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Expressive Self Portraits

Quite possibly one of my favorite lesson plans that I do all year. When students hear that I am making them do ANOTHER self portraits, after we just finished up a realistic one, they ask WHY. Once we start working on these, their attitudes typically change and they are a lot more excited.

I like giving the students the option to explore symbolism a little bit further and consider what imagery they can use to show the world more about themselves, rather than just their appearances. The PowerPoint that I created for this lesson can be found here,

I can thank the wonders of Pinterest for many of those photo examples, but I also chose to incorporate Frida Kahlo into this lesson. Frida has so many amazing examples of symbolism and she is truly such an inspiring artist and person, that I wanted my students to learn more about her. We had discussions about The Two Fridas, and also about one of her self portraits. We discussed the symbolism and imagery in her artwork and how it reflects her personality and mood.

Students found this to be very interesting. We also discussed more in depth realism, abstract, and non objective. I told students to consider how realistic they wanted this to be. They had the option to be more symbolism and do a silhouette rather than a realistic approach that would require them to do eyes, nose, mouth, etc. This allowed my students of all different skill levels to choose a way that would be successful for them.

I also gave them an option in what art mediums they wanted to use. They had the options of graphite, colored pencil, pastel, watercolor, or mixed media. After the presentation, I had students write 5-10 things about themselves in their sketchbooks. These could be interests, personality, mood, appearance, home life, friends, etc. We then broke those down and considered how to interpret them into a symbol or some sort of imagery.

Students brainstormed with the others at their tables and came up with some ideas. When they had enough ideas, they began a sketch of what their portrait would look like. I offered suggestions to make sure that students were challenging themselves enough, and were not doing things too hard. I told students that if they chose not to draw a realistic face, that they needed to put extra details somewhere else, to ensure that all students were still working the same amount.

I graded these using four main components. Subject Matter & Creativity, Use of Symbolism and Details, Craftsmanship, and Effort.

I was SO happy with how these turned out. Here are some of the great examples from my classes!


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Shape Vs. Form Legos

One of the questions on my Benchmark exam asks the students to identify the difference between Shape and Form. While this is something that I felt is simple, I noticed many of my kids struggled with it!

I wanted to do a project that focused on shape versus form to really help students understand how the two differ. We had done some observational drawings already but I wanted to do something that allowed them to focus on WHY we were shading. I wanted to focus on the illusion of form that is created when you are shading, using highlights, shadows, etc.

As a sketchbook warmup, I had students create themselves as if they were a lego character. We discussed how legos are three dimensional, they can be picked up, held, etc. So I told them to consider that as they were sketching (I didn’t want to see any flat lego people)! Students personalized them according to their physical features, character traits, interests, hobbies, etc.

I then showed students some examples of lego drawings. We talked about two different approaches to this. The first was for the students to construct a composition that was more structured and orderly. I then demonstrated how to set up a composition using two point perspective techniques to create realistic legos. The second option was for students to create a more hap hazard composition, where the legos were not lined up perfectly and were instead kind of thrown onto the surface. If they chose this, they did not need to use perspective techniques and could free hand the legos, as long as the legos were still three dimensional.

I felt that this project was challenging, but as the drawings were finished, I could tell my students were really proud of the hard work they had put into this. I also had them do an exit slip and nearly everyone was able to distinguish the difference between shape versus form, hooray!

Overall, I found this lesson to be really engaging- the students were definitely concentrated and focused throughout the entire time, and also rewarding- I was able to get my classes to identify shape vs. form, and they also ended up being very proud of themselves for completing this assignment!

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Finding Mindfulness in Our Everyday Lives

Mindfulness. The gentle effort to be present in whatever experience you find yourself in. Paying attention to the exact moment that you are in. Being aware of your surroundings, what you are eating, what you are listening to, etc. Sounds manageable if you have the time to truly think about it. But what about someone who has a busy schedule, or is living a busy life? As a teacher, I often try to find ways to incorporate mindfulness into my own classroom.

The Many Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness

So why exactly would I want to practice mindfulness in the classroom? First off, there are so many benefits to being mindful. Mindfulness is known to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It is known to sharpen your memory, to increase focus, improve critical thinking skills, boost self esteem and confidence.

So as I think about my students, some of which even have IEPS specifically for generalized anxiety disorders, I think about how I can incorporate mindfulness into my classroom setting to provide a more enriching and comfortable environment for them.

I love that the art classroom provides plenty of opportunity for creative expression. Typically, I allow students the first 10-15 minutes of class time to work on a Sketchbook assignment (Which I typically will post on the board). Many times they are open ended such as, “Draw an illustration that describes you,” or “Create a visual that is calming or makes you feel good when you look at it.” I find that at the high school level especially, students really enjoy this time. I feel that they don’t have much time during their busy school day to actually stop and think, to reflect on how they are feeling in that exact moment.

