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Birthday Party Decor!

My 5 year old son Brody!
Happy birthday Brody!! :)

 Yes today is my son's 5th birthday!! Which is crazy... because oh my god... I am getting old (relatively - haha).
I pulled an all-nighter and spent all day yesterday and all this morning up until 6am (when I finally decided I need to sleep for 2 hours before getting up to get ready for the party) creating some awesome decorations.
My son has recently developed a love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and so that's the theme he wanted for his party. So being who I am (crazy and obsessive)... I HAD to create some cool decorations for it. No no... store bought won't do; I'm an art teacher after all and there is a certain level of expectation that comes with that!! :)

A very 'pinable' picture. :)

Close up of the ninja turtle balloon I made.
They became center pieces.

Ninja turtle cupcakes!

"Turtle drank" :)
The kids LOVED them!!
Homemade hand-dipped pretzels
He demanded we take a silly picture!

ALIVE - Not Dead!

No new post in 16 days?!?!?!
You guys seriously have no idea how much it bothers me when I go longer than a week without making a new post! It has been 16 days... and I'm going through withdrawals! Haha :)
Two weeks ago I got SUPER sick (like a fever of 103°) and that pretty much knocked me out for an entire week - I've literally never been that sick before. Horrible. :(
But I'm better now and back to work! :)

We've been super busy in my classroom! This week is my last "first week" with my kindergarteners, 1st graders, and 2nd graders -- which is fantastic because if I have to do that same first day shpeel one more time I might cry! The way my rotation works, I see a group of students for one week straight and then they rotate to their next special the following week. And since I have 7 different groups (some grade levels having split classes too) of K-2... it's taken 7 weeks to get through their first week of art. The first week has pretty much just been an introduction to my classroom and to my centers so I am extremely excited to get to jump into some cool new projects now!

It's certainly been interesting these first few weeks of school. My elementary school went from being the second largest school in our county to the first largest with over 1,950 students! Yikes!
Unfortunately because we do not have enough specials classes to accommodate this large number of students, we've had to do split classes this year on each grade level (split classes are when one or two classes get divided up and are sent to specials with other classes - which increases our class sizes). Right now I'm sitting at 28 students in each of my kindergarten classes (which is tricky since many/most of our kids do not come in with pre-k experience and many do not speak fluent English yet). My largest classes this year however are my 3rd grade classes with 33-35 students. 
No it is not an ideal situation... but it is what it is so we have to make the best of it! :)

I've been working on designing several new projects to do with my kids over the next couple months and I cannot wait to get student examples so I can post them (I hate posting without having student examples)!! But to give you a taste of some of what's coming...

Colored sharpie on foil with
glue lines underneath.
Guitars of Paracho

Potential sewing/weaving project.
Updated cup weaving!

Like I said, as soon as I get solid student examples I will be making full posts about each of these projects (and MORE!) -- so just hold tight! :) 

Color-coded and awesome!
Also... update on my 4th/5th grade sketchbooks... I LOVE THEM. So happy that we started out the year making them!! It's been a great way to show student learning and assessment!
Each class has a different color sketchbook and each color table has a different color yarn holding it together. <- This makes it incredibly quick and easy to get sketchbooks passed out! 

Also - check out these lovely posters I've painted and added to my classroom! Our second graders this year are being assessed for part of our TES (Teacher Effectiveness System) and the emphasis is on color... so I wanted to make sure that they were constantly having this reinforced every time they walk into my classroom.

Art Centers

My Art Activity Centers
One of my goals going into my second year of teaching was to better establish activity centers in my classroom. With the intention of being used when students finish early or on days when I had a sub in my room; I designed my centers to allow students to more independently explore different techniques and materials.
It's really important to me that my students fully understand the expectations that I have for each center activity and its cleanup procedures, so every first week with my students (I see them for one week straight, and then get a new class the next week), I've dedicated two full days for rotating among centers.
On the first day of center rotations I have my "helping hands" help pass out my center boxes to each table, and then spend the first 10 minutes or so of class going around to each table and explaining how each center works to the entire class. I explained to them that since they would be rotating to each center eventually, they needed to make sure that they were listening to my explanation for each center so they would know exactly what to do when they got there! On these days I had my students fully cleanup their centers before I allowed them to rotate to the next one so that I could ensure that each group knew my cleanup expectations (this took up more of our class time... but it was time well invested).

Ms. Gram's Art Centers:
  1. Texture Rubbing Center:
    At the texture-rubbing center students are given the opportunity to experiment firsthand with creating ‘implied textures’ on a piece of paper. ‘Texture’ is the way that something feels, but ‘implied texture’ is the illusion of something having texture (it appears to have texture with your eyes… but you cannot feel it).

    Center Directions:
    1. Choose a textured surface or rubbing board and place upright on the table (so the textured side is facing up).
    2. Place a piece of paper overtop of the textured surface.
    3. Using an unwrapped crayon from the bag included in the center box, students will lay the crayon on its side and rub it against their paper. As students do this, the texture from underneath the paper will start to appear.
    4. Students may repeat this process with additional colors to layer overtop or may experiment adding different textures overtop. The front and back side of the paper may be used.
    5. Students should limit the amount of paper (to about 3 sheets) they use so that students coming behind them may have paper to use as well.
    6. Students may use this paper at the origami center if they would like.

  2. Origami Center:
    At the origami center students are free to browse the provided origami books and create what they would like. In this center students get to explore form, shape, symmetry, pattern, repetition, fractions, sequence, geometry, spatial reasoning, and much more.
    Origami is not just about folding birds; it is about incredibly detailed spatial problem solving.
    **If you are interested in origami... check out this amazing TED Talk video!!

    Center Directions:
    1. Students may take out an origami book and browse through all the paper folding possibilities.
    2. If there is no paper in the accompanying origami paper box, students should use the paper they created at the texture-rubbing center for their origami (this is why the texture rubbing center paper is cut 6”x6”). 
    3. At this center it is okay if students create things such as fortune tellers, paper airplanes, or ninja stars. *Paper airplanes may NOT be flown in class however.

  3. Stamping/Printmaking Center:
    At the stamping/printmaking center students are able to explore the possibilities of printmaking, color mixing, and creative thinking.

    Center Directions:
    1. Get out a piece of paper from the paper bag included at the center.
    2. Get out a stamper from the box (soufflĂ© cup with Styrofoam plate glued on) and using any combination of colored markers, color the Styrofoam plate.  The pigment from the marker will bead up on the surface of the Styrofoam- this is normal. **Students may experiment mixing colors by using certain color combinations… for example coloring one half yellow and one half blue.
    3. Placing your fingers on both the inside of the soufflé cup and the edge of the cup, press the stamper (Styrofoam side down) onto your piece of paper adding a good amount of pressure and slightly twist the cup. This ensures the maximum amount of pigment is transferred onto the paper and allows for slight color mixing.
    4. Immediately after printing, wipe the stamper on a wet towel to remove any additional marker from the Styrofoam. 
    5. Then using either markers or crayons, think creatively and transform your printed color circle into something else. For example, the circle could be used as a wheel of a car, the body of a person, a face, the top of a hot air balloon, etc…

  4. Weaving/Sewing Center:
    At the weaving/sewing center students are able to practice simple weaving techniques and/or sewing stiches using the materials provided. While students may not take their creations home with them, this center is used to help refine students’ fine motor skills (and patience) and better prepare them for future weaving/sewing projects.

    Center Directions:
    1. Get out a sheet of black shelf liner and a Ziploc bag of rexlace.
    2. Take out a piece of rexlace and poke it through a hole in the shelf liner. Pull it through until you have about an inch or so hanging out.
    3. Moving a couple holes over, poke the rexlace through another hole (now through the opposite side) and continue until you have run out of space. This is a basic ‘running stitch’.
    4. Students can also hold their piece of shelf liner in half to create the illusion of sewing two pieces of material together and try an ‘overcast stitch’. For this stitch they poke the rexlace through a hole at the top of the folded piece of liner... and then every time they go to poke the rexlace through again, they first bring it back to the front side (see diagram).

      Running Stitch
      Overcast Stitch
  5. Blocks-and-Boards/ Mosaic Center:
    At the blocks-and-boards (mosaic) center students are free to create their own mosaics (larger images created by placing smaller ‘tiles’ together) using magnetic pattern blocks on mini whiteboards.
    Students will continue to build on their geometric organization and spatial relationship skills by experimenting with geometric patterns and shapes and their arrangements. 

    Center Directions:
    1. Students will take out a mini whiteboard and a Tupperware container of magnetic pattern blocks from the center box.
    2. Using the blocks provided, students may design their own images by arranging the geometric shapes together in different ways.
    3. If students wish, they may arrange something on their board with their blocks and have other students at the table guess what they made.

  6. Modeling Clay Center:
    At the modeling clay center students have the opportunity to develop their hand-eye coordination and improve dexterity by creating whatever they would like to out of the modeling clay provided. Students are free to explore the endless possibilities of working in three dimensions.

    Center Directions:
    1. Before beginning this center students should clean their hands with hand sanitizer.
    2. Students may use any of the containers of clay in the center to create whatever they’d like. Students may stick different colored pieces of clay together… but they may not squish them together. Different colored pieces of clay should be able to be separated when it’s time to clean up.
    3. There is absolutely no throwing clay at this center. Clay should remain either on the table or in a student’s hands.
    4. Anything made at this center must be returned to its container at the end of class. Nothing made here leaves the classroom.

  7. Reading Center:
    At the reading center students may select to read or look through a book from my in-class book collection (currently near 100 books). I personally selected and bought each book for my classroom based on obvious art connections (color mixing, about the artist, etc…) or because of it’s potential for inspiring art projects.

    Center Directions:
    1. Students may select to read or look through the books available in my bookcase either on the carpet in the front of the classroom or in my zebra print chair.
    2. As students finish with a book, they should be returned to the bookcase with the book title facing outward.
I was so happy to see how much all of my students (1st-5th grade) loved exploring each center and were completely successful with each! It was really great knowing that even with their vast age range, that they were all able to really get into each activity center.
After spending two days rotating through centers with my students, I know that I can completely trust them to do centers on days when I'm out of the classroom.
I do realize however that overseeing centers can be somewhat chaotic because there are so many different activities going on, so to prepare any future subs I created a packet to explain the expectations, directions, and cleanup procedures for each one.

Mustang Self-Portraits (1st-3rd)

Student self-portraits (1st-3rd grade)
EQ: What is a self-portrait?

This past week my 1st-3rd grade students were asked the question, "what is a self-portrait?". Some students said it was a picture of yourself, while others had absolutely no idea.
To figure out the answer, we examined the self-portraits of various famous artists and discovered that the answer isn't always so simple. While a self-portrait is defined as a portrait of an artist created or produced by that artist... the artwork itself isn't always that literal. For example, some artists create an interpretation of themselves in their self-portrait so instead of seeing their eyes, nose, ears, and mouth in their picture, you might instead see a collection of symbols that represent that artist.
We also talked about how artists often reflect their personal styles in their artwork. For example, Vincent VanGogh uses similar iconic brushstrokes in his self-portrait (seen below) as he does in a variety of his other paintings (like "Starry Night").
Van Gogh self-portrait

Van Gogh, "Starry Night" (1889)

And artist Joan Miro uses a similar abstracted surrealist style in his self-portrait much like the style he uses in some of his other paintings.
Miro self-portrait
Miro, "Carnival of Harlequin" (1924)

We discussed how if you look carefully, many artists leave "clues" in their self-portraits to tell you about themselves... whether it's the setting the self-portrait is illustrated in, what objects are included in the picture (and their own individual symbolism), the artistic style, the mood, etc...

After discussing the many ways that artists interpret the theme of self-portraiture, I asked my 1st-3rd grade students to create a portrait of themselves using a combination of pencil and crayon. While most students decided to do a literal interpretation of themselves, a couple did decide to approach the subject more abstractly.
When drawing the children were given no direction (if they left off the nose.. so be it) so that I could really see the span of ability my kids currently have. It was really interesting to see their results! :)


Rainbow Crayons!

Rainbow crayons!! :) Yayyy!
At my school this year we are implementing a new behavior management system called PBIS. One of the components of this system is giving out "money" (fake laminated dollar bills) when we catch our kids doing something great. The kids can then save up this money to buy various items at our school store (pencils, erasers, bookmarks, little toys, etc.). Last week teachers received an email asking for items that could be used to stock the store (with just under 2,000 kids this year - things go fast!!). I thought for a while about what I could contribute.. when it came to me... RAINBOW crayons!! :)

At the end of the year last year I had my kids unpeel a ton of old crayons for me in the hopes that I would make some rainbow crayons over the summer.. but it never ended up happening. This past weekend.. I made that colorful dream a reality!

To make rainbow crayons you can use a wide variety of baking containers.. the first thing I tried was silicone molds (the kind they use for making candy or ice cubes)... and some turned out better than others. The heart mold I had worked great because it was pretty deep and was pretty much one solid piece. The twisted star mold I had however did not work as great - when I went to pop out the crayons, the pointed ends started breaking off. :(

Then I decided I wanted to try muffin tins. Afraid to put the wax directly into my tins and risk ruining them (I also love baking).. I decided to see if I could use cupcake liners. Success! :) While I found that you can use paper liners (although they do stick a little when peeling them off)... foil liners worked the best (they came off super clean and could even be reused again)!
I also preferred using full size muffin tins versus the mini muffin tins. 

To begin with, I took several bags of old crayons and sorted them into piles of cool colors (and white), warm colors, and neutrals (my browns and blacks). This is the easiest way of sorting colors to ensure that the crayons made blend nicely together when the wax is partially mixed. If you really wanted to though.. you could also sort them into monochromatic piles (which could be cool if you were teaching tints and shades) or coloring mixing piles with two primary colors and their created secondary color (could be cool to teach about color mixing).

**While I was preparing my crayons.. I went ahead and preheated my oven to 275° F**

Then using a large knife, I cut the crayons down into smaller pieces (you do not have to cut them down this much.. but I enjoy cutting crayons - strange). :) After cutting them down.. I placed the broken pieces into the cupcake liners in the muffin tin (I filled each cup around 1/2-3/4 of the way full). Then put the tin into the oven for approximately 11-13 minutes (or until all the crayons were pretty much completely melted). I did have the pull them out at like 11 minutes to poke around at some of my more stubborn-melting crayons with a tooth pick.. but after I poked at them and gave them another 2 minutes they all pretty much melted. You know they are done when the wax in each liner is melted and appears flat on the top. You do not want to over melt however.. because you may get some undesired effects (such as the wax somewhat separating from the pigment.. or over-melting the wax causing your colors to completely blend).
Use foil liners instead of paper liners to get them out easier!
Once finished, I pulled the tins out of the oven and let them sit for a couple of minutes (at this point if you wanted to sprinkle some really fine sparkle dust (not sparkles.. but dust).. you can make some very pretty looking crayons. Once they set for a few minutes I moved them to the fridge for a bit.. and because I'm incredibly impatient.. then to the freezer. *You have to be careful with this though!! Do not leave them in the freezer for too long (over 5-10 minutes) because they will start to freeze all the way through. Then when you go to take them out of the liner you may have a few break on you.

I LOVE how they turned out!! And what a great way to upcycle old yucky crayons!! :) The kids LOVE them!

Yes they look just like rainbow reeses cups. :)

Probably don't eat them though. ;)
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