Street Art: VAEA Resources

Today, I was a presenter at the Virginia Art Education Association Conference in Roanoke, VA.  I chose not to provide a printed packet of information, because I feel that we are all inundated with paperwork on a daily basis.  Instead, I am sharing information digitally.  You can print this post if you need documentation of your attendance, and please feel free to share  with fellow art educators!  Keep in touch with me via email ( or add me on Facebook so that we can continue to help and inspire one another.  Thank you for coming to my workshop.


Modern Art for the People (powerpoint)

Art and Social Justice (powerpoint used at the Elementary level)


Obey Giant Worldwide (Shepard Fairey)


Graffiti Diplomacy (Lettering examples)


Big Changes This Year!

After teaching Elementary art for 15 years, I am now a Middle School art teacher! While I loved teaching Elementary school, K-6 art teachers see their students for only short periods of time each week.  Middle School will enable me to spend more time with my older students, getting to know them and helping them develop artistically, intellectually, and as young human beings.  Currently, I am teaching an 8th grade course in Art Foundations.  It is very exciting to offer this class at the middle school level since it counts as High School credit.

During our first week together, the students studied Line, which is one of the Elements of Art.  The Art Foundation curriculum focuses on the physical and expressive qualities of line.  We also covered craftsmanship.  Students created contour drawings, experimented with line making using different art media, read from our textbook, The Visual Experience, and lastly took a quiz.  There were several grades of 100 on the quiz!  It was a successful week.

While Middle School is a new experience for me, with several facets such as grading, attendance, and tests, I believe I have the skills to do the job well.  After a period of adjustment, I expect to find my groove and have a truly productive, vibrant program.  The students are terrific and I care so much about them.  There is a lot of talent at our school.  I look forward to sharing student work very soon.

New Graduate Work

I Live Beneath the Earth
Pencil, Colored Pencil & Micron


This year, I began Boston University’s Masters of Art Education program.  It is a rigorous, research-based program that features 2-4 credit classes per semester.  I am currently taking Contemporary Issues in Art Ed, and next up will be Insightful and Creative Leadership, as I chose the Leadership track of the program.  This work is no joke.  My husband asked me tonight if it was harder than my undergraduate work.  My reply was, “No, but when I completed undergrad I didn’t have two children, a full time job, and a part time job!”   I am working really hard to stay focused and use my time wisely.

The image above is from a visual story assignment using a mimetic approach.  I chose contemporary artist Andrea Kowch as my inspiration.  I really enjoyed researching the different postmodern artists.  Although we don’t do a visual work every week, this week we have another art making assignment- a metaphoric self-portrait.  Self-portraits are my thing, so I am really looking forward to it.

My coursework has already had a major impact on the way I plan lessons.  My intent is becoming less product-based.  I am beginning to utilize thematic planning.  I am more aware of the current trends toward visual culture and the theory that “everything is art.”  I will share more updates as the semester progresses.

Figure Drawing for 2nd Grade

I recently completed a figure drawing lesson with each of my second grade classes, including my inclusion and Early Up groups.  The children did a fabulous job, and I was tremendously excited by the results. 

On Day One of the lesson, we talked about basic body proportion.  To emphasize and demonstrate, I asked a student to lay on a long sheet of bulletin board paper.  After tracing their body, I hung the large drawing on the board.  Using a Manikin, I talked about the basic shapes that comprise the human body, as well as the proportional relationships from the beginning of class.  Students were really entertained by a life-size tracing of one of their classmates!  Next, I demonstrated how to draw a figure made up of ovals and circles for joints.  There were no details, and this exercise was simply about capturing proportional relationships.  Students followed along on their papers, and then, practiced drawing the figure on their own.  On Day Two, we focused on depicting the figure in motion.  For example, I demonstrated posing the Manikin in different positions.  We also viewed paintings by Jacob Lawrence (Builders) and Edgar Degas (Dancers) to talk about the different actions being completed by the figures in the painting.  I used these paintings as a springboard to draw a few examples on the board.  Lastly, students were reminded of proportional relationships.  Their final works of art were completed on 12 x 18 Manila paper.  Students were asked to draw several figures in action, to give the suggestion that they were traveling across the page.  For inspiration, we brainstormed on favorite activities such as gymnastics, soccer, cheerleading, skateboard, etc.  Many of the students were able to do the drawings proficiently, while a few others needed proportion reminders.  Overall, I was very pleased with the outcome of this lesson.  To follow, I am planning to feature a detailed, realistic figure in our next lesson. 

