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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Wednesday 08.31.16

Questioning Strategies – Utilizing the Question Formulation Technique

From: Christine Miller

Learning about the Question Formulation Technique in my graduate studies at Texas Woman’s University has been one of the most valuable additions to my teaching toolkit. QFT is a simple process that provides students with a way to generate their own driving questions for their learning. There are lots of pertinent resources in this post, so please take a little time to check out the presentations and videos that are included! 

Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana developed this technique while using it in the classroom over 20 years. They refined and honed the process to its pure essence. Take a look at Dan Rothstein’s TED talk about the history behind QFT:


Their website, the Right Question Institute has additional background and support materials that make it easy to try it out in your own classroom. You might like to read the book they wrote, Make Just One Change by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, for a broader overview of QFT in various content areas. 

When I found out about QFT, I knew I wanted to try it out right away. The video below was shot the second week of school with my Sculpture 1 class. I did not prepare them for the QFT before we taped the video. What you will see is a real time experience with students who are working through the process of creating questions to help drive their decision making for their monster project. 

Christine ChristineMiller-QuestionFormuationTechnique from APS Arts on Vimeo.

After my experience with my students and their questioning for their art project, I made a presentation that I gave at my Texas Woman’s University Creative Arts and Research Symposium and posted it to SlideShare so people in the audience could access it. You can find out how I have the students return to the essential questions they generated for themselves throughout their creative process, from initial design to their end of project reflection.  

SlideQft presentation w o embedded video from Christine Miller

QFT is a powerful, easy and meaningful way to help our students be more engaged and in charge of their learning. Try it out this year and discover the power of students learning how to ask their own questions!


Monday 08.22.16

Questioning Strategies in the Art Classroom – Student Exit Ticket!

Perhaps you have spent some time with a young child that is somewhere between 3 and 10. My experience with young children is that they ask LOTS of questions – about EVERYTHING! They can even ask questions that we are not quite ready for, like the proverbial “Where do babies come from?” question as you are standing in the grocery checkout line! It’s not uncommon for adults to get weary of so many questions that just keep coming and coming. But then something changes somewhere along the way – the number of questions they ask either slows way down, or worse, they stop all together. 

I’m beginning my 12th year as a high school art teacher, and every year I have taught freshmen in foundation art classes like Art 1: 2D Design and Drawing or Art 1: 3D Design and Sculpture. My observation about the majority of my freshmen students is that they do not ask many questions. Peer pressure, feeling uncomfortable in a classroom environment and thinking they will be judged on everything they do, locks them down tight. If they have had art before, the majority of 9th grade students seem to be totally disconnected to that experience, almost as if it never happened. My colleagues and I find that on our campus, there’s a significant percentage of freshmen art students that have a fixed mindset about their skills in art and are not easily budged out of that mindset.


I suggested to my team last year that we start a Question of the Day activity that lined up with the Artist of the Day Video we showed every day. Their answer to this question would serve as an “Exit Ticket” for each student from each class, every day. I prepared an area by my door with colored paper and the words “Exit Ticket”. The question of the day was posted on the white board and was discussed after the Artist of the Day video was over. It was in a prominent place so they could refer to it during the entire class. I had a stack of different colored Post-It Notes, and I would let each student choose the color of Post-It they wanted to record their answer on. It was fun to see what color they wanted to choose! Then, during their work time, they would respond to the question, being sure to put their name on their Exit Ticket so they would get credit for their answer. Before they left class that day, they would place their Exit Ticket on the area by the door as they left. I would scoop up the classes’ responses before the next class came in. I devised a simple hash mark grading system in my grade book to keep track of their responses, and made it a weekly grade according to how many they turned in that week. I LOVED reading their responses every day!

Fiza%202One student’s response to the question: What do you hope to learn in Sculpture class this year?

This continued day after day for the entire year. I would plan the questions for the week when I did my weekly planning on Sunday.  It was amazing addition to our daily routine. Since I have taught without the Exit Ticket, I experienced several years of working with my students, without really  knowing what they were taking away from a day’s lesson. You think you are resonating with them, but it’s not always evident. This activity has completely changed that dynamic. Some students might dash off a quick response, but MANY others give thoughtful responses. Some, like the student’s Exit Ticket above and below, even include a sketch, incorporating their visual thinking along with their written response!

This student’s response to the question: How can creating art be healing?

I loved finding out what my students were thinking as we journeyed through the year! The shy, quiet students now had a voice! And, I could see that many more students were digging into their thinking more deeply, connecting with higher level thinking. But, I wanted to hear what they thought about the Exit Ticket. So one day, I asked them if the Question of the Day was beneficial to them. 82% of them replied “Yes”, 13% were “So-so” about it, with only 5% responding negatively to the daily exercise. Here are just a few of their responses:

  • I like answering the question – it actually gives me something to think of when I watch the videos.
  • I think they’re cool because it gives me a chance to focus on something other than stress.
  • I think the questions are very think worthy. They make you think of stuff you generally don’t think about.
  • It helps us understand our thoughts.
  • I like the questions because I like how I can say my opinion.
  • They make me think more not only in art, but in other stuff too.
  • I think it is good for the brain.

A new school year is about to start, and the Question of the Day will be returning in all of our school’s art classes. I’m changing the physical format of them this year, because buying so many Post-It Notes is expensive, though they were really fun. You can use an app like Exit Ticket (that can be found for iPhones & androids), or an old fashioned, small piece of paper that could be put in a hanging file by the door with a divider for each class. I hope I have gotten you interested in having an Exit Ticket activity in your class!  Play with it and find out what your students are thinking about!


