Tag Archives: artistic behaviors

Corona and Remote Teaching


I see it has been over 2 months since my last post. And, quite frankly, I’m not surprised. I had some ideas in the works for new posts on the exciting stuff and things happening in the Duck Art Room since January, but then Corona hit, and my spirits plummeted.

I tried with all I had in me to look the “new normal” in the eye and take it on. And by new normal, I mean remote teaching or distance learning or “homeschooling” ūüôĄūüôĄūüôĄ. (Don’t get me started on how none of this is homeschooling. I know people that homeschool for a living, and this is not it folks. But I digress.) It was hard. I wanted to be the best teacher I could be, but in truth, I wanted to just paint and drink coffee and play with clay. And I’ve done all that. In fact, by the end of this, I will have a full kiln load of just stuff I made.

One week away from school turned to two weeks; then to three weeks. And now, I’m pretty sure we won’t be back this school year. And at this point, while I want to see all my kids more than anything, I don’t know how we could make the switch one more time with 7 weeks (in my district anyway) of school left — 3 of which we are definitely out for Shelter-In-Place orders.

My district has been remote teaching/distance learning for 3 weeks now. I feel it has all been one big trial and error session. My district finally came to a decision about grading and GPA and class rank–which for those of you who teach high school know that these things are currently important in the world of education and higher education. I won’t go into everything, but we are going to a pass/fail system for the second marking period of the 2019-20 school year. Grades will be assigned with “prominent emphasis on completion and effort”. So, that sounds good right. It sounds as about as equitable as they can get. We are trying very hard to make sure we can meet accommodations and reach students without internet and give grace to those struggling with home issues (siblings, work, etc.) that affect them being able to do school work. Could more be done? Probably. But I know we are trying.

What does this all have to do with Art and Teaching for Artistic Behavior and Duck Art? A lot actually. I said that my spirits had plummeted, and that included my spirit for facilitating meaningful art making situations for my students. Instead, I assigned what I felt was going to be the easiest thing for me to do. Currently, I have about 50-65% participation from my students–some do all of it, most pick and choose and turn in a thing here or a thing there. It made me sad to say the least. I was missing seeing my kids make and create and all those other things that go with being artists.

Earlier this week, I was looking at Facebook, like all who are at home do, and I finally clicked on my friend Melissa Purtee’s post about what she was doing remotely with her kids, and it sparked something in me. I was then reminded of a post another friend had put in the main TAB Facebook group about not forgetting our purpose as TAB teachers–those 3 main tenets of the philosophy. I knew I had to change what I was doing. I couldn’t sustain it anyway. So, I borrowed from Melissa, as she so graciously lets us do, and made a new website for my students–all of my students, no matter the level or the class type. It gives them choice. It lets them decided how to spend their time during the week–instead of a daily assignment, they know what they need to do for the week on Monday and can plan their schedule to meet their needs. It makes them think and decide and research and plan and all those behaviors we have been talking and learning about for months or years. I have full belief in my students and I am hoping that it is what is right for them, and for their situations. I hope they can see art making not as a thing they have to do, but they want to do–because the freedom is in their hands now.

I’ll leave you with this. I’m not sure how I feel about our “New Normal”. I just hope I am bringing a sense of comfort to my students thru art and choice as we navigate this together.

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Click image for website

Working with “The 10”: Ceramics Packet Reflection


My friend, Ian Sands, developed a system called “the 9“.¬† They are packets based around the basics of subjects of art that artists create.¬† It’s not about content, but more about category that art would fall into.¬† The packets include: the object, architecture, nature, landscape, figure, portrait, imagination, non-representational, and conceptual.¬† He introduced them to me some time last school year, and I thought they were wonderful.¬† I’ve been successfully using them with my art 1 students this year.¬† They are a great introduction to art categories, while allowing my TAB students to make lots of meaningful choices.

I tested them out last year with one of my classes, and thought that they would be a great tool for working with my ceramics students as they move along their artistic journey.¬† Sometime last spring, I began planning how to use Ian’s model for my ceramics program.¬† I began researching and decided that for the most part, ceramics artists’ works fall into most of the same categories.¬† But, I discovered that there are 10 categories, instead of 9.¬† They include: nature, animal, architecture, “figure”-ative, functionality, imagination, non-representation, portraiture, the object, and conceptual/installation.

Following Ian’s template, I created consideration questions for each packet, changed up the suggestions and geared the planning around requirements I have for my students.¬† I am very happy with the development of my packets.

