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Dreamcatchers (5th & Art Club)

Student Sample
I have been waiting to post this for what feels like FOREVER!! It is the project that never ends!!
Just in time for Native American History Month, both my Art Club (twenty-one 4th and 5th grade students) and one of my 5th grade classes, began working on dreamcatchers.
A dreamcatcher is an object traditionally created by Native Americans but have become very popular in modern times as well (very trendy in tattoos these days). They were hung above a sleeping person's bed and were said to filter out bad dreams and only let good dreams pass through. 
This lesson took 5 meetings of my art club to finish. Since we only meet once a week for 50 minutes, it took us 5 weeks (which is why I probably feel like I've been waiting forever)!
I also started this lesson with one of my 5th grade classes but they only ended up seeing me for 4 days this rotation, so they were unable to finish. So I either wait another 4 weeks until I get them back in rotation to finish them, or it looks like Ms. Gram is giving up her planning period/lunch one day to finish them up with the kids!
I've seen variations of this project which used much simpler techniques for weaving the middle part (or rather just randomly running strings across a circle), but I really wanted to go all the way with this.
Getting this done took an entire 50
minute class period.
 The first step for this project was to have students cut the center part out of a snack-sized styrofoam plate. I brainstormed like a million different materials to use for this part.. but styrofoam was the one that I found the most sturdy, economical, and easy to do for elementary-aged students on their own.
Once the middle part was cut out we taped our plate back together (with clear tape). Then I had my kids use masking tape to mark off 8 evenly-spaced points on their plate. *They began doing one at 12 o'clock and then directly across at 6 o'clock, then in-between those at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock, and then finally in-between all of those points. Once taped off, students used a hole punch to punch a hole in the middle of the taped part. **The tape is used to visually mark off the plate for students AND to increase durability (the styrofoam has a tendency to rip). Just doing this step took one entire class period.
 Next we tied the end of a long piece of tan colored string to one of the holes (we later numbered the holes to help students keep track of where they were). Then they ran the string through each of the holes, going in through the BACK side each time. You do this until you get all the way back to the hole you tied the string to (yes you need to run it through that hole as well).

I projected this onto my board in hopes that it would help students see what I was doing.
 Once you've made it around once, you then start running your string through the loops that you made in-between each hole.
Once you finish your second full lap around your circle, you will gently tug at your string (in the direction it's running) to tighten up the middle weaving. Then on the third time around you will run your string through the triangle shape that appears (the triangle that has it's base towards the middle). Each time you finish a lap, gently tug the string (in the direction it's running) to tighten it up.

It got a little confusing.
 You continue doing this until you either make it to the center or you get tired of how complicated it is and give up. :)

Side note: OMG. Be prepared for like 30 5th graders to stampede towards you for help (even if they are doing it right)!!

Once you are finish (or decide to be), you will once again gently tug on the string (in the direction it's running) to tighten it up, then double-knot it to an adjacent string.

Add caption

Then trim off the excess string.
Be prepared for this center weaving part to take you at least 2 full class periods and having to help (or "check if it's right") for what feels like a million children.
 Once the center part is done, you will select a piece of colored yarn that you will use to cover your styrofoam ring. Tie this piece of string around any spot on your styrofoam plate and begin wrapping it around your plate. You will need to remind your kids to be very gentle so they don't rip their plate (which if they do, you can just tape back together). Also let them know that they do not want this string to overlap. Each lap around should sit neatly next to the last wrap.
 You will use A LOT of yarn, so you will have to tie additional pieces of string to your first string to finish.
Wrapping the plate will likely take between 1 1/2 - 2 class periods.

Once you are done wrapping your ring, you can attach 3 pieces of yarn to the bottom of your dreamcatcher (just double-knot these onto one of the wrapped pieces of yarn). You can then add beads to the yarn and knot it closed at the end.
To attach the feathers I simply dipped the end of my feather into super tacky glue, and then pushed it into the center of the last bead and let dry.

