Tryout for Art?

mural 1 mural 2 mural 3This school year has started with a bang and just seems to keep flying right along.  It’s hard to think that we are in December and I feel like we are just getting started.  My co-partner decided that it would be a great idea to have the students paint a mural in the library of our school.  So, we decided to hold “try-outs” for painters.  Not wanting to exclude anyone but, knowing that you cannot paint a small mural with 800+ students this seemed to be our logical course of action.

The tryout took 2 weeks.  The first week we had students paint in a pre-printed worksheet that consisted of shapes similar to those on the wall.  With over 300 students participating in the initial tryout deciding who would move onto the second round was the most difficult task for us.  Small discrepancies in painting techniques had to come into play.  We chose 40 students.

Those students then returned to our rooms to paint a paper rendition of the mural.  Each student was given a number so were not aware of their identity.  They were assessed on their ability to paint on a wall, how they cleaned their brushes, and a short written reflection of why they thought they should be chosen to paint the mural.  Hands down students were chosen on their cleaning up techniques and/or written response, painting had little to do with this elimination process.

At the end of the day, 32 students were chosen to paint the mural.  We stayed after school for 6 weeks; two nights each week, 16 students per night.  This gave us a manageable number of students that could work comfortably in the space.

Even though there were moments of “Ooops!”  “Awwww!” and “Oh no!”.  The overall event was a great success.  The mural is still not completed but with holidays upon us it is difficult to stay after school to work.

Smaller groups of students will be asked to join us occasionally to complete the project.  Working on layering techniques and details.  If all goes well, we hope to complete work by the holiday break! mural 3 mural 2 day 1 mural 2

I wonder what they are thinking?

I often times wonder what my students are thinking when they are working on something.  It is interesting for me to watch how they process information and make choices.  Yesterday we were doing a simple review of color before we started to explore tints and shades and this is what I witnessed happening at two different tables. (2)photo (4)



Inclusion in the Art Room

With the monies I received from the Target Arts, Culture & Design in Schools Grant I purchased 5 iPads for my Art classroom to teach digital art.   One of the lessons that I taught was how to make stop motion videos. The students loved this project. Since there are only 5 iPads and approximately 30 students in each classroom, they obviously have to work collaboratively on the project. I was concerned as to how different ability levels and personalities would work together and be creative. One of my favorite videos was produced by a group that consisted of two non-verbal students. It was amazing to watch how the other students in the group worked with them and help them communicate what and how they wanted to add to the project. They were extremely patient and sincerely concerned about how the learning support students wanted to express their creativity. This was a true success in digital art in the art room, but more importantly, in life skills for all.

Artist Statements and Formative Assessment

For years I have been trying to find a way to make my students take the time to reflect upon their art work.  When we joined Artsonia this year, I thought I had found the answer as I asked my students to write 3-5 sentences telling the viewer why they had created their art when they published their artwork.  For some projects, I would give them writing prompts; i.e., how do you feel about the finished piece or how did you use color in your artwork?  Even though they were excited to publish their art and the artist statements were to remain short, their writings were still lacking in quality of reflection, depth and basic enthusiasm.


So, once again, I decided to try something new.  I created a rubric like reflection based upon the formative assessment theory of  “promoting learning by informing instruction” as stated in Understanding Formative Assessment Insights from Learning Theory and Measurement Theory by Elise Trumbull and Andrea Lash.  Posing three possible artist statements worth 1-3 points, the examples given were based upon a current project and written in the first person with my own art example being used to reflect upon.  After reading the possible reflections and understanding why they were given their point values students responded with their own reflection of their artwork.

The concrete examples gave students a positive model for their own writing and took away the question of what and if they had given enough thought to their writing.  The depth and length of their reflections increased as well as their overall enthusiasm to writing in the art room.  By reading the reflections, I have gained a better awareness into why they chose certain elements of art and what personal items may have influenced their artwork.  It has also proven that writing across the curriculum has several beneficial outcome for all of us.   

Mobile Color Wheels




Students have been diligently working to complete their Alexander Calder inspired mobiles. Anxious to see the classroom turn into a virtual color wheel these mobiles were painted in shades and tints of primary, secondary and intermediate colors.  Along with the installation classes are publishing their individual work on Artsonia, the on-line student museum.  It is an exciting time to be in the art room!

Never Say “Never”!

Last year if you would have asked me how I was going to change my entire art program to include technology, I would have had a difficult time answering your question, let alone trying to achieve such a goal.  I’ve been teaching art for 18 years and doing a good job of infusing new lessons into the mix and trying new techniques.  But using technology, using iPads???  Never!  First of all, I didn’t have the knowledge of technology or iPads.  Secondly, where was I going to find the money to buy iPads for my art room?  Finally, where was I getting the confidence to take on this task!

 Well, as the old saying goes, “Never say never!” 

 After taking some graduate classes, most using technology, someone mentioned IPEVO and the new user friendly/ space saving technology that they have developed.  After pursing their web site I was happy to find the WISHPOOL.  Every month IPEVO offers a product to teachers for free.  All they need to do is express the need.  It is a short, very easy application process that took me less than 20 minutes to complete.  Within 24 hours I was happy to be the owner of the newest IPEVO document camera.

 Beginning to feel lucky and knowing the only way I was going to get iPads in my art room was to find a grant that would offer a substantial amount of money.  Our principal sends us the information about the Target Arts and Culture Grant.  In February, I decided to apply for the grant.  It took a substantial amount of time to research and develops a proposal.   By March I was ready to submit my application.  I didn’t hear from Target for months and when I received an email late in August.  I almost deleted the email thinking it was spam when I remembered my application. I was awarded the grant a few days before the iPad 5 was released.  So, with money, coupons, and 4th generation iPads the $2000 bought 5 iPads now making my art room a 1:6 iPad classroom. 

 I felt like I was on a roll, so I then decided to look into  Donors Choose is a charity organization designed for educators that are wishing for objects for their classroom that they cannot afford to pay for from their budget monies.  Corporations, foundations as well as individuals can donate to your cause. I was intrigued by the concept yet skeptical as to who would donate to a teacher in a fairly comfortable school district.  To my surprise a foundation as well as several parents and faculty members made my first project a reality in 3½ hours!  In a few weeks I will have 5 styluses to use with my students and their iPads as well as a classroom projector.

 I’ve never considered fund raising and/or grants for my classroom.  I didn’t think the process would be worth the effort.  Now, I am an advocate of the process and realize that the possibilities are endless. 

 It is rewarding to be teaching in the 21st century. 

Back to school…..

The first day of school……  at long last the anticipation of returning to school after a year-long sabbatical is over.   The first day jitters, the anticipation of returning to the workforce, the apprehension of trying new lessons has all turned into excitement of what is to come.  As I look forward it feels like I never was gone.

Having time off to be a student again has refreshed me with new ways to teach as well as communicate to my students.  Social media is now part of my everyday life giving me new was to communicate with students as well as parents.    As I embark upon a life-long learning experience I will continue to share interesting and innovative ways to learn and grow.  I hope you will join me as we begin this new leg of a long journey. 

Twitter  @msartems 

Instagram   @Msarteach

The Art Bin-