Back to School Ideas


It’s a little over 1 week left of summer before my kids and I head back to school.  Where did this summer go?  It’s been a very short and busy one!  I don’t know about you but the older my kids get, the busier we are.  How does that happen?  Summer camps, karate, band lessons, golf lessons, and family vacations took over the summer.  Not a lot of time to just relax. Soooo… while I was waiting for my son to finish golf or karate or whatever the heck we were sitting around waiting for him for, I had my trusty friend, Pinterest!  Lots of ideas to be found!  I pinned my little heart out!  Here are a few of them that I plan to introduce into my routine/ classroom!

Lake and Hartville Elementary Art blog

This is brilliant!  I have a box with a slot cut out of it from Valentine’s day sales at Target!  I am going to decorate the heck out of that box and place it just inside my door for a little weekly or monthly contest.  I will give away some art supplies for the winners (from my stash of conference goodies). Great way to get kids researching, learning about artist/ artwork, and get a little fun art advocacy out there!

Kinder-craze blog

ADORABLE classroom rules

I love these colorful frames!  I couldn’t find these exact ones (from Michael’s) but I found some colorful rectangular metal frames from Christmas Tree Shoppes!  I am making my rules and procedures to frame and hang above my sink area (procedures) and under my white board (rules).  Just get some spray paint and transform some frames into fun colors!  Of course you can also make your own frames with foam core or cardboard.  We all know that we have an overabundance of cardboard right now with all those supply boxes being unpacked!  I think I’ll make some more like these shapes and spray paint them for my student art wall.  When kids bring me artwork, I’ll put it up in one of those fun frames on my bulletin board!

cardboard frames with chalkboard paint

I made these cardboard frames to easily display student work. I used chalk spray paint to write student names.

I also love this idea of labeling the doorway with vinyl letters for vertical and horizontal… so simple and easy!

The Teaching Palette blog

ART Flip sign. Do this one next year!

I’ve seen this one before but I love how this teacher made these and attached them vertically!  I’m running to the craft store to find small wooden palettes! Just love the way she labeled them!  Along this this idea and my Class Dojo management plan, here are some ways I plan on tweaking my classroom management plan.

artwithmsgram blog

I love this blog!  She has some very cute ideas for her classroom too.  I love this idea though.  Why didn’t I think of this?  I use ClassDojo (I’m actually a Mentor with Class Dojo) for individual points but am always giving points for tables who clean up first, are the quietest and most focused, and for working together… I also take points from tables that are too noisy, unfocused, arguing or not working together.  So when I saw this, I added table colors to my rosters.  I just labeled them and put a creature that matches the color.  Now I have both individuals and tables.  I wish I could arrange kids into tables but for now, I am going to give student points for their participation/effort grade and table points for privileges or small fun rewards.  Not sure what those will be but they might include some free draw time, special leaders, treats or material helpers.  They love that kind of stuff! I also plan to paint some old wooden chairs in the style of artists so maybe I will do 4 of them and that table gets to sit in the special art chairs for the day.  Here’s a photo of that:

Pop Art Chair Lichtenstein

I would totally feel so cool sitting in a special painted chair.   Of course, I have to find time to paint these chairs!  Yikes!

inspirelovelearn blog

So, I have 2 iPads to use (i hope!) in my art classroom.  I love this idea to keep them stored and charged.  I got a 3 drawer  one to do just this!  I plan on putting it on my table in the back for photographing artwork to upload to  Kids will go there to photograph and upload with instructions placed above the table.  I also got a small power strip too!

Okay so here are a few ideas that I’m working on right now…

Cassie Stevens started a couple things that got me excited!  She started an art teacher book club.  The two books that we picked were:  Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Printmaking Unleashed!

This book has gotten me thinking about how I present material to my classes.  It’s high energy ideas are amazing!  I am going to implement some of them this year, but it would take me years to build up the kind of repertoire he has.  I am going to start with some units and really “sell” it this year.  Starting with adding some fun props, music,  and new aprons to set the mood!

Cassie Stevens also started the Apron Sew-a-long (see my lead in here?).  I went a bit crazy buying fabric at JoAnn’s the other day!  OMG… I think I bought 10 different patterns!  Thinking about units or projects I teach, I want an apron that goes with each.  LOL!  So, I limited it to 6.  Asian, Pop Art, Fun Owls, Sugar Skulls, Monet’s waterlilies and a fun modern zig zag pattern.  I also bought a few matching patterns to make pockets out of.  Now, I think I need to go back and get the peace sign one that I forgot!  LOL!  Getting my sewing machine ready to go now!

