07 September 2019

TEACH-NOW . . . Module 5, Week 4, Activity 1: Pre-Assessment for Differentiation

Subject Area: ART

Grade Level: Bilingual Grade 5

Brief Context: Students will be looking at Joan Mir贸 paintings and sculptures and creating artwork in his style. Joan Mir贸 was a Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona. Earning international acclaim, his work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride. 

My pre-assessments start with discussion. I share with the students a PowerPoint, video, or example of an artwork and start peppering them with questions. I like to use Visual Thinking Strategy questions like:
  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What makes you say that?
  • What else can we find?

I have relatively small classes (between 5 and 15 students per grade), and I have a translator. So, with discussions, the students are sometimes popcorn-ing out various answers and lots of the time in Chinese. I don’t speak Chinese, so my translator tells me what the students are saying. Often times, new questions arise, so we take the conversation in that direction.

There is no right or wrong answer with art, and there is no need for the students to speak in English, so all of our discussions are equal opportunity investments and learning platforms. We all have opinions and different values, and the students bring all of that into our discussions. The differentiation comes in the form of allowing the students to speak their own language. I give a lot of freedom in my classroom for the students to feel comfortable saying or sharing whatever they want (in terms of our discussions around art and process).

My pre-assessment for our Joan Mir贸 project will be designed around surrealism. This will help me understand if my students have ever seen any surrealist artworks before (Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, etc.). I will have A4 size laminated prints made of various artworks and symbols. I will have the students spend time discussing the works and symbols with each other, placing stickers on which ones they’ve seen before (in books, online, on a shower curtain, etc.) and then vote on which ones they like the best.

Different colored dot stickers will be used for different categories, such as:
  • If you have seen one of the artworks before, place a yellow dot on it. 
  • If you have seen one of the symbols before, place a green dot on it.
  • If you have heard of Mir贸 or surrealism before, place a red dot on your shirt.

Once the students have placed their dots, we will divide the students into groups based on where their dots landed and have a brief discussion. This entire activity should take no more than 20 minutes to decipher. This pre-assessment will be left hanging up throughout our entire unit so the students can go back and refer to the new artists they have learned about and self-assess their knowledge of surrealism, comparing it to where they were when the unit began.

The breakdown of the students and how this activity is designed does not fit my pre-assessment or subject matter. There is very little -- if any -- differentiation  in the Teach-Now assignments during this module, as they are ALL focused on core subject teachers. There are 2 music teachers, 2 PE teachers, and 1 art teacher in my co-hort. So, I am shifting this assignment to fit the needs of my ART classroom and not the needs of a core subject teacher’s classroom.

After the pre-assessment, the students will begin working on their artwork. A lot of the learning about an artwork, a movement, or an artist comes from doing the work: making the art itself. That means drawing, painting, and sculpting. Artists learn through their hands. So, the students will work for two class periods on their project, and then we will break for discussion and review. 

To create their artwork, the students will watch two videos and emulate the various aspects from each video. 

1. In the first video, the students will create a colorful tissue paper bleed background (the fact that this video is labeled for kindergarten makes no difference, the process is what is important).

2. In the second video, the students will draw the featured figures and shapes on top of their tissue paper bleed background. Understanding the figures and shapes are the most important part of knowing how Mir贸 worked and how surrealism played a part in his art making.


3. After the students have created their figures and shapes on top of the tissue paper bleed background, they will begin to paint in their shapes with acrylic paint in colors that they associate with surrealism and, specifically, Mir贸's artwork.

We will use the following differentiated strategies to assess where the learning is in the mid-point of the process, after the projects have begun and the students have had a chance to sit with their thoughts for a while.

Innovative Differentiated Strategies for 
Understanding Surrealism

1. The students who could define surrealism in our first round of sticker placement and discussion will use the following assessment to discuss various visual aspects related to the surrealist movement.

Carousel Brainstorm: Chart papers containing statements or issues for student consideration are posted around the classroom. Groups of students will brainstorm at one station and then rotate to the next position where they will add additional comments. When the carousel “stops” the original team prepares a summary and then presents their ideas to the larger group. A Carousel Brainstorm is an active, student-centered method to generate data about a group’s collective prior knowledge of a variety of issues associated with a single topic.

2. The students who have some knowledge on surrealism, but need to develop higher order thinking skills, will use the following assessment to discuss various visual aspects related to the surrealist movement. They will share back with the group and demonstrate where their understanding is now that the artmaking has begun.

Think - Ink - Pair - Share: A way to get students to reveal what they know or believe about a topic is to begin by having them commit their thoughts to writing. To assess what the group knows, the students discuss their ideas in pairs, and then share them with the larger group.

3. The students who appear to have limited knowledge of surrealism (3 of these students are struggling with English language acquisition and 2 need to be tested for special needs) will use the following assessment to put into words or visuals their knowledge of various visual aspects related to the surrealist movement.

KWL Charts- what does the student know? - what does the student need and want to know? L - what did the students learn? This is an effective pre-assessment tool and summative evaluation tool. The "L" can also be used the as part of an open-ended question on a test allowing the students to share the depth of knowledge that was gained in the unit of study.

