Jesse Boone Art 1 Foundations  at Cradock Middle School

Students completed a brief study of different parts of Western Art history from Prehistoric until 1400.

During that time students learned that the primary use for art was to communicate with one another.  We discussed how Prehistoric man drew on the ceilings and walls of caves, while referencing the “Cave Paintings” in Lascaux, France.

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“Cave Paintings” in Lascaux, France.

Also, discussing how ancient Greeks and Romans not only used pictures to communicate but had developed a written alphabet.

We compared Ancient Greek and Romans’ form of communication to that of ancient Egypt.  We talked about how the Egyptians used a more pictorial type of writing, while the others used an alphabet that more resembles our modern alphabet.

When discussing Ancient Egyptian art we referenced the “Fowling in the Marsh: fragment of wall painting from the tomb of Nebamun (no.10) Thebes, Egypt, 18 Dynasty, around 1350 BCE.

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“Fowling in the Marsh: fragment of wall painting from the tomb of Nebamun (no.10) Thebes, Egypt, 18 Dynasty, around 1350 BCE.

Studying that Egyptian art followed strict rules of style.  There artwork lacks three dimensional depth, very little overlapping and a persons size in the picture indicated their importance in society, not their placement in space.   Egyptian artwork is very conservative.

After studying this part of Western art history, students created their own rock wall painting.

1st they answered a series of questions based on who they are?  These answers were then translated into personal symbols.

2nd students created a sketch, arranging the symbols from the answered questions into a pleasing well balanced composition.

3rd Students created a single layer of plaster tape, let it dry and transferred the sketch to the plaster.

Finally, students painted their design using acrylic paint, being very careful to observe the Egyptian rule of style, no depth, important images are the larger images.

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Over the past several years, Portsmouth City Public Schools has steadily increased lesson plan requirements.  First, it was Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Then, higher-order thinking questions, differentiation and Marzano strategies.    Administrators began stipulating that lesson plans be turned in weekly.  Several teachers, myself included, experienced frustration as lesson plan expectations seem to rise each year.  Putting overwhelming responsibilities aside, however, many of these additional requirements have been part of art instruction for a long time.  The only difference is that now, teachers are asked to document these strategies in greater detail.

Art educators have an advantage regarding effective teaching strategies, as many of these best practices are holistically part of quality art teaching.  Like previously stated, the only difference now is that these strategies are to be documented in lesson plans.  Most recently, Portsmouth Public School teachers have been asked to document their use of formative assessment.  Formative assessment is essentially the same as checking for understanding.  Summative assessment, on the other hand, is a more final form of assessment.  How do these terms apply to art education?  Art teachers are conducting formative assessment when sketchbooks are checked for evidence of understanding concepts, when questions are asked to see if students learned from a discussion, and when circulating around the art room to see that all students are on target.  So, like previously stated, formative assessment is very common in the art room.

As teachers are now asked to document these strategies, however, some may look for more formal strategies.  Over the past few weeks, I have made a concerted effort to incorporate quality formative assessment in my lesson plans.  Here are some simple things that have worked for me:

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Post-it notes:  After a lesson on sketchbooks, where I presented images from the sketchbooks of Renaissance Artist Da Vinci and film maker Guillermo Del Toro, I asked sixth-grade students to write 2 facts and 1 opinion about sketchbooks on the Post-it before beginning a drawing assignment.  Students stuck these Post-its on a storage cabinet.  After making sure that all students had begun the drawing assignment, I read the Post-it responses.


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Self-Assessment of Knowledge:  After I presented a lesson on the elements of art and fourth-grade students completed a companion worksheet, I had them assess their understanding of the information.

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Applying vocabulary and concepts:  Third-Grade learned about the concepts of Foreground, Middle ground, and Background.  We studied the painting “Breakfast of the Birds” by Gabrielle Munter.  Afterward, students completed a guided drawing of the painting and labeled each area on their own.

