Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 First Semester Reflections

I changed a lot of things this year, particularly with scope and sequence, for my third/fourth/fifth grade art students. I made some projects larger and more integrative, shrunk a few down, and overall, revised about 60% of my curriculum based on feedback and observations from last year.
  • Third grade started with cartooning to break the ice and as a formative, then we moved into A.T.C.'s, followed by the four P's: painting, puppets, pop-ups and more painting (Zonkey Cartoons). see--> Ian Sands : Make Art!: How To Draw A Zonkey!: "In less than two minutes you too could be drawing a Zonkey! If you can draw a square you can draw a zonkey" Our soup can Pop Art Pop-Ups were a huge success, and the students loved learning about Andy Warhol, plus I even dragged out one of my old photo silkscreens from art school to show them. There are a lot of pictures of the pop-ups on my Artsonia gallery, third grade section. 
  • In Fourth grade, I was able to bring back linoleum block printing and the results were so much better than the collograph prints of last year (these are also loaded onto Artsonia in the 4th grade section). We also had a huge integrative unit with geometry, based on Cubist art and painted "self-portraits" based on numbers (like Charles Demuth's "I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold"). We moved onto "The Wallet Project" based on Stanford University's "Design Thinking" curriculum, and I really focused the concept with mindmaps being part of the project (a quarter of the grade, knowing that many of the fourth grade teachers have students do mindmaps as a form of note-taking). Now, we just finished "flutter books" and are going to use them as the pages for our Anime/Manga cartooning unit. As far as that unit goes, so many students are very familiar with Manga, so we are comparing the cartoon-y/cute style to the more realistic style instead of comparing to the Marvel superhero proportions.
  • Fifth grade changed the most, with several smaller projects (Op Art shading blobs, radial slot card designs, rapid prototype group slot card buildings) leading up to bigger projects (clay and ongoing computer centers using SketchUp and Illustrator). The slot card buildings were more experimental and experiential, but I think the students learned a lot about working with their hands, problem solving, and working as a team. I posted a video of the process on my school website , under "rapid prototype slot shelters." This was part of design challenge posted at In fact, my fifth grade artists seemed so good at 3D thinking this year, that I squeezed in a two-point perspective drawing project right before break---treehouses, and they are looking great (in watercolor and tempera).
  • Art club has changed the most in that a large collaboration has developed between my 5th grade group and the 5th grade advanced math students. The art club is designing sprites for the Scratch programmers, using Illustrator and Bamboo tablets. It is all being facilitated online by both myself and the gifted teacher via the Edmodo platform. I love hearing pings on my iPad at home, as push notifications come in--students working together, online, outside of the school day! I highly recommend looking into MIT's Scratch--it is a free download--->
  • So with all that, I fell behind on updating my Artsonia gallery and school website, but I think that was a minor compromise giving me the flexibility to be more attuned to adjusting projects as they were moving along. I caught up over break, and probably nobody but me noticed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

iPad Apps

We are gathering iPad apps for a parent resource at our (elementary) school, and here are a few choice links: Applist me is pretty easy to use, I would also add: ArtSet (free), ArtCircles (free), and StopMotion (free). Edtech can always be relied on for great information. Also, Kathy Schrock’s website has the apps aligned to Blooms Taxonomy titled “Blooming Apps”

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A New Vision

I admit it, I sometimes lose my faith in where the vision of education is headed, but then, a student looks up from their art with a smile, or I hear someone say, "This is the best thing I've ever done!", or like today, I get a thank-you like this one... Partners in Learning Let's keep this new vision in mind: education that nurtures the 4 C's in addition to the 3 R's. The Four C's are... critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity

Monday, October 29, 2012

Integration Thoughts

Just wrapping up a big unit on Cubist art, using tempera paint with the fourth graders. It was an integration with geometry, at the request of several fourth grade teachers. We started out by answering the question, "What is Cubism?", then moved on to the art of Charles Demuth, and particularly, "I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold". I asked the students to draw a number that represents them and randomly put at least 5 ruler lines across their composition. We did a pre-assessment of geometry concepts/terms, then spent the next 3 weeks painting. I started the students off with mixing at least 2 secondaries from primaries, then let them try tints, shades, and tertiaries (if so desired). Then, I found a wonderful 4th grade geometry lesson at Smarttech and used that to review all the types of lines, angles, and shapes that they could find in their art. Students put tracing paper over their completed paintings, and traced/labelled at least 3 of the terms, plus completed a reflection. Finally, all was collected, and we did the post-assessment. Now, I just need to collate and grade all 440 (220 pre, 220 post)! So, how do I feel about all this? I like showing connections between art and other content areas, but then, I dislike giving up any art making time for testing. I am hopeful that the data will show that this was helpful, which would be a vindication of all the effort I put into this (meeting with 4th grade teachers, finding geometry resources and making them accessible in my once a week, 45 minute art class, not letting the studio time get away from us, etc.). It is stressful to catch students up who are absent, some classes will miss due to a field trip, other time management issues that crop up on integrations like this. Some other folks thoughts on integrating the arts are HERE and HERE.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

School Starts and Art Apps
So far, a busy and productive start to the year. All summer, I have been playing around with an iPad for  both art creation and assessment investigations. The links above are from two amazing art teachers, and the lists are very concise for art education apps.
A few assessments apps I would add are Easy Assessment and Data Tracker.
It seems like I have been busier than usual, partly because of piloting new evaluation policies in the art room, but also because I am doing a design challenge-- making a piece of art every day. I've been documenting it on my other blog,  More Art 24/7 . I've really enjoyed the creative commitment, even after a long day of teaching. I would encourage any busy, stressed- out teacher to give themselves a similar intellectual space to challenge themselves. After all, we ask our students to challenge themselves every day, right?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Curriculum Map for 2012-13

Before you know it, it will be upon us, the 2012-13 school year. As always, I curriculum map my year (year 11 at my current school), and this is my second year of organizing around "big ideas". See my 2012-13 map below.
I also designed the "Thinking Outside the Box" icon in Illustrator as a badge for my Edmodo site. The 5 E's are something I researched for my grad level Design Thinking class I teach. They are the organizing principles behind curriculum that promotes not just thinking like a designer, but also problem-based learning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some iPad App Reviews

