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, April 28, 2014

(the way cool) Donald Art Room has gone viral!!!

Well, kinda...in my mind anyway...

Last week I had a lovely visit from Nancy Walkup, who was brave to come on the afternoon of a standardized testing day...(yeah, that would be livestock noises day. Go figure.)
We are very fortunate that this wonderful lady lives close by. We had a great afternoon discussing comprehensive art ed strategies, including STEAM and meaningful interdisciplinary connections. (Nancy is also helping plan our PD for next school year, so LISD teachers, this should rock!)

Yes, we are aware the fish is coming our of my head. It just had to be a part of this. I also love the bubble placement!

And then...I got a sweet email from fellow way cool art teacher Mrs. C congratulating me on this!

School Arts Magazine

Check this blurb out!!!

Here's a blurb:
"This past week I had the chance to spend some quality time in Leslie McReynolds' art room at Donald Elementary School in Flower Mound, Texas.  I met Leslie through the Internet and was there to start planning some professional development offerings (such as design thinking, STEAM) for her district.  I knew I was in for a treat when I walked into the school and saw the halls and display cases filled with student art work.

Check out Leslie's blog, the (Way Cool) Donald Art Room. The bulleted points below are condensed from Leslie's teaching philosophy online. These ideas should be helpful to every art teacher.."

It is so cool to see this kind of support for the Donald Art program that benefits all our amazing kids. Thank you, Nancy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cure for Standardized Testing Brain Fry: Zentangles?!

Here's a post from last year. Thought I would repost it as it as just as meaningful! Because I am a gluttonous ding dong, I didn't even believe myself.

Tried regular lessons yesterday=FAIL
Did this today=awesomeness

Gotta admit-I was on the fence with Zentangles. I mean, they are fancy doodles, right? But STARR is upon us and that means crazy schedule changes and fried kids. I decided to try it out.

I explained how we want the fried side of the brain to take a nap, and how to bring out the side in charge of creativity and imagination.

I did this with all my 3-5th graders.  

This is what a fried 4th grade brain looks like after days of state testing. 

What my room sounds like: quiet with Pandora Calm station. So peaceful.

 No one talked talk for 45 minutes. 

 I loved the intense focus and concentration, the powerful attention to detail and the observation skills this project used.

 Kids reaction: BEST PROJECT EVER! Really???

They want to keep working on them. And I can't wait to display them :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Life in the Donald Art room during a 3 day week. With a lunar eclipse. And a holiday.

WHOOO Hoooooo what a fast, noisy week! Only three days with the kids,but we got so many wonderful things started. 

First up: 5th grade, Altered Books
This is a popular lesson! We compared traditional books vs e-books, tech vs non-tech. Holy cow. What an amazing discussion between the pros and cons of  this type of technology. These kids are so insightful. They were also excited to "upcycle" their discarded library book. Our librarian, Kathy Hoffman, came in and talked to the kids about how she goes about "weeding" books (and that school library books are bought with tax dollars, so they cannot be sold or donated) This is a great sculpture project and really allows the students to explore their creative problem solving. 

Yes. RosaLynn loves this picture. She ok'ed it.
Fold it, roll it, curl it, rip it, glue it, BOP IT!
  This is only the second time we have worked on these, so they are just at the beginning stages. I love when they start adding their own personality to these sculptures!

OK. This is something I have not done in about fifteen years. I am teaching these guys how to cut with a blade. Artists use blades all the time, and I can't remember a time in school when I didn't have a lino or exacto blade. Times are different, but these kids really wanted to carve out the center of their book. They have really risen to this challenge! (Oh. And I stood with them the entire time.)
Wait. Collin did get an injury: a paper cut. 

Loving the penguins pop-up!



3rd Grade: Digital Selfies
 I have continued my fascination between the stylistic differences between "Self Portraits" and "Selfies" with our third grade (see: last post)

The kids were able to explain a "self portrait" and then I had them act it out. Yearbook smiles and Mona Lisa poses. Again.
Then we explored "selfies" and their personalities popped out. It is so cool!

The kids have wanted to learn photography tips and tricks, so I decided to focus on pose and position (composition), background and the use of edits and filters (no more than two filters!). We spent some time looking at Andy Warhol's self portraits and talking about what he was trying to share through his art.
They loved talking about his hair ^.^

I showed them how to best take pictures using their iPads, using Snapseed or a similar editing app. The kids need to create two distinct selfies demonstrating the answer to this question: Who Am I? They are third graders, so I am curious how they will do:

This makes my heart happy. I think this might be the best picture ever.

Photographic editing features and filters have transformed photography. Use them wisely!

And then, 4th grade: Medieval Rose Windows (radial symmetry)

This is a perfect example of how Art Ed has changed over the years. We used to make these really big--the size of paper plates. But we really cannot work that big anymore for a variety of reasons: budget cuts, assessments and plain old time. One way to deal with this is to change the scale. It's ok. Same project, just smaller. The kids LOVED making the miniature Rose windows. They felt productive and efficient. And who doesn't like that?

Our previous weaving project took many weeks, so it is good to balance with shorter lessons.
Sketch on manila, tape on left over laminating film, fill in with Sharpie. 

Happy Easter and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

5th grade ceramics: Self portraits vs. Selfies

I have become fascinated by the subtle differences between "self portrait" and "selfie", especially when kids explain the terms.

