Category Archives: Journaling

Structure and Expectations

A lot of times I hear that kids don’t want to really learn.  That given the chance, they will twitter away and have no desire to ‘get’ anything from class.  I don’t believe this to be true.  Last week I was hired to teach 7-10th grade art.  There are three classes; 7th grade, 8th grade, and High School.  The school year is already a quarter in, and for the last two months there was a long-term substitute teacher in the classroom.  While I was very pleased about the relevancy of his lessons (hitting on value, proportion, color, and art history!), his classroom management was less stellar.  I do not fault him for this, as we learn how to manage a classroom not only through experience, but through training during teacher preparation programs.  All in all, he was fabulous and I couldn’t have asked for a better long-term sub to take the reigns from.

Classroom management is hard, though.  It’s a battle trying to find the right balance between being strict and yet still approachable to students.  While staying true to the rules of your classroom and school is important, it’s equally important for your students to feel as if they can ask questions, make mistakes, and express themselves not only creatively, but as young adults figuring out their place in the world.  From observing other classrooms, I think that this is where a lot of teachers struggle… and if you are struggling with your classroom management you cannot be giving students the best education possible.

I feel like it’s a child’s place and right to challenge the rules.  To see how far they can push.  It is the teachers place to let them know where that boundary is, and hold fast.  If you are unable to hold that line, students will not only continue to push, but your role as a reliable authority is diminished in their eyes.  Why should they listen if they don’t have to?  You cannot just will them to follow the rules, you have to show them how.  Once you show them how it’s much easier to do things like give directions, introduce new information, have students follow through on projects, and clean up after themselves (every art teacher’s nightmare, the destroyed room littered with your supplies).

Along those lines it’s so important to outline clear expectations… and high ones at that.  I was having a conversation with another elective teacher about my 7th graders.  The substitute had warned me that they were too immature for projects longer than 1 class period.  Having worked with 7th graders, I was doubtful.  After spending time with them I realized it to be untrue.  What had happened was the substitute lacked the training he needed to give them the discipline they needed, and the high expectations to strive for.  I told my colleague that “if I give them high expectations they will strive to meet them”, to which he responded “and if you give them low expectations they will meet those, too.”

How absolutely true.

The Grid Project

This is a drawing/painting project that I took from my host teacher and altered to make ‘my own’.

Each student will create a self-portrait using the techniques of drawing with a grid, pen, and watercolor.  Students will utilize value and pattern into their artwork.

Grid Project – Value, Pattern, Watercolor, and Pen Drawing

Part 1: Introduction


  • PowerPoint on value, pattern, and grid
  • Handout on value and pattern – two worksheets to complete before beginning
  • Scratch paper for students to do a rough draft self-portrait
  • Mirrors
  • 18×12 drawing paper
  • Sharpie Pens
  • Watercolors
  • Erasers
  • Pencils
  • Rulers and a Long Straight Edge
  • Camera and Printer


  • Have an understanding of the concept of value and pattern
  • Have an understanding of how to use the grid to draw realistically
  • Create a self-portrait that uses value and pattern


  • Show students PowerPoint(s) on value and pattern
  • Have students work on the worksheet and their self-portrait.  This took 2-3 class periods.
  • While students are working on their worksheets, this is a good time to take their pictures.  I then uploaded them onto a computer and printed them out 6”x4” in black and white.
  • Show students PowerPoint on the grid project
  • Explain to students how to use the grid, and how it is a useful tool to create drawings that are in the correct prop
    ortion without getting hung-up on the subject they are drawing

Part 2: Setting it all up


  • Picture (6×4”)
  • Ruler and Long Straight Edge
  • Pencil
  • 18×12” Sheet of drawing paper


  • Show students how to map out their grid
      • At this point they will need to be given their picture.  They need to mark a border around it.  Starting at one corner of the picture, mark every ½” around the entire picture.  Then, connect the marks across the picture, creating a grid
      • Then, on the 18×12” sheet of paper, starting at the corner, mark every 1.5” around the entire sheet.  Connect all the marks across the picture to create a grid
      • Troubleshooting: Depending on your students, you may need to check their work before they connect their grid lines.  Many students struggled with lining things up straight, or measuring correctly.


