Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Message of Hope for 2017

"A Bigger Splash" by David Hockney

Happy New Year friends! Last night my husband and I enjoyed watching the fantastic new Ron Howard documentary "Eight Days A Week" along with a really fascinating extra features dvd about The Beatles' touring years. And we recently enjoyed inspiring biographies on the lives of artist David Hockney, and music mogul David Geffen. 

All of these uplifting films shared a common theme about rising to the top of your chosen field through hard work and staying true to your vision.  I can't help but contrast this with the bizarre rise of a narcissistic, born on third base, reality TV vulgarian to the top position of leader of the free world. I will not accept Trump as my President. I believe that when someone shows you who he is, as Trump certainly has through his reckless tweeting, you should believe him. Narcissists don't want to change, because they love any kind of attention, even negative. Narcissists are unfit to be Presidents.

I wonder, will there be great art when the bar is set so low?  Right now we really need the arts to remind us of our shared humanity and to give us hope. It's frightening to think about the future, and although it's important to look to the past for inspiration, we can't be stuck there pining for the good old days. I think it is important during these uncertain times, to look within ourselves for hope, to continue to fight and stand up for what we believe in, and to enjoy living in the moment.  It is not healthy to be consumed by fear of the unknown. I have hope and faith in God that truth and goodness will always triumph over evil.

The artists and good people who care about our shared humanity and planet can teach our children that Trump's narcissism is not normal or good. Caring adults can model kindness, empathy, stand up for equal rights, and speak truth to power. I won't be watching a news media that normalizes and legitimizes Trump, presents false equivalencies, and only reports negative news for rating$. The corporate news media deserves most of the blame for this horrible fiasco. People have been duped into believing in a con-man. This is not acceptable. 

Wishing you love, hope, and happiness in 2017!  Surround yourself with those family/friends who show unconditional love and kindness towards you, who support and appreciate you for who you are. Look within yourself and lift yourself to create, to be you, and enjoy the moment. Artists look deeper and longer, to see in a different way not limited by the camera's eye. With a pencil and paper, paint, or whatever medium you choose, the possibilities are endless. You can make a bigger splash!

"I was aware that the teaching of drawing was being stopped almost 30 years ago. And I always said, 'The teaching of drawing is the teaching of looking.' A lot of people don't look very hard." David Hockney

‘When you photograph a splash, you’re freezing a moment and it becomes something else. I realise that a splash could never be seen this way in real life, it happens too quickly. And I was amused by this, so I painted it in a very, very slow way.’  David Hockney

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Easy Winter Themed Art Lesson Ideas

Winter tree, cool colors

Allentown row homes, collage/painting 
Evergreen tree collage
These images are my lesson examples, which I made while modeling the steps and procedures during class. I teach young students how to draw a tree by asking them to think of an upper case Y, and imagine the branches are like the fingers on your hand. I demonstrate by holding my arms up over my head, like a Y, so they can visualize the larger trunk, and smaller branches. We use cool colors to paint on top of blue construction paper.

In the second example, I give students pre-cut rectangles in different sizes, and they glue those on blue paper, then we talk about the row homes in our city, types of buildings, and the shapes we can draw to make windows and doors, and decorative details. I simplify for younger grades. Then we add white paint with Q-Tips.

In the third example we tear paper for snowy hills, and use pre-cut triangles and rectangles to make the trees, and I show them how to cut a slice of a circle for the crescent moon. We add snow with construction paper crayons or oil pastels. I've had success with all three of these lessons, at varying grade levels Pre-K-6. All of these lessons can be completed in one 45 minute art class.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Easy Fall Elementary Art Lesson Ideas

Kindergarten art work, Pumpkin Family
Grade 5 art work, Fall Still Life Collage

Grade 2 art work,  Still Life with Pumpkins
Autistic Support K-2, Fall Tree Collage (torn paper)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Art Time with Angie at TPT!

