Have you ever sat in on a meeting and thought, “Wow, this is not fun?” (Join the crowd!) It’s fair to say much of the time, meetings can be downright boring.
When I was elected as the Georgia Art Education Association President, I made it my goal to never host a “bored” meeting. Through my experience, I discovered what worked in terms of motivating meeting attendees whether they were educators, administrators, department chairs, or state art education association members.
Here are 5 tips for creating memorable meetings.
1. Create a theme.
Consider how effective it is to have a prompt or theme when you create art. Now, imagine you are invited to a meeting with the theme of “Collaboration.” You immediately have an idea about what will be discussed and what you will do. Perhaps you’ll be participating in team building activities and not sitting for hours. It might even mean your voice will be heard!
This idea is powerful. Creating a theme for your attendees gives them a sense of what is to come and makes them excited to attend your meeting.
2. Develop a hands-on activity.
As art educators, we love to doodle and draw and make our marks. So, why not consider having the members of your organization or school do a collaborative or individual project that works into the theme of the meeting? Here are a few ideas:
Create a Collaborative Mural
Have each member trace their hand. Then, have them decorate their hands using zentangles and a word that describes them. The finished hands can go home or be exhibited in a group mural. Imagine how your school or community would enjoy seeing this mural created by the team.
Meaningfully Decorate an Object
If your theme is about growth or new learning, consider making a connection to seeds or planting. One idea would be to have meeting attendees doodle their notes onto individual mini plaster planters using permanent markers. The designs can be about the importance of planting seeds and cultivating ideas to make for stronger organizations or schools. You might even consider planting seeds! Take photos, share them with the group, and post them somewhere in your school.
Or, let’s say you’re discussing the direction your school is heading. Get a mid-sized toy vehicle to which people can add their marks during your discussion. The final piece can be shared in a display case prompting others to consider where they’re headed!
One more idea is to give each member a pair of plastic sunglasses and paint pens and have them paint their visions of where they are headed. Or, better yet, how they can help the organization or school achieve their ultimate vision. Take photos of these artsy sunglasses to share with the community! You might even encourage everyone to put them on and take selfies as they write a tag line about their vision for the future.
Take it to the Next Level
After my term as president, we created a billboard campaign across the state. We took many of these hands-on artworks and turned them into advocacy boards. We included text, along with the images, to help showcase the importance of giving every child a visual arts education.
3. Bring snacks!
As the old saying goes, “If you feed them, they will come!” So, consider having snack helpers at each of the meetings. You could encourage them to stick with the theme, or just encourage them to bring crowd-pleasing favorites like cheese and crackers or a veggie tray. We actually started to have people beg to be the snack helpers because they had creative ideas for snacks inspired by the theme of the upcoming meeting.
4. Make sure to involve everyone.
Have you ever attended a meeting and just sat there like an invisible being? It’s not fun. If people are coming to your meetings, be sure to include them! You may even want to start referring to them as “our meetings.” Requiring folks to submit their information early will make the organizer’s job much easier. But don’t just leave it at that. Hear their voices and applaud them for being a part of the team!
5. Have FUN!
Personally, when I think about having fun, it always involves music. Starting each meeting with a song can help set the tone. When folks walk into a meeting room or an auditorium and music is playing, it just feels good. If you have a theme, think about what songs might tie in, and play them throughout the day. You might even encourage your members to write an inspiring song or one that acknowledges another team member in some way. And don’t forget to end the meeting with a song, too. The goal is for your members to leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and inspired!
I hope these ideas help to spark a few ways in which you can take your next meeting to the next level. Consider how you can engage your participants by making them feel appreciated, acknowledged, and accepted!
How do you currently run your team meetings or board meetings?
How can you take these ideas to help inspire your administration to host meaningful and fun faculty meetings?
Making stepping stones can be such a mess. Wet concrete, messy, gluey, sand mixtures, and glass pieces sliding around in the mold. Instead, try this art room-friendly version to create stepping stones.
Use these 6 steps to create beautiful stepping stones with your students, art club, or as a personal project!
1. Gather the materials you will need.
Pre-made concrete stepping stones
Tile mastic or any tile adhesive material
(These first three items can be found at your local hardware store.)
Paper templates cut to the size of your pre-made stepping stones
Glass pieces or stones
Glass nippers or cutters (optional)
Grout float (optional)
2. Set out the glass pieces in a design on the template paper.
If you are doing this with a class of students, try having them work in partners or groups.
You’ll want your students to consider the following 3 tips when creating their design.
Try to leave between 1/8″ and 1/2″ spaces in between each glass piece to allow for the grout to fill properly.
Radial designs are effective because they can be viewed from any direction.
Color blocking or gradients produce stunning designs.
3. Prep the contact paper.
You will be using contact paper to lift and transfer the mosaic design to the surface of the pre-made concrete stepping stone. You need to prepare the design transfer first, so your tile mastic adhesive doesn’t dry out while you work.
