Sunday, February 26, 2017

Misconceptions about Arts Integration

I ran across this article in SchoolArts Magazine the other day. I looked it up online to share with you and found that it had been reposted by School Specialty.

The article lists some pretty common misconceptions that I hear from other teachers quite often: 
"1. The arts and core subject areas such as math, science, and social studies are best taught separately.
2. Integrating the arts into a common core lesson will waste time and decrease the rigor of the lesson.
3. It isn’t necessary to integrate art with other subjects at all.
4. That’s all very well for kids who are already doing well academically. My students are struggling and need to focus on drilling in the basic skills from other subject areas.
5. It’s too overwhelming and I have so much on my plate already. I wouldn’t even know where to begin."

This article was written by Rachel Wintemberg, an art teacher at Samuel E. Shull Middle School in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and author of the blog, The Helpful Art Teacher. You can contact her at

The only other misconception that I would add is that "My students are poorly behaved and can't handle arts-integrated lessons." 

Ten years ago, I might've said something similar, but I've learned and grown a lot since then. I think this just goes back to classroom management, school climate and culture, and what Wintemberg said about her #4. Struggling students (ummm...struggling human beings) need positive outlets. This leads to greater engagement. Greater engagement leads to stronger retention. Voila! 

The arts can be built into the culture and climate of a school. I've seen this happen in more than one school and district. (I did a lot of writing about this for my specialist degree. I will try to work in some blog posts about that in the future!) 

In addition, students can be taught how to behave in a classroom. Now, a teacher can't just do worksheets for weeks and one day try to do an arts-integrated lesson that involves paint or movement. The kids will go nuts. They'll be so excited to do something different that they won't behave well. This is why I say they have to be taught. Teach them how to handle paint. Teach them how to move around in a productive way. Just like anything else, teachers should set their expectations for behavior when they are using arts integration in their classrooms. 

I wanted to share this with you. Whenever I find something of substance about arts integration (or arts education or education in general), I like to share. I hope it brings more readers to Wintemberg's writing. I hope it makes you think. I hope it gives you some courage to start working with the arts more in your classroom. I also hope it will start a conversation, or continue a conversation about the arts in our schools, especially about arts integration.

Let me know your thoughts! Are there other misconceptions? Do you think these are true? Do you agree with our opinions on the misconceptions? I'd love to hear from you!

Free Draw Challenge

I've added my Free Draw Challenge to the TpT Store. This activity has saved my classroom management for the past four years. The students LOVE it. They beg to do it! It gives them something structured to do when they finish early and makes them think creatively at the same time!

Nip that "What do I do now?" question right in the bud with this activity. This includes five sets of scenarios for students to draw in the Free Draw Challenge. Included are images from actual student work and of how I have this set up in my classroom. You will also find instructions and helpful hints on how to make this an actual challenge and not just plain 'ol free draw. This resource is designed to provide activities for an entire school year. 

This is my favorite resource that I have ever created!

This Week's Party in the Art Room: Sunflowers and Van Gogh

My classes have still been studying Vincent van Gogh. We've had some interruptions (fourth grade play practice, fifth grade paper-making artist visit, etc.). All good interruptions, but we are still trying to finish up the van Gogh study.

You can read the first post of This Week's Party in the Art Room about our van Gogh unit.

This week I'd like to share some of second grade's sunflowers. Normally, I would teach van Gogh's Sunflowers using one of these popular works.

These are easily some of van Gogh's most recognizable works. I'm pretty sure I bought a poster of the middle one at Wal-Mart when I was in fifth grade. If you can get it at Wal-Mart, it must be popular! 

Anyway, I had a baby at the end of August and missed three months of school. So, I have not been teaching my second graders as long as the other students. For instance, because I teach students from second through fifth grade at my school, I end up teaching them for four years by the time they leave fifth grade. This year, though, I've only had my second graders for about three months. So, I decided to focus on this lesser known sunflower work by van Gogh.

It is a bit darker. We discussed the differences in the more popular sunflowers and this one. I wanted them to focus on one flower for the art-making. I felt that, on the whole, we weren't yet ready for all of the overlapping it would take to create a vase with several.

