Monday, July 27, 2015

Getting Started on Artsonia

As I prepare to set up Artsonia from scratch at my new school, I thought I'd share some tips I learned over the past 6 years that helped streamline the process.

If you are unfamiliar with Artsonia, it is an online kids' art museum that works really well to keep digital portfolios or artwork and artist statements, connects students and their family members to your school's art program, and can be a great fundraising tool. Did I mention it's free to use? Artsonia also really seems to care about user feedback and they've used it to launch new features in recent years, including an app for smart devices that saves a lot of time.

Step 1: Create & Set Up Account
Go to and click create new account.
Follow the steps to search for and select your school, then enter your information.
If you are the first person to start an Artsonia account for your school, they will fax a verification code to the school that you need to enter.
After you are verified, you can fill out the information about the teacher and customize the welcome message that viewers see at the top of your gallery.

Step 2: Set up Rosters
The first year I used Artsonia, I printed and sent home a letter and permission form I got from Artsonia and manually entered each and every student name and parent email address that I received.
Eventually, I learned that an Artsonia employee will upload a spreadsheet for you that includes each student's name, grade, parent email(s), and class if you just send it to them. They've always gotten my spreadsheets added in about a day and it is SO handy. When you enter a parent's email address, Artsonia will send them an email inviting them to create a parent account. The other option is to print off the permission forms to send home with students that give parents a code to enter to link their account to the student's.
If a parent does not give permission for their student to participate in Artsonia, you can still upload their work but it will only be visible to you. That way you can still use it for your records and assessments.

TIP: Last year I got a ton of parents to register through the Artsonia email and then I waited until the parent teacher conferences at the end of the first 9 weeks to print off the permission slips. I asked the teachers in my building to hand out the form during their conference so I could be sure the parent really saw it and the slip didn't just get lost in a backpack by sending it home with the student.

More About Rosters
Before the beginning of each new school year, Artsonia will "graduate" your students to the next grade level. I used to teach in two buildings- a primary school that fed into my intermediate school- so I would ask Artsonia to move my 3rd graders from one building into 4th grade at the next. This feature is really nice for two reasons.
1st, if a student uses Artsonia, it is really easy to look back and see their work from previous grades. It would be possible to have a comprehensive portfolio of all of their artwork from PreK-12th grade!
2nd, if you teach multiple grades, you only have to enter information for your youngest grade and new students each year. Everyone else should already be there.

Step 3: Upload Art
After you have everything set up and your students have finished some work, it's time to photograph it. You can either photograph the work with a digital camera or scan it and upload through iPhoto or directly into Artsonia, or you can use an app on a smart device. I found that using the Artsonia app saves a bunch of time. You can do each piece individually or in batches. If I had the students's names visible, I preferred to use the batch setting. I could use my phone during my plan to photograph all the artwork for an exhibit (all the work from a particular lesson, a certain medium, however you want to organize it) at one time at school and then wait to actually publish the photos until later. If you have an iPad or tablet in your classroom, you can also have students publish their own work using the app.

TIP: My 2nd graders and up did a pretty good job photographing their work after I taught them how to do it. And reviewed how to do it. And reminded a couple more times. I tried to find a well lit spot on the floor and asked students to put 2D artwork there. It seemed to be easier for the younger students to get the tablet's camera parallel with the work than if it was on the table. You will get a much better photo if the camera is parallel to the artwork. I also let a student who was really good at it be a helper for students who hadn't uploaded before.

After the artwork is photographed, it can be cropped in the app along with basic editing. You select the students' name and have the option of entering a title and artist statement. You can also have students enter their artist statements at a later time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

K-12 Curriculum Planning

Since I will be starting a new teaching gig this fall- PreK-12th grade art teacher in a school district closer to home, I've been spending a lot of time this summer working on curriculum. I was able to spend a day shadowing the previous art teacher at my new school last spring so that I could get a feel for things, ask questions, etc. I took notes on the curriculum she had been using, which media she covered at each grade level, etc. With Kansas working on adopting the National Core Arts Standards and their new direction focusing more on student choice and making artwork that is personally meaningful, it seemed like a good time to reexamine EVERYTHING.
I had spreadsheets started for K-6 that I helped write in my former school district. Our process was basically to look at one standard at a time, one grade at a time, and write an "I Can" statement for each. So, we were breaking the standards down into student-friendly language and sometimes putting them in smaller pieces. I used the same process for 7th grade, 8th grade, HS proficient, and HS advanced. Then, I took the standard and "I Can" statements and put them in a table with a row below each pair where I've been writing how I will make sure we meet the standard. I've made notes to myself about discussions, processes, and assignment prompts. After I finish up the HS advanced standards, I will start to go through the notes I took about the last teacher's curriculum and see what fits in with the new standards and my goals. 
It's going to be an interesting transition for all of us, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tennis Mural