Simply cut a sheet of contact paper to cover your entire laid-out mosaic design. Take off the protective paper and press the sticky contact paper onto the mosaic design. Now, you’re ready for the transfer!
4. Spread tile mastic adhesive onto the surface of the stepping stone.
Make sure you have already attached the mosaic design to the contact paper to avoid the tile mastic drying out. Use a large wooden Popsicle stick or spoon to slather on a layer of tile mastic adhesive. It’s kind of like frosting a giant concrete cake!
Try to keep the layer even and thick enough that it will grab the glass tiles but not so thick that it will be higher than the height of the mosaic pieces. An even layer of about 1/8″ of tile mastic should do the trick.
5. Transfer your design to the frosted concrete stepping stone.
It’s best to do this step with a partner, each person holding a corner of the contact paper with the glass design stuck on the sticky side of the contact paper.
Line up your design over the surface of the stone and gently lower it down to the surface, pressing it into the frosted tile mastic. Peel back the contact paper and re-attach any glass pieces that may have fallen off the contact paper or shifted in transit.
6. Let the tile mastic dry and grout to finish.
The tile mastic actually dries pretty quickly, but if you want to be extra safe, allow for the mastic to dry overnight before grouting on top of the design. When ready, mix your grout following the directions on the grout bag. Then, spread a thin, even layer on top, squishing the grout into the cracks between the glass pieces. Let the grout dry slightly. Finally, wipe with a damp sponge until the glass design is clean and sparkly!
High-five a friend, you did it! Sure, there still may be a little bit of mess with this version of mosaic making, but the contact paper transfer allows for a more class-friendly stepping stone experience.
Before you race to your supply ordering booklet, you may be wondering, “Where can I get glass pieces? It’s just so expensive!”
Here are 3 tips to try first.
Check to see if you have any local glass shops in your area!
A stained glass studio nearby our school saves dozens of boxes of stained glass scraps to donate to local teachers. Maybe you have an untapped resource worth looking into!
Email your staff and families with your project idea and ask for glass donations.
You never know if there is a parent or staff member with an abandoned stained glass hobby box. You don’t know if you don’t ask.
Use materials other than stained glass to add variety and cut down on cost.
For example, use flat glass pebbles or create glazed clay coins to use as decorative elements in your designs.
Trying an unfamiliar technique can be overwhelming. Change your mindset, and it becomes an exciting new challenge. Most importantly, have fun with this stepping stone project!
Have you ever tried mosaic work with students?
Is there an untapped local resource you could investigate?
You’ve asked questions, filled out the application, and been accepted. You are going to get a graduate degree! With classes selected and syllabi reviewed, you are ready to push your learning and teaching to the next level.
While it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and emotion of starting such a big life step, it’s essential that you make a solid plan before jumping in.
Two vital things to consider are where you’re going to complete this work and how you’re going to make room in that already full brain of yours.
Let’s take a look at how to physically and mentally make room to complete your degree program.
There is no one space where you have to do your work, but it’s important to reflect on what your ideal work environment looks like.
Take some time to answer the questions below, as you think about your ideal work environment.
Messy or organized?
Silent or slightly noisy?
A large open space or a small compact space?
A desk or a couch?
A place of solitude or are there other people?
Filled with inspiration or minimal in color and decor?
At your house or at an alternative location?
In your classroom or at a location of your choosing?
Filled with bright light or more dimly lit?
You can use the download below to answer these and other important questions.
After reviewing the list above, think about where a location similar to what you’ve described exists. Make a plan to have that be your workspace. If you can’t think of a place to fit your above description, what adjustments can you make?
For example, I work best in small spaces, where I can see all of my tools and materials. I like to be alone, and usually, prefer to be at home. While I don’t mind a mess, when I need to sit down to do hard work, I do like my work table to be fairly clear. I like to sit in a comfortable chair, and have space to get up and do some basic exercises, like squats and lunges when I need a break.
The room I work in at home is large, so I’ve broken it into vignettes, providing me with small spaces to work, making sure tools like paper, post-its, pens, and highlighters are always within reach. This arrangement leaves a small space open for my exercise. I also like the option to stand, so I purchased bed risers, making one of my tables function as a standing desk when needed.
This may all seem simple and trivial, but you want to look forward to spending time in your workspace, so it’s worth the effort to really put some thought into it.
Did you know that The Art of Education University has a graduate degree just for art teachers? It’s true! Learn all about our practical, affordable, rigorous program right here.
Pay Attention to Your Workflow
Next, pay attention to the ebb and flow of your energy. If you have the most energy in the morning, build time to work on your graduate work then, even if it means getting up a bit earlier.