Now, here’s where I am dissatisfied with “The 10”.¬† I rolled them out in a way that I find isn’t working the way I hoped.¬† I thought it would make my students more independent, so I introduced it with my intermediate and advanced students.¬† (They meet at the same time.)¬† I think this was my mistake.¬† I should have used it with my beginners¬†after we completed the “have-to” portion of our class.¬† Seeing how my art 1 students are growing using “The 9”, helped me to see this.¬† Currently with my beginners, we do ceramic artistic behavior units right after finishing our “have to” section.¬† We just began our first unit,¬†Ceramic Artists are Inspired by Nature, but I think that after this unit, we will pass out sketchbooks and move onto the next packet.¬† Nature is one of the packets after all.¬† We will continue through the rest of the year going through packets, picking up next fall with where we left off.¬† Then we will dive into deeper meaning with Ceramic Artistic Behavior units.

I will continue with my upper ceramic students in the way we are working. With the exception of one student, they are all seniors, and I’m not too worried about it.¬† They are working and learning and growing.

They say it takes 3 years to really build up a program.¬† Like I previously stated, this is the 5th year of the program.¬† I’ve been playing around with it, trying new things each year to replace things that weren’t working.¬† I feel I finally have a great grasp on the program and the progression it should take to truly have my students behaving and thinking like artists.¬† The timing of “The 10” was the final piece of the puzzle that finally fell into place.


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Example of “The 10: Nature Packet”


The DuckArt Tantamounter: A midterm exam.


My school expects every class and every studeny to have a midterm exam.¬† I hate exams. And, without “testable content” in a TAB classroom, a written test was not really a good idea.¬† I’ve done portfolio reviews and semester learning questionaires before, but with art 1, they’re hit or miss.¬† I’ve done the “final artwork” thing before too, but I don’t grade artwork normally, so coming up with a rubric for one sucks.

Then it hit me. Why not do the Tantamounter.¬† I love doing it as an activity with my kids. We hadn’t done it yet.¬† It was a great way to show off the artistic behaviors and thinking I had hoped they had been learning…problem solving, communicating, collaborating, observation…and of course, it showed they could work in a shared studio as part of their task was to leave the studio as clean as they found it.


It was such a huge success.  I painted our living painting, much to the dismay of many who thought it was going away for the rest of the year, and put it outside our classroom.

Upon entering the room, the class was told they were now the inner workings of the tantamount machine. After a brief slide show, a statement about materials, and time for questions, time began–they had 60 minutes.

Seriously, it was awesome.

I do want to thank my coworkers for bringing such interesting items to be Tantamounted.¬† I couldn’t have pulled it off without them. I have decided this is my go to midterm from now on.

Artists Tackle Social Issues


I have been wanting to have my art 2 students take their work to a deeper level–to really bring in their voices.¬† Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple of students that already do, but most still create artworks that haven’t quite broken the surface.¬† I’ve tried doing a unit on stereotypes before, but it seems that I get the usual suspects.¬† So, this year, I decided it was the year to “bring it on”, so to speak.¬† I decided to challenge my students with the tackling of social issues.

They first started by defining some “common” words… opinion, social issue, society, commentary, and parody.¬† I also asked them to consider why an artist would want to us social issues in their work.¬† That question seemed to be a hard one for them.¬† I asked them to watch either a video on Maxwell Rushton and his “Left Out” project or on Favianna Rodriguez, a Latina printmaker, and make connections between the what they watched and our unit idea of using social issues in art.¬† The final part of their research was to find artworks that used social issues.¬† And, they couldn’t show any that I showed them for our intro to the unit.

To help my students get warmed up for creating their own artwork, I gave them a challenge.¬† They had 2 choices.¬† Choice one: talk to 5 different people about some “hot topic issues” of today, and create a sketch of a possible artwork based on their “favorite” opinion.¬† Choice two: Pick a social issue that is hot today, create a slideshow of at least 5 different artworks around that issue (on either side), and present to the class.

These girls gave me permission to share the links to their slideshows.  I think they did some great work.

Gender Inequality


The best part for me about this unit was how invested in their artwork the kids became.¬† I didn’t have to prod the kids to get going.¬† They quickly had a social issue they wanted to talk about and set off creating.¬† I am so impressed with their work, and their voices.

New Year, New Curriculum


Summer is over for me as in-service starts on Monday the 7th.  And, that means it is time to shake off the sun, which is hard in Texas.  Anyway, with the start of the new year comes new lessons, new ideas, and new curriculum to be implemented.

Curriculum: the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program.

Since I am the only ceramics teacher, I am in charge of my own curriculum for those courses.  And, the ceramics curriculum is going to be the biggest thing I will implement this year.

For some years now, I have taught my ceramics classes in a way that lends itself to my TAB philosophy that I follow. ¬†My purpose is for the students to be able to think like ceramic artists by the end of their time in those classes. ¬†That includes knowing about clay, glazes, and different techniques to achieve the ideas the artist wants to create. ¬†I have structured my classes as a teacher-led beginning, with the first semester leaning more towards a choice class with “projects” I have designed to teach the basic building techniques ceramicists use. ¬†From there, we move into a more TAB atmosphere with themes and the students using the design process while interpreting those themes. ¬†My upper classes have even more freedom to either take or leave the themes.

I have found that most students were not really understanding how ceramic artists work nor were they able to think like one…relying too much on me and very low-level ceramic skills. ¬†That when I finally made the connection that I needed to dump themes like I had in my art 1 and art 2 classes, and move to a more unit based curriculum…but not units based necessarily on the artistic behaviors that I use in art 1 and art 2. ¬†Instead, I needed to come up with common artistic behaviors that ceramicists use. ¬†Creating 3-dimensional objects requires a different mindset and understanding that creating 2-dimensional artwork.

I racked my brain for what I had learned and seen over the years in ceramic arts, and invented a list of things I felt that ceramic artists did when creating their work. ¬†Many are based on the type of work they create and how they create that work. ¬†I will take those behaviors and structure the units like I do my normal units–with 3 parts: digging deeper, challenge, and your turn. ¬†In the digging deeper students will define some pertinent words to the behavior, students will watch and analyze a video about an artist that works in that fashion, and then will find examples of ceramic art in that style. ¬†For the challenge…well, I don’t know yet how that will work…but, I’m not too worried about it right now. ¬†And of course, the your turn section. ¬†I think that is self-explanatory.

My plan on using this is to start with my intermediate/advanced class and have them be the guinea pigs.  Once the beginning class has finished the first semester and is ready to move onto the units, I will have tried them once and can tweak what is needed so they will be able to use them.  Basically, intermediate/advanced will be a semester ahead.  And, in the long run, it should work out that those in advanced next year will be able to truly be full TAB having been through the ceramic behavior units.  (I hope that makes sense because it does in my head.)

Here is my list of ceramic behaviors:

  • Artists Work in a Series¬†
  • Artists Explore Color¬†
  • Artists Explore Surface Treatments
  • Artists Work Conceptually¬†
  • Artists Create Realism¬†
  • Artists Communicate¬†
  • Artists Work Decoratively
  • Artists Work Functionally¬†
  • Artists Develop a Style¬†
  • Artists Create Installations¬†
  • Artists Work ‚ÄúFigure‚ÄĚatively

This is all a work in progress, but I feel that it will be very successful.  My move away from themes and into AB units in art 1 and art 2 were highly successful in my students becoming artists, so the natural conclusion is this will too.

2016-17 Year in Review


It’s that time. ¬†Another school year has come to an end. ¬†And, in honor of me finishing out my 10th year, I will count down the 10 biggest things that happened this year. ¬† Not everything that happened this year was good. ¬†In fact, it was kind of a crappy year. ¬†But, I did learn a lot and made some great relationships with me students. ¬†So, without anymore drivel from me, let’s do this.

10. UNITY:  I will admit, I saw the Unity Project video on Facebook, and I was in.  I emailed my principal and he was all in.  I created a gofundme project for it and through the kindness of others, the project was funded quickly and I was able to go shopping for materials.  It was a great way to kick off the year.  I had so much support from other teachers and our student body.  While there was a few hiccups along the way (one being when a students thought he could climb on a pvc pole and he broke it), in the end, it was an amazing installation.

9. THE PURPLE HOODIE: I had a tough student this year. ¬†He was hard to reach. ¬†He didn’t talk much, and he often had his purple hoodie pulled up over his head. ¬†I started the year off by giving him some space, and by asking his monitor teacher for some strategies with him. ¬†It took a while, but we built a relationship. ¬†He spent much of his time during his class in my office, but he would do the work I asked him to do. ¬†And believe me, he did not like making or talking about art. ¬†After a while, he would come in during lunch to hang out and chat. ¬†He did this at other times as well. ¬†We built a relationship where I could be honest with him and give him a fair dose of snark and it was all okay.

