Oct 18

Differentiating Instruction

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

Differentiated Instruction
A lot of administrators and educators agree that differentiated instruction can dramatically help students to succeed. But let’s face it, it’s not easy and it takes a lot of careful planning. it’s a big job to make sure that all students of different abilities are engaged and it can be challenging for a teacher to have to plan for all of those different needs. So here are some differentiating suggestions for any class type including Art. Read on to get your Differentiated Lesson Checklist.

Ask Questions and Let The Students Take Ownership For Their Learning

I have always felt that art education was a great way to differentiate lessons for kids anyway. But, when you give them open-ended projects that allow for creativity and their own differentiation, it’s a win-win for all people involved. Letting kids have choices and mediums they use subject matters they create on and other things that they choose withheld to engage your students no matter what their ability level. Knowing that they had the choice in what they’re doing also help them take ownership for their own learning.

Surveys Tie Student Interests Into Content

Interest surveys are a great way to first off get to know your kids but also a great tool to use to help find out what students are really interested in. Brain research has shown that relating other subject matter to personal experience how to jumpstart the brain. There will also be an emotional attachment to the subject matter that they’re working on for the projects. This will help keep him engaged.

Engaging Different Types Of Learners

We know that there are different types of learners in every classroom. There are Visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic styles of learning. Incorporating each of these types of learner into all of your lesson and project will engage your students because they are learning in a way that works best for them. With special education students, you may still need to modify some of your lessons and projects even when incorporating as many of the learning styles into your lessons as possible. Using at least two or more styles in a single lesson helps to focus on the “whole child” and not just a single skill type.

Vary Your Assessments

Giving students a choice on how they complete a targeted goal is the name of the game. Each way would hit the essential questions and objectives but scaffolds it in a way that allows students to be assessed on their knowledge in a way that is the best for them. No one wants to do the same assessments day in and day out. It’s like an assorted bag of candy. I want candy. But I think today I’ll have chocolate ad tomorrow something fruity. It’s all candy but a little different flavor.

Do Your Homework

Usually, within the first couple of weeks, we can get a pretty good idea of the prior knowledge that the student has retained from previous years or classes. But it’s our job as teachers to read through student files,  IEPs, and 504 Plans to make sure we are giving our kids what they need to be successful in the classroom. Doing your homework is important!

Individual Feedback

Flexible individualized work plans and feedback can help students to self-monitor their learning. Giving students feedback above and beyond a project rubric helps students to organize for themselves what they need to do and to what level they need to do it. Ask questions such as: What went well? What didn’t go so well? Where do you have questions?
These are great guiding questions for self-reflection and learning.

You’re Probably Already Doing This

You may be thinking,”Good God, I just can’t do one more thing!” The good news is that you probably don’t have to. I’m guessing you are already doing a bunch of differentiation already and sometimes don’t even realize it. Personalizing projects that actor to a student’s interests and passions are already more than halfway there.

Fair Does Not Mean Equal

Reminding our students that fair isn’t equal is a good message to start your classes with. Fair means that every student’s gets
What they need to be successful. Making this concept the message in your classroom will eliminate a competition type of mindset. We are here to help each other. “Comparing your work to another student’s work isn’t going to work in here. “ Send the message that this classroom works like a team or family. We won’t always get along, but we are here to help each other grow and get better.”

Share Your Struggles and Strengths With Students

Many of our students struggle with confidence in themselves and in their artwork. Don’t be afraid to share your own struggles. Kids see the finished products of what we do but usually have no idea how we got to that finished point.  I often let me kids know about my mistakes in life as well. Being HORRIBLE in math as an example. Sharing our struggles shows kids that we are human too.

Mini-Lessons and Review Sessions

Mini-lessons and review sessions are a great way to give certain kids the support and help they need without reteaching an entire lesson. Focus in on where kids are struggling and then move on. Mini-lessons are also a great way to show various techniques that all kids may not use and encourage advanced learners who also need to be challenged and pushed a little further.

Use Lots Of Open-Ended Questions

Using open-ended questions helps all students, no matter what their skill level, to be successful in giving feedback. Answering open-ended questions also give you a better idea of what they know and understand that a multiple choice type test ever will.

