Thursday, February 20, 2014

3rd Grade Spotlight: Coil Pots

Good afternoon! I wanted to share some photos of 3rd grade coil pots and hopefully inspire you to try them with your classes.

Teaching clay projects can always be a challenge. Here's what I like to do:

Go over rules of ceramics. I have the students take turns reading them out loud and we discuss each one. Since my K-4th classes are only 25 minutes long, we spend one whole class discussing rules of clay and doing a demonstration. Here's a Clay Rules PDF if you want to use it!

To start the coil pots, I give each student a small round slab of clay (pre-cut). This will (for the most part) help their pots stay similar sizes. Of course, some of them may flare out and turn into plates, but oh well. I show them how to make a coil, and always score and slip. Here's a handout I made this year that seemed to help! **Note: I decided to let them choose whether or not to smooth out the coils as they go. I found they prefer both ways.

Here's my example of a basic coil pot (no flaring out or in). This year, I let them play around with the shape by adding coils that go in and outside the existing coils.

Here's an example of a student who really embraced the project and created his own unique shape... I was so proud of him!

This student did a good job staying consistent with their coils.

Coil pots after first firing and about to be glaze-fired...

 Coil pots are easy and fun, especially once the students get the hang of it. Give them a try!

Mrs. E

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to Deal with 4th and 5th Graders...

Hi everyone!

Today I wanted to talk a bit about those children who seem to change overnight in 4th and especially 5th grade. They can be a challenge!

Last year was my first year of teaching. I had a hard time keeping the older grades focused, and therefore felt disrespected a lot of the time. I tried turning off the lights to get their attention, raising my voice over theirs, standing silently ("I'm waiting..." anyone?), and nothing seemed to work. While some of the techniques I've used this year work great, I can't promise that every single time you will see success. Which brings me to my first point...

1. Understand that you cannot control their hormones. Puberty is a real thing, people. These kids are experiencing changes that we all went through, and I often have to remind myself of that. Know that it is not always their intention to be disrespectful. Respecting them in this way has helped me to stay sane in moments where I want to pull my hair out.

2. Expect the best. Walking into the classroom with a tense demeanor, even if you think you can hide it, never helps. Children can pick up on your cues, and they often feed on your negative energy. Many times when I feel like I am being run over by their loudness, interruptions, etc., I look back and realize it all started with my mood when class began.

3. In light of this fact, begin class with confidence. Err on the side of being strict, because with older children you have to set boundaries and standards from the get-go. Sometimes I'm tempted to be more lax and "fun," but I've realized they need to see me as an authority figure long before we can laugh together. It may sound extreme, but my best classes have been when I remained calm, yet assertive and confident, rather than laid back. (You can still be sweet and respectful, though!)

4. Show grace. You needed grace when you were in 4th or 5th grade, or any age, for that matter. Give students the benefit of the doubt, because the majority of the time, they mean well. They want to please you. And the more you show them grace and respect, the more they will reflect it back to you.

5. Repeat yourself. Many times, we teachers think we only need to say something once for it to stick. It is only going to stick in their minds when you repeat it. Sometimes I feel like a broken record with the older kids, especially during clean up time, but the truth is they need those reminders. It all comes back to expecting the best of them, but showing grace when they need it!

Hope some of these simple tips will help you to stay calm and feel in control in your classroom!

Mrs. E

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Power of Words

This post is going to be a bit more serious... just to warn you. It is written from a teacher's perspective, but I am also a wife and soon-to-be mother who deals with these things in many scenarios. Lately I've been thinking a lot about the way we, as teachers, have so much power in words. I often fall short in my weariness, impatience, etc. (basically, my selfishness), and it comes out on my students. This is not a call out. This is a personal issue that I believe everyone struggles with, but not many people talk about for fear of judgment.

The truth is our words have incredible weight. Whether it's in the classroom, in the home, or in the grocery store, I believe words can be just as harmful as actions. Whoever said "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never harm me" was just plain wrong.

There are things my teachers said to me as a child that impacted me, for the better and for the worse. Now, as a teacher, I find myself in situations where all that comes out is sarcasm or a feeble way of saying "I don't appreciate what you are doing"... Instead, it may sound like, "STOP! RIGHT NOW!" As the minutes and hours in the day pass by, I look back on that moment and see that student's eyes... nothing but fear or shame is reflected back into my own shameful heart. My reaction to their outburst was equally ridiculous and uncalled for. And my intention should never be to shame anyone or make them afraid of what may happen. My intention should be a gentle nudge to do the right thing and to have integrity. It is in those moments that I am fully aware of my own lack of integrity. I am brought to my knees asking my Savior to give me the right words to speak.

The tongue is a tool to be used for good, but I believe we are all too messed up to do so on our own. Without Christ, my words are harsh, unkind, or can come across that way even if I wasn't planning on it sounding that way. James tells us that the tongue has to be tamed, that it is like a fire. If we don't try to quench that fire, our words become nothing but empty, hateful, and meaningless.

I am pleading with all teachers, mothers, and wives here. Please, please, please think before you speak. Think before you use that tone of voice that implies you know more than the person you're speaking with... even if you do. Use wise judgment. Some situations call for a response, and many do not. And the ones that do require a response should be carefully formed, not reactionary. Isn't this what we all struggle with?

The only answer I have for this tongue-taming process is the Holy Spirit. Each class period, we pray before we start on our project. When I am focused on the prayer and on Jesus, I've noticed a STARK difference in my tone and words. However, the opposite happens when I am focused on myself, on what needs to get done, etc. Friends, God is in control. He does not need you to be a control freak. He wants you to surrender your life -- every part, every moment, every word -- to His will. You will be free, joyful, and grateful when you let the Lord take control.

Mrs. E

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

5th Grade Spotlight: Value Studies

Good morning!

It's a blustery day here with snow falling at a steady pace. I'm enjoying a nice cup of coffee on my hour long (!) break. Would've been perfect for a snow day, but I am wondering if Thursday and Friday might stand a better chance. :)

Thought I would share what we are doing in 5th grade. I've taught five other classes and always struggled with value. For some reason, a lot of the 5th graders don't understand the concept of tints, shades, and tones... and painting with those three became a challenge for about half of the students. I think the projects I tried were a little too difficult for many of them to grasp.

So I decided to come from a more basic approach by not using paint on this project, and not using color. I ordered some Prismacolor pencils from Blick in various shades, and showed students how to layer and blend with them.

We looked at examples of Renaissance artwork first, and how Raphael in particular used value.

Next, I explained the concept of chiaroscuro. We looked at this example that I found on Google. I like that it shows a value scale underneath as well.

When I felt like everyone had the concept of value down, I had students draw practice sketches of still life objects. The next day, we started with the Prismacolors and used graphite-colored paper as a middle value (this confused some). Overall, I think this project was a much simpler but successful project on value! 

Student example:

What do you think? What are some value lessons you've done that were successful?

Mrs. E

Monday, February 3, 2014

4 Ways to Document Your Child's Artwork... Before You Think About Throwing it Away!


Today I heard the words every art teacher hates to hear: "My mom throws away all my artwork." I cringed as the sad little kindergartner revealed the news. It is hurtful that we, as art teachers, spend our days, weeks, months, years teaching these kids how to create beautiful artworks and developing their creative skills... and their parents' response is to throw it away. Even more sad is how hurt it makes the children! I really don't think parents know how damaging it can be to a child's self-esteem when they treat their hard work as literal garbage. I know, I know... you "don't have enough space to store it all." I understand, but I decided to share a few simple ways parents can document their children's artwork before tossing it into the trashcan. I found these ideas on Pinterest... always a great resource!

1. Hang a curtain rod with clips for artwork. Hang for as long as you like, then discard it (if you must) after it has had its time to shine. You can see more on creating an organized art area for your kids here at Honeybee Vintage.

2. Scan all the artwork and then put it in a binder, or shrink the images and do something similar to this. This should give no one an excuse. It barely takes up any space, and you will enjoy it for years to come.

3. I don't have a photo of this one, ironically, but take photographs of the artwork and place them in a photo album. Simple, cheap, and you still have the hard work preserved in a special way.

4. Similar to number 3, photograph/scan the artwork and store it on your computer. Have your children pick out one or two favorites that they would like printed and framed to display in their room or another room in the house.

Hope these simple tips help you to think twice about documenting your child's artwork, rather than tossing it!

Mrs. E