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I am struck by the differences from class to class, 9 weeks to 9 weeks, period to period, semester to semester. I wonder how much it is related to the time of year. It could be the mix of the group. It could be me.

The 2 sections of art 1 that I had first semester were so creative and self-motivated. Posing the big inquiry question to them “How can you influence the story of our school through your art?” felt risky, I guess because I had never done anything like it before, but the response was unequivocally powerful and prolific. Although there were some days of confusion as they sorted out whether to work in groups or alone and then began their planning, soon the classroom was a buzz of art making, problem solving, and collaboration.

Fast forward to second semester and a new group. A big one-30 students, same as first semester period 1, but now it is period 4, the last one of the day. The group was not cohesive, very cliquish, some students who just downright do not care to be there, and filled with early dismissals and other disruptions. All factors that played into the general ennui. Was I less enthusiastic? Possibly, but certainly not consciously. The end result? I did not pose a “big” inquiry question to them, like I did to the others. We did make lots of cool art, all my lessons, units, projects, are posed in the form of inquiry now, and even the “too cool for school kids” were somewhat won over in the end (they love the altered book project). I can’t help feeling like I failed somehow with this bunch by not giving them the same experience the others had.

On our final work day at the IU the M and D CIG decided to put our research into a digital story. In 3 minutes or less each member of the group would tell their own part of the story. After the script was complete we each made an audio recording of our own portion. It was decided that Jen Joyce would put the story together and that we would need to send her the pictures or videos we wanted included. This past Thursday we all got together in Sherry Knight’s room at Trinity High School to see the finished project and discuss how we would conduct our presentation the following Friday. We were blown away by what Jen had put together. She really did a great job and had obviously put a lot of time into the project. It is so nice, and has been nice, to work with such creative and smart people. People who take the initiative to get something done and then come through with a product that goes beyond expectations. I feel very fortunate to have worked with the members of my CIG as well as member in years past. Looking forward to Friday!

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep ~ Scott Adams

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up ~ Pablo Picasso

Sometimes you need to spit into the wind and see what comes back to smack ya ~ ME

I have been able to continue working with inquiry and with different things in my school to promote arts to the district and other teachers. The one lesson that I have discussed in small ways before on this blog is the ceiling tiles done by students for different teachers. They were able to personalize paintings for every teacher eithe by their “teachers” personal likes, or by the subject they are teaching.

Well, I knew how it was going from my end of things until i was pleasently surprised today by another teacher. I went into her room knowing that students painted many tiles for her. When I entered the room there were many more done. I asked who had completed more tiles and she stated a student that I had in class the year before. This student didnt have the chance to have my class again, so decided to do art on her own to beautify another room. It was amazing to see her work, which she had to take home to complete since she does not have art class. I just didnt know what to say. I didnt know how to even react other than proud that the arts are still living in the students even during the times where schools are wanting to dismiss the arts as a budget problem.






The life skills class has even been able to expand their classroom by art tiles. 



As stated before, inquiry keeps presenting itself in my classroom. One project opens up another set of questions dealing with so many different things. It is truly amazing to see and watch this process taking place in my student body.

As I was mentioning before, some students did not want to participate in stained glass because it was not something that was interesting to them. This usually is not an issue since art III students usually work on things that they find to be most appealing to them anyway. But the money issue has made it more interesting to other students. The could not believe that you can make money with art. This has opened many discussions of “what do you think art is”, and has created many intetesting ideas from my students as to how to get their artwork into the public eye.

Several students are still working on making ceiling tiles for other teachers in the district. They are painting things based on the subjet of the teacher, and have now branched out to personalize each teachers room with things that the teacher themselves want to have on their tiles. For example: some might be Penn State alumni and wish to have things dealing with that in their rooms. This type of work has made soem very interesting things happn in Brownsville. Since the students are asking for things from teachers, teachers themselves have become more interested in what is going on in the art room. They have brough me materials from their homes and have talked to people in the community. One moment that stuck out in my head was I was approached from a lady i have never met before. She came into my class during a lesson and asked to speak with me. When our conversation started she said she was a local artist and wished to help my class. She then proceeded to be followed by a couple students carrying materials she no longer used in her studios. She said she wanted to keep the arts alive in our district and wanted to help in any way she could. She came back one additional time bringing more supplies she had laying around. It was a small step in gaining materials for the school, but would have never transpired without the talking of people in our community about what was happening in our class.

