Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Tuesday 08.31.10

Get Smart with Art! (Conclusion)

"The “right brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning-increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders."
Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind (2005)

Throughout the month of August I made an effort to introduce you to the 21st Century Skills Map (2010) and provided examples of how art teachers can integrate the 4 C’s of critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity into their lessons.  Toms River art teachers shared their efforts in two year long projects.  The first focused on building the vocabulary of their students and provided ideas for displays, lessons, and writing assignments to allow student opportunities to use their growing aesthetic vocabulary.  The second project focused on using knowledge gained from math classes to develop art lessons.  This benefitted art teachers and students in two ways: 1.) students had prior knowledge coming into the art lesson saving introductory time for those whose pupil contact time was limited, and 2.) it provided students the opportunity to increase their understanding of art concepts and see connections across the curriculum. 


In closing, I remind you that National Arts in Education Week is September 12-18.  I hope you are planning public displays to promote the high quality and relevance of art programs in your schools.  Use advocacy ideas and resources found on the NAEA site at:

Below are photos of a display that advocate the importance of arts education created by Lynne Tagliaferro, art teacher at Beachwood Elementary School.  You too can create a display in your school or outside in your community.  Collaborate with other art teachers.  Use your critical thinking skills to develop ideas for a display that communicates the importance of providing your students opportunities to be creative. 




I hope you have a great start to your school year and I close with a quote from one of the greatest imagineers in history:

"If you can dream it, you can do it."--Walt Disney

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


21st century skills map.  (2010).  Retrieved July 29, 2010 from Partnership for 21s Century Skills site:

Pink, D. (2005).  A whole new mind.  New York: Penguin Group (USA).

Monday 08.30.10

Get Smart with Art! (10)

"We must become the change we want to see in the world."--Mahatma Ghandi

Fusing the Third R (aRithmetic) with the 4 C’s-Grades 4 and 5
This last posting on interdisciplinary connections between math and art will reveal lessons for 4th and 5th grade art students that were inspired by the Everyday Math Series (2004).

Grade 4-Circle Constructions

Objective: To explore constructions that involve more than one circle; to understand 2-D shapes and 3-D forms.

Trace 5 circles onto stiff paper.  Cut out and fold each in half (diameter).  Glue the folded circles one on top of the other.  When dry, open and glue last two sides together; then open and see the 5 pointed star you have created.


Grade 5-Tessellations

Objective:  To understand and create tessellations that are a repeated arrangement of shapes that do not overlap or have gaps.

In their math book, 5th grade students read about tessellations:
• A tessellation is an arrangement of repeated, closed shapes that cover a surface so that no shapes overlap and there are no gaps between shapes.
• Some tessellations repeat only one basic shape; others combine 2 or more shapes.
• In a tessellation, the basic shapes are translated (slid), rotated (turned), or reflected (flipped) to fill the surface.

Ask students to look around the room and identify tessellations in ceiling, floor or wall tiles, and patterns in carpet or clothing fabrics.  Decide which tessellations are one basic shape and which combine 2 or more shapes.  Students are given a 3” x 3” piece of white paper.  They fold it in half vertically, then horizontally to create a + in the center of the square.  This becomes their guideline for translating the shape.  Students are to cut a shape out of one side, slide it across to the other side, and then tape it in place.  They repeat the process, this time cutting a shape from the bottom of the square and sliding it up.


Students trace the shape repeatedly in rows across the paper with no gaps between the shapes.  They can do this vertically or diagonally.


Students can enhance their tessellation by coloring in alternate shapes or adding details before coloring. 



Through independent research and collaboration with classroom teachers and peers, Toms River elementary art teachers discovered interdisciplinary connections between topics taught in mathematics and visual arts.  Informal discussions with classroom teachers revealed information presented during math lessons that served as introductory material for art lessons.  By taking advantage of preparation in the math classroom, art teachers promoted deeper understanding of concepts in the art room.

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


University of Chicago School Mathematic Project.  (2004).  Everyday Mathematics, Grades 2, 4 and 5. (2nd ed. update)  McGraw – Hill Education.

