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Saturday, September 17, 2011

A New Year, A New Room!

               I am late this year in beginning my blogging, so much has been going on that it has been difficult to get started.  I know that now that I have begun, watch out!  I will have tons of new posts this year and I am so excited to share with you what I'm doing with my students!
              This room (pictured above) has come to us at long last.  For the past few years I have taught art on a cart at this school.  With budget cuts in our district, we lost our pre-k 3 program, so it opened up some classrooms.  Fortunately, one of them was a multi-purpose room with a sink! And a range and a refrigerator!  An art teachers dream!  Since I teach at two schools, the same happened at my other school, and they asked me to move inside the building from my portable classroom.  I spent the month of August making both moves.  At the end of the first week, I found out that I would possibly have to move this classroom (pictured) down the hall to make room for a new bilingual kindergarten teacher, due to over enrollment in the bilingual kindergarten program and the space I am in is in the kinder section of the school.  The following week, I found out I would have to move my classroom at the other school back out to the portable, due again to unforeseen over enrollment.  After spending a day feeling completely overwhelmed at the prospect, the principal at this school told me I would not have to move this classroom after all!!!  Whooohooo!  Turns out we were under enrolled in English kindergarten classes and one of our teachers that had a small class would be going to another school and they would be combining classes and the new bilingual kinder teacher would go in her old room.  I was sooo relieved, but of course, sorry for the teachers having to switch schools, these changes are hard sometimes.  
               I still needed to move my room back out to the portable at my other school, and completed that last week in one day (don't ask me how, but my husband was AMAZING!!!).  I still need to organize it and decorate it, but it is moved, and that's all that matters right now.  I'm just so glad it was only one room that was moved!
               As you can see by my pictures, this year my theme is "smART" class.  This has been the best classroom management/learning tool I have used so far.  It started with a seed idea to go with this "smART" theme and use it to define my classroom rules and as a reference to everything we do in art that makes us smarter; higher level thinking skills, problem solving, creativity and recycling.  I shared this idea with my facilitator who also thought it was a good idea, and from there we collaborated on how to implement it in our classrooms.  
               You will notice my smART theme is everywhere, from the sign on my door, to the display outside my classroom, to the rules on my board, to the Welcome sign in chalk that my daughter Sarah made for me.  When I welcomed my students to smART class for the first time, I explained to them what that meant; that everything we do in art WILL make us smarter, but only if we are making smart choices.  If we are not, we will not learn everything there is to learn this year in art and we will be making it more difficult for others to learn.  So, to be smart, we will...and I went over my rules (which you can see pictured above).  If they followed the rules during class (which everyone is EXPECTED to do), and maybe they went above and beyond by participating in class-answering questions, or asking questions, being observant, being helpful to a friend or encouraging, or helping to clean up extra well, then they may get chosen as one of my "smARTest Artists" for the day.  I choose two from every class and those students receive a bracelet that says, "I am a smART Artist!" on it.  I made the bracelets by first creating a paper with 1" sections divided by lines across the width of the paper and writing my phrase in each section.  Then I copied this on to colorful cardstock and laminated them.  Then I cut the strips to make the bracelets and I tape them onto the students wrists.  When I choose the two students in each class that have EARNED the bracelet for that day, I tell them exactly how they were being a smART artist and why they earned it.  The pride that they feel is so awesome to see.  If they receive a bracelet, they also get a slip of paper to put in their grade level container for a chance to win an art supply to take home.  I choose one student per grade level for each week I am there (for a total of 18 winners in each grade for the year).  I will never give the same students a smART artist bracelet twice, unless we have gone through all the students in the class and still have art classes left.  I tell them I want to give everyone a chance to show me what a smART artist they are.  Once their ticket goes in the container, it stays in there all year long (unless it is pulled), so they will get several chances for their ticket to be pulled.  The supplies I give away are ones that I received from the pre-k 3 teachers that cleaned out their classrooms when they left, other teachers donations at the end of last school year, free supplies I received from vendors, and homemade crayons (made by melting broken crayons in silicone brownie bite tray in oven).  
                The students LOVE the new art room, I have a huge increased participation in class, and they all want to earn these smART artist bracelets.  If I have to warn them about their behavior, I ask them to think about if they're making a smart choice.  I would NEVER tell them "you are not being smart".  That language is destructive to their self esteem.  I am very careful to show them I believe in them and I KNOW they are smart.  I want THEM to decide for themselves if their behavior is smart or not.  I remind them I have a lot to teach them and I need them to make the smart choices I know they are capable of making.  
                I look forward to sharing smART stories with you this year, and hope to hear from you!  Please leave a comment for me if you have any questions or suggestions!  We can all be smARTer teachers by sharing and blogging!