The Real Essential Standards and Objectives

You can’t cover everything in great depth. Let’s be real here… it just doesn’t happen due to many factors. Choose the essential standards and objectives you want to cover and go deep into learning and understanding. Ever hear the saying,”If everything is important, nothing is important.” It’s never been truer. Expect proficiency and mastery from all students we need to be realistic in expectations with a student’s ability. This is what differentiation is about. Challenge each student appropriately and engagingly.

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Sep 07

The First Week Of School Is Over…. Now What?

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

The First Week Of School is Over… Now What?

New Year

It’s the first week of school. The excitement is high! Classrooms are ready, everyone is wearing their new wardrobe, and breaking out the new school supplies. Some are nervous and some are excited. Oh, and the kids are too. 🙂 But Now the first week of school is over. Now, what do you do?

So you’ve gotten through the first week of ice breakers and it’s time to get to teaching. Now what? Let the real work begin! Lessons, assessments, activities, worksheets, etc. Some of you may have been thrown into new grade levels or maybe have never taught art before. some of you don’t have a classroom and are going from room to room on a cart trying to figure out how to make it all work. Some of you may have a whole new curriculum or be moving to standards based grading. Most of you have a combination! So where do you begin?

So What Do You Do First?

Find out what standards your district uses for Art Classes? Are your standards, objectives, and curriculum listed somewhere for you can get your hands them?  What are the critical objectives you want students to know when they leave your classroom doors?

Lessons, So Many Lessons!

Once you figure out your standards, your next step is to start planning lessons. Ohhhhh, so many lessons. But really options are endless. The “what” isn’t the hard part of the lesson, it’s the “how” that most struggle with.

An Hourish Of Learning

Like to lay out my lesson in a daily agenda first. Just so I know what I will be doing from day to day.

Daily Agenda pg1 Lesson Agenda page 3

The example to the right is from the Art Foundations 2D curriculum in the Visual Art Academy Membership. I first break down the standards used in the unit and lesson. Here you see I use the National Standards. Then I list the objectives. What do I want my students to learn by doing this project, unit, lesson, etc. Then I get into listing the materials and supplies I will need for the day. This helps to organize and to make sure we have all the supplies needed. There is nothing worse than realizing you don’t have all the supplies needed once you begin or get into the middle of a project.

Getting Into The Meat and Potatoes

I go on to create an agenda and then get into Teacher Instruction/Class Discussion. This is the important stuff. Reviewing what was discussed and learned the class before is a great way to begin. Then moving on to the new discussions, demonstrations, Power Point Information, Practice worksheets and more.

Getting To Work

Students usually can’t wait to get to it and start working on projects. This is what I put into the Class Activity section of the Daily Agenda.

Things To Remember

I make a quick list in the ASAP after class for things I will need to remember to do right after I finish teaching a class. Replenish supplies, make copies, get something else ready for the next day. Whatever I deem important to remember.

Hopefully, all of this helps you get started and the wheels turning for new lessons and projects. Don’t forget to sign up to get your Art Teacher Assessment Guide For The Classroom and Beyond. The First Week Of School Is Over

If you like this agenda and want to get all of the Daily Art Agendas,  art lesson plans, power points, practice exercises, assessment and so much more Join The Visual Art Academy Community now. 

Aug 11

The First Day Of School And Instant Student Engagement

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

The First Day Of School And Instant Student Engagement Made Easy

Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Year. I have made the first day of school and instant student engagement easy. Connecting Our Hopes and Dreams In A Place That Matters With People Who Care is an amazingly powerful statement. So how do we make this happen for our students on the first couple of days a school?

Back To School

Starting a new school year has a lot of mixed emotions for students of course. Teachers go through the roller coaster of emotions too. Every year is a brand new start. We have ideas we want to try, a vision of what our classroom or art making space will look like, and a hope for what our students will leave the year with once the walk out our door. Yes, student learning and curriculum is important. Studies have shown that when students have a good relationship with their teacher, feel safe and not afraid to take risks their learning goes through the roof!

How Do We Know Kids Are Learning?