If you know you’re great at getting a lot of work completed on Saturdays, block off time on your calendar, so you don’t get overbooked on the weekends. Next, reflect on times when you aren’t the most productive or have trouble completing a hard task. Use this time to answer emails, watch videos, or do other simple tasks that keep you moving forward.
Your workspace needs to be exactly that, a place to complete your work. Consider leaving your phone in another room on silent. You might also put a note on your door or simply lock it, so people aren’t coming into your room interrupting you.
To help you get started, make a list of all potential distractions.
Close all window tabs unrelated to your work, and turn off notifications. Schedule time to do things like cleaning and the dishes after you’ve worked on your graduate work for a while and need a mindless task.
How to Deal with Resistance
Be aware of what resistance looks like for you. In, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says this about resistance, “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”
In other words, resistance is anything pulling you away from doing the work you should be doing.
It might be feeling the need to answer emails or deciding now is the perfect time to file papers. Resistance might appear as a strong desire to do endless amounts of research on acrylic painting, instead of finishing the painting that’s sitting in front of you.
Resistance can also be sneaky and disguise itself as something positive.
For example, I tend to clean or do massive amounts of research when I have a hard project staring me in the face. I call it constructive procrastination. Meaning, I decided it’s okay that I’m not writing the paper or new video script because I’m cleaning my house. Or, I’m not finishing the in-service presentation because I’m doing eight hours of research on how to give the perfect TED talk.
Think About What “Smart” Looks and Feels Like to You
What makes you feel smart? This may sound a bit odd, but our clothes affect how we feel. Do you feel smarter when you wear glasses? Buy some fake glasses. Do you type faster when your nails are painted? Paint your nails. Do you feel more productive when you love your outfit? Take a few extra minutes to put on something you love.
Make a Routine
Create a routine you do every time you sit down to work, signaling to your brain; it’s time to get to work.
You might light a candle and read a few pages from your favorite book. Get a comfortable chair you actually like to sit in. Pour a cup of hot tea, set your timer, and get to work.
Find a Support System
Have a person. There are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed or unsure. Have a person you can call or text to help calm you down, and who prompts you to keep going. Set some boundaries for when you ask for help. Agree that the conversation can’t be longer than fifteen minutes. Otherwise, your helper becomes a distractor.
Make a Plan and Take Your Time
Give yourself time. You’re excited (and you should be), making it tempting to dive in and sign up for three classes. First, reflect on what you and your schedule can handle. Consider taking one course. See how it fits into your schedule. If it works well and you still have time, then add a second or third class. Remember you aren’t running a race. AOEU courses are designed to be flexible so they can fit into your busy lifestyle. Content is delivered through video, downloads, and instructional tools to which you have access to 24/7.
Take Time to Transition
Allow yourself time to switch from teacher mode to student mode. Transition time is important. With your busy schedule, you might be tempted to keep switching tasks. Not only does all of the switching slow you down, but it also isn’t helpful.
Take a short walk, get up and move, do a little dance. Write a few sentences in your sketchbook. Just as you have your students warm up for their work, you need to warm up for the work you’re doing.
Make a Plan for Emergencies
Plan for how you will respond when it gets hard, when you get sick, or when it’s time for the art show. Write down your plan.
For example, if you get sick, promise to take a sick day and write sub plans, allowing yourself to rest. Ask someone for help with things around the house like food and cleaning, so that you can focus the little energy you have on assignments. Commit to not waiting until the last minute to start your assignments, so it isn’t overwhelming if you need to take a few days off.
During weeks leading up to and following the art show, say, “No,” to all additional commitments. Write a clear plan of action for prepping and setting up the art show, noting what items you can have others do. Ask for parent and teacher volunteers and start getting items checked off the list as soon as possible.
If you have a family, talk to them, making sure they understand your schedule is going to be a bit more demanding. Talk to them about what it means to be earning your degree online. Make sure they understand even though you aren’t “going” to class two nights a week, you still have class work to complete.
For example, my husband knows I’m booked from 6am-8pm every Monday, no exceptions. Agree to let family members know if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and consider ordering dinner or ignoring the dirty laundry.
Earning your graduate degree is hard work, but it’s also rewarding, exciting, and opens doors to new opportunities. Taking the time to determine where you’re going to work and how you’re going to shift your mindset will set you up for the best possible experience.
What does your ideal work environment look like?
What excites you the most about earning your degree?
Administrators often call on art teachers when they want a public art display in the building, art for their office, or the students to participate in an arts activity for an assembly. We swoop in, do an insanely good job, save the day, and return to the normalcy of our rooms.
Thank goodness they ask us because we are notoriously stylish people with a student following and an eye for design and aesthetics. Imagine what that mural would look like if left to someone else. But underneath your apron, you have a set of superpowers that are honed in the art room and can be incredibly beneficial to supporting the larger school.
Here are 5 skills you already have just waiting to be unleashed on the rest of the building.
