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.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Our District Art Show--hanging tonight.

Our Open House Art Show--needs to be up by Thursday, 900 works of art.

Staying at work till 10pm.

I. Am. Delirious.

But I love it.

Each box for each class. The kids thought it was pizza. BUMMER.
Students select their own work to go in the art show. 

Laying art work to figure out spacing.

A corner of a table, this is 3 feet high...and growing. 

The table for mounting, labeling, crying, sleeping. ..

Friday, February 14, 2014

not sure which is worst....

It's Friday.

It's a full moon.

Mercury is in retrograde (for my cosmic friends).

It's the first day of outdoor recess in 3 weeks.

It's Valentine's Day.

It's class party day.

To those who have a snow day today...please read my mind and stop laughing at me.

...it's 8:45 am and I already have a headache and that glazed look in my eyes.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Teaching Textiles, the 80's are calling!

I love textiles.

An oil painter since I was twelve years old,  textiles opened an entire new world of creative expression. I was surprised because I had assumed, at 18, that crafts (pipe cleaners and Popsicle sticks, right?) were beneath me. But then I learned about Crafts: textiles, ceramics, glass blowing, wood working, jewelry, metal work. Oooh, thoooose.

I fell in love...

...when I was in college in south Jersey,  I desperately wanted to major in Fiber Arts (oil painter, remember). I had my own floor loom in one of the weaving studios, with sunlight streaming through a sparkling weeping cherry tree, happily weaving for hours and hours...

My dad talked me out of it.

(right after I spent hundreds of dollars on the most luscious yarn. Which I might still have, just saying...)

So now I get my fix from teaching textiles to my sweet elementary kids.

Plus, with the emphasis on technology, I have noticed a distinct LACK of fine motor skills, especially with the younger students. They need this.

AND, as your students can probably tell you, not everyone loves drawing and painting. I can tell you, going into week 2, there is not one kid who is bored or complaining. Not lying. *check out 5th grade, below.

Teaching fiber arts can be a guaranteed success, if you take the time to teach the techniques slowly and properly. I start with kinder and 1st grade, and by 4th grade, they are comfortable and proficient, leading to deeper, richer content.

Students become Student Teachers and assist new or struggling students. I pop on the Enya station on Pandora, (these kids love it, sounds like video game music) and embrace the happy.

Textiles are very easy to modify to meet student needs. For example, a student who couldn't handle cup weaving did just fine with a cardboard loom, and smiled the whole time.

My favorite quote EVER came from a 3rd grader (select baseball player ^.^), who struggled with weaving a bit. He said, "Mrs. McReynolds, weaving is just not in my dictionary".

I hugged him and we laughed and I was able to modify it (instead of continuous plain weave, he used precut pieces of yarn. Problem solved.)

If fiber arts have been missing from your lesson plans, I encourage you to try it. It is a great way to teach texture, pattern, color theory, social studies/history...plus it brings a sense of calm accomplishment to your room.

Kindergarten: Paper Weaving, Guiding Ideas: intro to warm and cool colors (painted papers), beginning weaving techniques, the history and importance of weaving

Remember these? Now we are weaving with them, and the acrylic paint really made the papers substantial.

Beginner weaving tips:
Do not assume kids know how to fold and cut paper. Take the time to have the kids fold their paper "hamburger style", then take a ruler and trace a line at the top (open edge)-their name goes here. If possible-have them do this, they need to learn these skills!

Using the ruler, have them draw 5 vertical lines to that first line. By cutting these lines, they will create their own loom.

Notice the baggies? Lifesaver for me. Each kid gets one and they write their name with sharpie.

Now for the weft--those strips of paper. They bring their second painting to me and I quickly chop it with the paper cutter, the strips go immediately in their baggie and then they practice "plain" or "tabby" weave.

...halfway through class...and it was SuperKid day in kinder ;)

Easily modified for children with special needs.

Early finishers are now the "student teachers" and help others (not DO, but assist).

Beautiful! But we are done yet...stayed tuned for more!

2nd Grade: Cup Weaving, Guiding ideas: color can create patterns, form and function are related, review of techniques, history and importance (you like your clothes, sheets and towels? Thank you weaving!)

Basically, you cut a plastic cup (or paper plate) with ODD numbers of slits-this is very important. On a Solo cup, I usually cut 9 or 11 slits. Just make sure the tabs are odd numbered too. Or it won't work.

I had a TON of red Solo cups, so that is what we used. Normally I would get clear or white as the red limited some color schemes.

4th grade: Cardboard Loom Weaving, Guiding Ideas: Student choice for adding texture, color schemes, patterns and the option to use some advanced weaving techniques (Rya knots, Basket Weave, French Terry Loops, Dove Tailing), adding beads, braiding or unraveling the yarn prior to weaving for added texture and visual interest.

My handouts that explain different weaves and Rya knots.

This student has started basket weave and Rya knots. This is the "rough" beginning, those end will get sewed into the weaving at the end.

I have handouts that demo advanced techniques. Students help each other. Here a 4th grader is showing off a strong Dove Tail techniques, which she is teaching to other students.

Extremely happy kids...what, you can't tell?

5th grade: Glue Batik, Guiding Ideas: lines can be expressive, creating resist, color theory

This was fantastic! We used unbleached muslin (Joanne's with a coupon), taped to white paper. Draw the design with white glue, allow to dry, and then add color with acrylic paint or sharpies*
Draw lines with glue, allow to dry, paint with acrylics-

-nervously about to soak their batiks in water-
Yes those are Dollar Store containers on kraft paper. I was rushing. Whatever works, right?

