Family Bowl Making Night


This is amazing… the 2nd year that I’ve organized our Empty Bowls Dinner Event at my school and the response is incredible!  We have our Family Bowl Making night tonight and last time (2 years ago), we had 20-25 families come to make a bowl.  It wasn’t too crazy but  this year we have…. get ready for it…. 55 families coming to make a ceramic bowl together!!!  Holy Moly!  So, it’s been a bit hectic and wonderful!  I am so excited to stand on that stage and have 55 families / over 200 people creating artwork together!  Clay really does bring the community together!   I promise to share photos after it’s all over.

I’ve done a lot of organizing, pre-rolling slabs of clay on muslin pieces to separate them in stacks.  I learned from last time that you shouldn’t stack slabs of wet clay together with 30 of them because they STICK!  Doh..  So this year I got smart.  Easy to transport and easy to hand out!  Bins of texture tools, lace, styluses for cutting or drawing, and letter stamp sets will be shared at cafeteria tables.  It will be a busy hour of creating but I can’t wait to see the looks on people’s faces as they work together to create a treasured family artwork!  YAY!

I’ll update soon!


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.

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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?).

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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!

NYSATA Conference


I’m in Rochester, NY presenting 2 workshops at my State Association’s annual conference.  This conference is entitled “Arts IS The Common Core”.  I attending the APPaRt Pre-Conference workshop yesterday about the APPR process (teacher Evaluations) and Student Learning Objectives… how I feel about this process and assessments is best saved for another post!  It was depressing but empowering at the same time.  All of us around the state feel the same way about it and have similar concerns for the future of our programs. I met some lovely people there and had some great conversations!  I even went to dinner with two of them and we didn’t talk about it AT all then, just drank wine and talked about ourselves!  Wonderful and relaxing!

I am presenting a workshop “Ceramic Celebration” which gives lots of ideas about how to use clay in the Elementary and Middle level classroom!  Many projects… I have the bin that weighs a ton to prove it!  Here is my QR code to my presentation on my school website:


I have to go set up my workshop and hang student artwork now but I will post photos later!  I also have a workshop this evening, Mixed Media Madness, in which participants will embellish a tote with Faber-Castell products and have a good time doing it!  I think I will have a full house!  More to come!

Welcome Back and Hang on Tight….

Welcome back to school!  It’s been over a month and this year is already flying by and full of craziness!  I finally uploaded photos of my classroom from the beginning of the year when it was shiny and clean!  We have been busy lately and I’ll post more lessons and photos of work in progress soon!  I promise to keep up with posts in the future.

Here is a view of my art room:

ImageMy whiteboard with new posters… I have been a busy girl on Pinterest and have found many things to adapt to my room!  Love the Mona “Lisa” poster… I adapted it from here:

Thank you Mr. Russell!  I get the kids attention by saying “Mona” (sometimes in a sing songy voice) and they say “Lisa” back to me.  Then they should look like Mona Lisa… quiet mouths, hands still, eyes on me!  It’s worked great so far and we even had our Pinswheels for Peace event and I did it there and the WHOLE school did it back!  It was fabulous!  I finally feel like i have something that works for me!



Here is a close up of my front demo table.  This is a rolling table that has shelves in front.  I put all my shared materials there for each project.  I have 2 buckets with chalkboard paint labels on the front (from Target dollar spot) with “Sharp” and “Dull” on them.   The purple tray is an ice cube tray that I use for my erasers.  I can keep track of them and see when one is missing before dismissing the kids!  I have had to replace only one because of someone chopping it up 😦  Otherwise, they are accounted for and I can hide the whole tray if I have a sub (sorry but that’s when they get ruined!  I leave old ones out for those days). 


ImageHere’s another view of my demo table… See that Pooh Bear toy bin?  Well it was donated to me. I have plans to repaint it eventually, but for now, I have magazines in there! I sit on it for storytime with Kinders and 1st graders.  I roll the demo table away and pull out my carpet to use for them to sit on. The BIG erasers were a fun find at the Dollar Store near my school!  They are huge and HEAVY!  The kids love them!


