Friday, September 20, 2013

Learning to wish....3rd grade

Ceiba de la Esperanza

This summer, we took a quick trip south of the border to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico for a little rest and relaxation.  Yet, for a teacher, rest and relaxation always ends up being a new lesson or an educational experience.  At the end of a day full of site seeing, snorkeling and fun in the sun, we walked through a gift shop area where an amazing tree was installed in the middle of the plaza.  From its limbs hung paper leaves, thousands of them with written wishes.  The tree was title the Ceiba de la Esperanza  and represented the sacred tree of the Maya, symbolizing the center of the universe and, presently, referred to as the Tree of Life.

The installed tree towered towards the ceiling with green leaves hanging from its limbs.  

You couldn't help but to stop and read some of the wishes.  Each little leaf told a short story through a "deseo", making me wonder about who the author really was.

This idea reminded me of the time I spent in Japan and visiting the amazing temples throughout the country.  Along with meditation and prayer, all temples had wishing posts and fortune trees. Visitors from near and far expressed their wishes, offering them to the greater powers that be, to come true.

These planks of wood and twisted paper become living installations of art, expressing short stories of strangers united by dreams, hopes and needs.

After a bit of googling, I discovered a Wish Tree project created by Yoko Ono that travels around the world.  

To begin my 3rd graders journey around the world, my two friends Yianna and Helios introduced them to the idea of making a wish through an email message.  This was the springboard for sparking their imagination and making Yianna and Helios 'real'.  

We began to create our own wish tree with simple materials but big ideas.  I was very impressed and proud of my students' thoughtful and reflective wishes.  Some were an expression of something that was happening right now. Others were looking at a bigger picture of the world.  Heartwarming and heart wrenching, each student told their unspoken story.  It's really amazing what can be said in just one sentence.

William Faulkner writes in his book The Wishing Tree:
“(...) next year she would have another birthday, and if she just remembered to get into bed left foot first and to turn the pillow over before she went to sleep, who knows what might happen?” 
― William FaulknerThe Wishing Tree

green construction paper
leaf template
colored markers (sharpies)
and a tree (real or fake)

I normally do not use templates, but for this quick one day project, I really wanted the students to think about their ideas.  I, also, emphasized that the tree in Mexico provided the visitors with the same leaf template.  So, they traced, they cut, they wrote and they hung their leaves on the branches of our very special school tree, dedicated to a fallen soldier.

And then it rained......For the remainder of the 3rd grade classes we had to move the wishing inside to a newly installed brown construction paper tree.  Perhaps not as exotic and real but the message was still the same.

So....wish upon a tree and let the world see your short story.

What's your wish?  
Share it with 
Yianna and Helios! 
(promise they will write you back)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

There is a Wimp in All of Us...

 6th grade is an awkward stage for my students and any students, really.  Bodies are changing, brains seem to stop working and insecurities set in.  We have all been through this phase in life but surprisingly enough, it's probably the phase with the most impact on growth and development. A few years ago, I was in my car driving somewhere and listening to NPR to the program This American Life.  I was captured by a story about middle school life, through the perspective of a middle school student.  Along with a middle school perspective, I gained a better understanding of how they tick....or not tick ;-)  
What is the most interesting aspect of the story is the discussion of how the brain functions during this awkward stage and influences how we develop as adults.  My husband tells that I haven't changed a bit...and he knew me when I was 12.  The most memorable people, events and experiences that are ingrained in my brain are the ones from middle school....and for that, I am very thankful.
I am, also, very thankful that all middle school dances are over.

 Author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney, takes this phase in life, and makes it approachable and funny.
As their art teacher, I feel my strategy for connecting to my 6th grade students needs to be approachable, fun and interesting enough in which somewhere in their gray matter part of their brain they will remember....something ;-)

So, embrace your inner Wimp and help your middle schoolers find theirs.

xoxo, SMocK you.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

International Dot Day: September 15th

The joy of making a mark is celebrated every year and in 1st grade, launches us into our first art project.
Eight simple steps create a sense of structure for these young students and affords them an opportunity to try to "figure it out".
And figure it out, they did.

6x9 white paper
9x12 yellow construction paper
9x12 black construction paper
"crazy" scissors
black thin markers (sharpies)
watercolor paints
glue sticks
the Book: The Dot

Join the movement today and celebrate your mark making!

xoxo, SMocK you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

National Arts in Education Week....

This week celebrates 
National Arts in Education!

What in the world does that mean???  

Well, it means that there was a resolution passed by the US House of Representatives designating the week to arts education and celebrating, emphasizing and encouraging the importance for the arts in the educational development of students, young and old, across the country.

What does this mean??? means the arts (dance, theatre, visual arts, music, media) are an essential component in the development of students and their growth as creative, innovative, collaborative and reflective global citizens.  That aside from making messes, having fun and just painting, students are working on problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and communication skills....skills

I had a wonderful experience this morning that illustrates my advocacy.  Just the other day I received a parent phone call from a mother that was just mortified by the content of my lesson and "I would never think that this would be aloud in a public school" and "I will be curious how this works out".  
Was/is my material slightly edgy?  
Does it capture the attention of all my students?  
Every time. 
After speaking with the mom, my new principal walks in to my classroom to ask about the lesson (obviously because my response to her was not satisfactory).  As we talked about the situation, the emphasis reflected on how parents really do not know EXACTLY what is happening my classroom or other classrooms for that matter.  Well, I gave my principal my lesson (packet and all) and expressed the true objective for the overall lesson.  This morning and while setting up for our faculty meeting, he turns to me and mentions that he looked over my lesson.   He stated, "It is the most well conceived lesson he has ever seen".  
Makes you wonder about what in the world in happening in the art room ;-)

So, don't underestimate the influence and power of art.  Grab a crayon and celebrate its magic.  
OH, you, probably, are wondering what the lesson is all about....'s a hint: King Solomon, Newman from Seinfeld, and Homer Simpson....
Stay tuned for the 5th grade post ;-)

xoxo, SMocK you.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Everybody doin' the crayon and balloon painting...

