Student Teacher Blog

Written Steps on the Board

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog


During student teaching, I taught lessons where there were certain steps that the students had to follow to complete their projects. Although I demonstrated and gave instructions step-by-step at the beginning of the class, students tended to forget what was supposed to come next after each step. So, I started writing steps up on the board where the students could easily see them. It was important to tell the students that they could look up on the board to make sure they followed all the steps.


Writing the steps in detail took up too much space on the board so I started writing them in a simple and concise form. Steps on the board were just reminders, not to take the place of full instruction. This strategy worked way better for 2nd graders and up than for kindergarteners and 1st graders because of their reading ability. For those who were too little, I drew images (without text) as reminders.



Storing Clay Pieces

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog

I taught clay lessons for the first time in my life, and I struggled through parts of the process. However, I learned a great tip from my cooperating teacher about storing clay pieces. Because I had about eight different classes doing clay at the same time, I had hundreds of pieces that I needed to find a space for. In the art classroom, there was only one window where clay pieces from one or two classes could be placed on for air drying.

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That was when my cooperating teacher pulled out these Coca Cola containers. These containers were great for storing clay pieces and multiples of these containers could be stacked together without taking up anymore floor or table space.

bread container stackcoca cola stack


Students’ Names and Seating

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog

A great tool that my cooperating teacher uses is putting name tags on the tables before students walk in.

I found this tool very helpful in an elementary art classroom setting where there are more than five hundred students coming and going. Each class has more than twenty students at a time and remembering all of their names seems impossible. However, this name tag strategy really helps to interact with students by using their names.

name tag

These name tags also tell them where they should sit. Their seating always changes depending on how the teacher sets them on the table. Based on the previous classes, the teacher can consider where the students should be seated, and this can minimize trouble caused by possible tension between students.

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On the first day of school, students make their own name tags which are kept for the whole school year. My cooperating teacher wrote the names on the tags for the kindergarteners because many of them cannot write their names yet.

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Self-portrait Lesson for 3rd grade

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog

The first lesson that I taught third grade was a self-portrait lesson.


The big idea for this lesson was identity and the objectives were:

1. to know the different shapes used to draw faces,

2. to draw faces in correct proportion and

3. to color them in either cool or warm colors.


It was a two-day lesson and each period was 50 minutes.


cool cool_2 warm warm_2

As part of my instruction, I showed a PowerPoint presentation of Vincent Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits as examples of drawn faces. I also showed another PowerPoint presentation of self portraits that were colored in either cool or warm colors as examples of painting with liquid watercolor.

The liquid watercolor itself was too dark and strong for this application, so I added a lot of water to make the colors lighter.


The key words that I used were geometric shape, organic shape, and symmetry. One thing I noticed was that the students were confusing geometric shapes with three-dimensional shapes during the discussion.

cool_3 warm_3

For the first time, I tried to go step-by-step with students to draw a facial figure, but it was hard to refocus their attention after they had already started working. So later, I changed my instruction style to giving all of the directions at the beginning of class and letting them work independently for the rest of the class period.

Easy Clay Storage

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog

My school just started clay, and we are having a blast! However, managing materials, tools, and projects can be quite a feat, especially with delicate clay projects. For this project, we are making crazy face jugs inspired by the folk art tradition stemming from Appalachia. I wanted students to have a solidly made coil vessel that they would add facial features to later on. The big problem I faced was how to keep nearly 100 pots plastic to leather-hard for the coming weeks. My solution was to purchase 5 under-the-bed storage containers. I only needed 4, but bought an extra just in case of absences or large classes. These containers are long and thin, making them easy to store and stack. Since our pots were only going to be 4 – 5″ maximum, this size was perfect. The length of these containers also allowed us to fit all of our pots inside snugly. I made sure to spray the pots with water and then placed thick, black garbage bags (courtesy of our custodian) over the top of the pots, tucking the bag into any open crevices. I did this because while these containers are good at keeping clay moist, they are not air-tight. The trash bag provides added protection and ensures the clay will still be workable. Then, all that I needed was labels for the top and side of the containers. After using this method for a few days, I began seeing some pros and cons of using these containers. Here they are below:

1. These containers are EXPENSIVE – nearly $10 for just 1. Luckily, they are pretty tough and should last practically forever, but the start-up cost can be high unless you get them for free or borrow them. A lot of people tend to have some so it’s worth asking around first before buying.
2. They can be fairly heavy, but even a wimp like me had few issues toting them around full of pots. I would wager they are around 20 to 30 pounds with clay inside, maybe less. Students would not be able to help you carry them unless they were in high school, so if carrying weight yourself is an issue and you teach younger grades, you may need to find another solution.
3. They are very easy to maintain, and it’s simple to check an entire class/grade of work in one glance. The only maintenance needed after making them is just peeling off the trash bag, glancing at the pots, spraying with water, and putting the container back together.
4. Lastly, where you store them is important. Obviously, storing them in direct sunlight isn’t going to work. Luckily, these containers are easy to store as they stack on each other and can easily fit under/on top of tables or be stored on a classroom counter-top when in use. When not in use, the containers easy stack into one another and can be stored practically anywhere. They don’t take up much space at all.

