My Favorite Meal

#mwisdmatters

My 4th grade art students always seem to have fewer barriers between their art and their imagination than my 5th and 6th graders. I’m not sure why that is, but is delightful to watch and listen to them as they open up to a project. I revisited an old classic recently when I asked my 4th grade artists to draw their favorite meal.

The set up for the project is a discussion about going on a picnic. Students get to pick their favorite foods to have at the picnic, which must include a main course, sides, drink and dessert. They must also include silverware and a napkin and a tablecloth under the plate.

I have three goals for this project.

  1. They must have their food shown from a bird’s-eye point of view, which involves a demonstration and discussion of how shapes change when they are shown from different perspectives.
  2. They must show a place setting, which involved a discussion and pictures of how you set a table. Social skills in art class. I wonder how many families sit down at a common table for dinner these days, so I hope I filled in a gap for some of my students who have not ever set a table.
  3. They must show a pattern of some kind on the tablecloth, which reinforces the definition of a pattern in art as a repeated shape or color series.

Students have a large sheet of paper as their format, 12 x 18 inches, and draw first in pencil, then outline in sharpie and color with crayon. I give them a paper plate to draw around to make sure we don’t have miniature plates.

And oh the stories about what food my students like the best!

And the extras! Ants on the tablecloth. Butterflies flying over the picnic.  Good memories about family. Great fun.

Why Do Art Teachers Need A Conference Time, Anyway?

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My elementary art student: Think of the best “valley girl”-accented voice saying, “Why do art teachers need a conference time anyway?”

I’m thinking, “You seriously did not just say that to me, right?” I smiled. Actually I think I bared my teeth and took a deep breath.

Me: (think Julia Sugarbaker accent). My answer:

“Ok, We’ll just examine that question, my friend.

Let’s just talk about materials and tools for a sec, ok?

It may have escaped your notice that on days like today when we paint, when you arrive for your thirty- minute art class (that is really just twenty-five minutes because we have no passing period) that these things are already ready for you on your table:

  • twenty-four large manila backer papers
  • a paper towel
  • a mixing plate
  • and a paint plate with red, yellow, blue, and white paint on it
  • the paint rack where you store your paintings is empty and ready for you with a clothespin on the front with your class number on the side you are supposed to use
  • twelve water cups are filled and ready for you to share with your partner
  • the paint brushes you used yesterday are clean and ready to pass out
  • soapy water is in a tub for your used brushes

Now, about those pesky ideas and goals for my lesson. (I did smile again, really.)

The painting formulas for mixing secondary colors and tints are already on the in-focus screen for you to refer to and your goal for the day is posted on the white board. Ah, vocabulary; like tint, primary, secondary, foreground, middle ground, background, and landscape. Did you think the Keebler Elves handed those to me on a notecard just before class or that I planned what I wanted you to learn?

How about when I carefully taught you procedures for taking out and putting up your artwork and materials by colored table or chair number, did you think that just happened spontaneously through a light sprinkling of fairy dust? No planning involved at all? And that I do all this for six classes a day?

Does that give you a hint of why I might need a planning period?”

The room had become eerily quiet. They were all looking at me like I had grown another head.

Student: “May I have some more yellow paint?”

Me: “Sure.”

Note to self: Switch to decaf tomorrow morning.

Spelling Your Heart Out

the_beatles_rock_band_-_microphoneThis year’s school Spelling Bee is in the can, completed, finished, wrapped up. I was the pronouncer for our elementary school bee; a job you get basically because everyone else says “I’m not doing it.” Oddly enough I mostly love being a pronouncer, my mom had us reading dictionaries at an early age, but I have to tell you it is an exhausting job. Why? Because you have to watch each student, heart in their mouth, come up to the microphone and spell the word you give them. And when they miss, you can not react. My face has to stay deadpan as they labor through the word, looking straight at me. My heart is breaking for the student who just misspelled their word and whose eyes just filled with tears. I’m thinking, “Please don’t cry, because if you start to cry, I’ll going to cry and it’s going to get damp in here.” That’s the exhausting part, the tension. I say the word,  then they are supposed to repeat it, then ask me questions, then spell; which most never do. They’re nervous kids, they forget to ask for help.

By the way, just in case you don’t know this, the pronouncer does not pick the word; it is part of a prescribed, numbered list issued by Scripps each year and brother, I go in order. Anyway, my job is to help the kids. I can say the word again for them, give them the part of speech, origin of the word, a definition, use it in a sentence and give alternate pronunciations for the word, which is really hard for this southern girl. Who knew there were three different pronunciations for “equestrian”? And why? It takes me several weeks to get ready all 375 words and my donkeys all have an expanded vocabulary.

And while I’m at it, I have to say I have never met a fourth, fifth or sixth grader that has voluntarily used the word thaumaturge. Look it up. But now if I ever witness magic or a miracle, I’m ready.

Speaking of miracles, let’s invent a sound system that does not sprout gremlins the moment the Bee starts and begin issuing unearthly feedback when it did not do that yesterday when we practiced. Thanks again to a very nice parent who routed the feedback gremlins. Thaumaturgy! See I knew I’d use it.

But at the end of the day I am proud to be a part of the Spelling Bee and appreciative of all the hard work our students and teachers put into learning to spell. Spelling is a skill they will need their whole lives. Language is the accumulated knowledge of many people, many ages and it is an important thing to pass on.

And yes, I remember the word I missed in the Spelling Bee; it was “magazine”. Really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passive Transport

coffee-1895053_1280Early morning discussion at the coffee table about passive and active transport. “What is that?” you say? My husband and I, both teachers, are looking at my clear glass coffee mug, to which he just added my weekend teaspoons of Bailey’s.

A beautiful thing, passive transport, where the slightly darker Bailey’s makes cloudy swirls through the coffee. Passive, because it moves through that liquid with any other energy being applied, versus active transport, which is when you stir it with a spoon. Of course it is the first day of Christmas break from teaching for me, which makes anything quiet and peaceful and that tastes like Baileys even more beautiful.

We’ve had this conversation about passive and active transport often, because George really liked his high school science teacher, Mrs. Vanderpool, who taught him that concept. Great name for a science teacher, don’t you think? He graduated in 1973, and I graduated in 1974, so here we are forty-three years later…still talking about her. Funny thing about teachers, you usually remember what they never intended to teach you. He remembers her as being up there in years (which probably meant over thirty) when she taught him, unmarried and that her mother lived with her.  He also remembered that she pointed the fan out the window of the classroom to draw the hot air out of the room. Really, who does that? I didn’t remember that we didn’t have air conditioning in the high school back then. In Texas? I must have been tougher then.

I remember one of my high school science teachers, although I don’t remember his name, for a specific skill he had. In the middle of a lecture, he could kill a fly in the room with a rubber band. He would not skip a beat as he shot it and then would go right on talking. Now that was skill.

But I have to say, one of my favorite teachers was a music teacher. I had a choir teacher named Mr. Potts, which was funny enough all by itself, but he was a kind and patient man. His wife was also a musician and they had small children, so we would describe the family as “Papa Potts, Momma Potts and Potts tots.” We thought it was hilarious.

He taught me that teachers could cuss. I was in a school production of H.M.S. Pinafore. I was one of the “sailors on the side”, which means I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and he had to give me something to do. So I was helping him after rehearsal when he accidently stepped into the unlocked footlights on the edge of the stage. They were the kind that flip up and they recessed about three feet into the wood stage floor. He had an armload of sheet music at the time and I remember it flew up into the air and floated down like snow all over the first few rows of seats, punctuated by some words I had never heard a teacher say. He was ok, but I honestly thought he had broken his leg and he carried a bruise for weeks. I loved Mr. Potts because he taught me a valuable lesson. He was a teacher and a human being; with a sense of humor and shortcomings and a family. That thought has sifted down through my teaching all these years. Now that’s passive transport.

image cco Pixabays

 

 

3-D Snowflakes

#mwisdmatters

It has been unusually warm here in north Texas. I’m not complaining mind you but I’m craving a little Christmas weather.

The kind of weather where a pot of chili with cornbread takes the chill off your bones. The kind of weather that makes cider and hot chocolate taste good. Sweater weather. So time for a little snow artwork.

My good friend Billie Slater used to bring her Cadets into the building singing…”Pray for snow….pray for snow….” in their best Native American chant rhythm. Well I’m not quite up to that vocally, so we are making snowflakes. Big 3-D snowflakes. I found a very clear tutorial here on the wonderful blog, One Less Headache. Add good instructions plus a sprinkling of science and math and voila, 3-D snowflakes.

 

I have my winter board done too for a little extra snow mojo.

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Let’s get this straight…..not sleet…not ice..I want snow, the big fluffy kind you make snow ice cream with.

Every Once in A While

feet-716257_1280#mwisdmatters

This is the long haul in teaching. From the enthusiasm and excitement of the first day of school in late August until the Fall Break in November. More and more on weekends I turn to my husband,who is a retired teacher, and say, ” Listen.” He says, ” I know, no one is saying your name, asking a question, tugging on your  arm…it’s quiet.”  I smile. He understands.

But yesterday, something happened that shook me out of my ” Oh my gosh, what now…” mindset. A small quiet fifth-grader, a slender wisp of a boy, did something so grand…..

We were at recess playing a game called ” Steal the Bacon”. Two classes line up at either end of the gym and when their number is called two children from either side run up and try to grab the “Bacon” (a cloth bundled to look like a slab of bacon ) and run back to their side without being tagged.  All children are included in recess games, so several students that have special needs are in the line-ups.

Not once, but twice, this quiet young man was paired up against a special need’s child. Both times, he let the special need’s child win, in a moment that was not too obvious but full of understanding. Both classes in the game applauded, no complaining. It was one of those moments in teaching that happens every once in a while and takes your breath away with its compassion. And in this bitter election season it gives me hope for humanity.

I asked the quiet boy privately why he did what he did. He looked up at me and said,” My mom told me that if someone is like that, it is my job to take care of them, to let them win if they can and feel good.” Good job Mom. I told him I was proud of him and gave him a 200 club ticket, something we do to promote unsolicited acts of kindness. So in this long haul up to Thanksgiving I am thankful to teach a child like that, to experience those moments and learn from them.

Image Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

 

 

 

Andy Griffith in the Art Room?

I began studying the Grant Wood painting, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, in fifth grade this week. The study of the painting is followed by a student composition that shows their understanding of the bird’s-eye point of view used by Wood.

the-midnight-ride-of-paul-revere-1931_jpglarge

I began the class with an analysis of the painting based on a great lesson plan, from Picturing America, a project from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I asked my class how many knew the story of Paul Revere’s ride.  Not one hand went up. Ready for this I had remembered an OLD episode of The Andy Griffith Show I had seen. I like to use video clips to illustrate my lessons. For this technology-laden generation, anything that appears on a screen captures student’s attention immediately.

My kids were shocked to see a black and white image appear and one young one popped up with, “Oh, my grandma watches this all the time!” Body-blows to my ego non-withstanding, the five minute clip shows sheriff Andy helping history come alive by telling the story of the ride of Paul Revere. In my opinion, a great telling of the story, which made my students look again at Grant Wood’s painting with new eyes. It was a great class.

Wikiart Image

publicdomain