Friday 08.27.10

Get Smart with Art! (9)

"Education costs money, but then so does ignorance." --Sir Claus Moser

Fusing the Third R (aRithmetic) with the 4 C’s-Grade 3

Volume I of the Grade 3 Everyday Mathematics (2001) series reviews the amounts associated with paper money and coins.  Shannon Asch of Washington Street Elementary School provided her students with an opportunity to build upon knowledge of money introduced in math classes.  Students created a design for a new dollar bill on 6” x 3” paper.  They placed their design up against a classroom window and traced it onto the back of the paper.  This reversed their design to prepare it for transfer to the “plate.”  Using either scratch foam or Styrofoam meat trays cut the same size, they placed their backwards design on top and traced HARD with a pencil.  After removing the paper, students deepened the etched lines.  Ink was squeezed onto a bench hook or paper plate, a brayer was rolled into the ink and then onto the Styrofoam covering all and being careful not to get ink into the etched lines.  A piece of 6" x 3” colored paper was placed onto the inked plate and a clean brayer was rolled over it several times to transfer the ink to the paper.  Students were encouraged to print several bills.  Below is an image to inspire your students-a trillion dollar bill.


Another resource for projects on money is the Fundred Dollar Bill project:  Teachers across the nation had their students design dollar bills.  The site has a template you can download:

On the template are symbols used on American money that may inspire your students to personalize their Fundreds or money printed in art class.   Toms River Schools donated $155,700 Fundreds created by students from 16 schools. 

Another concept studied by third grade math students is patterns.  After studying number patterns in math class, you can provide art students opportunities to explore and understand pattern by creating pattern.  Here are two projects that engage students in creating patterns.  In the photo below you can see how art students cut rectangular pieces of paper into shapes for buildings.  Then they cut shapes from artape and arranged them in rows to create patterns of windows and doors. 


In the photo below, students created colored paper weavings, dipped corks, forks and paper clips into black paint and stamped them onto the weaving to create patterns. 


Students can also be introduced to the history of Ghanaian Kente cloth and create weavings in the colors that represent Africa:
  • Red-Life and blood
  • Blue-Innocence
  • Green-Mother Africa, Mother Earth
  • Black-People, Unity
  • Gold-Strength and Fortune
Students choose paper in one of these colors and prepare it for weaving by folding and cutting the warp.  Next they take strips of these colors (weft) and weave them over and under alternating each row.  Finally, they choose objects to dip into black paint and stamp across the weaving creating patterns.   


In these days when budget cuts have resulted in less instructional time for your art students, look to classroom teachers for basic instruction of concepts and then expand student knowledge with hand-on creative experiences. 

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


University of Chicago School Mathematic Project.  (2001).  Everyday Mathematics, Grades 1 and 3 (2nd ed.)  McGraw – Hill Education.

Wednesday 08.25.10

Get Smart with Art! (8)

"Nature cannot be copied; it can only be expressed." --Piet Mondrian 

Fusing the Third R (aRithmetic) with the 4 C’s-Grade Two
As “Teacher of Art on a Cart” for 23 years, I cannot tell you how many times I entered a classroom during the winter months greeted by students excited over their four and eight pointed cut paper snowflakes displayed in the windows.  That’s right.  I said snowflakes with four and eight points.  Science has revealed that snowflakes are usually hexagonal in shape.  Below are some great images of snowflakes taken by Wilson Bentley found on Wikipedia:  
The Everyday Math Series (2004) for our second grade students suggests making snowflakes as an extension of geometry lessons.  Making snowflakes also incorporates artistic concepts of shape and radial symmetry.  Generally the hardest part of the lesson is folding the paper into sixths.  Here is a link to a reproducible page with folding directions for your students (and their classroom teachers):  After cutting out their snowflakes, you may ask your students to think of ways to alter their snowflakes.  Below is one student’s response to this creative problem. 


Second grade students also review bilateral symmetry in math. To build upon this concept, Toms River art teachers Dave Baumeister and Nancy Cummings suggested a positive/ negative stencil project.   Fold a 4 1/2" x 6” piece of paper in half.  Draw a leaf shape with the center on the fold.  Cut out the leaf beginning and ending on the fold.  Save both pieces of paper (positive and negative of the leaf cutting).  Choose a color of 12” x 18” paper and fold in half.  On one half, use the cut-out leaf as a stencil.  Use short strokes of a crayon, oil/chalk pastel, or paint brush from the center of the leaf over the edge onto the paper.  Do this around the entire leaf.  Move the leaf around one half of the paper, overlapping and using a variety of colors.  On the second half of the paper, place the 4 1/2" x 6” negative space paper.  Using similar materials, make strokes over the edge of the cut-out space toward the opening in the center.  Repeat several times, moving around one half of the paper.


