About this Site and Me

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Flower Mound, TX, United States
Hi, I am an artist, wife, mom, gamer and the Elementary Art Educator at Donald Elementary, a sweet and wonderful school in Flower Mound, TX (outside of Dallas). This is a great place to see how we are integrating studio habits with technology and interdisciplinary connections. I also love to share my "wisdom" (Re: Experiences. From mistakes.) about teaching Elementary Art. I love what I do, and I've been doing it for a long time. Creating and teaching Art is what I live for. Enjoy.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A peak of Art: Sept 23-30, on-going projects

Our projects are in full gear! Here are some highlights:
4th grade: 
Ancient Egyptian Mummy Coffins (2D)
Guiding Idea
Ancient Civilizations used Art to communicate, explain the world around them, and honor their dead.
  • The class was divided into groups of 4-5 students. Students had to choose their group based on various skills, rather than friendships. For example, making sure they had someone strong at drawing, another strong in hieroglyphic, etc. (This is a gaming philosophy, btw )
  • One student was the Scribe, the official note taker for the group. They began with the mummy's identity and back story. They had a lot of fun with that!
  • Students explored a wide variety of resources to pull historical information: teacher handouts, books, websites, etc.
Tech (student choice): research, brainstorming and sketching final draft.
  • using their iPads, many students chose to work in Pic Collage (building collages of important features), others chose to take screen shots of mummy coffins photographs of their face and brought those into Sketchbook Express. Others kept Notes, or worked in Educreations. Some sketched their ideas in Inspire Pro or Sketchbook Express.
Or, some chose to create sketches with paper and art supplies. The scribe then took a picture of this.

Project: After tracing a group member, students have begun creating a life sized mummy coffin focusing on pattern and symmetry. They must use historical references.

Where we are heading:
Students are discussing color materials option (they have ruled out oil pastels, but I might show them the special metallic ones for final details! yay!)

They have a few weeks ahead of drawing and adding color. Neatness!

Cool Observations: I have done this project in different ways over the last 20 years. The planning/researching/sketching stage normally took about 3 weeks. This time, with the tech, it took a week and a half. That means more time to create the art, and we are all pretty excited about that.



3rd Grade:
Optical Illusions
Guiding Idea: Warm and cool colors can create depth

Lesson: using shape and advanced color theory, students are to create an optical illusion demonstrating depth. (Special 3D glasses from Sax are used to help the kids see this! They love it!)

Students reviewed art from the Renaissance and the laws of perspective.

Tech: Students used various art apps to help plan their color scheme and compositions, quickly demonstrating mastery of using smaller shapes and cool colors in the background, and larger shapes and warmer colors in the foreground.

Cool Observations: the digital component explained these complicated color concepts in no time. They got it, and got it quickly. No more lengthy color theory experiments. They didn't need it.

This student is using Doodle Dandy to create a symmetrical design. You can achieve this in Sketchbook Express as well.
Students chose their own materials. Many used markers, which I admit, looks awesome.

On-going student assessment: they hang their unfinished work on the board and look for the weak areas. Oh, and it's sideways. Oops.
Checking their work with 3D glasses!

These students are working on their ideas using the document camera so the whole class can contribute.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade: My pre-Assessments are done. Now, look at their first time with Free Choice Centers and a tutorial on using Sketchbook Express (1st grade) Check this out.

These 1st graders are creating a landscape in Sketchbook Express (the student at the top is using Drawing Pad). They needed almost no tutorial. It's like the tech knowledge was intrinsically there. In their brain. Weeeeiiiird.

Kinder is exploring their inner artist with a wide variety of cool options.

If you are tracking me on Tech Blooms, we are at the bottom: substitution. Because it's September. At that's where we should be.

What I learned this week: these kids totally understand parts of technology that normally would take me some time and head scratching to figure out. They had to teach me some things about layers that I forgot about, and it was the first time they had seen them.

How cool is that?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

iPads and 7 year olds: A Parent's Perspective:

So I got this message from a Donald parent:

"Curse you Leslie McReynolds, thanks to your recommendation my children have spent the last two hours proving that they are smarter than me! My seven year olds are coding their own games...characters, music, interaction, every element of gameplay. And while they are doing it they are problem solving, collaboration, and amazing creativity. The only problem is that they are already more adept than I am so I can't answer their questions. What a wonderful problem to have!"


Monday, September 23, 2013

Looky what I did. *giggle*

Ok, so check this out---


Seriously, when I post, I pretend no one is reading. My own mother doesn't even follow this blog. My blog says I have, like, I don't know, 22 followers (thanks Bloglovin' and Feedly! I know I have more! Huh.)Imagine my surprise when I was asked to be a guest blogger on our district's 1:X website?! Me? Have you read my stuff? I talk about Star Trek waaay too much.

This means I get to be a huge (loud) voice for Donald Elementary and Art(s) Education! I am going to be shining a huge (loud) spotlight on us, so buff up. THIS. IS. HAPPENING. PEOPLE.