When you are completed it will look something like this!
The end result it stunning in my opinion.. but man did it take a lot of time and patience!!
I think this would have worked better if I was teaching it to a smaller group. My art club has 21 and the 5th grade class I taught this to has 28.

Time + Patience + More Time + MOREEEEE Patience = Beautiful Art

More More More

So on top of all my classroom work, I've also been taking on a lot of extras as well (you can read about this in my previous post). And you can now also add school yearbook sponsor to that growing list, as well as arts-integration push-in specialist during the last few sessions of our school's professional development classes.
I gotta say though.. the hardwork has already started paying off. SOMEBODY (wonder who) just got two exemplary ratings on their brief observation the other week! (FINALLLYYYYYY!!!!!!!) :D
You seriously have no idea how ecstatic I was when I saw.

Another thing that I've been doing is volunteering to create signs for various school events and such.

Poster created for our school's yearly teacher football game fundraiser (size of two sheets of butcher paper).
Someone took this poster down the other day (after the game) and I'm assuming they threw it out. Which BREAKS my heart because I spent HOURS hand painting both logos (they are posterboard size).

Poster created for my assistant principle for the 5th grade teachers (they picked the name).

Poster created for my assistant principle for the 4th grade teachers (they picked the name).

18"x24" metal sign designating our school's "Teacher of the Week" parking spot.
6 hours of meticulous sanding, priming, drawing, and painting.

I really can't complain about the time spent making these posters/signs though.. because honestly I LOVE making them. There's something nice about doing my own projects that have to live up only to my own standards. :)

Tissue Paper Collage, Cut-and-Glue Owls, Foil Art, and more (oh my)!

Things have been pretty busy in Ms. Gram's art room lately! :)
I have a bunch of projects in process (still collecting images - not ready to blog about yet) that I'll be posting pretty soon... so to feed your hunger for more art until then, I've decided to give you a peek of a couple displays I've put up around my school.
I've already blogged about these lessons last year, so although they have been tweaked some.. you can still find the basic project information at my previous blog posting.

The following project is my 1st grade tissue paper collage project. Students use only primary-colored pieces of tissue paper and layer them to create colorful abstract collages with all the colors of the rainbow (except indigo - which in my book does not exist). :)
1st Grade Color-Mixing Tissue Paper Collage

Next I have my kindergarten cut-and-glue owls!

I also have this cool 2-day project in which students write their initials in block letters on a piece of cut poster board, break up the background space with some kind of linework or pattern, and then outline their pencil lines with liquid glue. The following day we place a piece of aluminum foil overtop of the glue lines (tape it onto the back) and then color them in with colored sharpies.
It makes for such a pretty display!!

4th/5th grade Colored Foil Art
Teacher's Sample

Also I decided to put up an "I showed heart in art" board. Students who display exceptionally good manners and/or help a friend get to write their name on a sheet of construction paper and will get to add it onto my heart chain! :) To see directions on how to create a paper heart chain, click here.


The Gold Star Award

The Gold Star Award
It is with great honor that I award Mollie from "Art with Ms. K" the legendary 'Gold Star Award' for being an awesome co-presenter this past weekend at GAEA... and for being an amazing art teacher!

The history of the 'Gold Star Award' is one of prestige and merit. Dating back to October 15th, 2013, the 'Gold Star Award' has been passed down from art teacher to art teacher throughout its existence (which at this point is going on about 4 minutes)!

If you were at our 2013 Fall GAEA session ("The Art of Blogging: Surviving the First Year Through Social Media and Technology"), you already know that I am self-admittedly motivated by hypothetical "gold stars" - so it makes perfect sense that I award one of my most valued symbols of worth to Ms. Katzin. Congratulations Mollie - I hope you accept this awesomely flattering totally not made-up "award". ;)


GAEA 2013 -- The Art of Blogging: Surviving the First Year Through Social Media and Technology

 This post is especially for all the wonderful people that attended the GAEA conference session:
The Art of Blogging:
Surviving the First Year Through Social Media and
Presented by Melinda Gram and Mollie Katzin
Friday, October 11th 2013
3:30-4:30pm Room 105
at the Savannah International Trade and Conference Center

Click here to download the PowerPoint presentation shown during our session.