As the project continues, and the students are working on their artmaking, I will go around and speak to the students individually to see where they are and what they might need help on. At the end of each class, I will have the students reflect on their art making and how they are doing with their project.

Project ends after 5 weeks with a group critique showcasing each student's work. Administrators and homeroom teachers are invited in to see the accomplishments of the students.


Art Term: Surrealism. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/s/surrealism

ASCD Learn. Teach. Lead. (December 2013). Differentiation: It Starts with Pre-Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/dec13/vol71/num04/Differentiation@_It_Starts_with_Pre-Assessment.aspx

Crockett, H. (2014). 8 Ways to Collect Data in The Art Room. Retrieved from https://theartofeducation.edu/2013/03/20/8-ways-to-collect-data-in-the-art-room/

Differentiation & LR Information for SAD Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/lrtsas/differentiation/5-preassessment-ideas

Kindergarten Mir贸 Art. (April 17, 2018). Taylor Newman. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6ZvKL8vApg&feature=youtu.be

Joan Mir贸. (August 4, 2011). TateShots. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kipHAbR0zXU&feature=youtu.be

Joan Mir贸 – Surrealism. (June 28, 2016). Ramon Carrasco’s Art Vlogs. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp63llZer-w&feature=youtu.be

23 August 2019

TEACH-NOW . . . Module 5, Week 2, Activity 1: Assessing Project Based Learning

Subject: ART 

Objectives - Students will create a mask out of recyclables and air-dry clay. In the process, they will learn about the causes of air pollution, brainstorm solutions, and learn how to use art as a tool for activism.

Grade Level Focus: Bilingual Year 7 and 8 students.
Length: 4 - 6 weeks, 2 hours per week 

Product to Be Delivered: A finished mask out of recyclables and air-dry clay, a presentation about air pollution with possible solutions.

21st Century skills to explore:

  • Problem solving – Students will research and track air quality in Nantong, China. Based on their findings, the students will problem solve ways the community can cut down on air polluting practices and brainstorm solutions to the air pollution crisis. 
  • Communication – Students will communicate in a variety of ways throughout this project. Students will communicate with each other as they are building their masks and working with and around each other. Students will communicate with the class during their presentation, relaying information and facilitating questions. Students will communicate with the community by displaying their masks in a formal gallery setting, including process photos and research findings. 
  • Critical thinking – Students will evaluate and analyze research findings on air pollution. Students will develop best practices for building mixed media sculpture. 
  • Creativity – Students will use creativity in a variety of ways during this project. Students will use creative problem-solving skills to create solutions for the air pollution crisis in China. Students will use creativity to build and make their masks out of recyclables. Students will use creativity to decide on how best to present their information to the class using tech-focused tools.


Air pollution is a major source of frustration and health concerns in various parts of the world. Air pollution has become a major issue in China and poses a threat to public health. In 2016, only 84 out of 338 major Chinese cities attained the national standard for air quality. Because I am living and working in China, I have chosen to focus my project on air pollution.

Provocation Questions:
  • What is pollution?
  • What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘pollution’?
  • What different forms of pollution do you know of?
  • How does pollution affect our health?
  • What kinds of things cause pollution?
  • How can we reduce pollution?
  • What can we do to increase the awareness of environmental pollution?
  • Describe how human activities affect the environment.

Content, Knowledge, and Skills

  • Principles
    • Hand Building with Clay
    • Mixed Media Sculpture
  • Examples
    • Images of Mixed Media Masks
  • Clay Methods and Techniques
    • Pinch
    • Coil
    • Slab
  • Working with Recyclables
    • Fixatives to Use: Glue, Duct Tape, etc.
    • Best practices When Combining Clay and Recyclables
    • Adding Color to The Finished Product
  • Tech Skills
    • Presentation Format Possibilities
  • Presentation Skills
    • Preparing A Presentation
    • Visual aids
    • Managing nerves and anxiety
    • Projection, Intonation, Emphasis and Pacing
    • Non-verbal Communication
    • Structuring
    • Passion and Enthusiasm.

Assessment: Students will be assessed on 5 criteria directly related to the art making process.

Craftsmanship – Student’s project is carefully planned from start to finish. The mask is built with integrity and strength in mind. You can tell what the piece is and that it will be used as some sort of mask. 

Creativity – St
udent’s design is unique and displays elements that are totally their own. Evidence of detail, pattern, or a unique combination of materials. 

Production/Effort – S
tudent uses class time efficiently and is always on task. Time and effort are evident in the execution of the piece.

Work Habits/Attitude – Student is respectful and open to positive suggestions. Cleans work area thoroughly.

Tech Use and Presentation – Student’s research is thoughtful and presented well. Student has used a tech-focused presentation to present information and facilitate questions.

Each criteria will be assessed in a different way.  