Alright, I've been working with the iPad this summer, and doing a few app reviews. Let's start with what it already came with: -Videos: I'd rather not clog up the memory with them. I've used up 10.9 GB, have 13.9 left, but barely used any high-memory things like photos yet. -Game Center: Not for me, but my son tried a few and prefers his xBox by far -Newsstand: Used my Smithsonian membership to download the magazine for free, basically, it's a wash between hard copy and online. -iBooks: Used my own app store card to download an art reference book, liked having it portable for use, could see much to recommend this for classrooms. Found tons of free books at Project Gutenberg, too. -Camera and Photobooth: both easy to use and fun. Surprisingly good results on test shots like my black dog in poor lighting, interior night shot, depth of field tests (still life and garden). If you get the right filter apps, can really go to town. Nothing replaces the optics on great camera, though, but I was pleased with things an iPad camera could do. -Notes: nice for meetings, can email to yourself and put in Dropbox or print out readily for archiving. -I have not used Messages, Reminders, Maps, YouTube, or iTunes.
Okay, here's the apps I downloaded (some free, others I bought for myself): -Edmodo: Love it. -Scan: Also great. -Dropbox: Love that I can find stuff and put into Dropbox, then get it later from any of my computers that have Dropbox on them. -PrintnShare Pro: I had uneven results in printing from the iPad using our home wireless printer, some stuff worked, but so far, no luck with PDF's. -iPF: figured out a lot by checking this iPad forum. Reminds me of MacHelp in ease of use. -social apps (all good and very easy to use): Skype, Twitterific, Google+, Facebook, Twitter (I prefer Twitterific over Twitter app), Blogpress & Blog Docs (both equally good at doing a blog posting from iPad, easier than going to your regular blog in browser). -search: default is Safari, but I added the Google app anyway. -photo/video apps: iMovie/StopMotion/iMotion HD are all great and easy to use; BeFunky was my substitute for Instagram and I love it, PS Express is darn close to Photoshop for filters and tweaking, just can't get into deeper stuff like "curves" and "masks"; PhotoPad o.k. but more for social media piks using any "smart" phone or tablet platform, has weird customization feature called "ZAGGskin". -document apps: Notability, Inkflow, Nebulous Lite, and Evernote all have nice features for taking notes/sketches and easy to put in Dropbox or email; Google Docs Editor & Blog Docs give you html and some more advanced options; my favorite is Inkflow for easy draw/sketching/notes. I do not like getting prompts from the "lite" apps to upgrade (read: pay) for the full app. -Datatracker:full on teacher app for assessing, ran my own rubric through and tested at home, seems really good, but wondering about implementation during busy art room day. -Sketchbook: Similar to a watered-down ArtRage, if you like drawing with your fingers. -artCircles: this is one cool tool for learning/teaching art history; love the contemporary stuff the "curators" (who are real people across all disciplines) come up with; now, I just need to figure out how to sync with my Smartboard at school. -Prezi Viewer, Animoto: both work well, close to regular online experience, but I did notice that some blog posts with embedded Animotos did not work on the iPad, don't really know why. - Harmonious: heard a lot about this online, but I'm pretty close to pitching it. Seems pretty limiting for finger drawing. -Side by Side: dual page searches, then you can save files as Pdfs, etc., send to your other apps like Dropbox or Evernote. Once I found this freebie, it was easy to save PDF's, which on a computer would involve "control" & "right click", or "command" & "c", which obviously, cannot be done on tablets. Lastly, using the iPad (2) pretty heavily during the day meant needing to recharge that night. Charges pretty fast (3-4 hours), but the larger battery for the iPad3 requires an overnight charge. The iPad2 has "25 watt hours", the iPad3 has "42.5 watt hours"--so there's the trade-off (other than price). Something to consider if you are going to use with students.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My New Favorite Thing

I am a bad typist but I love to resource new things for teaching . As a result, have been tooling around with my new iPad since Friday night. Luckily, I had a nice apps gift card from last year, so I have been researching and downloading apps like a maniac to my new favorite thing, my iPad. Okay, bad typing is so much easier on the touchscreen. Intuitive capitalization and suggestions make it so seamless. Synced to iCloud, then got fairly decent on the troubleshooting once I got the iPad forum app. Also got some grading apps and of course, animation and art apps... becoming an indispensable tool really fast. My son said he preferred the iPad for web surfing and I have to agree. Syncing to Apple devices is pretty easy, too. In less than three days, feeling pretty good about working with the apps, including Dropbox, Notability, Sketchbook Pro, Data Tracker Plus, plus about ten more.One thing I learned, don't download apps for iPad3 if you do not have it, you end up with an icon that you have to "redraft" to get rid off, which involves holding down both the home key and power button until the apple appears. Battery time? Well, charged once so far, but have been running a good part of the day for over two days. I am extremely glad that we Have WiFi at our house! Overall, I see this as such a powerful complement to all the tech teachers and students use. I will keep updating as I work through the various assessment apps I am testing, but still leaning to developing my own. Another nice link HERE.
one more great resource|

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rotoball 2012 is Here!

