Saturday, February 28, 2015


As with most things on this blog, I'm not writing this post as an expert but as an experimenter who's doing her best to find out what works.

At our school, we have a dedicated Alternative Learning Environment classroom. Right now, there are five students, all boys, in the class. Two second graders, two third graders, and one fourth grader. These students have such bad behavior issues that they can't be in a regular classroom setting.

So my school's policy until very recently was, since they have severe behavior issues that prevent them from functioning in a normal classroom,  it will be just fine to throw them into regular activity classroom with no aide or anything... So I would have a normal class of 23ish second graders plus two second graders and two third graders.

Finally I put my foot down, along with the other activity teachers, and administration decided to change the way they're doing activity for the ALE kids. And just in time since we got a fourth grader added last week.

Now they're coming to see me all at the same time, still no aide, but I don't have a whole other class to teach while they're there. But now I'm having to figure out what lessons I can teach to two second graders, two third graders, and one fourth graders with severe behavior issues, that will engage them all, keep them calm, and actually teach them something.

This week, I gave them the choice of using play doh or Legos. The only stipulation I gave them was that they had to actually make something, not just play. I told them at the end of class, they would be given a chance to share what they made with the rest of the class. They did pretty well. It was rowdy, but they all actually created something. Then one of the third graders threw his Legos across the room at the end of class and a second grader destroyed his creation so he wouldn't have to share. But hey, for the first time having them by themselves, it could have been way worse. I didn't have to call an administrator and there was no physical violence! Small victories.

Do you have any severe behavior issues? Does anyone else have an entire class of ALE students? What kind of projects do you do with students like this? 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No day like a snow day...

No school is about to drive me crazy. Seriously. This is our third day this week. It's Wednesday. I haven't gone to work since last Friday and last week, we only had three days. I feel like I'm getting so behind. I was supposed to have an artist-in-residence coming to work with my fourth graders on animal sculptures this week. I don't know what we're doing about that now. 

But hey, a break is always nice. Spending time with the husband and playing the Sims 4 has been fun even if we are two fully grown adults. :)

Hopefully I'll have something more interesting to post soon! In the meantime, here's a snow day selfie. 


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Center

So this Monday was Presidents' Day and then Tuesday, we were out of school for a snow day. I love/hate weeks like that. On the one hand, I love being out of school. On the other hand, I hate it because since I don't get to see all my kids, there's really no point in starting a project since half of them will end up behind. I feel like it's just a waste. So I decided to pull out my art centers again for Kindergarten. 

And I added a new center this time. I call it the illustration center. All of the kids at that center, usually about six or seven, work together on a huge piece of paper. You could use butcher paper for this; I had some huge paper donated to me so I used that. 

I assign the group a story that they are all familiar with like the Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood. For the one in the example below I used Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I like that they have to work together as a group to illustrate one story, not separate stories. A lot of my kindergartner still want to each work separately on one big piece of paper so we had to talk about that. I still got a lot of separate drawings but I thought for the first time at this center, they all did a pretty good job. This group did a really awesome job working together to make one story. You can see they have the house with Goldilocks, the three bears along the side, and one of them even attempted to spell Goldilocks and the three bears all by herself.
Kindergarten Art Centers - Blog post by Kelsey Fortune: Art Teacher |

I think the center is a great way to build teamwork skills, something they don't get a lot of time to do in their classrooms anymore. It's also a way of getting students to recall and retell familiar stories.

These are the CCSS frameworks this center is working on. 

CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
RL.K.2 With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.
RL.K.3 With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

One of the best things about this center is that it doesn't really require any special supplies other than a big piece of paper. Just some markers or crayons or whatever you would normal have on your tables. 

If you use centers, do you have an illustration center? What other centers should I add next time?


PS: I re-re-designed my blog. I can't make up my mind. I'm the worst. What do you think? I need to just actually design it myself and stop using all the pre-made blogger templates but who has time for that??

Saturday, February 14, 2015


My first graders have been working on a special surprise for their parents for Valentine's Day. Clay pottery! We spent one week making the pinch pots with Crayola air dry clay and by the time they came back the next week, the bowls were dry and ready to paint.  This is my first time using water colors to paint air dry clay and I have to say, I love it. I'm never going back to acrylic. (See my post from a few weeks ago about how to use liquid watercolors without all the hassle.)

