Browsing Category


Art Creativity Motivation Uncategorized

New Year! New Art Goals!

January 29, 2018

So, it’s a new year which means many of us are making a year long list of resolutions that we intend to achieve and I hope each of you do! I set many goals for myself every day; don’t drink Dr. pepper, don’t eat the donut, don’t yell, don’t lose your cool, choose kindness, WWJD, and may other daily goals that’s just too many to list. I do have one very important goal for myself professionally and personally.

My 2018 goal- Do not let fear of failure consume me.   

Professionally, how can I make this happen? STOP BEING AFRAID OF NEW MEDIA. If I’ve never used a particular media before, most likely I’m not going to try it because I’m terrified of hundreds of sad faces and failed projects. One thing I enjoy about being an art teacher is that the students think I’m an art genius ( I can assure you that I’m not), but I mean come on, would you want to see the disappointment on their sweet faces?  In college, we’re taught how to teach lessons you can do with your kids, but have I tried some of these with 20-25 students? NO.  Do I feel comfortable and confident enough to teach this lesson? NO. So what can I do about it? EDUCATE MYSELF. I can’t expect this change to happen magically. So I have vowed to attend as many conferences, watch as many webinars, listen to as many podcasts, and make as many messes by myself. Not letting fear consume me professionally allows my students to have the best art experience possible in my classroom!

Personally, I could go on and on and on, but I won’t! Something from my top 5 is, STOP BEING AFRAID TO GROW ARTISTICALLY. I love going home to create art, paint, craft, sketch, and color in those fascinating coloring books and I tell myself to start sharing my artwork with people more.  I have somewhat done that, but I fear rejection and lose confidence in myself so quickly when something doesn’t go the way I planned. I often feel stuck and that I’m not progressing artistically.  So how can I make this better? MAKE ART DAILY. I can’t expect to become this art making genius like my students think I am if I’m not putting in the work to become better!

So, what are your goals year and what are you going to do about it?

Creativity Homeschool

7 Different Ways to Use Dot Markers

October 17, 2017

My kids and I looooove using dot markers!

Not only do they help kids with their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but there is really no clean-up for Mom! Yep – no paintbrushes, no water cups, no paint pallets – it’s simply the dot markers and the paper. Seriously, it can’t get much easier than that when it comes to art!

I love that the dot markers can be used for skill-focused activities as well as free creative expression. The boys love the bright colors and the ease of use – and that they last for so long!

There are so many educational and fun ways to use these and I wanted to share a few of my favorites today!

  1. Letter and/or Number Recognition

When my boys first began working on letter recognition, they absolutely loved getting to “dot” the letter on the page. Because using the dot markers made the task so simple, they were really able to focus on the letter recognition skill and have fun in the process. Since this was an activity they asked for repeatedly, I’ve made my A-Z Dot Pictures available for FREE below! Just click on the picture to grab your FREE set!

  1. Patterns

Again, the simplicity of use makes these a perfect tool to use when teaching patterns. Since there’s no cutting or gluing this is a great way to practice simple patterns, especially when you’re short on time!


  1. Color by Code

This works similar to the letter and number recognition, except with this activity you can work on distinguishing between different numbers, letters, and even sight words.

  1. Graphing

Kids love to take surveys of neighbors, friends, classmates, and family members, which can then be translated to a graph. However, keeping the graphs accurate can get a little tricky for little guys. Using dot markers can really help with this – especially if you use a different color for each option. My kiddos have always been thrilled with the results!


  1. Resist Art Projects

Both of my boys love doing arts and crafts projects, but I am not a super crafty person. But using dot markers for tape-resist art projects have given us some pretty great results. You simply tape off the part that you want to keep white, and then the kids can just go crazy filling in the rest of the space with the dot markers. We usually keep it simple by doing a simple shape with the tape, but I have seen others actually tape the outside of the project so that the kids are actually filling in the shape with the dot markers (kind of like a stencil).


  1. Mazes

I’ve already mentioned how we have used dot markers to identify letters, numbers, and sight words, but this option allows your students to practice putting these elements in order. For example, you might have a maze where students have to follow the alphabet A-Z. Or perhaps they’re following counting numbers from 1-20. We’ve even used this type of activity in practicing spelling our names. Using dot markers not only makes it easy for them to fill the space for the maze, but it also makes the path at the end very clear.

  1. Free Creative Expression

Dot markers are so easy to use, my kids love them for just creating pictures of their own. They come up with some of the most creative ideas. And if you want to work on fine motor skills while still letting your kids get creative, there are a number of printables that have adorable graphics with space for kids to “dot” in the pictures. This allows them to be creative while still focusing on being accurate with the dot markers.   