Craftsmanship - Teacher Reflection. Each week, I will reflect on student progress via short--but valuable--paragraphs kept on a Google Doc. Each class will have a separate document, all kept in one folder labeled with the project name. And each of these class docs will be used for reference when semester and final grades are called upon. In each of these Google Docs, I can upload images of student work, write out questions I have for each student, create ideas for feedback, and make decisions about future lessons.

Creativity - Student Reflection. Self-reflections provide students with opportunities to think deeply about their learning and artistic achievements (Douglas, K. and Jaquith, D. 2009). Mid-way through this project, I will have students take partial class time to write a reflection on their tablets or laptops. This reflection will focus on the following questions:
  1. Think about the mask that you are creating and describe it in 3 sentences.
  2. What is your favorite part of this project and why?
  3. Were you inspired by any of your classmates on this project, or any of the artists we have looked at so far this year? List 2 reasons why or why not.
  4. What has been challenging for you during this project? Do you feel more confident in your ability to overcome creative challenges? Why or why not?
  5. What would you like to get better at? How can that happen?

Production/Effort - Group Sharing Session. While working, students receive a variety of comments from their classmates. Most students value and appreciate constructive criticism. But learning to filter out or ignore unhelpful remarks is easier for some than others. When students come together for sharing sessions, it is a time for the class to give their full attention to their classmates. Every two weeks, students will gather and share about their mask making: focusing on technique, effort, ideas, and/or meaning. 

Work Habits/Attitude - Survey. As a way to see if the students are engaged in their project and enjoying the process, I will conduct a quick survey using sticky notes and questions. A large poster with a question on it will be presented to the students as they leave the art studio at the end of each class period. Using sticky notes, they will respond with questions or affirmations. The responses to each question will be collated and reviewed at the beginning of the next class. Questions might be:
  • Were you satisfied with your work ethic today? Is there anything you would have done differently?
  • How was your disposition and approach to your project today? 
  • Did you have enough space and materials to work with today? Is there something specific you might need before next class?

Tech Use and Presentation - Rubric. Teacher and student will collaborate on filling in the rubric after the student's final presentation. I will meet with each student for 10 - 15 minutes to discuss feedback and we will grade the final presentation together using the following rubric.

This amazing idea comes from an artist friend of mine teaching in Taiwan.


Douglas, K. M. and Jaquith, D. B. (2009) Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom. New York and London: Teachers College Press.

Incredible Art Department. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2019 from the https://www.incredibleart.org/.

Lee, M. @mizzzlee_art Instagram Feed. (October 24, 2018) Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BpUFFzYH8bV/?igshid=mr430ynjnp9q.

National Geographic. (2017, October 16). Air Pollution 101 [Video file]. Retrieved fromhttps://youtu.be/e6rglsLy1Ys

Pollution in China. (Last edited on 20 June 2019). Retrieved on June 21, 2019 Wikipedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollution_in_China.

18 August 2019

TEACH-NOW . . . Module 5, Week 1, Activity 3: Data-based Modifications of Formative Assessments

Formative assessments are significant tools in any classroom, but they look quite different in the ART STUDIO. For me, formative assessments look like conversations between students, gallery walks, sketchbook journaling, one-on-one conversations between student and teacher, self-assessments, and ball tossing. It’s important for me that I find assessments that fit my teaching style, and it’s also essential that I not mess up the studio environment that has already been established by the students. 

I snagged the following paragraph from Wynita Harmonover at The Art of Education blog spot. I couldn’t have described my teaching and classroom culture better myself: 

“I personally teach from a Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) point of view. The TAB website describes the learning environment by stating, “TAB classrooms are highly structured environments. Students scaffold their own learning, sometimes going deeply into specific subjects or media. They work at their own pace, following their own lines of inquiry, and develop skills as they need them.””

Essentially, the my art classroom is student-centered, enthusiastic, and the kiddos act and work as studio artists. This fits in well with my COMMUNITY and COLLABORATIVE norms and procedures. And creates individual thinkers who act and work like a TEAM, which really contributes to the idea of FLOW.

I teach skills and techniques, vocabulary and history daily. But not in the form of tests or projects or through books. I teach vocabulary through modeling how to talk about artwork. I teach history when it’s relevant to something contemporary that we are looking at (I don’t want the students thinking that the only important artists are the dead ones). And I teach skills and techniques based on individual projects and what each student needs. Of course, all of these things vary based on the age of students I am working with. But for the most part, all of my students Nursery – Grade 8 are creating work in this vein.

I teach in an IB PYP school. So I collaborate with homeroom teachers, other specialists, and I follow the Unit of Inquiry when it’s authentic to what my students are inquiring about. I modify my teaching and assessments daily, almost to the minute, really. I honestly try and focus everything I do with my teaching on my conversations with the students and what they feel like doing on any particular day. It took a long while for me to figure this out . . . But when the students are the facilitators of their own learning, they challenge themselves to do things they never thought they could do. I’m just kind of there to guide them along and assess as I need to.  

As a bonus, below are some arts-based assessments that could work for a variety of classrooms. I really love the examples given with each assessment, especially the Beach Ball and 3-2-1. This list was created from a more comprehensive list by Sarah Dougherty, also from The Art of Education University.
1. Conga Line – a great way to share ideas with different partners; two lines of students face each other, one line moves with same question or a new one.