Links on Art Assessment:

State of WV Dept of Ed

Scott Russell’s Pinterest on Art Assessment

Formative Assessment from the Art of Education

By Linnea Barth
Much like Aimee Sirna said in a previous blog entry, at this particular stage in my life, juggling an infant and a toddler as well a full time job, I do not have a lot of time for making art. One of the creative outlets that I have been able to sustain though has been ceramics. I usually do my ceramic work in school with the students. I have found that working with my students in clay can be mutually beneficial for a couple reasons. The first being that it gives me an opportunity to use my hands for something other than diaper changing! Secondly, I find that when I work with the students their craftsmanship improves. I’ve noticed that when you merely demonstrate the use of clay they are less likely to take the time to create a truly exceptional piece, but when you work alongside them and model creating a finely crafted work of art, they are more likely to become emotionally invested in their work as well. So, I have created many of the ceramic pieces below while working with my students here at Norcom.
I made this vessel a number of years ago when I was experimenting with ribbons of clay and organic finishes.


This is a more recent piece, made only this past fall with my art III students while revisiting my ribbon theme. The finish is a combination of traditional teal glaze with an earthenware glaze lightly brushed over the top in an effort to create a patina like finish.


This piece was made as a gift for my brother, and a demonstration of a relief project for my art I students last spring.


This is a sushi tray from a series I made a number of years ago. I carved the Celtic design into the top of the tray, which was molded over a plaster meat tray mold that I also made. I then dropped crushed red glass into the recessed parts. The bottom echoes the design in the top and was painstaking to cut, score and slip. In the end I was very pleased with the results on this and actually revisited the Celtic design to decorate a working earthenware lamp that I am also very proud of (my husband did the wiring on the lamp for me)…I wish I had a photo of the lamp to share, as I hand soldered a mica shade for it as well, but it is at my parent’s house in NY and they are currently in Virginia and unable to send me a photograph.


By Jamie Cosumano

Something had to give and I had a decision to make. Someone in my class would not be getting the attention needed and I, we, might just have to suffer the loss, I thought…
Then again – it might be ok.
This year, I was challenged with 8 plans in 3 blocks. Not an impossible task, but one requiring strong organizational skills, tenacious nature, and patience. The challenge was further extended into subdivisions within blocks, for example, Ceramics I divides into 3 parts at the end of the year: glazing, wheel-throwing, and sculpting. So in truth, 2nd block consisted of 7 plans, give or take, depending on the month.
So in this class of Ceramics I, Ceramics II, AP Studio Art, and Research/Studio Scholars III, I found myself looking at the last – Marquaine in Advanced Art (III), recently transferred in from Norcom High School.

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I set up all lessons and got the balls rolling, but no matter how hard I tried, I found myself pulled into clay, research, and AP matters over the work of this young man – this quiet and contemplative young man, new to our school, other students, and me.
No matter, I was delighted to find that this student kept to his tasks and completed several drawings for me. I jumped in when I felt he was missing a point or going astray, but that didn’t happen often. For my “neglect” I recognized that this student was learning, without my interruption. He was finding his voice without my direct influence or style. He was contemplating important decisions while I was busy: helping another find a better composition, finding center on the wheel, or digging out new materials from the supply closet.

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What’s my point? I think that sometimes an art teacher needs to allow a student find their own voice. It’s like what college orientation-for-parents states – “Don’t be a helicopter and constantly hover.” Objectives must be met, craftsmanship and growth are important to address, but if something better is realized, then shouldn’t we as artists celebrate the discovery over our original vision. I believe that students can guide us as much as we know we can guide them.
Marquaine taught me to trust the student. It doesn’t always work – there are situations – but when the right student comes along, guide gently and with care and support – but let them evolve at their own pace. The work will become meaning ful to you, and especially to them.

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These are examples of some of Mr. Craig’s own work.