We decided to use brighter colors than van Gogh's single sunflower. Their favorite part has been the bit of silver glitter tempera they layer into the background. Kids love anything with glitter. We used the double-loading brush technique that Deep Space Sparkle has made popular.  I modeled how to paint with dashes, instead of the long brush strokes they are used to. This is hard for them. I'm asking them to do something that is just about the complete opposite of what they have been taught previously. So, it takes a lot of encouragement on my end. And modeling. I've modeled this in every format that I can think of. I've use the marker board to draw the dashes that would represent the brush strokes. I've done it on paper with small groups. I've videoed myself doing it. I've shown the Deep Space Sparkle video. On and on and on.

Yes, lots of modeling. It is totally worth it though. I love how these are turning out!

So, without further delay, here are some of the sunflowers we've painted so far.

Now, last year, I needed something for my fourth graders to do that we would be able to finish quickly. We did this same lesson. I definitely like this lesson for second graders better than for fourth graders. However, it did work well as something that could be finished quickly for the fourth graders. I thought I'd show some of the fourth graders' work here too. You can see a difference in the skill level, I think. When I did this with fourth grade, I used a video from Art with Joy. I only showed the very first part on how to draw the sunflower. I think I'd like to make my own "how to draw" video for this lesson in the near future (or at least by the next time I teach this). Oh, and I have a word of advice for drawing these: Let the students practice on scratch paper first. They probably have preconceived ideas about how to draw flowers. You will have to give them time to move past those!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Strategies for Handling Chatty Classes

Chatty class driving you crazy?
Need some strategies to implement immediately? 
Need some guidance on how to establish long-term productivity with chatty classes?

I've written a short eBook with my favorite strategies on this topic. You'll find strategies for Setting the Tone, Using Brain Breaks, Cooperative Structures, Relationships, and Call/Response. There are also cute, printable lists to help you remember these things. 

I spent quite a lot of time this weekend creating this resource. I am really proud of it. I also feel very confident that the strategies are good. I use these strategies myself! 

A graphic from the eBook. Everything I do, I do with this in mind.
This is the basis for every single strategy in the resource. 

Let me know if you need anything. Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Art Around the World Grant Proposal

I have had some success at grant writing in my career. So, I thought I'd create some resources around the concept of grant writing. I have a few more coming. So, stay tuned!

Art Around the World Grant Proposal on TpT

This proposal was funded for over $3,000!

Art Around the World 
Here is another resource you might find useful. This is an article I wrote about my top seven words to use when writing grants.

Paul Klee People

I LOVE this project. Honestly, LOVE is not strong enough of a word. It is so easy to do. It is a great project for younger students. I did this with my second graders at the end of the year when we were starting to run out of materials. So, we used newspaper for the background, scraps of construction paper that were left over from a Mondrian project that third grade did, Sharpies, and tempera paint. They glued the newspaper and construction paper to a thicker sheet of tagboard.

I taught them how to draw like Paul Klee. I used this as a reference.  This project is based on Klee's Arrival of the Bridegroom which is privately owned. So, I'm not going to post a pic of it here, but you can view it on this website. 

I love this because they all sort of turn out differently even though all of the students are getting the same directions!

We get those awesome-quality lines by tracing things more than once with a black Sharpie. It just adds some depth to it when they double trace. It also makes it interesting!

I think this would make a great writing prompt. The students could write a descriptive piece. They could write a personal narrative and make these be self-portraits. There are endless possibilities for writing with these. Unfortunately, we did not get to a writing step with these last year. This year, I'll try to start sooner so we have time for that before the end of the year!

I hope you'll try this super easy lesson with your students. Enjoy these lovely works of art!

I have some other things to share that are focused on Klee. Stay tuned!

Celebrating Success with Arts Integration

In the spirit of celebrating success with arts integration, I thought I'd share some photos from my school. These are three of our fifth grade classrooms. I will celebrate the success of the other classrooms in the fifth grade at my school, as well as the other grades, as soon as I can by posting again. I am sticking with three classrooms at a time in an effort to keep the post from being too long.

Meanwhile, you can check out some of our past arts-integrated projects from a couple of years ago in this post. Also, be sure to read the original "Celebrating Our Successes in Arts Integration" post, too.