2. Inner/Outer Circle – same as Conga Line except with circles, better for limited spaces

3. Pair-Share – activates prior knowledge or shares learned concepts with partners, can be timed

4. Jigsaw/Experts in Residence – each group becomes an expert on a certain part of the lesson, then debriefs the whole group

5. 3-2-1– good closer: three points to remember, two things you liked, one question you still have.

6. Quick Write/Draw — Given a topic, students write and/or draw freely during a timed period (I DO THIS ONE A LOT!!)

7. Gallery Walk – stations with information, participants can write on post-its or directly on the poster with thoughts, comments, or questions

8. Think-Write-Share – Same as pair-share, but gives students more time to organize their thoughts

9. Beach Ball – Concepts are written on a beach ball. As a student catches it, they give a thought or clarify the concept closest to one of their thumbs

10. SOS — Students write a quick Statement, an Opinion based on the statement, and finally a Supporting piece of factual evidence.

11. Poll the Class — Use a simple show of hands, white boards, or even a clicker program, poll the class on foundational knowledge, opinions, or even where they are in their learning.

12. Grade Yourself — Have students give themselves an in-progress grade, then explain why their work is earning that grade. Give them explicit standards and relevant vocab to use in their explanation.


Arts Achieve Impacting Student Success. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.artsachieve.org/formative-assessment

Dougherty, S. (n.d.) 20 Quick Formative Assessments You Can Use TODAY. [Blogpost].Retrieved from https://theartofeducation.edu/2013/10/18/20-quick-formative-assessments-you-can-use-today/

Harmon, W. (n.d.) 6 Strategies for Fast and Formative Assessments. [Blogpost]. Retrieved from https://theartofeducation.edu/2019/01/18/6-strategies-for-fast-and-formative-assessments/

TAB Teaching for Artistic Behavior. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/what-is-tab.html

Visual Thinking Strategies. (n.d.). Retrieved 
       from https://vtshome.org/

Visual Thinking Strategies – The Three Simple Questions. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://emprobstvts.weebly.com/vts-the-three-simple-questions.html

18 January 2019

Student Artwork! Term 1 at Nantong Stalford! YAY!!


Oh my goodness! How did we get to 2019 so quickly? I mean, seriously? Wasn't it just a few years back that I was doing that (馃憞) in elementary school? Isn't it still the 80's? I mean, somewhere? But I digress. 

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2019 turns out to be the best, most life-changing and exciting, year of your life . . . Full of growth and new opportunities and lots and lots of experiences!

I am now teaching art full-time in Nantong, China. Nantong is about 2.5 hours outside of Shanghai. It's a vital river port alongside the Yangtze River (pictured below) that hosts about 8 million people. (This is a small town by China's standards.) We've been here for about 5.5 months and I am starting to get the hang of things! You can read more about my hectic move with Sir Rigby, my cat, here.

I've made lots and lots of friends. Massages are cheap. And the food is healthy and plentiful. So, for the next two years, I'm good.

As I said before, I teach art--that's A.R.T. 

And one of the chief reasons I was hired at this school was to progress their arts programming. My title is Art Teacher and Creative Arts Coordinator. And this has been a really tough, but incredibly rewarding, job. I feel like I am constantly bumping up against years and years and years and years of notions and thinking that I can not change in the manner of two years. So I keep trudging along, committed and thoughtful, and hope for the best.

At the top of my curriculum vitae, it says the following:

"As an art teacher, my goal is to improve student learning while energizing my students' spirits and allowing them to see life in different and creative ways. I create curriculum that goes beyond rudimentary guidelines to foster creativity and empower students through experiential learning, idea creation, process, and conversations that extend beyond art and the classroom. By incorporating engaging group discussions, movement, music, literature, technology, and games, I facilitate lessons where I stimulate and help students discover and learn."

I will continue doing all of the things that my CV promises I am able to do. Because my students are having a blast, and they are an ABSOLUTE JOY to be around! And, I am 100% doing my job for them. 

So without further delay, I present to you a good portion of the projects my students have worked on during our first semester together. I teach 20 classes a week, nursery through Grade 8. Most of my classes are PYP IB classes. But six of them are bilingual students from the Cambridge program. Our school only has art classes for students through Grade 8--and I see 'em all!! Enjoy!

Thank you for coming along for this ride!

PYP NURSERY (3 Year Olds)

These are the tiniest of humans! Most of these littles are 3, but some of them are 2. And, I like to put things on their heads!

As a class, we decided at the beginning of the school year that these young artists would be known as my Nursery Narwhals. They are the sweetest little people I have ever met. And this particular class has such a fun sense of humor--all 11 of them! In the video above you can see them saying du jiao jing . . . That's "horned fish" in Chinese. Every time I see them, they scream out "du jiao jing, du jiao jing!!" I just love them so much!

For students in the 2 and 3 year old category, I tend to do a lot of play and experimentation with different materials. Some of my favorite things to do with this age are paint stamping and collaborative free drawing, watercoloring and costuming. It is fun to put things on their heads. But it's also fun to watch them use paint for the very first time . . . 