Hope that inspired you a bit and I’ll be back with my room tour as soon as I can get into my building!  It’s been a crazy summer and they had summer schools at our building so we are banned until the custodians get it cleaned and ready!  This week looks like a good one to find a day to work there.  Hope I can sneak away from the kiddos and hubby for a while!


Happy New Year 2013!

Happy New Year!  It’s been a very busy start and I have a goal to publish at least 2 blog posts a month!  I can do that! I’ve not been good about maintaining my little blog here but I have lots to share this month so I hope to catch up and work ahead!

First, I have all of my SLOs graded and filed.  Now, onto curriculum… full steam ahead.  It’s crazy!  Now that the holidays are past us and we have Winter Vacation on the horizon next month, I think we can actually get down to some work.  The kids have been a bit hard to handle this year.  Not sure why I’m struggling so much with classroom management.  It’s not necessarily bad behavior (though I do have a few who continually test me), but it’s the neediness of the kids.  The constant push and pull that I feel each day.  I want to help but not too much.  I get swarmed with kids asking me questions (to things that I already answered 2 seconds ago!) or needing my reassurances or just telling me off topic things.  It’s maddening!  I’m feeling a bit dizzy from it all.  It seems kids are getting less and less self motivated and less resourceful.  They can’t do anything without an adult or at least someone to help them.  I’m trying out a few things to organize my classroom better so they can get what they need fast but it’s still a work in progress.   I also found this awesome site that is a fun way to deal with classroom behaviors and expectations while having a good time!  Have you heard of Class Dojo?  If you haven’t, you need to check this out…

Not only do they have many customizable features but you can upload class lists by copying and pasting and it will generate fun little monster avatars for all your kiddos.  I uploaded 11 class lists in 15 mins!   So easy!

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 3.49.04 PM

This is what your class list screen looks like.  It has the kids names and a fun monster avatar that is chosen randomly.  You can print out secret code reports for kids to take home and customize their little guy.  They have to create an account and then punch in the secret code to access their page.

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 3.49.21 PM

You can customize expectations and positive AND negative behaviors or tasks that you want to focus on.  When the kid does something awesome, they can add a point.  If they are off task, then you can deduct a point.

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 3.49.32 PM

Here are some negative behaviors.  It’s totally up to you how many and what you feel you want to acknowledge.

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 3.49.49 PM

You can take attendance on here too so if you mark a kid absent, then want to give the whole class points for clean up, it won’t give the absent student a point (I mean they weren’t there ,were they?).

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 3.50.40 PM

The kids are super excited about this new tracking system.  It’s fun, cute and totally easy!  I put it up on my overhead and click on it if I catch a kid being helpful, turn in a finished project or off task after a reminder.   I can print a copy of the report for parents and there’s even a feature to email weekly reports automatically to a parent.   I have to give all kids in grades 3-6 a Participation/ Effort grade and want to make sure I have something to back up my grading decision to parents.  It’s another great feedback and communication tool too!  LOVE this so much.

There is a little video that explains this to kids in the class program so I just showed them the 2 min. video and then handed out the code slips.  I think this is going to work great!  I might do it with K-2 next year!

I’ll post soon with some new project ideas!

Welcome Back!

Our finished pinwheels waiting to be sorted and taken outside next week!

It’s been a crazy first week back to school.  We started on September 8th and this is our first full week back.  I’m busy having kids make pinwheels for the annual Pinwheels for Peace exhibit.  We will be placing our pinwheels outside in a big peace sign on Tuesday, Sept. 20th this year.  One day early .  Last year we did it on the International Day of Peace (9/21) and left them out for one week until Back to School night.  This year Back to School night is the night before the Peace day.  So, we are scrambling to get them done!  Some classes have only had ONE art class to do them in.  Not ideal but we are doing it.  A couple classes, I had to have them take them with them to finish… I hope I get them back!!!  That was not ideal either.  Oh well.

I thought I’d share some of the new things around my room. I must say that many of them have been borrowed from other blogs and especially from Pinterest.  If you don’t know about Pinterest, you are missing out!  WOW… great inspiration and love that I can “pin” ideas to use later.

My tables are labeled with paint brush cut outs... colors with matching bins from Target!

My rotating supply bins for each table. I keep these off the tables until after I'm done with a demo or discussion.

Front of my room with my new whiteboard and Epson projector

I found this on Pinterest... STOP... is your name on that? My schedule and procedures.

