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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.

Creativity Motivation

Marker, Mirror, Miracle

April 27, 2017

Marker + Mirror = Miracle

As a night owl and non-morning person, having to be at my desk at 7:15 every morning is a struggle.  Every morning I drag myself out of bed, descend down the stairs to let the dogs out, and then flip on the light and stare at my sleepy face in the mirror.  However, lately there’s been more to look at than my messy hair reflection in the mirror.  My mirror is now covered in words and messages from me to me written with a dry erase marker.  There’s an inspirational quote or message, a weekly goal, and a daily goal.

As educators, we are typically very organized and love to do lists! My paper planner and my email calendar keep me on track.  My desk is also covered with post-it notes so I thought why not use these same skills at home to better my personal and professional well-being.

All too often we think of goals or habits we would like to change but day by day they stay just that- a thought.  We are so busy so we think, tomorrow I’ll go to the gym or next week I can start reading that book.  By writing our personal goals down it makes it real!  An abstract thought with no real substance becomes something concrete and observable.

When I’m exhausted from a day’s work and I come home and see my daily goal, it helps give me that extra push to actually get it done.  And who doesn’t love that feeling of accomplishment when you cross something off a list or erase it?

It’s important to keep goals simple, especially at first. 

Long-term goals are important and inspiring but can also be overwhelming.  We all know the best way to get to a long-term goal is to set manageable and realistic short-term goals.  By coming up with simple daily and weekly goals it helps me actually take those baby steps to my long-term goals.  For example, writing this is today’s daily goal.  I came home today with a headache and lots of work to do, and I can pretty much bet there’s no way I would be sitting here typing if it wasn’t staring at me in the mirror.

So no matter what long or short-term goals you have or if there’s something you’ve been struggling with lately, I encourage you to make it more real and face it head on in the mirror every morning, evening, and night.  Combining a marker and mirror has been a miracle in my life!  It’s helped my outlook be more positive, and it’s getting me closer to my long-term goals.

Remember to be patient with yourself and celebrate each small step toward making yourself a better version of who you are. One of my favorite quotes is “Rome was not built in a day.”  Hey, maybe I’ll go write that on my mirror.

Classroom Community Creativity Culture Morale Reading

Get Your Groove On

March 29, 2017

Flowing Through Fluency

There is a movement happening in classrooms right now- a music and movement movement. As a dancer and supporter of all things performing arts- I LOVE it! Educators really desire to connect to our students on a personal level and establish good relationships by simply relating to our kiddos. In Tennessee, teachers also have a law that requires students to get at least 90 minutes of physical activity per week. An hour is actually the preferred amount of time that students should be involved in movement per day based on the researched correlations between students’ positive academic performance and exercise.

As a practitioner, you get it. Kids become restless with too much sitting and lecturing. They just do not pay attention to the lessons or get off task. You may have even been guilty of this yourself. Just think about your last faculty meeting. The human body craves movement! Adding kinesthetic aspects to your lessons will further tap into students’ memory and help them better store the information you are trying to convey. You may even reach some of your reluctant learners as well when you begin to get your groove on in the classroom!

 The weather can sometimes make it more difficult to get as much exercise outside with your students. However, there are easy ways to add some movement into you reading routines and transitions. Let’s start with an easy topic for adding music and movement: fluency! Fluency is my favorite aspect of reading and one that rarely gets enough practice in the regular classroom setting.

Make class fluency folders and change out what you are practicing almost weekly or as soon as your students have mastered the passage you are using so they do not get bored. Even my first graders could help with the management of updating the folders by sliding new pages to practice into clear page protectors when needed. Print out students’ favorite songs and sing them while reading the lyrics. Just make certain the songs are school friendly! Or you can always do what the teachers did in the first two videos I linked below: make up your own class song. Add poetry to your fluency folders and have students help create appropriate movements to accompany the poems. Students can even add a mini performance time to the weekly classroom routines. Dr. Timothy Raskinski, the fluency researcher guru, says that kids need authentic reasons to want to practice reading, and a classroom performance time provides just that! In my classroom, I offered performing fluency passages on a volunteer basis as not to force students who may be uncomfortable reading in front of their peers. Once it caught on, even my shy students were wanting to read and perform in front of the class. With fluency folders, struggling readers have had time to practice the passages (I let my students take these folders home nightly) so they are less afraid of messing up in front of their peers. This can really boost their confidence to have their friends cheer them on and support their reading.