Our first project was a rainbow people project. With the help of the two teaching assistants, we traced each student on giant construction paper. Each week, we would learn about a new and different color, using different materials to decorate our peoples. The students love seeing their bodies drawn out and as large as they are.

I had them color and paint backpacks when they were learning about school in their homeroom, they colored big turkeys for Thanksgiving, stamped pumpkins like Kusama for Halloween, and overlapped drawings of their bodies to see what that would look like.

My favorite project with these young artists was when they painted our school. I drew out a rough outline of our school on cardstock, made copies, and each student painted their own version of our school. They turned out beautifully! So colorful and fun! I told the school they should use them for their holiday cards.  

Up next, the students are working on pig paintings for Chinese New Year, and then we start on a big culture unit where we will be dying rice and learning about rangoli!


My lovely PYP K1 students are so much fun to be around! There are only 4 of them, and they are always laughing about everything and very eager to participate in all of our activities. 

One of my favorite projects we did from this past semester are the giant leaves. During autumn, when the leaves were changing and falling to the ground, I drew and cut out 3 huge leaves. I drew patterns into the leaves and had the students watercolor them. After that, I outlined everything with Chinese calligraphy ink. They turned out fantastic and ended up being a big part of the lobby when we hung things up for Parents' Day.

In their homeroom class, the students were learning about all things travel. So in art class, they worked collaboratively to design hot air balloons. We photographed the pairs play-acting as if they were in a balloon. I printed their pictures and placed them in the balloon basket to look as if they were flying away. This was also featured in the lobby display. You can see the students, below, reacting to their work in the lobby.

One of my most favorite projects that I did with both classes, PYP K1 and K2, were these little popsicle stick wall hangings. I got the idea off of a New Jersey art teacher's IG account. She used the wider sticks, but all I had were the skinny ones. So I had the students use a black piece of cardstock as a backing. They embellished the sticks with designs they cut out from foam paper, and they made tassels for the bottom and finger woven handles for the top. 

They really enjoyed the process of making these wall hangings, and they turned out so cute!! 

At Christmastime, I had all of the students create different styles of ornaments to decorate our lobby tree. My PYP K1 students each drew a nutcracker and watercolored it, and then they worked together to make lots and lots of paper chains. 

I mean . . . Lots and lots of paper chains! So many that we had to make a major photoshoot out of it. And, like, these pictures are the cutest!!! 馃挅


My boy-heavy PYP K2 class is so interactive and high-energy that I always need to have things for them to do that involve a lot of movement. We started the year off playing with crowns. But now, we're doing so much more!

In their homeroom class, the K2 students were learning all about houses and different kinds of shelters. So, we built relief houses out of cardboard and mixed media. They were awesome!!

I set up a table with a slew of materials on it . . . Everything from yarn to textured papers, stickers to popsicle sticks. I cut out big squares of cardboard as starter surfaces for the students. And then, I just let them go to work!!

And I think they did a marvelous job!! Look at the house below on the right, the lime green one with blue roof . . . She made Chinese characters out of the cut paper I had on the supply table, as well as smoke coming out of the chimney. 

I just love these houses!

They also made giant flowers to hang next to their treehouse designs (not pictured) in the lobby. The students worked in pairs to paint them. They were so fun that I am going to have them make some more for the classroom!

My PYP K2's also made the CUTEST Christmas ornaments known to mankind . . . I mean, just look at these, you guys! 

I pre-cut all of the wooden piece and the felt stars. But they did the rest! 

They looked like magic on the Christmas tree! So colorful and fun!


My Grade 1 artists started the year off by learning about foods and healthy bodies. 

They drew pizza makers with Art for Kids Hub . . . 

Then they made a variety of both "good" and "bad" foods out of cardboard for a photo booth. The students each took turns getting their picture made with the foods of their choice, and making a face to symbolize their decision making. 

This was a direct response to their homeroom unit about healthy bodies that they were studying. You can see the Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry below.

One of the projects that I really enjoyed working on with my lovely Grade 1's was our city project. The students painted all sorts of boxes, turning them into buildings, and designed various accessories for our city. We weren't able to display the whole project. But I am hoping that we can install the larger version outside of my classroom at some point.



My Grade 2 students and I have a very special and somewhat enchanting relationship. We are all a little crazy and we all LOVE when they come to art class. I was even paired with them when we went on our autumn field trip. You can see the picture above--doesn't it look like we should start a band?

My most favorite project that my Grade 2 students did was this "icy leaves" project. It involved printmaking and oil pastels, silver paint and black paper. And my students LOVED IT!!

Our first task was to collect leaves. I had the students collect a variety of leaves, all different sizes.

Then we spent time printing the leaves, vein side down. The students used paint brushes to put a thin layer of paint on the leaves, and then pressed them down with their hands. They began creating their composition by doing this over and over again with each new leaf.

They loved printing the leaves so much that they used about 5 pieces of black paper each to create multiple compositions.