There was this one day that was bittersweet. ¬†It both made me sad and touched my heart at the same time. ¬†He came into my office one morning during tutorials, but there were already like 6 other kids in my office. ¬†I said hi, and he looked at me, but then left as quickly as he came in. ¬†I sensed something was off. ¬†I figured I would ask him later that day. ¬†He didn’t show up to class. ¬†When he returned the next day, he told me where he was…talking to some people in the office. ¬†When he told me why, I was saddened. ¬†I won’t go into details about why. ¬†And I know this is weird, but it touched me that I was the 2nd person he came to find to talk with him. ¬†The first wasn’t in her office, so he came to me. I care very much about this young man. ¬†And, I am glad I gained his trust. ¬†Sadly, he has moved to another city with his father. ¬†But, rumor has it, he will be back next year. Relationships can sometimes matter more than art making.

8. ESCALATION:¬†I have a co-worker that has been teaching with me for the past 10 years. ¬†We get along on the surface, but when you look closely, you will notice we couldn’t be more different. ¬†For starters, we teach on complete different ends of the art spectrum…he’s dbae and I’m TAB. ¬†We don’t play well together and it has been building up for years. ¬†I finally got up the courage to talk to an admin about the situation; I went in with the intention of seeking advice in how to make our department better and how to work with him. ¬†It was suggested that we circle up, a restorative discipline term. ¬†Basically, it was like mediation. ¬†He basically refused, and one day it escalated between us in my classroom. ¬†Luckily, I was on conference and I held my cool. We still haven’t worked things out,¬†and I have been told our head principal will eventually talk with us, but I’m not holding my breath.

Why am I adding this? ¬†Well, this was a big event that happened this year. ¬†I think it needed to happen. ¬†I would have liked to go to mediation, but I am mostly okay with the outcome. ¬†The fact that I spoke up and I was honest about my feelings and that I took ownership that¬†I wasn’t innocent in any of it was big for me. ¬†I don’t like confrontation, nor to like to create waves¬†in my workplace.

7. SCHOLASTIC ART:¬†This year, I finally got up the nerve to enter my students work in the Scholastic Art contest. ¬†I was so nervous. ¬†I see the potential and awesomeness in my students’ works, but do others. ¬†My kids don’t make “normal” pieces, and often times it’s not what “they” consider gold seal work–one reason I don’t enter into our state art event. ¬†But, I was told Scholastic was different. ¬†My kids didn’t win anything, and after looking at what did win for my region, I wondered about the judges. ¬†But, that is neither here nor there. ¬†I am so proud of my students for trusting me. ¬†I still think they were shafted because their work was super cool. ¬†I know, I’m biased. ¬†I look forward to next year and entering more student works.

6. DALLAS:¬†This year’s Texas Art Ed Assoc held it’s yearly conference in Dallas. ¬†I presented not once, but twice. ¬†I presented once about grading and TAB…it kind of bombed. ¬†I was told it was fine, but I know better. ¬†The other presentation was a overview of HS TAB. ¬†It went really well. ¬†Beyond the presentations, I participated in my first live twitter chat, got to have great burgers and beer with a friend who I met in Chicago at NAEA16, I met the terraforma cards guys, and I got to throw some bowls for a local empty bowls event. ¬†It was a pretty fun time, I must admit. ¬†It was a much needed and much appreciated work-cation.


5. THE BIG APPLE:¬† NAEA17 was held in my old stomping ground…NYC! ¬†There was no way I was going to miss a chance to go “home”. ¬†I don’t even know where to begin. ¬†I got to room with 2 of my favorite TAB ladies. ¬†I got to finally meet and hangout with Melissa Purtee. ¬†I stayed in a hotel in midtown. ¬†I lived in Queens, so the hotel stay was new and so cool. ¬†I got to go to the MOMA, which is in a completely different location from the last time I went there…over 20 years ago. ¬†I had a fabulous dinner with other TABbers, provided by my fabulous mentors, Diane and Kathy. ¬†Times Square had become something I couldn’t believe…so bright and shiny. ¬†And, I got to have a reunion with one of my closest friends from college.

