art and teaching

Visual Journals




Learning about micro beads inspired many of my students to journal about it.   They got super creative using tape transfers, watercolour, and flaps.



A final product

Being in an Elementary school we don’t have a kiln.   Thankfully the amazing art teacher at Tom Baines is super accommodating and allowed for the brief takeover of hers.  

My students spent two weeks working on their coil pots.  They Explored techniques I demonstrated and then off they went creating their mini masterpieces.   I was enthralled with how many of them quickly grasped the concept of scoring and slipping.   I loved seeing my ASD students become engaged in the physicality and textural elements of working with the clay.   One such student could have made coils for hours.    The other loved immersing her hands in the slip and then working with the clay.    Watching then work was mesmerizing.  Some students loved digging their nails in to create texture and some spent hours smoothing theirs so it looked “perfect”

I warned the students that some of their projects may not survive the kiln so they were extra meticulous in their treatment of their prized pots.    Fortunately only one cracked in half and the rest were perfect!

Things that went well: set up was great, I grouped desks and put mats on each desk surface which allowed for easy clean up.    I managed the excess clay using dollar store bins and each student put their project in plastic bags while they were a work in progress.   I asked students to bring in their own tools since I didn’t have any, and this would be our only time this year to work with clay.   This turned out very well, students brought toothbrushes, scrubbers, and other unique tools and shared with each other.   It was some beautiful collaboration whereby students showed others how they used the tool, and then others tried the technique.

Wishes for next time: I wish I turned the kiln experience into a classroom field trip or documented the process so students could witness the entirety of their projects. 

All the students kept their pots to use as pencil holders at their tables.   The pride and enjoyment that came from this project was so worth the mess and the time.     

Being Observed

I’ve had student teachers in my space this week, and will again next week to observe what teaching looks like, and what our school community is like.   It is rather interesting to see all the new, nervous, and excited first year students in my classroom, as I still recall what it was like for me not that long ago.

Having someone constantly there is a helpful reminder to be purposeful with everything, and I think more experienced teachers sometimes forget about WHY we are doing what we’re doing.   Having someone ask why constantly is a refreshing way to reflect on your own teaching practice.   This week has been very reflective, and for that I am grateful.

So this is the new year

It has been one month since the new school year started, and I have been severely neglecting this site.   It is so easy to be overcome with work, and time wasting on the internet, and marking, and planning, and feeling guilty about your teaching, and feeling exhausted every day.

I am finally on the right path to be in a groove with things.   It took a lot longer this year I think, but I don’t really know why.   I have less students, but a lot more needs.

Either way, we’ve started on this great drawing project to connect to French as well.   We learned about contours and did a contour drawing of an animal.   Inside the shape we created, we divided it up into 4-6 sections.    In each section we are drawing close up views of the animal using gray scale and value – a skill we spent a lot of time on.

I will post some photos of in-progress, and completed work soon!

Passion Projects!

For the last few weeks of school, my classroom was engaged in learning through Passion Projects!  I took inspiration from Genius Hour and other project-based ideas and had my students make a list of topics they loved.   They then had to narrow their topic and then turn their topic into a question/experiment/math problem!    

Some awesome examples:

– How many different outcomes of shish kebabs are there with 4 meats and 7 vegetable options?   The student then made some of these outcomes to share with his class

– How do I make the best chocolate pie? This student made 24 different “tarts” that explored various outcomes when you change one of the ingredients (amount of sugar, type of chocolate, amount of salt, cooking time etc)

– How do I make a video game?  The students used Scratch coding to make a basic game!

This has been an engaging and exciting way to end the year.  We have 3 days left.

Watercolor Techniques & Positivity

Masked off and exploring techniques
Masked off and exploring techniques
Tape removed, great negative space!
Tape removed, great negative space!
Awesome techniques
Awesome techniques


The past two weeks my class explored watercolor painting techniques.  We explored many techniques that I showed them (wet-on-wet, splatter, using salt, using plastic wrap etc.)  Then I let them do their own experimenting in their Visual Journals.   Many of them commented that it felt like a Science class – awesome!

Each student was given a piece of watercolor paper, they loved how heavy it felt, and its texture.    I asked them to use masking tape to create negative space on their page.  Many chose to go with a geometric design, but some were also random.    Each section they created they were asked to demonstrate their new understanding of the techniques.  They could layer different techniques, or highlight just one.

We left those to dry for a few days and did some lessons in Health surrounding body image, relationships, and self-esteem.   Afterwards we made a list of ten positive things about ourselves.  We talked about being ourselves, loving who we are, and accepting our mistakes as learning opportunities.

After this was done we did a photography lesson!   The kids were so excited with all the different components to this project.   We discussed shooting close up faces for impact (SCUFFI), and using lighting to help create value on our subjects.    Students loved going outdoors and taking lots of various portraits of each other.