We absolutely love using dot markers, and I hope this post gives you a few new ideas on how you might be able to incorporate this wonderful tool in your learning.

Do you have other ways that you love to use dot markers?! Leave me a note in the comments – I’d love to hear about it!

Creativity Reading Writing

Book Corner

September 27, 2017

Cozy Up with New Literature Picks

A topic that we need to talk about more in our literacy blog is: BOOKS! What are you and your students reading? Any new favorites? Here are a couple I was recently introduced to that you may find a use for in your classroom, too.

Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer

We had the chance to hear from Brad Meltzer, the author of this amazing series, at Scholastic’s “My Favorite Teacher” Breakfast at the ILA conference in Orlando this summer. Brad is definitely an inspiring individual himself, but his books bring to life heroes from history in a kid friendly format. In fact, many teachers are already familiar with his work, but I had no clue how vast his series had grown. I read the Jane Goodall story and enjoyed the fact that it started describing her life as a child and showed the steps she took along the way to achieve her goals. What an awesome concept for students to see how they can become role models and great achievers, too. There are plenty of titles to choose from and the collection is expanding all the time. These would be great for read aloud in most classrooms (yes, even high school students like to be read aloud to!) and awesome additions to your classroom library as well.


They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Teacher preference showing here- I LOVE cats. Even if you are not crazy about the furry felines yourself, there are a lot of wonderful opportunities for using this book with your students. We were introduced to this text during Tennessee’s Read to Be Ready summer reading program because of its originality and implications for instruction. First- it is just a neat text. It features simplistic writing with repetition for our youngest learner’s engagement. I would not limit this book to early childhood, though. Each page’s beautiful illustrations (it is a Caldecott Honor recipient) show the cat from a different animal’s perspective. There are plenty of speaking and listening opportunities with this text if you discuss why each animal views the cat differently. There are art and science connections when you consider the illustrations or the scientific reasons a particular animal views the cat the way he does. Lastly, I think it would be a great model text to inspire creative student writing, too. Have your students think of another animal or object and then write about others’ perspectives of it. My cats give this book two paws up and I am sure your students will enjoy it, too!


Creativity Culture Morale Uncategorized

Making Positives Outweigh Negatives

September 4, 2017

If you’re like me you can be hard on yourself and not always have the most optimistic or healthy outlook.  I hate this about myself- there we go another negative.  I wonder why I have the tendency to focus on the negatives rather than the positives.

For example, I recently cleaned my bathroom mirror and instead of looking at all the fresh clear reflections I stared at the one tiny spot I missed.  I was upset with myself for not being more thorough and missing it.  Then I thought why am I not proud of myself for making the effort and making 99% of the mirror sparkling clean?

At work, sometimes I think I judge my entire performance on my mistakes or oversights rather than the successes or new helpful ideas.  Late one night I realized I had forgotten to prepare for a meeting I had the next day.  I felt upset with myself for the next few days.  Why couldn’t I have been more kind to myself and focused on all of the meetings I have prepared for in a timely manner?

It is so easy to negatively judge yourself by one silly little error or oversight instead of celebrating your hard work.  So now when I think of a negative or something I want but don’t have I make myself stop and think of 3 positives in my life.

Part two of this post is for you to use this thought process at school with your students.  Of course when children get in trouble and break school rules parents are informed.  However, we need to make even more of an effort to inform parents when children follow the rules or go above and beyond expectations.

We need to show ourselves love and compassion but also everyone around us.  Sometimes this might be easier said than done.  It’s easier for me to be compassionate to myself when I miss a spot on the mirror, but it might be harder when I realize I forgot to prepare for an important meeting. Just like it might be easier to recognize the good behavior of your kind student who is always on the honor roll versus the student who is always going to the office for bad behavior.

Just like we want ourselves to focus more on the positives in us and our life the students we work with and their parents want that too.  If you can try to send more positive notes home and make more happy phone calls home, it can lead to a more positive day for you, your students, and your families.

You might have to be more creative with finding the positives on some days and with some children, but if you look hard enough it will be there.  Personally, even on the worst day, you can find something positive about yourself and your life.

Changing thought patterns takes time and practice.  So be gentle with yourself when you are being negative and change it to a positive as quickly as you can without beating yourself up for being negative!

I’ll start right now.  Normally, I procrastinate on writing my posts, but today I am writing this at the beginning of the month instead of the end of the month.  I am proud of myself for being more positive and proactive in my life! Now I think I’ll go tackle that smudge on the mirror!

Art Creativity

An ARTful Summer!