1. Super Creative Speed
Organizational leaders are starting to realize (finally!) how valuable it is to have creative people in the room, regardless of their specific area of expertise. Daniel Pink has even referred to the MFA as the new MBA. As art teachers, our super speed is thinking quickly to develop multiple ideas and solutions.
School leaders and colleagues need your brain to generate ideas and provide new answers. Sound familiar? This is what you do as an artist. So, the next time a committee is being formed or your principal is working on school improvements, think about how creativity could add value to the process and further the end result. Share your knowledge of Design Thinking and strategies for brainstorming with colleagues. Use these skills to solve problems and develop ideas.
This is also an opportunity for you to take the lead. Guide your administration and/or colleagues through the ideation process. Being in the driver seat is a great way for you to develop professionally. It will demonstrate your value in a new way to your administration and colleagues all while supporting students.
2. Super Voice of Advocacy
If the idea of taking the lead scares you, remember you are already a leader as an advocate for arts education. Being an advocate has honed your super voice, and you now have the ability to communicate effectively in other facets of your work.
Channel your advocacy skills when you’re asking for facility upgrades, budget requests, scheduling needs, etc. Advocating in these ways is no different than how you advocate for arts education. Be knowledgeable, clear, and ready to provide supporting examples or evidence for your requests. Being an advocate is also about representing something larger than yourself. You already know what it’s like to be the only art teacher in your building representing an entire content area. Understanding this responsibility can also be applied to pushing for school improvement or changes that impact more than your classroom.
And finally, your advocacy for the arts has given you the courage to stand up for the underdog. Tapping into this inner-strength can help you in times of need like supporting marginalized students, representing your teacher union, or working with your administration and community.
3. Super Vision of Student Success
In many ways, the art studio is different from every other space in the building. Students typically have more freedom with materials, movement in the classroom, and with the curriculum. As a result, your super vision allows you to see particular students differently than everyone else in the building. It’s not uncommon for students who struggle in other academic areas to find success in the art studio. You can share what you see and help unlock the student’s success in other areas.
You see their strengths and what they need to be successful. You see what makes them happy and engaged in their work. You see which instructional strategies and approaches lead to success with the individual student. Sharing this information and teaming with colleagues can have an incredible impact on the student and larger school culture.
4. Super Strong Assessments
As an art teacher, you are an expert with project-based assessments and using rubrics. You’re used to grading various projects that all look different and each has the correct answer. You understand how communicating individualized feedback during the learning process guides the student in the right direction and maximizes success.
All of these skills related to assessment can help every other teacher in your building and impact every single student in the school. Imagine the possibilities school-wide if each teacher knew how to assess like an art teacher.
5. Super Flexible Differentiation
Similar to assessments, all of your colleagues can benefit from your ability to properly differentiate for your students. When you give students the option to pick their own subject matter, you’re differentiating by student-interest that helps engage students in their artwork.
Save your colleagues from assigning each student the same material and help them pick a variety of resources to connect with all students. When you guide some students to pick more challenging reference material from which to work, you’re differentiating by ability level. This approach allows all students, regardless of level, to be challenged. Sharing this strategy will save your students in all classes from being given materials that are beneath or too far ahead of where they are.
Art Teachers Save the Day
While we might feel marginalized by our school at times, don’t marginalize yourself. Your talents and skills are incredibly useful and can impact all students and staff school-wide. Being able to recognize opportunities to contribute on a larger scale can also help solidify your position in the building. Administrators want staff that positively impact more areas than their solitary classrooms. Working with other colleagues can also help build bridges to future collaborations and positively impact staff morale. So grab your utility belt, step out of the phone booth, and think about how you can help your school.
How can you help share instructional strategies with other colleagues in your building?
What other skills do art teachers have that others could benefit from?
When I first started teaching art, I wanted my students to learn to draw using the elements and principles while experimenting with media. These were important goals. But, I totally neglected to teach students about the art of design! As I reflected, I found this predicament kind of funny. After all, I started my career in graphic design and know the vital role design plays in our lives. So, why was it so challenging to bring into the classroom?
Artists and designers have so much in common, yet there is a difference.
Most designers consider themselves artists, but the reverse isn’t always true. I asked my students if they thought most artists were designers.
We discussed and researched and agreed on the following conclusions.
1. Design work generally stems from the need to communicate a pre-existing message, while art tends to be an expression of a completely new idea.
2. It’s important to consider the difference between inspiration and motivation. If a designer’s objective is to communicate a pre-existing message, then they are considering how they will motivate their audience. On the flip side, artists tend to want to inspire feelings.
3. Designers usually want their work to be clearly understood by their audience, or clients, while art can be interpreted very differently and rarely has just one meaning.