Yes, the standardized tests scores… blah blah blah blah blah… I have never had a student come back years after I had them to say, “Mrs. Mullard, I just want to thank you for all of the assessments and rubrics you gave us.” Never has that ever happened and it won’t happen in the future. Kids will remember how you made them feel in your classroom. They will remember what stirred passion with in them. They will remember the relationships that started and were nurtured in your classroom. When you know your kids you can ask them questions. When you ask them questions you will get some answers. When you get some answers, you’ll know what they are learning! Kind of sounds a lot like the “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” books doesn’t it?

How Do You Get To Know Your Kids?

The First Day Of School Student Engagement

Of course there are lots of ways to get to know your students but I like to get a jump on it the first couple of days. I fill out my “Get to know ya” worksheet so students can see it in my room. Yup, I have it displayed for the world to see. Give it your worksheet a personal touch and be a little vulnerable. Seriously, it’s ok!

There is a link later in this post so you can download the worksheet too.

See Kids Differently On The First Day

As Art Educators I always feel like we get to see a different side of kids. We get to tap into a creative part of them that not all teachers get to see. Trying to find a student’s passion in an amazing gift to watch. I encourage you to get to know your kids. ALL of your kids. Ask questions, share things about yourself, and be a little vulnerable. Show them you are human.

There’s This Kid…

Remember, the most challenging students are usually the students that need the hug. They need the love. A little more respect. You may be the one and only person in their life that gets to know who they are and see them be human to. Have a great school year friends! Here’s to a successful year with amazing discoveries, new friendships, love, learning and LOTS of laughter! Here’s a resource to help you get to know your students. I use this worksheet the first day or two of class just to get things rolling.

Click here to Print your Happy to meet you Icebreaker worksheet 

Need some support as an art teacher? Looking for people just like YOU?  Come Join Us in The Art Teachers Teaching Art Group

Save Time and Still Teach Like A ROCK STAR! 


Jul 25

A Trip to Orlando is Inspiring

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

Hi, my name is Sheryl Depp and I’m tickled to be a guest blogger. My blog posts can be found at primarilyartwithmrsdepp.blogspot.com. I am an elementary art teacher in Pasco County, Florida and I live about 2 hours away from Orlando. 

On a recent trip to downtown Disney, where there is lots and lots of shopping and places to eat, I found quite a few things that inspired me to start thinking about future lessons for my students.

First off I’m really big on lessons having to do with functional art. Because ART truly is EVERYWHERE! We as art teachers are constantly striving to have the arts recognized as important! It’s up to us to advocate starting with our students.

Most of us wear socks, perhaps not the super cool ones I spotted while shopping, but I think designing socks would be a fun lesson. And let’s not forget about all the cool headbands/hats with mouse ears. A self-portrait lesson with a hat, that the student designs would cover many different standards.

Disney Project Idea

What about designing handbags or backpacks?

Star wars Bag

Let’s not forget about ALL the TOYS out there, that someone is making a lot of money from developing and manufacturing.

Mr. Potato Head

Talk about all the art careers out there! From the people who design store windows to the designers who keep the theme of a place obvious, in even the smallest details.

Railing Design

I love that store window. And check out the stair rail from Splitsville, a bowling alley-can you see the shape of the bowling pin and ball? How much fun would it be to have students design around a theme? Or maybe a party or a restaurant?

How many of us teachers design our classrooms around a theme? I use the colors of the rainbow and assign each grade level a color. And I’ve seen some really great classrooms designed around animals prints, school mascots, stars and characters.

What inspires your lessons or the theme of your classroom?

Do you have a lesson you'd like to share? We would love to see it! Join and send us a message in the Art Teachers Teaching Art Facebook Group

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May 30

The Art Of Design

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

The art of design process is the same every single time. Artists, young and old, go through a process every single time we do a project. Critical thinking and problem-solving are at the heart of what we do every day as art eduacators.

The Art Of Design: From Concept To Assessment Art Of Design

Download your The Art Of Design Poster HERE.

Ideas and Inspiration

The art of design begins with an idea. From projects to products… everything starts with an idea. I love the stories about ideas that start on a napkin. Inspiration hits and you just have to go with it. Sometimes students struggle with idea generation so we give them a little help with themes, media exploration, project assignments, etc. As students figure out what they like and how to find inspiration we as instructors give them less help. When we teach them to research and investigate the creativity can take over and they begin to be problem solvers and makers.