Here are my two favorite music and movement videos for introducing the concept of fluency to students:

Give music and movement a moment in your classroom today!

Art Creativity

All Good Science is Art!

March 26, 2017

Cells, cells, and more cells! This lesson couldn’t have been any more fun!  The only science related lesson I had taught before was abstract galaxies to my fifth grade students. Even though they turned out great and I experimented with different materials each lesson, I became bored with it. I needed something that would catch everyone’s eye and make them think, “Wow! This came from the art room?”.


Again, collaboration is key when it comes to arts integration! I knew the moment we all returned from winter break I would march to the opposite end of the school (the longest walk ever) and talk to the fifth grade teachers. I wanted to know what they wanted to see happen in the art room. I tried computer animation programs with math and science, hybrid animals mixing the predator and its prey, now it was time to create cells. The particular teacher I spoke with mentioned that students in fifth grade still had a hard time identifying differences between plant and animal cells, its organelles, and its functions. She provided me with detailed charts she had used in the past. Even I was overwhelmed when I looked at it. So now my job was to figure out how I could make plant and animals cells sound, well….fun.

The Art Itself!

Once I presented the lesson, the students did not seem interested, actually quite puzzled as to why I brought this up.  We compared, contrasted, discussed the importance of cells, and discussed how we can make this into art. I allowed the students to pick their own type of cell for the art project. They began creating small sketches, choosing to do one large cell or multiple cells. Once they began drawing, I saw that they were more engaged with the lesson. To allow more creativity, each table of four students had to create a brand new organelle as a team, regardless if they chose plant or animal. These students had to explain the function of the cell and the positive and negative effects it has on its host. Once they were allowed to add their very own organelles and explain to me verbally or in a written form how this works with other organelles in their cells, I saw that they were finally understanding how cells work!



Art Creativity Culture

Bridging the Gap between Ancient & Modern Art

March 19, 2017

Bridging the Gap between Ancient & Modern Art.

If you’ve ever taken a look at the sixth grade Social Studies standards it is almost identical to the progression of major art periods throughout Art History. Beginning with the Stone Age, Mesopotamia, Egyptian history, Greek and Hellenistic, and so on. It is much easier for me to collaborate and work with our sixth grade Social Studies teacher on this.

The Stone Age

When introducing a graffiti art lesson, I always begin with the stone age and major events that happened during this time to shape how the world is today. It’s funny to see the expressions on the students faces when teaching them about how the world used to be so much different. There hasn’t always been technology, social media, organized sport and activities, or shopping malls to capture their attention. However, there was one thing that everyone could participate in when it came to being creative, cave art. Cave art paintings were very simple drawings that used heavy earth tones but told a story. The symbolism in each piece was very important because it captured a piece of history during the Stone Age; just like graffiti art today.

TAG! You’re It!

Graffiti artist then and now captures various issues and events throughout history that have made an impact on society. Banksy is one of the most famous graffiti artists in the modern art world today. One thing every graffiti artist does is create a TAG.  A TAG is your signature for your art, your stamp on the world, proving you are a skilled artist. With my sixth grade students, I presented information that allowed them to discuss, with groups, the history of cave art, graffiti art, the similarities and differences, and the meaning of vandalism and legality with graffiti today. I provided each student with various art making materials and a plethora of fonts they could use for inspiration showing me their name, initials, or a nickname and symbols that represented them as a person. Once I gave the students those guidelines, I turned them loose for three 45-minute class periods and they created beautiful TAGS that displayed their understanding of the concept successfully.



Art Creativity

Ink Blots and Writing… How can they relate?

March 8, 2017

Arts integration is one of my favorite topics to talk about when it comes to Art Education. I love lesson planning, art making, mixing paint and clay making. However, I also love the challenge of incorporating classroom standards into my lessons.

