Wednesday, August 31, 2005

One of these days...

. . . I'm going to have a perfectly planned, beautifully organized lesson plan book.

. . . I will always be told when the field trips are so I'm not left in the lurch with no class after
coming into school early to prepare materials.

. . . I won't leave artwork up too long in the hallways; it will consistently rotate.

. . . I will always keep perfect patience and a gentle, low voice when addressing the students.

. . . I will copy down every single date and deadline they tell us about in faculty meeting.
I won't ever lose or forget the myriad of info sheets I receive in my box.

. . . I will always have groceries for the week, bought on Sunday, eggs boiled, veggies washed
and cut. I will be a HEALTHY teacher!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Building the Vocabulary...

My colleague Mary, who teaches fifth and sixth grade grammar, told me this one today:

Yesterday, she asked the fifth graders to go home and look up a word that they thought the other students wouldn't know. So today, they did an exercise where a student tells his word, and the other kids have to guess what it one sweet girl, A., had chosen the word "flourish." The kids guessed that it was "like when you plant flowers in a garden, and they're growing really well, then they are flourishing." A. said, "No, that's not it!" After several more basically correct guesses, Mary asked A., "So what is the definition of 'flourish'?" And A. answered proudly, "A well-developed Mexican!."

(So Mary started to die laughing and A. started crying...but they got it worked out eventually, I think! :) )

Thursday, August 25, 2005


. . . I was talking a first grade class through the artroom rules:

"Now, we generally don't run in the artroom at all. There a few things I especially don't want my students to run or walk fast with, because it might be unsafe. Who can guess what those things are?" Pause. . . many raised hands.


"Yes! Good job."


"Yes. You guys are good! Is there anything else that might be unsafe to run with?"

A six year old raises his hand and I call on him. "Double-edged swords."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Meant to be????

I recently found this print for sale online by artist Francesca Genna. I think it's maybe 300 dollars....Mmmmm, how I love intaglio. And the tree. Trees are my friends. Even better, the setting is Tuscany, possibly my favorite place. Perhaps I shall buy.

The First Day of School!

One down, 174 to go! There's something really life-affirming about the first day of school--fresh beginnings, growth, new relationships, hope. Older children who've shot up over the summer. Tiny children who will grow inches in the next nine months...I felt choked up as I stood by the carpool door watching them leave today.

My Professional Motto for the Year:

Live each day FULLY. . . Savor the sweetness. And teach with your Whole Heart. (And, try to be a little more organized.)

Fifth and Sixth graders are starting "Mummy Miniatures," a small acrylic painting on paper of an Egyptian pharoah coffin. (Yes, I've changed my mind again and decided to do a few ancient art things before we move to Giotto--at least w/the older kids.) The finished paintings will be about 9" long by 3" wide and coffin shaped. I think we'll mount them on black matboard to add some drama. Should be fun! The kids always like having a reason to use the "tiny brushes." And I think there's something particularly interesting about making a miniature.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

time is running out!!

i am sitting at my desk at school. the morning has been taken up with laminating images, organizing recently received art supplies, fretting about WHICH projects i am actually going to do with the many ideas, so few decision-making skills. my mind is muddled and the ADD has definitely kicked in. notice the lack of capitalization. i just can't expend the mental energy to capitalize.

oh, giotto, you look little anxious, too. i can't decide whether to start with YOU or the greeks. chronologically, i should obviously teach the greeks first. but the students don't study greek history till next semester, and i'd like to make our art class discussion/project concurrent with their history/literature study. okay, greeks, next semester. i'll just explain the chronology to the students.

giotto, you're going to be first! aren't you excited? you don't LOOK excited.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Good Charlotte....

My school is influenced by Charlotte Mason, a British educator from the Victorian era. Since school starts next week, I've been going over some of her ideas on Picture Study. When I came to teach here, I was immediately excited about this method of looking at art with children. While it's not an earthshattering process, it's so effective--one of those things that's so simple you wonder why you've never thought of it before! Here are some quotes from the book When Children Love to Learn, a book of essays exploring and explaining Charlotte Mason's methods (edited by Elaine Cooper):

Regarding Picture Study:

"...Appreciation of art involves acquiring not technical knowledge, but what Mason calls 'reverent knowledge of what has been produced. Children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but the pictures themselves.'....a spiritual harmony takes place where teacher and pupils enjoy the details together, learning from one another how to see the artist's work."

"...Robert Browning said that we really learn to see things when we see them painted, 'things we have passed perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see.' Students can develop a relationship, indeed a spiritual one, with artists and their works that grows out of reading their pictures."

Here is a description of a Picture Study session (taken from my own experience and the above-mentioned book:)

1. Students are given a brief summary of the artist's life and work, shown where he falls on the timeline, etc.

2. This part was the key NEW element for me as an art teacher.....each student is given his OWN PRINT OF THE PAINTING (about 8"x10", not to keep, unfortunately.) This is obviously an investment, having all these prints, but so worth it! All prints are FACE DOWN at this point--the students have not seen the image yet.

3. Students turn over the prints and study them silently for several minutes. I ask, "What do you see?" and they give me their first impressions of the work--subject matter, brushstrokes, color, etc.

4. "Study the painting for 1 more minute. Close your eyes. Can you see the painting in your mind? If not, keep looking!"

5. Everybody turns their print FACEDOWN again. From memory, we try reconstruct the painting verbally. Students raise their hands and contribute details, hopefully listening to each other and not repeating one another.

6. We turn over the painting again and notice what we've missed.

This process is somewhat gamelike, and the kids generally really enjoy it. The whole process takes around 20 minutes. By providing each child with his "own" painting, a sense of personal ownership is given, if only for a short time. The work of art feels like a friend....I have found this aspect of the process(personal prints) to be really important. The idea is for the students to take the painting into the soul, to really "own it."

SOOOOO, this year the Lower School is studying Giotto, Rembrandt, and Cezanne. As the school year progresses, several paintings by each artist will be studied using the above method. By year's end, this small body of work will be extremely familiar to the students--like old friends. Different artists are studied each year, rotating on a four-year cycle. Hopefully, by the time a student completes his time at the Lower School, they're on personal terms with many of the greatest works of Western culture....

Hurray for Ms. Mason!!!!!

Friday, August 12, 2005


Okay, Leah, I don't really understand the "tag" thing totally, but I like it! Here are my five idiosycracies, whittled down from...quite a few. My husband was only too happy to help.

1. I have a really intense "mirror face," of which I'm totally unaware until it's pointed out to me. I sort of purse my lips in a duck/kissing sort of position and kind of suck my cheeks in. It looks really stupid. Emily Boyd and my husband have seen the mirror face in its glory.

2. I talk to myself all the time, under my breath, even with my husband there. Often it's in the car, and what draws Michael's attention to it (and away from the road) is the accompanying facial grimaces. He looks over and realizes I'm having a conversation with myself. Usually we just start cracking up--looky, Jana's been caught again! But I'm mostly too embarrassed to share the actual conversation with him.

3. I also frequently talk in my sleep, and have since high school. Recent example:

Me: "Poor little things."
Husband (awake): "What things?"
Me: "Little birds."
Husband: "What birds?"
Me: (silence)

4. I am not afraid of most insects, or even snakes, but MOTHs totally freak me out. It's all that erratic flittering.

5. I am almost 30 and still write things on my hand to remember them.

Okay, I tag Mia, Roxana, and Lindsay. Go for it, girls!

"Califooorniaaaaa...." --the OC

Ok, I hope those people in Northern CA know how lucky they are....recently got back from a trip to San Jose and surrounding areas....I had an incredible time! My college friend Liz lives there, so my friend Roxana and I met her there for a visit. She took us to Point Reyes, north of San Fran., where we stayed in a bnb. Gosh it was lovely there. Here are some thoughts/memories from my trip:

1. popping kelp on the beach
2. rox's salsa dancing demonstration, and liz's first thai food experience (mmm, peanut sauce!)
3. nearly vomiting on the side of the road outside s.f. due to carsickness
4. illegally picking a califonia poppy in state park
5. screaming fire alarm goes off in the middle of the nite--rox doesn't awake
6. buying Trinity-from-the-Matrix boots in Haight-Ashbury
7. buying used red Camper shoes in Haight-Ashbury
8. buying a tibetan scarf in Haight-Ashbury
9. buying a hippie patchwork purse in Haight-Ashbury

and the most amazing part,

10. actually wearing my fleece and a scarf in august!

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