The Crayon Song....
Andre 3000 makes kid songs with cool beats and addictive lyrics.

I accidentally came across the Class of 3000, when googling "crayon lessons" for my introduction to the school theme.  It was a fantastic surprise.  With the first beat, I was hooked to the 2 minute song of 
Along with the great beats came the perfect message for my students to connect, in just a couple of sentences.  Take a listen.  I promise you will be hooked.  My students come into the art room singing The Crayon Song (even the 6th graders!) 
As the first couple of weeks went on, all students (580-something of them) became part of the crayon box and pledged to do "the crayon".

painting with balloons

Part of our Sanborn family are a group of students who light up the hallways and make our days a little brighter.  They are our special needs students from the MILE program and, although they may face challenges, they, indeed express endless strengths.  They make us smile.  The focus for the year in art is building basic skills and following directions....because sometimes we just don't feel like working....
We use simple tools and materials, creating experiences that affords the students to use their senses and build their fine motor skills.  
In our first art project, we used balloons and paint, creating really amazing abstract expressionist paintings.  There was only one person that really dirtied their clothes...and it wasn't a student.  Luckily the paint was "washable".
dab and dab and dab

inflated balloons (about 3 inches)
tempera paints
construction paper

dip the balloon in paint

an abstract expressionist painting emerges
Have a great week!  
xoxo, SMocK you.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What the year is going to look like....6 grades, 6 themes

Planting the seeds in an art curriculum
 I love Chicago.  I really do.   
Aside from the city's incredible history, the contemporary art scene is something to be proud of.  Art lesson inspirations can be found on city neighborhood blocks or down the magnificent mile.  NOW, the question do I teach my students EVERYTHING?  

 For many years, now, I have been designing the art curriculum for the year based on themes.  In the process, this strategy has proven for providing my students better avenues for connecting their knowledge throughout the year, on a linear scale....they are able to connect the dots.  
 What does that mean??
Well, throughout the year information is presented to my students in a consistent fashion, providing them structure, routine and familiarity.  These elements are important as students begin to think through a broader lens and build on skills throughout the year.  As the teacher, this strategy offers me continuity through structure and flexibility to grow my ideas :)  Fortunately, ideas come very quickly.  Unfortunately, ideas come very quickly. 
Also, as skills are repeated you see more growth.  Aside from art elements and principles, students need to develop their universal skills of study, observation, analysis and evaluation towards building an art literacy base that translates to other areas of study.


First graders goal is to find the toilet.  Following Anna's adventure in an art museum, my students meet some of the great artists of our time with one pressing issue....finding the toilet. 
Because, when you gotta gotta go. 
This wonderful book as been an inspiration for my first graders with a unified goal.  As Anna and my students meet the new artists, we stop and learn a little bit more about them. 
Although this is a repeated theme, each year the projects change depending on the educational needs of  my students. 


It's all about connecting in 2nd grade and understanding their personal relationship to bigger concepts.  In this thematic sequence, student learning targets 7 categories that connect my second graders' experiences.  Starting with "me" and extending to "country", these projects will reflect how each category is connected to the one previous.

 It's amazing what a little storytelling (and magic) can inspire in young children.  Last year, I introduced my 3rd grade students to two friends who travel around the world, sending back artifacts in suitcases.  Yianna and Helios became part of our classroom and offered my students a connection, something to grasp, while learning about our magnificent world through art.  This year the adventure continues with a group of new 3rd grade students.  Follow as Yianna and Helios guides them in exploration of 7 continents and 7 magical places.


The mysteries of art are always intriguing.  My 4th grade students enter the investigative world, observing, analyzing and evaluating artists who have run a muck in the art world, forge signatures and produce fake masterpieces!  Follow my students as they investigate, explore, create and assess the processes of art and possibly solve a crime or two.
Obviously we needed identification badges....;-)

I was trying to come up with one word that describes what we do in 5th grade art.  The foundation for the year's theme is connecting the past to the present.  As I have been creating and evolving the ideas for the year, I realized the connection is grounded in the human experience with art.  So, I came up with ARToLOGY.  The combination of ART and ANTHROPOLOGY creates: the study of human expression, creative skills and imagination that connects past with present.  My 5th grade student will explore the influential aspects of our history on our lives in the present across time (art time-that is)

Have you ever noticed the posture of most 6th grade students?  It's absolutely dreadful but a great way to dive into a year about who they are.  Targeting the awkwardness of their age and stage in life, my students will focus on exploring the concept of identity through various projects that encourage them to reflect on their character, personality and their place in this big world.

Phew....I think this is enough.
Follow along as my students take on EVERYTHING.
Now, if only I can figure out why my fonts change spontaneously on this blog.....
xoxo, SMocK you.