 If you have questions, comments, or just want to network, please free to email either of us! We are both more than happy to help!


Las Guitarras de Paracho (3rd/4th)

Beautiful 3rd/4th grade student examples!
EQ: Why is guitar-making important to the people of Paracho (Mexico)?

Hooray for Hispanic Heritage Month! :)
Once again this year I was asked to create an art display celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 - Oct 15)... and man was I excited to get started!
The majority of the students at my school are Hispanic... so getting to dive a bit further into the culture and it's art is especially exciting for our kids!
This year I had a ridiculous amount of ideas for projects celebrating the culture (thank you Pinterest)... but had to narrow it down.. so I went with Aztec Suns, Zapotec Weaving, and Guitars of Paracho (inspired by this pin).

To begin the project I started with my usual PowerPoint presentation (posted on slideshare) giving the students some background information before the art-making began.
We talked a bit about the economy of Mexico and attempted to figure out how Mexico could be ranked as the 2nd richest country in Latin America... and at the same time be the Latin American country with the 2nd greatest amount of poverty. The kids came up with some interesting answers... but eventually we landed on the explanation that a small group of people in Mexico own the majority of the country's wealth (making it a "rich" country) while a greater amount of the population lives in poverty (estimated at 44% of Mexicans).
We looked at a map visually illustrating the poverty levels in Mexico and found that closer to the United States border less people lived in poverty than in Southern Mexico. Then we focused in on Paracho, Mexico; a city located just 2 hours south of Guadalajara. The interesting thing about the city of Paracho is that it is said to have more guitar-making artisans within it's population of approximately 17,000 people, than in the entire United States!
Guitar making is a tradition passed down from generation to generation and is a source of income for the people of Paracho. The guitar-making also attracts a bit of tourism for the city as it hosts a Guitar Festival each year.
Next I showed my kids two clips I found on youtube which highlights the guitar-making in Paracho. The videos are in Spanish with English subtitles... but that just got my kids even more excited (since most of them speak Spanish)!!

To see the ViewPure version to show in school:

To see the ViewPure version to show in school:

So inspired by the fine artisans of Paracho and the bright colors and patterns of Mexican art, we got started with our project!

Sponge-painted paper
I reviewed warm and cool color schemes with my students, then had each table select one or the other to use for their sheet of 12"x18" painted paper. Instead of just painting it though (which is still super awesome)... I wanted to do something different with the kids... so we sponge painted it! Was it a giant mess? Yes. Was it a pain to try to scrub like 30 tempera-paint soaked sponges clean? YES. Was it crazy enjoyable for the kids? Absolutely.

Poster I made for my kids so they could use the
correct vocabulary when talking about their guitar.
The next day I had the kids create the body and headstock for their guitars with their painted paper by tracing a stencil I made. I normally DESPISE using any kind of stencil/tracer... but for this project I thought it would be necessary (especially since I knew they were going to be displayed for Hispanic Heritage Month and time was of the essence).
Next I had the kids swap paper scraps so that they had paper of the opposite color scheme (to create a bright contrast) to create the sound hole, bridge, and any other details they wanted to cut and paste. Once the shape of the guitar was fully assembled, students had construction paper crayons and color stix to add any additional color or pattern they wanted.
The next day I let students choose what color "strings" (pieces of gift-wrapping ribbon) they wanted to use, gave them sequins and buttons, and then let them go to town!
I love how they turned out - so bright and colorful! I've been getting compliments about them on the daily from other teachers and students! :)

Student example

My hallway display! :)

My hallway display! :)
As I mentioned earlier.. I also did a display of 5th grade Zapotec Weavings and Aztec Suns. This is a lesson I also did last year.. so if you want to read more about it click here.
Here is that display:

Aztec Sun Art
Zapotec Weavings


On Getting Involved and Being 'Exemplary'


Anyone who personally knows me knows that "good" is never "great" enough for me when it comes to my own personal accomplishment. I am the kind of person who has that internal drive to try to be the best at whatever they do (which is a great personality trait... except when I become an obsessive perfectionist). This is probably how I managed to have (and then raise) a baby at 19 years old, work near full-time hours at my job, all while continuing to go to college full-time and maintain a 3.99 GPA. Yep. I'm that kind of crazy. :)

So when I got my teacher evaluation last year and ranked "proficient" instead of "exemplary" in all 10 teacher evaluation areas: professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional strategies, differentiated instruction, assessment strategies, assessment uses, positive learning environment, academically challenging environment, professionalism, and communication; I was a little disappointed.
The only thing I could take solace in was knowing that I was a first year teacher and that my evaluation was based on a combined total of 1 hour and 40 minutes of administrative observations (our school employs around 200 staff members.. so there are a lot of people to be observed and assessed).
So this year I have made it my personal mission to step my game up and try shining even brighter at my school. I already know that my abilities and effectiveness as a teacher are far greater this year than last (yay for year two)... but I still felt like I needed to do more.
So in addition to having my weekly art club, involvement in our girl's mentoring program, putting up art displays for our counseling department, Hispanic heritage month, Black history month, Artome art show, Tapestry Art Show, Capital Arts, participation in student art competitions, attendance at both the GAEA and NAEA conferences, integration of the core curriculum in my lessons, actively writing and maintaining this blog and creating additional visuals to aide teachers, and putting up my own art displays... I've also decided to do a few more things this year. :)
I've already volunteered to be a committee member on a few different school committees, have taken up writing an arts integration column for our school's weekly teacher newsletter, have gotten involved in a local charity benefiting the visual arts programs of local schools, headed a new marker recycling initiative at my school, and am now presenting a session at our state art educators conference ("The Art of Blogging: Surviving the First Year Through Social Media and Technology").
Of course I will be looking for additional ways to get involved (I WILLLLLL BE EXEMPLARY) but for now I really just want to take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about the charity and marker recycling initiative.
Our chairs!
I must admit that my involvement in the "Chairs for Charity" event was mostly driven by my school's other full-time art teacher (who is crazy amazing herself) and I'm glad we did it!
"Chairs for Charity" is a silent art auction in which attendees bid on previously old and worn chairs which are then re-envisioned and creatively painted by art students from local schools. My colleague and I decided to do two chairs for the auction - one painted by my art club and one painted by her art club. They turned out super cute!!
We painted one red and black (either ladybug themed or University of Georgia themed) and
 one yellow and black (either bumblebee themed or Georgia Tech themed). We figured this would appeal to a greater audience. The auction isn't until this weekend so I'm not sure how much they'll go for... but I guess we'll see!

Next I wanted to tell you guys about the marker recycling initiative that I am heading at my school. The Crayola ColorCycle program is a marker recycling initiative started by the Crayola company. Schools sign up on their website, begin collecting dead dried up markers, and then send them (free of charge) to the Crayola company. The company then sends these markers to another manufacturing facility run by an outside company who then melts down the thick polyethylene marker shell and turns it into a liquid clean-burning fuel.
According to Crayola, just one pack of recycled markers is enough to cook an egg, make toast, and brew one pot of coffee; so just imagine what millions could do!

In order to get the kids excited about this recycling program I've made a really cool looking collection box which sits outside my classroom door so whenever kids have dried up markers they'll get excited about getting to put them into the box!
I'm also currently working with one of my 4th grade classes to create an extremely entertaining commercial advertising the program, which will later be aired on the morning announcements.

Anyways... that's it for this rant/boat floating/whiny baby blog post. I'll get back to writing my lesson posts. :)
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