Point of View

This class was learning about point of view. They created a mask and responded to a writing prompt where they had to write from the point of view of the mask. I did not take a photo of the writing, but it is incredible. I learned a lot about my students from reading their writing for this project. (I am their art teacher. The teacher who taught this lesson is their ELA teacher.)

I love these masks so much because you can easily see how the students used their own creativity. Look at the differences in the shapes they used! They are all unique, just like the students. They just used scrap cardboard and scraps of paper to create these. There were also glitter and sequins! I wish I could've been in the room to observe my students engaged in this work! Thank you, Megan Herndon, for using this to teach our students!

These are the standards this lesson addresses.

 Esperanza Rising

There is a photo of the write up the teacher posted to describe the process for this lesson below. You can read that for details. I don't see a need to retype all of that.

One of the things I want to say about this is how much I love the reflections that are posted around the weaving. Reflection is essential when students are learning through arts integration. Reflection is a LIFE SKILL! We need to be teaching our students how to reflect. Like, its crucial to the success of our society.

Another thing I want to say about this is that I am super proud of this teacher for attempting a weaving project with students. Many teachers (ME) shy away from weaving because it is so hard. I usually have to do it in small groups. I've never been able to do it for a whole class project like this. So, my hat is off to Kayla Applewhite! Thank you for teaching our students through the arts.

 Gravity Art

These students learned about Holton Rower, a New York-based artist. They were also learning about gravity in their science class. This teacher has all of these great written reflections posted as well. There are some photos posted that show students engaged in the process of learning. You can't really see those in detail in these photographs. I just wanted to mention that they are there.

Can't you just imagine how much fun it was to see this paint moving and learning about gravity? Again, I wish I could've been in the room to see my students engaging in this learning process. Lindsay Dill, I appreciate you doing this for our students. Thank you! These are our students, and it takes all of us to teach and reach them.

What amazing things are happening with arts integration at your school? Can I come observe? Can you share pics with us? I'd love to highlight more and more and more teachers/schools/students who are engaged in learning through the arts! 

THIS RIGHT HERE is what it is all about...the love of learning. Learning academics while learning how to love learning. Learning academics while having your humanity validated. 

Sigh! My heart feels so full when I see these things. ;) 

Message me if you would like to nominate someone or yourself to be celebrated here!

Celebrating Our Successes in Arts Integration

I ran across this wonderful blog post and just had to share it.

Let’s celebrate our successes and put on the pom poms for each other! Every step we make toward creative and engaging teaching is a step toward victory. Celebrate them, learn from them, and continue to challenge yourself to grow.

Arts integration is so important. I think it is one of the most necessary things in education today. That post is so full of positive energy and encouragement. The teacher who wrote it says what I want to say, only better. So, I'm sharing it with you guys.

Maybe one day I'll write something that excellent! ;)

I hope you enjoy this and get some encouragement from it. This makes me think about what someone once told me about running. I like to run, but I am so slow at it. I came in dead last once when I ran a 5k. I wanted to give up and was soooo embarrassed. My friend told me that it is about the journey to being who I want to be. It doesn't matter if I'm not the best runner in the race. It matters that I got off the couch and tried it. Just by trying it, I was way ahead of the people who never do. Just by trying it, I was getting better at it. The same can be said with using the arts in your teaching!

Try it. Just try it.

Thank you Wonder Teacher for writing the inspiring post.

Hope you all are having a lovely day! I'm putting on the pom poms for all of you this week!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Chasing (Educational) Happiness

I’ve still been trying to catch up on my Educational Leadership reading. While I was pregnant with Ruby last year, I slept a lot and got way behind on my reading of scholarly literature. Since you all know how much I love to read these types of things, you’ll not be surprised that I’ve been reading like crazy to get caught up.

I’ve been fascinated with the concept of school culture for a while now. I’m interested in the way culture is built. I’ve been learning about the difference between culture and climate, both of which need positivity to thrive the way we want.

A few months ago, I talked with a friend about her dissertation. She is focusing on school culture. She asked me to send her anything that I ran across that she might be able to use. Of course, when she told me that, I went gung-ho looking for articles. That’s when I realized just how behind I was on my Educational Leadership reading!

