Question Wall

I wonder how many times a child has been in my art class wanting to ask a question and instead of asking has chosen to keep it in their mind. I wonder if my students feel that they will be listened to.  I wonder if I am giving them enough opportunities to speak in front of their peers.  I wonder if my students know how important their questions are to others.

My hope is that as we transform the traditional space we have shared for ten years in art, into an Inspiration Learning Lab a more collaborative inquiry based atmosphere will emerge.  I know this won’t happen by itself, but with research and time our learning environment is going to become more creative than ever before.

One of the first things I am doing to begin this change is to learn as much as I can about questioning strategies, student lead dialogue and how technology can be used to promote this type of interaction among all students.

From now on, I am focussing on getting my students to be in charge of their learning by thinking of questions to further help them investigate cultures and artistic styles of people from around the world. What that looks like is different among all 21 of my classes. I could kick myself for not recording some of the amazing questions they’ve asked over the past week.  We are beginning our k-5 unit “A World of Art” and students in each grade are focussing on art from a different country or countries. They are curious to know what other kids are learning and they need a place to see the learning unfold.

I’ve always wanted to try posting a question wall in art to create an interactive space for kids to write their questions down but I didn’t know how I would work this into each lesson. After a little brainstorming and searching out great ideas of other teachers I have found some strategies that I think will work really well for most of my students. One way we will attempt to create this type of space and practice is to record questions here in this post. Students can then visit this page to see what other kids are asking.  Another hands-on student directed space and practice will be writing on a large roll of mural paper during the independent work period of our class.   This will be a visual reminder to all students that this is now an expected and valued practice.

What strategies work well for you with your students?  How have you created visuals to help students build on their inquiry practice?  I am hoping some of the great minds out there reading this might comment!










A World of Art

Our students are going on a world tour exploration of art and culture! With a focus on creating art from around the world, students are gaining much more than a hands-on art making experience.  They are learning to ask thought-provoking questions and strive for a greater depth of learning. They are expected to guide the discussion and listen to each other- not me. I am in the process of learning better ways to get my students talking and listening to each other. Every day I am reinventing  and improving the structures that guide student lead dialogue so that ultimately my students will be doing most of the talking. This is a challenge I would recommend taking.

What has worked well?  Using culturally diverse texts like, “Seeds of Change” to promote student voice and dialogue. Discussing the story of Wangari Maathai, the world-renowned winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. This is a story about how she worked to restore the environment, promote social justice and women’s rights. Listening to this story has been a great launching point for discussion for my students. The book has opened an engaging dialogue among my 3rd graders who have been encouraged to ask questions during the read-aloud. Their questions  during the read-aloud created an awareness of women’s rights, human rights and education that students may not have previously considered. This book is tied into a collaborative art project that students are creating.  They are making a “Peace Tree” based on African textile patterns and incorporating their ideas of ways they can help the environment now or in the future in honor of Wangari.

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Using video clips also added new splash of real-life to art.  We watched this one today about Wangari Maathai- Planting Trees Is Planting Hope. Over the next month as we continue working on exploring the world through art, I hope to hear more questions like the ones I heard today from my kindergarten students. As they watched a short video on YouTube before they began to create elephants based on the Elephant Festival in Jaipur City, they had their own dialogue among themselves that I was able to take in and observe.  They wanted to know everything from how big the elephants were, to why they are part of this festival and who painted the colorful designs that adorn the powerful animals. The product of this learning is for students to create a school-wide art display in May showcasing art that represents a country and a particular artistic tradition or culture. Beyond that my hope is for students to begin thinking globally and understanding other cultures through art.

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Art and culture go hand in hand and already students are beginning to wonder what country every grade level is focussing on.  They are expressing interest in learning about their own culture and others that are not familiar. They are finding similarities and difference among the works of art that each grade level is creating as they spy on the drying rack searching for what the class before made.  They are asking if we can make art from the countries where their families are from and sharing where they are from with each other. We could spend an entire year learning about the culture and art from all the countries represented in our school community and still not be able to cover all of them. This is just the beginning in our world tour. It will culminate at the end of May when we have our Interactive Art Night but the best part is the process.


If you’ve never tried posting a project on it’s time to put your ideas into action.  The #BestSchoolDay campaign funded over $14 million in 11,000 public schools this month including ours!  You may have heard about the flash funding through social media or “The Colbert Report”.  Stephen Colbert is a huge supporter and member of the board of directors at DonorsChoose since 2009.

We were extremely lucky to have our “Inspiration Learning Lab” project funded. Within the span of a few days our art room has transformed.  Now students can begin to explore their creative ideas more deeply using technology.  The tools we received for this project are going to enhance what students can do.  There has always been excitement about art because students know they will be making things, but this is taking it to a new level. Our traditional art room equipped with 21st century technology will combine hands-on art experiences with cutting edge tools to create a unique collaborative makerspace.

Our 3D printer just arrived and is still in the box, but already kids are asking questions about it and debating about how they think it works.  Yesterday a 2nd grader said, “Maybe we can print 3D models of ourselves or even Mr. Rodriguez (our principal)!” This is exactly the kind of enthusiasm I was hoping for and we are just beginning to unpack our materials. Thank you #BestSchoolDay and our incredibly generous donor.

As we build this program based on inspiring students to learn through art and technology we will tell our story here. It’s amazing how things can change from one day to the next.



Getting Animated

For some time, I’ve been trying to figure out how I could incorporate a little splash of technology into the artistic process with minimal tech tools at hand in our very traditional art room.  I’ve been hearing some grumbling about drawing and I was searching for something to bring a new spark to the drawing process and alleviate the tendency to strive for perfection which will dramatically slow the creative process to a halt.  Over the last month, as students have been creating storyboards about everything from the 5th-grade epic adventures chronicling their aspirations and adventures as 10 and 11-year-olds, to the 4th-grade character sketches that incorporate outlandish settings, action and storylines, I have been learning how to make GIFs.

A GIF?  A what?  Yes, we are becoming part of the social media pop culture movement in creating GIF animations (Graphics Interchange Format).  They are easy to share and prove to be opening creative doors for my students to explore ideas and learn about animation. They’ve been around since 1987 and have quite a history.

Want to make your own GIFs?  You can download a number of free apps but the one we’ve been working our GIF magic with is called GIF Mob Animation Camera or Animation Camera Animated GIF. Not sure why it has two names, but hey it’s free.  There are others too that offer different functions.  If you’re interested, just search animation camera in the app store on your device.  You could also try searching stop motion camera because essentially this is what you’re doing when you’re creating a GIF by taking a series of still photos and making them move.

I’ve been working with my students in small groups using one device for the animations while they work on creating cutouts or clay figures to animate.  Soon we will have a few more devices and the GIF making will be turned over to the students!

Check out our GIF Gallery and see more on Twitter @catieramsey #ktmartists!





Looking Ahead to a New Year

Looking Forward to a Great School Year!

I’m happy with how our work in art went last year and I am even more excited about building on our accomplishments and strengths in the new year ahead.  Some of the highlights from last year include: Family Interactive Art Night, International Dot Day, Off the Wall Art and Artist Choice.

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Global Learning, Global Citizenship and Creativity

Art is a place where students come to make things and create.  It is a perfect opportunity for students to learn about themselves and others.  We will continue to explore other cultures through art and use technology to connect with teachers and students in different parts of the country and the world. Students will see that their art is being shared with a vast audience with the purpose of building connections and understanding how other people live. They will have many opportunities to decide how to create and share their artwork and what messages they want to communicate through art while learning how to be a productive global citizen and use technology for learning. We will use Twitter and this blog to share our learning.

Follow me on Twitter at @catieramsey to see our tweets from art or search #ktmartists 

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International Dot Day

Beginning in September students in grades  K-5 will create and share artwork via Twitter as we participate in our 2nd International Dot Day Celebration.  We will reflect on the meaning of creativity as we read “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds and collaborate on artwork to display in our school and share with other students and teachers on Twitter. Everyone is encouraged to participate (All Adults and Children Included!) Follow the link to explore more about International Dot Day and what it’s all about!

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.19.54 PMGlobal Read Aloud

Last year many teachers participated in the Global Read Aloud and connected with other teachers and students around the country and the world by reading the same books and discussing them on Twitter or through video conferencing. This year the Global Read Aloud will begin on October 5th. During art students will create artwork based on the author study for the GRA by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. There are additional books that are part of the GRA too. You can access more info by going to this link to see the other choices for #GRA15. 

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Week 1: Art Link Program Grade 5


This week 5th graders completed the first stage of the Art Link program.  They responded to the three questions listed above and began discussing the topics of culture and how culture is expressed through art.  Next week students will brainstorm about ways to portray their own culture in a work of art. Students will also begin creating sketches. Parents and family members will play an important role in the success of this program and the depth of learning that students will experience.  Please share with your children about family traditions that are important to you, holidays that are important in your culture and any other aspects of your culture that students may be able to express through their artwork.

Talking with your children will help them enormously in this process.

Please see the list of suggested topics below.

  1. Holidays that your family celebrates
  2. Traditional food
  3. Family traditions
  4. Family gatherings
  5. Sports
  6. Hobbies
  7. Favorite activities
  8. Special family memory
  9. Ancestors
  10. Country of origin and heritage