Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Polishing the Apple

I'm retired, so I no longer have to worry about getting ready for Open House.  But the truth is, getting my room jazzed up and filling multitudes of hallway bulletin boards with kids' art was one of my favorite things to do.  And, it is something I believe is actually incredibly important advocacy for your art program.  So today I'm going to talk about some hows and whys of starting the school year with a blast of visual excitement in your room and the halls.  (Below, a couple of pics of my classroom door.  Come on in; the color's fine!) 

If your school is anything like mine, the kids love showing the art room to their parents at Open House.  And they love showing off what artwork they have been making, even if they've only been in school a few short weeks.  So it's worth the effort to be incredibly prepared for these visitors, even if it means a bit of extra time on your part getting it all ready.  You want those parents (and board members and administrators) who walk in your room and past your bulletin boards in the hallway to be impressed.  You want them to be able to tell that amazing things are happening in the art room.  You want them to be able to feel the enthusiasm and sense the learning simply by seeing the kids' creations on those bulletin boards.

I had a large bulletin board in my classroom (you can see a view of it directly below), and three more outside my classroom.  Over the years, I took every opportunity to "adopt" other bulletin boards in the hallway, particularly those by the elementary office and cafeteria, very visible locations to any visitors to the school.  I highly recommend doing this!  I regularly kept these filled and changed every couple of weeks.  It may seem like a lot of work, but the positive image it gives both the school and your program will pay off when you need support for your art program.
To make things easy, cover all the boards with neutral bulletin board paper that can be re-used in the months to come.  I liked covering boards with either black or white paper, and occasionally a mid-tone blue.  Find a way to hang art that works for you; my preferred tool is the stapler.
You probably will have very little time for your students to create finished art that is ready to fill those boards in time for Open House.  One option is to do quickie one or two day projects during the first classes, simply for the purpose of filling these boards.  (If you need help with ideas for such one-day projects, I suggest hunting through the resources offered by art education bloggers, and Pinterest.)  A good idea for the start of the school year can be projects using kids' names, as seen above, or those based on books with an empowering theme, pictured below, such as A Bad Case of Stripes, or Only One You, which are both perfect start-of-school-year books. 
Above, A Bad Case of Stripes projects by grades 2 & 3, and below, an Only One You board with artwork by grade 2.  Signage for both these boards were hung on the wall next to the board and are not visible in these photos.

Another idea is to have the students create "welcome back" artwork in the final days of the school year.  Hang it up, and cover the boards with some newspaper for the summer so that the artwork is protected while the hallways are cleaned.  In September, pull off the newspaper, and voila!  Your boards are ready to go!  I don't generally like using patterns or templates, but a project like the "put your best foot forward" board shown at the top of this post can be an quick easy solution to filling a bulletin board in a hurry!  Make sure you make signage for the board explaining the grade level of the work and the motivation. 

If you are an elementary art teacher with hundreds of students, you likely won't be able to post work from every student in the school in time for Open House.  My solution: label the tables in your room by grade level.  Then place piles of student artwork in piles - one for each teacher, on the appropriate grade level table.  Guide visitors to your room to find the their child's grade level and teacher to see what the kids are currently doing, but make sure they know not to take the work home!!

As for that giant, room-length bulletin board in the classroom, this one was important for Open House.  Use bulletin board or wall space in your room to give the parents a sense of what goes on in there - what are the rules and expectations perhaps, and anything else that can be shared visually.  I always had an area of the board with a Word Wall, and another board with the work of a Featured Artist the kids would be learning about.  The bulletin boards pictured in this post are several years old, but nowadays, you can/should use your classroom boards and/or a parent handout to show your connections to the Learning Standards and Common Core. 

If you have a complicated teaching schedule, posting it visibly can be useful for both you and insightful for visitors to your room.  Below I have shared one of my old schedule charts.  These large posters helped me remember what class was coming when, since each day was different, but they also showed visitors to my room that I was BUSY.   That's subtle PR, and a great way to advocate for the importance of your program.

Here's a thought: music teachers "sell" their programs through their well-attended concerts; physical education programs are promoted through well-attended sporting events.  In art programs, a lot of the learning that takes place can best be seen through the visual product the students produce. So make sure what you display reflects that learning, and the value of your art education program!  As visual people, art educators should be able to use their know-how of basic design to "polish the apple", so to speak, and hang eye-catching displays that grab the viewers' attention! 

Note: all images in today's post are from my former K-6 art room in North Warren Central School in northeastern NY state, and have been previously used over the past six years in my personal art education blog There's a Dragon in my Art Room.  

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