My school is trying to be consistent throughout the halls and classrooms with voice level reminders.  I have this one that I made up for my classroom!  I love that I can visually remind them what noise level they should be at.  It’s working pretty well (except in 2 classes that are exceptionally chatty)!

Voice Level traffic light/ Art Room Rules

This next one I got from Phyl.  I love how she approaches grading for 6th grade.  I changed it to include 5th and 6th graders.  I also kept the number grades the same as our ELA and Core Standards grading chart. I am not thrilled with the number explanations but at least it is a start.  We are going to start grading on the official report card next year.  Good or bad, it is going to happen. I’m hoping it’s only for the upper grades and not the primary ones.  I’m really against grading K-3.  I am not grading based on skill level but rather on directions, completion, responsibility and effort.

5th and 6th grade Zone - grading explanations

Clean up is going to be more of a group effort this year.  Tables are in charge of cleaning up their areas.  I will dismiss each table as they are cleaned up and quiet.  I had jobs last year but it became one more thing for me to manage.  So, off they go!

Next week I get a student observer on Mondays!  I am excited to greet her and share what I do.  In January, I’m getting a student teacher too.  She sounds enthusiastic and very capable from her resume so I hope it’s a good experience for her.  I’m a bit nervous to hand over my classroom but at least some consistent rules and procedures will be established by then.  I’ll share more later… Pinwheels on Tuesday!

Art Teacher Tips

I came across a post at The Art of Education blog that listed her Top 10 timesaving tips in the classroom.  She asked others to blog about their favorite tips that make their art classroom more efficient.  I have a bunch of tips that I’ve used over the years.  Here are my 10 favorites:

1. Create a table system so that kids and access materials for each project easily and without you having to run around the room passing things out when you could be monitoring or doing something else!  I created bins for each table.  I assigned each table a color name and used contact paper (laminate the images and words and you will be good to go for cleaning purposes). For example:  the RED table has a photo of Henri Matisse’s painting called Harmony in Red.  Below is a photo of my bins that I bought. I used letter stencils and spray paint over the summer to label each one and in each is a pencil cup, plastic container for scissors, pencil sharpener, rulers, and glue sticks.  I add other materials as the project needs and can easily check each bin at the end of the class to see if everything is there or if it needs replacing!

Table bins

Inside the bin

Table labels

2.  I have read this tip on other art teacher’s blogs, but I have to reiterate how important it is to have kids do the bulk of the clean up! Set up a system that allows them to be responsible.  My rule is to clean up your table – work as a team.  I also have special classroom jobs that rotate.  Each student makes an index card with their name on it and class name.  They decorate them to be unique (as long as I can see their name clearly).  I keep these in a binder and on their class day, I randomly pick kid’s cards to display on my job chart.  They look to see what job they have and I don’t have to do a thing except monitor.  I do not do this with Kindergarteners yet.  They do not have the skills to read yet so I just give special jobs as kids finish.  “You are done? Okay, will you be my drying rack helper? ”  They are ecstatic and they generally are a big help! Of course, you need to have a list of helper titles ready!  Sink Monitor, Paper Passer, Scrap Monster, Water Cup Captain, Paintbrush Police, etc… Here’s a picture of my job chart:

Job Chart

3. I teach 7 grade levels that are all doing different projects at the same time.  That’s alot of preparation and organization!  So, I have these long cardboard boxes that I inherited from the previous teacher.  I labeled them by grade level and keep all the supplies needed in them ready to pass out!  I simply go to the counter where the boxes are and pull the correct grade level out and fill my bins or hand out supplies!  It’s kept me organized and it’s easy when there is a sub because everything is there!

grade level supplies

4.  I don’t grade (Thank the good Lord!) but I do have to keep track of 450 kids artwork, labeled and ready to go.  I guess I’m a bit OCD but I make up labels using an address label template.  Print on labels, peel and stick as they finish!  I have them typed by class with a few extras in case kids move in before I can add them to the list. I simply keep their labels in their class portfolio and we are good to go!  Easy to see who didn’t finish, who’s in what class (when I hang work up and take down), pass back to correct class. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to read a computer printed label then to try to decipher their handwriting!  Here is what it might look like:

Student’s Name

Grade Level

Class teacher’s name

School name- ART (I always put ART on them so that they know that this was made in artclass and not the regular class)

5.  Just say NO to all those extra projects.  You know the ones… poster contests, decorations, t-shirt designs for the spanish club, etc… Any of those things suck up my time and take away from my curriculum.  I am a true believer that if it doesn’t fit into what I’m teaching in the classroom, it’s not going to get done!  I put out my “teaching philosophy” for my staff when I came to the school. I knew that the other art teacher had taken on Mother’s Day gifts,  contests, decorations for the concerts, etc… I was NOT going there.  I made is clear (in a nice way) that I truly am passionate for what I teach and it’s important that I complete my curriculum.  I also added that I’d love to discuss how to do it yourself, where to buy the supplies, and idea brainstorming for classroom teachers.  I DO create holiday ornaments with Kinders but it fits my texture unit and it gets my clay project done early!  LOVE it.  BUt if it does not enhance my program, it’s not happening in my room. I’ve gotten good at saying NO nicely.  People generally get it.