July 23, 2017

So, what does an art teacher do during the summer? What does any teacher do during the summer? The idea of relaxation, binge watching your favorite shows on Netflix, family vacations, or laying out by the pool to soak up the sun is always nice to think about and maybe even do for a few days, but we all know there are things that need to be crossed off of your checklist!

Summer break is something we all look forward to, but when it finally arrives the only thing I can think about are the changes that I can make for my students and for myself professionally. As an art educator, I make it a goal to educate myself in my own field and in grade level standards. I use this time to become familiar with fresh ideas I can implement into my classroom routine. Along with some fun in the summer sun, here are a few things I do each summer break to ensure that I’m ready for a new school year!

Implementing the A in ART

You might think as an art teacher I  have all the time in the world to create, right? Not this art teacher. When you’ve had a busy school year like me while trying to obtain a master’s degree, creating art seems impossible. But now that summer break is here I have enjoyed creating art for art’s sake, artwork that reflects me and how I have grown as a person.  People sometimes think when you say you’re an artist that you can draw or paint anything, which isn’t true. To remain a great artist, one must practice and fail. Can you believe I’ve actually enjoyed that process this summer?

Reading up on the R in ART

I’ve done a lot of reading this summer for personal enjoyment and for professional growth. I know that it’s healthy for me to have a mixture of both so I’m not feeling overwhelmed and stressed about work during the summer. Yes, I want to grow as an educator, but I still want to relax, right?

Here are some books that I’ve read so far over the summer that you may enjoy!

From the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige, I recently finished the third novel in the series, Yellow Brick War. I just started reading the fourth book in the series, End of Oz. The entire series thus far has been a GREAT read! If you are a Wizard of Oz fanatic like me, you’re going to love how Danielle Paige took a classic novel and made it into a modern war story between two worlds.

Ron Clark’s book, The Essential 55, is also something I believe all teachers could read. No matter the grade level or subject area, you can take away so many new practices and ideas and implement them into your teaching.

The T in ART

Yes, teaching is still something I enjoy doing over the summer. Whether it is teaching myself or coming back to school to teach some of my students, I feel that I still need to perfect specific teaching methods. Teaching art means that I am going to be teaching the same lessons to the same grade levels for a few days. This allows me to critique myself, fix what I saw went wrong so my students can obtain the objective better. Luckily for me, during the summer I get the chance to work with ESP LEAPS students, a program created for students to be tutored during the school year and also during the summer. I get to experiment with new lessons, implement new activities and projects, and incorporate new standards into art lessons that I don’t have much time for during the school year. Even though I feel that teaching is a gift granted to some of the most caring individuals, the learning never stops and the job is never finished! Even in May!

What summer routines do you have in place to ensure that you are well rested for a new school year but also on your “A Game”?

Assessments and Data Creativity Reading Writing

Reading Comprehension Craftivities

July 21, 2017

How many times have you found a great seasonal craftivity, but don’t have the book to go with it? Or it’s adorable and fitting for the time of year but its not covering a skill you’re currently working on? I hope that with my new Fiction Reading Comprehension Craftivities, this will no longer be an issue for you!

What’s Included?

In each seasonal pack, you will find 8 craftivities. Each craftivity covers its own reading comprehension skill. For example, in my Summer themed pack you’ll find a basket labeled “Character Traits” and lemons on which students list character traits of someone in the story they read.

The 8 reading comprehension skills included are:

– story elements

– retelling

– sensory details

– inferencing

– character traits

– summary

– author’s purpose

– theme

How Are They Used?

My favorite thing about these seasonal craftivities is that you can truly use them however you want! All you need to do is grab your favorite picture book that teaches your current skill, and choose the craftivity that fits! In order to avoid having a craftivity with the correct skill in the wrong season, each seasonal pack includes the same 8 skills.

In addition to their versatility throughout the seasons, these cuties are also perfect for differentiating within the classroom without changing up the activities! Each craftivity includes versions with writing lines and versions with blank spaces. Not only does this make the packs usable across multiple grades, it also allows teachers to choose whether students illustrate or write their answers based on their individual levels. Regardless of which version you choose for your students, they will all be able to participate in the same activity without feeling left out!

Whether you want to put together an adorable bulletin board, assess your students in a more creative way, or just review these important skills, my Fiction Reading Comprehension Craftivities are perfect for your classroom!

Click on the image below to check out my year-long bundle at a discounted price!

Art Creativity Uncategorized

Creative School Breaks!