4. Design is considered a skill that can be taught and developed while artistic ability is considered an innate gift.
A Beginning Design Lesson
I wanted to get my students thinking more like designers, while still working with important artistic concepts. Together we came up with a lesson that incorporated essential elements and principles to address the question, “Where does design end and art begin?” The result? We decided to design patterns!
Here is one way to create pattern designs with your students.
1. Create a simple line design.
Give each student a 2″ x 2″ piece of paper. Have them come up with a simple line design. Encourage them to use different kinds of lines including straight, curved, and angled.
2. Experiment with the line design.
Have students experiment with their 2″ x 2″ square by rotating it and creating four to six different designs. Encourage students to play with a variety of patterns before they settle on the one they like best.
3. Have students grid their paper.
Give each student a 12″ x 12″ piece of drawing paper and create 2″ squares to form a grid.
4. Trace the square design.
Have students add their preferred design by tracing it thirty-six times on their paper with a pencil.
5. Outline all pencil lines.
Using a thin Sharpie, have students outline all their pencil lines. Encourage students to consider line quality through the addition of thick and thin lines or line weight.
6. Select color theory.
Students should select their colors, preferably from the same harmony. Encourage cool colors or warm colors with a hit of the opposite for emphasis.
7. Complete the pattern design.
8. Mount finished patterns on black paper.
This lesson teaches students to think outside of the typical visual art lesson. It really requires students to focus on the design elements and consider repetition and pattern as well as line quality, shape, and color theory. And the best part is that it can be adapted for grades 3-12!
This is the perfect lesson if you’re looking for a way to introduce the art of design. Students have a chance to consider the difference between art and design and play with line quality in their patterns. It’s an ideal way to get students thinking like designers!
How do you teach design inspired lessons in your art room?
What artists would you consider incorporating into a design lesson?
How many times have you talked about collaborating with your colleagues, but for whatever reason it still hasn’t happened? It’s like seeing an old college friend and swearing you’ll get together soon…we all know how that turns out.
There can be a number of things to work through, but if you persist, collaborations can be incredibly beneficial for students.
Help students build bridges between content areas.
Help build a positive community and school culture in your building.
Create incredibly unique and memorable learning experiences for students.
How to start collaborating.
The first step is identifying which content areas or colleagues will work logistically with your class schedule. Starting with curricular connections might feel more natural, but if the schedules don’t align, the collaboration will be unsustainable.
Once you’ve built a list of colleagues, invite them to lunch for some idea sharing. This second step is the fun part when you get to break bread and get creative on ways you can work together. Remember, connections with other subjects can include shared content, but also skills, experiences, and habits of mind.
If you’re not sure where to start, here is a list of potential connection points with the visual arts and project ideas for students.
What does art share with math?
Shapes and forms
Challenge students to create a piece with a specific geometric area or perimeter constraints. This activity will require students to create, problem-solve, and practice their calculations.
And, if you’re looking for more ideas, check out these four specific projects in the Math and Art PRO Learning Pack.
Partner a reading and art student to create a book cover for an authentic design experience. The reading student articulates what they’ve learned about the story, characters, setting, etc., and the art student must design for their client.
Expose art students to medical illustration (also a potential art career) to create models or renderings of a subject.
For more project ideas to bring into your art room, take a look at the Integrating Art and Science PRO Learning Pack for three specific projects to get you started!
What other collaborations are possible?
Although collaborating with another content-area teacher can come with challenges, they’re often worth it for the outcome you and your students will experience. In addition to the content areas already listed, it’s important to remember other staff in the building who can be equally beneficial and support your work in the classroom.
When was the last time you asked your custodian or operations staff what you could do for them? These staff members play a huge role in supporting our students and facilities. It might take five minutes for the custodian to put twenty-five stools up, but that could also be accomplished by your class in five seconds. And maybe with that saved time, your custodian can help you in a different way.
These staff members can show you a whole new world of resources to help your students create. See how they can support your projects with reference images, historical or cultural artifacts, artist research, art history, etc.
Many schools have a variety of roles that specialize in instructional technology like software, equipment, apps, 1:1 learning, social media, and Google. These people are solution ninjas and can usually share applicable resources or provide support with various aspects of your instruction.
Collaborations don’t happen as often as they should because they are hard. Working with another colleague changes how you typically plan and execute. This takes more time and patience as you accommodate another schedule and add discussion into the process. It can also be challenging when you’re used to having 100% control in your room, and now it’s shared equally.
Your flexibility will be challenged when your counterpart doesn’t say or do everything the way you would. But, you can minimize all of these challenges with proper communication and planning. Your collaboration can be extraordinary for everyone involved. Keep your eyes on the prize and stay focused on the “why” behind the partnership to get you through the process. Remember, nothing is perfect the first time through. You might have to repeat the collaboration a few times to get it right, but the learning taking place is so worth it.
What have you found really helpful when collaborating with a colleague?
What connections have you found with art and another subject?
