3rd Grade Reflection Names

This project has gone through a few changes - I started it a couple of years ago and was never really happy with how it turned out, until now.

Most years I have the kids decorate their letters instead of the background - but their letters often ended up narrow and small leaving LARGE open, untouched, white spaces.  This year I opted to have them leave their letters white - AMAZING difference.

Here is how we did them.
1) Fold 9 x 12 paper in half hot dog style.
2) Leave folded and draw name in BIG bubble letters -- normal or funky (using different kinds of lines)
3) Sharpie trace name.
4) Go to window/light table and place NAME on surface so the blank side is facing you.
5) Trace name through paper using a pencil - name will be backwards - it's okay, it should be. (this is the hardest part for students to do - it is hard for them to do it backwards)
6) Sharpie backwards name.  (you could skip the pencil on the backwards name, but 3rd graders tend to sneeze or bump each other and want to start over.)
7) Pick ONE side of paper and use a black oil pastel to draw SIMPLE designs.
8) Fold paper backwards so that the names touch each other.
9) RUB paper while folded - rub hard.
10) Open.  The oil pastel will transfer lightly to the other side - trace these marks with black oil pastel.
11) Time to color.  I tell the student to turn their paper vertical/portrait style.  It tricks their brain into see the patterns they drew instead of their names.  Then I tell them to start at the fold and work their way out.  Whatever they do to one side of the fold needs to be done to the other side.
12) Continue till finished!

These took use about 3 50 minutes classes.  We talked a lot about reflections -what they are, where we see them, how they work - why when we look in the mirror the words on our shirt look backwards - etc.

The kids had to trust the instructions on this proceses, as many of them couldn't visualize where it was headed.  When it was done or close to be done they were mesmerized and thrilled at the results (I was too).

This project is great at the beginning of the year because it helps me to re-learn names, see how they have grown over the summer, and how our year will go.


Organized Chaos has joined Facebook!

I have been trying to figure out different ways to share more student work with all of you and my parents.  I tried a website - too much to keep up.  I thought about a Facebook page for my classroom - but having two classrooms to do and keep up on - too time consuming.

Alas, I decided I would just take my blog to Facebook.  I will post when there are new entries on the blog, LOTS of student work, and other tidbits I find interesting in the art world.

Come check out Organized Chaos on Facebook and 'Like' it if you want to see updates in your newsfeed.


See you there.


Not Enough

I absolutely love my job.  I feel blessed and excited to come to 'work' each day.  I try and do my best each and everyday to reach out to my students, to provide them with opportunity to grow, take chances, problem solve, deal with frustration, and ask for help.  Most days I go home feeling like my day was worth something, that I made some kind of small difference.......

But then there are some days that I don't feel I'm doing enough - that my classroom is not as engaging as it should be, that I am not the teacher I should be.  Am I doing all I should for my students?  What could I do differently to pack as much as I can into 50 minutes of class once a week?  How much am I helping my school environment help keep the focus directly on the students and not on the multiple standardized tests the district/nation likes to call "assessment". 

I sit and wonder and wish for all the classes I could take to challenge my thinking - or the conferences I could go to for inspiration and new skills -- and then I look at the cost.  I really hate the fact that I haven't taken any graduate classes or gone to any type of conference and my only excuse is that I can't afford it.  I am putting less money in my pocket today than when I started teaching 4 years ago - granted my income says I am making more, but less is making it to me.  bah!  I digress - money is not the real focus of this post.

I hunger to be a better teacher, to embrace the exuberance of my students - to move them in such ways that they think more in depth and make choices with purpose.  I want to be the teacher that my high school Humanities teacher was to me.  He was passionate, he questioned us, he asked us to think instead of being told what to think.

I want to be more than 'just' an art teacher to my students.  I want to be someone that opened their eyes to a world they didn't see before.  I want to give them enough courage to take chances and ask questions.

Perhaps I am doing some of these things - on a smaller scale maybe.  I have such high hopes and dreams for my students - for my art program.  I know my room makes a difference for students, but I want art (and music) to be more than a "special" - to be valued more than a prep time for grade level teachers.

What I really want is to reform education in a way that is drastic and beautiful.  I want to change the whole way our nation thinks about education.  I want kids to love school.  I want teachers that have teaching in their blood - that are crazy passionate about not only their students, but teaching them.  I want an education system that celebrates the diversity of our students and our teachers - instead of punishing/rewarding on standardized tests.  I want an education system that rewards innovation and creativity - and terminates teachers that do the bare minimum.

I dream of a time when people who are making choices about education actually listen to the teachers -- not to the union reps or to the teachers who yell the loudest -- but to teachers, the humble, the eager, the devoted.  I dream of a time when we fixed education by looking where we want to go instead of trying to fix a broken system.

I say and dream all these things - I know what I want it to look like in the end, but I currently have no idea how to get there.  I can see the future, and it looks so bright -- yet I have no idea how to get there, let alone how to convince other people it will work.

I feel the need to stretch my teaching, to be more than who I am now.  Perhaps some books, save some money for some interesting classes....... dive more into my dream of education and figure out a path.


Chicago Teacher Strike - a different perspective

I got this from a friend in Chicago Public Schools and it sheds a very different light than what the National News is portraying.

I didn't post this to create any hostility or debates - but rather as a way to see it from another perspective - from the teacher perspective.  It doesn't matter what side you stand on - but it is important to listen and understand the other side.