July 5, 2017


As you’ve read in previous post here on Tenspire, us educators enjoy and fully take advantage of school breaks, especially summer break. School breaks are for relaxation, restoration, and still some work for educators. Sometimes, this can difficult when your own children or children you may baby sit begin shouting, “I’m bored!” and wants to color, play outside, watch movies, and everything else a kid enjoys doing over break.  If you’re too busy to go out or you’re living on a budget there are creative art activities you can do at a low cost or with household items you have at home.

Let’s check out a few…

Squirt Gun Painting!

Most likely, if you have children you’ll have water guns laying around. Instead of filling them with water, fill them with watered down paint or liquid watercolors, using their favorite colors. You can use any size or color paper and lay it on the grass to avoid a mess. Pick up your water gun and begin creating abstract art pieces! Just as simple as that! 

Glitter Goo!

Slime was all the rage this school year. Weekly, students walked into my classroom eager to show me their silly putty or goo that they had made in ESP or in their homerooms. So, I’m sure it’ll be a hit when creating with your munchkins over any break! All you need is…

  1. Glitter glue of any color. Make sure it isn’t washable glue.
  2. Water (equivalent to the amount of glue you are using.
  3. 1 tsp of Borax.
  4. 4 additional oz. of warm water (dissolves the borax)

Keep stirring until you have a gel-like substance and store it in a Ziploc bag or container. And Walla! You have Glitter Goo!

The Famous Coloring Books!

The content and images of coloring books have definitely changed since I was a child. The images are very detailed, creating a zentangle design that is mesmirizing and attracts all age groups. These coloring books are also themed and can tell a story. You can purchase a Harry Potter colroing book, The Secret Garden, Wild Savannah, Animal Kingdom, and many more themes that may seem interesting to your children. If you can’t find a coloring book in stores that you like there are numerous pages online that you could print off for free.  Not only are these for children, but some coloring books are specifically for adults! Coloring a few pages a day can be very relaxing while your children are playing with Glitter Goo or creating water gun abstract art pieces.  

On your next break from teaching, try one of these activities to keep everyone around the house busy and entertained! What are some activities you have done with your children or even for yourself that you have found to be enjoyable?  

Creativity Organization Writing

End-of-the-Year Memory Books

June 3, 2017

The end of the school year may bring a lot of chaos, but it also brings such a sweet time of reflection. One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year was have my kiddos complete a memory book. I wanted to know how they felt about all the things we did through the year so that I could reflect on myself as a teacher and the curriculum I had chosen for them. I had a hard time finding exactly what I wanted, so of course I created one of my own!

What’s Included?

This set includes 13 pages – 12 of which I put together in the memory book and 1 letter to the class coming up next year.

Memories included:

1) Cover page

2) This year in Math…

3) This year in Social Studies…

4) This year in Music…

5) In the cafeteria…

6) At recess…

7) My favorite field trip…

8) This year in Art…

9) This year in P.E….

10) This year in Reading…

11) This year in Science…

12) My teacher…

 How Do I Use This?

All of the pages in this set are on their own slide. This way, you can choose which pages you want to print and how you want to print them. To save paper (and make the memory book small and adorable!) I print mine with 2 slides per page and front and back. If you want to print yours to look like mine in the picture, be sure to print front-and-back with the option of flipping along the short side. Simply layer your pages, staple together, and you have the cutest little booklet! I love printing this way because it turns 12 pieces of paper into just 3! Your copier and “print allowance” will certainly be grateful!

I hope your kiddos enjoy reviewing the school year and give you lots of insights on how to make your next school year even better than this year!

Happy Summer, y’all!

Art Creativity Integration Uncategorized

Famous Art Projects around JPE!

May 23, 2017


The last few post here on Tenspire have focused on some of my “go-to’s”. I have written about go-to sub plans, go to artist when lesson planning, and go to resources that help me develop new ideas. What about go- to lessons? Are there any activities that you feel that you must incorporate into your lessons each year because the students seem to love and learn from it? There definitely are some projects for me that I do each year because not only do I enjoy teaching it but I admire how hard the students work and how much care they put into these projects. No matter what I try to change up and present in a new way I have to teach these lessons because the students look forward to entering a new grade and getting the chance to make the artwork they’ve seen hanging in the hallways from previous school years.

POW! 4th grade Onomatopoeia’s!

Each year with my fourth grade students we create onomatopoeia collages inspired by the artist Roy Lichtenstein and various comic book series. The students LOVE this lesson, and so do I! I mean, who doesn’t love looking at comic books with their students? The students create a background and chooses an onomatopoeia to create with paper using primary and secondary colors. I wrap up the lesson by giving the students blank comic book panels, allowing them to create their own comic book story with multiple onomatopoeia’s. The students love sharing their original comic book stories with their class. This lesson also hits on a few of the fourth grade standards due to the use of the onomatopoeia and the writing component during the comic book panel section. Every school year I hang these in the hallways and love the reactions I get from students, parents, and fellow staff members. Check out the pictures below!