The Great Brain Dump

The Art Of Design

I have my students start out with what I call, “brain dumping”. Just throwing whatever idea comes to mind on paper no matter how good or bad. Just get it out on paper. Some write words, some draw pictures and some do both. In the art of design,  It’s just a quick way to start the ideas and inspiration process.

Design and Plan

Once students have ideas it’s time to take action and come up with a plan or many plans for that matter.

The art of design

In The Art Of Design, this is part of the creative problem-solving process. Thumbnail sketches are an excellent way for students to plan out compositions and artwork. Small sketches that help an artist work out a composition quickly is exactly what thumbnail sketches are meant to do.

Figuring out the type of media to use, the subject matter they will work with, and researching resources to use as a reference while students work is all part of the planning and design process.

Creating and Making

Many time beginner art students try to jump right into the creating and making phase in the Art of Design process. They find out pretty quickly that their projects are not very successful and they struggle with putting their piece together. This is why stressing the first two phases of the Art Of Design is so important. Of course, most students find the creating part the most fun and who wouldn’t want to jump right into that phase? Once students start creating and making they can also begin to ask themselves these questions:

  • Am I following my plan?
  • Is this working?
  • Do I need to change something?
  • Is it finished?
  • What do I need to correct?       

Even during the making process as you are giving formative assessment and feedback, ask students to try new things and experiment to learn things they may not have set out to do in their beginning plan.

Assessment and Presentation

In the Art Of Design ‘roadmap” students will be able to assess themselves, their artwork and if they were successful through the entire process. The three main questions I ask with every project are:

  • What went well in this project?
  • What didn’t go so well in this project? 
  • What did I learn by doing this project?
  • What would I do differently if I did this project again?

By answering these questions students can sum themselves up pretty well and I can get a very good idea of how they feel about the end result of the project they did.

Do you have an “Art of Design” process you follow?  

How do you ensure students take all the steps necessary to be successful in their process? 


May 23

10 Ways To Seriously Jumpstart Your Creativity

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking and working on 10 ways to seriously jumpstart your creativity.

Get Creative

So a few weeks ago, we did our first our Art teacher drawing challenge in the Art Teachers Teaching Art Facebook Group. There is another challenge coming SOON! So make sure to watch for it. This is the perfect time to get creative for ourselves. We look for the perfect project to do and we look for the perfect time to actually be able to do it. Well guess what, there is no perfect anything for anyone at anytime. So here are 10 ways to seriously jumpstart your creativity.

1) Stop being a perfectionist!

I will repeat this again, there is no perfect anything. There’s no perfect time, no perfect project, no perfect place to even do any kind of artwork that you really want to do. Just start something. Write down some ideas and just do something. Don’t worry about it being perfect. You may not even have a finalized project in my mind. You don’t need to know what the end will look like. Just try to start SOMETHING. Worrying about things being perfect totally crushes your creativity and it does nothing good for you. Being perfect is way overrated anyway.

2) Go Somewhere and Remember To Take Your Sketchbook With You

Creativity Sketchbook

Go for a walk, or maybe just go to a restaurant and look around. People watch! That’s super fun all in itself! Forget your sketchbook? Grab a napkin and a pen or a pencil and just start drawing what you see going on around you.

3) Surf The Web!

Web Surfing

There’s this amazing thing called Google. There’s another amazing thing called Pinterest both of these places have amazing ideas. Type in the subject or a location that you’re thinking about and boom you’re there. Use these images to inspire you to get ideas on things that you want to draw or paint or sculpt or whatever media that you choose to do work in. Remember copyrights do apply to most images on the web so use them for inspiration and accuracy. Never copy them or use them without permission from the photographer.

4) Listen To Music

Creativity Music

Choose the genre of music that you like the best to start out with. Play it soft, play it loud, do whatever it takes to get the creative juices flowing. There are multiple research activities done on the effects of music on the brain. Music is something that most people can relate to and it helps them to sometimes think more clearly. For me, I throw on a little Dave Matthews Band on and I am off and creating! Thanks Dave and the rest of the crew!