Here is another visual sample of lesson that incorporates bilateral symmetry with line, complementary colors and positive/negative space.  Students choose one piece of 9” x 12” and a second piece of 12” x 18” colored paper that are complementary colors.  Fold the large piece in half to get a line down the middle.  Use a pencil to draw 5 lines that start on one long edge of the smaller piece of paper curve towards the opposite edge and back to the first edge.  The lines can be wavy, jagged, angled, etc.  Use scissors to cut on all five lines.  Place all pieces together like a puzzle on one side of the large paper with the cut edges touching the fold.  Glue the largest outside piece down first.  Alternate gluing the 6 cut pieces on each side of the fold to create a colorful, mirror image.


In these postings, Toms River art teachers are sharing lessons that build upon knowledge gained from math class.  You too can talk to teachers in your school to find out what your students are learning in other subjects. Use this to deepen your students’ understanding of art concepts and help them to see connections between art and all other subjects.  

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


University of Chicago School Mathematic Project.  (2004).  Everyday Mathematics, Grades 2, 4 and 5. (2nd ed. update)  McGraw – Hill Education.

Monday 08.23.10

Get Smart with Art! (7)

"The greatest work of an artist is the history of a painting."
--Leon Battista Alberti, Italian Mathematician 

Fusing the Third R (aRithmetic) with the 4 C’s-Grade One
The Everyday Math Series (2001) for our first grade students has a lesson that encourages students to estimate the area inside and outside an object (page 410).  Teachers ask students to trace a real leaf onto grid paper.  Students focus on the area inside the outline and color in the squares as suggested by the teacher (cool/warm, complementary).  When complete they count the number of squares colored in or the amount of positive space.  On another piece of grid paper, they trace the leaf again but this time they color the squares outside the outline. When complete they count the number of squares colored in or the amount of negative space. 

Karen Pomeroy and Julie Heise, art teachers at East Dover Elementary School, follow this math lesson by providing students an opportunity to create Jackson Pollock style leaf paintings by splattering paint on 1” graph paper.  They show students prints of Pollock’s work and ask: “What does it look like?”  “Is it a picture of something?”  They explain how he used drips of paint to create his works of art and model how to control the drip of paint from a brush.  Students tape their leaf onto a piece of graph paper and use a variety of colors to paint the area around the leaf or the negative space.  The paint dries fairly quickly using this method.  After cleaning up the paints, students carefully remove their leaves.  They count the amount of squares that have no drips inside the leaf shape (positive space) and the number of squares outside the leaf shape that exhibit drips (negative space).  As a closure, they review how students used graph paper to determine the amount of positive and negative space.  They also lead an interactive discussion about the artist Jackson Pollock and his painting technique.

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


University of Chicago School Mathematic Project.  (2004).  Eve 
ryday Mathematics, Grades 2, 4 and 5. (2nd ed. update)  McGraw – Hill Education.

Friday 08.20.10

Get Smart with Art! (6)

"Expecting all children the same age to learn from the same materials is like expecting all children the same age to wear the same size clothing." --Madeline Hunter

Fusing the Third R (aRithmetic) with the 4 C’s
The project I will share with you over the next few postings is the result of a year long effort by Toms River elementary visual arts teachers.  The goal was to discover interdisciplinary connections between concepts taught in mathematics and visual arts. 

Think how many times you have heard a student say, “I can’t draw” or “I’m not good at math.”  In 1983, Howard Gardner proposed the theory of Multiple Intelligences that provided seven (now eight) potential pathways to learning.  For educators, this provided alternate methods for presenting material to students to facilitate learning.  Finding student strengths helps teachers create opportunities for learning that incorporate these strengths across the curriculum. 

Toms River Schools uses the Everyday Mathematics series.  Grades 1 and 3 use the 2001 second edition and grades 2, 4 and 5 use the 2004 updated second edition.  The series has two volumes for each grade level and all contain art projects that classroom teachers may use to further student understanding of math concepts.  Some projects introduce art elements and principles such as shape, form, balance and pattern.  The thinking of art teachers was, “Why not use classroom instruction in math as an introduction to concepts that can augment student learning in the visual arts?”

