art and teaching


Visual Journals

Fall outdoors

I’ve been embracing the beautiful fall weather with my class this year.   We have been a community for a month, but already we have been successful at collaborating and journaling together in the great outdoors of Calgary.

We have been outside reading, going for walks to nearby forests to explore, and play games.   We have written poetry and sketched.

The idea of learning outside has allowed many of my learners to feel more confident, and comfortable.  I hope to continue going outdoors even in the cool winter months to explore how we can adapt to learn in our great city.





This month our 5/6 class focus was online safety.   Together, we watched videos, brainstormed, and discussed how to be safe online.  An interesting topic came up around being polite online as well!   As a group students came up with some “netiquette” policies and some tips to stop cyber bullying!  Some made visual journal pages and I think they turned out wonderfully. 




30 Day Drawing Challenge!

Before beginning the day, while I check homework, do attendance, and collect any paperwork – students are given a daily drawing “prompt” on the SMART Board.

This particular challenge was 30 days long, so on the first day, students divided a two-page spread in their journals into 30 sections.   As you can see, some did random divisions, and others were more mathematical (dividing each page into 15, by creating 3 columns and 5 rows).

Some examples of the challenge were:

– Draw a Science project gone wrong
– Draw a word in graffiti style
– Draw a mysterious building
– Draw something taped together
– Draw an ancient cell phone
– Draw your favourite character as a zombie

Can you spot any of these in each of the student samples of the Drawing challenge?    Many of them did them in random order, some were more linear and went day-to-day, in order.

This is a great activity to keep students busy, and thinking while you get prepared for the morning.    There were so many creative interpretations of each day.   I always ensure not to “instruct” them too much with examples.   I have my own page, but I usually do them AFTER the students have had their prompt.


Interactive Social Studies Visual Journals!

Students have been using their Visual Journals to explain various concepts this year in Social Studies.  When given the choice to create a poster or Notebook file, most of them choose a Visual Journal page because they love to create pop up, and interactive elements.

I’ve posted a few examples of some very creative pages.

Sarah (2)

When learning about Local Government, this student drew little men to represent the MLA, Councillors, and Mayor.  Each little man was a flap, and when opened explains the role of each in Local Government.

Confederation Confederation Open

While learning about Confederation, this student created a Canadian Flag.  On either side of the flag was a flap with information about the dates, the provinces, and why Confederation was important.   A truly unique page!

Art in my classroom

Well, I am now in my third full year of teaching (can’t believe it already!).   I am beginning to get a good grasp on the curriculum for Grades 4, 5, and 6.   In doing so, I am finding it much easier to plan big, cross-curricular projects, focus on the big questions/concepts, and infuse art and technology into areas that make sense for the students learning.

Making art and technology authentic to my students has been important to me, as well as ensuring they learn important skills, techniques, and vocabulary associated.   With art, I always try to focus on the WHY, (WHY did I choose this colour, WHY did I like this, WHY didn’t I?)

I am already beginning to have some amazing ideas for next school year that relate to art projects – I will share those hopefully as I come out with them.

For now, here is what I’ve been doing THIS year, that is art-related!

1. Visual Journals
These have been an amazing learning tool for the majority of my students this year.   Whether it be Social Studies, Math, Science, LA, Art, Health… whatever!   The students always get options on how to represent their learning, and usually they choose to make a visual journal page.


Here is a great example of a math multiplication strategy page a student made.  Each strategy is a flap that explains what it is, how to do it, and an example!

I will make a longer, more in depth post about how I introduce the journals, the requirements I provide my students, as well as the self, and teacher assessments I use.

2. Art Cart!

In order to make the most out of art supplies, myself and another teacher have pooled our stuff onto an “art cart” that we share between classes.  Her kids come grab it when they need it, and mine grab it when we need it.  It has worked very well so far this year as a great mobile supply cart for unique items to add to Visual Journal pages, or for other creative endeavors.

visual journal cart
visual journal cart

On the cart there are stamps, stamp pads, sponges, mod podge, scrap paper, newspaper, old books, old playin gcards, string… etc!   You think of it, its on the cart!

3. Daily Drawing

This has been a class favourite!   We’ve done 3 separate 30 day drawing challenges – a lot of ideas I come up with on my own, or borrow from other drawing challenges that I’ve googled.   Basically I use my SMART Board, and create a Notebook file.  Each slide is a new day.   In the morning when students arrive, the daily drawing task is on the SMART Board, so that I can do attendance, check homework, talk to students, etc. while everyone else stays occupied with an artistic task that requires creativity and time.   For the 30 day challenges, I have students use a two page spread in their Visual Journals.   They then divide each page into 15 squares (3×15).

My students LOVE seeing the creative ideas they’ll have to draw next!

Some examples of daily drawing challenges:
– draw your teacher as a monster
– draw a fruit eating a vegetable
– draw the inside of your brain
– draw two animals mixed together

I will try to post a picture of one of my student’s completed drawing challenge, they are so fun, and get the kids drawing, and thinking while I get morning tasks completed.


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