This year, I came up with a new system to keep up with which piece belongs to which kid. Last year, I carved or had the kids carve their initials into the bottom before it dried. Disaster. Total disaster.  

So this time, I planned ahead. I have these old drawing board that I don't use (but probably should).

I laid them out, three per class because I have three tables per class. I put pieces of tape with each child's name on the board at their table.

They put their pot on their name. Simple as that.

The following week, the board were at their tables with their pottery, they grabbed them, painted them, and put them back.

And then the next week, I got out all the boards, wrapped each bowl in a small piece of newspaper and taped it up and wrote the names with a sharpie.

It took a lot of my prep time every day to prepare the boards and then wrap the bowls. But for me, it was totally worth it to not have the chaos of trying to decide if those initials are HB or MP.

Plus it helped me keep up with who was absent when we made the bowls. If they weren't there, they wouldn't have a bowl on their name tape. And that was a lot easier than listening to a kid who wants to tell you that he really did make one that so and so stole his bowl.

What about you? How do you keep up with your students' pottery or other three-dimensional work?


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Blog Redesign

So I redesigned my blog over the weekend. I worry that it's kind of boring. But I'm kind of boring. I like neutrals. I like plain. That's just me. It now fits with my personal website. And that's another thing I like: consistency. So maybe I'm boring but maybe that's okay. 


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Kindergarten Art Centers

So I'm trying something a little different with Kindergarten this semester. I started looking at the new Arkansas Visual Arts Frameworks that will take affect in the 2015/2016 school year and this Kindergarten standard really stood out to me:

CR.1.K.1 Engage in exploration, imaginative play, and self-directed play with materials (e.g., art-making tools and materials, found objects) 

Imaginative PLAY. Self-directed PLAY. Yes. PLAY. Isn't that an awesome word? It gave me permission to act on an idea I've had for a while. I was making clay hearts with my Kindergarteners and to help them warm up their clay, I told them to play with it for about ten minutes before we started sculpting. You would have thought I asked them to fly out the window. Play? In school? After about thirty seconds though, I realized using the word play was the best thing I could have done for them. It gave them permission to get creative. They weren't worried about what they were making and whether it was good. They were playing. They were creating. They were making hot dogs and necklaces and pizzas and baseballs and hamburgers. I almost hated to stop them to teach them how to make a heart.

I realized then that kids don't get that permission to create without a specific outcome enough. Sure, I do free-draw days. We do Beautiful Oops! and learn that art isn't perfect and we can create without worrying about every single mistake. But something about the word "play" really turned on their creativity. I think kids need that freedom to create, knowing that their creation isn't permanent, in order to build those problem-solving skills and creativity.

So I created Kindergarten Art Centers. We're not going to do them every single week, but at least once a quarter or so, I want my kids to be able to create without consequence, to make and build and draw and trace without being worried about the outcome.

This week, I had my first three centers: Building Center, Drawing Center, and Project Center.

At the Building Center, the kids got to build with Legos (kindly donated by my brother). They got to work alone or in teams of two to build houses, towers, cars, whatever they wanted (except weapons). I also provided rulers for them to measure how tall or long their creations are. I know most kindergarteners aren't fluent in rulers yet so I figured why not give them some time to practice without the stress of being wrong. In addition to the art frameworks being met, I also added these Common Core standards that I felt they could be working on at the building center.

Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.

Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.

Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes.

The kids are loving this center. It's the one they're most excited about from the beginning. Here's a picture of what the Building Center looks like when it's cleaned up (it's the picture I give to the kids so they know how it should look.) 

The Drawing Center has a bunch of "finish the drawing" and step-by-step drawing papers that I had printed earlier in the year for early finishers. I taped transparencies on top of them and just like that, they can be used over and over again. I've also found that Crayola's dry-erase crayons work best for these. I also used washable markers and first (as you'll see in the picture) but even with water, they still leave a lot of color behind. The crayons come off great though. I just throw a couple of damp cloths in the basket and they can do and redo them as many times as they want. I'm a big fan of tracing for younger kids but I've never known exactly how to do it until now. I don't want to teach them that tracing is an acceptable alternative to drawing when they're supposed to be making their own artwork. But this way, they're still getting that muscle memory and fine motor development from tracing but they aren't claiming it as their own work. 