  • Show students how to use the grid to draw their design.
    • Black out one square on the picture, and the corresponding square on the large sheet of paper.  Show the student that you are not drawing a ‘nose’ or ‘eye’ or ‘mouth’, but instead just the shape in that particular square.
      • Some students may need extra help with this, or paper to help them block out their squares.
      • Some students may need to divide their squares further, into quarters
        .  This can be especially true for areas such as the eye.
  • Continue to do this until you have an outline of the body, and the face/clothes.  Leave the background empty.
  • After students have drawn their outline, have them go over it with sharpie.  From there, students will start filling in every box with a different pattern using the sharpies (some may be repeated, as long as they are not next to each other, and are ‘changed’ somehow.
    • Remind students to keep ‘value’ in mind.  Some patterns will be darker then others.  The more sharpie/lines in their pattern, the darker it will be.
    • Remind students that they are not filling in the background yet, only the figure.
    • When students believe they are done hold the picture back for them, and have them look at the photograph and tell you where they might need to give it a darker value.  If they are struggling, point out areas that you find.
    • After students have finished filling in the figure, have them draw a motif.  This motif will be repeated in the background to create a single pattern.  The students can use the grid in the background to help them place their motifs.
      • Once they have a motif, have them draw it in the background in pencil, and then outline in sharpie.
      • After students are finished, they may begin filling in the figure and background with watercolor.
        • Note: At this point it is an option to go over ‘color’ with students.  I decided to save that (long) lesson for another project, and talk to them informally about how they would want to use contrasting colors to make the figure ‘pop’.
        • Depending on your students, do a quick demo on watercolor.
          • Remind students that they can use color to help them ‘deepen’ the value they already created with sharpie.  If they are making their face yellow, then they can use orange in the areas around the nose where there is shadow, etc.
  • Check to make sure that students don’t need to ‘touch up’ any areas of their drawing with watercolor.  Let it dry.  Marvel at how awesome they look.


  • Have students answer the following questions on a half sheet of paper to turn in for credit (full sentences!):
    • What grade to you deserve?
    • Why?
    • What are the techniques you used to finish this assignment?
    • Are you proud of the finished artwork?
    • Why?



  • Using the reflection as a guide, assess the students artwork based on your own classroom’s criteria.
  • I grade on the following:
      • Effort-how hard you work
      • Craftsmanship-how good/neat it looks (did you do your best to make it look awesome?)
      • Techniques
      • Creativity

Another Change

 Things just keep changing.  My time at the Canvas was short lived, only 9 months.  After a pretty difficult and cold summer, my boyfriend and I made the decision to move back down South.  I loved my time with the clients, and I learned more that I could have hoped for-not only about managing a studio and beginning to create a program, but about ceramics.  It was a fantastic experience, and I will miss all the clients and community members that I worked with.  Life has to go on though, and when you find yourself unhappy something must be done to remedy the situation.  Sunshine was what we needed, so we decided to head towards the Southwest.

Originally I was going to go back to school part time and work on a portfolio to get into graduate school for art, but on a whim I applied for a part time art teaching job.  I ended up being offered a position at a high school-which quickly turned into a full time teaching job!  It was a crazy process, and I ended up pushing up my plans and moving 2 weeks earlier then I had planned.  Everything is give and take, right?  So I got my almost-dream job, but I had to move without my car and only 2 bags of my belongings (plus the little bit my boyfriend had room for in his car).

I now teach 2 sections of “Art 1” and “Sculpture/Ceramics”.  We are at the end of our third week and I am finding myself challenged in ways I hadn’t quite realized I would.  Management is a huge issue right now.  Most of my classes are great, but I have one section that is giving me a lot of grief.  There are just too many kids, and there is a table of hyper boys that are putting me in a foul mood.  I’ll figure it out as time goes on, and it might result in a seating chart and privileges  taken away… but hopefully it won’t have to go that far.  The seating chart I think will be inevidable… but I hope I don’t have to turn this into a notes-heavy art-history class.  That’s the last thing I want to do.

Besides the issues I’m having with controlling that one class, things are great.  I’ll start putting up lesson plans pretty soon, as my students complete projects.  Right now my sculpture students are wrapping up a tile project, and beginning a writing assignment.  My art 1 students are working on a grid project (that I shamelessly took from my host teacher from FALA) after having completed their portfolio.