I don’t know about you, but I love working in a sketchbook or visual journal. They are such great tools for both teachers and students to experiment, think, brainstorm, sketch, and play with art materials.
Often, working in a sketchbook is a solo experience. We might ask students to work out ideas for a new project or experiment with new media, but that’s where it ends. I began to think that adding a collaborative element to my students’ sketchbook experience could push them even further.
And so began a collaborative sketchbook swap!
The students and teachers in my district were already participating in an Artist Trading Card program. It was always fun to see each teacher’s individual style as well as the work their students were doing. A colleague of mine threw out the idea of doing teacher and student sketchbook swaps, and the teachers jumped at the occasion.
Here are a few tips if you are interested in trying something similar.
1. Decide who’s in.
Create a list of interested schools and the teachers who want to participate. You will need to decide how much time each school will have the sketchbooks before they are returned to their “home” school for the same amount of time. We decided on a two week time period. Once you determine a timeframe that will work for all the interested schools, create a yearlong schedule for everyone to follow.
2. Choose your sketchbook wisely.
Decide on the book you and your students will use. A hardbound 9” x 12” sketchbook is a good choice due to the amount of traveling in store. You will also need to figure out a way to wrap the books to keep them safe in transit. Gluing a copy of the schedule inside the back cover as well as a signature page where students and teachers can sign and date the books is a great idea. You’ll also need a title page, so others know to whom the book belongs.
3. Nail down the logistics.
Select the students who want to participate. A sketchbook swap can be work intensive for students, so buy-in is essential. Offering the opportunity to more advanced or NAHS students is a good way to begin. Students can sign up to take the book home either one night a week or over a weekend. You might also hold surprise journal days in class, encouraging students to work collaboratively and discuss the work that has already been done.
The first time we wrapped up our books and put them in the mail room to be delivered, we were a bit nervous. What would the books look like in two weeks? Did we actually want other students drawing in our journals? Would they appreciate the marks we were about to make in theirs? There were so many unknowns, which is part of the fascination with this project.
A few days later we received our first journals from another school. The conversations that ensued told me that we did the right thing to get involved in the swap. The journals sent to us had great work to start with. There were sketches, collages, drawings, and some paintings.
My students very carefully began to add their marks into these pages. Listening to their thoughtful and caring conversations made me realize they were really learning from one another while respecting the art of others. I had the same feeling as I was going through the teacher’s personal book and adding my marks to her pages.
Having Others Work in Our Sketchbooks
At the end of the two weeks, we sent their journals back, and we received ours back, and Wow, was it exciting! Of course, my students didn’t immediately love everything that had been done to their work. But, they had the opportunity to go into the book and continue to play and experiment with where it could go. I had the same opportunities, and within a few months, we got into a routine. Students loved taking the journals home, working on them, and passing them around the next day for everyone to see. I loved working in my colleagues’ journals and seeing where they would take my marks. It became a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved.
Although this activity can be time consuming, it will quickly become an activity that your students will deeply care about. My students learned so much about collaborating, respect, time management, and how to share thoughtful responses, and I know yours will too!
Another reason I love this project is that it can be an excellent learning tool. We often get so caught up in our own programs and curriculum that we forget about the wonderful network of art teachers we have to lean on. Seeing these journals was like a peek into other teaching philosophies and student learning. Overall, we all felt great about our final book when it came back to us after traveling to ten schools in ten months. I encourage you to try something similar and see where the experience takes you!
Have you ever considered doing a sketchbook swap with other teachers and schools?
How do you encourage collaborations within your art program?
Whether you’re a new teacher or seasoned veteran, applying healthy work-life habits is critical for long-term success as an art educator. Constantly pushing on the gas pedal can lead to burnout, resulting in feelings of frustration that could lead to a change of career. So how do you hit the pause button at work and make time for something else?
This question alone can sound counterintuitive and raise anxiety about your role in the building, status, and job security. There are, however, some quick things you can do to add balance to your life and support a long sustainable career in art education.
Here is a menu of options to help you manage your workload and add new activities into your life.
Disconnect from email.
Checking your school email in the evening and on weekends is largely unnecessary as most situations do not require an immediate response. The work will be there tomorrow. You also run the risk of receiving a negative email that impacts your mood. Knowing your school’s expectations with email is important. If it’s not communicated, twenty-four hours is a safe bet. Also, try disabling your phone’s push notifications, so you have to sync your email app manually as needed.
Stop grading everything.
The grading process takes up a lot of time and can be ineffective if you aren’t assessing specific skills and offering feedback that can be applied to future student work. Save time by eliminating grades for completion or participation. If you don’t think your students will do the work, check out this article, Can We Please Stop with the Participation Grades?.
Learn to say, “No” (politely).