5) Keep A Sketchbook Or A Journal

Always have a sketchbook or a journal at hand at all times of the day for when an idea inspires you. Do some quick little sketches or write down notes to yourself of things that you would like to eventually draw, paint and create. Anything that just jumps out at you that you feel would be an interesting art piece to create later is a good thing to put in your journal for yourself.

6) Jump Out Of Your Comfort Zone

We all tend to stay in places we feel comfortable. It’s safe! But many times we need to push ourselves out of that comfort zone to try something new, try something different. We grow and we learn when we do things we are not used to doing. It’s totally uncomfortable for sure, but we stretch your creativity by doing things that we don’t always know exactly how to do. ‘Get uncomfortable to get comfortable”,  is one of my favorite saying.

7) Experiment And Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

So you try something new and you fail? So what? You’ve actually failed many times thus far in your life. As a baby, you failed multiple times trying to walk trying to talk even potty training. Did that have an effect on the rest of your life? Probably not. You’ve applied for jobs and didn’t get them. You may have failed your drivers test the first time around. Did that stop you from trying again? Most likely not.  So get out some art supplies that you have not used before or go to the craft store and purchase some things that you may not feel super comfortable with or know how to use. Open them up and just start “playing” with them. So you don’t create a masterpiece right away big deal. Try again! Still not successful? Do it again, and again, and again!

8) Take Some Pictures

Grab a Camera or even your phone and start snapping pictures of everything you see that interests you. With cameras at our fingertips at all times we have no excuse to go without some sort of resource or something that inspires us to get creative.

9) Seek Out Other Artists

Seek out of their artist that inspire you. Send them an email let them know that you appreciate their artwork and ask them some questions. I see artwork from various artists that inspires me all the time. I love sending an artist an email telling them how much I appreciate their work and they usually send me an email back telling me, “Thank you” for appreciating their work. I’ve actually built some very good friendships through this process.

10) Stop Comparing Yourself And Your Work To Others

Comparing yourself and your work to others is a complete killer of joy. You are not them and they are not you. You need to be original and do your own thing. Don’t worry about what other people think or what they will say. Because most of the time to be completely honest, people are not going to care that much. We think they will, but in reality they truly don’t.

So with all this being said, get a sketch book or journal,  go somewhere that you really really love with some music inspires you and start drawing and thinking about ideas of your next piece of artwork. Create for you and no one else. It’s time to put your creativity first again. For most of you, this hasn’t happened in a very long time and it’s definitely time to take care of yourself. Enough thinking, now start doing!

May 16

10 Things You Must Know To Land Your Dream Teaching Job

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

The Application and Interview Things You Need To Know To Land Your Dream Teaching Job!

Here are the 10 things you need to know to land your dream teaching position.

Want to know art teacher interview questions used in actual interviews?

Click HERE to get them.

Dream Teaching Position

Applying and interviewing for teaching jobs can be exciting, nerve-racking, and just an overall process that’s really hard to understand.  What do you really need to do to land your dream teaching position?
I have started doing interviews for an art teaching position that has opened up in my district this past week. We’ve had some applicants and a few interviews already. I’m going to let you in on a secret or ten. Here are a few of the things that we look at when we are looking through applications and calling people in for interviews.

The top 10 things that we look at when screening applications and interviewing candidates for teaching positions.

1) Make Sure ALL of Your Information Is Up To Date

I cannot stress this enough. Make sure all of your personal information, your past education information, and your experience information is totally up to date! There’s nothing more frustrating in an interview than to be questioning a candidate and find that the information that they put on the resume or in their application packet is not correct or up to date. When your information is not up-to-date it’s an instant strike against you.

2) Create A Great Cover Letter!!!

The cover letter is the very first thing I look at. Create a great cover letter when you are applying for a teaching position. I read through multiple cover letters and find many things that turn me off to the candidate immediately. The incorrect position being applied for, spelling errors, or a cover letter that is basically a few sentences. BIG No No’s! These will not get a second look let alone an interview. Make sure you have the correct person or people addressed in your cover letter. I have had applicants address their cover letter to a human resources person in another district. It’s understandable that you use the same format for your letter when you’re applying to multiple places, BUT make sure you have the correct person or people addressed. Don’t copy and paste your letters. We can see right through it!