I can’t wait to see how this year goes, and hope to have some great projects to show for it.

Starting Anew

Since that last time that I wrote, a lot has changed.  I don’t work for a middle/high school anymore, but instead I teach community classes and day rehabilitation classes in pottery.  This job is proving to be challenging, and also rewarding.  I am slowly starting to get the hang of teaching older students, as well as students who experience disabilities.  Both are very different from each other, and worlds apart from what I was doing during my teaching internship last year.

I am very excited, though.

This website will begin to include not only old lesson plans I may revisit, but my journey teaching pottery.  Lesson plans, ideas, and what I am finding works… or doesn’t work.  The space that I am working in is very small, so my classes are limited to 6 people.  I think that this will be a great number to really start to build relationships and learn about myself as an educator.

Wish me luck!

Lesson Planning pt 2

There is more to planning a lesson than just planning an activity. Often people think that art teachers have it easy because we just need to keep the students entertained. This is not true. There are many elements and principles of art and design that students need to learn to be successful artists.

The template that I use to create my lessons is based off of my host teacher’s. This template outlines in detail what the students will learn and accomplish, as well as what the teacher will be doing and accomplish. I find that this template for lesson planning helps me organize my thoughts, and decide whether or not a project will actually work. The only thing that this outline does not have is a timeline. While my nature would prefer to have a specific timeline, in practice I find it is difficult to put a deadline on a project before the students have begun. Every class dynamic is different from the last, and it is hard to tell a student who is working very thoughtfully on their art that they need to stop because 1/2 of their peers have rushed through their project. Instead, I just try to ‘go with the flow’ and make sure that students are on task throughout the project. Here is the outline that I use:


Part 1: What is the first part of the lesson?

  • Materials needed for project
  • Objectives (what will the students learn… perceive, identify, discuss, create…)

Scope and Sequence:

  • Introduction (notes, PowerPoint, discussion)
  • Engage (begin project)
    • Example
    • Demonstration
    • Creation
  • Assess (methods of assessment)

If there is a second part to the lesson I would put it here. Again, this is a great aid in lesson planning. I find the materials list very helpful, and it is easy to revise. Sometimes as a lesson is happening I will need to change the steps or criteria. Putting the document in my computer helps me make alterations for future use.

Attached is an example of a lesson plan for Color and Value, and demonstrates multi-step projects that have sub-categories as well.  Not all lessons are this long, many lesson plans end up being only 1 page long.

Color and Value Lesson Plan (PDF Format)

Lesson Planning, pt 1

Part of what I love about teaching is planning lessons.  I find it challenging and stimulating.  It requires me to think outside of the box focus on what my students will find interesting and are capable of.  I often find myself wondering whether or not my lessons are too difficult, or even worse… too easy.  Being more experienced means that many of the techniques and concepts I am teaching are like second nature to me.  I have always had an interest in art, so I learned many of what I am teaching at a younger age.  When I plan my lessons I am challenged to think back to what I used to be capable (or incapable) of and also to reflect on my students abilities and strengths.

I use many resources to help me plan lessons, including my host teacher.  The resources that I use are mostly from School Art Magazine and the internet.  My resources are on the right sidebar.  I also just think a lot on projects.  It helps that we are teaching concepts in addition to techniques.  So instead of just planning random projects, we are planning projects around actual concepts and design elements.

I think that teaching the elements and principles of design is very important.  Often times art is cast aside as an ‘easy’ course, but it’s not really.  There are more things to learn besides how to paint a pretty picture.  Something that I have been reflecting on is how much we use design in our everyday life.  Thinking about the clothes we wear, our furniture, buildings, kitchenware, etc…. it all has elements and principles of design.  Down to the food we eat.  We want our dinner to have good color, texture, balance… all features that we are trying to teach our students to be more observant and conscious of.

I hope that as I continue to learn how to plan lessons and put together a wide range of projects, I am able to challenge myself and my students consistantly.  I am very lucky to have such a wide range of resources at my feet-and I hope that this website can eventually serve as another art education resource for other teachers.