The next week, after the prints were able to dry for a while, the students began adding color.

Using both oil pastels and colored pencils, the students accented the silver with bright colors. This helped to make the leaf prints look as if they were leaves on the ground covered with ice. 

Aren't they beautiful? This is such a wonderful project to do in November, just as the winter season is approaching.

My Grade 2 students were also really taken with finger weaving. They picked it up almost immediately. 

I taught it differently this time. I had my students sit quietly and watch my finger weaving tutorial once through without doing anything. Then I had them pick out the yarn they wanted to use. We watched the tutorial through again, only pausing it this time at each step. It worked out really well!

I was just so impressed by these guys and how quickly they picked up finger weaving!! The little boy second from the right in the picture below, loved it so much that he had his mother buy him some yarn. He taught his brother how to finger weave, and then they both wore their finger woven creations to school for the next week! Isn't that something? That's why I do this, people! 馃挅 It's about sharing and joy and learning and creating lots and lots of memories!

Our last project together before Winter Break was my second rendition of the "crazy-snowflake-catchin'-carolers" . . . This time the students used watercolor on cardstock and sequins for snowflakes. (I mean--if I could--I would turn real snow into sequins. Can you imagine how magical that would be?!)


Monday is always sort of a sleepy day, and the best way to start the workweek! 馃榾 I don't have my first class period until 10:50am, and my second (and last) class of the day starts at 2:50pm. And that's when I see my PYP 3/4 class, and they are fantastic! These kiddos are so creative and fun, and every single one of them comes from a different country. So on some days, we all talk in our own languages just to see how far we can get in the conversation before no one understands anyone . . . We've got Polish, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and English! It's super fun! 

They are one of the only classes that I consistently play music in . . . And we always find a fun kid-friendly mix on Mixcloud. (馃憜 That one's our favorite!!) Alice (pictured with me above) and I always have a dance minute, where we dance it out all over the classroom. Sometimes the boys join in, but mostly it's just us dancing it out. We have so much fun with our dance breakdowns . . .  I mean: shake it off, baby!!

This is the class that includes Olaf who is from Poland and drew the fantastic drawing of me featured above . . . These kiddos also did an excellent job learning about Dia de Los Muertos in early November and drawing large-scale calavera drawings. 

But one of my favorite projects with these guys was their Superhero self-portraits!

We did this project in stages. To begin, the students painted one large piece of paper blue. On separate black and white pieces of paper, the students drew out their city buildings and their clouds. And on yet another piece of white paper, the students drew out their superheroes. 

I told them their drawing could be a full body or a half. But they had to think about their character and costuming and how their superhero would make a positive difference in peoples' lives. Olaf even made his superhero into a cat, because he was inspired by my cat . . . 

After all of the parts and pieces were complete, we layered everything together. Buildings and clouds glued down to the blue paper, then we raised the superheroes up a bit with cardboard before glueing them down on top of everything. I really like how these turned out. Their teacher still has them hanging up in her classroom, and the students made these like a million years ago in September!

Then we made a boat, you guys. A big ol' cardboard boat!! 

It's really the very best boat on the planet of boats!!!

The students were learning about explorers. So I thought, what would happen if we all worked together to create our own explorer boat or ship? And it went over like hotcakes, people! It took us about 2 months to make, from concept to completion, but we had so much fun!! 

And just look at it!! Who wouldn't want to explore the world in a pink boat, flanked by colorful flags and complete with a fox tail stern and a rabbit on the bow?!!!? Plus, those Hokusai-inspired waves are pretty *choice*, eh??

While our boat was in process, my little Nursery Narwhals even used this boat to learn about Thanksgiving in their homeroom class, which was pretty sweet to watch! 

For my Grade 3/4 students' Christmas project, we used the above picture as inspiration. I found it online, and couldn't stop thinking about how classic and beautiful this photograph was. I couldn't find the name of the photographer, though . . . Which was a bit puzzling. 

So during our last week of school before Winter Break, I threw this photograph up on the projector and gave each student a large piece of white watercolor paper. And, their work blew me away! 

I've included their preliminary drawing and their finished watercolors, below. Aren't they marvelous??! I will definitely be revisiting this project in the future!!


These lovely folks are my Grade 5/6 students. And they are the last class that I teach in the IB PYP section of our school. The following grades are on the bilingual side, in the Cambridge program.

We started off the year creating a giant collaborative mural. I think the size is somewhere between 1 meter x 2.5 meters. I love that the students included their home country flags! We have China, Singapore, Greece, India, Brazil, and the Philippines. Greece and The Philippines are for one student. And our girl, Connie, left us for a different school. But everyone is included, and this piece now hangs proudly in our school lobby!

One of the most interesting projects that this class did this year was to make a kaleidoscope. Even after multiple tries, we couldn't get this project to work quite right. But, the process was really exciting.

We used the video above as a guide. And, we used empty colored pencil containers as our main kaleidoscope form. The lid turned nicely, and the sizing was perfect. Once the students emptied the containers of colored pencils, the kids decorated the tubes to make them their own.

