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.

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.

Perspective, 3 Ways

After the holidays, I began lessons on one-point perspective with grades 4, 5, and 6. Although we focused on the same skills, students created three distinct projects that are designed to build on concepts learned the year before. One-Point Perspective is mentioned in the Art SOLs throughout late elementary and middle school. By far, it is the most difficult lesson we teach at the Elementary level. My goal is to help students master the skills early in order to gain confidence.
Sydney, Grade 4

Sydney, Grade 4

Grade 4 begins their learning by hearing about the basics of one point perspective and seeing several demonstrations and examples.  It is important that they are able to explain why one point perspective can be useful.  Their project is a landscape (or cityscape) with at least 2 buildings.  They must also show awareness of spatial relationships (such as 3 trees depicting foreground, middle ground, and background) and interesting details telling us about the character of the neighborhood. 
Leo, Gr. 5

Leo, Gr. 5

Learners in Grade 5 also create a cityscape, but show it from a different angle.  These students show the city as if they were above it, sort of a “Bird’s Eye View.”  They apply what they know from Grade 4, and do plenty of sketchbook review.  Students must have 5 buildings that connect to the vanishing point and properly show windows.  After the buildings are complete, we concentrate on adding city details, such as roads, parks, cars, bodies of water, and nature.  Students are encouraged to think like a city planner, and also to include at least one diagonal or curved road for interest. 
Lauren, Grade 6

Lauren, Grade 6

Sixth graders make one point perspective personal by using what they know to create 3D initials.  We focus on using the same skill in a new way.  Students learn crosshatching and careful marker coloring.  They also explore the use of personal symbols.  This is a cool project that they really enjoy.  I am often asked by the 5th and 4th graders- When can we do THAT?  I tell them they must learn the basics first, and that we will move on to this more complicated use of perspective in 6th grade. 

Warhol-Inspired Kindergarten Works

Erin, Kindergarten

Erin, Kindergarten

  Kindergarten students recently studied the artist Andy Warhol.  We talked about how Warhol loved things that were popular, such as food, advertisements, and things on television.  Kindergarten students were able to identify the shapes in Warhol’s painting of an Ice Cream Cone.  They also discussed his painting of the actress Marilyn Monroe.  Students talked about how Warhol worked to make Marilyn’s image look different in each section.  Finally, we created our projects, which are based on a combination of these two works of art by Andy Warhol.  Great Job, Kindergarten!

Skylar, Kindergarten

Skylar, Kindergarten


Kathryn, Kindergarten

Kathryn, Kindergarten

We might be in the paper!

Last week, Mrs. Turner called my room and asked if I could come to the phone.  This rarely happens, so I wondered who it could be!  The caller was from The Pilot, and they wanted to write about our holiday window painting in the local section.  I provided some information, and also directed them to the earlier blog post and photos.  I believe this little mention will be posted in the Currents on the Wednesday after Christmas- we will have to wait and see!

Upcoming Plans

Here are some of the new developments in the CES Art Room:

  • In November, I was a presenter at the VAEA conference in Norfolk.  During the conference, I attended a workshop called Journal Fodder Junkies.  I had an awesome experience learning about using sketchbook pages as a mixed-media visual journal.  The presenters, Eric Scott and David Modler, are Art Ed professionals, and have had gallery shows featuring their journal pages, done staff development all over, and have even written a book.  Our art supervisor here in Portsmouth, Diana Davenport, purchased 2 copies of their book- one for me, and one for her.  We plan on offering a staff development session on the topic this year. 
  • Next semester, I will be busy taking 2 college courses toward recertification.  I have chosen an online course through WHRO about using digital technology and web 2.0 as storytelling vehicles, and also a course through VCU about visual journal pages. 
  • This year, CES will again be offering After School Specials classes.  I am considering teaching a 6-week embroidery/sewing course.  I would like to do stitched cards, functional change purses, an embroidered item that students can wear, and maybe a stuffed sock creature of some sort. 


