10 reasons why people say, “It’s just Art!”


  1. When students don’t want to finish a project.
  2. When students don’t want to make-up work.
  3. When other teachers pull students from your class to make-up their work.
  4. When the nurse calls students out of class for health/wellness testing.
  5. When the schedule is shortened and art is cancelled due to an assembly.
  6. When other teachers are complaining of how hard it is to grade 26 students and you casually mention that you have 400+ students not 26.
  7. When parents pull children early from school for an eye, doctor, or dentist appointment, a visit to grandma, or a vacation to Disney Land!
  8. When guidance counselors ask to meet with students during your class, “So they won’t miss anything.”
  9. When there is ANOTHER fire drill during the same art class.
  10. When a 2 hour delay, due to snow, makes the period 22 minutes in length as compared to the usual 41 and it’s the end of the grading period.

Does anyone ever tell you “It’s just Art!”  If so, tell me how you handle the situation.

Do you need to go to college to teach art?

A few years ago while I was speaking to a group of parents during open house a father raised his hand and asked me, “Do you need to go to college to teach art?”  To this day, I am still baffled by his question.   His daughter was a very talented young lady and really enjoyed my class.  Her father, a professional, was more interested in how she was performing in her academic areas but came to visit me at her urging.  He told me, “She likes to draw” neither realizing nor understanding the role of art or the art teacher in his daughter’s education.

Sometimes I am confronted with the realization that some people, colleagues included, do not value the art education.  Art is looked upon as an enjoyable outlet for students, coloring and drawing for fun.  This is difficult for someone like me to grasp since art and art teaching are my passion.  In my classroom students develop critical thinking skills, innovative thought processes and growth through problem solving.  Along with enjoying art and art-making they use their imaginations and develop creativity.   Isn’t that what a good education is all about?

In this particular instance the father didn’t place any educational value on art or art education. Therefore, he equated that same value to my education.

3 Ways to Provide Art Lessons for Home Bound Students

Home Computer Workstation

Home Computer Workstation (Photo credit: Mrs. Gemstone)

Students get ill. When children are sick they miss school.  How do you teach a student art when they are ill for an extended period of time?    Below are three easy ways to provide art lessons for home bound students?

  • Sketchbook/Journal; Print out prompts for students to glue into sketchbook.  Using any medium available having the student sketch and/or write responses for each prompt. The sketchbook can be turned in and assessed when the student returns to school.
  • Blog; Post prompts on a blog site.  Using a hand-held device the students will complete prompts weekly while they are absent.  Respond to the student and his responses in a timely manner.
  • On-Line Learning;  Make available any power points, Prezis, or You Tube videos that you are using with your lessons on the school district web site and/or blog.  Ask the student to complete the prompts in a word document which can be emailed to your school address.

Look at the approximate time frame that the student will be away from the classroom.  Using your curriculum map for reference develop 5 prompts for each week that the student will be absent.  Use those prompts in one of the above formats.  Schedule a specific day for completion of each prompt. By utilizing technology students can photograph work and submit for grading.

The objective is to make learning accessible for a homebound student and easy for you to assess.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks aka Blogging in the Classroom

Last year, my teaching partner suggested that we do a lesson using blogging.  She is young, I am not. Obviously I did not concur.  My reasons for not wanting to blog were based on scheduling the always busy computer lab for our students to use as well as my gross lack of knowledge.  Like anything else that is new, the fear of learning and maintaining a certain level of quality made me squirm.  She finally convinced me that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to blog with my students (her opinion) and we could work around the scheduling conflict.

So, since this was her idea, she developed a lesson on ATC’s (Artist Trading Cards) and we entered the blogging world.  The lesson was awesome, I knew the students would love doing ATC’s and we really strived to make it fun as well as interesting.  In retrospect it is one of our most successful choice based lessons.

Using the Kidblog site we uploaded the photos of the students’ ATC’s and gave them five prompts to use when they were blogging.  Five different ATC’s were published and students had to comment on three of them. After completing the assignment they could blog on any or all of the students within their classroom.  They had two rules to follow, use correct English and spelling and any criticism of artwork made had to be constructive.  All blogs by students had to be approved by the teacher in order to be published, leaving us in control of all comments.  The students loved blogging.  It was fun to look at other students work as well as comment on them.  They also liked having their own work posted.

From the reluctant teacher perspective I found this lesson to be very successful.  It was rewarding to see the students get excited about sharing their work and commenting in a non-threatening format.   The editing of work and the scheduling of the computer labs to publish work took more time than I would have liked but the benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks.  In the future I would just delete work that was not submitted properly rather than edit and now students are permitted to bring HHD into the classroom.

Now that I have become more familiar with blogging and understand the mechanics I cannot wait to blog again with my students.  I am anxiously brainstorming new lessons that will utilize blogging.  Students love using technology, by making blogging a part of the art room I feel that I am developing good writing and communication skills about art.  Also, my classroom has become more current.