Supported by building supervisors and classroom teachers, art teachers reviewed the math series.  They divided into groups and each selected one volume associated with a grade level.  Each art teacher created several lessons that could follow introductory material presented during their students’ math classes.  Below are lessons generated for Kindergarten art students by Lynne Tagliaferro and Vicki Carter.

Bilateral Symmetry: Butterfly Symmetry with Paints (page 61)
Students will demonstrate the ability to explore and understand bilateral symmetry, experience monoprinting, and develop listening skills. 

Fold a piece of paper in half and open it.  Explain that is the same on both sides.  Fold it again, cut it and open it.  Let students see that even though it is a different shape, it is still the same on both sides.  Look around the room and find objects that are the same on both sides.

Each student chooses a color of 12” x 18” paper.  Fold it in half.  Some teachers may wish to use a butterfly pattern but I had my students put their pencil at the top of the fold and draw a line out, down and back over to the fold (body).  It looks like half of a hot dog!  Students put their pencils at the top of the “hot dog” and draw a line that goes out and back to the middle; out and back to the bottom.  They will say it looks like a “3” or “B.”  Ask students to start at the top and cut around the “B.”  When they open their paper they see they have created a butterfly body that is symmetrical.

Place cups of paints at tables around the room.  Take your “butterfly” over to one color at a time, open your paper, emphasize painting a shape or line only on side, then quickly fold and rub the outside.  After opening it to show the symmetrical butterfly designs, allow students to travel around the room and paint symmetrical designs on their butterflies.  They always look colorful displayed in the hallway!

Shape Animals:  Geometry (page 72)
Students will demonstrate the ability to recognize four shapes: square, rectangle, triangle and circle. 

After naming the four shapes, direct students to look around the room for objects that are the same shape.  You may provide pre-cut shapes, have students use patterns to trace and cut shapes, or ask students to draw the shapes freehand and cut them out.  Provide a 9” x 12” or larger paper for the background.  Students can move the shapes around on their paper until they create a real or imaginary animal.  After gluing the shapes onto the paper, students may add details to their animals with markers or crayons.  Students may also draw an environment for their animal. 

The Four C’s:
These two lessons provided students an opportunity to collaborate and communicate when searching the environment for shapes and symmetrical objects and sharing them with their peers.  They exercised their creativity and critical thinking skills when creating an animal from shapes and choosing which colors and designs to paint inside their butterfly.  The next several postings will reveal additional interdisciplinary lessons that Toms River elementary art teachers created for first through fifth grade students. 

Helpful Resources:
• Art teachers can do an inventory of their own intelligences using this web site:
• A website that helps art teachers understand how to reach their students through seven of the intelligences is:

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


21st century skills map.  (2010).  Retrieved July 29, 2010 from Partnership for 21s Century Skills site:

Gardner, H.  (1983).  Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences.  New York: Basic Books.

University of Chicago School Mathematic Project.  (2001).  Everyday Mathematics, Grades 1 and 3 (2nd ed.)  McGraw – Hill Education.

University of Chicago School Mathematic Project.  (2004).  Everyday Mathematics, Grades 2, 4 and 5. (2nd ed. update)  McGraw – Hill Education.

Tuesday 08.17.10

Get Smart with Art! (5)

"The purpose of education is to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."--Albert Einstein

Creativity is listed on page 6 of the 21st Century Skills Map (Partnership for 21s Century Skills, 2010).  The writers of the Map provided this definition of Creativity:

“Students will draw on a variety of sources to generate, evaluate, and select creative ideas to turn into personally meaningful products.” 

A great visual example of the variety of personal responses from students to the same creative problem would be the annual Youth Art Month design competition.  It is sponsored by the Council for Art Education, Inc. and conducted by many state art education associations.  In 2010, the New Jersey Youth Art Month theme was “Planet eARTh.”  Pictured below are 4 student interpretations of the same theme.  These designs were chosen to promote NJ 2010 YAM.  For more variations on the same theme you may view sixteen designs selected as finalists posted on Artsonia at:


On July 10, 2010, Newsweek featured an article titled “The Creativity Crisis” (Bronson & Merryman, 2010).  The authors revealed the finding that students have been scoring progressively lower on creativity tests since 1990.  They state, “When creative children have a supportive teacher—someone tolerant of unconventional answers, occasional disruptions, or detours of curiosity—they tend to excel. When they don’t, they tend to underperform and drop out of high school or don’t finish college at high rates.”

