Saturday, September 8, 2012

Va Va Voom in the Art Room

Just wrapped up the second week of school in the C vs. S classroom. I must say heading into my second year of teaching feels a ton more comfy than starting out brand spankin' new last year. I began the year on a total organization spree, vowing to do something about a few problem areas I noticed last year but did not have the time to address.

Challenge #1 : The Haunted Paper Closet
I am embarrassed to say that I spent the entire last year with a paper closet that was...less than functional. Last year, I avoided this closet all together. I walked all the way down the hall to the storage closet when I needed fresh paper, which was not a working solution as it put me in a real pinch if I ran out of a certain kind of paper and I had kiddos in the room.

Ahhhh! Look at this guy. It looks like a monster with a dozen tongues. Shame, shame, shame on me. Between this and the spooky kiln, I am surprised any child has ever had enough guts to step foot into the art room!
It took me just a few short hours after school on an in-service day to tame this beast. Now the storage space looks so neat and inviting I could practice my yoga moves in front of it! I was able to save nearly all of the paper. I will use the cut pieces I found for various collage or cut paper projects for the upcoming year. The really old, bleached out stuff (which I carbon dated back to sometime around 1964, tee hee hee!) I can use as painting/printmaking place mats.
Oooooooh! Ahhhhh! The new, and improved paper storage closet!

Challenge #2: Sink Climbers
Some of the littlest artists that visit the art room find that some of the tools are too large to help them be in charge. My sink is one of those tools. On several occasions last year during clean-up and hand washing, I would see the little beans hoisting themselves up on their bellies performing a strange kind of Cirque de Soleil balancing act on the sink counter to reach the water handles or the soap dispenser. While this move was quite resourceful and oftentimes comic, it caused my heart to palpitate in unwelcome ways. I tried to help them to reach the things they could not, but some of them are just so itty bitty that they could still not get their hands to reach the water. Solution: I invested in a simple Kindergartener-friendly sized stepping stool and painted it in Van Gogh's "The Starry Night." Already this year, I have seen little ones taking the stool down off the hook quite matter-of-factly, using it to reach the sink, and putting it away. Adorbs!

Challenge #3: Storage Box Clutter
One of the great design aspects of my art room is that is surrounded by cabinets. We have the floor to ceiling cabinets, rolling cabinets, cabinets in our work tables, basically an art teacher's dream. Still, with all of the cabinets my room has there is still not enough concealed space to store larger art room supplies, recycled materials, the "extras" (paper towel rolls, coffee cans, cereal boxes) that all truly resourceful art teachers collect. The tops of my cabinets were lined with mismatched cardboard boxes that contain many exciting supplies, but none the less, look a bit junky. In an attempt to hold on to the great things these boxes are holding, but to also make the art room space look more inviting/visually stimulating I created some melted wax "garage doors" using some large cardboard scraps, gesso, and old crayons. Anyone who is an art teacher and has access to Pinterest has seen this melted crayon drip idea and I love it. It is such a good use for all of those old, but beautifully colored crayons that the kids are less than excited to use anymore. The panels are hung from the ceiling using clear fishing line. When I need access to the supplies behind them I just lift up one of the garage doors and "Voila!" The kids are mesmerized by the panels and have been asking if we could do a project that incorporates crayon drips. Has anyone figured out a school friendly way of executing this process in their classroom?

Challenge #4: Volume, volume, volume!!
I picked up this little guy at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet this summer during my travels to Hawaii this past summer! The music teacher at my school informs me this instrument is called a güiro (with a rolled r!) Taking inspiration from my time teaching at a Montessori School, I brought this little guy into the classroom as a tool that the students could use to moderate their own volume. If any student ever feels the room is getting too noisy to concentrate, the student may get up and grab the güiro and play it three times. The güiro makes a kind of chirping sound when the wand is dragged across the divots carved along the frog's back. When the class hears this sound, it is their job to reduce the volume of their conversation. This method worked wonders in the Montessori classroom, I will get back to you on how well my current group does using this tool. When I introduced the instrument, I explained it was a tool for them to use, not me. We also talked about the fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf so they would understand that if the güiro is overused, it will lose its meaning. One of my savviest 5th graders said, "Wait, you're on vacation in Hawaii and you're thinking about the volume of the art room?" His question made me giggle and I picked up on his meaning. I assured him that no matter where I am, I am always thinking of the art room.

Challenge # 5: Vocabulary Acquisition
A colossal criticism I have of last year's art room is that I didn't have enough examples of the elements,principles, and art vocabulary art in my room. This year I created an art vocabulary board to reinforce a lot of the vocabulary I touch on a lot during my lessons. I am most excited about the "touchable texture" section in the lower left corner. I also hung up my Art Alphabet, the design of which I picked up from a fabulous art teacher that a did a long-term sub for. Thanks again, Mrs. Sadowski!

I will leave you will a vision of what the kids saw when they first came to art class this year....
The first thing they may have noticed is my huge pencil sculpture. I repurposed it as an arrow pointing the way to the art room.
Our inspirational art theme this year: "Creativity Blooms Inside the Art Room!"
And some 3-D ants, bees, and beetles for good measure!


  1. Awesome post, Ms.Coral v. Salmon!

    I am very impressed with your classroom organization, your visual displays and the Van Gogh step stool is just plain fabulous! The entry way with the pencil arrow and the flying critters is way cool. My favorite thing that I am so stealing. is the art alphabet! Thanks Mrs. Sadowski!


  2. Thanks, Pat, for stopping by! Let me know if you wanted me to send a list of the art vocab words your way. I was uber bummed to hear about your broken leg. The silver lining is your cast will relate well to your Egyptian mummy unit? :) All kidding aside, rest up and get well soon.

  3. Fabulous. I am stealing your 'touchable texture' area - I can put it right by my door so kids can touch it when they are lining up. And I definitely admire your overall energy! Your art room looks great.


  4. Oooh! Those giant crayons and pens are awesome!!! Wherever did you find them?

  5. Some of your photographs do not show up, I hope you can fix them, as I would love to see the rest of your room!