Artist observe. The trajectory of a ball, the thrust of a twig, the enigma of fog, patterns in the sand,the uniqueness of every cloud, the convolution of an ear, the mood on a friend’s face…. everything has meaning to our eyes. We are nourished by long visual legacy, where we discover our heroes. We are gifted with mentors. Our challenge is to study especially nature, and to feel the human condition in all its complexities.  Nancy Ekholm Burkert

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By Eric Baur

Decoy2Three years ago I took a workshop on Traditional Decoy Carving. I had no previous knowledge about decoy carving, but the workshop appealed to me as both an artist and a hunter. By the end of the second day, I was amazed that I had carved, sanded and painted a decoy.


Since then, the majority of my artistic focus has been on making decoys. After that first workshop I continued to keep in contact with the instructor and eventually joined a decoy carving guild located in Virginia Beach.


 I have enjoyed learning about the craft as well as the history of decoy carving, and I am looking forward to participating in decoy festivals in the future.

By Martin Burke April 2014

Like most teachers I never take for granted the much appreciated Spring Break vacation. In addition to sleeping in, visiting with family and friends and recharging the old batteries, might I add that it is also a great time for educators to plan on what needs to be taught for the remainder of the year? With less than two months left in the semester and final exams looming, I like to see how I might “shake things up a bit” and prepare my last lesson plans.

Well, this Spring break I had an even easier time planning new lessons because I managed to squeeze in time doing one of my favorite activities: Gallery Hopping! I am sure that I am not the only artist, art teacher or art fan that enjoys this adventure. And yet for a professional art educator I feel that it is almost CRUCIAL to gallery hop and go out and see a variety of professional artworks. I consider it professional development! Much like an English teacher absorbing a new novel or a music teacher listening to the latest CD or the drama teacher hitting Broadway, for the visual art teacher, gallery hopping (or visiting any space with professional artwork for viewing) is doubly inspirational and necessary! For one, galley hopping inspires our creativity… our ideas evolve and soak up a new idea or two that can be presented as a challenge to our class. Secondly, “g-hopping”, certainly inspires our attention to craftsmanship—how could it not? These are some of the finest pieces of labor intensive artwork that was first patiently executed and then carefully hung, purposefully lit and now presented as the best of the best for purchase or perusal!

The pictures shown here are of me basking in the signage of two spectacular galleries I stopped in while in the Outer Banks. I spent well over an hour in each and even bought a batik inspired painting! So look out class I and primed to teach something exciting and new! Happy “G-hopping” everybody!

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by Jesse Boone

Be an Art Education Advocate
and Educate Future Art Education Advocates

 In a world where the visual and performing  arts are being discounted or discarded as not necessary and/or too expensive to continue; it becomes imperative that we educate our students, coworkers and administrators about  the importance of a fine arts education.

  1. Art offers an historical perspective that other forms of study do not.
  2.  Art offers diversity, exposing students to different cultures and experiences beyond their immediate surroundings.
  3.  Through the arts students are exposed to organizations, local artist and communities that champion the fine arts. These groups offer opportunities for students to continue their education and their support of the arts.
  4.  Art connects students to the world in a visual, tactile and even kinetic way that others subjects just can not possibly reach.
  5.  Students learn the practical applications of technology and software programs, exposing them to different ways technology can be used in the global work force.

 In conclusion, the arts prepare students for the job force of tomorrow, making them creative thinkers, and astute problem solvers and well rounded, well educated citizens.  Be and advocate for art education by creating advocates for art education.

J. Boone

By Imagene Mallory, Victory Elementary

Hola amigos!  Hello friends!  This is one of the most absolute favorite projects that my 1st graders enjoy!  I always try to incorporated culture in my lessons. I tell them art is cultural because there are people all over the world that create art in many different ways.  Being that I’m from the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, and being from a different culture, always makes for something different, fun and educational.   We ventured to Mexico where celebrations are lively and colorful. I showed a video of a gentleman that explained that when they have festivals or any special occasion, they line the streets or even inside with colorful cut paper.  This is called Papel Picado.  The students repeated the Spanish term for cut paper and then later viewed another video of a little girl giving a cute demonstration of how to cut paper to make their own. 