ImageThe bulletin board with all my color wheel and color theory information.  Again, another inspiration from Pinterest.  Here’s the original link:

It wasn’t the original poster but I couldn’t get to the link on this page.  Oh well.. .whoever thought of using paint chips first for values… THANK YOU!



This is my desk area.  Last year I was in my office space but it became cluttered and I was feeling claustrophobic.  So, out the desk, filing cabinets and personal stuff came.  I have this back area that is a little alcove. It has ONE sink but is hidden and I don’t like to have kids back there without supervision because they get all the paper wet!  So, I blocked it off with my desk and added an old side table and lamp because the lights are on a motion sensor and go off if I’m sitting during lunch or prep.  So, I have a college floor lamp back there.  It’s quite cozy and wonderful!  I love it! I covered my filling cabinet side with wrapping paper and added magnets for another spot for display or notes.





Two more posters on my walls!  Love the tattling vs. reporting poster and art Teacher parking near my desk!




A view of my classroom from my desk… So clean and shiny! Tables seat 4 students and are labeled by color.  I have corresponding colored bins and table folders for work in progress. 






View from the front to the back.  See below for my bulletin board that was inspired by this post:




I used paint samples that were donated (they were in binders) and it took me a couple hours to staple them all up.  I think I’ll leave it up for a good long time!!!   I used my Cricut Expression to cut the letters.  It brings such color and fun to the room! I really love my room and it’s so organized and wonderful to be in! Lots of new projects inspired by pinterest items and my own design! 

Summer Professional Development… Pinterest?

We have 4 more weeks of summer vacation now and I’m starting to panic!  By this time, I usually have lots of ideas for classroom decoration and have started working on them, but our building is not ready yet.  We are having roof repairs and it is holding up the custodians.  Apparently parts of the building are inaccessible.  They have reduced custodial staff as it is so it’s got to be hard!  I am anxious to get into my room and start sizing it up and moving things around.  I am thinking of turning my office into the computer “lab” and portfolio storage space.  I also want to get bulletin boards up that have “word” wall, vocabulary, and maybe a fun “graffiti” style wall that kids can add drawings to when time allows.

But I digress…. Where do I get good ideas for my classroom and the coming year’s curriculum?  PINTEREST of course!

Here are some of the ones I’ve PINNED for use this year:

1) I’ve been looking for portfolio storage ideas and this may work if I can find a place to store 7 large boxes.

2. I used to do this with the letters but I think the meaning got lost… I love the visual here!

3. Art Odd Jobs – There are ALWAYS jobs that need doing throughout the year.  I am determined to keep on top of them and have the kids do some of them.  They do love to help!  I’m thinking … sharpening colored pencils, weeding out dried up markers, labeling work, refilling watercolor pots, etc…

I like this one too:

4.  Cute idea!


5. Facebook bulletin board for artist intros!

6. Handmade wipes… I started using wipes with Kinders and 1st graders to cut down on sink time wasters and discipline issues there… I must spend a fortune on wipes!  These are paper towels and empty coffee containers.  Now I must find some of those containers!

7.  Open House activities for the art room… Compliment card for parents or visitors to leave for their child’s portfolio.  If I can be organized with the portfolios then I can have them out for parents to see with their child!

Sorry it’s sideways… it was like that on the blog.

8. No Name?  Well, I will hang it up for all to see and claim!  I  had a bin but no one looked in it… this will be hard to miss!

9. Assessments… Sigh.  This is always an issue.  We are going to start giving art grades on the trimester report card so I need an easy assessment for grades 3-6.  I also want to do this with 2nd grade but not for a grade but more like a check list.  Visual and easy!

10. Reward… birthdays and special awards… Handmade crayons from discarded crayons.  There is always an overabundance of crayons.  I am going to make a bunch (in the shape of stars or tiny people) to hand out when a student has a birthday or other special occasion. No more candy or junk prizes!

That’s my top 10 favorites so far!  I have pinned LOTS of ideas for projects and curriculum too… If you want to follow me on Pinterest, I’m here:

Happy Pinning!  Link me up with your fun finds in the comments here!

NAEA Highlights…

Me Driving in the City!