Rotoball 2012 is finally done & ready to present, I am so proud of my 5th grade art club---this year we had scenery changing in the background, which required over 200 drawings to be completed! still working on keeping the camera steady, but other than that, each year, I just am so impressed with their creativity (we are at minute 2:41 through 2:53):

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Elementary Art Assessment Resource

I'm just putting some information I found in my favorite PLN, Art Ed 2.0, this is an assessment option: From site: "All 4th graders will be taking the District Art Assessment Test in two weeks. This will be a multiple choice Scantron test in which students will answer questions about art knowledge. They apply the elements and principles of art in every lesson and demonstrate learning using art tools and media within each art class. Students are typically applying what they learn by problem solving in class, therefore, this pencil/ paper assessment is a different approach and requires practice. Testing their art knowledge using multiple choice tests is required by our district. I created an online quiz using and students took my quiz using our class set of iPads. I formatted the quiz so that the questions would appear in random order. Therefore, students were all answering different questions at different times to ensure they were working independently." (author-Suzanne Tiedemann) Is this where we are headed? Regardless, we (meaning art educators) DO need to come up with proactive solutions to assessing (other than our usual, rich methods---art products, process formatives, & portfolios).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Caine's Arcade

Okay, at the risk of being redundant, I'm posting a video about a little boy who spent the summer at his dad's auto parts store being creative (instead of being bored). The take-aways here are: 1) free time, unstructured & open fosters creativity; 2) the media can be whatever you want it to be---what's at hand, just laying around; 3) positive feedback; 4) this is how inventive minds flourish & we need inventive minds! (full disclosure--they also raised full college tuition by starting an online foundation based on the video) Also, my art club (5th grade) made props for the k-1 musical, which had a nautical theme, came out pretty cute! I basically just let them run with the concept, using tempera & poster board:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Art/Tech Links

Illustrator tutorials : HS digital arts (from the amazing Jack Tovey): Easy cloud app for elem. online art creation- Neat way to do tutorials as an app- "Steal Like an Artist" slideshow: (the book is by Austin Kleon, who brilliantly embraces blogging about his book/ideas with appropriate attribution---which I just did :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Art Club Claymation & "Oh Happy Clay"

Art club finished their Rotoball 2012 claymation before break & I am posting it on Vimeo (). Then, by happy accident I found this wonderful resource for art teachers using clay in the classroom called, "Oh Happy Clay". Then, found an awesome idea---paper sneakers from templates:
Lastly, instructions for turning nearly 200 stop-motion images into an animation using Photoshop (on a Mac): 1) Open "Bridge" > Open your images & select them > Batch Rename 1A) You can then select naming options, I chose text (type in name) & sequence (start with "1", so a 3 digit sequence starts with "001", important for animations with images into the hundreds) 2) in "Photoshop", open your pictures that have been renamed, but be sure to check-off the "image sequence" box, which will automatically place all your pictures into the "animation (timeline)" at the bottom of your PSD screen. 2A)Toggle "Onionskin" in your animation palette (hint: looks like a little onion) and then, crop your first frame (or any frame), which will then crop them all (HUGE timesaver if you are shooting pictures with different animation teams over several months as I did). Also, you can get fancy and "tween" between frames for smoother transitions, but for 5th grade stop-motion, that is more "teacher-do" than authentically student-made. 3) file>export>render video (choose your format, I used "Quicktime" which is a .mov file, but .avi, MPEG4, and other options are available). Additional resources available at-

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

At NAEA in Spirit

Well, I was at school teaching, but one of my students had art on the Big Screen Plaza & even went to go see it with their family. I am so happy that they supported his creative thinking and hard work by making the trip. Here's the picture:
Almost to spring break, so I'll go into more detail about art program news then. Check my school site at

Monday, February 27, 2012

IPad Dreaming & Art/Math Integration

This post- has me dreaming about how cool it would be to have an art room iPad. Planning on noodling around with a tablet this summer myself. Until then, we are wrapping up our stop-motion animation in art club, the puppets in third grade are also done, and we are wrapping up radial art in 5th grade (giant math integration, using vocabulary-perimeter, diameter, radius, & chord, plus 1:1 help with math strategies for dividing fractions in half). I am including a screenshot from a math/art gallery site:
Here's the link for this intriguing site on artistic math/ mathematical art-- out the galleries, they are full of great project ideas! Final thought-I might even try to teach "digital mandalas" for students who are ready to move past "Typeface Face" in Photoshop, resource for that is HERE.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


NEWS: I'm very excited that one of my student's artwork was chosen to be displayed on a giant LED screen ("big screen plaza") at the National Art Education Association convention in NYC this spring (slide #133--a creative colored pencil drawing of a boy with a soccer ball for a head):
 School: Leighton Elementary School Teacher: Lois Schroeder-Girbino Artist Name: Ben Sequence #: 133 - Each slide has a sequence number in the lower right corner to let you know when your artwork will be showcased. Approximate Display Time on Friday, March 2nd/Saturday March 3rd: 5:46 PM EST* * Note: Be aware that while we hope the time-slots listed are accurate, we strongly advise arriving to the plaza at least 15 minutes before your display time, to allow for any small variances that may occur. The slideshow features ~500 pieces of work, and will display Ben's artwork for approximately 20 seconds before moving on to the next artwork. This slideshow will be shown in its entirety on Friday, March 2nd from 5-8pm (EST) and again on Saturday, March 3rd from 5-8pm(EST). The address of the Big Screen Plaza is 851 Avenue of the Americas (between 29th and 30th St.), New York City.

That's the latest scoop, and I'm pleased that some of the newest units I implemented as part of my backwards-design (this piece was a result of the UbD "avatar" unit discussed earlier) resulted in positive feedback and cool art.

 VIEWS: As for views, I am readying another reverse instruction video (screencast) and am looking for ways to streamline my student observation data. In both cases, these are tasks I have to do at home, but over the summer, I hope to get a nice repository of instructional videos and data tools organized for fall 2012. Just had our PD day, where the focus was the new Bloom's taxonomy "rigor/relevance framework", and designing inquiry-based lessons to support that. As always, I know that learning through the arts is one of the most cognitively rich and rewarding experiences for a student, and is what I aim for everyday in every lesson. I'm including a picture of the framework, and truly believe we are working in quadrant D most of the time in my art room. Fellow teachers came up with cool ideas, which sound a lot like the experiential stuff art teachers do all the time! Our group came up with a P.E., language arts/literacy, art integration unit idea---I always love connecting the dots with my peers :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mayan Codices Results

Fifth grade is completing their Mayan codices art project: accordion books that used symbol systems to portray each student's "story". Here's a photo of a Mayan codex (the Dresden codex) made from Amate (bark) paper:
The "Timeglider" introduction via Smartboard worked well, and I left the fine artist connection (Beatrice Coron) until the following week so students did not confuse the social studies standard with the art standard (and the past with the present). Thank goodness my students had a good grounding in the concept of "positive space" vs. "negative space", because cutting paper to create symbols (like the Mayans, symbols told the story, without words or drawing) turned out to be a skill some students still need practice with (linguistic learners had the most trouble, spatial learners the least). Also, although all the fifth grade was supposed to start the social studies portion of the unit as soon as we got back from break, about a third of the homerooms were behind. This left the discussion of the Mayans to "art", which took up some of the studio time, but we managed nonetheless (synchronization of integration pacing is always something to allow extra time for). The very good news is that students really liked doing something that related to a topic they were learning about in another area. Some things I adjusted to support learning as we progressed: 1) how to take complex images, like Wii remotes or a downhill skier and simplify for a paper cut-out; 2)cutting larger, symmetrical pieces, before cutting out details--for example a softball or football; 3) using current logos as examples of simplifying complex concepts. Here is an example of a cut paper accordion book from 2011 (prior to the Mayan theme being introduced):
One of the interesting aspects of the Mayan accordion books, is that students are trading them and "translating" the images, which is a lovely synectic activity, I've greatly enjoyed the stories my students have shared with me from their codices. Fourth grade is done with their "plot mountains" and "narrative planning sheets" for the cartooning unit, and we are (finally) moving into the cartooning portion. We covered Language Arts concepts including: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution (ending), protagonist, antagonist. Chunking the plot mountain first, then using that to fill in the first column of the narrative planning sheet was definitely a great Smartboard activity. Based on class polling, about 1/3 of third grade covers this material, slightly more in 4th, and in fifth grade they all do (but at different times). Lots of 1:1 conferencing on storylines. The main resources I used are at Read/Write/Think. Finally, the animations (thaumatropes and flips-video below) with third grade were very successful and students loved them! Such a simple way to demonstrate "tension" (3rd science standard) and "persistence of vision". I only wish we had done them on paper plates (larger) instead of index cards.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More Thoughts on Design Thinking & Reverse Instruction

Lots has happened since the new year started which kept me from blogging, but I am caught up on grades, comments, and display work (for now). Also, the Master Teacher Portfolio is done and submitted (over 60 hours of work went into that, but I found it to be very reflective). So, now I can finally write about how my "design thinking" unit with the fourth graders ("The Wallet Project") went, here's some observations: a) in a nutshell, very successful based on engagement and student feedback; b) I need to give myself some time to photograph these projects, because as soon as they were done and assessed, students wanted their wallets back because they either wanted to use them or give them as presents; c) letting the students do multiple prototypes and the mindmaps, although time-consuming, really was a very successful pacing strategy. I only have one picture to show from the project, but the variety of media choices definitely inspired this artist to get very creative (duct tape over cardboard with puff paint and scrap fabric bow ties):
Here is a great site for educators with a downloadable resource foe "design thinking": Very recently, districts nationwide have been adopting "common core content" standards, and the idea is that we need to go deeper with knowledge aquisition, promote argument and interaction with developing the knowledge, and "design thinking" is all about that!
Isn't that what robotics competitions, science fairs, debate clubs, etc. are all about? I am trying to bring that "vibe" to the everyday classroom, for all of my students (all 700+ of them). Experiential, investigative learning should be for every student, especially the ones who might not learn via "standard" classroom practices (e.g. auditory/linguistic). This brings me to reverse/flip instruction. I've been able to implement some front-loaded videos and instruction via my school website, Fifth graders watched a class tutorial on shading in class, plus watched the video on their own, and this year was the year shading using values was most successful! Furthermore, students asked for the website that the shading examples I put up on the Smartboard was from (a first), and wanted to do more exercises (another first). Here's the link from "artyfactory": Additionally, third & fourth graders accessed cartooning exercises on their own for several weeks before we jumped in with whole-group instruction. Of course, I cannot expect a lot of students to be doing "art homework", but I do try to plant the idea that expertise comes from practice, and that fun resources for practice are available---"here's some to try from sites that are safe and kid-friendly." Recently, students are starting to ask me, "Mrs. Girbino--are you putting that link on your website?" And that's how I know the strategies I've implemented this year are taking hold. (During second semester, I hope to have more videos uploaded that are student-directed).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012 & Beyond

If there is a theme to the first week back in art, it would be "integration". Third grade just finished some adorable 3D cartoons I call "critter cubes" (see below, plus 1 clay piece from 5th) based on the Apex HS art guru, Ian Sands' "Zonkey Street". This necessitated some discussions about "word bubbles", spelling, and other LA issues I had not anticipated (note for next year :). Then, 4th grade is moving into our big Anime/Marvel cartooning unit, which involves cartooning (of course), but also, planning narrative and the "plot mountain". Bonus--cartooning involves using PROPORTIONS ! Then, as noted in a prior post, we are doing accordion books in 5th grade again, but looking at the Mayan codices for our inspiration. Additionally, I'm almost ready to post a few more reverse instruction tutorials on Vimeo. Interesting aside, as we were beginning cartooning practice this week, a 4th grade student specifically asked me if I could post the cartooning source on my webpage,, so before the next class, I did. Took half a minute. Then, I reinforced the resource via Smartboard the rest of the day. For some students, this is no big deal, but for others, they really do want extension information. This was a good way to end my week...So in 2012 & beyond, I envision more overlapping of core and complimentary content in a very organic, yet specific way.

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