Anyway, one thing that I’ve started to notice while reading all of this professional lit is that almost everything is connected to culture. The way educators use data to make decisions is directly impacted by the culture of the school. Classroom management, too, is tied to the overall school culture. Happiness of stakeholders depends greatly on the climate and culture.

Let me take a moment to explain the difference between climate and culture. Climate is more like the temperature of the school. It can be changed more easily than the actual culture. It is like changing the thermostat a few degrees to make it cooler on a hot day. The climate of the school can literally change day to day, week to week. The overall culture, though, is something deeper. It oozes from the walls. It is that ingrained way of doing things that develops over time. It is much harder to change culture. It can be done, but takes time, commitment, and focus.

I’m interested in everything that impacts climate. I'd like to see America's teachers and students benefit immediately from positive school climates. But, because I am who I am and I think the way I think, I am the most interested in sustaining this happiness long term. I am interested in how culture grows and changes. I am interested in how the theories behind climate and culture in a school looks in practice.

This concept of happiness is important, and everyone should be talking about it. I promise you I hear people actually question why anyone needs to be happy. I’ve even heard curmudgeons- excuse me, people- say that they don’t care if the teachers are happy as long as the kids are learning.

WOW! So, okay, I agree that the number one priority should be student learning. Learning, though, doesn’t just mean academic learning in my opinion. There are a lot of things students learn at school that wouldn’t be considered academic. They learn how to eat at a table when they haven’t been taught that at home. Many learn to tie their shoes at school. They learn to have conversations with others. They learn to listen to others. They learn to take care of their belongings and the belongings of others, etc. Those things are essential just as academic learning is essential. This is called Whole Child Education. I’m a fan!

Now, I’ve established that I agree that student learning should be top priority, but I’d like to also offer the idea that the human beings at the school deserve to be happy. The students absolutely deserve to be happy. They are human beings. They are our top priority. The staff at a school should be happy as well. Staff morale is important to the climate and culture of a school.

The article that made me start thinking about this is called Chasing Happiness in the Classroom from Education Update, which is published in tandem with Educational Leadership. The article talks about the tiny nation of Bhutan, which measures its success as a nation by the happiness of its citizens. (We mostly measure our success by the economy.) Bhutan actually tracks the happiness of citizens and has a goal of 100% happiness according to the article.

The article offers the idea that classrooms should be modeled after this notion of happiness as the premium indicator of success. There was a study in 2014 that found that emotional health in childhood was a major predictor of life satisfaction in adulthood. However, the article explains that happiness cannot necessarily be taught. Skills that lead to happiness can be, though. The article also defines what it means to be happy. It isn’t that giddy, high feeling you get when you win something. It is something deeper. It is about positive well-being and the “sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

The article goes on to talk about ways teachers can set the stage for happiness. My favorite strategy mentioned is just to talk about feelings. I love this because I teach art, and art can evoke so many different feelings. Works of art are such a powerful teaching tools for discussion around feelings. And, guess what? You can integrate your discussions about works of art with language arts and math. Kill two birds with one stone, baby! Effective teaching of the whole child? Yes, please! (This is what I write about all the time. Arts integration. Follow and connect with me and you’ll learn to do this in your classroom.)

The final point from the article that I’d like to share is something the author calls “The Kindness-Happiness Loop.” There is a strong correlation between happiness and kindness, research shows. In other words, being kind makes you feel happy and being kind makes others feel happy. When you feel happy you will be kind. That’s a loop I’d like everyone to get stuck in!

Now, I want to bring this back to the happiness of staff. If “The Kindness-Happiness Loop” exists, and I think that it does, then it would apply to the teachers AND their students. I think teachers can and should absolutely be talking about feelings and using some of the other strategies from the article with their students. I’ve written about how using the arts to teach impacts morale and happiness. (Here, here, and here.) I believe happy people are more successful, and I’m pretty sure there’s research on that.

Happy Teachers=Happy Students=High Levels of Success
This is what Whole Child Education is all about!

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it!

What do you think?


Here's to you my friends. Hope you have a good week!

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