It’s not a bad thing to teach old dogs new tricks.

Textural Weavings

Textural Weaving


  • distinguish between tactile and visual textures
  • create a woven textured wall hanging using burlap and raffia
  • use seeds and beans to create actual textural patterns

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: What is the difference between actual and visual texture? Show students a variety of different objects that have actual texture.  Have them touch the objects to identify how each one feels.  Then show them several different drawings or photos that show visual texture. Discuss how the artist creates a visual texture in each of the pieces.

Students will be given a 12 X 18 inch piece of burlap.  Discuss the difference between the warp and weft threads of the weaving.  Let the students spend some time removing weft threads from the burlap to create open areas.  Using raffia or colored yarn the students will weave color into the open areas. Students will glue patterns with seeds and beans onto the woven areas of the burlap creating an actual texture.


Swimming in the Wishpool

In my classroom I am constantly showing works of art or demonstrating with the use of a document camera and projector. It is sometimes a tricky endeavor seeing that I teach in a building of 50+ teachers and there are only 2 document cameras. After receiving an iPad as a birthday gift, it wasn’t long until I started to brainstorm different apps and ways to implement this hand held device in my art room. I knew that a document camera and projector were a must in order for the iPad lessons to be successful.

Around the beginning of the school year our district informed us that we were permitted to purchase document cameras with our budget monies. The search began for the highest quality document camera at the most reasonable price. After some discussion with colleagues, I discovered the IPEVO Point 2 View Document Camera. This 2 megapixel document camera is lightweight and easy to use. There are two focus modes as well as snapshot. For a mere $69 I had a highly portable document camera of my very own. http://www.ipevo.com/prods/Point-2-View-USB-Camera

Our district technology does not support Apple products so I knew I would not be able to purchase any type of device to link my iPad and camera with budgeted monies. So, the second search began for an inexpensive way to link the two. Returning to IPEVO I found the WS-01 Wireless Station for only $69. This as compared to the Apple TV for $99 proved to be a better value for my pocketbook. http://www.ipevo.com/prods/IPEVO-WS-01-Wireless-Station-for-iPad-and-USB-Document-Cameras

But, while perusing the IPEVO website I discovered the Wishpool. Wishpool is a program sponsored by IPEVO that wants to get technology into schools. Every month the Wishpool Team chooses a product to give away. It is easy to apply for a wish. Simply register with your school’s email address and write a brief paragraph telling Wishpool your story. The Wishpool Team will read the emails and award free technology to deserving schools. http://www.ipevo.com/wishpool

It just happens that the product being offered while exploring the IPEVO Wishpool was the Wireless Station I needed to purchase. I sent IPEVO a short paragraph stating my predicament of having to purchase my own wireless station. Within 24 hours my wish was granted, within 48 the wireless station was shipped to my school.

I now own the IPEVO document camera and IPEVO wireless router, downloaded the IPEVO Whiteboard app converting my iPad into a document camera /white board-all for a mere $69.

Thank you IPEVO!


Artists Pay a Visit to the Classroom

Every year for the past 9 years during the month of March, we invite 16 different artists to visit our school for a day. They range from watercolor painter, print maker, muralist, ceramicist, to dancer, actor, violinist, and once even a dulcimer player. The menu of artists is always changing and evolving, some people cannot return due to previous commitments, some move out of the area, and sometimes they just don’t work out. I remember one year inviting an opera singer that refused to sing!

Our Hillcrest Intermediate School Arts Festival was my brainchild. But, I cannot take all of the credit. This endeavor would never be possible without the endless support of my principal and Parent Teacher Association. Our PTA works tirelessly to provide our children with programs and support systems that make learning fun. It is not without their monetary support that we can provide this as well as other events at our school. Even though the artists come for a minimal fee ($100 each) they are compensated none the less. Every year one artist or another will come to me or my teaching partner and expresses their thanks for asking them to come and share their talent. It is all for the love of their craft and the benefit of the children that they support this day.

The day is divided into two sections. In the morning the 6th grade students visit artists for 20 minute intervals. Each year we try to mix up the group that they will see so there is always someone new. In the afternoon 5th grade follows the same procedure. By the end of one school day 800+ students from 32 different homerooms visit 5 different artists.

This year, I am on a sabbatical leave so my teaching partner had to take on the job of organizing and bringing this event to fruition. She did a tremendous job of finding new and innovative talent to share with our students by adding young blood to the mixture of the more seasoned artists. I visited school this morning to see how the day was going and cannot be happier with the results. This was by far one of the best Art Festival’s in the history of the event. Kudos to you Ms. Brown, the annual Hillcrest Intermediate Arts Festival was indeed a grand success!