  • I am looking for an ART ROOM PARENT.  The responsibilities would mostly revolve around arranging for artwork to be hung on a monthly basis in our school.  This is something that I do not have time to do during the school day.  I have heard from some parents via email.  I will be in contact with everyone next Monday, and we will put some plans together.

The City by the Water

by Isaiah

by Isaiah


Third graders have just finished learning about art categories, with a focus on landscape, seascape, and cityscape.  Art can be categorized by subject matter.  These works of art can be classified as cityscapes and seascapes at the same time!  We used oil pastels, watercolors, and tempera paints for this lesson. 

by Brennan

by Brennan

First, students looked at a variety of landscape, seascape, and cityscape works of art.  They were able to categorize each picture by its subject matter.  After a brief bit of note taking in sketchbooks, students began their final works of art.  They folded each sheet of paper horizontally.  On the top area, they used oil pastel to draw a cityscape.  We folded the papers and burnished the back to create a print of the cityscape in the water below.  This helped to establish a sense of symmetry.  Students used resist methods to paint their work.  Finally, we added extra details in the water.

by Treasure

by Treasure


I repeat this lesson yearly with grade 3 because it reinforces several important art concepts:  the nature of art media, art categories, variety, symmetry, reflection.  I first learned about this lesson at a past TVAEA Winter Workshop, in a presentation held by Suffolk art teachers Sandee Darden and Angela Salerno.  They thought of it first, but its a really good lesson and it has a place in my curriculum each year. 

In other news….

the Fifth Graders are finishing up their pottery.  The bowls and plates have a really beautiful, natural look and I can’t wait to post pictures soon.  Sixth Graders are also completing their collographs this week, and even completing a self-assessment of their progress on the lesson.  As art teachers, we try to make students confident to assess their own work so that they will know what improvements and changes to make independently.  One of my goals is to make students prepared for future art classes, and with Sixth Grade this is especially important as they begin middle school next year.

Holes in the Ceiling: Whats up in Art Class

Recently, we had some water damage in the art room.  Luckily, there were not students in the classroom during the incident!  Remember the terrible rain we had about 2 weeks ago?  There had been a Tornado Warning in Churchland, so the students were in the hallway, crouched with their heads down (normal procedure).  The hallway was very quiet, but suddenly, we heard a sound as if it were raining on the inside.  The sound was coming from the art room.  Mrs. O’Neil, Mrs. Cash and I checked it out- a ceiling tile behind the door had burst, leaving water pouring all over the floor.  Mrs. Williams helped me to move all my technology, power cords, posters, and books.  After the Tornado Warning, the leak tapered off.  I decided to teach in the classrooms that day.  At the end of the school day, the rain came again, and there was again a leak, this time much larger and resembling a waterfall, in the same spot.  Mr. Smith came with a trash can to collect the water.  At this point, the leak has either been fixed, or temporarily fixed, as we’ve had no more damage despite a few rain storms.  There was no significant damage in my room, and things are back to normal. 

In other news…

Students of the MonthChristopher and Christian, 3rd Graders from Mrs. Fly’s class.  You can see their artwork in the front foyer.  Check out the excellent craftsmanship!  I cannot take credit for it- their art teacher is Mrs. Ragan, who visits us from Churchland Academy on Day 5.

Professional News:  I presented a short staff development session to the Physical Education teachers last week.  You can see a presentation outline below.  In early November, I will be presenting at my state-level professional conference.  I continue to maintain the PPS Art Department Blog, as well as this blog, and will be starting an Art Department Wiki soon. 

Classroom News:  The Fifth graders are working on a ceramic project.  They have been pressing rubber leaves into clay, and creating a tray or bowl.  I look forward to posting some photos after these are painted with watercolors.  Sixth graders are working on some exciting collograph prints which will surely be featured soon. 

Family News:  My baby boy, Emmet, just turned 2!  Thanks to all the sweet students who remembered and wished him a happy birthday!