Monday, December 11, 2017

Where Have I Been All This Time?

I keep deciding to blog, what to blog . . . but I'm so busy.  I've had more to prepare for my classes lately, more knitting/crocheting to do for my yarn bombing, I'm trying to finish a quilt I started 16 years ago (because it seems so important to finish it right now, this second).
So what are my students up to?  Sixth grade finished some cityscapes and are working on a new project inspired by this artist, fifth grade is starting some printmaking  Andy Warhol inspired soup cans, fourth grade is working on Thomas Hart Benton style murals, third grade is working on radial symmetry,

second grade is busy making the calendars I tend to do every year, first grade just started these amazing chalk-and-paint insects, 

(we still have details to add) and kindergarten is trying to finish up some Wild Things.
I'm frantically trying to keep a healthy work/home balance (who does that well? Unicorns? Because everyone I know is always trying to do it better).
So I guess all this to say, I'm still around.  Still teaching, just not blogging as much as I probably should.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

About That Yarn Bombing. . .

A few weeks ago I wrote about being inspired to do a yarn bombing after seeing what happened at fall conference.  I kind of wonder what I was thinking, because I thought I'd be able to go home and get it all done.  Um, knitting enough to cover a tree takes a while???? And crochet may be faster if you know how to crochet (which I did not). I also didn't have that much actual yarn at home, so it's a work in progress:

The upper branch zig-zag piece was a donation from someone's relative.
A chain-smoking relative, so it never made it out of the box,
PERFECT for outdoor art.

Note the crochet circles--they all look like the cups of bras,
because I was in the learning-to-crochet-from-YouTube stage,
many mistakes are/were made.

Obviously, it's still a work in progress!

I've learned so much.  For example, there needs to be some cohesiveness in color or form or something to make it look intentional, and not like you're just some loon knitting a tree.  The loon label may still be up for debate (about me) with my neighbors.  Also, to keep momentum going, you must have something to knit or crochet with you at all times:

In my purse at all times for long lines and church.
(I tell myself I listen better while my hands are busy)
The plan (for now) is to add more crochet'd circles and another knitted scarf-like piece or two around the trunk.  It really does add some cheer to my street on gray days (and we've had a lot lately!). I'm hoping for lots of knitting time this winter [read: snow days].  And because I blogged about it to the entire internet, maybe I'll feel some pressure to get it all covered.  Either way, look for an update in a few weeks, months, years.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Nightmare! Then, Not So Much

Have you seen that project that has students making ancient-Greek-style vases out of paper and then putting them on paper columns?  I don't remember where I saw it, but I thought it would be fun and easy for my students (HA!)
The first class to make the columns STRUGGLED, it was awful.  I needed octopus arms to help them all, and I, unfortunately, don't have octopus arms.
Here's what the first group's looked like after the first day:

Note the randomness and how most are unfolded/unglued.
Obviously, that wasn't working, so I made a how to video for the folding part:

It was easier with the remaining two groups, but still challenging.  Here's a comparison to the first students (these students had the benefit of the video):

I think everyone but one student got theirs folded and glued.
For the vase part, students designed their own (folded the paper, drew and cut them out).  They did their design with pencil, traced with ultra-fine Sharpie and used colored pencils:

I do like the contrast of the dark blue with tan better than the gray on light blue. But after all we went through to get them done, I don't know that this is an every year sort of project.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

An Update on Money and Glue

Fourth grade ancient coins, done and painted!

They're ah-mazing! The sound they make is so satisfying and old-coin-y.  That's the official term (I know because I just made it up). I wrote about our first steps to this project earlier this year.  After firing, we used metallic tempera block paint to paint them, and acrylic gloss medium (plain and platinum for extra sparkle) to seal them.

My fourth graders worked hard to get them painted and sealed in one forty minute class period.  We laid them out on my back table to dry, and they dried enough for them to take them home the same day (I have fourth grade in the morning, and I delivered them to their class at the end of the day).