Clay projects! 

Clay time is the messiest but most productive time during the school year! As an art teacher it’s one of the most tiring months because of all the preparation but it’s worth it once I see how excited the students are when creating their projects. I do clay projects with every grade level and each grade level does different project. The most famous projects I do with clay are the second grade clay pendants and third grade clay monsters. No matter what grade they are in the entire school loves seeing the students wearing the clay pendants or carrying their clay monsters home every year! Check out the pictures below!


Classroom Community Classroom Management Creativity

Practical Ways to Incorporate Whole Brain Learning

May 21, 2017

Why Whole Brain Learning?

I recently completed my doctorate.  As a student as well as a full-time teacher, I gained a new perspective and empathy for my students.  My classes met each Friday night from 6-10 and from 8-5 on Saturdays.  After teaching all week, I was exhausted on Friday night classes.  Lecture after lecture usually lulled me to sleep by 8:30.  One particular Friday class, we received a text from our professor that asked us to wear a coat and comfortable shoes.  She went on to inform us that we were going on a scavenger hunt around the campus.  I remember dancing for joy that I would not have to sit the whole night.  Then it hit me, if I felt this way as an adult learner, how much more must my students feel?

What is Whole Brain Learning?

The human brain and its ability for retrieval have been a new frontier in education over the last few decades. Whole Brain Learning is the engagement of strategies based on principles derived from an understanding of the brain (Jensen, 2008). It encompasses multiple learning modalities that produce higher retention and engagement of students. In order for learning to occur, the brain must fire thousands of neurons.  These neurons require activation to fire, or it will remain dormant and activation of memory will not take place.  Whole brain teaching fires more neutrons in the brain for learning.  Plainly put, the more ways you introduce new learning, the additional pathways a student has in the retrieval process. When learning encompasses multiple learning styles, the information will hold a better chance for retention.

How Do I Incorporate Whole Brain Teaching into my Classroom?  

 For additional information, see Teaching the Unteachable Blog.

  1. Experience the Standards-More experts and research than I care to list, maintain that when students have authentic, tangible, and meaningful experiences, student retention is 65% compared to 10% through lecture or didactic learning (Bannerman, 2009 & Garner, 2007). For example, rather than instruct measurement through a worksheet, give students real world practice by taking them outside to find the area or perimeter of the playground or flowerbed or teaching about D-Day by playing a structured capture the flag game.
  2. Move to Learn: One of the best pathways for memory is to learn by doing. Anytime you can get students up and moving, they are more apt to engage and therefore retain information taught.  A simple way to add movement into a lesson is by adding hand motions to an otherwise boring topic.  For example, when teaching the aspects of narrative writing, teach students S.T.O.R.Y.  S-Starring duh da duh da…my characters (dramatic with jazz hands)

T-Talking or Dialogue (hands talking to each other)

O-Opening and Closing (using hands opening and closing a door)

R-Rising Action (start at the bottom and rise up)

Y-Yummy Details (rub belly and use Sumo Wrestler voice).

  1. Proximity Learning: Location, Location, Location….Each time you teach a particular skill or standard, try standing in the same location each time.  After a while, students will remember the information simply by the location.  I had a student that had difficulty with memory.  When I asked him to retrieve information, he first said he did not know, but knew it was in the right corner of the room.  He shut his eyes, visualized me standing there, and was able to remember the information.
  2. Trick Kids into Processing: How many times have your students blurt out the answers without thinking through it?  What typically happens is the higher achieving students shout out the answer while other student’s thinking is effectively shut down.

Try this instead.  Have the students think about the answer.  You may drop hints such as it is a long word…or the synonym is …Then have students close their eyes, visualize it, open their eyes, blow the answer into their hands, and when the teacher says 1-2-3-they throw the answer.  This gives all students an opportunity to think through their answer as well as giving all students an opportunity to learn.  For example, the teacher may ask what is the process in which all plants receive their food through the sun.  The teacher may ask what letter it starts with…or describe this as a long word…have them close their eyes and picture the word very bright….and have the students make camera clicking noises….by the time you have them blow the answer in their hands, most students have visualized it, made movements with the word, and verbalized it.

Still Want More:

 There are so many more whole brain-teaching techniques; I couldn’t possibly list them all in this blog post.  Start with a few activities and reflect what worked.  There are thousands of YouTube videos on the subject including my own.

For a list of great books and resources, feel free to email me.