The tennis courts at one of the parks in my hometown were recently refinished- great!
 But next to the brand-spankin' new courts, was the ugly old practice wall. The Parks & Recreation Director and I talked about using it as a surface for a mural when I was in high school, but it never worked out. Once the courts were resurfaced, it was the perfect time to tackle the project. I came up with a plan, ran it by him, he bought the paint, and after the old boards were replaced with new plywood, I got started.
I spent Monday morning just drawing everything out. My dad helped me use his chalkline to snap the rays and the lines for the top of the net, then I tried to make a grid to draw out my plan. That was much trickier than I expected with the scale of the project- approximately 10x28 feet.
The next day I was ready for some help. Three wonderful ladies- Kathleen, Suzette, and Carol- from Jackson County Arts helped me throughout that week until we finished up Saturday morning.
The last step was adding the black lines to make up the net. The top of the net was the correct height so that it can be used to practice, but we took some liberties with the spacing on the net, enlarging it to 6 inch rows instead of 2 inches since there was not a realistic scale on the rest of the mural. I made a template- a 6 inch wide strip of cardboard with marks every 6 inches that we used to quickly lay out the knots. We were trying to figure out the best way to paint the lines and found that instead of connecting the dots with a brush, we could use string to print it! I cut a piece of cotton string from the hardware section a little longer than the height of the net. We poured paint in a foam tray, ran the string through the paint, and used it like a chalkline. I held the string in place and Kathleen snapped it, creating a line. The horizontal lines were just done in sections, using the painted knots as a guide.
We are pretty proud of the way the mural turned out and happy to have been able to contribute more art to our community.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

ElementaryWeaving Tips

Last month on The smARTteacher, I wanted to create a resource for the Blick Challenge and figured I'd try something different than a lesson plan.  I put together a document with a list of which weaving skills/projects I introduce at each grade level and tips I've picked up and used for teaching weaving. The document is available to download here:
Plan for Introducing Weaving
Understand basic over-under pattern.
Demonstrate weaving process then give small groups a precut paper loom and weaving strips. Students work together, taking turns to weave strips through paper until loom is full.
1st Grade
Paper Weaving- fold paper loom and weave precut strips over/under. Talk about color choices.
2nd Grade
Techniques for dressing up paper weaving- weaving through painted paper, stacking skinny strips on top of thick strips, cuts that curve or zigzag for warp or weft, stamping over finished weaving, collage on top of weaving.
3rd Grade
Introduce yarn weaving on loom- warping loom, weaving, switching colors, removing weaving from loom.
4th Grade
Loom weaving techniques- patterning, zigzag, holes and reconnecting.
5th/6th Grade
Radial weaving on CD or plate.

Tips for Teaching Weaving
·  Connect weaving to math by talking about AB patterns.
·   Store precut weaving strips sorted by color in toilet paper tubes inside a box.
·   If cutting larger paper to a smaller size, cut scraps into 1 inch strips for weaving.
·   Create a weaving poster with small paper models illustrating the steps.
·   When teaching students to cut paper looms, after they fold paper in half, draw or trace a line about an inch from the open end and write “STOP!” so that students remember to stop cutting at that point.
·   Cut thin strips of paper that students can label with their name and class code and weave through the yarn on loom projects.
·   Display yarn weaving projects by centering on top of construction paper and securing with one or two staples. The staples can be easily removed without damaging the project when it goes home. Students can write their names on the front of the paper for the hallway display.
·  When weaving on round looms, make sure students have an odd number of warp strands. For CDs, 13, 15, or 17 work well.  If students accidentally warp an even number, push two strands close together and treat them as one to correct the problem.
  CD weaving projects can be hooked together with paper clips in a grid pattern which makes a striking collaborative display.