Year in Review-Most Popular Posts in 2012

I received my annual report stats from WordPress in my email yesterday and was a little disappointed in myself for dropping the blogging ball this year. I was barely able to keep up with posting before, during, and after the big move to my new art room, and I think that lull left me less than enthusiastic about returning to the art ed social networking and blogging world. I have been extra involved in my school systems professional learning community for elementary art teachers, as well as leading professional development opportunities, and mentoring new teachers, which has taken away from the amount of time I have spent interacting with other art teachers online.

Rather than dwelling on what I did wrong in blogging this year, I thought this might be a good time to focus on what went right, so I reviewed my most popular posts during the past year and thought I would share them again here. Since I plan on posting more frequently and focusing on my areas of strength, I thought a review of my most popular posts of the past before rolling out new posts this year.

Top 5 Most Popular Posts in 2012

1. Organization: Lesson Planbook

weekly plans

Thanks to Pinterest this post has become quite popular. This year I also posted about making the transition from paper lesson planning to digital. 

2. Organization: Art Room Tour 2010


Also my made popular by Pinterest, this is also my most popular post of all time. The popularity of this post has inspired me to start doing an art room tour at the beginning of every school year. I know I missed the beginning of this 2012-13 school year, but stay tuned for an updated art room tour coming soon!

3. Lesson Inspiration: Sixth Grade Yearbook Cover Designs 2011

lc yearbook cover 2010

The popularity of this post displaying some of the finalists for our 2011 yearbook cover contest made me think that I don’t post examples of student artwork frequently enough. I know that what I appreciate most in other art teacher blogs is images of completed student work. I plan to post more images of my students’ work this year.

4. Organization: Storage Room 2010

storage room

Another tour post that was extremely popular, thanks to The Teaching Palette’s Art Room Showcase 2010: Space Organizing invitational. You can check out the Flickr feed including all entries here. Like the Art Room Tour post, I plan on posting an updated Storage Room tour soon- stay tuned!

5. Lesson Inspiration: Metal Repousse


I was shocked when I discovered that the images from this impromptu post had reached the front page of the Google image search- a proud moment in my digital footprint history.

Organization: Digital Lesson Planning with Evernote

This school year I am trying to make the final transition to entirely digital planning and organization. I have always been a promoter of technology use in the art room, and I have always used the computer to maintain my scope and sequence, but I have been holding onto my physical teacher binder filled with paper plans. Since the beginning of this year, I have been working to organize my lesson plans digitally in an effort to finally transition from my teacher binder to a well organized digital filing system where all lesson plans, power points, example images and lesson notes are easy to access from my computer.

After reading a post on The Teaching Palette, I decided to give Evernote a try. I like that Evernote can be arranged in notebooks, which is a similar style to how I have been organizing lessons in binders ever since I started teaching. In the past I have always had a binder for each grade level, and as I have updated or created new art lessons over the years I have printed each revised lesson and replaced the old copy with the new one in my binder. The grade level binders includes the lesson plans in our county’s format, post-it notes with ideas for adaptations or alternate art media, as well as any handouts, planning matrices, reflection documents, rubrics, or example images. I have a large portfolio drawer system where I store teacher examples of completed artworks for each project, as well as any posters I might have made for display during the project. Digitally I kept the lesson plans, powerpoints, handouts & other documents grouped in grade level files on my computer and stored them in my Dropbox, so that I could edit and reprint them as needed.

Over the summer I started thinking about how to better organize my digital files so that the most updated versions of each file were easier to find. Over the past 5 years I have accumulated so many different versions of my lesson plans, and have remade powerpoints each year as I have found better ways to present info, new artist exemplars to display, and refined my techniques for each lesson.  Even the transition from powerpoint files to SMART Notebook files for use with my smartboard has dramatically increased the number of files I have stored in my Dropbox.

This year I have started using Evernote to organize my grade level binders and files. I started by creating an Evernote notebook for each grade level I teach. I also included one for general info, such as my daily schedule, scope and sequence, weekly planner, lesson plan template file, program of studies and seating chart templates. Additionally I created notebooks for art advocacy ideas, contemporary artists, and art room ideas.

Each grade level notebook includes a note page for each unit that I cover for that grade level during the year, as well as units that I have used in the past that I want to save for future use. The note page is labeled with the lesson title as well as the number of class periods I expect the unit to take. The note page includes a photo example of a completed student art work, Simplified notes on the daily lesson steps for each day of the unit, the official lesson plan with full details, the SMART Notebook file or PowerPoint file that includes images for class discussion, and the handouts, planning matrices and reflection documents for that unit. Essentially, I am transforming my paperwork binders into a digital master binder that stores all of the information in one place. When I update a lesson plan or file, I delete the file link in Evernote and insert the updated file or document. In the morning when I arrive to prepare for the day, I set up my computer, open the Evernote program and when a class arrives I simply click on the file that I need to use during that class period. The file opens directly from the Evernote note page, without me having to hunt it down in a long list of files and documents on my computer.

