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I’m still working with the kids (K-5) with skills that apply in art, math, and science. This is pure integration & collaboration – and it’s fun! Moving on from tangrams and visual puzzles, we are now working with pattern blocks. This time I’m using the camera to record their works and add to their portfolios.

The skills we are working on using the pattern blocks include:

– Recognizing and naming the pattern block shapes: square, triangle, parallelogram, rhombus, hexagon, trapezoid,  and diamond
– Using the shapes to create new ones: for example, 3 triangles can create a trapezoid
– Recognizing & creating symmetrical shapes
– Recognizing & creating patterns


16 student works are featured at the Hoover Library this month!

Wow. I’m old. Sesame Street just celebrated its 40th and I did in October… Sesame Street is something almost all of my students can relate to, and it’s also something the adults can relate to… so I figured I’d do an entire K-5 Pop Art style project (Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, etc.). We are in the throes of working on our art work in the classroom BUT I’m happy to post pictures of our faculty’s favorite characters & their drawings. The smiles I’ve seen from adults and children working on this project are awesome – good memories for a lot of us young and old.


I’m not going to lie, educational videos are usually the most boring clips of information on the planet. Every once in awhile though, a speaker who understands that education doesn’t have to be boring to be interesting and fun comes along – and then they spice it up with the arts. This clip I’ve watched about 6 times now… powerful, and in my humble opinion, the hard, cold truth about our educational system.

First – Happy Veterans Day! Thanks to all who are serving or have served our country. I have past and current family members who are honored on this day.

ed emberly

I’ve been BAD about updating this blog (and therefore my lessons) for awhile…  I won’t bore anyone reading this with excuses but will write that I’m doing a variety of lessons with all grade levels. As someone who gets bored easily, I have to mix up my lessons with the kiddos – all 36 classes of them. If I’m teaching a particular concept with one grade level, I simply cannot do it 6 times over with the same theme or subject matter. Only one thing makes me break with this pattern – and that’s when my kids forget some of the basic principles of art that I KNOW I’ve taught – preached it like a mantra as a matter of fact. One of those things is a secret that some artists/teachers never share (they didn’t share it with me for sure), and it can provide a framework for ANYONE to have the capacity to DRAW OR PAINT ANYTHING!!! The secret is this – almost everything is comprised of lines and shapes. Instead of perceiving an object as a complete entity, simply break it down into basic shapes and lines – and you can draw it or paint it. Period. Details come last. It is very, very hard for kids to grasp this concept as they are concrete thinkers during their elementary years – so no matter how I say it, teach it, it’s still lost on them from week to week. Last Tuesday I had a come apart because I asked two of my 5th grade classes to draw leaves I’d gathered and one of the classes absolutely FAILED, which means I’d failed as a teacher. They forgot, again, to break the leaves down to simple lines and shapes. Furthermore, I WELCOME mistakes – that’s how we learn!! Instead of attempts to draw realistic leaves, I got a bunch of ovals with square stems and veins that look like a math grid – AHHHHHHH!!!! After that class, I went directly to the library and checked out every single drawing book on their shelves and added my own drawing books until each table in my room was covered with a pile of ’em. Quite simply, drawing books show us those very same basic shapes and lines that can be used to draw/paint almost anything. For the past week, and I’m thinking of adding another one, I have taught this same concept to 36 classes – again. The sad truth is, I can’t permanently sear this information on their forming brains seeing them only once a week, and therefore it must be repeated, and often.

I discovered this profound truth in basic shapes and lines as a child. Growing up in the 70s, we didn’t have as much to divert our attentions as kids today do. My mom kicked us out of the house – and most of the time, that was great with us – until dusk. We played games, rode our big wheels, and really LOOKED at our environments – bugs, moss, trees, etc. When it rained, we were stuck inside and often took to drawing. We had books that we used until the spines cracked and the pages were worn and torn. Most of them were by Ed Emberly, and I owe my understanding of how to draw to him – not to any adult, teacher or otherwise. And (yes, I just started a sentence with AND) that is why I will use him in my art room today – along with a slew (sp?!) of other authors/illustrators…  My hope is that if some kids don’t get my mantra, then maybe a few of them will pick up the concept from those books – just like I did. Props to Ed – you rock.

fail motivational poster

I am fortunate to work in a school district that supports the arts at the elementary level all the way through high school. Our parents, in fact, wouldn’t have it any other way. Unfortunately though, many school districts across our nation are continuing to cut arts education programs at every level due to the current economic crisis. Math, reading, and the sciences are important to continue competing on an international level, but the arts give us the CREATIVE edge to compete in a global market. In this way, and in so many other ways, the arts help define who we are as a nation, who we are as a culture, and who we are as individuals. Why would we as a society ever take that away from children? As art educators, as educators, as parents, we need to make our voicese known at the local and national levels – for as often and as long as it takes. A great resource site for us all can be located HERE.


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