Easy Clay Storage Easy Clay Storage

This photo was taken after a few hours had passed with the trash bag over top and the lid shut. No water evaporation found.

Easy Clay Storage

Alternative Materials

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog

In my kindergarten class, we learned about Dr. Seuss and read The Lorax. Students then created a painting based off of a scene from the book and used a very unexpected material for the truffula trees – whoosh balls!


My co-op teacher and I searched EVERYWHERE for these balls. When you don’t need them, they are everywhere. When you do, they are nowhere to be found. Once we found them, we were excited to see the results of the printing.


In Kindergarten, we did this without having any students misuse the materials or misbehave, which was amazing considering the balls lit up and could bounce. My co-op teacher and I avoided any issues by having clear directions and expectations for all students.

I thought this use of unexpected materials was not only fun but really told the story of The Lorax by teaching students to use tools and materials around them to save the environment rather than relying on mass production and harmful environmental practices. I just wish we could have used more unexpected materials in this lesson!

Learning Targets

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog

For my action research project, I decided to research and implement learning targets. Learning targets are instructional objectives aimed at helping students understand what they need to learn by the end of a lesson. The main difference between learning targets and the objectives often found in lesson plans is that the learning targets are shared with students in student-friendly language, whereas objectives are usually used just by and for teachers, in “teacher language”. At my school, many classroom teachers implement learning targets. I thought it would be interesting to see how learning targets translate over to the art classroom.

Both are valid forms of setting assessment guidelines and expectations, but I think learning targets surpass traditional objectives by simply being shared with the students. Learning targets are also great because they force teachers to think about expectations and objectives in a student-friendly way. By “chunking” these expectations, students and teachers can easily measure their progress and teachers avoid language/expectations that can confuse students.

I am far from being an expert on learning targets, but over the course of my elementary placement I have worked hard to make them as effective as possible. Here are some of my learning target examples from the past few weeks:


My first learning targets for a fifth grade class. Not terribly vague, but a little too simple. These targets are OK because they tell the students what they are going to be learning/doing/making, but don’t tell them how they are going to be assessed on that learning.

fifth grade

The latest targets from the same fifth grade class. A bit more in depth, and gives students an idea of what I will be assessing them on as well as what they will be doing (no pieces falling off, exaggerated features, finished piece).


Just like my first fifth grade targets, these third grade targets are simple and to the point but still vague as to what students are learning.

third grade

These learning targets from the same third grade class are more on track with how learning targets are supposed to be. They show students what they are learning, as well as how I am assessing what is “good” (evenly toned, clear prints, at least 1 flip/rotation, multiple prints).

I am interested in seeing how these Targets translate over to my secondary placement. I have usually only seen Learning Targets in my elementary placement, so I think that transition to a secondary level could be interesting. I look forward to presenting my research on learning targets soon.


Zentangle Memory Plates

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog

My fourth grade class finished these Zentangle Memory Plates recently.

The project started with students thinking and talking about memory. We talked about what they were, and why they were important. Students then created a plan/sketch for their plate, thinking about patterns, symbols, and words that would summarize their memory.



After carving, we glazed them. Students picked the color they felt represented their memory the best. They then dabbed black glaze into the carved lines they made earlier to make them stand out. Here are some pieces about to be fired.




This was such a fun project – definitely one I will be doing as a teacher. I loved reading and hearing about the student’s memories, and the plates look amazing!

Sculptural Characters

posted on March 13, 2015 in Spring 2015, Student Teacher Blog

During my elementary placement, the first graders worked on a sculpture project inspired by Nick Cave’s Soundsuits. Each student designed a character and was able to use all kinds of materials and media to make it come to life. Students spent the first two lessons brainstorming and building the basic form of their character. We made the body with cardboard tubes and model magic. In order to incorporate “the five senses” into our sculptures, we filled the hollow body of the characters with rice and beans and our sculptures became music makers! Next, we wrapped the forms with colored plaster bandages and the characters became nice and sturdy.

sculptures 001

During the third session, students were ready to develop their character’s personality! We went “shopping” at a table full of bins of different materials. The first graders decided on an adjective to describe their character and picked embellishments for their sculptures based on that word. The basic forms that the students created quickly transformed before our eyes! Expressive faces and arms and legs were added. Props and outfits were designed. Stories and tales were being told. The students were so excited to share their creations with each other.

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