Another great technique that I use is listening to music in the classroom. Typically, students in my class do not talk when I play music. They focus on their work, and between the music and working, they find themselves in a very peaceful, relaxed place. I find that this is also when they are working their hardest and concentrating the most.

In elementary schools, I have seen this done with movement. Letting the children have a chance to get up, to dance, sing, learn a routine, etc. Something to take away stress, calm them, let them stretch their legs, etc.

With all of the standardized testing, data, and expectations that our students have to deal with today, I find that we cannot lose sight of the important stuff! Sure testing is important (to an extent), but isn’t mindfulness, learning about oneself, feeling grounded, and being able to focus and learn more effectively, while living a healthier lifestyle just as important, if not more?

What about Mindfulness for me?

Of course! Now that my students are benefitting from mindfulness, I should be able to as well. I have a few things that I do to really connect to myself at the end of the day. Whatever your schedule is like, even if it feels like you never have a free moment, it is important to find that moment, so that you do not lose yourself in a busy world.

For me, creative expression is so important. I love blogging/journaling because it is such a great creative outlet. It allows me to reflect on my thoughts, write, design, etc. I’m guilty of sometimes incorporating my world life into my blog. (Posting lesson plans, classroom ideas, etc).

I also find time to create my own artwork. I went to school for art after all, so why should I stop making art? All day, I am teaching my students techniques, getting them interested in new concepts and ideas. It is easy to lose sight of why I am doing what I am doing. I make sure to spend at least some time during my weekend to draw, paint, just make my own personal art. Think about what. Why are you doing what you are doing? Are you passionate about something? Do you really give yourself time to sit down, concentrate, and focus on the things that you are passionate about, or are you letting your priorities get out of order?

Whether you have hours of free time, or none at all, it is important to just be mindful in whatever situations you find yourself in. Something as silly as making dinner can become a chore, if only we treat it like a chore. But what if you found a new recipe or something that was of greater interest to you? What if you then sat down and really thought about, really tasted all of the ingredients that you put into your meal? What if you made it more of an opportunity to create and experiment rather than an everyday chore that needed to be done?

If you have to run errands each day, why not switch it up? Try to go a different way than you usually go. Maybe stop somewhere and get ice cream. I remember my old route to work was so tedious after awhile. I began to take different ways. I would find beautiful farms and could stop and get out to pet the horses, or I would pull over to take pictures of the sunrise on my way to work.

There is so much to be mindful of. Notice it. Accept it. Even the shitty things. Find beauty in the everyday chores and routines of your life. Appreciate the beautiful things. Incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life and begin to see the world from a new perspective.

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Empty Bowls Fundraiser

If you are looking for a great fundraiser opportunity, to raise awareness to the art program at your school and to raise money for your local community, look no further!

Empty Bowls is the largest project from Imagine Render. Their goal is to create a positive and lasting change through the arts, education, and projects that build community.

For more information on Imagine Render, click here!

Empty Bowls was a quick clay project that I completed with my Art I students. You don’t even have to have a pottery wheel to get great results. None of my classes’ bowls were done on a pottery wheel. One great method that we used was getting plastic or paper bowls. Before I had them do this, we discussed Empty Bowls and how art can be used to better a community and to raise awareness. I had students come up with two sketches and they could not begin their clay until I saw both of them.

We lined the bowls with strips of paper towels so that the clay would not stick to the bowls. The students then rolled out their slabs and tried to make them an even consistency. They carefully placed the slab and fit it to the shape of their bowl.

The actual event took place outside of school. Students and their families, staff and administration all came. They paid five dollars and were allowed to select one bowl of their choice, come in and eat soup. We even had some students who were in a band playing music while everyone was eating and socializing.

Overall, it was a great event. Somewhat simple, yet brought awareness to a great cause and taught students how art can be used as a means to raise awareness and money.


Please comment on this post if you have participated in an Empty Bowls event before! Post pictures and show me your examples, I would love to see them all. 🙂

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14 Day Anxiety Challenge

Hey Y’all!

So I wanted to post a fourteen day anxiety challenge that I created and did… which really worked well! I created it while keeping in mind that many people still have busy schedules and a lot happening in their lives. These are just some small changes to do, one a day, to help focus and maintain mindfulness in whatever situation you may find yourself in.

Please comment if you are doing this challenge, or let me know how it is working for you!

Day 1: Create art that makes you feel good. Whether it’s painting, drawing, collage, diy, find something that you can get excited about. Extra points if it’s something that resonates personally to you (about me collage, personality painting, things I love about myself, things I struggle with, etc).

Day 2: Try a yoga video! There are so many cool youtubers that share cool yoga videos… they even offer full classes! The best part is you can choose what you want to focus on (yoga for mindfulness, anxiety, arms, legs, backbends, digestion, breathing, etc).

Day 3: Take a bath. Proven to help stress. It also gives you time to focus on yourself when you normally wouldn’t. I know sometimes for me, showering can feel like a chore, but turning it into a relaxing bath can really turn it into something more enjoyable. There are so many cool bath bombs and diffusers that you can use to really enhance the experience!