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We practiced with fan folding a piece of scrap paper and using a sissors, students cut small basic shapes out on the creases on all the sides.  When students were comfortable with cutting and folding, each student was given a colorful 9×12 piece of tissue paper to fold and cut.

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The biggest excitement came when the students opened up their cut paper! Strings were then stapled on one of the ends and students proudly displayed their Papel Picado.  I was not able to display any of their work in the building because they wanted to take them home.  It was fun and the students really enjoyed this project.  So until next time, adios!!

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Visual Journal Aimee Sirna

Visual Journal
Aimee Sirna

    Visual journals have completely changed my approach to art-making.  At 35, I don’t have time for the art making of my 20’s.  I have 2 small kids, 2 jobs, and am in a Master’s program, so spending a whole day or even an evening devoted to creating just isn’t on the table.  Through visual journaling, I have learned to incorporate small amounts of painting, collage, and drawing in mixed media works of art.  Visual journals are perfect for those with limited time and resources. 

I first learned about visual journaling during a hands-on workshop during the VAEA conference.  The presenters, Eric Scott and David Modler, authors of the book Journal Fodder Junkies, moved at a steady pace as they encouraged participants to try a plethora of mixed media techniques during the workshop.  It was not important that anything became finished, it was more important to make progress.  Months later, during a VCU Visual Journals course, instructor Cindy Copperthite led us to simply fill the page, eliminating the white background.  In between classes, I collected interesting images and materials to incorporate in the future.  These initial experiences continue to inform my personal methods for current college assignments.


Although I may have a concept for specific journal pages, there are no deadlines.  If I have 30 minutes and want to use watercolor, I’ll fill in some pages with pure color or experimental methods.  If I feel like drawing, I’ll draw something in my environment.  This variety of art making is based on the whims and resources of the artist.  A visual journal is achievable even alongside children, including mischievous toddlers.  Here, I’ll share a recent weekend-long experience in working in my visual journal.

Friday night:  I’ve made sure to bring home the stack of “cool stuff” I’ve been saving on my desk at work.  Pictures of poppies and a strange pink cotton ball plant, as well as the packaging from an expensive candy bar wait to be incorporated into collage.  Because I feel like drawing from observation, I draw a stack of laundry on a living room armchair while the kids watch Sesame Street.  After they go to bed, I use watercolor in the background.

Saturday morning:  My two year old, Victor, wants to cut with scissors while his brother uses the iPad.  I give him strips of cardstock to cut into squares.  Meanwhile, I select some images to include in my new picture- scraps from a colleague’s kindergarten lesson and the candy bar packaging.  The inside is printed with pink drawings of deer.  My son wants to glue his cardstock pieces on paper.  As I put dots of glue on the back of Victor’s shapes, I add my images to my own art work.

Saturday afternoon:  My five year old, Emmet, is coloring.  I use a Sharpie to add some lines to my work.    Victor is eating a snack and watching.

Sunday night:   I work with the Sharpie a little more while the kids are fast asleep.  The page isn’t finished, but, over the weekend, I’ve managed to draw, paint, and collage.  If I felt the pressure to complete something, I would not have begun.

Visual Journal Page Aimee Sirna

Visual Journal Page
Aimee Sirna

I understand that my work is not on canvas or watercolor paper and not every image is exhibition-worthy.  My focus, however, is the process.  I consider the act of collecting images and viewing works by fellow artists as part of that process.  Being personally connected to creativity positively contributes to being an art teacher.   My experiences have enabled me to share knowledge in a professional setting.  Currently, I’m teaching an afterschool class on visual journaling for some of my older students, and I’ve also enjoyed sharing my knowledge with colleagues through presenting workshops in the subject.    As my kids grow and I complete my Master’s work, I may be able to become re-acquainted with other forms of art making, but visual journaling ensures that I don’t fall out of practice.

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