The students working on stained glass are still pluggin away at making picture frames and different things which they feel can sell. They have now decided to try to sell their things at a local flee market on one of their aunts tables. They have brainstormed about what projects to make to sell, and also have tried to make a business type card for future orders. As the teacher, I am facilitating things to help the students make the best decisions yet am letting them just run with their ideas. I have had to comment on things such has “dont get too big that you can not finish what you start”. This is one concepe I am trying to instill in them since they see it as a money making process, yet also need to be able to meet the orders without failure.

I started this trying to show students that there are ways that art is still important, and that they can use skills that others may not have or just dont want to use to make themselves money for their efforts. It has also been able to turn into a business type class on how to start their own company, how to dictate authority in that business. The students have learned how to manage time, supplies, workload and money all in one lesson. The talk has even got the attention of our principal and superintendant. They say they would like to come to the art room to see the projects and also order things from the class.

Several of the students that did not want to complete stained glass decided that were able to assist anyway. They wanted to do some of the labor in the stained glass creation. As a teacher this involvement is wonderful. The funny thing is that it can also cause conflicts. Those students that are doing simple things such as burnishing the copper foil around the glass also look for a profit share. This made the students have to organize leadership qualities and administrative aspects. They had to decide what was fair for what job. All this was done with little assistance from me as the teacher.  I hope this continues to grow in my class from year to year.

The nature of inquiry in my high school classroom has taken on a direction that appears to be altering the quality and direction of our musical product. The bi-products of our study have resulted in more expressive performance by all and an increasing motivation for many of the members. This is becoming evident at the High School where we have been focusing on musical imagery. In the Winter Concert we produced visual images that were projected during a work titled The Idylls of Pegasus.

During the second semester we have moved in to a study of the imagery in music by the Russian Five and the Impressionist composers and are exploring works that are nationalistic.

One of the selections we are studying is the Troika from the Lt. Kije Suite. This week the students were asked to post a visual image on the Fiddle File Wiki with an explanation of why it reflects this music. An invitation to view the wiki will be issued upon request. Please make your request via a comment on this post.

Here is a sample post from a sophomore
re: TROIKA Image/Explanation
Wednesday, 4:53 pm,r:1,s:0

The picture I chose is off a dog team pulling a sled. In the ideal picture the dog would have bells on their sides like the reindeer at the end of Polar Express. Also the dogs would be casual jogging threw the snow. This related because all the picking sounds like bells and it has a happy tempo that reminds me of dogs.

If you are interested is seeing additional posts by the students n invitation to view this non-public wiki will be issued upon request. Please make your request via a comment on this post.

I heard an interview on NPR’s Tell Me More,A Memoir Should Be More Than A History Lesson back on February 1, 2012, and one statement seemed to hit at the heart of inquiry.

“Lorene Cary, one of the reasons we’re so glad to talk with you is that you have penned one and you wrote one at a pretty young age. It was about your experience as a student at a New England boarding school, the first group of girls to attend this school and you and I share that experience, oddly enough. So I wanted to ask what made you want to write one?

I wanted to out that experience. You’re talking to me, by the way, just a few months after I’ve been appointed to the School Reform Commission here in Philadelphia and for me, going from public school to a boarding school in New England was an experience of going from an education where, basically, many of my teachers as I was growing up looked at us and tried to figure out what was wrong with us in order to try to fix us and get us better to an experience where all of these people looked at us as if to try very hard to figure out what was special and exquisite about us.”

As I have pondered and inquired on our group’s theme (How can we help students discover who they are and their connection to the world through the arts?). I feel more and more that the arts are invaluable to connect with a child’s heart. As I listened to this interview in  the car I immediately thought of our CIG.

I feel an evolution of our thinking taking place. I think many of us become teachers because we want to “help”. We want to make children’s lives better. There is nothing wrong with that. But, in the beginning, I did look at my students as “broken”. I see now how condescending this is. As I have grown as a teacher through Arts Educator, I naturally began to see how special the students are. Our inquiring hearts theme is a way of trying very hard to identify what is special and exquisite about each child and then reflecting it back to them.

I like to start prepareing my elementary students for the middle school. Elementary school students basicky get pass or fail for their grade where as my middle school students get actual grades.

I start the critique by hanging everyones art work up on the front board. We then begin by me prompting them, “which work followt he most?” or ” Which art work catches you eye the quickest?” or “Which art work do you like the best?”.  Then students will start speaking out and having a discussion about what ever the question is that I prompt them with. I will then go the opposite way and ask ” Which art do you dislike the most?” or “Which art work does not catch your eye?”

This was a new process for them because I do not over talk and they do not talk about their art work until fourth and fifth grades mainly because I’m time limited. I see students once a week for 45 min. Most of the time students just want to do art work and be creative.

