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 06.17.14

Planned Procedures

As we head into the new school year it is important to think about our expectations. Not only do we have expectations of the art they will make but we expect students to follow our class procedures.

To begin with class procedures, an art teacher needs to realize that what works for one teacher might not work for them and that is okay. There are several areas of procedures that a new teacher should plan out for the beginning of the year. With that being said, I still reflect each year on what was successful and what needs to change.  I also think about what I was able to sustain throughout the school year and where I became too relaxed with procedures.  Every year, I spend the first day of art talking to each class about procedures. I found that as the day went on I was finished earlier and earlier. I don’t know if I talked faster or I just started cutting stuff out because I was forgetting things. I created a Prezi last year to help me keep track of everything I wanted to say and it helped with keeping the students’ attention. Here is the link to my presentation: First Day Prezi

Entering your classroom – I have my elementary students enter, sit in their assigned seat and be focused to the lesson and instructions for the day. I start right away as I know I will only have their attention for so long.  When I taught middle and high school students, students entering the room early in the passing time were able to get supplies and their artwork but when the bell rang, everyone needed to be seat and ready to participate in the lesson. 

Student seats – Assigned seats definitely helps with learning students names. For elementary, I have eight tables paired together. I have assigned the tables a color by placing a colored supply tray on each table (plastic silverware trays from a dollar store spray painted). In placing the colors, I matched them up as complimentary colors. Red and Green tables are together, Purple and Yellow tables are together, etc.  I even use black and white.  There are many ways to label tables such as by artist or shapes. For seating arrangements, I make it simple for myself, the first four students listed on the roster sit at the first table (red), the second four students sit at the next table (green) and so forth. I do change some students’ seats as there might be a boy surrounded by girls or vice versa. Younger students seem to have a problem with it but older students usually don’t mind. I do change seats for students that are not working well at that table (off task or bothering others).  

Teaching your lesson – In your lesson plan you will have a plan on how you will execute each lesson: demonstration, whiteboard, or technology presentation. In my district we have a requirement that we elicit 100 percent participation. It is essential to start the year being very strict about when you are speaking-the students do not. If you do not require this at the beginning then it will be very frustrating and will only get worse throughout the year.  The old saying, Don’t Smile Until Christmas, doesn’t REALLY mean you can’t smile but there is wisdom in keeping a strong commitment to your high expectations on how students should conduct themselves in your room.

Getting and keeping their attention – For the little ones, I do use the ‘Mona-Lisa’ response. I will say, ‘Mona’ and the students will respond with ‘Lisa’. I found it last year on Pinterest and it works every time. Each of our classrooms uses some type of Whole Brain response and my students think it is pretty cool that I use an art one for them. Students have their lips closed, hand still and eyes are on me while I am talking.  If I see that my younger students are getting squirmy while I am talking I find that when I change to an English, Southern, or ‘Pirate’ accent they love it and want to hear more. I get to keep teaching and they are listening- works for me!  

Getting artwork – I have students get their own artwork from the drying rack or storage area for artwork expect for kindergarten to third grade.  In grades 4th through 12th they are mature enough to handle this aspect if they are doing it in some groups. Instructing the whole class in general to go their work will create an unsafe pileup at the drying rack or cabinet. I have done this!  I see disaster ahead so I say, ‘STOP, my fault, everyone sit back down so we can try this again’. There is nothing wrong with stopping and redirecting when you see something is not working. What I find that works it having small groups at a time get their artwork, supplies or even be dismissed. This can be done by table, gender, what color they are wearing, the list goes on and you can have fun with it.    

Getting supplies – I only have pencils and erasers on the table. I find that if I have items such as scissors and glue out as well, they become items to play with while I am teaching.  As supplies are needed, students will get them and put them in the trays for the class.  I have jobs for each seat at each table.  This is the area that I do relax on and I shouldn’t because the elementary students like having an important ‘job’. 

Clean up and exiting – In addition to entering, students need a safe and controlled procedure to exiting your classroom.  The end of class procedure should allow time for cleanup. It is hard at first to be tied to the clock but you must allow enough time for the students to have the room ready to go for the next. Then students can sit in seats and wait to be dismissed by table. This will ensure that you are able to see the room and ensure artwork, supplies and materials are properly put away and ready for the next class.  You don’t have time between classes cleaning tables and tools, putting away artwork, or organizing materials. I am a stickler about ‘If you get it out-You put it away’ and ‘You can be as messy as you need to be- will need to clean it up before you are dismissed’.  Don’t short change yourself on cleanup time. Students can be amazing artists but they are still capable of taking responsibility for the supplies and tools in the art room at every grade level, kindergarten through high school, and it will make your job easier as you have enough other things to get accomplished.   

Have a plan, try it out, make adjustments and enjoy a little less stress throughout the year by having solid procedures for your classroom.

-Connie Ferguson, M.ED, NBCT

Monday 06. 9.14

Planning Ahead

As a new teacher or a teacher transferring to a new school, it is hard to wait until school starts. I am sure you want to get started! There are a few things that you can do this summer that you will need this fall.  