The Inspiration

When it comes to arts integration, Social Studies is always the easier topic to stick with, but this year I wanted to venture into new worlds with education. My fourth graders just finished an art project that I was very hesitant to begin.  It challenged their critical thinking skills, creativity, imagination, and writing skills. It all began with a visit from N D Wilson, an author who wrote about personal experiences in his lifetime, but incorporated the fantasy genre within his stories. The fourth graders loved him! I personally haven’t seen students so excited about books! They were literally jumping off the floor while listening to the inspiration behind his stories. That is where I found the inspiration for a new art lesson that would become my favorite.

The Art Itself!

We focused on the artist Stefan G. Bucher; an American graphic designer and illustrator. Bucher is the creator of the popular online animation series Daily Monster. For 100 days, he filmed himself placing ink droplets on paper, spraying ink into different directions, and using the ink blots to create an original character; not two of his works are the same! The students enjoyed the messy, yet exciting process that Bucher uses as well. They used sharpies to fill in white space and to add extra details to their monsters such as horns, spikes, teeth, arms, and more. Once the creative process was over it was time to begin brainstorming for the fun part, the fantasy stories!

Once Upon a Time…

Collaborating with teachers has benefited me tremendously in the art room. I was sharing my excitement about the lesson with a fourth grade teacher and she began telling me about a narrative technique she uses in her classroom, the I.C.E.E. method.  If you haven’t heard of this acronym before, this is what it stands for…I- Introduce the characters and setting; C- create a problem for the story; E- Events that happened that worked towards a solution; and E- the ending event. The students used this technique while brainstorming ideas for fantasy stories and when writing their final narrative. I supplied them with a list of adjectives they could use to describe their monster, example stories, and transition words that they could use to assist any students who may have writer’s block.

Overall, I believe the students mastered every objective for this lesson. They enjoyed learning about both an artist and an author that had something in common. I loved seeing their expressions when they realized, yet again, art can connect everything and can make academics so much more enjoyable.

Art Creativity Culture Integration

Putting the “A” in STEAM

February 18, 2017

Wait, you can integrate art and core subjects?

In just a few years, art education has gone from the easiest thing to cut in a school budget to the most popular teaching technique. Art education can help increase student engagement and deepen understanding in both the art room and the classroom. The arts are being weaved into many core subjects and surprisingly the boost in academic achievement has risen tremendously! Academic achievement, creativity, and school pride increases when special area and classroom teachers are collaborating.

Collaborating with Classroom Teachers

Throughout college, I focused so much on the art lesson and the creative process itself that sometimes I would completely forget to incorporate the core subjects into the lesson. I was so used to being in my “art bubble” with other art education majors that I never thought about collaborating with grade level teachers. Honestly, the idea scared me and seemed overwhelming, but it has now turned into one of my favorite things to do! I enjoy asking teachers what’s going on in their classrooms and finding a way to incorporate the standards into my art lessons.

Bridging the Gap

Art integration bridges the gap of understanding for those students who need a creative approach. This allows the students to display their knowledge on a particular topic in a unique way.  For example, I’m sure many of us began the school year incorporating the 2016 Olympic games into many different areas in our classrooms. I began teaching my students in grades 3-6 about the history of the Olympics. We were able to explore geography, cultures of Greece and Brazil, artwork for a specific time period and much more. Students were able to express their learning in the form of art making, writing, reading, videos, and kinesthetic learning. Often times allowing the students to explore the standards creatively sparks the light bulb, creating the “AHA” moment.

A goal of mine is to make learning more meaningful through art

I enjoy walking through our school’s halls and seeing plant and animal cell paintings, Greek Olympic vases, onomatopoeia pop art, fantasy stories using particular writing techniques, and many more projects that I teach during the school year. Not only are these pieces aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but deep down I know that I am teaching my students skills and standards they need to know in their homeroom as well.

I love the challenge that art integration brings because it not only makes me a stronger art teacher but a well-rounded educator.

