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Do I Really Wanna Know

As my school year winds down, I try to take a little time to reflect on my year. I try to do this while things are still fresh. Things are so fresh in fact, I still have another week and a half left in school. While this time of year is crazy and so many kids are checked out, i thought it might be nice to get feedback from students on all of the changes i have made this year. Of course when I think of all the work I've put into those changes, the natural question becomes "do I really want to know students opinions?" The natural answer all of us are taught to say is yes, of course we want feedback from all stakeholders and students should have a say in their education. Of course that sounds good in theory, but in practice, it can be much harder. Realistically, it is hard not to take it personally when a kid says they don't like the system you set up. I wouldn't want to gather data as a show of valuing student opinions while they feel pressure to compliment me, so …
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Arts Madness Round 2

I am about half way through the second round of voting in my Arts Madness tournament. It has been a tremendous success so far. I am seeing students come in asking about who is still in it and who has been eliminated, I hear students talking about who they think will win and discussing why they pick one work over another.


I was really surprised by some of the giants of art history who were eliminated in the first round. Picasso, Warhol, Rembrandt and Pollock were all knocked out. Students were delighted when I shared that Pollock was actually eliminated by his wife, Lee Krasner. I didn't think of this when I first started the tournament, but it has provided a hook to get students more interested when I can share tidbits and connections among artists.

My entry routine for a few years has been for students to come in and there would be a 5 minute student-led discussion about a work of art on the board. From now until the end of the school year, students come in and scan a QR code on …

Gamify Art History!

Gamifying my classroom has been absolutely amazing. Giving students different learning targets and resources then allowing them to pick the skills to target each day has made class more fun and engaging not only for the kids but for me too. I wanted to bring that spirit and enthusiasm to art history, so I decided this year, I will end the school year with an NCAA style tournament. I created brackets with 32 different artists. I just listed 32 artists in a spreadsheet then hit "randomize range" and got 16 completely random matchups. Of course, I couldn't resist a few tweaks so Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is in the same bracket as Romero Britto's Mona Cat. I also put Lee Krasner up against Jackson Pollock in round 1. Other than that though, it was completely random. Apparently, Google is a willing accomplice in my playful matchups, as the random sort did put Lichtenstein against Monet allowing me to put different versions of water lilies head to head.

Here are m…

Using Google Slides to Gamify Art

This is a video I made demonstrating how I use the Google Slides app to gasify my classroom. This is a sort of modified TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behaviors) setup. Most of the video demonstrates some of the things I have learned through trial and error as far as what makes for a good design, how to handle digital badges etc. One of the primary benefits of using this system, is students choose their challenges, and they are rewarded with digital badges as a recognition of their accomplishments. The whole system focuses on advancement and celebration of achievement fostering a more positive atmosphere in the classroom. Also, when students choose what they are doing, they are more engaged, and they are excited to share their work with peers. I prefer not to have stations for different media, but rather stations where students gather materials. Having all different media out on each table as students work makes for a bit more mess, but a lot more collaboration and students sparking each …

Big Change for 2019

For quite a while, I have read about TAB and choice based art ed. There is a lot that appeals to me with the theory but I have never seen a structure that I felt would work for me in my classroom. In the weeks leading up to winter break, I started thinking more and more about gamifying the classroom. I decided to take the plunge and so now my 1st-5th grade students will have a range of choices but with clear structures and support to make it manageable.
I decided to utilize Google slides as a means of managing the game. It is free and a slide deck can provide secure, personalized communication between me and the students. I started by setting up a template. My slide deck has the rules of the game, a slide to track badges they earn and then numerous slides of challenges students can complete in order to earn a badge. The beauty is that since slides can have links, my challenge slides can have the learning targets then a picture of a sample project that would hit the targets. I make th…

Amazing Stop Motion

I have taught kids stop motion animation for a good ten years now. It is a wonderful way for students to understand how video and animation work by breaking it all down to set one frame at a time. For those who dont know, a typical video camera will record and playback 30 frames per second. The idea is that is too many pictures for the eye and brain to process every second so it stops looking like a series of pictures and starts looking like one picture that is constantly moving. The point where the eye is overwhelmed and it stops looking like a series of pictures is at about 10 frames per second. I always tell my students to use 10 frames per second for planning because the math is easy (if they want a 1 minute animation, they need 600 frames) and that is a speed that will look good.
Kids inevitably end up lowering the frame rate to make their animations longer but by setting 10 as my benchmark, I tend not to have anyone give me anything less than 5 or 6 frames per second, which lo…

A Better Way to Make a Hand Turkey

In November it seems inevitable that hand turkeys start creeping into the classroom. When I was younger it would drive me nuts. I used to ban the hand turkey from my classroom because it seemed too lazy to me. Of course, like most things I loathed when I was young, I have matured and come to realize I was looking at it all wrong. Kids make hand turkeys not out of laziness, but because they want to be successful and their parents often enjoy the cute hand crafted keepsakes if you will forgive my pun.

Instead if trying to stop kids from doing what they like, I realized my job is to meet them where they are then help them elevate their work. If they want to trace their hands, why not use that tracing as a basis for a paper sculpture or cut the hand from a slab of clay and make it a keepsake their parents can enjoy for years (while also teaching hand building techniques ever ceramic artist should know).

I created this video years ago to show kids how they can make a hand turkey paper scul…