Student Assessment and Teacher Performance

Like I mentioned last week, Portsmouth Public Schools is piloting an art teacher assessment tool.   Current trends indicate that in the future, a teacher’s compensation and employment may be linked directly to student performance.  This is pretty clear for teachers of students who take standardized tests, but what about non-tested subjects?  Our art supervisor, Diana Davenport, met with other area art supervisors to determine a fair model.  Although we are not judged by this model YET, we are all taking this year to get used to the idea. 

The targeted area for this year’s experiment is third grade still-life.  A still life is an arrangement of objects placed on a stationary surface, for example, a vase of flowers or a collection of toys.  The task of the art teacher is to have students draw a still life three times over the year:  first, as a pre-test, second, as progress, and third, as a final assessment.  I have chosen to conduct this assignment in September, January, and June.  For the objects, I saved various packages from my home, such as detergent bottles, oatmeal cans, and pasta boxes- basically, what is usually recycled.  I felt that it was important for students to draw items with which they are familiar. 

Last week, I conducted my post test.  I have to say, it was an eye opener.  Some students did great- easily understood the assignment and proceeded without hesitation to develop a level-appropriate still life.  However, I have to admit, those were the minority.  As a result of this experience, here is a summary of what I need to address in my instruction:

  • foreground, middle ground, and background (this is a 3rd grade sol)
  • form, such as cube, cylinder, and cone (also 3rd grade sol, although it is introduced in 2nd)
  • overlapping
  • drawing what you really see, rather than, what you THINK you see.

Some of the techniques really surprised me.  I was stunned to see at least one student from every class try to pick up the objects and trace them on their paper.  I definitely understand why they did this from a child’s point of view, but I need to help them understand a different way.  Other students would draw items that were on their table but not in view at their seats, just because they *knew* they were there, not because they *saw* them.  Many times, if objects were overlapping, they only chose one of the objects to draw.  When objects were placed at an odd angle, some kids still drew them straight and front-facing. 

Let me be clear that I am NOT making fun or picking on my students.  What I am doing is assessing them so that I can see how I can help them.  Over the next few months, I will be teaching lessons to target the weak areas so that students can do a better job in January and June.  After all- it is not only my goal that students are able to draw a still-life in a level-appropriate manner- it is also my goal that they can do so with joy and confidence.

Art Ed Forecast



Change is good.  Here are just some of the ones in store for this school year:  

The Standards are Changing.  According to VAEA President Scott Russell, art education leaders have revising our art SOLS.  
Our Curriculum is Changing.  There is a new format for the PPS art curriculum, featuring color and images.  That was my summer job!  The sixth grade document is being piloted and the rest of the grades will be edited as soon as the revised SOLs are available.  
Teacher Evaluation is Changing.  PPS unveiled a new observation form this year.  Also, our art department is responding to the current push for more teacher performance data.  Diana Davenport met with fellow art supervisors to develop an assessment format that made sense for elementary art teachers.  We will be completing this assessment project with third graders by evaluating still life drawings completed during this school year.  
Lesson Plan Information is Changing.  Last spring, we were asked to incorporate Bloom’s Taxonomy and Higher Order Thinking questions in our lesson plans.  

Andy Warhol says: “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. “

We can benefit from all of these changes, however, first we must accept and adapt.  Sometimes it is easy to get stuck in a cycle of only doing things one way.  As good teachers, we make the choice to evolve.  Change is good!

What’s up in March?

Here’s what is being covered during the month of March:

Kindergarten… Adinkra prints, drawing pigs, decorated cakes
First Grade… Mondrian
Second Grade… Scarab Amulets, Collaged Fruit Crates
Third Grade… The art styles of Picasso, Cubist Faces
Fourth Grade… Mehndi
Fifth Grade… Tessellations
Sixth Grade… Fauvist Landscapes

I have just finished 2 professional development courses and have received an “A” in both!

Fourth Grade Art Club members have just created short instructional videos on how to create a ceramic cupcake using Voicethreads.

Sixth Grade Art Club members will be using clay to make a ceramic creature. They are really excited!

Students in Grades 5 and 6 are focusing on self-assessment at the close of each project. This will help them adjust to the expectations of Middle School art classes in the future.