Thursday, September 20, 2012

Markers: The Joy of Mr. Sketch

Oh, the joy.  Smelly markers!  This week, I've decided to introduce my 2nd graders to the sheer wonder of Mr. Sketch markers, and all the world is beautiful and fruit-scented.  My classroom smells like a box of Sweet Tarts.  I have been teaching them to "paint with the markers" and so far they are taking care of the fragile felt tips very well.  This takes discipline for 7 year-olds, but they agree that it's worth it for the aromatherapy benefits.  Ha!  I didn't get into the aromatherapy thing exactly, but the markers do in fact have a calming effect on the kiddos.  You think I'm kidding?  They work on ME, too!  Baby, when I crack these open, I feel like that jumpin' watermelon on the box.

Here's why I love this product:  They last about 3 times as long as Crayola markers, they come in better colors, and the chisel tips are versatile.  Plus the casing of the markers are the actual color, instead of just being white with colored details.  All these things make them  more expensive, but I've come to see that they are definitely worth the cost.  But here's a tip:  DON'T BUY THE CLASSROOM PACK.  Those come with weird foam tips on them, and while they still work just fine if you get used to them, they are not nearly as brilliant as the felt tips. 

Classpack (pink) vs. 18 color pack (purple) 

The classpack also only has 12 colors.  I like to just buy a couple of 18 color packs, and split them into warm and cool colors.  Some of my projects only require warm or cool colors, and also this reinforces that concept all year!

I find that this also saves time when kids are putting away supplies. 
Ok.  So how do you keep the kids from turning the lovely chiseled felt tips into furry fluff balls with no ink left in them?  Paint with markers.  I get 'em young, and when I first crack open the markers, I show them how to color.  I say, "You think you know how to color?  Well, watch THIS!"
Then I show them how coloring in a zig-zag motion takes forever, and the markers don't look as pretty.  I show them to color in a downward motion, in one direction. 

Yesterday I kept saying, "Go in ONE DIRECTION.  ONE.  DIRECTION."  Of course, a kid burst out singing, "Baby you light up my world like nobody else..."  And I laughed myself sick.  Then I had to play the song just to get it out of my head.  I am probably going to make a poster using the One Direction album cover, and replace all their faces with Mr. Sketch marker heads. 

UPDATE:  I made this. 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Alice and Op Art

Right now I have a group of 5th graders whom I adore.  I've taught them since they were in Kindergarten, and this is the first time I've been at one school long enough for that to happen.  They have a great attitude and a wonderful sense of humor.  But they are very talkative.  It's not even that they aren't on task while they are talking.  They are perfectly capable of multitasking, but the noise is just over the limit for me.  I've got a pretty low standard for how quiet an Art Room should be, too.  I feel like I'm giving a test if the kids aren't talking.

Though lately, using the sketchbooks, I've learned to let go and be ok with silence.  Silence means the kids are concentrating, and I need to shut my big yapper and let them do that sometimes.  By the way, the sketchbooks are my new favorite thing altogether.  I even make the kids write down the daily directions, so that if they don't make it all the way through, they can pick up where they left off.  But more often, it becomes my way of answering those, "What do I do now?" questions.  (Which I HATE.  Kid, I told you already what to do next.  Don't just SIT THERE!  Well guess what, thanks to the sketchbook, that kid has already written it down, so now he remembers and is less likely to ask me in the first place.  Yay!)

Anyhow, I was just enjoying talking to this group of 5th graders while they worked, and I realized, they were all listening to me tell them about my weekend.  They were listening intently.  But still simultaneously working.  So I printed off a funny blog entry from one of my favorite blogs: Hyperbole and a Half.  I read it aloud to the kiddos and made them promise to listen and work at the same time.  They loved it.  This blogger is fantastic by the way, and if you've not read her stuff, go read it this second.  You will laugh.  But she does use some strong language, which I don't mind, but I did edit when reading to the kids.  I particularly like the ones about the cake and her dogs.

But today I ran out of cool blog entries to read.  And I thought, "Why not read them something longer, so that I don't have to keep searching for short stories?"  On my bookshelf is a tattered copy of Alice and Wonderland, which was mine as a kid.  Kids don't read stuff like that anymore.  I thought, hey, they probably wouldn't ever pick this up on their own, but I can read it to them and maybe they'll see that old books are still good books.  Turns out, this book is very engaging, but still allows them to concentrate on working, because they sort of already know the story.  Not only that, but the idea of Op art, which they are making now, and the dreamy, psychedelic flair of Alice go together well.  We finished chapter one just as it was time to clean up today.  It was Art Zen.

