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, December 8, 2014

'twas the weeks before Christmas break... (or, what these weeks look like for art teachers!)

A re-post from last year...worth repeating!

The Holidays are upon us. 

Ahhhhhhhh, so sweet!

The weeks before the holiday break will probably be the hardest weeks of your professional career (equal to it? The last week of school. But at least there is an huge end in sight!). If you are new to teaching, or new to elementary, there are some super important things to consider. 
Typical behavior this week, amiright?

Lesson #1: TV lies.
That precious joy radiating from angelic children's faces is FICTION. TV has ruined us all. Kids do not show excitement with wonder, delight and sweet giggles. Nay, nay, there are tears and fights and back talking and temper tantrums from YOUR BEST BEHAVED KIDS. You will have steam coming out of your ears by Thursday. 

How to deal? Repeat after me: PICK YOUR BATTLES. These kids are exhausted, beyond excited and burnt out. They are going to be irritable, cranky and teary. Try being understanding and patient. You are the adult in the room. Try to not lose your cool and punish out-of-character behavior (unless, you know, you have to). Wait until January and if the poor behavior continues, then deal with it. Chances are the kids will come back more refreshed and ready (hahaha) to learn.

You better watch out, you better not pout....

Lesson #2: Do not expect their best work this week. You won't get it. You will only make yourself cry.
This is NOT the week to introduce brand new and shiny content-rich curriculum. It is a waste of your and the kids time, as you will have to reteach all over after the break. The kids will not remember one thing. Re-read Lesson 1.

You do not have the kids full attention right now. You can't compete with the upcoming season. And you are going to get maybe 75% effort and attempt.

However, this is NOT the week to "just let them have free time". Unless you want a migraine that makes you cry and vomit, that is. You don't, do you? 'Cause those are the worst!

What to do? Here are some awesome things I and other Art Ed teachers have done over the years, depending on each different class/student situation:

  1. Get out those art games you bought/made and never have time for. Divide the kids and have competitions. Or have 2 game stations and rotate halfway through. Yes, this is the louder option. 
  2. 1 Day Project-Observational Drawing. Elementary kids LOVE to learn how to draw. They really want this important skill, plus they can practice over the vacation. Have the kids draw from life. Here are some fun things to consider:
    1. winter/holiday/Christmas decorations (Dollar Store is the bomb, the cheesier the better!)-ornaments and garland, snowmen, etc. Great way to discuss composition and various perspective (birds eye view? View finders?)
    2. ski equipment
    3. winter stuff: gloves, scarves, mittens
    4. Boots and slippers-they LOVE drawing shoes! Great texture lesson!
    5. Holiday lights. Try turning them on and having the kids draw on black paper with colored pencils or oil pastels. Great way to observe light and color, transparency, highlights, etc. I do this with 2nd grade up.
    6. Holly branches, pine cones, acorns, etc. Again, look for interesting composition: make all the branches go off the paper on 3 sides, overlapping elements, that kind of thing.
  3. Holiday Lights: there are lessons for this all over the Internet. Basically, make a template/stencil of a holiday light bulb, trace it multiple times in a strong composition, and using pastels or metallic crayons (etc), add color and glow. It works best on black paper. Check these out:
    1. art with Ms. Gram
    2. buggy and buddy
    3. Pinterest has a ton of ideas as well
  4. Snow, snow snow! Read a beloved snowman book or show the movie, "The Snowman". Bonus, these works of art can be displayed throughout the winter season.
    1. snowy landscapes, talk about weather, time of day, value, tints, etc.!
    2. snow people:
    3. "a snow ninja", kinder, acrylic painted papers
      "a snowman at night", kinder, acrylic painted papers
      1. showing emotions
      2. showing 3D using shadows
      3. doing a fun activity
      4. in a nighttime landscape
      5. throughout the seasons
      6. from various perspective points of view (bird's eye, worm's eye)
      7. throughout history (Science/Social Studies integration)
      8. in different biomes (Science/Social Studies integration)
  5. Here's the lesson I got from my student teaching days at Cranberry Pines ES, Medford, NJ, back in OMG 1990: Kirigami paper ornaments.  I do this every year on this week as the kids basically demand it of me. They love it, I love it- it is fun, cool, teaches REALLY important fine motor skills that more and more kids are lacking AND uses up a bunch of scrap collage papers.

Here's the link:Kirigami ornaments

This teaches kids kinder and up how to (yes, I have to assist the younger kids with drawing lines, but I will not fold or cut for them):

  • fold paper more than 1 time
  • cut folded paper
  • symmetry
  • 3D paper sculpture/paper craft
  • follow directions carefully
  • use scrap paper to create collage details
  • utilize imagination and creativity

Whatever you do, make sure it takes the entire class time to do your 1 day project, so no "down" time which leads to tears and other problems.

Avoid playing Christmas music. I know, I know, they are cute and 'tis the season, but what you will really get is an out of control sing along that ends with tears and other problems (plus, the non-Christians will silently thank you).

Breathe deep, take care of yourself, drink lots of water, pick your battles, take a nap when you get home, and we will ALL GET THROUGH THIS WEEK TOGETHER!

Bring it!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! I hope you are having a good week as well. This week is going EXACTLY AS I THOUGHT IT WOULD *banging head on wall*. Stick a fork in me, I am done.

  2. Great post! This is the week from @#$%^&*!! The kids have been off since before Thanksgiving but they are really going off the deep end now! On Friday there were so many meltdown's in progress in the building I was starting to think I was working in a Psych Unit!!! Not kidding! I have not been out yet this year so I am taking Wednesday off to bake the rest of my Christmas cookies... I can't wait for the break it is very needed! I promised myself I will not be doing any school work and it will all be family and me time! Have a great holiday and hang in there this week!

    1. Hope your week is going ok! Enjoy your family, eat good food and take naps :) That is my plan, anyway...oh and paint in my studio. And play video games. And train my two feral dogs. That's all.