I have found letting the students discuss during a critque lets them be more independent thinkers because they all have their own opinions and that their own opinion isn’t wrong. Its also interesting because they are creating their own experiences during this process to think and choose independently.

After much discussion, the class and I came up with two rewards for the proficiency tests. One would reward individual achievement on a weekly basis, and one would reward collective achievement over the remaining weeks in the school year.

For individual achievement I spoke with the president of our parent organization about helping me develop ‘Band Bucks’ that could be redeemed at the school store. Band Bucks come in two amounts, $1.00 and $.50. For the collective achievement I spoke to our principal about organizing a band party the last week of school. We will order pizza and soda and listen to music.

In both cases student achievement will be based on their score on the weekly playing test. I designed a rubric in which students are given points in four categories, 1.) If they have their book and instrument (3points) 2.) Rhythmic accuracy (4 points) 3.) Melodic accuracy (4 points) and 4.) Reasonable tempo (4 points), for a total of 15 possible points. In order to receive a $ 1.00 band buck the student must earn 14-15 points on their playing exam. In order to receive a $ .50 band buck the student must earn 10-13 points. If the student earns fewer points than 10 they are not eligible for a voucher. In addition to earning points for band bucks I am also logging the students’ scores into a weekly ‘star’ poster that I designed. The poster has each student’s name and remaining weeks in the school year. If a student earns at least 8 of the 15 possible points they are given a star for the week. If every student in band is able to collect 10 stars (out of 14 remaining weeks) they will earn the pizza party. However, if even one student comes up short, none of the students will earn the party.

I believe this rewards system holds students both individually and collectively accountable for making sure that they practice on a regular basis. The students accepted the terms of the rewards system and we have begun to implement it. More to come about the results.

Folding and cutting to create symmetrical shapes are skills that need to be mastered. Math  anchors refer constantly to symmetry so I am using the art room as a place to implement and encourage the student’s basic knowledge of symmetry.  This year kindergarten and first grade students made a simple Christmas tree using some of the math words.  Folding a small square for some kindergarten children is in itself a struggle, so when they fold and cut a symmetrical tree, wow do we have new skill.  I start the lesson by asking them to fold the paper and draw a diagonal line from the top corner to the bottom. We all learned diagonal that day.  They cut the triangle and from there they were given another square and told to repeat the shape.  One would assume that they could easily repeat this.  I molded all of this using my document camera so the fold and the diagonal line was larger than life.  In all they made 4 trees and most got it.  They recognized here symmetry of the shape and knew why the fold worked.  The next lesson I gave them the same size square in multiple colors and asked them to make a symmetrical shape.  Most of them began by folding the paper but were waiting for me to instruct.  I stayed quiet and said hold the fold and use their scissors to make the lines .  Again some of them took the scissors and enjoyed the practice.  Practice using the scissors while their little minds are creating is  fun to watch.  After a few minutes, I modeled the cutting to create simple shapes.  The students were a little worried that it did not look like something they knew.  I told them that all it need be is symmetrical.  Just getting the students to use the correct side of the paper can be a challenge.  Once they figured out the freedom of using the scissors on the fold, they were excited to cut lots of shapes.   Meanwhile back in the classroom, the students are focused on symmetry and their teachers were so excited that they knew these words!  I just smiled.  This week we continued on the symmetrical shapes to make a heart.  I showed them the heart and asked how to do this.   They all responded that you had to fold the paper.  I let them try to make the heart shape on their own.  At this point, they have gained some confidence with their scissors and they eagerly dove in.  Walking around the room, I find some success and some struggles with the shape of the heart.  I model the shape of the heart using the document camera.  Seeing the large heart shape on the screen, they can easily see what they need to draw.  Repetition and practice make these students very skilled. I was so excited to send these super hearts home  for their parents to see what they are able to do.  They walked out of the art room with a new skill!  I armed them with extra paper to make more hearts.

I have been teaching about Henri Rousseau and his jungle scenes. Foreground, middle ground, and background are the other focus of this lesson. After I have shown a Powerpoint or Rousseau’s life and work I have students do an imagination exercise:” You have just been dropped off in the middle of the jungle, you look in the distance what do you see behind everything else, is it daylight or nighttime… are there mountains or volcanos… What is in the Background? Now look at what is closer to you, are there fruit trees, vines, or flowers… do you see birds, monkeys? Now look at the things closest to you, are there lions, crocodiles, gorillas… what do you see in the foreground?. After my students open their eyes I tell them to draw what you saw. The results were very different for each student’s sketch looked different even though they heard the same descriptions. I love that we were made to be creative beings 🙂 and its apparent through simple guided imagery






September 2020

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