Friday, August 24, 2018

Classroom Tips: Fast Set Up and Clean Up (It All Starts With Organization)

Look at how clean these paints are.  It pays
to clean them up.  They get treated like
they're as important as they are!

Materials Make the Class  (pun intended)
When I first started teaching I'd have loved to have a magic wand to make it easy to get materials out to the kids and then get them back, quickly and neatly.  I'd still actually like to have a magic wand, but even without it, I can get the supplies out and back in pretty decent time.  Call it organization, motion study, or laziness, but I don't like to put in extra time/work unless I'm forced to.

Many years of learning how to get stuff out and back has given me some pretty good ideas of what I can make a kid do in the housekeeping front.  It's also had the added benefit of letting me go home instead of staying at work till 6 every evening, because my students have already done so much of the prep work! Also, when the supplies look good, they get treated well, also.  It's efficient, and keeps things in good shape.  If you want to have students respect your stuff, keep materials clean, orderly and ready.

Most folks know I'm an organizational freak.  It's really self-preservation; the less I have to do, the more time I have to teach.  Front loading is the way to make your days less crazy.
I never move materials on the supply shelf around from year to year.  Students need to know that certain things can always be easily found, in the same place they've always been.  Routine is the key to keeping things flowing.  Stuff for the littles is lower and easier for them to access than the stuff I don't want them to use--everything is within the reach of a kid who's old enough to use it.  My adult-sized scissors are placed too high, for example, for a kindergartener to reach.
Keeping things at the ready is one great way to give yourself those extra minutes that can make or break the success of a class each day.  If supplies are always in the same place, I don't have to worry about whether or not students know where to find things, or how to  get them put away quickly.  They do it all, and fast.  They've been trained since they were kindergarteners.  If they do a good job, I don't have to take time at the end of the day to get it all ready again.  The kids have done it themselves.  Give them as much responsibility for materials as you can.

T-shirts are in two bins--smaller ones
for K and 1, larger ones for 3-5.
Front Loading Materials to Get Them Out Fast
"Front loading" is the way to get the most bang for your buck in passing out materials later.  The more you have ready for immediate use, the faster setup can happen when class begins.  If you use tee-shirts to protect clothing, have them folded and stacked in a bin so that you can grab the needed amount for a table--in my case, four at a time--without having to unclump them.

Every student learns how to fold a shirt MY way when they are in kindergarten (ha ha, I promise I'm not a meanie!  If they do it right, shirts are perfectly ready for distribution in the next class).  I even get the bonus of the shirts being right-side-out.  I'm pretty sure there are some moms out there who think I'm cool just based on the fact that their kids know how to fold their clothes.

Newspapers are folded and kept in a white dishpan-type bin, always in the same place.  Have a central location for supplies that are being used by the specific class you're prepping for. I have a round table in the middle of my room that I put revolving supplies on; whatever the current class is, this is where non-every-day supplies go.

Distributing Materials in Less Than Five Minutes:  Class Startup
Let's make the assumption the kids are going to paint.  At the beginning of class, students come in and put their heads down, and show me they are ready for class to begin.  We then sit up straight and take two deep breaths, so we are awake and alert.  I have a general question and answer to review from the last week, then I give out information--whether that's to teach something new, show a PowerPoint, or demonstrate something.  I try to make that as short as possible.

When we are ready to begin our work, I have the helper table to come to me, to get what I need them to distribute.  They are trained early on not to give each person individually whatever it is--rather, to count how many people are at the table, then put that amount in the middle so the students can get it for themselves.  This applies to paper, newspapers, tee shirts, brushes, anything that we have to get out to everyone.  While the helper table kids are passing out stuff, I'm bringing the big water buckets to each table.  It takes just about two minutes to get an entire classroom decked out for creating.  When you can grab four newspapers or tee shirts at a time without having to unclump things to figure out how  many are in front of you, you can have a kid take it to a table in seconds.  Four kids, six tables for the majority of my classes...everything gets out in a flash.

On days that we need glue, scissors, or markers for special projects, the students also pass out the colored bins from the  back counter.  At the end of class, helpers return the bins and any items I think will be disruptive for individual students to put away, like pencil bins or marker bins.
Clean Up:  Think Ahead
Stuff like palettes, paper for a collage we might be making, drawing paper in a particular size, embellishments, or anything we don't use all the  time go on the supply table.  Below is mine, a round table in the middle of the room..  Setup is always the same.  The newspaper is always in the same place when we need them.  At the end of class, they have to fold them back with the folded side turned upward, to make grabbing them easy.  I can grab four at a time and give them to a helper, and they can pass out to all tables in about 45 seconds.