"They are saying all sorts of things on the national news, but there is a lot of misinformation and confusion. We are not striking over pay and we aren't demanding 19%. That figure comes from the independent arbitrators report that was released in June. Our mayor has extended our school day and year by 11%. The arbitrator said we should be compensated for our time. Last year, the final year of our previous contract, Rham said the school system couldn't afford the 4% raise that was in our contract so we didn't get anything. That money was then used to hire consultants making six figures, pay bribes/bonuses to schools and principals that didn't follow the contract, and some was transferred to the police department. The arbitrator said we should get that 4%. Finally, he recommended a 1% COLA raise for 4 years. That is where the 19% figure came from as far as I know.

The main issues for teachers are evaluations and teacher recall. I'll try to be brief on both, they are implicated issues. The board is proposing an evaluation system where 40% of our ratings will be based on test scores. For non classroom teachers part of this is a subject specific test and part is school wide literacy scores. I was on the team that designed the music assessments and after we finished them they were changed significantly. A listening exam about instrument families was changed to examples of individual instruments for example. As for the literacy scores, if the entire building doesn't go up, our ratings are lowered. My school is at 93% meets and exceeds with 18% special needs students. If our scores don't go up, we are considered unsatisfactory and subject to being fired. For classroom observation, the other portion of the proposed evaluation system they are using a distorted form of Charlotte Danielson's work. She has said it is not ment o be used this way, but they don't care. We have already been told hardly anyone will qualify for the top category, you have to be a perfect teacher in all four dementions. They did want to tie this to merit pay, but have dropped that as they couldn't formulate a plan as to how it would be implemented.

Another issue in CPS is that they are using testing scores to put schools into turnaround. This means they fire the staff and give the school to a charter company. The charters do not have to hire all certified teachers, and they can turn away students with disabilities and behavior problems. Veteran teachers, some NBCT's are displaced and have trouble finding new jobs due to the stigma of turnaround. Principals are hiring first year and TFA teachers because they are cheaper. Some schools have huge teacher turnover each year, but they won't hire experienced educators who want to stay in the system. We are asking for a recall process where principals would have to interview veteran teachers for positions, but principals would still have final choice over who they hire.

There are other issues that we can't strike over: class size, most are 30-45, building conditions, air conditioning, materials, we often don't have them, sick day accumulation, a punitive wellness policy and much more. We want better schools for our students and teachers, not education on the cheap. Outside groups are putting a lot of money towards "school choice", but none of that money makes it to the schools. None of the board members or high ranking people from downtown are educators, most haven't been into a CPS school for anything but a press conference or photo op. They have no idea what our schools are dealing with and blaming teachers is the party line. That's why we are striking and will continue until we have a fair contract.

Over 140 CPS schools don't have libraries. My request for screens on my second floor classroom windows was denied. 101* in my classroom on the first day of school. Today we moved our rally from downtown to three schools in the poorest areas of the city. As we marched through the neighborhood past the hosing projects and boarded up buildings the kids swarmed out to join us. There was 100% support from the parents, ministers and businesses. I know they are saying horrible things about us in the national media, but we are receiving a lot of support from our communities."


Ahhh. Almost time

I really have enjoyed seeing different art rooms across the country get ready for a year of organized chaos - rooms that are organized and ready for paint spills, lost marker caps, pencil shavings, and broken crayons.

I took a few pictures last week to show how I prepare for a year of 500ish students in 3 days time at one of the buildings I teach at.  
I got new marker cups - so I took new pictures and taped them down where they go!  Makes clean up easier for me and students!
I take the pictures I tape down - print out one extra, laminate, stick a magnet on the back and use on the whiteboard to help show instructions.
My computer station for when kiddos are finished!  The STOP signs remind them to check and see if their hands are clean!

Here is my done, or rather - "Finished" area.  Students may pick from:
  • Drawing Center (Free draw, silly picture sticks, picture reference cards)
  • Art Games (Art Memory/Go Fish, Puzzles, Eye Spy, Tangrams/Tangoes
  • Computer Art (KidPix)
  • Sculpture Center (Modeling Clay, surprise scrap bucket - string, paper, wire... )
  • Ask for a job (cleaning paint brushes, returning books to library, organizing papers, taking projects off of bulletin boards... etc) 

Okay - whoever came up with this BRILLIANT idea for a yarn center - you are my HERO!  I don't remember if I saw this on Pinterest or a blog first - but seriously genius!!!  I first tried to drill the holes in the plastic - bad idea, it cracked.  I then got smart and heated up a high heat glue gun.  Duh - melt the holes!  I got these bins for 1.00 each at a dollar tree near my school.  I have put two cones of yarn in each one -- I don't know if they are going to tangle as they get used, but it has to be easier to deal with than normal string tangle messes!

And last, but not least, my new Art Rubric!  I made this to help remind me to be more clear with students about how they are doing in art.  I made this based on how our report cards are, so that parents and students can easily see and understand how art is 'graded'.  I don't grade based on if I like it or not or even give everyone a perfect score.  There are lessons to be learned in art while still being creative.

1=Met all project expectations and student had wonderful craftsmanship.  2=Met most of the expectations and their craftsmanship is okay, but could use a little work.  3=Missed most or all expectations and little to no effort was put into the crafting of the project.

I used words and pictures to help showcase what each level looks like.  The trick in art is that there are so many options that it is sometimes hard to decide one or a two.  For example a student may meet ALL the expectations but has only so-so craftsmanship --  I have even had students that have great craftsmanship, but don't always follow directions.... or then there are the kids that work super hard so they NEVER finish a single project.  It is difficult and sometimes frustrating to 'grade' art -- but this system seems to give me enough wiggle room to really let the kids make creative choices about their projects.  I could make it more specific - but I feel that limits the students choices and really doesn't teach them what I want them to learn.