6. Spend a bit more on good supplies and skimp on stuff that isn’t as important.  I spend good money on Akua inks so that I don’t have to deal with whiny kids who have ink that dried too fast before they can monoprint!  I also spend more on brushes so they last, glue bottles that are replaced every other year (they get really beat up and there is nothing worse then clogged or leaking bottles!), and markers that are not going to dry out after half the year!  There is something to be said about having good supplies that won’t give you a headache!  I don’t spend money on stuff that is not necessary like fixative spray (I use cheap hairspray or laminate the pastel work),  crayons, or white drawing paper.  I find that for most projects that stuff can be found pretty cheaply or donated.  I have crayons that are leftovers from classrooms and will probably NEVER run out!

7. Make a plan.  I have my year planned out in August.  I’m flexible though and can rearrange projects or dump one for another if need be, but I have a Scope and Sequence created so I can see what to prep for next.  Here is the post that details my system. It’s nice to see what I have coming up and be able to rearrange on the computer.  I also keep a lesson plan book that has big spaces for daily notes about where classes are in the project and what needs to be covered.  I have to make notes to myself or I forget!

8. Make powerpoints ahead of time and organize lessons with examples so that you are ready to pull something out.  I have a big poster keeper box that houses all my lessons with examples, handouts, bulletin board text, and posters of artwork that goes with the project.  I do this for many reasons, but mostly to keep me organized and ready to go.  I simply pull out the folder and I’m good to go!

9. Hand back work midyear and at the end.  I  hold onto work for 2 reasons… exhibits & assessment.  First, I pull work for various exhibits throughout the year and usually don’t know what I’m bringing until the week of.  If I handed back work regularly, I’d be stuck with only current work and miss an opportunity to feature awesome work from the previous months!  I also like to do an informal assessment with the kids so they see improvement over time.  They enjoy seeing what they did in the beginning of the year and where they are now.  I also create labels for the back of work that summarizes what we learned, skills focused on and artists that were introduced.  Parents LOVE knowing exactly what inspired the lesson and it allows for discussion at home about the process and vocabulary!  WIN!

10.  Use resources!  Don’t reinvent the wheel… the internet, library, and museums have great resources with lesson plans, examples, slideshows, examples, and books!  Use them!  I love Google!  I love my library for storybooks that go along with my lessons for K-2, and I love art teacher blogs!  I have used them so much to plan my lessons that I often wonder what we did without the internet???!!!  Art teachers are a sharing lot and will be happy to give you more information if you ask!  We love to share, just don’t ask to borrow our paint, best markers, or use up all of our glue!

I hope that my tips have helped you or at least entertained you.  I would love to hear what else you have to share!  Happy New Year!

Summertime and planning for a new year!

Summer Vacation!!! Usually those words evoke a picture of sun, fun, and relaxation.  Well I have the sun and the fun, but relaxing?  I would NOT call my summer this year relaxing.  You see, I have 2 VERY active little boys at home and they are making me very tired!  I spend my free time chasing them away from roads, retrieving balls thrown, running around to entertain them at the beach, zoo, pool, and other places.  I am so tired!  Teaching 450 kids is easier… seriously!  At least they go home at the end of the day and I don’t have to feed them, change them, or put them to bed!  It’s insanity how much I am longing for school to start up again… I know… the HORRORS!  I do love to teach though and I get antsy without that particular schedule.  So, while my little one is napping or the kids are occupied (which rarely happens without me), I am planning all my lessons, projects, and forms for next year!  Which is only a month away!

Here is my scope and sequence or curriculum map for next school year.  Just a little peek of things to come.  I know there are many grad students or practicing teachers that have questions about this particular thing.  Some principals want to see it, some do not require it but I always find it organizes me and lets me see the flow for the year in all 7 grade levels that I teach.  I often overlap things on purpose and I rarely print this out as a final document.  IT’s ever changing.  Sometimes things change, projects get dropped, events require different topics.  I can be flexible but at least I can be organized!