At cleanup time, I have the students bring their palettes back to the round table in the middle of the room.  I have a sink waiting with water already in it, so I can just slip the palettes in there.  To get them to the sink from the table, I just turn them to face one another and carry them in one big unit.

Classroom Setup
Classroom setup should be thought through for mobility of students and for you being able to move  around to facilitate.  A few years ago I put my tables at an angle to make it so students didn't really have to turn much  to see white board; I got tired of seeing kids who were listening but not looking because their seats didn't face me.  The only problem was that it was harder to get around the classroom, and students were closer to one another than I wanted.  It made classroom management harder.
Now the tables are all in one direction.  I like this much better.  I have to be diligent to remind students to turn to see me, but it's worth the effort.  Ease of movement and keeping kids out of each others' faces has made all the difference in noise levels and off-task behavior.  If a student isn't facing me during the lecture part of the class, I have them turn all the way around on their stool till they are.  That's a non-negotiable.
Helpers and Seating Charts
Like most Art teachers, I have a helper table each week.  I keep track of who is the helper team on my seating chart.  I put a hashmark in the center of the table color on the day each table is helper.  The table with the least number of hashmarks is the helper this week.  This is nice for my subs, too, so they don't have to just arbitrarily pick out a helper team.  It goes in order of the color wheel--red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.  Larger classes have more tables, so we add white, gray, and even turn the round table into brown table, if need be.
If you look at the above seating chart, you may notice that boys don't sit next to boys or across from them, and girls don't either.  It cuts down on talking if they are separated a bit--they sit diagonally opposite.  I only change that up when there are more of one gender than another in  a class.  I also try to sit "little mamas" with kids who need encouragement or have a hard time keeping up.  Students who have a natural bent toward nurturing are great at helping their neighbors along, without actually doing their work for them.  I love when I see a student motivating another student, or trying to explain how they're supposed to be going.  If I know a kid doesn't speak English, I always seat them next to a student who speaks their language.  If we don't have anybody, Google Translate is my best friend.  We've had a lot of laughs over trying to get information to one another!
When everything is rocking and rolling, our classroom runs like a well-oiled machine, even during the Choice-Based Art classes.  
Finding your way in the organization of your class and figuring  out the most efficient way to get materials distributed makes all the difference in the world.  Less stress, more work happening with kids, and everything in its place.  Even in the midst of the fray, everybody knows the procedures.  It makes for a happy classroom!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Classroom Management for Kindergarteners, and 2nd Week Goodness

Kiddos beginning to paint their sketchbook covers

I am so excited about some of the stuff I'm doing this year.  Yes, I changed the way the classroom is set up; that's already made some differences in movement in the room.  I also am heavily enforcing the "get in the zone" mentality--listen to some quiet music, limit chatting, and find your space within the artwork you're doing.  So far, so good!

I am noticing, though,  that this  year the little kinders seem to have an even harder time keeping themselves together for a whole 45 minutes.  They aren't used to having to sit in one place for so long, and they are so very curious about everything.  They HAVE to make comment, they are so excited to be a part of such an interesting place!  But all those wonderful inquisitive parts of their learning brains mean that it's super-hard to get information to them, get them started on a project, and then follow directions to completion.  What to do?  How to get them quiet and still enough to listen and then make stuff?

QUIET CRITTERS.  All I can say is, AMAZING.  Cassie Stephens, art teacher extraordinaire, talked about these guys in one of her podcasts.  She  got it from one of the kindergarten teachers in her school.  She made some.  Worked like a charm.  Chill, quiet kinders, working like they were focused college students.  Wow!  So---I made some of my own.  I hit up the Michaels that is down the street from my school (thank you for the 20% teacher discount, love ya).  Six fluffy huge pompoms later, I was back at school hot gluing on googly eyes, pipe cleaner antennae, and foam feet.  I made enough Quiet Critters for each of my kinder tables (I have 8 tables in my room but only use 6 for the wee ones).  I couldn't wait to get them to my kiddos the next day.

WOW. That's all I can say.  It was exactly as Cassie described it.

Here's how it went, and how it continues to go:  

When I had given  instruction to my littles, I suddenly turned, hearing a sort of scratching coming from a white box on my front counter.