-soak and gently scrub off glue
* if you use colored sharpies, use rubbing alcohol and cotton balls to gently rub the sharpie, they will blend and bleed and get a cool affect. Colors tend to be brighter, but you do not get the distinctive "crinkled" batik look. Wash the glue off in water.

Next up for 5th grade: Latch Hook (mini) rugs. YES! Guiding Ideas: geometric and organic shapes, proper technique, color schemes, art can be functional

Ok this is crazy. CRAZY. I was not prepared for how enthusiastic the kids would be. One girl teared up, I am not lying. 

Currently there is a run on Joanne's and Michaels to buy latch hook supplies. HA! And now they know HOW to do it, so there is no need to buy a kit, they can design their own. Because I kinda hate the kits.

a rug I made in college...

Sizes: The latch hook on the top left is TOO BIG for elementary, 10 X 10.
When I did this as a newbie teacher, I had a student revolt on my hands. It took about 12 class periods to finish. Not good.

Kids can start with the smaller (4X4), or if they are up to the challenge, they can do the 6 X 6 or the 8 X 8. OR they can do more than one 4 X 4. *Note: most are choosing 6 X 6 and 8 X 8. Those kids choosing the 4s are planning on making a few.

I did show the kids these DIY blogs as they have clear and articulate latch hook directions but also, they show the REALITY of DIY projects (time intensive!):

A Beautiful Mess

sakacon-beginning of rug   (notice 1 hour of work?) This was key for the kids.

sakacon--1 month later and directions 

brand new supplies!!!! OMGEEEEEEEEE!


Below are images from two 50 minute class periods, various stages:
Step 1: we practice. The latch hook can be a demon. I tell the kids to approach this like a "mini boss" in a video game. You know that level on Candy Crush or the monster in WoW that you can't beat? So you keep trying and trying out new techniques? It's like that. Once I said this to the kids, they all understood. This requires patience and perseverance, skills they might be lacking????
My fifth grade Art Helpers are coming in at recess to cut yarn. This works great.

Step 2 (the hardest, because they want to start!): create your design. Simple shapes and patterns are best. Use colored sharpies to color the grid fabric.

Step 3: The baggie. Everything goes in here: the practice piece, the sketch, the fabric and a handful of yarn to get started. Of course, their name and class are on the baggie ;)
Step 4: Begin! Note: usually we tape the edges, but my junky masking tape was acting up and being naughty, so I just told the kids to avoid the edges for now. 

  At the end of class, they didn't want to leave Art. They were moaning. I had to create a special pass to allow the kids to come to art during their recess, but only 5 at a time. Because, 5th grade. So I made this crazy pass/poster that the kids hung in their classroom and they have signed up for different days.

And now I have teachers asking me for an after school lesson...how fun is that?

I wrote this post this weekend. Look what greeted me this Monday morning:

Christina  designed and created this over the weekend!
She (and mom. Thanks mom!!!!) went and bought the grid fabric, she picked out the yarn and check this out!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The realities of teaching, part 2: SNOW. In Texas.

Our school, and it is SNOWING! 

(Disclaimer for my East Coast friends and family: I KNOW. I love you, but say nothing! We do not have any resources to handle snow, nary a snow shovel nor snow boots nor snow blowers. Yes, my sister and my HS friends have 8 feet of snow and no power and yet they are going to work and their kids are going to school. But this is Texas, it is supposed to be 60 degrees!)


This is what we woke up to. This is NOT RIGHT. This is TOO COLD AND IT IS SNOWING AND IT IS TOO COLD...!!!!!!!! ARRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!

School was not cancelled, and two teachers fell in the parking lot. One was our music teacher, and she had to leave. Our PE teacher was supposed to be home sick, but no sub picked up her job and when she saw the music teacher had to leave, she decided to come to work. *props*

So that leaves me as the only somewhat healthy teacher on my team. 

No sub to cover music and a sick PE teacher.
Kids are WIRED.
They have not had recess in over 2 weeks. 
I cannot teach my art lessons and have an additional 8-12 extra kids in my class. Won't work, not enough room to do what we are doing.

So what are we doing? Just keep swimming. This day is about keeping the kids safe and keeping the school day as normal as possible.

We combined all classes (by grade level) and had an impromptu Flex day:

5th grade enjoying a game of I don't know. Dodgeball? With Castles? I have no idea. I had a headache.

5th graders enjoying a Snow Party! 

Shy girl--this is a good example of our winter gear. This is about it folks. We don't have snow pants or long underwear or anything like that...unless they are skiers. Then they have it.

The rest of the classes today are dancing to "Just Dance" videos projected on the wall like a drive in movie.

MAMMA MIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

The entrance to our school--this will be frozen solid by dismissal. Black ice is the issue here. That is not fluffy, fun snow.
Who is this crazy masked man, shoveling and salting our school entrances in 19 degrees????
Oh, it is my sweet husband, Ken McReynolds!!!!!!!!

1st graders dancing to What Does the Fox Say? Hilarious.

We now have early dismissal: we get out 20 minutes early. Secondary is getting out first. Roads are skating rinks. Everyone be careful!

I will update with dismissal pix, because that should be AWESOME.

*UPDATE: dismissal was easy, lots of parents came and checked their kids out of school early. It was 50 today, the snow is gone. Catastrophe over.