This system has made it very easy to share all of my information with my student teacher and my mentee, the new part-time art teacher at my school. I have shared all of my teacher related notebooks with them and we are all synched digitally so that any time I update a note or notebook, all three of us have the most updated version. My student teacher quickly got on board and has used Evernote to create her own notebook and shares that notebook with me, so that I also have her most up-to-date files. I also shared my notebooks with my best friend who is an art teacher at a different school in the same county as me- since we frequently plan our year together over the summer, this was an easy way to share information with each other.

Since all of my work files are stored on the cloud via Dropbox, I have Dropbox and Evernote installed and synched to my work laptop, home laptop, iPhone and iPad. Now I have access to all of my files and my organization system wherever I am. This has made planning from home and preparing for emergency sub plans so much easier this year. I don’t have to lug my lesson binder or work laptop home at all anymore.

My goal is to have my entire collection of lessons, handouts, documents, and images organized using this new Evernote system by the end of this school year. I will probably still keep a basic planner on my desk, in case of observations or emergencies (such as power outage or internet system woes), but I have rarely refer to it for my own needs this year.

Organization: Lesson Planbook

I’m refraining from adding “of doom” to the title of this post, but know that I REALLY thought about it.

When I started teaching, it was hard for me to figure out how to organize the information in my planner. I was unsure what I needed to include or how to arrange everything in a useful way. Over the past couple of years I have found a system that works for me, and I thought I would share it here. This is not the only way to organize a lesson planbook, but it is one way, and if you are a brand new teacher this might help you figure out some of the ingredients to help you get started.

First- the book itself: I chose a 2 1/2 inch 3-ring binder. I almost need a 3 inch- but I have decided that would be going overboard. As you can see 2 1/2 inches just barely contains everything I include.

Inspiration/Motivation: I think it is essential to have inspirational artwork included at the very front of the planner, in times of great trial and tribulation, I like to imagine I am in the artwork below- happily raising my arms in the air with triumph while I relax at the beach.

 Quick View Items: In the front pocket of my binder I include a few more inspirational items- thank you notes from my students. I also use this pocket to store my art room wish list, in case anyone decides to give me some money to spend on my art room.

Important Files & Folders: Next I like to include the folders that I need access to throughout the year. I used to keep these in my filing cabinet, but I found that I use them so frequently that it is more useful to have them included in my planner- here I have my supply order file, my lead elementary art teacher folder and my square 1 art fundraiser folder.

The Art Teacher Bible AKA Program of Studies: Also tucked into the front of my planner is the spiral bound copy of our county’s elementary art program of studies. Whenever I am developing a new lesson plan I like to check the good word just to make sure I am not forgetting anything important.

Pacing Guide: After that my binder is set up with tabs for different info. I start with my pacing guide for the quarter- I created my pacing guide in excel then uploaded it to google docs so that I could share it with the other art teacher at my school. It looks like this:

Daily Schedule: My pacing guide is stored in a clear page protector. ON the other side of this page is my color coded daily schedule of classes:

Weekly Planning Calendar: After that I have a section for my weekly plans, which helps me stay organized for the week. I can see my entire week at a glance, which helps me figure out what materials and display items to prep and when. I try to highlight anything that is not a typical weekly item using a bright color or a bubble. I also put anything I need to be thinking about that week on a boldly colored post it note in the upper corner of my weekly plans.

Records- Documentation: Next I include a section for any written records such as anecdotal notes about classroom participation or behavior- it is really important to keep these notes on hand, in case of parent conference meetings or questions from the general classroom teacher.

Grade Level Lesson Plans: After that I have each grade level separated by a tab. Behind each grade level divider tab are the detailed lesson plans that are currently being covered or will be covered within the next month. My theory on how many lesson plans to include is based on the following imagined scenario: If I was in a tragic accident/had an emergency operation/was kidnapped by aliens what would the emergency long term substitute need to attempt to do my job? I decided that one month of prepwork and my weekly lesson plans would get the sub started- after that they are on their own. Here you can see that my detailed lesson plans contain the lesson plan iteself, any notes about materials or possible changes to the typed plan, as well as printed copies of handouts and the powerpoint or smart notebook file I would use to present the lesson.