So as you can see, I have organized it into a table document.  The top shows grade levels and there is some color coding for alike topics.  The yellow is clay projects.  It’s a rough draft of my year.  I’m a visual person so I have to see what my curriculum looks like in order to rearrange and figure out the order of things.  It just works for me.  I also have lesson plans written up for each lesson but no set dates… that is for my plan book.  I do that be week.  Things change so rapidly in Elementary school that I have to plan weekly sometimes changing daily depending on who finished what and field trips, music performances, assemblies, snow days, sick days, testing, etc…

I’ll share my other organizational pieces later (I have to take pics of those). I think the most important thing about teaching Elementary Art besides the art part, is organization!  If you a fly by the seat of your pants type… well, your job will be MORE chaotic than it needs to be!  Unless you are a really organized – fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-kind of person!  LOL!

SICK! Sub plans

Out Sick

I knew it was coming… I have little kids so it was bound to happen sooner or later.  Someone got sick AND then another one… now I’m waiting for it to take me down.  I can’t get sick!  I won’t!  LOL!  Well, I’ve been out 6 times this year so far (since September) not because I’ve been sick, but because my kids have been.  They were healthy ALL summer and now it’s time for payback.  Ear infections, viruses, flu scares… Oh MY!   So, what’s an elementary art teacher to do?  Have sub plans ready on the fly.  It’s maddening to come up with easy projects for substitutes.  You don’t know who you are going to get. Are they going to be an art person or not.  So, I have to make it dummy proof.  Keep it simple.

Here are a couple ideas:

Grid art

*A different pattern in each square using black marker or pencils.

* Op Art checkerboard patterns or shapes in each box and use complementary colors for shape and background .

* Quilt designs using markers, colored pencils, cut paper?

* Piet Mondrian art.  Easy linear and shape recognition.  Using primary colors.


* Kids LOVE this! It allows them to control what they want to do.  GIves subs a chance to see their personalities.

* Give them manila paper or newsprint and let them go at it with markers or any material that is easy and not too messy.

* I gave them a seasonal theme (which I never do in my curriculum) to work on.  This week it was Spooky faces/creatures and Spooky houses.

Scrap paper Collage

* Scrap paper is plentiful in my artroom.  I have lots of extras from cutting colored papers down for mats. So, I let them cut shapes, rip, and glue it into a collage of whatever they want.  Give them a black background or have them do mosiacs with the scrap paper.  Great for older kids!

I have scoured the internet for ideas and nothing ever really jumped out at me or was too complicated for my subs.  I have had great success with these ideas lately!  Stay healthy and keep creating!

Classroom Sweet Classroom

I made it through my first week as an Elementary Art Teacher! I finally got my room in order (for the most part) and materials organized. I’m still working on some organizational things and lessons (scope & sequence), but I welcomed approximately 450 students to my room! They are all full of their own quirks and issues though they are so much more eager than my high school students were. They smile, ask great questions, want to share and be helpers, and give hugs freely. The last I am NOT used to. I am always taken back by their need to give hugs or seek positive reinforcement. I find I am much more comfortable here than I thought I would be. Maybe it’s the years of teaching art, my confidence in my subject area, or just the welcoming atmosphere of this building. Whatever it is, I like it. Even on the crazy “B” days, I am happy to be teaching. TIRED, but happy!

Here is a view of my classroom and “office” at it’s newly clean state.

Look at this space!

Look at this space!

Here is my view from the back of the room. I love the clean floors (which won’t stay that way!) and the nice arrangement of tables. See my 2 sinks? They are deep and very nice.

Another view

Another view

There are my nice storage shelves. I am using them to store in progress work! The tables are labeled by color and make it easy to set up! I have big handled bins for each table to hold materials for kids to share.

View from the other side

View from the other side

This is the view so you can see the back of the room. The back wall is alcoved and has a huge bulletin board for posting inspiration and displays! I love that! I have amazing storage space too. Lots of drawers, cabinets, and shelves. I’m so lucky to have that. I didn’t have that at the HS so I’m really happy about that!

My office

My office

Here’s my office space! Yes, I have an office. My predecessor designed the space and put in an office and I’m so glad she did! It’s my own private space when doing filing, computer work, or just resting between classes (yah right). I don’t spend alot of time here but I’m happy that I have a lockable area for my personal stuff.

So, my system is working and I will share when I get photos taken soon! We are busy creating around here and I have a huge school-wide display coming up!