3 Ways to Use Art in the Classroom

Thursday, March 16, 2017
Art in the classroom may not be a new idea, but it's a great one! Read on to explore how art can improve instruction, engage students, and bridge the home-school connection.

In honor of Youth Art Month, I had the chance to interview Dr. Rebecca Wiehe, Academic Curriculum Director of the American College for Education, about the benefits of using art in the classroom.  Below are some highlights of our interview.
Everyone Deserves to Learn (EDL): How can teachers, administrators, and counselors use art to help students express themselves?
Dr. Rebecca Wiehe (RW): Planning deliberate and systematic ways that students can interact with art is a way to allow students to express themselves.  Classroom lessons, field trips, school assembles, etc. are all wonderful ways to incorporate art into the school day and the students' lives...Art should not just be an add-on...but rather it should be used in a deliberate way to enhance the students' learning experiences.  Whatever the method, teachers need to find ways to have their students interact with the art....to figure out how it can become part of their lessons, and how those lessons can be different from classroom to classroom and year to year. 
EDL: Describe how English Language Learners can benefit from creating original art.
RW: Art is a language, a way of communication, that everyone speaks.  It also takes the focus off accuracy of language and allows students to express themselves in other ways than through just words.  Having students share their art and provide some explanation or description is an activity that can connect the use of art to the four domains (reading,writing, listening and speaking). 
EDL: How can teachers use this activity as a way to bridge the home-school-community connection?
RW: Displaying student created artwork around the school, either in individual classrooms, offices, or hallways, is a wonderful way to give pride and a sense of accomplishment to students.  Displaying their work in the community extends that pride outside of the school building and helps to build relationships among all stakeholders in the district. 
EDL: Explain the background for Youth Art Month.
RW: Youth Art Month is celebrated in the month of March and administered by the Council for Art Education.  It emphasizes the value of art education for all children, and provides an opportunity to discuss the skills that visual arts experiences can have in helping children develop.  This year's theme is "United through Art." In honor of this event, American College of Education is putting on a contest for teachers to submit their students' art work.  We encourage teachers to share their students' artwork by simply uploading a photo to Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook using the hashtab #ACEYAMContest.  We'll gather the photos and upload them to our Youth Art Month board on Pinterest to celebrate how art inspires the students in your classroom! For more info, please visit the contest page

Thanks for reading! I hope you'll join me in posting student artwork to the contest, using the hashtag #ACEYAMContest.

Technology Hacks for Teachers

Monday, February 20, 2017
Logging grades, managing conferences, volunteering with the PTA, scheduling dentist appointments, paying the bills... balancing the duties of home and work can be like walking on a tightrope! I'm sharing three of my favorite technology hacks that help keep me organized at home and at school.

1. Google Keep

I've never been the type to carry a planner or agenda, but Google Keep keeps me organized and in the know.  I used to keep important dates and times in the Notes feature of my phone, but I think Google Keep is a lot easier to edit, plus you can see it across all devices!  I can see my work to-do lists at my work or home computer, update my shopping list on the run, and share calendar updates and reminders with my husband. I love being able to move and edit the boxes to reflect priority, too.  

2. Screencast-O-Matic

Did you ever wish you could record yourself giving instructions and replay it on multiple occasions? This program helps you do just that! I've used it to record directions for students completing an individual project.  I've also had students narrate their own presentations.  If you need to record yourself giving direct instruction for an IEP student, this is a great (FREE) program to use! 

3. Snipping Tool

The snipping tool is permanently pinned to my taskbar, and I use it all the time to take screenshots both at home and at school.  You can drag the parameters of the snip to just the shape you want, and then edit the photo right in the tool itself.  I love it for adding diagrams from the internet into student worksheets, or coping important home information (like an order or reference number) without having to print a page. 

 These are just a few of the technology teacher hacks I like to use.  What are some of your favorite technology hacks?

Teaching ESL Kindergarten

Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Need some ideas to spice up your kindergarten ESL intervention time? I'm sharing some 20 minute listening and speaking activities that I use with my kindergarten ELL students.  

I pull my kindergarten ELL's out of classroom for 20 minutes in the morning, while the rest of the students are doing their morning work.  During that time, I focus mostly on listening and speaking skills, since their phonics and reading instruction takes place in the mainstream classroom.  Here are some ideas to get your kinder kids listening and speaking!

Warm-Up (5-7 mins)

We start our lesson the exact same way, every single day.  Even if I've already said hello to the students, I say hello again and ask how they're doing.  By doing that, I'm creating the expectation to respond in full sentences, as well as enforcing the societal norms of responsing to greetings.  As the students become more proficient, I add to our daily questions by asking what they had for breakfast/lunch, or what they did the night before. We then move into a warm-up game such as picture Bingo, which takes about 5-7 minutes to complete. 

Picture Bingo is one of my kids' favorite, if not THE favorite game to play.  It improves vocabulary and speaking skills, teaches game-playing skills and reinforces those social norms that many students are missing.  The game often starts out as a teacher-directed activity, but as students gain proficiency, they take ownership and begin calling out the names on the cards themselves.

Guided and Independent Practice (10-15 mins)

In the beginning, when students have very low proficiency, I tend to stick with flashcards for direct instruction.  There are SO many ways to use flashcards.  We can describe attributes, listen and point, and discuss likes and dislikes.  That's just a few!  I like to use cards that are seasonally appropriate, as well as objects they're interested in.  As students gain proficiency, I teach them to use 10 Finger Sentences to describe a picture or prompt. 

We also use some iPad apps, but I am very picky about what apps I use for instruction.  Many apps have "robot voice" narration and dictation, which is not the fluent speaking I'd like to model.  One app I do like for kindergarten language learners is the English First High Flyers Game.  Students learn 5 related words at a time, then take a short quiz to assess. 

Another one my kinders love is the Disney Princess Story Theater app, where you can move the princesses around, add accessories, and then narrate a story and play it back.  My little girls love it! The younger boys love it too, but for older kids, I'd recommend the Sock Puppets app.  

You can save your stories and play them back- what a great way for kids to hear their progress!  There are lots of possibilities for creating speaking and listening tasks, too.
We will also use whiteboards and dry erase markers to play a modified pictionary game.  I'll show a card (secretly) to one student, who starts to draw the picture.  The others try to guess the name of the card.  That's a fun game for warm-up or review, too!

 Closure Activity

We usually end with a GoNoodle activity or a youtube video.  The movement helps my little kids get their wiggles out, and they are great for listening skills! ELF Kids Learning channel is my favorite, hands down.  We also love to do the Starfall Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes video- great for practicing the tricky /s/ sound at the ends of words, and it's quite a challenge!

While I introduce new activities, songs, or videos every few days, our general intervention time runs as you read above.  Having a structure and routine really helps my students to stay focused and on task, and helps to establish a safe space for trying to speak.

If you're interested in more kindergarten ideas, check out my pinterest board!

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