I peered inside and listened closely.  "Oh!" I cried, "They're awake!  The Quiet Critters want to meet you!"
I pulled one out and listened to it, up to my ear.  "This is Pablo!  He wants to go sit with the blue team!"  I brought the Quiet Critter out and began to explain that Quiet Critters love people, but they are very shy, and afraid of noise.  They love to come sit with my students. but only when they are very very quiet.  As I was telling this, you could have heard a pin drop.  Every kid was silently hoping that there would be a Quiet Critter coming to their table.  As I got to the blue table, I pointed out that they had been so quiet that Pablo  asked to go sit with them.  I asked the class if they felt they could earn a Quiet Critter, too.  Nodding heads.  Clasped hands.  Wishing little people.  I began pulling out one after the other, putting them up to my ear and listening to them tell me what table they wanted to go to.  The kids were rapt.  I reminded my little friends that any sound  would scare them and they would ask me to put them back in their home.

Y'all, we were PAINTING.  But my classroom was completely silent through the whole thing. 😲They cleaned up silently.  😍 They folded their newspapers and tee shirts silently as I modeled how to do that, so they'd remember.  They got a piece of free draw paper to practice the lines they had learned.  I'm tellin' ya, it was NIRVANA as a kindergarten Art teacher.  πŸ˜„

I'm never going back.  Cassie, thank you!!!  And y'all, try it.  It's amazing.  And wonderful.  And peaceful.  And yes, I did use it on a fifth grade class yesterday, and they were totally IN.  I don't think it's an all the time thing with the big kids, but oh---those littles.  And maybe, here and there, those big uns, too.  Yay for classroom management!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Classroom at the Ready!

I love the beginning of school.  Prepping is such fun--I get to make Art just for my kiddos, and show off a bit.  I'm pretty enamored of my door and entry area.
Welcome to Art Class!

I get so stoked about the kids coming and seeing everything--I really feel like they are more excited about Art when it looks inviting.  In the weeks before the kids come, I get my room looking all fun and exciting.  Take a look at my setup this year:

The reading center has seating now!

 Supply shelves are along the back wall and side wall by the door.  Everything lives in the same place every year, so all the students know exactly where to look for what they need.  

Above:  Drying rack and paint area.  The cart has pre-cut paper of various sizes on the top part so I always have the size I need in at least one class amount, so I don't start a lesson without what I need.  Nothing worse than having to cut paper right there as you are talking to the students, because you forgot to do it prior to their coming to class!

 I like to put up what the grades are doing, with standards.  Info posters for line and color theory are here now, as we are going through the rules this week and there's no real Art being made.  I believe rules and procedures are so important!  The colored bins are filled with items we commonly use, so that they can be passed out quickly.  Each table has their own corresponding color bin of glue, scissors, and markers.  Likewise, I have small colored bins with sharpened pencils and separate ones for erasers, for easy distribution.  Plus, I can keep track of the erasers--kids who love to stab them get outed pretty fast, since they're hurting their own stuff!  I can check at the end of class and, well, you know how it goes.  However, if we have true problems with it, I have a checkout system for erasers.  More on that another time.

Above you can see the teacher sink and organizational space.  To the left are the gray drawers for the K, 1, and 2 grades; 3rd grade flat work goes in the shelves right next to the drawers.  I have another set of big drawers for 4th and 5th.  You can see the magazine holders that house the sketchbooks for each class, on the shelves to the right.  I have the students make their own sketchbooks, and they are stored on the shelves for easy access. They get them to take home at the end of the year.  

Below:  I opened up the room a bit by moving the tables off of the angles they've been in for a number of years.  The angles were great for having kids not have their backs to me when I'm at the board; however, there was a real trade off in movement around the room.  It was tight in places, and after a couple of years I got tired of trying to get between tables.  Having them in straight rows gives more room for circulation.  I also placed two of the tables end to end (you can kind of see them in the second picture, and also below), as one of them only gets used with my largest classes.  This opened up the room further.

These are the two tables I put together to open up the room.

Of course we all know I love doing the bulletin boards at the beginning of the year.  I don't have any artwork right off, so I always make a couple of boards that look good while we are waiting for finished work to be posted on them.  Here are 3 of the 5 that are mine to decorate:

I can't take too much credit for this.  I got the idea from a Pinterest pin I saw (I'm sorry I can't remember who did it--I'd love to give them credit).  But the hours spent putting it together were all me!  The one below was logical to be on the opposite side of the doorway...gave me some balance and let me use the neutral paint squares.

The last two are on a corner.

Those first days of school are so precious--seeing students after a whole summer and how much they've grown (what do they eat, vegetables from Chernobyl?).  The  new littles come in--how kindergarten teachers do what they do is amazing.  They are so inquisitive.  Love them!

I've got lots in store for my students this year.  It's always exciting to get things rolling.  We will be working in 2-D and 3-D, in all kinds of ways--can't wait to get it all rolling.  In fact, next week pretty much all classes will be up to their elbows in paint or ink.  Yay!  Let's get this  party started!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fabulous Art with Fabulous Kids!