On a related note, I found a lovely site with all the original Alice illustrations here.  They are ever so slightly disturbing which makes them cool enough for 5th graders to appreciate, I think.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Keep Calm and Don't Be a Squirrel

I have recently decided that I probably have a mild case of ADD.  Perhaps this has developed in my adulthood, but perhaps I've always had it and just never chose to do anything about it.  I do remember getting very easily distracted when I would try to read, and especially if there was music or TV playing somewhere, I couldn't help but zone out and listen to that.  This is probably related to my ability to remember large amounts of song lyrics, while very little useful information is retained.  Musical theatre kid problems?  If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted I would...oh snap, is that CAKE?

*runs away*

See what I mean?  That's me.

In whatever case, I get very easily distracted when I am teaching.  Kids love to raise their hands, stop me, ask innane questions, and then I can't even remember what I was talking about after I remind them that they could have asked me that later.  They love to interrupt me by saying, "OOOOOH!  Did you make that?!?!"  Yes, kid.  I made that.  I'm the art teacher.  Stop being so surprised by my awesomeness.  Then, another kid yells, "Did you make THAT?"  No kid.  That is the Mona Lisa.  Then I try to ignore the spiraling feeling that they don't listen to anything I say.  It's gotten to the point where I hardly ever call on anyone until I'm finished with the instructions, and then I ask for questions.   

I have round stools in my classroom.  They are the bane of my existence.  Not only are they poorly constructed and uncomfortable to sit on, they squeak like crazy whenever a kid moves, and kids inevitably wiggle back and forth on the legs, leaning one way or the other until BAM!!  The stool falls over and the kid is lying on the floor, stunned.  Obviously that is a huge distraction for me.

So I have started trying to impress upon the little angels that they need to help me out with my distraction problem.  I don't call it ADD, but they know what I mean when I say, "I'm very easily distracted."  It occurred to me that in a way, I am very like the dog from the movie Up. 

You remember him, right?  Adorable.  Remember how he would stop in the middle of a thought and stare at a squirrel?  I've stolen that, and started saying to the kids, "Hey, kid.  You're being a squirrel right now."  That, I suppose, is a lot nicer than me yelling, "HEY!  STOP IT WHATEVERYOURNAMEIS!  I'M TEACHIN' HERE!"  Not that I would say that in the first place...ahem.
So far they seem to think it's cute, and it's been working.  This success prompted me to make a poster. 
You can make your own customized poster here.  It's pretty cute.  Although I would have preferred an image of a squirrel at the top, I put the dog.  I probably could have made my own using Word, but this was too easy to pass up.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pencils and Why they Bug Me

Lately I've been really getting annoyed at how long it takes kids to choose and sharpen pencils.  It's about as long as it takes me to pick out something on  It has to be the PERFECT one, in the right condition, and shipping from as few locations as possible.  Many of them also feel the need to choose erasers, since I purposely rip the ones off the back of my pencils due to latex allergies at our school. 

Erasers are my next biggest annoyance.  I used to buy the cool neon cap erasers, but those seem to somehow exit my classroom very quickly.  Then I tried the chunky colorful ones, and those exited the room even more quickly.  So I bought ugly gray erasers, and chopped them all in half.  Now the kids abuse them, and they look like rotten little teeth.  :(


I'll admit, when I was an elementary lass, many years ago, I used to be very OCD about my pencils, too.  They all had to be sharp all the time.  I never used the erasers on the back, because I wanted them to stay intact.  I would put a cap eraser on all my pencils.  Once they got sharpened too much, I stopped using them because my hand would get cramped.  There were certain pencils I saved in a zipper pouch and never sharpened:  glittery ones, Lisa Frank unicorns, scented ones, pencils from travel destinations, and some given as prizes for good behavior or 100% on a spelling test.  Yes, children, I feel your pencil pain.  However, when I see you for 45 minutes once every six days, you're going to have to get over your pencil issues.

Since I've introduced the sketchbooks, I've been having the kids write down their objectives for a lesson, and a few (less than a paragraph) notes about the topic.  So instead of me just rolling on into my speech about the lesson, and having the kids sit there listening, I have to wait 20 MINUTES for them to sharpen a pencil?  NO.  NO, I SAY!

This may sound like a simple solution, or maybe you think I'm crazy, but I am making the kids USE PENS.  Think about it: no sharpening, no erasers to pick out, no whining in the middle of my speech because theirs broke!  It's a beautiful thing.  Not only that, but while working in their sketchbooks, using a pen teaches them not to erase and worry about every little detail.  They have to try again or just let it go.  And today, the beauty of this theory was tested.  A teacher sent her students to my class with their own pencils, ready to go.


So, you know what?  I'm phasing out the pencils.  Maybe I'm crazy, but I could also be brilliant.  It's a possibility.