Author Archives: krystalmills
Thank you to Claire Holt for once more writing an amazing guest blog post! Fantastic ideas for incorporating art in middle school!
For enthusiastic students who are entering the fifth and sixth grades, life begins to shape itself in a myriad of fascinating ways as adolescents develop their sense of identity and nurture their ever-changing interests and attributes as the world opens before them. With so many possibilities awaiting and the desire to learn combined with the complex changes that begin to take place as they enter one of the most vital transitional phases of life, keeping the classroom open as an inclusive and dynamic space is essential. Engaging interest and cultivating critical thinking in preparation for the oncoming high school years is critical, and one of the best ways to do this is incorporate creative activities that are accessible and fun.
Here is where the humanities continue to play an important role, despite its reduced presence in the classroom over recent years due to cuts in public education. The core creative processes that drive innovative problem-solving skills as well as collaboration and a healthy venue for expression are essential for succeeding in today’s world, so it’s important to never take their value for granted. Through the discovery of music, art, and literature, individuals will find a unique outlet for their voice and incorporating them into the classroom – particularly art, and it can be included on a multi-disciplinary level.
Enhancing the Learning Experience through a Variety of Mediums
Art provides one of the most revealing mediums through which people can come to better understand the lives of their ancestors and the resonances of various events and beliefs throughout history. One of the most exciting and immersive ways to learn about past events and penetrate the “how”, “why”, as well as the “what” is to take a look through art textbooks at some of the vibrant mediums which artists used to portray the dynamic world around them. Featuring some of history’s most iconic works and inspiring the class to use similar techniques and create their own masterpieces will make this even more integrative – Medieval mosaics and coats of arms can be composed from construction paper, paint, and a little imagination, and can even be created online for a practice brainstorm. Small-scale models of ancient wonders can be made by using clay, cardboard, glue, popsicles, toothpicks, cloth, and paint etc. Building a bridge and testing its resilience by placing weights on it is one way to experiment with the basics of engineering as well as encourage peer participation and resourcefulness.
Finding Innovative Ways to Share Information
As well as discovering the many joys and complexities of art and architecture, teachers can generate interest in other creative fields which are found in the worlds of science, math, and information. As graphic design becomes the main medium by which facts and resources are delivered through the improvement of technological advances in media, experimenting with different ways to share this information is a vital skill for the growing generations. Using collages, colorful flow charts, diagrams, and 3 dimensional models – like a model of the solar system – draws on both visual and kinetic learning techniques, as well as transcending traditional methods of recording information.
Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda states that “Great science is about thinking out of the box. And art is way out of the box, and having that kind of influence improves both sides. Artists test the edges of how humanity is and can be, and scientists make it happen.” Suggesting that one of the best ways to improve education at the earlier levels would be to more effectively combine the art and science communities, Maeda follows the forward-thinking educators who are seeking to work with more interesting methods of instruction.
By handing over the gauntlet to the class so to speak, students are more motivated to try out their own ideas and methods and with some encouraging guidance can develop their talents. The learning process which is undertaken during every project is gift enough in itself, but getting to enjoy the finished product and competing in local events featuring students from other classrooms and schools is another excellent activity which inspires community involvement. Classrooms can even go the extra mile and learn the value of helping out others by painting murals for local libraries and other public spaces, and witnessing the importance of how art can transform a community.
With a little bit of creativity, students and teachers can create an environment where the level of learning is both enjoyable and memorable, and cultivate their potential for thinking outside of the box which will equip them for success in years to come.
I got to be a part of a fantastic project again this year – our Holiday E-book! It’s jam-packed with freebies and holiday tips! Make sure to download your copy for this year! There are actually three holiday e-books, organized by grade level – I’m leaving all three links below for your browsing pleasure!
I’m happy to a part of this month’s “Facebook Freebie Frenzy” for grades 6-12! There are twelve of us participating this month and the frenzy runs through until the 9th of December. Hop over to each Facebook page, click on the FB Frenzy tab and you’ll be on your way to downloading your freebie! So fun! After the 9th, the Freebie Frenzy tabs will disappear, so don’t miss out!
Here are the grade 6-12 participants for this month!
December Freebie Frenzy Map (Click to check out all of the Freebie Frenzy groups!)
So if you didn’t hear, my school is in a competition to win $140 000 for an inclusive playground. I posted about it back in October. Well, you helped us to end the round in first place (thanks again) and catapulted us into the semi-final round. Yay you!
Poof! Semi-finals have begun today and guess what? We are in first place again – out of 92 projects! I’m not surprised – I really do believe that we’re going to win! However, just in case my enthusiasm isn’t enough…I mean, just for safety sake – if you could spare a moment perhaps you could register your email and vote for us? Maybe?
How cool will it be to find out in a month’s time that a $140 000 playground project to help children with disabilities and an entire community, has been made a reality and YOU were a part of it? I’m thinking super-cool! Incredible, even!