Monday 08. 8.16

Explore Fiber: Incorporating Fiber into a K-12 Art Education Curriculum

From: Christine Miller


I am a life long fiber artist who found myself (after a full blown mid-life crisis) becoming a high school art teacher. It was not my plan to teach (though I had been teaching lots of people along the way in my winding life journey). I wanted to teach high school, because I had had a long career as a professional fiber artist and thought I could share the knowledge of my experiences with them. 

Huipil%20&%20ShawlHand woven Clothing by Christine Miller – 1980s

My professional weaving career involved several reinventions of myself. First, I spent several years as a weaver that specialized in commission work of all kinds: clothing, functional household items, one 3’ X 5’ rug (ugh! NOT a rug weaver!), and art concept pieces. That quickly moved into exhibiting in juried art fairs and selling my work out of my tent. After 3 years of dealing with unpredictable weather ordeals, I stood out in the aisle of the show I was in and shook my fist at the heavens and vowed to never do another outdoor art show again. I felt just like Scarlett O’Hara and decided right then I would sell my tent so I would never be tempted to sell outdoors again! When I moved “off the street”, I organized and ran a fiber gallery cooperative that represented wearable art from regional and national artists. It was so nice to be inside where it was dry and warm. I loved having our gallery, until the owners of our building shooed us out because they wanted to tear the building down to build something that was more profitable. Then, I started a custom textile studio with 2 friends, and we produced hand woven fabrics, passementary and trims that were represented in showrooms across the U.S. That continued for a few years until one day I realized I was still not making a living wage and had no benefits for my family or myself. Life got real then. 

Sushi%20smallHand woven fabric and coordinating trims – 1990s

This led into reinventing myself once again – this time into an art teacher. I went back to school at 47 to finish my bachelor’s degree in Art Education. I am beginning my 12th year (I started teaching at 50), and it has been one of the most important decisions I ever made. What started out as a defensive move, turned into a soul-enriching career. It wasn’t too long into my teaching, that I started bringing my love of fibers into my art classroom. And, it wasn’t very long before I noticed that many art educators don’t use fibers as a fine art material in their art curriculum because they don’t have the experience or knowledge about how to bring fibers into their classroom. This was an important Aha! moment for me! I realized that I could widen my teaching to help art educators learn more about fiber, and Explore Fiber was born.

Cricket%20LoomsStudents weaving in my classroom on Schacht rigid heddle Cricket looms

Building the Explore Fiber website to help teachers was super fun for me (I LOVE technology), but it was also a thrill to start teaching my students about all kinds of fiber processes. One of the more successful early lessons we did was sculptural needle felting. They loved it and so many of them created unique, wonderful pieces!

10th grade student’s needle felted sculpture – “Fabio” - 2013

Now, in its second year of life, Explore Fiber is a beautiful, thriving toddler! I was thrilled that it won second place in the Wild Card category of The Art of Education’s Blog competition this last spring! Explore Fiber is a free resource for teachers, students and fiber artists to come to for information about working with fibers as a fine art material. I hope Explore Fiber can grow to be THE resource for all things fiber! New lessons are underway and will be posted throughout the upcoming months. The blog has a steady stream of inspiration about the fiber art being created today and the importance of fiber in the 21st century. Other fiber artists are contributors and collaborators on this site that is intended for broad fiber community involvement. Please check out the site, and contact me at if you have something to add or contribute to the website.

Art%20mascotMs. Miller’s Art Mascot

When we tap into our passion for art, whatever media, technique or process it may live in, and bring it into our classroom to share with our students, the energy that is created is enormous. As I get ready to start a new school year, I’m thinking about the new ways I want to share my passion for fibers with my students. Where does your passion lie, and how can you bring more of your authentic self into your art classroom/studio? I wish you all a powerful new school year!  Viva Fiber!!


Monday 08. 1.16

Artist of the Day Videos - Technology for Student Engagement

From: Christine Miller


The Artist of the Day video is my FAVORITE tool to play with in my teaching practice. Videos allow students to hear contemporary artists talk about their process and work. Using video technology enables my students to have a clearer understanding about how and why art is created. Our students are demanding that there be relevancy to what they are learning and that they be connected to the real world. Artist of the Day videos are compelling informational vehicles that tap into the contemporary art world.

This daily video acts as a bell ringer and helps students focus and get settled into art class. It is a tool that exposes students to a variety of formally trained and self-taught contemporary artists using a variety of mediums and styles of art making. The Artist of the Day video facilitates dialogue in the classroom about contemporary art and artists. We question their motivations and speculate about technical details they use to produce their work. We talk about the aesthetics of an artist’s work and how it might be addressing social issues. Ultimately, the videos give students the chance to see art they probably wouldn’t see anywhere else.

You can read an article I wrote for Trends, the Journal of the Texas Art Education Association published November 2013 Trends Article – Artist of the Day Video. It goes into detail about how artist videos can be used in the classroom, as well as suggestions for organizing your own video library. There are a variety of ways to use the videos to connect students to making and appreciating art. Watching the Artist of the Day video is like riding a magic carpet - we discover the wonders of the art world while we are in our classroom, but are transported to a vast world of art and artists – every day!

Christine Miller
Team Lead Visual Arts
Student Council Sponsor
Williams High School