What is the accepted definition of creativity?  In the article, the authors define it as the “production of something original and useful… .  There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).”  According to authors of the Skills Map, the arts promote work habits that cultivate curiosity, imagination, and creativity.

The importance of creativity in education was recognized nationally when the House of Representatives passed a resolution on July 22, 2010 to initiate a celebration called “Arts in Education Week."  The resolution seeks to support the attributes of arts education such as creativity, imagination, and cross-cultural understanding that are recognized as instrumental to developing a well-rounded education. It also highlights the critical link between those skills and preparing children for gaining a competitive edge in our global economy. 

The first celebration begins Sunday, September 12, 2010.  This provides a dual opportunity for you as a teacher of visual arts to become an advocate for your programs and provide opportunities for your students to demonstrate creativity.  Choose a theme and have your students create works of art that encourage public support of quality art programs in your schools.  Display these works and others in your schools and in public places such as libraries, stores, malls, and town hall.  Ask Mayors and other policymakers to sign proclamations recognizing “Arts in Education Week” and invite the press to your first celebration of this event.  Showcase your students’ capacity for creativity and expression through the arts. 

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


21st Century Skills Map.  (2010).  Retrieved July 29, 2010 from Partnership for 21s Century Skills site:

2010 Youth Art Month Design competition. (2010).  Retrieved August 11, 2010 from Artsonia site

Bronson, P & Merryman, A.  (2010).  The Creativity Crisis.  Newsweek.  Retrieved July 29, 2010 from Newsweek site: 

H. Con. Res.  275.  (2010).  Retrieved August 11, 2010 from National Art Education Association site:

Friday 08.13.10

Get Smart with Art! (4)

“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than myself.”--Alexander Graham Bell

Collaboration is listed on page 5 of the 21st Century Skills Map (Partnership for 21s Century Skills, 2010).  The writers of the Map suggest that “students will work together effectively to share and accept responsibility, compromise respectfully to reconcile diverse ideas, and accomplish a common goal.”  Sixteen elementary visual art teachers in Toms River, New Jersey demonstrated enthusiasm when collaborating with classroom teachers and each other to generate valid writing exercises for their art students.  Classroom teachers shared a page of words that can be used to describe people from “Put Away Worn Out Words” by Creative Teaching Press (1999).  For example, words to describe hair were: balding, curly, frizzy, oily, smooth, soft, straight, wavy or wiry.  Art teachers were already working to develop the color vocabulary of their students. 

The school district agreed to buy large prints for each art teacher to use as prompts for art lessons.  The goal was to build and reinforce descriptive oral and written language specific to visual arts that students could incorporate when writing in all subjects and on standardized assessments.  The group selected 10 works of art they believed would inspire student use of aesthetic vocabulary during teacher directed critiques.  I had created a page that listed and defined elements and principles as well as steps of the art criticism process.  Each year, my students made sketchbooks in the art room and this page was sewn and glued into the center of their book.  It helped them develop a familiarity with aesthetic vocabulary. 



Halfway through the “Writing in the Arts” project, the state of New Jersey replaced picture prompts with verbal speculative prompts that encouraged students to write drawing on stories they had read as well as their own experiences when developing ideas (New Jersey Department of Education, 2008).  Art teachers decided to write open ended questions for each of the ten prints they had selected.  One resource they viewed to guide them in designing questions included 50 prompts for writing in art (Whited, 2006).  Art teachers submitted suggestions for open-ended questions related to each of the ten prints.  Collaborating with classroom teachers and Language Arts Supervisors, art teachers selected open-ended questions they thought would most effectively inspire descriptive language following a group critique of each work of art.  We created a downloadable booklet with small graphics of each of our prints and pages for writing that can be duplicated in part or full by art teachers.  It was decided they would make an effort to use one of the prompts after a critique lesson to model how the booklet was to be used.  The rest of the prompts could be saved as ideas for substitute lessons. 