So, just so that you don’t feel left out when I post that amazing “WE WON” post, (because again, I really feel like we’re going to win…) how about you hop over to Aviva and register your email and throw your votes our way! You can vote once a day until December 11th. It’ll only take a few seconds of your time and we would VERY MUCH appreciate it!!!! I mean, I can’t even put into words what your votes mean to us. Okay, I’m done – it’s just that this a cause that is close to my heart. Obviously
Thanks so much and happy voting! Oh, did I mention that we’d love any shares, likes, tweets or pins also? We’ll take it all!
So again, “SOURIS A PLAYGROUND FOR ALL” thanks you!
Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway last week. The winners have been contacted and we’re waiting to hear back from everyone!
A quick note this evening to let you know about the Cyber Monday Sale that Teachers Pay Teachers is having Dec 2nd and 3rd. I’ve decided to begin my sale this evening and my entire TPT store is discounted! Happy browsing!
We’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada. (Man that turkey was good, too!) Anyhow, with Thanksgiving just around the corner for folks in the US, I decided it was time for a giveaway! And, I’m not doing it alone!
Kate from Kate’s Classroom Café and I have come together to give thanks for a special group of teachers – amazing middle school teachers, of course! This giveaway is subject specific and just for you!
There are lots of fantastic prizes to be won, so be sure to enter now so that you don’t miss out! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few new goodies before the holiday season? Of course it would! So let’s get to it!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
So, middle school teachers, thanks for all that you do! You're a special group of people.
You are appreciated! Good luck and thanks for stopping by!
“I think I might actually read this book.” Music to my ears in class just the other day, while doing a simple activity on leads.
The basic idea of the activity is to show students how to take what they appreciate in a good lead -what grabs their attention and apply it to their own writing. Simple. However, I have found that this activity serves more purposes than just that!
Here’s how I like to do my “great leads” activity:
1) Have students make a chart in their LA scribblers with the following headings: Title, Lead and My Thoughts
2) Take your class to the library (I used my own class library this year)
3) Have students choose 5 books randomly from almost anywhere in the library (you may wish to focus just on fiction or non-fiction, and omit poetry)
4) Have students record the info under each heading for the books that they choose
It always amazes me how this simple activity engages even the reluctant readers in the room. I think it’s because the expectations are something that everyone can attain – they don’t have to READ the book, just copy that first sentence and decide if they like it or not – easy!
Although this is a lesson on “what makes a good lead” and how to apply those characteristics to their writing, something else happens during this time.
Kids are looking at books – all kinds of books. They may have expectations of the book and they may not. They may pick up books they’d like to read, books that they think they’d never read, books that look interesting or just plain weird.
What has happened with my students when I’ve done this activity over the last three years, is that it gets them excited about books! They love sharing the great leads that they find and tearing apart the ones that they don’t like. The discussion is awesome! I have found that everyone contributes to the sharing portion of this lesson, because they only have to read one sentence aloud to the class and most (if not all) are okay with that. They also find books that they realize they’d like to read (because they want to know where that amazing first sentence leads). That was an unexpected surprise the first time that I did this activity.
In addition, they hear leads from books that their classmates have found and it’s like it opens up a whole new world to them.
If you haven’t explored leads with your students – try this activity out! You need no prep, and I guarantee you that your students will gain a better grasp of how to hook a reader through their own writing, while getting hooked themselves!
Coming Up With Ideas
Some children struggle with art because they find it hard to come up with new, creative ideas. They look at a blank piece of paper, and all they can see is a blank piece of paper. Finding new ways to help these kids to unlock their creativity can ensure that they get to enjoy art class as much as everyone else. One of the reasons why art is so important in education is that it encourages students to express themselves and to come up with their own ideas. Giving the less artistic kids a little nudge of inspiration can help them all to become more inventive and imaginative. It can be particularly rewarding if you need to reach out to students with additional needs. Children who have ADHD or who are on the autistic spectrum can often surprise you with their dedication and creativity when you find the right subject or material for them to work with in an art lesson. The easiest way to make sure everyone can come up with a good idea is to plan a more directed art lesson, where you offer a particular source of inspiration or starting point for the class to work from, but you can also encourage more experimental creativity by helping your students to look at the world differently.
A good source of artistic ideas can come from linking your art class with a book that the kids have been reading, which can be a perfect opportunity to link in to the core curriculum for literacy, particularly when it comes to finding evidence in the text and understanding figurative language. Try getting them to draw a picture of a character or location from the story, thinking about what visual clues are provided by the book, and how much is left to the imagination, or ask them to draw both literal and figurative versions of things that have been described metaphorically.
A different way to inspire creativity is to encourage the children to find a new way of looking at the world. There are endless ways you can do this, but it can be as simple as getting your students to find a new perspective from which to look at the world, by turning upside down, looking at objects close up or through a mirror, or cutting out and decorating a picture frame that they can use to compose their pictures of a landscape or still life. If you thread string into a grid pattern across the frame, they can even use this as a tool to help them keep their drawing to scale. The grid technique can even tie in with math lessons and the core standards for understanding scale drawings, since it can be used to copy and resize pictures.
Techniques for the Less Artistic
Another issue for some children is that they simply lack the technical skill of some of their more naturally artistic peers, which can really damage their confidence. Introducing a variety of techniques can ensure that everyone gets the chance to express themselves, and it can also make teaching art easier for you, since you won’t have to be particularly artistic to demonstrate them.
1. Photography: taking photos can be the perfect way to allow kids who are less skilled with paints and pencils to learn about composition. If you can get your hands on a cheap, kid-friendly camera, this can also be a great homework or vacation assignment that you can use to get an insight into what is most important to each child. Ask them to come back with five or ten photos of people, places or objects that matter to them.
2. Computer Art: kids who might not come across as particularly artistic in more traditional art lessons can often be the ones who have the best computer skills. Allowing them to show you what they can do with computer drawing and painting tools can give them a big confidence boost.
3. Comic Book Art: a lot of artists start by copying other people’s work, and comic book art and cartoons use bold lines and bright colors, which can be easy for kids to copy and use to create their own stories.
4. Collage: this is the best medium for ensuring that every child gets the chance to do something creative, since it requires willingness to experiment more than technical skill, and it can make a great collaborative art project. You can provide a variety of materials yourself, but it can also be interesting to see what the kids will bring in if you let them collect extra material at home. Encouraging them to see everything as a potential piece of art can generate some really surprising effects.
5. Mosaics and Pointillism: if you want a slightly less messy lesson than collage making, then you might want to look at Roman mosaics or pointillism. This is an art history lesson that can easily merge into a practical art class. You can prepare plenty of little squares or circles of colored paper, like the remnants left over by a hole-punch, or get the kids to tear off tiny pieces for themselves, to glue down to create their own mosaics or dot pictures.
Here’s a fun little freebie for your grade 5-7 Language Arts class -12 Point Of View cards with a Halloween theme. Students take a card and play out the scenario from the unique point of view. I’ve included a werewolf husband keeping his secret from his wife, a witch who is scared of heights, a pumpkin about to be carved – even a shiny red apple in a bowl of Halloween treats, just waiting to be chosen. It’s all in good fun and to spark some creativity in students’ writing. In the download there are also suggestions for a couple of different ways to use the cards and some simple extension ideas.
I love word games and I love having lots of different games available to my students to play upon occasion – free time, indoor days, with guest teachers or as word work in Language Arts class. I received a new word game this summer “Blurt” that I was really excited to try with my students. We had a little bit of extra time in one of our Language Arts classes last week and I thought it would be a perfect time to try it out.
Blurt is a board game for 3 to 12 people and is basically a vocabulary building game. One of the big selling features for me, was that so many people could play – works great for the classroom. The version that I have, is really for two age levels; 7-9 years and 10+ (it depends on which side of the cards you use). The game includes over 300 clues and is extremely easy to play as a large group or even a whole class.
Here’s how I used it!
I left the board and pieces out and just used the cards, to play with the whole class. I created teams and chose words from the vocabulary cards that I felt would be the appropriate difficulty level for my students (not too easy or too hard). So, I read out a definition and then the fun part! Students get to blurt! Both sides blurt out answers until one side says the correct answer. They loved it! Of course, the only difficult part was knowing which side had actually blurted first. In the case of a tie or discrepancy, we rolled the die and the highest roller scored the point for their team. Then two other teams would compete.
When I asked the students how they enjoyed the game, they were all very positive in their responses (maybe it was just the fact that I was letting them play a game and shout…hmmm….).
Ideas for use in an ELA class:
-Use vocabulary words from the game to build short word work activities (using the root word, prefixes, suffixes etc.)
-Use Blurt words to create a word wall, adding a couple of new words to the wall each time you play
-Choose one or more new vocabulary words from the game and use it as a word of the week – students gaining credit/class cash for using the word correctly in context.
-Have students make up their own definitions/vocabulary words to add to the game
There are lots of possibilities!
So where did I get this great little game? A really amazing site called SmileMakers. The site actually applies to various occupations, but has tons of goodies for teachers. They have little prizes, incentives, certificates, pencils, stickers, awards, holiday themed goodies, books and other teacher resources, anti-bullying resources and lots of other great stuff! You can search by occupation, grade or subject level. That’s where I found out that they have a whole Middle School section with games, activities and prizes! I have a wish list going of items that I plan to get from them in the future. My next buy will be a visual-thinking game called Square Up - I know my class would love it and it would be perfect for a pair of early finishers to play together. They also have something called “Teacher Perks“. If you sign up for Teacher Perks at checkout (it’s free to join) orders over $75 receive FREE shipping and orders under $75 are a flat rate of $7.99. Okay, that’s all for now. I know that the last thing you probably need is yet another awesome teacher site to go spend your hard earned money – but it’s a REALLY good one and so I had to share!
DO you have any really good board games that you use in the classroom OR teacher sites that we MUST know about? Please share!
**Also, thank you to everyone who voted for my school and entered my giveaway. The winner was Kelly Brown. Your support helped us to finish FIRST in round one and has advanced us to the semi-final round which will be in December. We’re that much closer to winning the funds for a new inclusive playground for our deserving students. For that, I thank you. Also, we’ll need your help again in December to make it into the finals. STay tuned…**