Here's a sneak peak at the kinds of lessons and activities I will be sharing at my TPT (Teachers Pay Teachers) store. I am still working on this one, but it will be done soon. This is my cover page and preview. In the mean time, you can download my "E-Z Draw Bird" for free. Also check out my clown fish in coral reef, paper guitars, and circus clown lessons. All tried and true and created by me! I'm still learning how to do the fancy graphics for my products, but it's the content that is most important! See link to my store at my right side bar, or click here to go to "Art Time with Angie."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Easy Spring Flower Drawing

Student work, grade 1
Here is an easy Spring drawing lesson for young children. I start by showing them a variety of flowers (I use fake ones so they can touch the flowers and so I can use the same ones over again) and I tell them about the artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who liked to look inside the flower. I show a few examples of her work and talk about how she became famous because she painted flowers this way. I tell them, if you look inside, you can see shapes and parts, like little flowers within a bigger flower. Pretend you are using a magnifying glass. (Or, actually pass around a real magnifying glass).

Then I model how to draw the flowers, one step at a time. We draw with a black or dark crayon on a square sheet of paper. 12"x12" works well. First we draw a circle for the center of a flower, make sure it is not too small because we will be drawing inside the circle. Inside each circle we draw lines like a peppermint candy or wheel, or dots like a sunflower, or spirals, or shapes resembling antennae or lollipop, etc. Next, I show them how to draw layers of petals going around the circle. Some petals are round, some are like triangles. They love to go round and round, making the flower bigger. We fill up the whole paper, and it's okay if some flowers go off the edge. I like students to draw at least 3 different flowers.

Once they have their paper filled, they can start coloring. I tell them that green looks nice as a background color, to resemble leaves. But I allow them to choose their own colors. I provide a variety of crayons. I prefer crayons over markers so we can blend colors. I talk a little about shades and tints of colors. This lesson connects with science, seasons, shapes, color, line, art history, fine motor skills, and most importantly- joy. Time frame: 45 minutes.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Night Owls at Starn's

 "Night Owls at Starn's", mixed media collage. I don't know what happened to this piece, from the late 1980's featuring the actual 1970's groovy wallpaper from our house, and a photo of my dad with his friends at a famous seafood restaurant Captain Starn's in Atlantic City NJ. Well at least I have this photo!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Easy Bird Family Lesson for Primary Grades

This is an easy and fun drawing lesson for primary grade students. This was the last lesson I taught as a long term substitute elementary art teacher in the Allentown School District, before I was unfairly blacklisted from full time employment. You can see the easy steps on the right, and I always model the drawing one step at a time so students can follow me, and not feel frustrated. What I loved was the way the students used their imaginations, ( which I encouraged) and gave their birds human traits and personalities by adding hair bows, hats, etc. No "college and career" developmentally inappropriate nonsense allowed in my class! I let little kids be little kids!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Unfairly Blacklisted

Abstract tree, 5th grade ASD student work
I was informed on Saturday morning (by robo-email) that I will not be interviewed for one of the three newly restored elementary art teacher positions in the Allentown School District even though I have "met their credential requirements." "The positions have been filled." "No Interview." I believe I am being unfairly blacklisted (for the 2nd time) from full-time employment in the ASD. 

Formerly a tenured ASD art teacher, I've been a dedicated ASD substitute teacher for the past 4 years, including two long-term assignments as an ASD elementary art teacher, and I started a 3rd long-term assignment as an ASD elementary art teacher at the end of this past school year. So … they know I can do the job … and I've also been given letters of recommendation from ASD principals and fellow ASD teachers. 

As many of you know, I've been a vocal ASD parent, publicly opposing the cuts to related arts teachers and advocating for full restoration of these programs. Over the years, I've also been a parent volunteer, freely giving hundreds of hours of my time working to improve the ASD. I am feeling both sad and angry about this apparent free speech punishment and blackball discrimination, which shows the true colors of the ASD administration and ASD board. I will greatly miss my always gratifying interactions with ASD students, ASD parents, and ASD teachers. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Grade 5 Flower Drawings

Four different approaches to the same lesson. I showed students how to draw closed and open roses, and other flowers. They incorporated the flowers into a design of their choosing. Most of the girls chose to draw several flowers, and most of the boys preferred to draw one single rose. I love how these came out, even though they did not have time to finish coloring. If only they had art class once a week, instead of once every three weeks! This was the last art class of the year.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mini Self-Portraits

1st grade art work
4th grade art work

3rd grade art work, 5th grade is above

These are 3"x3" and will be part of a district wide mosaic project to be displayed at the Allentown Art Museum this summer.  I challenged some of my first grade classes because they were very attentive and interested in following me as I showed them step by step how to draw the features of the face. I encouraged all students to do their best, and offered lots of praise and assistance since I knew this project would be intimidating and frustrating for some of my students. There were some tears.  Kindness, patience, and compassion is always the best way to treat students who struggle with confidence, fine motor skills, or behavior.

Since I am working as a long term substitute, I was not included in the planning of this project. I would have objected to the small size because I think it is developmentally inappropriate for primary grade students. While teaching this lesson, I learned that some younger students like to portray themselves as super heroes, imaginary characters, etc. instead of how they really look, which is normal for students ages 5-8. I would never discourage a child to draw from their imagination, since that is developmentally appropriate.

UPDATE 9/15  The summer has passed and I have not heard anything about this project. No one has contacted me, and if the work has been displayed I have not been given any credit by the Allentown School District for teaching this lesson.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Test Prep in Place of Middle School Arts Courses

ASD Middle School Art Work
Over the last 4 years our allegedly* cash-strapped SD, with school board approval, has cut over 400 teaching positions. This plan was called a "curriculum curtailment" and parents were told by district officials that the district had no choice but to cut teachers. Related arts courses, also known as "minor rotation" courses at the middle schools were cut by 50%. One art teacher is now shared by two middle schools. There are over 900 students at each middle school. We used to have 2-2.5 art teachers at each middle school. The "curtailed" courses include art, music, library, languages, health/PE, technology ed., and family consumer science. Students are being short-changed of a quality education.

Allentown SD middle school students used to enjoy a well rounded curriculum, with 2 related arts courses every quarter. Now the kids get only one minor rotation per quarter, and a class called "intervention and enrichment." In 8th grade, my son has had  PSSA test prep for 2 quarters (half the year) as his "enrichment" class. Parents were told that teachers would be doing special projects during enrichment class. When I expressed my concerns, the teachers told me they must teach test prep. I realize this is not the teacher's fault, but parents need to be aware of what is going on, and should speak up against this misuse of instructional time.  Cutting arts courses is bad enough, but then to add test prep in place of those courses, is just disgraceful.

* Recently, an extra $19.6 million in funds was discovered in the district's budget.  Local news media is reporting that number as $11 million, but the budget report shows an additional $8 million between Nov. and Jan. after an audit by the teacher's union. But ASD superintendent Dr. Mayo says there are no plans to restore the related arts teachers, (but they did hire a new arts administrator) and there has been no outside investigation of this shocking mismanagement of funds. No on has been fired. But there are plans to open a NEW career charter HS within the district, for 150 lucky students who win a lottery.

UPDATE 9/15: The district has now restored some of the related arts teachers at the elementary school level, but only PE was restored at the middle school level at this time. Not enough!! Full restoration of all related arts courses is needed in order to provide a well rounded education to all the students.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Claire Danes, Altered Image

Altered xerox, Cubist style
This is how I teach Cubism to middle school students. Make photocopies, color, cut in shapes, re-assemble, glue, and draw on top. I let them pick images of celebrities from a teen magazine.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The State of our School Music Program

I enjoyed watching my 8th grade son Gianni and the Trexler Middle School Orchestra perform at their annual Winter Concert. The band and chorus were also enjoyable. I loved the band's fun rendition of "Louie, Louie." This is my son's 6th year performing as a violinist. When he was in elementary school, he played piano as well as violin. He enjoys playing violin at school. The dedicated students, teachers, and parents should be commended for their commitment to keeping instrumental music alive in the Allentown SD. Students must attend early rehearsals at 7 am, before school starts, 2-3 times a week. It's a big commitment.