First Graders rocked the house with their shape self-portraits.  We looked at the Swiss artist Paul Klee and learned about his life...he was an art teacher, a poet, and a violinist!  Definitely a man of the Arts.  We looked at a variety of abstract and realistic artworks, and even played a game of identifying which works were abstract, and which were realistic.  We looked over Klee's work and decided he was quite abstract.  A discussion of lines, shapes, and artwork titles helped us understand what we were looking at.  Sometimes a title means everything. 

When we looked at "Head of a Man," we knew we were about to do something interesting.  Students were given a plastic bag full of tag board shapes, and had to make our self-portrait using only shapes.  It was such fun to see how everybody's work came out.  We first drew with pencil, then outlined them with marker, and then colored them with crayons that matched the color of the marker they used.  Students had lots of fun making their faces all kinds of colors. Some students used wild colors along with their wild shapes, so we had some very interesting self-portraits!  I really love this lesson.  Take a look at the results:


Thursday, November 17, 2016

5th Grade Reductive Prints, and Drawing Challenges

It's feast or famine with me.  I don't know how some folks manage to blog all the time.  Do they not have life stuff that happens?  Do they sleep?  I'm looking at going to our Thanksgiving break, and I'm determined to post some stuff that we've done this semester.  Gearing up to start Choice- Based Art in the second semester, we are doing all kinds of challenges so that we've used our various art supplies/mediums prior to me letting them loose with the whole Art Room at their disposal. 

The first major challenge after the drawing challenge of our sketchbook covers was to make reductive foam prints.  I showed them a PowerPoint on intaglio printing, and discussed how Styrofoam printmaking is sort of like intaglio, since we scratch our image into our plates.  If you're interested in the PowerPoint, you can email me at

We started out by doing a mind map in our sketchbooks.  Given a choice of 6-7 words, students developed a four-pronged mind map that had four legs/words and led to at least four degrees of separation from the beginning word they chose.  Their choices were:  courage, laughter, honesty, morning, curious, quiet, green.  Here's an example of one student's mind map:

If they wanted to, they could have more than 4 words off from the original word, and they could go more than  4 degrees of separation.  This student chose to make her print about clothes.  
The students all agreed that having the mind map really made a difference in how they chose their subject matter for their prints.  This was a great way to get them to think in new directions and to choose something that had some real meaning to them.  It made for some interesting choices.

Once they got their ideas solidified, they drew a picture of their planned print on a half-sheet of copy paper. The foam plates we were using were 6" x 12," so they it helped them to know what size their picture would be for their print.  I reminded them to keep from making too many little details, as they did not translate well onto the printing plate later on.   They also had to make sure that they made any words backwards, as they would be printed forwards when they pulled the print.  Most of them used tracing paper to make their drawings, if they wanted to put words on their plates.  I tried to discourage it, though, as it's so easy to make the mistake of putting one letter backwards...

Once they got their drawing finished, I gave them a foam plate and a ballpoint pen.  They put their drawing on top of the plate and then traced, with a lot of pressure, onto the plate. Afterward, they went back and retraced their lines on the plate, so that it would be deep enough to keep from getting filled with ink.
Sometimes the ballpoint pen does not leave a mark with the ballpoint ink, but as long as the image is pressed deeply, that doesn't really matter.
They began their printing process.  I like to use phone books and catalogs to put the printing plates on when they are inking; it keeps the table from being a crazy mess.  Once they finish inking, they have to turn the page for the next person.  
I set up two colors on one side of the table, two colors on the other side, and a third color at a different table.  Kids go up to the colors they need, ink their plates at the inking table, and then take the plate back to their own table and bray it on the paper there.  It keeps things from getting wildly messy.  They're responsible for keeping their own area cleaned up, and they get points off for lots of smudges.

When they have inked their plate once, they cut away anything that they want to stay that color, or they cut out things they want to make another color--either way works.  Below is an example of how it works. 

I actually took this off of the internet, but it explains it all quite nicely.  I apologize to whomever it belongs--there was no citation.  If it's yours, please let me know!

Here are some of the works the 5th graders produced. 

The kids did a great job.  They worked so hard to get good, clean prints.  Afterward, we had a gallery walk--the students took their best print, their original drawing, and their mind map and put it neatly on the table top where they sat, and set up a space for their peers to come look at the process they used to make their prints.  They were all impressed with each others' work and we had some great conversation about the process, the difficulties, and the rewards of developing a plan for their artwork before executing it. 
The gallery walk