A year ago I was fumbling around with blogging. Jessica at Art of Ed and Tricia Fuglestad have inspired me so much. (Jessica actually helped me set up my blog--she is a rock star.)Thanks to these awesome art educators, we art teachers here in LISD can raise our roof. Promote and model what we are already doing!

I intend to stay true to my goal of demonstrating practical ways to incorporate tech with traditional art making. Messy hands and clean iPads. It can work.

Keep checking it out. And send me your cool stuff!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Minecraft in the Art Room. Creepers gotta creep!

In case you didn't know, I am a gamer. I have been since video games were invented. I play a lot of games, from Scrabble to World of Warcraft. I believe there are strong benefits to gaming, and I am seeking awesome games to bring into the Art Room. (For more information about the benefits of gaming and how gaming can change the world, check out Jane McGonigal)


With the kids bringing their iPads to Art, I made some necessary additions to my Free Choice Centers (what the kids choose to do when they finish their project). Adding to origami, stamping, weaving, free draw, and assorted games/puzzles, we now can use the iPad as a Center!
No, they didn't rush through their work to get here :)

Some guidelines:

  • Art Apps only
  • 3 Questions (these are posted and repeated):
    • Are you being creative?
    • Are you thinking like and artist?
    • Is it appropriate?

I explained the 3 Questions to the kids.Here is how the conversation went:

Me: Is Candy Crush allowed?
Kids: Noooo.
Me: Plants vs Zombies?
Kids: NO!
Me: Minecraft?
Kids: No. Wait. Yes? YES!?

So why would I let the kids play Minecraft? Why wouldn't I!

First of all, it is a highly creative and (don't tell) educational game. Talk about STEAM. (ah, that is STEM with a healthy dose of ART). Second, many kids play, it is highly engaging and super fun.  Try this: ask a couple of classes how many kids play and note how many hands shoot up.

Ok, here are my Minecraft guidelines:

  • Creative mode only. There are no creepers in creative mode!
  • Students must be thinking and acting as an artist at all times.
  • Students understand they will not be playing every time they come to art, or even when they have Centers. They will draw, weave, etc. We are seeking balance!
  • If these privileges are abused in any way, this goes bye-bye.
Our kids LOVE Minecraft. Why not meet them halfway?

Fuzzy questions
  • what about other games like Minecraft? 
  • What about other creative games?
 This is where the 3 Questions have to be answered. If a kid is "making" goods for the sheer purpose of "selling" them, I don't see the creativity and artistry in that at all.

Teachers and Parents, if you really want to explore gaming, have your kids show you Minecraft. I promise you will at least you will have fun with your kids!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Way Cool Apps for iPads and how we are using them. I think.

I spent a LOT of time last year playing with the iPad and researching Art Apps to prepare for this year. I feel pretty good about where we are heading. 

Here are my driving questions: 

-How can we get our stuff OFF the iPad? This is a HUGE ISSUE for those of you sharing!
-How can we use this tech meaningfully without replacing traditional art materials? There HAS to be balance!

 So with this in mind, I thought I would share a portion of the informational sheet I sent home to our parents (my apologies for any overlap!):


Me: There is an App for building clay pots*
Your kids: Cool!
Me: Ok, we are going to do a clay project. Everyone take out your iPads.
Your kids: *crickets*
Me: Ok, now what if I said, here is a lump of clay, go make something?
Your kids: *cheers!*
Me: So, how could we use this clay making app to help us?
Your kids: we could use the app to help us with our design before we made it out of clay!
Me: Bingo!

We will use the apps to help us make our art better and stronger. Technology is a tool, not a replacement. We will continue to create with messy hands.

It is the nature of art to be messy, subjective and hard to define. That being said, here are my underlying 3 Questions** for using technology in my room:

Are you being creative?
Are you thinking as an artist?
Is this appropriate?

What is appropriate for one family may not be appropriate for another. Parents, the time for honest conversations is now.

These sticky, fuzzy issues are issues artists and art teachers have been dealing with for centuries. The only thing that has changed is the type of technology.
(Did you know that when Gutenberg invented movable type and the printing press in the 1440’s, it “led many superstitious people of the time to equate printing with Satan because it seemed to be magical.”? The Unsung Heroes, a History of Print, Dr. Jerry Waite, 2001.  And now we can’t imagine a world without printers! Not an Art reference, per se, but pretty interesting! )

I am committed to integrating tech with traditional art making in a meaningful way. I spent last year attending conventions learning how to effectively use iPads in the art rooms, talked to art teachers across the country for their experience, perspective and “must have apps” and did a ton of app research over the summer...