4.¬†4th Annual THS Art Show:¬†¬†Six years into my time at THS¬†I asked if we could have a high school art show. ¬†Up until that point, there wasn’t any. ¬†This year marks the 4th year that I have put up a show that celebrates all art made at our school. ¬†I don’t just show off my students and my co-worker’s students. ¬†We include any other elective where art is created–welding, fashion, photography, floral design, culinary, and we include our teachers. ¬†It is a lot of work, but in the end, it is so worth it. ¬†This year I was worried that it wouldn’t go off well. ¬†(See the escalation paragraph above.) ¬†But, I put that aside and just focused on the art. ¬†I think it was a great turn out. ¬†Students sold their work, and not just to their parents. ¬†The rain stayed away (every year it rains at the beginning of the show) during the show itself; I do believe it rained earlier in the day though. ¬†I found a better way of hanging the paintings, almost none fell down this year…the rain always brings the humidity and that doesn’t play nice with how we used to hang out artworks. Granted no one from central office showed up, even though they were sent formal invitations, but I’ve come to expect that. ¬†And quite frankly, those who are important, like parents, friends, teachers, and the community, showed up in support. ¬†I look forward to celebrating our students again for years to come.

art show poster (1)

3. A SMILE LIKE I’VE NEVER SEEN: Art is a funny yet fabulous thing. ¬†It¬†can grab hold of the most unlikely and unexpected people. ¬†This year I was lucky enough to witness this. ¬†I watched a student finish a project early and ask me if I could show him how to use the wheel. ¬†We weren’t slated to use the wheel for months, but who am I to stop a student from learning to art. ¬†That week, I knew art had put her hooks in him. ¬†Over the next few months, I watched him grow, and learn, and create. ¬†I watched him create bowl after bowl, vase after vase, each time honing his skills, and using every ounce of clay we had. ¬†But, it was more than that. ¬†I saw the passion for what he was doing rise in him. ¬†I saw a smile, and a light in his face when we talked about ceramics and his work. ¬†I am so glad that he decided to sign up for beginning ceramics. ¬†If only he found it before his senior year.

2. RESTORATIVE DISCIPLINE: Our school started to implement a new behavior management system. ¬†It is called restorative discipline, and for the most part, it is meant to be proactive instead of reactive. ¬†It is not something that the entire campus learns at one time. ¬†It is done in stages. ¬†I know that seems odd, but after learning about it, it makes sense. ¬†I was lucky enough to have been asked to be in cohort #2, which began it’s training 2 weeks before school ended. ¬†It is so much about community and building relationships…which is right up my alley, and why I was asked to be in the 2nd cohort. ¬†I personally think it was cool to be asked knowing why they¬†asked me. ¬†(Some were asked because they thought that teacher was lacking in that area.) ¬†Anyway, so far, so good.

But, more than being part of the next cohort, I did participate in a couple of tier 2 circles this year…these are reactive, but they can make such a difference. ¬†I had one student who I¬†kept butted heads with, and if she kept it up, we knew she was headed to our alternative center. ¬†We circled up and we both spoke our piece and listened to the other person. ¬†We made a contract and tried to implement it. ¬†We hit a bump and had to re-circle. ¬†But, that time worked. ¬†We now have an amazing relationship, and don’t tell her, but I will miss having her in class next year.

1.¬†NO MORE THEMES:¬†This year I dropped the themes for my art 1 and art 2 classes. ¬†I instead went with artistic behaviors for major units. ¬†We worked our way through: artists solve problems, artists communicate, artists, observe, artists steal, artists represent, artists abstract/don’t represent, and artists work in a series. ¬†This was a major step forward for me and my students in our¬†TAB studio. ¬†I think it really was more meaningful to them to really understand what artists do. ¬†It really made a huge difference, the switch¬†that is. ¬†I could see it in their work; I could see it in their exploration; I could see it in their understanding of art making; and I could see it in their growth. ¬†And, at the end of the year, I had the least amount of work left behind I have had since making the leap to TAB.


It has been a very interesting decade of art teaching for me. ¬†I have changed so much. ¬†My teaching has changed so much. ¬†I like to think it’s all for the better. ¬†I keep learning new things, about art, about teaching, about students, and most importantly, about myself. ¬†I often wonder what is going to happen next, which is something that keeps me interested and wanting to go to work every day. ¬† What obstacles will I face and will I overcome them? ¬†What new things will I learn? ¬†What new things can I teach someone? ¬†What new relationships will I make? ¬†¬†What new surprises will I find? ¬†I think it’s this last one that I really enjoy because I love being surprised by what my students do and learn and create and tell me. ¬†It is what makes it all worth it.