Over the past 4 years, the Allentown SD has greatly reduced its music programs, cutting related arts teachers as a short sighted solution to a budget crisis. Over 1/4 of staff has been lost over 4 years. At the middle schools, that's a 50% reduction in long standing arts programs that children need. One  classroom music teacher is stretched to cover two middle schools. Some middle school students won't have music class all year. A school's curriculum should reflect what a community values, and our city leaders tell us that the arts are a  centerpiece in Allentown's  "rebirth." So, why aren't the arts just as important at our city public schools? The reality is quite the opposite, and children who attend city schools are being short-changed.

Trexler MS serves approximately 1,000 students, but there are only 14 students in the orchestra. It seems like each year, that number gets smaller. The instrumental music teacher is stretched too thin, as are all ASD related arts teachers. She teaches both band and orchestra. Our small but mighty orchestra sounds terrific, but should be much bigger. I'd hate to see this program just disappear. These programs need community support, and moreTEACHERS. Arts enrichment and integration to replace certified teachers is insufficient. We need TEACHERS who connect with students, providing consistency and continuity. 

The ASD city schools are community schools, they anchor Allentown's neighborhoods, and need to be improved, not abandoned. Expansion of trendy charter schools to serve select students, currently drain $37.8 million away from our district schools.  Public education is a public service for every child. Traditional public schools don't  turn children away. Please vote for school board candidates who can see the bigger picture, who support improving existing schools, who are not afraid to take a stand and restore arts teachers across the district instead of building new experimental high schools at the whims of local corporations. Education is much more than just  job training. By participating in the arts, students learn skills needed to be successful in any career, but more importantly, the arts bring joy and meaning to children's lives right now.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Working With Autistic Students K-2

These are very simple and fun torn paper fall trees, a lesson I teach to students in an autistic support room, grades K-2. I love the way each one is very different.  I teach by modeling, one step at a time. First tear the green grass, then a rectangle for the tree trunk, then the branches, and then add tissue paper leaves to the tree, or background.  Their teacher was very supportive and hung them in the hallway.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Paraprofessional Speaks Out: "This is the Job of a Teacher"

Paras help me teach my Pre-K lessons
I received this comment at an older post and felt that it deserved some attention. Thank you for sharing your story, Rachelle. The paras in Allentown SD start at under 12k per year, and are grossly underpaid and undervalued. Why isn't their union doing anything to help them get the pay they deserve?

" I have been a para in Missouri for 5 years (this coming year is my 6th). I was a SPED para for 4 years and was a classroom para (more of a teacher's aide) for the past year and will be again this year. Last year, I had my own classroom, which I decorated and managed, planned my own lessons, and took 9 reading groups of 6 kids each, 1 math class of 21 children, and 1 intervention group of 8 children in my day. Like any other teacher, I have a plan time in addition to my lunch--because I need it. I plan all of my own lessons for each reading group, on different reading levels, each math group and each intervention group. I go to the teacher professional development and provide anecdotal notes as well as data for teachers.

This job is the job of a teacher. I make less than 12K a year. I spend nights at home grading, working on lessons and free days organizing and decorating my classroom. Schools are realizing that if they call a position "para" they can pay whatever they want...and it's not right.

As a SPED para, I did as much work. I learned sign language for one of my kids, because no one gave him any kind of communication device and he was nonverbal. I planned his communication lessons, and rather than the SPED teacher, I was the one who met with his SLP and the district Autism Specialist about him. His mother addressed her notes to me rather than to his teachers. Again, I got paid next to nothing.

In Missouri, I am eligible for food stamps. It's not right that I do the things I do and still make so little that the state has determined that I cannot feed myself on my own salary. Not only that, but I often feel discarded because I am a para. At professional development recently, the end of the day came and an activity was still going on, a "team" activity, but an announcement came on: "Paras are dismissed. Activities will continue after you have clocked out." Why not just say, "Paras are don't matter and we don't want to pay you anymore."?

I have 2 Master's degrees in addition to my undergrad. I am an educated, smart person and I strive every day to make a difference to kids, but I cannot feed myself and clothe myself and put a roof over my own head. I fear I might have to quit because of these things...but the saddest part is, the district doesn't care. They'll hire anyone else with 60 college credit hours and say "whatever."
It burns me to the core to think of how undervalued paras are."