Day 4: Practice breathing exercises! Side note: When I am out with my mom and experience anxiety, the first thing she asks me is, “Are you breathing properly?” Most times I find that I am not! I am scared, worrying, and it is affecting how I’m breathing. My breathes are short, I feel like it’s hard to breath, my chest feels heavy. If I take a few minutes to focus my breathing, it makes a lot more sense to me and calms me down very well.

Day 5: Go Outside! Whether you choose to walk, run, bike, jog, hike, go to a dog park, a state park, whatever. Being outside is proven to make people naturally happier. Even if it’s raining, I am always reminded of when I was younger and it was fun to go out and dance in the rain. Why should we ever give that up? Who says there is an age limit to dancing in rain and just letting go of what is considered responsible or normal?

Day 6: Create a list of goals or aspirations that you have. Have a happy mix of both short term goals that are easily attainable, and also some long term goals that you will need to work towards. This can really help steer you in a direction that you want to go in, and it can also help you to feel more organized and sure of yourself! I love making lists and organizing, not only because I am somewhat forgetful, but for what it does to help me feel more structured!

Day 7: After a week of this challenge, Day 7 challenges you to go out and do something out of your comfort zone. For all of us that means something different. For some, it may mean going to the grocery store and successfully shopping without having a panic attack. For others, it could be going out with some friends and allowing yourself to let go and have fun. It could be going to a new class at the gym, taking an art class, learning something new. It could be going to a new place that you typically wouldn’t go to. The important thing to note on this day, is that no matter how successful you were, track your progress! Go home and write down how you felt. Were you proud of accomplishing that task? Did you forget to practice breathing?

Day 8: Consider things that help you stay focused, remain less anxious, and feel better. These could be very small things. For example, I almost always carry a bottle of water with me. If my throat feels dry, or I begin to get anxiety, drinking water is something that helps me. Knowing I have water with me makes me feel safe. I also always carrying lavender oil with me. I apply it to my wrists and the scent of it helps me stay calm. There are also apps for your phone that help you if you are having a panic attack. Feel free to post if there is something that you find works too!

Day 9: Volunteer! Every Sunday, my mom, my aunt and I go to volunteer at a cat shelter near our house. It gets us out of the house: we go to lunch together, and then we spend an hour in a room full of kittens and cats. Not only is it completely therapeutic and fun, but it also makes me feel really good to go in there and play with cats. Many of them are antisocial and by playing with them each week, they become more friendly, which can help them get adopted! There are plenty of other opportunities at shelters, with dogs, food kitchens, nursing homes, etc.

Day 10: Treat Yourself! You’re doing such a great job at this point, and you need to do something great for yourself. Whether you go out for ice cream, buy yourself some new shoes, have a movie night in with friends, whatever it is, do something to celebrate you and all of your progress. So often we tend to get so caught up in the busyness of everyday life, but stop and think that life is something that is meant to be ENJOYED! So enjoy it!

Day 11: Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. Catch up, either in person, through Skype, or over the phone. Catching up and telling someone your thoughts out loud can be extremely helpful. A lot of times we don’t really consider something or how greatly it affects us until we say it out late. I know that I recently went over to a friend’s house and had a heart to heart with her sister, who I actually have a ton in common with! Talking to her made me feel a lot better and made me realize I’m not so crazy after all.

Day 12: Look up a new recipe to make! I say recipe because it could either be a new dinner, snack, dessert, anything you have been wanting to try to make but haven’t had time to make. I love going to Pinterest for ideas. I have one board for food and desserts (this is my regular food board, filled with awesome filling dinners, yummy desserts, etc). I also have a clean eating blog (when I’m trying to be healthy. Side note, as much as I’d like to say I use this board more, I don’t). Try out a new recipe! If successful, it can become a new favorite that you use on a regular basis. Here are the links to my two boards, feel free to follow!

Please feel free to follow my boards! Also, if you tried a recipe that I pinned, let me know how you liked it!

Day 13: Book Therapy! I am an avid reader, and a lot of times I like to pick out books that are relatable to things I am dealing with. Do some research and choose a couple books that you feel would help you. I usually go to Amazon and check reviews.

Day 14: Plan a future endeavor! If you have a long weekend or a break coming up, plan something! Whether you get on a plane, or just drive somewhere for a day or two, plan something fun. Include family or friends, or make it a solo adventure! Planning things in advance helps us to step outside of our comfort zone and to continue doing things for ourselves.

Good luck to you all! Let me know how this challenge works for you! 🙂


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I’m in search of more blogs to follow and subscribe to!

These are things I will often post about and would love to follow some similar blogs. Please comment and introduce yourself if you are interested!

  • Mental Healthcare
  • Yoga and Exercise
  • Travel and Adventure
  • Art Education/Art Therapy
  • Creative Thoughts

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