3) If You Say You Researched The District, Actually Know Something About The District!!

Some applicants that I interview state that they have researched the district in the cover letter. When asked what applicants know about the district, they usually have very vague answers and we can tell that they actually did not research anything about us. Know the district’s mission statement and what their focus is. Site these in your interview to show you understand the direction the school district is headed in. Mention examples and details about the school district. Such as initiatives they might be working on. DO THE RESEARCH!!

4) Give Examples Of  What You Are Doing Or Have Done In Your Classroom or Schools You’ve Worked In.

You may be asked questions such as,”Can you tell us a little more about the technology you use in your classroom.” You can say,”I’ve used a smart board.” Great!! Give an example of HOW you have used it. This is your “WOW US” moment. Make yourself shine!! Give examples of projects, special student situations, and assessment use.
It’s great to know the buzz words in education, but your interview committee knows if you are just using the buzz words or if you actually have experience doing these things.
5) Your Professional Education Portfolio

Professional Portfolio
We have countless applicants who come in with educational portfolios with extensive written lesson plans. These are fine, but honestly… we aren’t going to read them. I know… You put all that work into lesson plans during student teaching and you want to show them off. But really, we don’t have time for this. Pack your portfolio with pictures and use these when you talk about your experience and examples. When they say a picture is worth a million words, it really is. Make everything neat and professional looking. Use it as a tool to teach the interviewers about what you do.

6) Know The Position You Applied For

Most new teachers are willing to take any kind of position they can and are qualified for to just get their foot in the door. You may not be worried about landing your dream job right away. Make sure the position you are applying for is a position you will actually enjoy. Positions change from year to year. It’s just part of the career of an art teacher. You may feel like you landed your dream job. Congratulations! Ask about how teaching positions change from year to year so you know what to expect in the future. Understand that you my have taken a less than desirable position just to get started, but this position could also change into something more desirable as you gain experience and show your value to the district.

7) Don’t Be A Know It All

Even after 20 years as an art educator and administrator, I learn and grow everyday. You will to! If you don’t know how to work with a certain media or need more experience in something like assessment, be honest and say that! It’s great to have confidence that you know what you’re doing, but trust me, no one will hire someone who thinks they know it all. Talk about what you would bring to the district, the schools you would be teaching at and the team of art teachers you would be joining. How will you add value to each of these? It’s ok to talk about areas you are willing to grow and learn. In fact, I highly encourage it.

8) First Impressions Are HUGE

First impressions will make or break you. Seriously! Dress professionally and be a professional. Do not be late or make people wait for you. Introduce yourself and go around the room to shake everyone’s hands. Be personable and be yourself. Make sure to thank everyone for inviting you to interview and thank them again at the conclusion of the interview.

9) Have Questions Ready To Ask

Have a set of questions ready to ask in the interview. If it’s your first screening interview this isn’t the time to ask about salary ad benefits. That’s something to talk about in a second interview or after the position has been offered to you. Ask about the direction the district would like to head to in the future. Inquire about certain things that may not have been covered in the interview. Ask about the expectations of the position you have applied for. All of these types of questions are good to ask.

10) Have An Attitude Of Gratitude

Dream Job Thank you

Send a thank you to all the interviewers. Send the thank you as an email the same day of the interview. Thank them for their time. Mention you’re grateful to have the opportunity to interview. Make yourself memorable!

The first interview is the gateway to the second interview and getting that dream teaching position. Follow these suggestions, and your chances of landing your first teaching job will increase immensely. These may sound like common sense to some but after the 100’s of people I have interviewed over the years I know they are not.
Go out there, be yourself, follow the suggestions I have listed, and land that dream teaching job!

Now that you know how to get that teaching job, find out exactly what you need to teach to be successful in your art room! Step by step lessons, assessments, classroom resources and more!

May 09

Are Thumbnail Sketches REALLY Necessary?