K-5 writing exercisesPdf_icon 

Karen Pomeroy of East Dover Elementary in Toms River, New Jersey used Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” for her introduction to critique and writing about art.  After introducing the artist and his style of painting (regionalism), students began their critique by collaborating to generate a list of descriptive art vocabulary.  You can see words like “silver” and “balding” that came from our lists of color and people words.  The goal was to develop an understanding that portraits tell a story about the subject-where they live, things they like, what they do, hobbies, members of their family, etc.  After creating their own crayon and chalk pastel portraits, students wrote short stories about their drawings following a format for the writing process shared by classroom teachers (characters, problem, resolution and ending).

The “Writing in the Arts” project illustrates collaboration between teachers of different disciplines to develop students’ aesthetic vocabulary and to provide opportunities during lessons for students to use new words in oral and written critiques.  Students demonstrated collaboration when developing lists of color words, jurying the work of peers during the “Art Description Game” and suggesting vocabulary appropriate for describing works of art during group critiques.  Shannon Asch of Washington Street Elementary School summarized the project when she wrote, “We are discussing the importance of being able to not only see a piece of art but to describe it with rich language, express how it makes us feel, and draw our own conclusions about it.” 

You may be wondering how these instructional strategies are meaningful to visual arts teachers and students across grade levels.  A strong aesthetic vocabulary has to have a foundation; you can never start too early.  Oral critiques help students prepare for portfolio interviews during which they will be asked questions about their artwork, their inspiration and their creative process.  AP Studio students need to write statements that are included in their portfolio submission to the College Board.  And remember the focus to fuse the 3 R’s with the 4 C’s and that our legislators are working to build 21st Century Skills, including the 4 C’s, into the next generation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. 

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


21st century skills map.  (2010).  Retrieved July 29, 2010 from Partnership for 21s Century Skills site:

Creative Teaching Press.  (1999).  Put away worn out words.

New Jersey Department of Education.  (2008, December 19).  Assessment update: 2008-2009.  Retrieved August 3, 2010 from

Whited, A.  (2006).  Write to know: Nonfiction writing prompts for elementary art.  Advanced Learning Press.

Wednesday 08.11.10

Get Smart with Art! (3)

A little girl in school was drawing a picture, and the teacher asked, "What are you drawing?"  The student replied, "I am drawing a picture of God". The teacher stated, “Nobody knows what God looks like.” The student replied "In a few minutes they will." (Story as told by Sir Ken Robinson)

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving are listed on page 3 of the 21st Century Skills Map (Partnership for 21s Century Skills, 2010).  The writers of the Map suggest that students can individually articulate different ways to interpret the same work of art.  “Students then compare the various interpretations and determine which one is most effective.”

Shannon Asch, the art teacher at Washington Street Elementary School in Toms River, New Jersey created the “Art Description Game.  She states the game is good for any age level.  “I’ve been playing this game for years with my students but recently realized that it’s a great tool that really helps to increase their use of art terms, elements, and descriptive words, as well as exposes them to important works of art, critique, appreciation, etc...”'
 Art description pix-3

How to play:
• Hand out plain drawing paper, pencils, & crayons to everyone.
• Select 1 student to come up to the front of the class with a concealed art print/image. ( hide it in a bent folder so the rest of the class is sure not to see)
• For the first 5 minutes, to the best of his or her ability, the student describes the piece of art using the most descriptive words and art elements as possible and the rest of the class draws their interpretation of the image based on what is being described.
• For the next 10 minutes students are each allowed to ask one detailed descriptive question and the student will answer them.
• When all drawings are complete, everyone hangs theirs on the board to create an art exhibit. The real art print is then revealed.
• A class critique and discussion follows, always with lots of laughs.  The works are “juried for excellence” and then a “Best in Show” is selected.  The winner’s prize is being the “describer” for the next round. 

The “Art Description Game” mirrors Critical Thinking and Problem Solving examples provided in the 21st Century Skills Map (Partnership for 21s Century Skills, 2010, p.3). 

1. “Students view and critique multiple works of art, created by themselves and their peers, which deal with a specified artistic problem.”  In this case, the problem is listening to a detailed, verbal description of a work of art and rendering it visually.  

2. “Students use mutually agreed upon criteria (elements and principles of art and design, subject matter, technique, style, etc.) to describe, analyze, interpret, and make informed judgments about the art works.”  Collectively students view and discuss all the artworks and choose the most accurate rendering by one of their peers. 

My next blog will focus on another of the 4 C’s-Collaboration. Sixteen elementary art teachers worked together during one school year to create a booklet of ten writing lessons appropriate for elementary art students.

-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


21st century skills map.  (2010).  Retrieved July 29, 2010 from Partnership for 21s Century Skills site:

Monday 08. 9.10

Get Smart with Art! (2)

“The arts are, above all, the special language of children, who even before they learn to speak, respond intuitively to dance, music, and color.”
Dr. Ernest Boyer, Former U.S. Commissioner of Education

In my first posting I wrote about the Four C’s and in my second posting I wrote about building student vocabulary in art by generating lists of synonyms for color words.  Let’s connect the two. 

Communication is listed on page 4 of the 21st Century Skills Map (2010).  The writers of the Map suggest that students can examine how artists use the arts to “communicate particular ideas, themes, or concepts (such as relationships, overcoming obstacles, optimism vs. pessimism), and to evoke particular emotions or feelings (joy, sadness, tension, relaxation) in the listener or viewer.”  

It is important that your instruction go beyond basic concepts of the color wheel.  Help your student artists understand that color is a fundamental tool for communication.  Ask them how they feel when they see a black cat or a teacher’s red mark on their paper.  Do “Green Eggs and Ham” taste any differently because of their color?  A great activity for the first week of school is to have small pieces of colored paper on a table and ask students to each select their favorite one as they enter the art room.  Call out one color and ask students who selected that color to hold up their piece of colored paper.  Ask a few to explain why they chose that color.  Most likely you will get as many different answers as there are people in the room.  Share the finding that “sixty percent of a consumer’s decisions to buy a product is based on color” (Dru Tecco, 2009).  Survey students as to the color of the toothbrush they use.  How many of them use one that is their favorite color? 

In her article “Color My World” (2009), Betsy Dru Tecco shares findings of researchers that human responses to color are often personal “but some reactions to color are caused by what we have been taught to associate colors with.” 

Some common associations listed in the article include:
RED-exciting, hot, dangerous
PINK-romantic, soft, sweet
ORANGE-fun, friendly, bold
YELLOW-happy, sunny, easy
BLUE-calm, cool, peaceful
GREEN-fresh, lively, renewing
VIOLET-rich, royal, distant

Karen Seeland, Art teacher at Toms River High School East in New Jersey, found a great web site that details the meaning of colors.  Her students use it as a resource during the creative process when choosing colors to communicate specific ideas or emotions.

Review these two lists for language appropriate for your students and then reveal the meanings of favorite colors each selected when entering your room.  As a class or in small groups, ask students to reflect and share how accurately the associations of their favorite colors communicate something about them.  They could also write personal reflections on color in their artists’ sketchbooks or journals if you use them with your students.  Following discussion, students could create a self-portrait using their favorite color in a monochromatic scheme.  For a visual reference you could share online images from Picasso’s blue and rose periods.'s_Blue_Period

Another lesson idea created by Linda Higley of Toms River Intermediate South is “Marble Painting.”  This easy lesson incorporates the ability of line and color to express movement and emotions while creating works in the style of Jackson Pollock’s “action paintings

Marble Painting Lesson PlanPdf_icon

These exercises expand your students’ understanding of how certain colors have the ability communicate deas or feelings more effectively than others.  It encourages students to utilize this knowledge when creating works of art and using oral or written language to interpret their own work or the work of other artists.

My next blog will focus on an “Art Description Game” and another of the 4 C’s-Critical Thinking and Problem Solving.
-Kim Huyler Defibaugh


21st century skills map.  (2010).  Retrieved July 29, 2010 from Partnership for 21s Century Skills site:

Color meaning.  (2010).  Retrieved August 1, 2010 from QSX Software site:

Dru Tecco, B.  (2009).  Color my world.  Current Health1, 32(5), 8-11.

Picasso’s Blue Period.  (2010).  Retrieved August 1, 2010 from Wikipedia site:'s_Blue_Period

Picasso’s Rose Period.  (2010).  Retrieved August 1, 2010 from Wikipedia site: