt to cut anything at all)

  • a crayon box, with 7 or 8 black and one blue crayon that looked to be from about 1962 (wish I had a photo, but I gave it to a colleague)
  • enough random paper to fill two boxes (I'm donating it to our before/after school program)
  • two American flags and one state flag--neatly rolled and in a random cabinet
  • six small paint cans of Sherwin Williams interior paint in different colors
  • soooooo many marker sets, found in the back corner of a cabinet that has no shelving--also being donated to the before/after school program
  • a box, commercially labeled "super absorbent washcloths" [I got so excited!] but turned out to be tiny little bottles of tempera paint.  DONATE!
  • a FULL box of dot matrix printer paper (yes, you read that right)
  • about a thousand plastic store bags shoved into any available spot
  • crayons, crayons, crayons--neon, construction, FX, glitter. . . in 3-4 different areas of the room.  Interesting, because I could never seem to find them when I needed them.
  • enough cottage cheese lids for circle tracing for all 500 of my students to each have their very own
  • a very dusty pan thing with electric cord and lid that I think is for melting something like wax.  I couldn't bring myself to pitch it (I don't even know if it works) so I moved it from one side of the room to the other.
  • the usual collection of random pink markers, Sharpies and erasers that students throw or shove into random places--each one dusty
I'm a slow learner, so it's finally dawned on me that if I haven't used it in 10 years, it probably just needs to go. Here's [part of] the pile I donated to our before/after school program:

My room seems so much cleaner! But after living with it for a week or so I keep feeling like things are missing when I see the corner of the cabinet that I've never seen before in all these years.
Then I look in my neatly arranged cabinet, and all feels right with the world:

Lesson planning will work out, right?  I've done this long enough [maybe] to be ready even though I feel like I'm not, right?!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trying to Motivate Sixth Grade

Sixth grade gets some SERIOUS "senior-itis" by this time of the year. They're really too cool for school and getting them excited (particularly when you see them at the very end of the day like I do) is feels nearly impossible.  
I'd decided at the end of last year to do some silk screen printing with my sixth graders to make class t-shirts, and then so much came up that we're just now getting to it at the last two weeks of school (nothing like cutting it close). Due to traveling to another school at the end of the day, I only have two sections of sixth graders this year.  I ordered two ready-made silk screens through Nasco, along with a squeegee and four colors of fabric printing ink.  The photo emulsion I already had at home, mixed and ready to go in my refrigerator (doesn't everyone???).
Technology is not my forte, and when I tried getting them to use their chromebooks to make t-shirt designs on their own time, I didn't have much luck.  I sent out a cry for help to one of our tech people, and she came to the rescue by helping me "team teach" the computer/tech part (ie, she taught it, I wandered the room helping/kind of struggling along with my students).  She also set up a voting link through Schoology (that I might want to tweak before next time, because it seemed like they only voted along friend lines. . . ) but anyway, all that part is done, votes were tallied (I made some executive decisions when ties were discovered). 
Today will be our first day/class printing.  Students were expected to bring their own t-shirts from home, and to watch the videos I dropped into Schoology yesterday BEFORE they come to art.  Here's the test print video I made for them:

I am truly excited to share the joy of silk screen printing with my classes, and I hope they like it too.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sweet Little Flower Paintings

I wrote about this lesson three years ago, and it's pretty much a late April/early May "must do" lesson in my class.  They're just ADORABLE:

My kinders are great with scissors again this year, so we used our extra time to make some adorable cards.  We had a lengthy discussion about where to hide these glorious paintings to surprise our moms on Mother's Day (lots of talk of "my sister's closet" came up here).  My own daughter is in kindergarten this year, and I heard a bit of conversation with Mr. One Happy Art Teacher about where she was going to hide it when she got home.  Even though I saw all these paintings and cards in art, I'm betting I'll be teary come Sunday.  
Nothing better than children's thoughtful, heartfelt art!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

R. E. S. P. E. C. T.

Oh, friends.  The end of the year is near, and we're all feeling the siren call of summer.  I've seen so many vents/worries/comments lately about an overall feeling of no respect for what we do.  Questions about "is it my age?" "Is this just the way it is?"  I'm not even going to pretend to have the answers, but I've been doing this for a while, in a couple of districts, in four or five (or more???) buildings and I sometimes feel the burn of does-anyone-value-what-I'm-doing-here along with [some of] the rest of you.  Especially when the higher-ups decide that art/music/PE will be starting at a early school and ending a late school and adults ask "Leaving so soon?" when you're rushing out of the building to get to the second (late) building.  I hear you.  I feel you.
But let's take a step back for a minute and realize that ALL teachers and ALL administrators that I know are BUSY, and it's hard to see the forest for the trees when we're all running as fast as we can.  You know what's helped me?  Conversation.  Dialogue. Calmly asking "why is this so?"  "Has anyone thought this through?" And then really listening to the reply.  
[Full disclosure, this next one is hard for me, and I usually need to think on it for a day or two before I can really do it.] Calmly, respectfully laying out the [very real] concerns about the issue (scheduling, supplies/lack of supplies, admin support, things like that) and then giving the other party/person time to think it over (overlook the initial reaction if they're not calm at the time). And take some (sometimes very small) comfort in the knowledge that you tried.  You did something other than just complain and lose sleep over it.
Here's the reality: you need a supportive spouse/parent/friend that you can cry to.  I mean really cry--tears streaming down your face at 11 pm over the disaster you know awaits you the next day.  You have to have that person.  I don't know how you'd survive if you didn't.  But they can't fix it for you.  You have to calmly bring it to someone's attention.  Someone who can [maybe] do something, or maybe just bring it up to the higher-ups. Don't expect someone else to realize your reality (they won't).  Really ask yourself "is this good for students?" and if it's not, something needs to change.
I agree that we're all "doing this for students" but you're important too.  You add value to your building.  Just by being you.
If you don't have your personal cheerleader/supportive spouse/friend, go find them.  Or email me.  I'm all about 'cha.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Last Kiln Firing Of The Year

It seems like every year I feel like the school year is going on and on and then suddenly TIME'S UP.  While I didn't wait until the very last minute to get all the clay projects done, (looking at you, 2016), I did feel a twinge of worry about getting it all done in time.  I've learned that my [older, but still working] kiln does much better (and fires faster) when it's FULL, so I filled it:

Top three shelves were second grade bells (simply a pinch pot, turned upside down with animal features added and two holes poked through to add a small sphere that you can see grouped in the middle).

Then there was one shelf of glaze-fired tiles from a Mayco workshop I attended at conference (and I told two others who live near me I'd fire theirs).  We used stencils and some different glazes--it's very similar to this lesson I found on the Mayco lesson plans site.  I am thinking of doing a parent/child fundraiser next year with something similar (and maybe if I write it here I'll actually remember to do it!)

We used some silk-screens and I missed part of my "L"

. . . but Heather didn't!

And then the bottom shelf was the sixth grade tiny painted houses (African tribe inspired):

They're even more luscious now!

I did have six (!) students who didn't want theirs, so I totally snagged them and have them displayed behind my desk because they're AWESOME and I LOVE THEM.
Second graders (of course) knew that their bells were amazing, and they did an equally amazing job painting them:

Action shot!

We use tempera block paint for it's fast drying time
and then add a layer of gloss medium for permanency and shine.

You can kind of see the cotton string here that I use to tie the bell part in.
I use cotton twine so they can paint it.
I prepare the bells (tie the little sphere in) before students arrive.

Whew!  I'm tired.  Good thing summer is only 16 school days away!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Some Things That Are Working (And A Few Things That Aren't)

Mid way through this school year, some clay issues popped up.  Art teachers is several buildings were having issues with clay projects cracking completely in two as they dried, the clay texture straight out of the bag was odd. . .Our clay supplier had switched clay suppliers, and an [almost] emergency professional development session was held to try and fix the clay issues.  In that PD session, the clay guru guy said "you should never be drying clay completely uncovered." Um, great, except my room is tiny??? And I see nearly 500 students in that room??? His suggestion was this movable/on wheels clay cart with fancy plastic sheeting.  Great, except soopa expensive! 
Here was my solution:

Ta DA! It's an old library cart, shelves covered with newspaper, with a plastic table cloth draped over.  Works perfectly.  And after all of that, it turned out that the clay teachers were having trouble with got frozen somewhere along the way.

Also working, keeping water ready to go for painting at one end of the sink at all times:

Love my square/nearly un-tippable cups!
"Cause ain't no one got time for filling water cups while passing out brushes and paint!

Suddenly NOT WORKING this year, my pencil sharpeners on yarn:

Note that four out of five are missing!
Ultra low-tech (as in none) and totally working, my reminder sign for my kiln:

Why, yes, that IS a kiln cage right there in the corner of my classroom!
Thanks so much for asking!
I use a dry erase marker and write the time I need to turn it up, because A) I have a manual kiln and B) I've been known to totally forget and run it on low fore many more hours than I need/want to.

Also working this year, new signage for the paper cutter:

I sat in a student chair before the year began this year to re-evaluate
signs I needed students to see.  This one was added.

This sign has always been ON the paper cutter but is a bit above kid-height.
Not working well this year:

Fifth grade Gustav Klimt project

It's SO HARD to scratch!  I really think it's because it's been in my cabinet for a while and it's along an un-insulated wall, so it's got hot/cold for several years.  Super frustrating!
Well, I'm sure there are more things working/not working around here (me, some days!) and I like to re-evaluate at this time of the year.  You know, AFTER the art show (moving it to early March is my favorite thing we ever did!) when I have a chance to think again.
Happy art teaching, friends, the end is in sight!
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