We popped the end of the lid off and covered it with mylar. Then we added in various sprinkles (sequins, colored mylar, glitter, etc.). We put another piece of mylar over that end, and inserted a triangular tube made from cardboard and aluminum foil. Then we pointed it to the light, and it was ready to go!

I tried to take pictures of the inside of our kaleidoscope, but it was a challenge. You can sort of see the reflection in the two images below . . . 

Since I got to see these students on Halloween day, I decided to do a mask making project with them. And they totally got into it! More-so than I expected. It was awesome!

Some classes are much more 3D inclined, and this is one of those classes. So they really excelled at making these materials come to life. And they even wore them out of the classroom and back to their teacher's classroom. It was great!

The most exciting project that these students embarked on was their plant portraits. I call this series, "Flower Boys". The students were learning about the earth and earthly things in their homeroom class. So, I thought it might be interesting to surround themselves with nature and growth. 

This was also a really good way to teach the students about color and layering, using stencils and patterns. We looked at this illustration company out of Brazil for inspiration.

For Christmastime, the students were tasked with making the snowflakes for our Christmas tree in the lobby. They spent two hours straight cutting papers and making flakes. (I think it turned into some sort of competition.) They also created beautiful wintry scenes that they were able to take home. 

I really loved these wintry scenes when they were finished!


My Bilingual Grade 5 group is another very boy-heavy class. But, I love this group of kiddos so much. They are the silliest, kindest, sweetest, and most hardworking class I have--maybe--ever had. I am always laughing when they are in my classroom. My translator and TA, Bella, helps with this class. They call me Ms. Ling and they produce the most beautiful works of art. 

One of my favorite projects that they did were these scratch animals inspired by Mexican folk art. We have so much of this scratch paper. It is not a material that I naturally gravitate towards. But I thought it fit this idea quite well.

The students chose animals based on their likes and dislikes, and personality traits. Then, they carefully drew out their animals on the coated black paper. After their animals were drawn out, they used a wooden tool to scrape away various patterns all over the animal.

I also had this class do a smaller version of plant portraits, like in my PYP Grade 5/6 class. I really liked seeing them hanging all together . . . Like in the picture above. Sometimes these larger classes are great because you can see the artwork become an installation. This can be harder to achieve in the smaller classes.

You can really see the process start to come together in these images. The overlapping of the background and the portraiture on top.

That's King (馃憜). He never smiles. But he is literally the most hilarious kid on the planet. And below, and to the right, are Kim and Eason. With the help of a small group of students, they built a boom box to use for a skit in their English class. It was the coolest!!

And they give me fun, handmade presents all the time. I really love these kids so much . . . 

The three girls in the picture above finger wove three different strands from one skein of yarn. How did they do it? (I have no idea! 馃槀) And sweet Jason, in the picture to the right, is so patient and diligent. He is always this way with all of his work.

For their last project before Winter Break, my Bilingual Grade 5 students painted giant poinsettia plants. I loved how these turned out, so much so, that I hung them in the hallway and have no plans to take them down.


My Bilingual Grade 6 students and I have had a rocky start to the year, but we are in a really good place now. Their first project was to draw each other's shoes. This was a form of assessment so that I could see how they were coming into the school year. And they did an awesome job!

My Bilingual Grade 6 class typically has about 30 students, so we don't have the space to do anything too terribly large. Ms. Bella has to translate for the entire class. This can sometimes be a challenge when explaining project requirements and materials needed. But, we managed to fill up part of a wall with MICA graduate-inspired melting rainbows. My students loved learning about Jen Stark, and it helps that she went to my school!

One of the projects that my Grade 6 students really loved was their comic book project. I gave them lots and lots of freedom on this project. They could write it in English or Chinese, and it could be about whatever they wanted (as long as it was school appropriate). And, they loved it! And what was even cooler was when they were all finishing up their comics and swapping them with classmates . . . Just to read what they wrote about. It was like we were in some handmade comic book store. It was quiet, and just sort of perfect. 

Their first project to welcome in 2019 was to write resolutions. I had them each write 3, in English or Chinese. And now we are building a huge installation with their resolutions--hoping to keep it up until next year's change over to 2020! Hip hip hooray!


The highest grades that I teach are Bilingual Grades 7 and 8 and MYP Grades 7 and 8. They are all combined into one art class of about 26 students. They are a wonderful group of students who are always interested in doing new things, but sometimes need a push of motivation. 

The first project I did with them was very traditional: a coat of arms that tells me something about them . . . I was interested in learning more about each student and getting to know their stories, so I thought this project would help me get to that goal quicker. To kick it up a notch on difficulty, I told them that they could write words or descriptors in Chinese, but required that they present their final project in front of the class in English. The principals and chief administrators were invited, and snacks were provided. 

I thought the students did a wonderful job! However, none of the principals speak English. So they ended up being really disappointed that they couldn't understand what was going on. And I was disappointed that the students worked so hard on their presentations, and didn't really receive the accolades that they deserved. 