I also feel that the Drawing Center is working on the following Common Core ELA standards: 

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

And lastly, the Project Center. This week, my kiddos were going to be using markers and colored pencils to color their clay hearts from the previous week. I knew that giving them 35-40ish minutes to color a four inch tall heart would result in a disastrous amount of color and scribbling since Kindergarteners have little to know self-control or concept of how much is enough. So I thought this would be a perfect project to start using centers for. The kids would have about 12 minutes to color their hearts; enough time for my slower workers but not too much for my early-finishers/"I'm bored"ers. 

As time goes on, if I'm still really liking centers, I'm planning on adding a Sculpting Center (Play Doh) and possibly even doing a Painting Center on some day when I'm feeling really adventurous. 
I also think I might start doing shorter lessons with small groups in a center every once in a while. Some kids need extra time to get it while other kids just get bored and paint black all over their papers. I like the idea of condensing my instruction/project down to 15 minutes and teaching it three times to three much smaller groups while the others are in other centers. This wouldn't work for every lesson, obviously but I think some concepts could definitely be better taught this way. Sometimes I feel like I only get 15-20 minutes of solid instruction/work time out of a 50 minute period anyway after I spend so much time on getting 22 Kindergarteners to come in, sit down, listen/participate, go to their tables, work, and then clean up at the end anyway! 

Since I have an aide in Kindergarten, I can get away with spending more time with one group and letting her monitor the other two centers that don't need as much attention. If I didn't have her, it would be more difficult to instruct one group and keep the others on task as well I'm sure. I'm thankful for my aide every single day!

What about you? Do you do art centers with your Kindergarteners or any other grade? If so, what have you tried that works? What have you tried that's failed? What are some of your favorite centers to use?  

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Friday, February 6, 2015

My favorite watercolor trick

If you're like me, you hate those little trays of watercolor cakes. They're the worst. Yes, I use them from time to time and every time I feel like it's just so wasteful. They're so easy to ruin.

I much prefer liquid water colors. But they require so much more prep. You have to squirt however much paint of each color in a palette for each kid.

But this week, I found a better way to do it. On Monday, I made the palettes, two wells of five colors because my first graders would be sharing them among two kids. They painted their clay pots and then returned the palettes to the counter. Instead of rinsing them out, I left them over night. They dried up for the most part. Some of the wells had more paint left than others so some had a little bit left in the morning.
I simply added water to each one and voilà, ready to use again. 
Tuesday's group used them, put them back, I added water, and so on an so forth. It's the best part of watercolor trays and liquid watercolors all rolled into one! 

For comparison, today I had to make a few new palettes today. On the right is all new paint and the left is paint from three days ago with water added. It really doesn't get overly watered down. 

What do you think? Would this work for you? Am I the last art teacher in the world to figure this out? 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My own art

As an art teacher, it seems like I never have time to make my own art. But lately, I've been trying to carve out some time specifically for making art. My new obsession: clay miniatures. I've posted some pictures below, not because I like showing off, but because I hate showing off. I'm trying to get myself more used to showing my art to people. Here we go!

Tiny Super Bowl Spread
Tiny Super Bowl Spread

Tiny Apple Pie
Tiny Apple Pie

Tiny Pulled Pork, Cole Slaw and Beans
Tiny Pulled Pork, Cole Slaw and Beans

Tiny Burger and Fries
Tiny Burger and Fries

Tiny Italian Meal Prep
Tiny Italian Meal Prep

Tiny Chicken Nuggets and Mac and Cheese
Tiny Chicken Nuggets and Mac and Cheese

Tiny Pot Roast
Tiny Pot Roast

Tiny Salad
Tiny Salad

Tiny Sandwich and Chips with a Pickle
Tiny Sandwich and Chips with a Pickle

Tiny Blueberry Scone
Tiny Blueberry Scone

Tiny Steak Dinner
Tiny Steak Dinner

Tiny Tart
Tiny Tart