Printmaking Exploration

Printmaking Exploration

I decided to start the second semester off with some good old exploration. ¬†I was going to jump right into my “Artists Steal” unit (appropriated from Apex HS), but then I changed my mind and thought we needed to get messy for a week and a half.

We don’t have a printing press at school, so that limits what we can do. ¬†However, that didn’t stop me from coming up with 6 different techniques involving making prints. ¬†I got this idea from Cynthia Gaub and her art around the room activities. ¬†The students would be asked to explore 5 out of 6 techniques and reflect on each technique.

I set up the counter with the 6 different “stations”. ¬†We would learn about block prints (with EZ cut), collograph, stamping, styrofoam plates, monoprinting, and faux screen printing. ¬†I laid out the week and a half in a short PowerPoint, explaining I would only do demos for cutting blocks, inking plates/pulling prints, using the gelatin plate for monoprints, and how to set up the screen for screen prints. ¬†For the other techniques, the students would have to rely on the example¬†cards I had created the year before. ¬†Some of it required some thought on their part on interpretation of the card.

The students were asked to reflect on their findings of each technique. ¬†They could either write their answers in their journals/sketchbooks or they could start a new BlendSpace lesson and reflect there. ¬†I gave the students 7 questions to choose from…they have to answer question #1, then pick 4¬†from the remaining 6.

  1. What was the medium/technique explored?
  2. What qualities/characteristics does the medium/technique have?
  3. What makes the medium/technique different from a similar medium/technique?
  4. What did you like the best about media/technique and why?
  5. What did you like the least about media/technique and why?
  6. What could you use this medium/technique for?
  7. What other information would you like to know about this medium/technique?

My favorite part was reading the variety of questions they had for #7.

  • How is this art? (re: screen printing)
  • Is there an easier way to reverse when doing blocks?
  • Could block printing be done on a larger scale?
  • Was styrofoam printing invented by someone on a budget?
  • Who came up with block printing?
  • How do you add multiple colors?
  • What can you do with the collagraph technique?
  • Why is it called collagraph?
  • What is the right amount of ink?
  • How do you keep ink from getting on certain points on the styrofoam plate?
  • What other tools can be used to dent into the styrofoam?
  • How many layers can you do on a monoprint?
  • Do people really use the collograph technique and make a living with it?
  • How can you draw cleaner in the styrofoam?

Here are my thoughts on this activity:

I really think this could be a good way to explore different ways of printmaking. ¬†While I showed the students some examples of final pieces, I don’t think I really let them know “how” different type of printmaking could be used. ¬†They tend to think that each technique must be used alone and don’t consider mixed media, texture, background, layers, etc. ¬†So, I would figure out a way to bring that into the activity for next year.

When it came to leaving some of the work to them… ¬†relying on the example¬†cards I had created the year before, I was hopeful that they would figure it out…I was wrong…most didn’t and they ended up asking me. ¬†Sometimes they didn’t even try to look at the cards and make some educated guesses at what the process was. ¬†This was frustrating to me as part¬†of my philosophy does have the expectation that the students are responsible for their own learning and that I won’t spoon feed them. ¬†I know they are high school students, but that can’t be their excuse for everything. ¬†I did find myself smiling when I would hear a student asking another student.

I think perhaps I could show some videos or require them to watch a video as part of each station so they could see other artists use the technique or see what it could be used for. Then, they could use that as well for more informed reflections of the techniques.

My other thought, and this happens every year since moving to TAB, is how to get kids to actually use printmaking/stamping in their artwork.  Do they really not like it?  Do they not see it as an artwork?  Do they (the students) see it as too much to add to their process when art making?

I will continue to do this Printmaking Exploration Activity, but I will make some needed adjustments to enhance the learning and the take-aways from the activity. ¬†One adjustment might be some requirement of what they need to create from the prints…so they put more thought into what they are doing.

Since originally writing this, I did have one student revisit monoprints and the gelatin plate. ¬†She really enjoyed the process and was glad she was able to use it again when creating a non-objective piece for our “Artists Don’t Represent” unit.

Artists Communicate


Our most recent, and final artistic behavior unit, was a closer look at the behavior, Artists Communicate.  This unit was set up a little bit differently than the other units.  We didn’t do as many activities prior to the artwork.  And, this was the first unit where my students created their own original artwork…from conception to artist statement.