Saying, “Yes,” to each request is an express pass to an overloaded plate. Saying, “No,” can be uncomfortable and tricky, but necessary for your survival. Be sure to decline in person or on the phone, so your tone is not misinterpreted in an email. Consider the potential impacts by saying, “No.” You can also share that you’re already at capacity and wouldn’t be able to commit the time and energy to devote to the task. Perhaps another time in the future would work better, or you can refer them to another contact.
Set short vs. long term goals.
Be manageable about your own expectations and remember that you can’t do everything right now. Bright flames burn quickly, and you want to last a whole career. Just be sure some of your short-term goals align with your supervisor, so you’re responsive to their expectations.
Make changes incrementally.
Making change over time is more sustainable than trying to accomplish too much in one year and exhausting yourself. This can also be a more effective approach with those impacted. Prioritize what is most critical and ripe for change and start there.
If you’re feeling consumed by home and work life, try creating a new aspect of your identity that connects to your interests and adds value to your life.
Here are 5 ideas.
1. Join a book club.
Reading with others promotes growth and learning with the benefit of socializing. Look for one that fits with your schedule or start your own.
If books aren’t your thing, podcasts are a great way to engage with thought-provoking material during convenient times like exercising or during travel time.
3. Make time to socialize.
Connecting with friends and family might sound like an obvious way to disconnect, but making it happen can sometimes be a challenge. Use a routine day or time (e.g., the first Friday of each month) to hold yourself accountable and help you and anyone else plan.
4. Start a blog.
There are ways to further engage professionally that are disconnected from your school. Try starting a blog or social media site to share teaching experiences and give back to the profession. Meeting others in your field and building your network can promote collaboration and provide you with a wealth of resources for the future.
5. Incorporate exercise.
Making time to focus on your own health and fitness is one of the most important things you can do in life. The professional benefits include more energy in the classroom and increased happiness from endorphins. Improved health also leads to fewer doctor appointments and illness, which means fewer sick days and sub plans. If the treadmill sounds miserable, try a gym class or local adult sports league.
A long and successful career as an art teacher is possible. Use these tips or check out our PRO Learning Pack dedicated to curbing art teacher burnout to help find the work-life balance you will need to stay passionate about teaching art.
What approaches have you found helpful to better manage your workload at school?
What are some other quick and easy activities for teachers to add to their life?
You’re in the final stretch of the school year, and you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. Art teachers tend to have a lot on their plates fourth quarter, but just because the school year is winding down, it doesn’t mean your students’ engagement level has to as well.
This can be a stressful time of year, but here are 3 simple ways to excite students and keep your sanity.
1. Try introducing a new material.
One great way to keep students engaged is to introduce a material they haven’t used before. Metal repoussé, paper or yarn weaving, unusual drawing surfaces, sticks of charcoal, and more can make students excited to create all over again.
One idea is to allow students to make their own golden treasure inspired by Mayan artifacts. Take a look at traditional Mayan glyphs, and contemporary takes on the Mayan style with these Pokémon glyphs.
Whether or not your students are fans of Pokémon, you can use the examples as a discussion on the Mayan style of drawing. Ask students to sketch and recreate a traditional Mayan glyph before designing one of their own.
Once they have grasped the style and sketched an idea, they’re ready for an exciting new material! Tooling foil is essentially a drawing surface, but with gold, copper, and silver metallic shiny colors, students will love creating these works of art.
Using a soft pad of newspapers underneath the foil, students can draw on either side to create a subtle relief of their glyph drawing. Once the design is complete, allow students to use permanent markers in a variety of colors, to accent their glyph. Be aware that some students may try to go overboard with color. Stress that in this case, less is more, and to leave a majority of the metallic color to shine through.
2. Encourage students to collaborate.
You may think collaboration at this point in the year is a bad idea. Sometimes group work can get loud and chaotic. However, if you structure an engaging project, you’ll be surprised at how much students can focus and work together to create new works of art.
Mandalas can be a great exercise in radial design, color, and pattern. You can tailor the project to reinforce other concepts your students have previously worked on, too. Color schemes, line quality, contrast, etc. can become different points of emphasis.
If the weather is nice, take your students outside with some sidewalk chalk and encourage small groups to work together to form a large mandala. Students can start with a symbol or design for the center, and each student can add to the design from there. Students take turns, switch colors, build on one another’s ideas, and end up with an impressive work of collaborative art.
3. Put yourself in their shoes.
Think about the current trends your students have been talking about all year; fidget spinners, video games, cell phones, sneakers, etc. These are all potential prompts for drawing and design projects.
Give students a blank template of their trendy item and let their imaginations and creativity run wild. Each student can apply their favorite colors, logos, characters, etc. to create a one-of-a-kind design. This is also a perfect opportunity to discuss how designers are needed in almost every field. The skills they are learning in your classroom can help them prepare for a future career.