Classroom Community Creativity Featured

Happy Birthday to You

February 8, 2017

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday dear _____, happy birthday to you! Celebrating birthdays in the classroom can be so special. There are endless possibilities. Go all out.  All students get a turn to have the entire class celebrate them for the whole day! How amazing!  Here are some tips on how to make your babies feel like kings and queens for the day:


Put a balloon on that baby’s chair. Let them wear a crown/hat/sticker so everybody knows to tell them, “Happy Birthday!”  You can even go as far as hanging a banner or a sign on their cubby or locker.


Have the students create a special book for the birthday boy/girl. Use your Writing block or a center to have each child create a page to go in the book. The page needs to be all about the birthday boy/girl. You can use any heading you prefer. Here are several I have used in the past: I think (child’s name) will grow up to be a _____, (Child’s name) is special because ______, I want to shout out (child’s name) because _________.  Not only will the children practice modeling kindness towards their classmates, they will also brush up on their sentence writing! Compile the pages into a book and present it to the child during Morning Meeting!

Make a Wish

Have a pretend cake in your classroom. Over the top and strange, I know. It can be a wooden toy cake or made from Styrofoam. Light real candles (don’t forget fire safety rules), sing Happy Birthday and have the child make a wish in front of the class. The idea of everybody celebrating only ONE classmate at a time will help the students learn to be happy for one another.

For the Over-Achievers

Listen, I’ll be the first one to admit I over spend on my classroom. If you feel like indulging, you will not be disappointed in the Pinklejinx Birthday Collection kit (find on Amazon). The 13-piece kit comes with a chair cover, a crown, a hardback children’s book, banner, placemat, etc. Some of the items are unnecessary for a classroom setting, but it definitely has some great pieces. If you’re anything like me, you’ll raid the Target dollar section and create your own kit for way less.  Shhh!

Art Creativity Culture

Creating Unity Through Art Education

February 2, 2017

What drives my passion for Art Education you ask? Let’s See…

Hello fellow educators! Thank you so much for checking out my post here on I am very excited about sharing my passion for the arts, art education, curriculum integration, and what I have learned from past challenges that have made me grow as an art educator with all of you!

Starting a new school year can be overwhelming, yet full of excitement. As a new teacher, I am still learning so much daily and applying what I have learned to my classroom routines. I begin the year with assessing art classroom routines that need changing, organizing art supplies, planning new projects, and much more.  While these tasks seem like an overload of things to do there is one thing that pushes me through the school year; knowing that I am sharing my love for art to my students and helping with creating them into well-rounded individuals in the community and in the classroom.

What’s the point of Art Education?

The one question I believe that I am asked more than any other question is “Why do you think art education is important?” I even ask myself this question when I feel defeated or I am facing a challenge that seems impossible to get through. Art has existed since the beginning of time and is more beneficial than we come to believe. When I am teaching an art lesson on Picasso, Warhol, Van Gogh, and many more successful artists, it’s not just about the artwork, it’s about the history behind it, events or emotions that inspired the artwork, and being able to use critical thinking skills to analyze the piece.

Art, History, and Emotions?

Art education exposes you to artwork that has recorded emotions through historical events. Art history gives a pictorial view on how the world has changed for centuries. When these artists recorded their emotions through art, it teaches them how to control their emotions and how to express them positively; a sense of self-awareness.

A strong sense self-awareness? CHECK √

Art education allows for my students to have a strong sense of self-awareness, not only in the classroom but in challenging situations they may have to face at home and later in life.

Communication and critical thinking skills.

How to interpret your thoughts, emotions and feelings during art critiques, group work, and class discussions are very important when processing information that we have learned or showing me what they have learned.


Art education brings various cultures together! Regardless of race, gender, or economic status the love for art and what we are learning in the art room brings us together, which I LOVE. My students enjoy learning about cultural history, art techniques, and pop culture. They soon begin to realize that themselves and their peers are more alike than they think; creating not only art but UNITY.

Art education is vital for my students and yours. Not only because of the few points I have listed, but because it can be your students saving grace, their positive outlet, their safe place. Regardless if art or crafting is a hobby or passion, it’s your escape too.