Sunday, October 11, 2015

Claim Support Question in the Art Room

As a provocation into a unit about expressing identity through portraiture with my Grade 5's, we tried a new (to me!) Thinking Routine, Claim Support Question. 

I consider this routine one cognitive step beyond See Think Wonder because it forces learners to give rationalization to their claims about a piece of art.

I started with a Chuck Close portrait and did a few examples with the kids, but the depth of thinking wasn't what I had hoped.  Claims along the lines of "he looks old" with support of...wait for it..."because he looks old."  I wondered if this routine was better suited to middle or high school.
Take One with Claim Support Question-- Magic 8 Ball says "Outlook Neutral"

When the next group came in, I changed my strategy.  First I created a visual to get my point across...

Second, I simplified the language:
Take Two: Magic 8 Ball says, "Outlook Good"

The responses in the second group were much more specific and supported by what the children could observe, which of course was the point.  I can't help but wonder if the language I used diluted the thinking too much or made it too similar to See Think Wonder.  I also wonder if I could differentiate a bit and give the simplified version to the kids who need it.

Here is part of my hallway of portraits, students wrote their "Claim Support Questions" on sticky notes.  I like to post things like this so the students can see that process has value, the hallway is not just for finished products.  It also opens up the conversation about Thinking Routines to teachers or parents who may not have experience with them.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Poster love

Tis the season for new starts and new posters. :)  I found a classroom expectation matrix from Art At Becker Middle School and adapted it to meet my needs for Grades 3-5 and a high ELL population--simple yet engaging images, clear language and specific examples.  I put it all together on, printed it poster size using an regular old printer with and voila it's wall ready with no trips to a print shop.   Can you guess what image the kids are going to like the most? ;)

And another one.  I am dipping my toes into a TAB art room model this year and am apprehensive about the quality of work I'm going to see.  I found a photo of W.O.W artwork descriptors on Pinterest with a dead link (please let me know if it's yours) and I used the info to create another canva poster.

Here are the originals that I played with:

(No source...please let me know if it's yours and I will credit you)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Using PicMonkey to organize the art room iPads

We've been using the iPads a lot lately-- my Grade 3's made claymation movies, my Grade 5's went to the local grocery store to do stop motion animation with whatever they could find-- it's been a blast.

Organizing the content, however, has been less fun. The problem lies in the kids remembering which iPad they used when they return to class for Day 2 of a project.  Some would forget to write it down or forget where they wrote it down--- it was a disaster and class time was lost to kids flipping through every iPad to try and find their content.  Not good.

Enter one of my late night Pinterest sessions and I saw a post here where the teacher created wallpaper with the number of the iPad on it. Genius! How had I not heard of that?  I gave my Grade 5 students a challenge-- create new wallpaper for the iPads using  They did not disappoint, and with some of the wallpaper they created, I don't think forgetting iPads will be an issue any more (especially Black #4, yikes!)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Goldsworthy Gone Wild


Transdisciplinary Theme: How We Express Ourselves
Central Idea: Artistic expression can be inspired by nature
Lines of Inquiry: Patterns in nature (form), using natural materials in art (function), reactions and responses (connection)

The Grade 4 artists dove into the land artist Andy Goldsworthy with a See Think Wonder routine that explored this piece:

A recurring theme that came up through all classes was that it might be an ancient sculpture or something with religious significance. Curiousity piqued, they watched a short film that took them on a journey with Goldsworthy himself and showed his process.  I had to stop and start a few times to do some Scottish to American English translation. ;)

In May, I had a good fortune to be able to attend a workshop led by the wonderful Ron Ritchhart who is one of the authors of Making Thinking Visible.  One of my many takeaways was about a specific thinking routine called "I used to think...and now I think..."  I've had this routine fall flat before and Ron's suggestion was to make sure that the routine immediately followed a particularly rich experience. The kids were still abuzz about uncovering some of the mysteries of Goldsworthy's work, so we gave it a go.  They did the routine individually in their sketchbooks but to focus their responses a bit I encouraged them to have two words in one or both of their answers: "nature" and "art."  We got back together in a circle and shared our how our thinking had changed.  The kids' answers had a lot more depth this time and the importance of sharing with peers was another big takeaway from the workshop.

The next class was a field trip.  An important part of Goldsworthy's in situ natural pieces is the way he integrates the natural landscape.  It felt contrived to introduce the kids to this style of art and then make them create using the playground or soccer field as their canvas.  So we went to the beach/mangrove area near where we live.  The homeroom teachers had already collected natural materials with their students that I had dropped at the beach in preparation for the activity.

Students were able to work in groups or individually over a large expanse of sand and what they created was up to them.  I spent the time on the bus encouraging them to let go of preconceived notions of what they should create and try to think on the spot.  When the time was up, they took the art iPads and photographed their work from various perspectives.

Once all the photos were uploaded into Google Drive, I thought it might be fun to give the kids a one class period to experiment with digital manipulation using PicMonkey.  This is where things really got interesting.  The kids absolutely loved it and were inspired by each other's discoveries.  This is a tiny sample of what they made:

The next thing I knew, one of them found the collage feature and started exploring it.  Once one of the kids figured out that you could take a photo of your collage and use it in a new collage, it was all over, the room was buzzing.  I stepped out of the way, changed my lesson plans for the next few classes and let the kids do their thing. By the end of three class periods with their laptops and PicMonkey, the kids had created their very bold and graphic collages, all from the photos of their in situ nature sculptures.  "Artistic expression can be inspired by nature."  Yep, it sure can.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Giant Pop Art Portraits

Central Idea: A self portrait reflects both the characteristics and emotion of the person who creates it

Lines of Inquiry: how artists express emotion, the process of creating a portrait

It all started with a selfie.  After having a look at various portraits and the elements that make some more interesting to the viewer than others, the Grade 5's used iPads to take 3 or 4 selfies and uploaded them to our class Flickr account.  The next step was to digitally create a line drawing of that picture.  We used an online stencil maker program.  Once the children had a line drawing they were happy with, we uploaded that image to to create a large image using A4 pieces of paper.

Once the pdf files were printed (most of them were made up of 9 pages), piecing them together was the next challenge.  A large piece of paper was put on top of the line drawing and the tracing began.  Some children needed help choosing only the most essential details to create their face.  Once they had a drawing they were happy with, we outlined the pencil in black glue and let them dry.

The next lesson was looking in depth at how artists portray the light and shadows on faces.  Children practiced shading on blank face worksheets and decided on bright color combinations for their final piece.

Kids are thrilled with the results of their effort.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Growth Mindset in the Art Room

Since reading Mind in the Making, I've been fascinated with Carol Dweck's research into fixed vs growth mindsets.  I saw some of the information from here in an anchor chart for the regular classroom and thought it would be great to make one for my art room.  I hope other art teachers find it useful, I am about to enlarge it using and stick it on my wall.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bodies in Motion

This unit is an integration into the Grade 3 Who We Are Unit that investigates body systems.

Visual Arts Central idea: Artists study the human body to better convey movement and expression

Lines of Inquiry: Why artists study the human body, how is the human body depicted across various genres

Tuning in was lots of great discussion about the following video: 

Students were introduced to the concept of proportion and a class was spent sketching the human figure in various poses.  Kids took turns being models and we also used manikins.  We looked at the work of Edgar Degas and I found a wonderful clip which talks about his use of line to show jittery dancers backstage.

For the final piece, children created poseable paper mannikins and decided on an opening pose. They used sticky tac to adhere the manikin to a piece of paper and traced it in pencil, then in marker.  The children moved the manikin a little (not too much) and traced twice again (pencil, then marker) until there were 4 or 5 outlines on the paper.  

The last step was to add the motion lines around their figures to give the entire piece a feeling of movement. This project was inspired by a post at but and adapted to meet the needs of younger children.