Encouraging my 5th graders explain or demo self portrait--- immediately every kid has a yearbook smile and a Mona Lisa stance. The term suggests formality. Ages of Masterpieces.

Yet say the word selfie, and duck lips appear. Hand poses, head cocked. And then...personalities pop out. Quiet and shy, scared and nervous, confident and ready. Social media ready.

So I threw out our latest challenge, as it is April and standardized testing is upon us. (OH! Hey! This signals to the kiddoes that school is OVAH. Oh, wait, it isn't??) They are all heading to new schools next year, whether to the neighborhood middle school(s) or moving or whatever, everyone is facing a big change.

Our theme?

The end of an era. Show me how you feel.

This needed to be a ceramic portrait. The kids were instructed to use emotion, expression, unique clothing, an interesting perspective, something to show us how they feel about the end of elementary school.

*disclaimer*...maybe, juuuuust maybe, there is a slight chance that this was influenced by the fact that my daughter is graduating high school in a few weeks, and maybe I might be a little melancholy and maybe I thought what mom or dad wouldn't love a ceramic portrait of their baby leaving fifth grade? 

We used the iPads to create digital selfies, something most of the kids already had in their camera roll, just saying, which were printed in black and white.

In the interest of Why Re-Invent the Wheel??? I showed them Blick's awesome video:

The beautiful thing about using videos as your demo is that the kids GET IT. You don't have to re-do. These kids today learn everything from videos, so you are speaking their language. 
tracing the photo with Crayola markers--

Using the ribbon tools to softly carve...
allowing the clay to dry....

Stayed tuned for AF: After the Firing. The kids and I are super excited about these! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Leveling up!

This is, by far, one of my favorite things to say to kids:

"We are leveling up!"

This magical phrase is an amazing way to teach more advanced skills and techniques. It encourages stronger techniques, better craftsmanship and even higher behavior expectations. I swear. It is magic.

Many kids take dance, karate, swimming lessons that have them level up to a more challenging level.
Lots of kids play sports where they level up to more challenging positions and plays.
Most kids play some kind of game that allows them to level up.

They understand what this means. They love it. It excites and intrigues them.

"Leveling up" allows you to really TEACH TECHNIQUES to kids who UNDERSTAND this is new territory. And that is could be hard or awkward at first.

"Leveling up" sends a clear message to the kids that you think they are responsible and worthy of this honor--and they will strive to keep it. What their faces when you say it. They get excited.

"Leveling up" also says there is no going backward. (What Dolphin wants to go back to the doggie paddling Guppies?)

Kindergarten students are leveling up their drawing skills. They are adding depth with overlapping, creating texture and detailed patterns, and learning how to hold the pencil so they can draw "like an artist": lightly and softly to allow for erasing.

Check out this kindergartners' posture! Holy cow, I am jealous. I love her concentration and pencil grip.

And what happens when a kid does fall back to an earlier (and at times, undesirable!) behavior, because they will?

Love and Logic, baby. So easy:
  • Sorry guys, scribbling is not part of this level. 
  • Rushing and sloppy work was last years level. What level should you be on now?
  • I know leveling can be hard at first, but you will get it! (Just like you got that video game boss-soccer kick-swim stroke-basketball throw-complicated dance step-etc!)
Even if it doesn't work 100% of the time,  this is a great tool to keep in your toolbox. Plus, it makes me happy to say it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tis the season: Snarky, Moody, Padfoot and Tears.

I solemnly swear I am in a good mood.

Picasso's "Crying Woman". Look like anyone you know?

Testing time is upon us. 

If you are new to teaching, or new to witnessing the, um, let's say stress (10 year old kids crying, kids needing medication for stress, kids refusing to get out of cars, kids asking to be put on prayer lists at church...yes, this is real) of elementary standardized testing, then BOYOBOY are you in for a fun month or two!

You are probably going to find that practically everyone in your building is walking around with PermaScowl and Eye Ball Roll.  You will fully live the word"snarky".  You will experience a stress level so high you can taste it. 

Standardized testing is a BEATING. For everyone.

Here are some important things to remember:

*HIDE. Hide if you can. Hide in your room and teach the kids or do your testing duty, but hide nonetheless. This is the time to lay low, no drama. 

 *SMILE once a day. Even if it hurts. Even if it's to a Snickers bar. If you succeed, try to laugh at something non-snarky. Baby steps.

*Be a source of positive energy. Avoid toxic. Venting is one thing: we all need to vent. Spreading toxic negativity only adds to the terrible atmosphere in your school. Nobody's got time for that!

*OK...this one is super hard for me: don't take things personally. Remember, if people are irritable and cranky during this time,  it is probably not about you. Or... it could be. Who knows?

*Remember why you became a teacher. It was NOT to administer small group tests. It was for the kids. It was for the love of teaching art to these kids.

*A friend sent this to me today. Take a second and read it, feel your soul grow. May is around the corner!

Back in 2006, a group of students at Xavier High School in New York City (one of whom, "JT," submitted this letter) were given an assignment by their English teacher, Ms. Lockwood, that was to test their persuasive writing skills: they were asked to write to their favourite author and ask him or her to visit the school. Five of those pupils chose Kurt Vonnegut. His thoughtful reply, seen below, was the only response the class received.

Transcript follows.

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.

Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, butrhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut