Sunday, August 31, 2008

One Full Week!

This week was the first FULL WEEK with students.

Five student days.

I'd like to say it was nothing, didn't wear me out or anything.

In all honesty, I was so excited for Friday to finally come! And then, just in time for the weekend, some sort of bug knocked me out COMPLETELY on Saturday. All day Saturday...I'll spare you the details.

Thankfully, I started feeling better this morning, so I had all day to sleep, start to eat, and regain my strength for ANOTHER FIVE DAY WEEK! But I did miss having a weekend, where I could do things for myself...

Check out the picture below! I came in last Monday to find a BRAND NEW CEILING AND LIGHTING in my art room. I was told that they would be putting in new lights, but I didn't realize the lights and drop ceiling would come at the same time. I don't have much of an opinion about the ceiling. It looks nice, and that extra 2 or 3 feet would never have been used. This is supposed to help with heating and cooling costs, and now I have better lighting!

Probably the biggest news for this week is that I'm teaching the Pre-K class! Once a week, for 30 minutes. It's a small little class of 7 students. One girl cried hysterically about coming to art class. Thankfully, one of the classroom teachers stayed and sat with her. About 5 or 10 minutes into class, she finally stopped crying.

It's a fun class, especially since I have four of my colleagues' children as students. Two of the boys' dads work in the secondary building. One little girl's dad is a music teacher and the head of fine arts. And another little boy, his dad is my principal, the principal of the elementary school.

Pre-K was learning about colors in their class. We practiced our cutting skills by playing "HIDE AND SEEK" and finding the colors that were hiding in magazines.

The yellow table cut out yellow items.
The red table cut out red items.
The blue table cut out blue items.

Then a teacher helped each table glue their bits onto construction paper. The classroom teacher that stayed helped the yellow table, my TA helped the red table, and I helped the blue table.

My principal's son was sitting at the blue table. At one point in time, I thought he said "I like you." Then I realized, he was probably saying "I like blue" since he was sitting at the blue table and cutting out blue items. A few minutes later, I was helping him cut out some more items. This time, it was clear as day. "I like you." Yes, this little four year old boy likes me.

He also likes my scissors. They spring open to help young children with their fine motor skills...

He saw me two days later, on Friday, pointed at me and told the person he was with "I like her."

Here are the finished Olympic bulletin boards---designed and created by the 5th grade classes.

I'm so impressed.

Nearly everything is their own creation. I stapled the items on the board, with their direction. I also created the flag of South Africa on the first bulletin board. (It's fairly complicated, and the students were struggling, but since our secondary principal is from South Africa, I thought I'd help them out!)

I love the way the first bulletin board combined the Olympic rings and the word "Olympics." Genius.

And check out the finished torches on the second bulletin board...those torches are the result of rulers, protractors, "paper and pencil" math calculations, mental math, and research at home! (One boy from the group printed out color images of the torches at home and brought them in for the second class so they could get all the details perfect.)

Lastly, some finished hand designs from the 2nd graders and the 2nd/3rd grade ESL class.

This girl really impressed me. The front of her book is beautiful. She finished early, so she began designing the back. I didn't ask the students to think about the arrangement of hands on the front cover, but merely to overlap the hands to cover the entire page. She took this to the next level when she designed her back cover. It's things like this back cover that make you smile and realize your students are learning, applying their understanding independently, taking risks, and finding success!

I read this passage in The Art of Teaching Art to Children on Friday night:

Sometimes the art room gets really quiet. It's the tip-0ff that the kids are deeply involved. I haven't asked the children to be quiet. They are simply expressing their involvement in the work by a high level of intensity, combined with a deep focus. They are immersed in the art materials and in themselves.

I started tearing up. Already, there have been many quiet classes in the art room. I love to facilitate this type of involvement in art, in the process of creation!

Sometime, I need to write about 3rd grade. They're awesome! The discussions we have about art, their increasing drawing skills, and the crazy portraits they're drawing of their's a great time!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Infestation of Ladybugs!

Today I made my first mistake as a teacher.

Okay, it probably wasn't my first mistake, but it is noteworthy.

I was teaching the other batch of first graders, so I was doing the same lesson on favorite colors (see first day post). Here was the mistake: The students had already selected the crayon that was their favorite color, but I didn't pay attention to the colors they had selected. Instead, I randomly chose red as my example. I explained that ladybugs are red, but to draw a ladybug, you would also need to use the black crayon. Then I drew a simple picture of a ladybug on the whiteboard.

Last week, I deliberately chose a color that NO STUDENTS had picked. This week, I didn't notice that two of the nine children had picked red.

Guess how many ladybug pictures I ended up with?

Not two. Twice that many. FOUR.

Yes, even though only two children choose red as their favorite color, two others managed to work a ladybug into their picture. Beach scenes with ladybugs, flowers with ladybugs. It almost didn't matter what you drew, you could add a ladybug to your picture and make it better!

It is quite flattering to have so many students follow your example, but five ladybugs doesn't contribute to the goal of developing independent thinkers. Maybe we can work on that next week...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pictures of My Classroom!