*(Yep. check out Let's Create Pottery)
** (I made this into a poster for my kids. So I can point at it a hundred times a day)

Here is my "fluid"  list of apps my kids need to download:

(I have no idea why these images are all over the place!? And I have a migraine so I amnotinthemoodtofixthem. Sorry ^.^)

Google Drive (my district is using Google Apps for Education in an effort to get more efficient and hopefully go paperless)

Snapseed (free): The Bomb Diggity for me. A photo editing app for images, allows saving directly to Goggle Drive. (So you can make a work of art on another app, save it to the Camera Roll, and then save it to Drive using Snapseed.)
Inspire Pro (free or paid): for painting 
    Sketchbook Express (free or paid): for drawing
Pic Collage (free): Classroom teachers LOVE this app, it is great for many, many things. Want some faculty-wide Brownie Points? Intro it as a way to make lock/home screen collages.
Doodle Dandy (free) Fun app about radial symmetry.
Drawing Pad (paid): optional paid app, but the best I have found for younger kids. Easy to understand and navigate.
Procreate (paid): optional, and the best on the market right now. I recommend this for my older students who plan to take Art in Middle School and High School.
ArtRage (paid): optional, similar to Procreate

Monday, September 2, 2013

1st Week Post! (or: How I Beat Laryngitis This Year!)

(official way cool art teacher disclaimer: I absolutely love my job. But the first week...seriously, it's a beating.) Oh, and this post is kinda wordy. I'm sorry.

OK peeps, whew. All I can say is YAY! The first week is over. I don't know about you guys, but I am normally a weepy, hoarse-throated, headache-y blob of worthlessness by Friday. I have been teaching for 20 plus years. I ALWAYS forget what the first week entails. Kinda like childbirth *wink wink*. Ha ha.

This is usually how it goes: The first day (Monday) is always AWESOME! Sunshine and unicorns and the kids are wonderful joys and I am super excited!!! I AM THE BEST TEACHER EVER!

See that blob in the paint? That's me. Or it might be a happy tree.
 By Thursday we teachers greet each other in the halls with glazed expressions, repeating the same phrase: we always forget what the first week is really like, don't we? Oh ha ha ha!  Thursday afternoon I literally hugged a wall. I walked up, spread my arms and just...hugged it.  The kids are cooked: tired and crying. Forget open ended, empathic questions. Ha! Older kids can barely keep their heads off the table. This is probably the only week of the entire year they do not talk. Kindergartners have this shell shocked expression, asking, do we really have to come back TOMORROW? Do we really have to do this again? 

What most people don't understand about being a "Specials" or "Fine Arts" teacher is that we have to give the exact same presentation to every single class we see. So for us, we repeat the first day of school for 4, 5, 6 or 7 days. I give the same song and dance, rinsed and repeated to 24 classes. It is the most important thing we teachers do to prepare for a successful school year. We plan for success, we manage expectations. If you don't do this, or some semblance of this, you are planning to fail.

These are the tried and true, can't-be-missed things I do every time I see a class the first week of school:
  1. seating charts-
  2. getting to know all the new kiddoes- 
  3. rules and procedures-
  4. where the trash can, sink and paper towels live-
  5. how this thingy works-
  6. please never touch the paper cutter-
  7. what exactly is considered a bathroom emergency-
  8.  iPads and how we are going to use them-
  9. introducing: App Tutorials!
  10. and if we have time: portfolios
Is it any wonder I can't talk or even make simple decisions by Friday? I am a wreck. My family usually spends Labor Day weekend treating me like I am recovering from surgery. I normally spend the weekend nursing terrible hoarseness,  migraines and exhaustion.

BUT NOT THIS TIME. I changed it up folks! I let the kids do most of the work. It was awesome! And I only had to deal with the migraine! And, well, some exhaustion, but my throat feels great!

Check this out!
 I asked each class: 
How do you want Art to be this year?
What projects do you want to do?
How should artists treat each other and the room?

1st graders deciding how they want Art to be this year!
So I threw this up on my document camera and wrote their answers, verbatim I might add. I absolutely LOVE their thoughtful responses.

I asked them if they could do these things. A student said, "If we write them, sure!"
So that was a cool moment. I allow a lot of freedom in my room, more than a lot of teachers, but having the kids help plan our yearly projects and the atmosphere of the room is new and really special.

Check out 5th grade:

I apologize, my handwriting is atrocious. Hopefully you can see all the awesomeness here.

Can you see where they said to act like a Smurf?! Happy and hardworking! Can you believe it. A 5th grade boy.

And 3rd grade:

Spy Talk! How awesome is that?!

What did I learn? These kids want to create with yarn, clay and they desperately want to learn observational drawing skills. With the iPads and other tech, they want to learn photography.

They want a judgement free, relaxing and quiet Art Room. But is it really quiet? Not always. Nope. We are too creative and chatty for that. So "Spy Talk" and soft music-Pandora Calm Meditation-to the rescue!

I will be posting these kid-created Rules and Procedures in my room as Tree Maps. Hopefully, since the kids have ownership, I won't have to remind them as much??? Hmmm. I will keep you posted.

So if you stuck with me this far...Yay! Thank you! And here is your prize: You really are awesome. You are EXACTLY where you need to be. You ARE changing lives.

To those starting Back to School this week, go get 'em. Hug a wall if you need to. Drink lots of water, sleep a ton and let the kids do some talking.