We started off with a video on an artwork/installation piece by artist Maxwell Rushton.  As a little background, on Mondays we do what I call “Artist Monday”.  I show a video ranging in length from 3 minutes up to 10 minutes about a current artist.  (Artists Have a Global Awareness of Artmaking) When I choose the video we will watch, I try to keep it in line with the big idea of the current unit.  So, back to Maxwell Rushton.  He created an installation called “Left Out“. It communicates a message about homelessness and our perception of the homeless population.  Students reflected on the video on their BlendSpaces.  Another video I showed over the course of the unit was about Latina printmaker Kirsten Lapore.

One other short activity my students did was a simple sketchbook assignment.  They were asked to break one of their sketchbook pages into 6 boxes.  In each box they had to convey a certain idea–without using the items in the description.  Descriptions included: smell of a fresh baked apple pie, feeling of loneliness, sound of an approaching train, the taste of a hot pepper, the feel of lambskin, and an alarm clock at 5am.  The activity forced students to think of line, shape, and color when creating their sketches.


We spent a day, which probably was really boring until about half-way thru the slide show when the students got to participate.  I showed a slide show that also touched briefly on planning and research.  (This was the boring part.)  Then we got to the communication part and the slide with 5 photos of artworks.  We discussed what they thought the meaning was.  I talked about what the artist intended.  Then we discussed what the artist did to convey those ideas and messages.


That night, after a full day of that slideshow, I realized that the works I chose were very heavy with meaning.  I wanted my students to know that artists also communicated other things that weren’t so steeped with deep meaning.  Here is the pinterest board with the images I chose.  I set up Padlet boards for each class, and one by one I would put up an image and the students would chime in with what they thought the artist was saying and how they determined that.  I was impressed with my students.  They really read the images well.  It lead to great discussions.  As things were posted, I would say some things out loud and ask questions.  I could see the students contemplating, then some would reply out loud with their thoughts.


This brought us to studio time.  My young artists were asked to fill out an artwork proposal for what they wanted to create.  My students really put a lot of thought into their work.  Some students knew what they wanted to communicate, but didn’t know how to convey that.  Others knew what they wanted to make, but didn’t know what they wanted to say about their image(s).  That’s where the meetings came in.  When a student turned in their proposal, I read over the form and wrote down questions and comments.  Then I went and talked with each student.  It really helped me to understand their thoughts, and it helped them to see what “tools” to use to help convey their message…colors, line, composition, viewpoint, symbols, etc.


One thing that I was really impressed with was how much my students prepared for their final artworks.  Some gathered photo references.  Some did sketch after sketch trying to improve their skills.  Many watched videos to learn new skills–such as drawing and shading eyes.  I had students trying out new mediums.  They were all so into what they were doing.  They put so much into their artwork.


Anyway, we concluded the unit by setting up weebly websites/blogs.  I wanted my students to have an online portfolio; something different than the BlendSpace.  I see the BlendSpace as a place for research and collecting thoughts.  The websites are for finished artworks with artist statements.  They are something where they can show off their work.  We learned about artist statements and looked at statements by my artist friend, Roger Mudre, and at my artist statement.  So, now when my students finish an artwork, they take a photo, write an artist statement, and create a new blogpost.

For the first time in a long time, I felt my students’ artworks were at the same caliber as those from the students from my peers, such as Joy Schultz, Ian Sands, and Melissa Purtee. Their students always seem to have so much depth in their art, and now my kids did too. Proud teacher moment, if I do say so myself.  I hope we keep up this momentum because I can only imagine how amazing my students will be by the end of the year.

Artists Solve Problems


Our second in-depth look at an artistic behavior in Art 1 classes was “Artists Solve Problems”.  For this unit, I really wanted to give my students a chance to create some art, while figuring out how to overcome a problem or problems.  I feel this is a very important skill to have for life…not just for art making.

We started off the unit by watching the TED Talk by Phil Hansen, “Embrace the Shake”.  Most students really enjoy watching this video.  They are intrigued by how Phil fulfills his need to create while overcoming his perpetually shaking hand.

Our next activity came to my from my friend and fabulous art educator, Melissa Purtee.  Earlier in the school year, she wrote about game she played with her student on the first days of school called “What’s in the Bag?”  I read her post and thought this would be a great activity for students to begin working on problem solving skills.