Sorry the picture is a little bit blurry. It's a good overview of my classroom, though. There are three tables, each with six stools (red table, closest to the camera, yellow, to the left, and blue, closest to the door and easel).

There's also a supply table/teacher's desk in the corner behind the door. It's not really my desk, because my desk is in the fine arts office, right across the hall. You can see the blue sign for the office through my classroom door. My name is on the blue sign, along with the other art and music teachers.

Behind the supply desk, the words next to "ART" are the character traits for the year.

I have lots of bins of supplies, labeled with post-it notes (by the previous teacher). Working on the organization of supplies is a long term goal, especially as we purchase more supplies.

All the paintings above the shelving are from the secondary classes last year. They will probably come down and get moved to the new secondary art classroom.

(Last year was the first year at this campus, and all the art classes for both teachers were taught in this room. The secondary classroom is a work in progress, but functioning this school year. Slowly, this classroom is transforming into an elementary space as Mrs. Greene's classroom gets set up.)

Here's the front of the room. Below is a detail of the displays I made during the staff days before school started. The "Flavorful Folds" display was Miss Emily's idea! There should be a similar display in an elementary art classroom in Pennsylvania.

Beyond the traditional hot dog and hamburger folds, Miss Emily introduced me to the taco fold (square paper folded diagonally), the burrito fold (folded in thirds), and the kite fold, a variation of the taco which I decided to call the ice cream fold (keeping with the food theme).

I also spelled my name for the students, though I'm certain most will call me "Miss M."

The "Awesome Artists" wording of the rules was also Miss Emily's idea, though I'm not certain of her specifics for how to be an awesome artist. Mine are:

Awesome Artists are excited about ART
Awesome Artists do their best job
Awesome Artists treat others kindly
Awesome Artists take care of supplies
Awesome Artists follow the teacher's directions

Of course, since many of my students come from homes where English is not the primary language, I realized I needed to make sure my international students knew the word "awesome." The subtle difference when you teach at an international school...

Below is a detail of my construction paper shelves.

I love the colors!

Here are the "in-progress" sketchbook covers of the prize-winning second graders (a class of only five students, for now). They were captivated by this project! Then again, what student doesn't love tracing their hand...

This student's cover is almost finished. I think it will be stunning when he finishes the small shapes from where all his fingers overlap in the middle of the page.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The First Day of School!

Today was the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!

Well, sort of...It was the first day I taught in my first classroom at my first teaching job in my first school! Yesterday (13 August 2008) was the actual first student day, but it was a half day, and the elementary students did not go to specials. Today started specials, which meant ELEMENTARY ART!

That's right, folks, after months (literally) of uncertainty, I am teaching kindergarten through 5th grade art classes.

Mrs. Greene, the other art teacher, is teaching all of the secondary courses. (Sidenote: Very unfair that her last name is a color and my last name is Melachrinos!)

The classes come once a week, 50 minutes for 2nd-5th grade and 35 minutes for kindergarten and 1st grade. With one kindergarten class, two of all the other grades, and one ESL class, I teach 12 classes a week. Yes, that is all, and it is full time. And Mrs. Greene and I share a teacher's assistant.

My job is nice.

Today, in addition to being my first day, was my "long" day. I taught four classes. Here's the run down:

5th grade--designing and working as a class to create an Olympic-themed bulletin board outside the art classroom.

4th grade--a discussion of the Fuwa (Olympic mascots) and their symbolism, followed by sketching their favorite Fuwa.

2nd grade--working on the cover of their sketchbooks. On the red cover paper, they traced their hands six times, overlapping to create lots of shapes. Each shape was outlines and filled in with crayon, covering the entire front cover.

1st grade--drawing an object using their favorite color crayon and sharing the pictures with the class. (Lesson idea complements of Miss Emily)

Some things worth mentioning, by class:

5th--the table drawing the Olympic torch debated the conical shape of the Beijing torch design. Also, they asked for a ruler, protractor, and calculator to create their exact replica twin torches for the bulletin board.

4th--clearly, there are favorite Fuwa. Of the 14 students, all chose Jingjing (Black Panda) or Huanhuan (Red Flame). No one chose Beibei (Blue Fish), Yingying (Yellow Antelope), or Nini (Green Swallow).

1st--it's one thing to know that girls mature faster than boys. It's another thing to witness is first hand in your classroom. Night and day. 1st grade provided the first discipline problem. One boy refused to color a picture. Apparently he was having a bad day right before art class.

And lastly, 2nd--they get the prize! When I was demonstrating the steps of the sketchbook covers, at the end, I showed a partially-finished examples. The class erupted in a collective gasp! Definitely the best reaction I've ever received for my artwork! And they worked so well on their own projects, quietly. You could have heard a pin drop! It was making me so uncomfortable, I tried to engage the students in conversation. They were too involved in their artwork...

I'm sure people would love to see pictures of my room. They are coming! The room is still a work in progress, but I'm quite pleased with my little home. Little being key, but with a max class size of 18, and an average class size of 12, it works!

One class tomorrow, 3rd grade!

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