Another option would be to set up various still life arrangements of their most-talked-about gadgets of the year. When students are invested in what they are creating, they are more likely to be engaged in deeper level thinking. They might not be thrilled to draw a bowl of fruit but could get excited about a pile of game controllers, an arrangement of cosmetic items, a group of sports equipment, etc.
Put yourself in their shoes and enjoy a class period of students engaged in their artmaking, applying what you’ve previously taught them, poised to end the year on a high note.
If you’re feeling stressed at the end of the year, that’s okay. Try to alleviate some stress by enjoying your last weeks with students creating art. Try a new material, have students work together, and keep your projects student-centered so they will be as engaged in their learning the last weeks of school as they were at the beginning of the year.
How do you deal with stress at the end of the school year?
Do you have any go-to projects for the end of fourth quarter?
Summer is so close, you can smell it! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and all you want to do is go outside to soak it all in. At the end of the year it can be hard to stay inside your classroom when you feel the pull to go enjoy the fresh air outside.
How can you enjoy the sunshine and create fun projects with your students?
Here are 5 fun outdoor activities to try near the end of the year.
1. Splatter Paint Roll Paper
Kick your shoes off into the grass, lay out big sheets of roll paper, and have your students splatter paint like crazy! When you are finished, use the roll paper for next year’s bulletin board displays, backdrops for an art show photo booth, mounting paper for student art, or patterned collage paper.
Follow these simple tips to get the best large-scale splatter paint results.
Consider how many students you’ll be taking outside to allow enough space for every student. Four to six students per eight-foot piece of roll paper seems to work best.
Use rocks or weights to hold down the corners of your roll paper. The last thing you want is a freshly painted piece of giant paper floating off into the breeze.
Portion out your desired paint (tempera works great!) in lots of cups, so each student has something to hold onto while they splatter paint.
Add a small splash of water to the paint to make the consistency more fluid and easier to splatter. An 85/15 ratio of paint to water works well.
Have students use teamwork to carry the roll paper inside and lay on a flat surface to dry.
2. Andy Goldsworthy Outdoor Art
This activity is a perfect no-prep activity for your students to create collaborative nature art right outside their school doors. Discuss with your students how the world around them can be some of the greatest inspiration. Andy Goldsworthy is the perfect artist because of his dramatic natural designs built exclusively from nature.
Try these simple tips to create successful Andy Goldsworthy inspired art.
Use circle tracers to lay out overlapping bubble designs.
Have students experiment with materials like Art Stix, soft pastels, or colored pencils to see which effect they like best.
Elect a few students to be “bubble masters” and allow them to respectfully blow bubbles while students are working.
4. Texture Rubbings
Creating texture rubbings outside is the perfect way to search for natural texture. You can create a piece of art using an outdoor area of your school as the focus, such as the playground, or you can search for objects like leaves and natural materials to use as the subject matter.
Check out these tips for creating texture rubbings outside.
If students are searching for smaller items, like leaves, use a flat drawing board or clip board as a sturdy base. Clip or tape one edge of the paper down, then slide the items underneath.
Take the paper wrapping off oversized crayons to give students a larger texture rubbing tool to hold onto.
Consider creating your own multi-colored crayons by melting old crayons in silicone ice cube trays. These make perfect tools for texture rubbings!
5. Art Games
Depending on the length of your classes, you may want to take your class out for the entire period or for a quick outdoor game at the end. Think of a concept you are working on, and challenge yourself to find, or invent, an active game to do to practice the concept.
Here are a few engaging activities that will get your students moving.
“Invent a Drawing” Sidewalk Chalk Game Draw simple abstract shapes randomly on the blacktop using sidewalk chalk. You can also choose a few students to help do this task or have them work with partners. Challenge students to observe the simple abstract shape and make additions with chalk to invent an image or story. You’ll get a kick out of what they invent.
“Foreground, Middleground, Background” Race Game
Using this game while learning about the components of a landscape composition can be a fun way to let students burn off their extra energy. It’s the easiest game ever. Take your students outside and observe your surroundings. Identify the foreground, middleground and background areas of where you are standing. Then, point to each student and shout “foreground,” “middleground,” or “background,” and watch as they run to the areas discussed.
“Stink Bug” Tag Game There is no rule against making up games, no matter how ridiculous. Using the simple concept of freeze tag, you can create a version of tag for just about any lesson in your art room. For example, when we were creating patterned stink bugs (after tracing our smelly feet), we played “stink bug” tag outside. We elected a few “bugs” who would tag kids. Then, other friends could “un-stick” their classmates by crawling like a bug around the frozen kids. You could also “save” kids from being frozen by having them recite a vocabulary definition, compliment their friend, or draw something in the air. The possibilities are endless!
Hopefully, these outdoor activities can help you survive to the end of your year with a smile on your face. Your kids will love getting outside the classroom and so will you!
What are some outdoor activities you have tried with your students?