NAEA15 @ NOLA – Convention Review


I think things are finally back to normal here in MA, though I’d be lying if I said that everything has been put away after my trip to New Orleans! I still have a few things to take care of, one being a review of my trip, so here goes….

This was my first time traveling to New Orleans, and it was everything I thought it would be and more. The weather was great, the food delicious, and the connections I made with art teachers really made it an amazing convention.


A view of Decatur St – Praline Beignets – Eileen & Myself celebrating our ‘Presenter’ status!

There were so many great sessions, perhaps too many, since I couldn’t get to them all. I’m only going to highlight a few.  If you weren’t able to go, I highly recommend you get to Chicago next year!

How to Design a Foolproof Kindergarten Class Period – presented by Amanda Heyn & Jessica Balsley of the Art of Ed 

This was a great session, with lots of useful information.  I didn’t really think I’d get too much out of it, but really everything they shared was either a well needed reminder OR it was just so helpful.  My biggest take away was the need for consistency in Kindergarten.  I do a relatively good job with this, but I needed the reminder that this is really important.

Write? Right! Publishing to Advocate Your Art Program – presented by Cassie Stephens, Nancy Walkup, Nicole Brisco, & Pam Stephens

If you are thinking about publishing, whether on a blog, website, or publication this session was the one you should have attended!  I’ve been in contact with Nancy Walkup, the editor for School Arts magazine, so I knew I couldn’t miss this session.  Besides sharing tips and tricks about writing, they also shared reasons why it’s so important to publish.  One reason that stuck out in particular was how Cassie’s principal will make the budget work when she needs something above and beyond what she typically requests.

Design Your Art Program to Say Yes to the Mess – presented by Phyllis Brown

Phyllis & I rocking our perfect art teacher hair!

Phyllis & I rocking our perfect art teacher hair!

Phyllis of There’s a Dragon in my Art Room fame shared lots of tips and tricks about ways to manage mess in the art room, so that you aren’t afraid to say yes to it!  I learned about many things that I immediately started using in my classroom.  One was the benefits of a painting sponge, which students use to dry off their brush while painting.  Another tip she shared was adding a border to messy artwork, so paint or oil pastels don’t end up all over the table.  It also prevents wet paper from curling.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I am very excited to!

Be sure to check out her posts on the convention!

An Innovative Use of the Outdoor Environment for Creative Art – presented by Deb McLean, Eileen Barnett, & Catherine Grosskopf,

Taken from Deb McLean’s blog linked above

This presentation came from my home state and actually my school district!  Deb McLean is a preschool teacher & Eileen Barnett is another elementary school teacher.  Catherine Grosskopf is a retired art teacher, who was a visiting atelier.  They shared how they worked together to get the preschool class outside weaving, going on nature walks, and making sculptures.  All of their work was documented via the iPad app Book Creator, and you can find more information on the blog I linked above!

Debunking the Digital Divide – Presented by Alicia Fine & Peter Curran


Another group of presenters that come from my home state! I know Alicia & Peter because they are on the MAEA board with me.  I wanted to go to their session to support my peeps, and ended up walking away with a ton of great resources.  They shared what they are doing in their middle school & high school classes, to bridge the technology gap.  They even created a whole website dedicate to this session, so you can access all of their great resources by clinking the link above. One resource that I don’t use enough is padlet, and they shared some really great ways to use with students. 

Art21 Educators: Collaboration and Contemporary Art Education – Presented by Jack Watson, Jess Hamlin, Jethro Gillespie, Jocelyn Salaz, Julia Mack, & Rebecca Belleville

Rebecca Belleville & Jethro Gillespie inspiring me to do more

Rebecca Belleville & Jethro Gillespie inspiring me to do more

I knew I couldn’t miss this session, because I’ve been trying to incorporate more contemporary art into my elementary art classroom. This session did not disappoint. I was super inspired by what all the educators shared, and I was particularly moved by what Rebecca Belleville shared about what her and Hannah Brancato are doing in Baltimore, MD.   They’ve empowered students to become activists about things they feel strongly about.  Be sure to find out more about what they are doing by visiting and

Of course, I can’t end this post with just a list of some of the sessions that really stood out to me! Tim Gunn’s General Session on day 1 was a the best way to start my few days in NOLA. He shared many inspiring stories, but what I liked the best was his acronym for things to remember while being a teacher “TEACH: Truth telling, Empathy, Asking, Cheerleading, and Hope for the best” 

Sorry for the terrible pic....I was a bit in the back. :(

Sorry for the terrible pic….I was a bit in the back. 😦

It was great getting to meet Sandy Rabinowitz from Twisteez Wire. Just before heading to the convention, my 6th graders wrote Sandy a persuasive letter.  The goal of their letter was to convince her to package Twisteez wire in neutral colors, since we were running out while working on our wire sculpture figures.  She responded, and besides the lovely letter she also sent us a bag of free wire, with a bunch of black, white, and beige!

I met Sandy Rabinowitz from Twisteez Wire

Sandy Rabinowitz from Twisteez Wire

I learned about #FreeArtFridays from Hope Knight who runs the blog Smartest Artists and is the artist behind Check the Box (follow her on twitter @_checkthebox_ and @MKSAfaf). I found artwork from Holly Bess Kincaid’s students (she can be found at the Capitol of Creativity – twitter: @artladyhbk), and from Kathi Arinduque’s students (she can be found at Shine Brite Zamorano – twitter: @shinebrite71). I also made some art of my own, inspired by Rina Vintez’s iPad photography session (she can be found at K-6 art – twitter: @k6art)

I found some art courtesy of #FreeArtFriday AND I made some of my own

L to R: Shine Brite Zamorano, Check The Box, Capitol of Creativity & my piece inspired by Rina.

The Massachusetts YAM work looked great!

The Massachusetts YAM work looked great!

On Thursday night I enjoyed a meet up I organized for the Art Teacher Facebook group at The Rusty Nail. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pics, but if I track down ones that some other art teachers took, I will certainly update. On Friday night, I joined what I think was four tables worth of art teachers for dinner at the Palace Cafe on Canal Street. Nic Hahn of Mini Matisse fame (twitter: @minimatisse) was only there for a bit so I didn’t get to chat with her, but I did have a super fan moment on Saturday. I was heading down the escalator as she was heading up….since I hadn’t even seen her yet, I couldn’t help myself and yelled out something like “Nic Hahn, I’ve wanted to say hi….”. Unfortunately the escalator moved us further and further apart, so I didn’t get to say much more.  BUT, she turned around and came back down the escalator and caught up with me to say hi!   I hope I get to chat with her more in Chicago!


Enjoyed delicious food and great art teacher company at Palace Cafe on Canal Street

Besides all that fun, I did have some time after the convention ended to enjoy the beautiful weather and city of NOLA.  I took my bike for a spin around the Garden District and the French Quarter, and got to see some of the cemeteries, and some street art by Banksy and an unknown artist who created the Mona Lisa sticker.


I enjoyed some NOLA architecture

I enjoyed some NOLA architecture

I took some selfies and found some street art.

Took some selfies and found some street art.

I also got some permanent art on my arm solidifying my maker status courtesy of Hell or High Water Tattoo on Magazine Street


Can’t wait for NAEA16 in Chicago next year!


National Art Education Association Convention – NOLA Edition

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 1.34.58 AM

Click to Access my Prezi

This year the NAEA convention is in New Orleans, and I am so excited to get a break from the snow we still have in the North East.  If you are here, and are interested in learning how I use my iPads beyond digital drawing, check out my session Got iPads? Going Beyond Digital Drawing – Friday 4:30-5:20pm Convention Center Meeting Room 208 (Second Level). I hope to see you there!

Read Across America – Celebrating Dr. Seuss’ Birthday

Read Across America

Each year my school participates in Read Across America, a celebration of Dr. Seuss’ Birthday.  When I first started teaching here, the school librarian approached me about doing some activity with the students in art for Read Across America.  She brought me a number of books, and the one that caught my eye was On Beyond Zebra! 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I don’t do this lesson with all of my classes, just the ones that fall close to March 2 AND it makes sense to do it.  I don’t like to interrupt my other units too much.

Last year I had the students spend 2 classes on this.  On the second class they finished up and shared their work via AudioBoom.  This year I will be doing this activity with 4 classes, 2 the Friday before RAA and 2 the day of, and it is just a one day activity.  Things have been so choppy with all of the snow days, so we’re just taking 1 class for these.

This project is totally flexible.  I’m thinking about reaching out to classroom teachers for next year and see if they want to collaborate and start this in art and use it as a writing activity back in the classroom.

That way everyone could start it the week before RAA, and in their classroom they would work on it the day of RAA.

I hope you all had a great time if you were able to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday!

Animal Portraits – Lesson Inspired by Photographer Nick Brandt


This year, I re-imagined a painting unit I do with second grade.  Instead of just doing regular paintings of African animals (because they study Kenya with their classroom teachers), I did some research on the internet, and found lots of inspiration.

First I stumbled upon the work of Nick Brandt, a photographer who started a foundation to bring attention to endangered species in Kenya.  Then, that got me thinking of ways to change the way students create an animal painting.  Instead of painting the animal in the landscape I asked students to create portraits!  I found this lesson as inspiration for the final look I was hoping my students could achieve.

To introduce the lesson, I created this slide deck though Haiku Deck.  We viewed the work and talked about why Nick Brandt might create portraits of the animals he photographs.  I was so impressed that students were able to understand why Nick Brandt would print his work in black and white!  Students created a sketch from observation, using an animal photo I cropped to help students draw their work in a portrait format (Access photos here).  Over a couple of days they completed their drawing, and painted with tempera paint.  Then it was on to the background, which students completed in watercolor paint.  Again, students used reference images of African landscapes to inspire their work (Access photos here)To wrap up their work, students cut out, and glued their animal to their background, and shared with a partner at their table about their brushstroke techniques, over painted details, or mixed colors.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To wrap up their work, students cut out, and glued their animal to their background, and shared with a partner at their table about their brushstroke techniques, over painted details, or mixed colors.

This whole unit was developed in connection to my districts common unit.  All elementary school art teachers in the district use common units as a starting off point, in this case for our second grade painting lesson.  We have common units for grades k-6 in painting, drawing, and sculpture.



Chatterpix, Professional Development Opportunities, Video Resources, OH MY!


For a number of years, 3rd graders at Conant have completed this collaborative project that connects their work in the classroom and their work in the art room. In class, students choose and learn more about a particular person, through the use of biographies.  They write a report, dress up as their person, and present to their classmates. In art with me they create a portrait drawing of their person, to be displayed with their report.

Not only do they create a lovely drawing to complement their report, they also learn the difference between portrait and self-portrait while relating those two vocabulary words to what they’ve learned about biography and auto-biography. They also learn additional vocabulary words for describing types of portraits (frontal view, profile view, 3/4 view, bust, full-length, and group).

I made a short video that introduces these types of portraits.  Feel free to use it in your class!

This year, I took it a step further, after learning about the Chatterpix app.  When students were finished coloring their self-portraits, they used an iPad to create a talking photo, aka a Chatterpix.

Each classroom teacher had these drawings on display and with them I posted QR codes that linked back to the videos.  This integration of QR codes came from a class I took at Framingham State University.  (Side note, if you need PDP’s or credits to advance your salary scale, check out what Framingham State has to offer.  It’s very very reasonably priced -$179 a credit, AND it’s online.  Super cool, and both classes I’ve taken have been great) I don’t think many people scanned them, but I know the more I include QR codes in my displays, the more familiar everyone will get with them.  There are many websites to make QR codes.  I like, but also use to shorten links and quickly make QR codes.

Initially I hoped the students would be able to make the QR codes themselves using the QR Reader & Scanner app, but I found that with only 6 iPads, that was too slow going for the short amount of time we have in art.  It just took too long to create the chatterpix, export it to the camera roll, upload to dropbox, grab the video link, and use that link to create a QR code.  So instead the students did everything but make the QR code. Perhaps next year when I am a 1:2 iPad classroom this will be possible. (Yes, I’m getting another 6 iPads via a very successful Donors Choose campaign, and some extra money from the Art Department) Certainly in a 1:1 iPad classroom!