I have digital copies of all of this information stored and updated in my Dropbox so that I can access it at work or at home on my laptop, as well as from my iphone in case I am ever sick or stranded somewhere. This makes it easy for my to prepare for any last minute subs- except in the case of alien kidnapping or tragic accident- I doubt I would have my phone handy in either of those situations.

Lesson Plan Crate: All other printed info is stored on separate binders by grade level in a crate on the counter beside my desk. When I need to update my planner I take out the lesson we just completed, store them in the binder on the counter and take out the next lesson. This way it is easy for my to keep my plans up to date, and I only have to print lessons if I am doing something new or if a lesson plan changes dramatically.

Post-It Note Planner: The last detail of how I organize my planner is more of a tip- not really included in the binder itself. I- like most art teachers- teach many different grade levels and many different lessons. In order to make sure I dont forget anything important, I try to distill the essential steps of my lesson into one post-it note worth of info. I stick the post-its for the days lesson onto my laptop where I can see them while I am teaching. This saves me running back to my desk to reread a lesson if I forget something in the moment. Here you can see the first day of my kindergaten landscape painting lesson distilled into one post-it note. I started doing this as a student teacher and it really helps me stay on track. I try to keep the post it notes stuck with the original detailed lesson plans, but it is easy to make a new one if the post it gets lost.

Hopefully this will be helpful for someone as they prepare for teaching art. No one ever showed me this before I started student teaching, and it even helped one of my coworkers with getting organized, so I think it is valuable information. Happy planning!


Some of you may remember my classroom as it appears in the photo below-   spic and span, ready to welcome the students when they arrive. But it doesn’t always look like this.

In actuality, this is what it looks like when first walk in after summer break.

Feel free to try to count the boxes. But keep in mind- you can’t even see them all. There are two whole tables full that are hidden behind the first table on the right. A little overwhelming, isn’t it?

So imagine my surprise when I opened the door to my meticulously organized storage room which had transformed from this:

to this:

Now- upon first glance it might look that different- more boxes piled up, floor tiles removed, empty cabinet. But the longer I looked, the more things I noticed were out-of-place.

First- the yarn wall- previously my yarn was organized in color order- rainbow style. Obviously that is no longer the case.

Next I realized that the cabinet near the bottom of the photo was empty. Actually, when I first walked in I noticed that the cabinet was non-existent I actually found an empty space where a cabinet should have been, and found the empty cabinet at the front of my classroom. I took this photo after I moved it back to the storage room where it belonged.

The more I stood in my storage room the more I realized what kind of major over haul must have occurred in there. After hyperventilating and acting a little hysterical, I got myself together and dove in to really sort it out.Obviously unpacking the boxes would have to wait, as I quickly discovered that every single item had been removed from the storage room, the shelving was dismantled and removed, the floor was removed, the shelves were rebuilt, and finally the supplies were quickly returned to the shelves. The evidence was there in the form of stilts to reattach the shelving, labels on countertops were on the inside of the counter near the walls, and I found many boxes of miscellaneous supplies haphazardly thrown together into boxes and stashed wherever they fit on the shelves.


Thankfully, organizing art supplies is my specialty, and I reminded myself that all of this is for the good of the school. Every teacher in our building has been through this disassembling and summer scramble. I also reminded myself that all of this is worth it for the great big payoff at the end- a brand new, state-of-the-art classroom to call my very own. After sorting out the storage room disarray I had the opportunity to take a walking tour of the new wing of the school that is currently in progress- and here is the best stop- my new art room. Check out those amazing, enormous windows! I know it takes a lot of imagination but the size of the space and the fantastic view, plus kiln room & storage room fit for a palace will certainly make up for one day of startling storage room. I will be moving into my brand new classroom in December, which means packing up the entire art room, moving it (with the assistance of a moving crew of course) and unpacking it to set up for the next week. But did you see those windows? And did I mention- 5 sinks, storage room tabletop work station, built-in portfolio storage and I get to pick my own furniture? The photo above may look like a dusty construction site to you, but I see a masterpiece in progress.

Organization: Art Room Tour 2010

Welcome to the art room! This is the place where I spend most of my waking hours. My home away from home. I originally took these photos to include in The Teaching Palette’s Show Us Your Art Room 2010: Organization challenge, but I felt like there were way too many photos to include all in one post.  Above you can see the entrance to the art room.

Here is the view from inside my doorway. This is where I great my students at the beginning of each class, as well as meet with classroom teachers before and after they drop off or pick up their class each week. This helps me stay connected with each teacher as well as get any updates about classroom events and any issues that might affect our art time. It also ensures that I check in regarding class behavior at the end of every class each week.