Create a Website Plan
There aren’t too many schools without websites these days and most have links to departments and teachers. If your school does not have a designated webpage for teachers, you can create a blog to promote your program. There are many wonderful blogs and websites by art teachers that you can be getting ideas from to incorporate in our own site or blog. Angie Nestor listed several in last month’s mentor blog. In some schools, like mine, websites are required and must be updated frequently. This is a wonderful place to showcase your art room, curriculum, and student achievements.

•  Art Room- This is a great spot to post art room rules and grading criteria. If you haven’t thought about your room rules and procedures, this summer is a good to do that so you start the year off with consistency. With that being said, I change my rules and procedures from year to year. If it is not working, I have to figure out why and create a new solution. My school has four basic rules that can cover everything; Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful and Be Prepared. At the beginning of the year, I explain each one and how it would apply to the art room.
•  Curriculum- This is a tab or link that you can create to highlight what you are teaching at each grade level. There are several options; list lesson plans, show pictures of student work, or post your yearlong plan. The yearlong plan can be posted by quarter so that if you make changes you can do it frequently. There is a nice planner called and it does charge a small fee but it is very handy if you want to go paperless. It works on a computer as well as a tablet. You can screen shot of your week and post it online. There is a link that can be shared with parents as well.
•  Student Achievements- Everyone loves pictures and this is a great way to show how your students shine. I really focus on this part on my Website. Look at other teachers’ websites at your new school and see how they are adding photos. Keep that in mind when you are planning your website. Three main areas you can focus on for photos are: Students working in the art room, Showcasing Artwork, Awards and Events.
•  Web Links – These can be links to art museums, online art games, etc. Summer is a great time to explore these because it is hard to find time during the school year.
•  Write an ‘About You’ Bio. List a few things about your education, one or two sentences about how you feel about art and maybe what you like to do while not teaching
•  Another item you can write now is a ‘Welcome Message’ for the front page of your website. I did this for several years but last year I created a message with Tellagami.  Now I change them for new messages. Whether you write it or you an App it is best if you make it short and show your excitement
•  Create a QR Code to fast track to your website (once you have it online) My website is through the district and it is a set template so there are not a lot of creative options but I do get showcase the students and their work so I post those QR codes on any communication I send home and on posters for more exposure. Here is a link on how to create a QR code that I made for teachers at my school.
•  Now is a good time to set up an Artsonia account. This is a fabulous place to showcase your students work. I also use it to incorporate my writing goal with artist statements. You can use the same Bio as what you plan for your website. Also, you can get your Newsletter ready to go for fall. Artsonia has a template you can use. Create a QR Code for your Front Page for Artsonia and you can use this along with your school website QR Code. 

-Connie Ferguson, M.ED, NBCT

Sunday 06. 1.14

Advice for New Teachers

If you are a new graduate with a teaching job for the fall or a teacher that has a few years  under your belt I would like to focus this month on things  that will make your first few years a little less stressful.

I would like to start this month by addressing one of the first things an art teacher should be doing this month- ordering supplies.

It is very important that you know what the current state of your supplies are in storage. This will affect two areas: ideas for projects and not over ordering on specific supplies. Take the time to do an inventory of the supply cabinets.  Even after almost 30 years, I still take inventory before I begin making my supply orders.

One of the first decisions you need to make is what you are going to be teaching at each grade level.  As a new teacher, that might be hard at first because you do not know what they have learned previously with other teachers. You can start with you lessons that you worked on while student teaching. To make a year-long plan, I plot my out on paper by quarter across the top and by discipline on the side. When complete, I will have lessons in each quarter and a variety of drawing, painting, and 3D projects for each grade level.

I do more of the drawing and painting than 3D but I make sure each grade level gets at least one 3D project if not more. It is hard to judge timing of projects because kids worked differently each year. What might take two weeks last year, might take three weeks this year. This happens for a number of reasons, students might be more detailed and meticulous, students might by the group that is slow – no hurry for anything, or you decide to add to the lesson. List all the lessons that you could possibly do in each quarter, you might not get to them all but at least you will have some choices. I do make a conscience effort to spiral their learning to build upon the prior lesson.

Once you have your lessons planned for each grade level, it is time to look at supplies. It is important to know what you are teaching before you order. There are several companies that specialize in art supplies and if your school does not have their catalogs, you can go online and request them.  You could have them sent to your home if you are not near your school.  Ordering supplies can be daunting because most generally money is tight and you will stress that you won’t order enough to last the full school year. Many times, teachers will save part of their budget for a November or December order so that if they miss something, they will have the money to get it.

• Full year planned: Lessons by grade level -Lessons by discipline
• List of supplies (and tools) needed for the lessons
• Inventory of supplies and tools in your art room
• Talk to your office manager/main admin assistant/head secretary
      o Get Catalogs
      o What is your budget amount?
      o How does she/he want you to submit your orders?
      o What % of discount does your school district get?
• Submit your orders as soon as you can. Your office manager will be very busy at the beginning of school and it is most helpful if you can start the year with the supplies you need.

Enjoy the process of ordering! Even after years of doing this, I love buying art supplies and love opening the boxes even more (like opening presents!).

-Connie Ferguson, M.ED, NBCT