The Value of Value

Grade 9 students learned about value today.  In art, value is the lightness or darkness of a colour or tones.

After watching the introductory video, we began to look at the art of Baroque artists Caravaggio & Gentileschi.

We discussed the strong differences between extremely light areas and the darkness in the background.  We also appreciated the subtle changes in value in areas such as the muscles on Holofernes’ arm.

The two artists who created these paintings captured a very intense scene, because we as the viewers aren’t distracted by problems with their technique.  We are able to appreciate the story, because the artists’ method of communicating is clear.  There are no issues with their shading or proportions.  These artists had taken years to practice with their materials (such as paint) and techniques (such as shading with value), and we are able to benefit from their skill development.

So, today, we began to practice our skills with value.  Grade 9 students created value scales using pencils, charcoal and chalk:


Playing with #value in Gr. 9 art class. #NipRockArt

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Some more fun with #value #NipRockArt

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Even more #value scales! #NipRockArt

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There was no pressure to make these scales look great.  In this class, practice means play.  Experiment.  Make messes.  No grades.  Have fun.


My students worked so hard today! 🏆 #NipRockArt

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Tomorrow, we’ll play with value + colour!

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Practice with Perspective

Today, my grade 9 art students gained a bit more experience with one- and two-point perspective using a variety of techniques.



After some traditional note-taking & sketches, we used our Smart Board & Snapchat to help us visualize the technical aspects of different images.  We specifically looked for converging lines…


Using our #smartboard to learn about #perspective #NipRockArt

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Using #snapchat in class to help us learn. #NipRockArt #perspective

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Two-point #perspective lessons in class. #NipRockArt #snapchat #drawing #smartboard #onted #artsed

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Growth Mindset: Hacky Sack Style

I’m an art teacher, but every now & then, I’m asked to teach a different subject.  This year, I have a full schedule of art except for one period of Geography.  It’s already been a great learning experience, and we’re only at mid-term!

Now that we’re familiar with some basic geographical concepts, I thought it would be helpful to focus on growth mindset to set the stage for the second half of the semester. Today, my students played a major part in getting things started.  And I really mean PLAYED!

Hacky sack in class? Yep. #growthmindset #sgdsb #theseguysarethebestteachers

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So many of my students are absolutely fantastic hacky sack players.  They play at the drop of a hat:  in the foyer, in the front entryway for the school, outside… everywhere.  They stand in a circle and skillfully kick it up, up, and up again.  Sounds easy, right?

Not so easy for me!

At the beginning of class, while I was taking attendance, a small group gathered on the other side of the room and began to play.  I watched them & wondered if I might be able to take advantage of this play for the purposes of learning, and to introduce growth mindset.  So, I took a deep breath, walked over and asked to play.

I asked to play.

You know what?  I was welcomed into the circle and was met with huge smiles.  I admitted that I knew nothing about hacky sack, but that was ok.  You know how I knew it was ok?  Because my students told me.  They told me not to worry one little bit.  Bit by bit, they showed me the basics of the game:  how to hit the sack against my foot, how to angle my leg properly, how the ball is passed from one person to another, and some of the rules they use… and I had *lots* of demonstrations!

I was a sponge.  A beginner.  A learner.  And my students were my teachers.

After a bit of trying, I took a break and asked them for a favour:  now that I had begun, what advice would they give to me?  Should I be discouraged because I knew I couldn’t play very well?  Should I give up because I didn’t think my skills could match theirs?

Their advice:

“I think you should not worry because they felt the same way as you did when they started and they learned, so you keep trying, don’t give up.  Good luck!”

“Keep an open mind”

“Keep aim on the sack and keep an eye on it”

“My advice to you is to keep on trying and never to give up and to believe in yourself”

“Have a growth mindset”

“Look at YouTube videos about hacky sack, and practice makes perfect”

“You’re just starting to do this, it’s like if you’re new to a game you will always get better and better.  Don’t beat yourself up about it, ask for tips”

Their advice means so much to me, and I don’t want to forget the lessons from today, or the memories we made.


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Heading toward Niagara Falls for #BIT15 …

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Good morning, Niagara Falls! #BIT15

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It’s hard to believe that I’m home after such a great experience at #BIT15 — it seems a little like the calm of Boxing Day (when you stay at home), after Christmas.

There were some highlights at this year’s conference that I simply can’t forget.

It was so cool to work with Peter & Leslie this year.  We wanted to bring a new experience to #BIT15:  GREEN SCREEN!  Please read this Storify to see a collection of the images & videos that were created at #GoingGreen.

TVO’s audience grew at this year’s conference, and for good reason.  TeachOntario is a dynamic online environment for Ontario’s educators, and there were plenty of people who wanted to learn all about it.  Read this Storify to find out more…

It's the #TeachOntario @TVO crew at @bring_it_together #BIT15!! Come see us present in Fallsview A!

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Sketchnoting fascinates me.  Sylvia Duckworth’s sketchnotes have become famous in the world of education and #edtech.  Having the chance to learn from her at #BIT15?  Priceless!  Take a peek at “Sketchnoting with Sylvia at #BIT15“.

So great to attend @sylviaduckworth's #sketchnote session at #BIT15! 🎨 #artsed & #edtech unite!

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Heidi Siwak brought the house down with her closing keynote.  I felt like I wanted to have a remote control, so that I could record what she was sharing, pause it to help me digest ideas, and replay just to hear all of the great ideas again and allow them to sink in.  What a phenomenal educator — I keep imagining what it must be like to be one of her students, because they must be continually amazed when she helps them discover new ways of thinking and understanding.

…and finally…

A farewell gift from the #Niagara sky as I ride the shuttle to the airport. #bit15 #sunset #landscape #Ontario

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Playing With Green Screen (…finally!)

You know that moment when something drastic needs to happen in order to make you get up off your butt & do what you need to do?  Example:  inviting someone over for a visit, which will bring on a cleaning spree.

For years, I have wanted to learn about using a green screen.  I’ve seen amazing creations from Tricia Fuglestad’s classroom as well as many others, but I didn’t have any iPads in my school that I could work on.  Last year, as part of my group’s TLLP project, we were able to purchase two iPads!  No more excuses now…

But still, I was nervous.  And hesitant.  Something had to be done.

Enter #BIT15.

This year, I’m volunteering at Bring IT Together… at a GREEN SCREEN booth!  Thank goodness that I’m working with some great people who are helping to make it happen, but I certainly don’t want to show up lacking the skills I’ll need.  So, over the last few weeks, I’ve been riding a steep learning curve — with some of my students to help me out!



We didn’t have a green screen, so we started to search for other options.  We found something that would work in a pinch:  green bulletin board paper!  After a bit of fiddling, we opted for a slightly darker shade of green and we were on our way…



I was so impressed with my student’s courage when he was willing to make this next video with me:



Now, it was time for me to study.  I found this next video so helpful as I learned the basics of using green screen with my Do Ink app:



Today, I made this video with the help of my daughter:



I’d like to say that this video was easy for me to complete, but I would be telling a big fib.  It took hours to figure everything out:  what I wanted to say, to take the videos, to get the footage for the background, to join the shorter segments of video together (using iMovie on the iPad is much different than using the desktop version!), to add the background images at the proper time in the video, and to add the animation on top of the video!

I’ve discovered how grateful I am for guidance whenever I am learning something new.  It’s like being lost and disoriented in the woods — only to have someone show up, give you a hug and guide you where you need to be.  To those who helped:  thank you!

OK, #BIT15:  time to BRING IT!!

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“Art Teacher”: An Assembly-Line Coordinator, or a Creativity Facilitator?

This post is prompted by the insightful and helpful suggestions provided by Melissa Purtee, in the Art of Education’s latest article, “3 Ways to Teach for Creativity in the Art Room“.

Her writing challenges educators who may be relying on outdated teaching styles; ones that prohibit true creativity for the sake of orderly lessons.  You may know of these lessons:  those that follow a step-by-step format in order to “create” an artwork that looks good.

We are educating people out of their creative capacities.  

~ Sir Ken Robinson

It takes a lot of courage for a teacher to question these tried-and-true projects.  The ones that can be repeated.  The ones that make bulletin boards look great.  The ones that are easily marked.  The ones that make the teacher look good.  Who wants to mess with such a lovely system?

Projects like these have been great throughout the twentieth century, because they also helped to develop skills that could be used in students’ future careers; those that enabled them to follow directions, to hone a skill, and to respect the hierarchy of creative thinking that was available in the classroom.  The teacher thought of the idea, and the students produced the teacher’s artwork.

All kids have tremendous talents and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.  ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Time moves on.  Things change.  Careers change.  Education changes.  If we don’t change, we become irrelevant.  If we are still teaching according to meet the needs of a factory-based economy, our classrooms are nothing better than living history museums.  Our students become the actors.

Yes, we must teach skills.  Yes, yes, yes.  But what is being valued?  Assessed?  Evaluated?  What do you do after you teach skills?  How are these skills applied?  In projects you have designed?  Do we have enough faith in our students to allow them to step outside of the limits we have imposed?

Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we have strip-mined the Earth for a particular commodity…   ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.  [and] more often than not, comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.     ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Our students need to be given the time and opportunity to develop skills, and creativity is a skill that can be developed.  It is a skill that can be used in our classrooms, in other classrooms, in the future.  Why would we choose to ignore it?

You are not teaching creativity when you are simply allowing students to make something. You can say that it is art, but real art involves creative thinking.  If the “art” has been produced in a factory-style setting, the artwork loses credibility, even though you have something pretty to hang on your wall.  We must stop fooling ourselves into believing that we are allowing our students to become artists if they are simply following our directions.  They are merely factory workers.


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Syria Crisis

The following text has been shared from one of my students’ blog posts.  Her observations and reflections convey the importance of providing independence in our learning environments.  I am proud to share her thinking on my blog, and must commend her for being brave enough to let me post it here.

The Differences

Before starting this assignment, I hadn’t realized how different art classes were going to be between high school and elementary school, although I should have. Even after we were given our first assignment I was oblivious to the alteration between schools. In fact, I didn’t notice the changes until later on, when we began the Syria Crisis project.

The first difference I noticed was probably the most difficult one to over come, which was that we never used to express our thoughts and ideas through our artwork. The assignments we were given were always limited in ways where we didn’t have to put much thought into what we were doing or trying to create. So when the time came where I actually had to express my ideas, I found myself lost. I’d never been particularly good with art, or sharing my thoughts, so having to put the two together was a challenge in itself.

The second difference I found between the schools is that there are so many more options in high school. We used to regularly stick to drawing and cutting, but then all of a sudden we were surrounded by things we rarely/never used before. It was interesting being able to pick what you wanted to experiment with and use for your project, although it was kind of intimidating as well, having access to all of those new possibilities.

The third and final difference ties in together with the first two, and that’s having responsibility over the design. Of course we’d occasionally had to come up with our own design for art projects, but never the same way we had to for this assignment. Alongside having to express my ideas, and having those new possibilities in high school, coming up with a design from pretty much nothing was difficult, and to say the least, frustrating for me.


 After uncovering those three differences between the art classes, my opinion on the Syria Crisis project changed. I realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as I had been expecting, and for the most part, I was right.

The problem with my planning was that I spent too much time thinking about the design and what I wanted to do, rather than what I wanted to use. I know the design itself is probably more important, but a big part with why I was struggling was because I didn’t know how I should design it. It wasn’t until about halfway through the week did I start experimenting with different materials.

After that, I had began to develop a preference towards what I wanted to use, (printmaking) so I began to think up some ideas for the actual design that could work with that material, and what message I wanted to get across about the refugees.

I spent another while trying to come up with something, but unfortunately, nothing. That’s when I decided to take a different approach. Looking back at how we were kind of connecting our artwork with what Picasso did in his painting, Guernica, I decided to do a little research on it.

I found out that a lot of his painting revolved around symbolism. For instance, at the top of the painting there is a light bulb with light rays extracting from it. At first glance, it looks out of place from the rest of the artwork, but it has a deeper meaning. The word light bulb in Spanish is bombilla, which out of context, in English, is bomb. So although it looks like a good thing in contrast to the surroundings, it is actually representing the bombs that were released onto the people of Guernica.

Taking the idea of using symbolism, I decided to do something along the same lines and use symbols to represent the pain and suffering Syrians are going through, but after what seemed like forever, all of my ideas looked plain, boring and just didn’t get the message across.

At this point I had only about three days left before the assignment was due, so I was pretty determined to think of a design to use. I went home that night, and actually forgot about the deadline until I was just about to go to bed. I spent the next hour browsing the internet in hopes of coming across something that could make my mind snap, which is exactly what I found.

After reading a few news articles about the Syria Crisis, I realized how popular the topic was over media, yet how no one knew exactly what they were going through. That’s how I came up with the words; Seen & Heard but Not Understood.

I figured it was simple yet it got the point across well, so all I needed was a picture to go along with it, and for some reason my mind seems to work better at 2am on a Thursday morning then any other time I actually need it to function properly, because it didn’t take me long to decide on using a face of a Syrian, only I couldn’t actually draw a face very well so I stuck to the blank outline.

The next two days I prepared to get the mirrored outline of my design onto the piece of rubber in order to begin carving the picture into it. I was fortunately able to finish with time left over to do the first test print, so that’s exactly what I did.

It turned out better than I expected, and was surprised that after most of my time was spent coming up with nothing that could help me with the project, I still managed to think of something reasonable, and actually finish it in time for the deadline.

Many thanks to Angel, who allowed me to share her written reflections on this blog.



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