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

Thumbnail Sketches

Are thumbnail sketches REALLY necessary? I get this question from my students a lot. Especially beginning art students. With every new art unit/project, one of the main things that my students MUST do is use thumbnail sketches to plan out their compositions. After all of the whining and fussing, the kids will come up with some great compositions and ideas. Even when they think they have exhausted all of their ideas, I push them to come up with a few more sketches.

But Why Do We Nees To Do Thumbnail Sketches?

Are Thumbnail Sketches Necessary?

Even for me as an artist, I need to plan out my work. It just makes sense to get your ideas on paper.

Especially for inexperienced art students. YOU NEED TO PLAN! You need to get multiple ideas “out there” and then figure out how to solve problems as you go. I encourage my students to also jot down notes and things as they think about them. Yes, I set a fixed number of sketches they need to do for a project. I will get 3 or 4 really well-done sketches and then the rest half-hearted to appease the requirement. I’m sure I probably did they same thing when I was their ages. I also bring up the fact that in college I usually had to have 50 to 100 different thumbnail sketches for each project we were to do. That usually makes them settle down a little.

Why A Set Number Of Thumbnail Sketches Isn’t Always Necessary

Just like everything else we do in education, differentiation is the key. Do I always make kids do the set number of thumbnails? No, of course not. Depending on the student and the situation I will change the requirements or if they are dead set on doing a certain composition, I allow them to forego the number. How often do we as teachers complain about “busy work”? If our students have a solid plan and know the direction they want to go, I step out of their way and let them run with it.

Problem Solving vs Required Planning

At some point, we go from simple assignment planning to full blown creative problem-solving.

If a student has a solid plan, know’s their media they will use, has the subject matter planned out and a strong composition, step aside. It’s time to let them fly. They have gone through part of the planning process and they are ready to go. No need to waste any more time on “figuring out” what they want to do.

Yes, We Should Teach Thumbnail Sketching.

Whatever your project goals you will need to show students how to plan and how to begin everything with idea dumping. I also call it the “brain dump”. Get ideas and concepts down on paper. Add written ideas and text as well. Like anything we really want to do well, it all starts with a plan and figuring our the problems we want to solve with this plan. This is what thumbnail sketches do for our students. No matter what type of planning exercises you do with your students, figuring out a strong composition, how they will satisfy your student learning targets and objectives as well as come away with a project they are proud of is really the end goal.

The Goal In The End?

All of these planning skills will help students to get to thinking independently and looking for answers on their own without having to constantly ask you for the answers. “Teach a man to fish…” is the philosophy I like to give my students. Teaching kids to think for themselves as well as learning to problem solve in any situation should be the ultimate goal.

May 02

Yes, You Can Fail Art Class!

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

Yes, you can fail art class! I don’t know how many times I have had students walk into my classroom at the beginning of a semester and think that art class is “just for fun”. Or how many parents at conference time want to know why their student isn’t getting an A in art. I mean come on, it just a fun class where you get to make stuff right?

Students Can Fail Art Just Like Any Other Class

Yes, students can fail art just like any other class. Students fail art usually because they don’t finish projects, don’t turn them in or don’t even start. Students fail because they put little to no effort into the craftsmanship of their work. Because they aren’t going to be an artist as a career. Sometimes they get stuck in an art class because there isn’t anything else that fits into their schedule so, yup, art it is! Sometimes students rarely or never attend class. Usually, it’s a combination of these.

I am always happy to help students who struggle but who are at least trying. I always tell my students,” I can’t want it more than you do.” And I can’t! no teacher ever wants to see a kid fail. That’s not why we got into this profession.

A Failing Art Student? Not On My Watch! Any Student Who Tries Will Pass.

Yes, you can fail art class but I find that students who are failing art are usually failing other classes too. It’s usually not a surprise. But I always try to let the student know where they stand. What they are missing for assignments and how much time they have to get missing work in. I make sure they have what they need to be successful and let them know how much time they have to get it all done. Sometimes they pull themselves out of the well and pass. Sometimes not. But It’s my job to give them what they need to be successful. As long as I know that I have given them every opportunity to be successful, I can rest at night.

One On One Attention

My suggestion is to be very open and somewhat aggressive in communicating failing grades with students. I always tell my kids that an F doesn’t mean fantastic! I get one on one with my failing students. I show them their grade, and the missing assignments they have because 9 times out of 10 that’s why they are failing. I then ask them how they are going to fix that grade. I put the ball in their court and ask they how THEY are going to step up and fix it. I’m here for support, but it’s their responsibility.  The one on one attention lets them know that I am paying attention to their grades. I care about how they are doing in class and that I support them in getting their work in and raising their grade.

Parent Support Is The Best!

I would have to say when I email or call home to parents with their student’s grade and missing work they are usually very supportive. Every once in a while I will get a parent who thinks art if a “fluff” class and anyone can pass no matter what they do. I always make sure to ask for their suggestions on how I can help their students be more successful after I have let them know about the failing grade and missing work. They are usually very grateful that I let them know about their student’s trouble.

In The End, We Didn’t Fail Them, They Failed Themselves

Just like anything in life, students must be active participants in art class to pass. Nothing ever comes to anyone without work to get it. It’s just the way it is. Like I said before, as long as we give them all they need to succeed our student need to take on the responsibility of using this information to be successful.

Failures Will Happen

Failures in art class are going to happen. When they do, you may need to be ready to stand behind your grade with proof. Keep excellent records! Be ready to show administration your parent communication log as well and any behavior notes and other student performance records. It’s important to stand behind your grades and the reasons they were issued.

Yes, you can fail art class. But in reality, this is a student’s choice. Through personal conversations with our students, parental intervention, and opportunities for improvement hopefully students will make the choice to step up and turn their failing art grade around.

Apr 25

Creating Art Portfolios With Students

By Brenda Mullard | Uncategorized

Creating art portfolios with students can begin even in Kindergarten. When I teach elementary students the very first project they do is to create their art portfolios to keep their work in throughout the year. Sometimes parents will ask why their students don’t always bring their artwork home right away? I like to have the kids lay out the work they created at the beginning of the year and then compare it to the end of the year and almost always there is student growth.

Assessment and Portfolios

Using student portfolios is a very simple summative assessment to use with your art students no matter what their age. Using a summative portfolio is a way to really celebrate everything your students have learned and created over the school year.

It’s like having heir own little individual art show. “Oh, I remember this drawing…” It’s so cool to see the kids reflect on their work and many times they talk about what they would do differently if they did it again. YES!!! Mission accomplished! For younger students, it’s a little easier to have students communicate through drawing than writings as those skills may not be as developed yet.

I have the kids use their portfolios and Portfolio Cover Sheet to:

  • Better reflect on their artwork and portfolio.
  • Gather data for assessment of your students’ learning over the course of the year. 
  • Use at parent teacher conferences with parents to show and communicate with parents what their students are doing in art class.

Creating Student Art Portfolios

When my students make their art portfolios, especially those at the elementary level, I use a heavier white or manilla posterboard type paper. 2 pieces and then we use masking tape around the sides and bottom to make a folder type portfolio. Each student decorates the outside with a creative way to write their name. I use it as a lesson. So for example, 1st grade, I teach how to draw bubble letters and patterns. 3rd grade we use Art Nouveau style to create their names. 4th grade we use one point perspective to create their names. Just a few ideas to use so that the kids don’t decorate willy nilly and make their portfolios not look nice. It really works well. When their portfolios look nice, they really take pride in taking good care of them. They then use these portfolios during the year to keep their work in. Sometimes they do get as little beat up, but for the most part, they usually stay pretty nice. My students usually work pretty largely so I go with 20″ X  28″ sized portfolios.

More Professional Art Portfolios

Art Portfolios - Heavier Professional Looking

Because my high school kids usually are more serious about their artwork and actually doing portfolio days at different colleges I always have them try to get themselves a heavier more professional looking art portfolio. They are there to impress and pulling out a handmade, cardstock type portfolio may not be the best idea in this case.

Online Portfolios

Online portfolios may seem complicated to get started but really they aren’t. My students use WIX as it’s free and they can have access to the portfolio they created even after they graduate. It’s a simple process to build the web page and kids figure it all out really quickly. I’ve had students who have created such a great portfolio that they have heard from colleges within HOURS of submitting their application and portfolio letting them know the school wanted them to come to their college or school. How awesome is that?


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