And now a glue update.  Guys, upside down glue is AMAZING.  I'm never going back! Some unexpected bonuses: it's very easy to see when glues need to be filled, and it's relieved some of my heavy sighing about filling all glue bottles at once (because I can just quickly look and fill the 3 or 4 that need filling).  Students are really into checking to make sure glues are closed, taking better care of the nozzles and bottles.  I have almost no one telling me glues are empty when really they just need to be opened.  I have had to re-glue some magnets a few times, but not often.  Life changing, this upside down glue!

Monday, October 23, 2017

About Me Books To Share At Parent Teacher Conferences

I started fifth grade off a little differently this year, which was both good and bad.  Good because it made me think about each step along the way more than usual.  Bad because later I went to grab their sketchbooks and realized we never started them (I hadn't even copied them).  But it's all working out.
We started the first art class with some brainstorming about themselves.  What do they like? What questions (about anything) do they have?  What are their goals.  Then each student got a piece of 12 x 12" white  paper that we folded into fourths. They drew some things like right now in two squares diagonal from each other, and free painted in the other two squares:

The next page in this project was their names, drawn block style, and colored with neon crayons (again, the 12 x 12 paper was folded into fourths):

The two squares are intentionally left blank.

The final page was a 12 x 12 piece of construction paper we collaged with goals for our future.  One fourth was for home goals, one for goals with friends/relationships, one for goals for school/academic, and the final one was personal goals. About half way through I was really wishing I had a broader selection of magazines, because the going got rough there for a while finding images that fit student goals.

Close up of some school goals.
The final step was to glue the three pages together and fold along the diagonal.

The first and last pages were folded artwork sides out, the middle was folded blank/back side showing:

Name side folded in. You can see the backwards fold line
in this photo for the first page.

So at the end it's a neat little 6 x 6 bundle, and we added a cover with marker.  Here's a video of it unfolding (thanks to a co-teacher for being the model):

I did give them to the fifth grade teachers to hand back during parent teacher conferences because I couldn't figure out a good way to display them. My goal was for them to have a little snapshot of themselves as fifth graders for their future (and also to get them thinking about their future goals, Leader in Me style).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Friday the 13th Art Teacher PD

Last Friday all of our district art teachers were given the wonderful opportunity to visit the Thomas Hart Benton Home in Kansas City.  Friends, it was amazing and awesome and smells like old books in there.  This was not my first visit, so I just enjoyed the experience rather than taking pictures (because I took them on my first visit and it's a museum--so duh, nothing changes).  I was sure I'd blogged about it before, but I can't find it (maybe it's time to organize my blog a little better???).   I also looked for all my photos on my work computer, my camera and my phone and couldn't find them (I'll look for them on my home computer later, and I pinky promise if I find them I'll add them).  Until then, some Benton facts, in no particular order: Thomas Hart Benton was born in 1889 in Neosho, MO.  He was married to Rita, and they had two children (their daughter is still living).  Benton was only 5'2 3/4" (there's a life size cut out of him on the walkway to his house). They were able to pay cash (!) for their beautiful home from his earnings painting murals ($6000 in I think 1939).  He taught painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.  One of his students is non other than Jackson Pollock.  Benton had a reputation as a hard drinker, but in reality, every drink (bourbon and water) was cut with more and more water each time to give the impression he was drinking you under the table.  He started painting most days at 6am. He died in 1975 of a massive heart attack in his studio before signing his last painting.  
If you're in the KC metro area, consider a visit to the Thomas Hart Benton Home.  You can learn more about it here.  The staff was so easy to work with and were so generous with their time.  All 19 of us (elementary art teachers from my district) were impressed with the knowledge and enthusiasm of our tour guide.

All of us outside Benton's home and studio.
Selfie with the man himself.
And I photobombed one of our newest teachers
(you're so welcome, Mia!)

 I found this quote from Benton that I added to the bottom of our agenda for our day:
"The artist's life is the best life... if you can get through the first forty years." 
Gives me some hope for a full-time art career of my own someday.
Now you can go sniff some old books to feel like you were there!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Are You A Member Of Your State Art Organization?

I (maybe wrongly?) assume that if you're the type to be reading art teacher blogs, then you're probably pretty aware of and involved with your state art education organization.  If you're not a member, you should be.  If you haven't gone to events, you totally should! Just that time around all those like-minded people is worth it's weight in gold.
My state (Missouri) has two conferences a year: fall, at a state park, and spring, in a city (it rotates to various parts of our state).  Fall conference was last weekend, and here are just some photos of some of the workshops:

Some yarn bombing.  Inspired me to yarn-bomb the tree in my front yard.

A lesson from our Drag 'N Brag, which is at night
and in the rec hall, where the light is terrible.

Stitched portrait from a Drag'N Brag session

Getting ready for some printmaking luscious-ness

I also attended a session on automatas, and here are some videos from that session.  The first one is one of the presenter's student work.  The second one is Mr. Hodes, of previous-student-teacher fame if you're a regular reader of my blog.

My automata is currently under construction, because I made it way way complicated, so it's taking me a while to figure it out.
I do understand that your weekends are precious and you might not want to be away from your family, but trust me, it's so very worth it.  You'll meet other amazing art teachers, you'll have this whole network of people to call on.  You can use it to your advantage when a new-to-your-school student mentions where they came from and you just might know their previous art teacher.  It helps, it works.  We all need vibrant communities of like-minded friends.  Your state art education association can be that for you.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Why Yes, We Are Making Money

My fourth graders are learning all about the Mycenaeans and the island of Crete right now (you can get my Smart Notebook lesson for this here, look for the one labeled Ancient Greece).  We watched Eyewitness Volcano (which is on YouTube and is AWESOME) and painted volcanoes and drew some Knossos-inspired mansions, and then we printed our own money.  Yep, some counterfeiting going on in fourth grade art!  We looked at coins from that era and watched the video of money being made in ancient times.  I then gave them a strip of poster board (approximately 2 x 6 inches or so) and small circles to trace.  Students used pencil to design their own coins.  They then traced it all with glue and I put it on top of my cabinets to dry completely flat.
Once every student in the class was done and their glue was completely dry, we used clay to press our coins:

Glue not being what it was when I started teaching 18 years ago, each student also had a skewer to add details that were unclear.  We also used our skewers to add our initials to the back of each coin (so we'd have a 'heads' and a 'tails').  Our coins are currently drying before going into the kiln (darn rain has made drying slow) and then we'll paint them with amazing metallic acrylic paint. Students always love using clay, so the making coins was a great success.  We'll see how painting goes!  They're so small, and I'm betting they're going to make a great sound--like real coin clinking.

Friday, September 29, 2017

All Those Student Art Magazines

I love the idea of student-level art magazines.  I loved Weekly Reader as a kid, and when I came to my current school eleven years ago the previous teacher had a couple year's subscription to Scholastic Art and something called Art & Man.  There were so many! I diligently organized them by artist/genre and found a place for them on my shelf.  And there they sat, gathering dust.  In my cleaning spree I gathered them up to donate to a new art teacher. 

And then I wavered.  Did I really want to donate all of them?  There were too many to fit in a box, so I went back through them and kept five of each.  Still the box was too heavy, so I pulled more out.  I made a smaller section for my five-of-each and put them back:

I decided to put my extras that didn't fit in the box in my magazines for collage:

And then I worried about that.  Is it okay to let students cut them up? What message does it send?  Is it somehow weirdly sacra-art-igous?  We're doing a collage in fifth grade right now (blog post coming on that soon) and my stomach dropped a little every time a student pulled one out to cut.  But the world kept turning, some students used them in awesome ways and I have a cleaner counter.  So that's good, right?  Then why do I still feel anxious about it?

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!
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