Final step was to put everything together in a creative way.   Don’t you just love how they turned out?

IMG_6276a IMG_6279a

Ancient Athens

My students had to explore life in Ancient Athens by using books, and some critical thinking skills to create a timeline of a day for a slave, metic, citizen, or woman.

We had some amazing costumes, props, and paintings created, but the most fun was the students bringing in food to make some traditional Greek recipes.

We made: stuffed grape leaves, homemade tzatzkiki, chicken pita wraps, and watermelon soup!

Ancient Athens (8)
Watermelon Soup!
Ancient Athens (3)
Stuffing the grape leaves
A citizen dressed up in armour
A citizen dressed up in armour

What an exciting day we had sharing in the cultures of the past.   It was so rewarding to hear them telling their peers how they learned how to properly use kitchen tools and chopped onions and garlic.

Outdoor Education – Evidence & Investigation

Students were given bio-facts to start creating their own field guide.
Students were given bio-facts to start creating their own field guide.
The historic Colonel Walker House!
The historic Colonel Walker House!
ibsapr (7)
Evidence of a Red-Tailed Hawk!
ibsapr (9)
Many discoveries of bones from small creatures!
ibsapr (19)
Listening for evidence
ibsapr (24)
Clear evidence of a flood


ibsapr (27)
Using our senses to look for clues!

This week, our class took a bus out of the suburbs and into the heart of our vibrant city!   We were so fortunate that the snow hadn’t come as was predicted, and we had a gorgeous day of Outdoor exploration and discovery at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.   We discussed the different senses we would use to “look” for clues that animals were around us.   We sat by the Bow River for awhile in complete silence.  Just listening .  It was beautiful.  The students were serene and peaceful, and took notes on all of the amazing sounds of nature.   Afterwards, we played a game with smells – without speaking students had to smell various canisters and try to find their “family” (those that had the same scents) – it was a really exciting game, and so many of the kids managed to find each other.

The best part about being outdoors is the time for exploration and discovery!   Students walked around looking for evidence of animals.   Due to the flooding in Calgary last Spring, the sanctuary is still mostly closed off.   We had a very limited area to explore, but that didn’t stop my class from finding a wide array of evidence!   Bones, scat, feathers, burrows, coyote dens, and even a small squirrel’s skull!   Needless to say the kids were stoked.

After our day of exploring, and while waiting for our bus to arrive the kids got some unstructured play time.   During recess my class had created a game they affectionately call “infection” or “disease”.   My understanding is, is that its somewhat like tag, but once you’re tagged you’re amongst the mob of it people.   The goal of the game is to eliminate all the non-infected people by tagging them.   Its rather entertaining to see the whole class just get really interested in it, and play co-operativel, and positively.

Being outside was such a wonderful experience, so many of the kids who don’t get out much really enjoyed, and for the smaller group of students who are already outdoor enthusiasts, it was a great time for them to share their love and understanding of our world with their peers.

Photography and Math

Last week in Math, we were learning about shapes and angles!   Students were exploring angles around us in our classroom, and in our lives.   Then applied this knowledge to understanding the interior angle of shapes.   We concluded that because a triangle is like half of a square that if a square is 360 degrees, a triangle’s angle measurements should be half of that, 180 degrees!

After some use of the protractor, we did a photography project relating to angles!   We talked about how different movements of our camera can make a different angle in relation to the ground – some students even were able to make some fairly good estimates of what the actual angle was.   For example, having your body on the ground with your camera on the ground and taking a picture of the object on the ground = 180 degree angle!

Students had to choose ONE object and take as many different angles of the object that they could.  The result, some interesting perspectives on ordinary objects!


The display outside our classroom with our photo collages!





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.



Here is one of my students’ projects – they created a switch that open and closed the circuit by opening or closing the front door of their “house.” This was intended to be an alarm system that would make a light go on if the system was engaged. The tin can in the corner was a sound that alarmed upon walking into the house.

And so begins Spring Break…

*sigh* after two days of Parent Teacher Conferences I was exhausted.  While I enjoy having parents come and be a part of their child’s world for awhile, it is a long day of teaching, and then meeting with parents until the evening.   Most parents were so thrilled to see their kids’ Electricity Projects, and Visual Journals.   All of my interviews went great, and I could really sense the kids and parents felt pride in the work that was being shown.


The last week of school for Science, students did mini-experiments which we named “Eye on the Exhibits”   After exploring and making observations, students had to create a journal page that was like a lab write-up.   



In Math last week we began exploring the relationship between capacity and volume.  Students learned about displacement, and how to measure the volume of an irregular object using capacity and displacement.   Yes, the camera is waterproof!


It was a great last week, and although I am fortunate for the break, I am looking forward to going back to school in April fully recharged and ready for a great 3 more months of this school year.

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