I created 6 bags for each of my art 1 classes.  That required my students to break into 6 teams of 4…no one was allowed to work alone. (Working together in a group was another problem to solve.)  Each group picked a prompt from the bucket and then received their bags.  They were given an hour (broken up over 2 classes) to bring their prompt to life.  Bag contents included: a portion of an egg carton, 3 pipe cleaners, a cork, a round plastic piece, 10 popsicle sticks, 2 tongue depressors, some puzzle pieces, 3′ strip of lollipop wrapper, 3 small square chipboard pieces, and 2 rectangular chip board pieces.  They could also use the bag if needed, but it was not required.

After time was up, students were asked to present their creation to the class, addressing the following topics:

  • What was your prompt?
  • Talk about your creation BEYOND ‚Äúthis is my project‚ÄĚ…DESCRIBE IT!
  • What was the hardest problem to overcome building your creation?
  • How did you overcome it?
  • What was the best part of this activity?

Lastly, each class took a closer look at the creations and then voted for the 2 they best felt fulfilled the following criteria:

  • Best interpretation of the prompt
  • Best visual appeal
  • Best craftsmanship
  • Best use of materials

I also showed a few other videos along the way for kids to see how real life problems could be solved in fun, artistic ways.  The videos came from The FunTheory site.  Thanks Ian Sands for showing me that one.

Our final activity of this Artist Solve Problems unit was SCAMPER.  I learned about SCAMPER while at a Gifted and Talented training this past summer.  Out of all the different activities we went over at the training, I felt SCAMPER was one that I could actually take back to my classroom and have the students use.

I wanted my students to create an artwork, on their own, but I wanted it to fall under this unit.  I thought with SCAMPER I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone so-to-speak, as I have a ton of old student artwork that I no longer needed or wanted.  So, this was a great time to use them.  Students will pick an artwork from the pile and use it to create a new artwork.  The catch is, they have to choose one of the letters of SCAMPER when creating their  “new”artwork.  Subject matter, medium(s), and technique(s) are all up to the student.








Modify was the letter most used in the activity. But, a few really dug in with combine, rearrange, eliminate and put to other uses.  I wish I had some of the before images, but I don’t.  Oh well.  Anyway, they stepped up with SCAMPER–some students taking the artwork so far off the original…YAY!  One student totally took her piece apart and created a whole new piece.  (The feathered bird above–it was once a rhino.)  One note I did have for myself for next year is to have a wider variety of old artwork for the kids to choose from.  Too many of the same starting image and ending with not changing the image enough.  Thanks DBAE. Live and Learn.

As we have moved on from this unit, I can see my students talking with each other and trying to work through problems on their own first before involving me.  This is huge.  It leaves me more time to walk around and chat and get to know my students.


Artists Observe


This will be the first in a series of several posts about the units and activities my art 1 students are participating in to get a good grasp on the artistic behaviors. ¬†Last year my art 1 students went through an “artistic behaviors bootcamp“. ¬†After going back and looking at what we had done, I felt it was too fast and there wasn’t enough depth to each behavior. We spent a day or two on each behavior, but it was like we just glossed over the behaviors and my students never really understood them.

This year, I am spending a week or more on each behavior.  We are doing activities that focus on the behavior, while building skills in various media and techniques.  I think this will be a better solution.  The students may not be making as many finished artworks at the moment, but that will come when second semester rolls around and the studio is really much more open.

Our first behavior that we focused on was “Artists Observe”. ¬†I found a powerpoint at Ian Sands’¬†Art of South B page that was perfect for what I wanted students to do. ¬†The week was split into 3 activites. ¬†First¬†students created mindmaps/had class discussions of what they like to observe and what kinds of things artists would look at when observing something. They then moved onto a 3-day sketching activity, where they learned sketching techniques and sketched from life.

Our second activity included learning to shade and a group activity, originating from Melissa Purtee, where students would get into groups of 3-4 and together create a large shaded sphere. ¬†It was very cool to watch the students work together, within the time frame, and figure out how to make values darker and to replicate the sphere I demo’d for them.

Our final activity brought the students in the world of 3-D.  We spent our final day doing the Tantamounter.  Faculty lent items that the students replicated in an artful way.  They had to make decisions, work in small groups, and create a copy of the original item.  They had a 30 minute time limit to complete their piece.


After the weekend, students came back on Monday and spent the day reflecting on our unit.  We went into the hallway and discussed the spheres they had created, looking critically at the spheres and trying to take non-objective judgement out.  They added tiles to their BlendSpace lessons, reflecting on what artists observe means and how the activities we did correlate to the unit idea.  They also reflected on what they learned from our unit activities.

The rest of the week will be spent on building some color drawing skills before we move on to another artistic behavior unit.