Here you can see the left side of my board at the front of the room. The board is split into three sections- section one is where I display artist exemplars that we are discussing for the day, demo examples, and our daily challenge- the objective for my art lesson. I also have a poster describing the Lincoln Center Institute’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning. (For those interested LCI offers online courses in their imaginative learning practices- great resource for art, music, dance, theater and integration across curriculums.)

The center of the board is my SMARTboard, and to the right you can see the art room rules, as well as our “How to Build a Better Sandwich” chart, which helps students understand my grading standards and the assessment process. Each sandwich represents a different level of project completion according to evaluation criteria stated in the challenge. This chart was passed down to me during my first year art teacher mentoring program, and it really helps younger students understand the grading process.

As you continue to turn clockwise around the room, here is a view of the front of my classroom. Although I am in the basement of the school, I still have a great row of windows that let in the daylight. In past years I felt the walls were too bare, so I remedied that this year by hanging tons of artist’s work on the walls. Here you can see part of the counter that runs almost the length of the room. We have two sinks, one near my desk, and one near the end of the counter. Below the counter there are storage cabinets which hold my most used art supplies- mostly paint, brushes, glue, etc.

At the end of my very long counter, near the back of the room, here you can see my chart/poster storage rack, the slab roller, and my fake bulletin board. This was a large empty space, so I covered it with fadeless paper and a border to jazz it up a bit.

At the back of the room, the counter/storage cabinets continue. Here you can see the shelves that line the wall, as well as my storage system for organizing our most used drawing supplies. I have eight tables in my room. Each table has a color. For every table I have a general supply bin on the table- pencils, erasers, glue, scissors are stored at each table. At the back of the room on the counter there is a pencil exchange, pens, crayons, markers, gluesticks and rulers. These are distributed as needed by Task Masters- one student per table rotated each week. These supplies are always on the counter for easy access- students have free access to these materials in case they finish a project early, they can use crayons or markers to doodle in their sketchbooks. The storage shelves on the wall above the counter are where I store 3D projects in progress.

Also at the back of the room is my carpet/reading area. For younger students (kindergarteners and first grade) I sometimes introduce lessons on the carpet area.  Students also have access to this area whenever they finish a project early. The middle shelf of the bookcase contains art books for student use, and the wall pockets beside the bookcase contain How-to-Draw books for students to refer to while drawing in their sketchbooks. (Thanks to Theresa McGee of The Teaching Palette for the wall pocket idea!)Hiding behind the chart rack you can also see our life-sized sculpture which was created as the second installation for our sculpture garden in progress and paid for by a Target Arts grant. We are currently working one piece at a time toward building a sculpture garden, however, our school is currently under renovations, and we are waiting until the renovations are completed before selecting our sculpture garden area.

Continuing to clockwise around the room, here you see the beginning of my bulletin board wall. This wall contains one long bulletin board that I have broken down into three sections. This sections shows my classroom behavior management board- Artopoly. (Also stolen from The Teaching Palette!) I rotate this board occasionally. This year I have been using Artopoly, but it has also been One Fish, Two Fish ( collecting fish in a bowl) and most popular was the racetrack, where each class had a race car and the board was painted like a racetrack. For Artopoly each class has a marker, and their marker moves forward on the track each week according to their classroom behavior. If they cross the finish line before the end of the quarter, they earn an art party, where students may choose their activity from a variety of stations.

This is the center section of my bulletin board wall- this section rotates out as needed- sometimes there is a focus on art vocabulary, other times it is a student art showcase. Right now it is based on the big idea for our elementary art curriculum- A Sense of Place. The images that are displayed are from a great calendar of fiber art that I had last year from Quilting Arts magazine. Above the board you can also see a glimpse of my elements and principles vocab from Crystal Publications, and my Yacker Tracker traffic light from Sax which I use to control noise volume in my room.

The last section of this bulletin board wall this year is my color board, which displays all of the color terms and examples that students learn from K-6. I made this a much more prominent display this year- in past years I had the color wheel displayed on the wall, but I have found that it is much easier to refer to the specific color theory items if they are displayed with larger examples. This way, they are always on display and students can refer to the bulletin board whenever they are unsure. It has already become a great reference for my students as they are painting.

Here is one final view from the back of the room, where you can see the table set up and the front of the room. My supply bins were shower caddies from Target.  This is a photo from the very beginning of the school year, before the students had come back. This is the cleanest my room ever looks. Right now it is covered with paint smudges and looks much more like creativity is happening inside!