Here I am driving in the City with my GPS freezing up just when I need it most!  It was working perfectly the entire way from Syracuse to NYC until I turned off the highway onto 57th street.  I was freaking out!  By the time I got it working again, I was shaking… I guess I’m not a city driver! SCARY!

Me in front of Brancusi... at the MoMa

I did get there safely and went to a workshop and then off to the MoMa down the street.  OMG… this is my favorite museum of all time!  Seriously, the quality of work , the artists, the way you can get LOST in the work and galleries.

Picasso's "3 Musicians"

Monet's Waterlilies

A close up of the waterlilies!

Persistence of Memory - Way smaller than I thought...

My favorite painting... Starry Night!

Radio City Rockettes? Just silly art teachers!

So many inspirational presentations!  Wish I had photos of me presenting, but the room was packed!  They were even out in the hall listening.  I was in my element!  Speaking about Visual Journaling and showing off my students work! What a thrill!  So many art teachers excited about it and wanting to speak to me and ask me questions afterwards… I was so happy it went well.  I love sharing my projects, experiences, and talking to others about possibilities!  My inspiration for creating this year long project in Studio in Art was Michael Bell and he was there! Well, not at my workshop (at least I think he wasn’t), but at the conference. I got shut out of his workshop due to numbers but he was the first visual journaling artist I found and got ideas from.  I wish I had gotten a chance to talk to him and thank him!

There were other art teachers that I took workshops from about Common Core Learning Standards (in which most agreed was another thing that is threatening the arts), journaling, assessments, and digital communities. There were fun events, dinner, museums, and lots of friends!

Drawn Together- traveling journals in Alberta, Canada

Inside of the book

A pair of presenters from Alberta, Canada presented Traveling Journals in a project called DRAWn together.  Very inspiring!

It was a great weekend and I can’t wait to go back there when it comes back around to NYC!

Common Core…

I have to be honest here.  I’m completely not sold on these Common Core Learning Standards actually I’m really worried about them and where we are going with them.

Here’s why:

1. They were initiated by corporate money and written by people who are NOT educators.

2. They are being forced upon us and used as motivation for our adminstration and Education Dept. to evaluate teachers based on student’s success with these.  I have nothing against creating standards that are the same across states but the precedence these are holding is very dangerous.  High focus on standardized teaching and testing.

3. There is such an emphasis on moving away from novels and more about FACTUAL reading (non-fiction/ academic) and research based writing that it seems that all creative writing and reading is being sucked out!  What about getting kids interested and motivated?  I’m afraid we are going to see a HUGE dropout rate!  More than usual… Kids will have no reason to be excited about school.  If they focus is on more academic reading and less about creativity than they are alienating a large group of kids.

4.  I have art teacher friends around here that are already having to change their curriculum and focus more on vocabulary (word walls, writing, and reading in their classroom) and less about just making art!  I am not against vocabulary… actually I use many in my lessons  and even read to my younger kids along with the theme of the lesson but I’m afraid this is going to overtake the little time I have with them and the focus will be on concrete “right and wrong” instead of imagination and creativity in the work.   I worry that kids will not be able to think of anything new and creative but instead will worry about copying facts.  This is not what I want for my kids.  Where is the joy of using materials… of process.. of doing things differently just to see how it turns out.  I encourage them to deviate from my example if it still falls within the lesson but allows for their creativity.  WHere will that be now?

5. Testing, Testing, Assessing…  We will be needing to create a “test” to measure student growth… all 430 of them in my school.  You can see why I’m not happy about this!  I  am hoping that we are going to be allowed to have alternative assessments like digital portfolio (which I already do to some extent with Artsonia) and maybe a pre and post drawing… We are also being forced to be on the report card.  I know some of you already do grading at the Elementary Art level but we have not.

I am hoping that the Arts will have their own Common Core but I highly doubt it.  Do you think this is a fade?  A fly by night initiative?  It seems like these “standards” come and go and don’t last all that long.  I know art teachers and other “special area” teachers are freaking out about these and how we fit into it all… how are we going to justify our programs to our districts?  Economic times are tough and cuts are deep… where are the arts in all this?

What are your thoughts on this?