The next project that the students worked on were drawings of Islamic Architecture buildings. And for the first time in my life, I let the students leave them alone, keeping them as pencil or black pen drawings. I was really moved by the line quality in their drawings, and the wobbliness of how they move around the paper.

I also found it interesting how they approached their drawings. Some of them looked at the big shapes and plotted those parts out first, adding in the details later. Then there were others who would draw the tiniest of details first and build their drawing around that. It was fascinating. 

Sort of in tandem while working on their architectural drawings, I had them planning their large scale self-portraits. I gave them a lot of freedom with this project, which didn't allow for much control on my end, as far as the finished product was concerned.

They had to draw everything in pencil first, outline everything in black marker. And then they could finish it off with any material they wanted. I showed them examples that included pen and ink, collage, acrylic painting, watercolor painting, etc. However, a large number of them finished them off in markers. (Markers are my least favorite material on planet Earth.) Not sure why they all chose markers, except that markers are the most readily available. 

One of the biggest challenges I had with this project is getting them to spend time on it. Think about how you want this to look. How does this portrait relate to you, as the maker? What material will best represent the idea you are trying to get across? But they didn't want to spend time with this work. Still, we had some nice pieces at the finish line. *If you have any ideas on how to get older students to spend more time with their work, please let me know!!*

For the big Christmas tree that we had in the lobby, my older students spent a whole class period making snowflakes--and they loved it! Their snowflakes looked GORGEOUS on the tree. (Pictures available at the bottom of this post . . . )

Just after we returned from Winter Break, my Bilingual Grades 7 and 8 students and my MYP Grades 7 and 8 students designed their own personal mini-calendars inspired by the Cats and Dogs Bikini Calendar drawn by Tracie at People You May Meet.

Now this project . . . This project they want to spend time with! Yay!! Some of them are making up the most hilarious and intricate stories to go with each month . . . Lucia, below, is making her calendar all about a family of rice. She even has one piece of rice sitting next to a chilly window in January--it's snowing outside--and the rice is eating a bowl of cooked rice. 馃槀

They have exams next week. So I won't see these kids again until after our Chinese New Year break, which is three weeks long . . . But I can't wait to see what they will do with our next project!!! I've got something sculptural up my sleeve . . . More soon!


There were several major schoolwide projects that I helped with over the first semester. And the first one was Sports Day. My friend Nilton was the chief organizer of Sports Day, which was an all day affair. There were games and bubbles and snacks and lunch, an awards ceremony and movie time at the end.

Everyone in the school involved: timing races, manning stations, providing water (that was me). But I also got all of the students involved, creatively. 

There were four teams: Orange Tigers, Blue Sharks, Red Snakes, and Green Gators. So my students made these giant signs with the mascots on them and another with the letters spelling out the team name. We also made decorated hula hoops to go with each team, as well as pennants, ribbons, paper trophies, and various other signage. It was awesome! 

And all of the colors looked so great against the green-green of the field! 


Another thing that I spent a really long time working on was re-imagining the two art rooms and the hallway just outside our space. I planned out 3 small murals to sort of brighten up the area. None of these have been approved, yet. But I'm hoping for some positive feedback before the summer begins!

I did, however, get a weaving wall installed in my room . . . I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about this!!! I am going to have the students pulling wall hangings every month!! 馃憞馃憞馃憞 (PS: Those two guys below are the absolute best!!! So helpful and always willing to see my ideas through!!)


One of the things I was most excited about in this past semester was our Christmas tree that was in the lobby . . . I somehow managed to decorate the entire thing with all handmade ornaments, and one from every child in the school. I mean, seriously! It was a dream tree, as far as I'm concerned!!

It did not start out this way, though . . . The tree actually fell on top of me, and the top broke off on my head. (You can imagine me standing where that ladder is . . . 馃憜 See where the top of the tree is dangling off??!) My head was pretty bruised for a couple of weeks after that incident. 

We ended up not keeping the top of the tree, which is why it looks so flattened off in some of the pictures. I mean, the darn thing was completely rotten and it snapped on my head! We eventually made a giant star to go on the top, which made everything look a bit nicer.

But man-o-live, I was SO HAPPY with the ornaments. And the kids had so much fun looking all over the tree for their own ornament--all ages of kids, even my older students . . . It was awesome! And it helped to raise the spirits of everyone in the school during those last couple of weeks before Winter Break.

So many of my classes wanted to take pictures in front of this tree! It just really warmed the cockles of my heart . . . 馃挅

My Christmas card this year was designed by Alice in my PYP Grade 3/4 class . . . 馃憞 The one who always wants to take dance breaks. She is a wonderfully fast illustrator and has a unique style. I hope to get these cards out at some point during second semester. Maybe next year I can be more on time. 

That's all for now!! I'm off to London, England and Dunbar, Scotland for a week of my Chinese New Year break. Meeting up with friends from Thomasville, Georgia and Plano, Texas. I'm going to see Hamilton on the stage (FINALLY) and spend some much needed time in the Tate. And, maybe (just maybe) have a beer or two in a pub . . . hopefully with Colin Firth by my side. More soon! XOXO