Teachers Connect
Jul 13, 2017


During this week you are constructing samples of artists’ books, working with various art  materials, creating narratives, poems and finding superb words that can be used in your educational setting. What are some of the characteristics of your process in creating these samples that helped you feel a sense of satisfaction?  Reflecting on those characteristics (including mistakes!), identify those that you might share with your students as they work on their projects.  (persistence, forgiveness of self, patience, reflection, focus, imagining)


  1. Rachael B says:

    Imagining is the characteristic that was not helpful to me. Brainstorming, making lists and sketches before diving into the final project always relieved a lot of stress and was incredibly helpful. I would push my students to plan their ideas and organize their thoughts before starting on a final.

    On a few of the first books I would follow along with the construction before knowing what the final project was going to look like. It was later a little frustrating because I would have glued or cut things differently to fit with my initial idea. Imagining helped here as well (including patience and flexibility) to generate new ideas that fit with the form I had already created.

    • Debbie S. says:

      I agree that when we worked through books step by step without having the final result I had to imagine and persevere. I often talk to my students about being flexible and I think I could articulate what that means in a clearer fashion after this workshop.

  2. Alicia R. says:

    Seeing a project through to the end, even when it was not my best work, has helped me to be “okay” with some of the pieces that I felt less than stocked about.

    What I want to share with my students is that not everything is always going to be your best and that is okay. You learn something new from every experience especially the ones that do not go the way you had hoped.

    I often felt rushed or overwhelmed with the rate at which we were being asked to work, but I also really appreciated the opportunity to be exposed to all of the different book forms. I wish we could have had two weeks! I know that I also do this to my students (there is alway somethings else to move onto). I hope this experience will help me to sympathize with them when I am rushing them along to the next task. Maybe they will learn to appreciate the experience as well .

    • James Proctor says:

      I agree! It was so funny to be on the other side of the teacher/student relationship. I agree with you that you get a great sense of how students must feel as we ask them to move quickly from one direction to the next. I will return to school in August with a new sense of empathy.

    • Janice M. says:

      Alicia–I, too, will be more empathic when it comes to rushing my students to complete a project. It is a difficult line to walk since I don’t want my students to be rushed but I don’t want them to just chat and visit and use their time unwisely. The students who drag their feet are often the ones who feel that they are not good at art. They want to put off the project indefinitely. Maybe the VTS will help get those students more invested in their work and let them be confident enough to make mistakes.

  3. I connected with the exploration of both the 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional media in the same space that we created in our array of art books. So often I assign 2D projects, 3D projects, and writing assignments separately within an art unit. This workshop has allowed me to explore and contemplate a fresh approach to the lessons and units I teach. Bookmaking involves engineering which I think will appeal to the multiple learning styles my students possess.

    • Rachael B says:

      This is an interesting observation that didn’t occur to me, but I find I do the same; keep 2D and 3D separate. I am excited to try to combine the two using the tunnel book when school starts back up. It doesn’t involve as much folding as some of the other books and I can connect it to dioramas that I’m sure they have done in other classes.

  4. Janice M. says:

    When creating the samples this week, I often felt a sense of satisfaction when I was able to fold a book correctly; when I was able to finish small tasks that led up to a larger task and then succeed in completing that job as well; when I looked at the project at the end and saw how it all seemed to fit together knowing that I did all the work myself. Some characteristics of the process are: being challenged, having an element of intellectual curiosity, connecting on an emotional level, and having a physical/artistic element where I had freedom to express myself. The projects needed to “hook me,” get me interested as well as challenge me. Once hooked, the challenge made me want to complete the project.
    I needed to be invested enough to make mistakes and keep going–not giving up after the first try. Having patience and trying not to be a perfectionist helps. Also, giving an honest effort–really try to do what is asked.
    What I want to share with my students is 1) take time to think about the project. Make a plan. 2) Don’t worry about mistakes. I often tell my students that if they are NOT making mistakes, they are not learning. So, mistakes are a good sign. 3) It takes practice to get good at something. Do your best and next time, you’ll do better.

    • Kristin R says:

      Your comment about needing to be invested in a project in order to persist through mistakes and challenges is spot-on. I hadn’t thought much about these two things being linked, but clearly they are. Your points raise, for me, the question of how we as teachers gain students’ investment in activities we present — not just so they are successful in meeting learning objectives but also so that they experience persistence and willingness to accept and work with mistakes. Thank you for raising this very important point!

    • Jen S. says:

      Janice I agree with learning and being given permission to not be perfect. Our students are often expected to perform at unreasonably high expectations that do not take into account the progress that the student has made, just what he/she can produce. This mentality does not leave much room for growth and development. Reminding them that practice is an important step in becoming a better artist, student, athlete, etc. is crucial.

  5. James Proctor says:

    I felt the biggest sense of satisfaction when I was able to not only correct a mistake, but to make it work even better that originally planned.
    There were several occasions when I felt rushed, or missed a step in a process and I just made it work based on observation and luck.
    I would share this with my students in the fall. There are no real mistakes in art. There are only opportunities to take a different route to the end goal. This week has been amazing and I have especially enjoyed the book-making. I have so many ideas running through my head! Can’t wait!

    • Emily S says:

      I totally agree. Several times I had to change my idea for my book, and that was okay. I made a sign for my class room that says “artists don’t make mistakes, they make changes”.

    • Alison Y. says:

      Correcting a so-called “mistake” is often what I find most satisfying in the long run as well. And even know I should know this from past experiences, I still begin art projects as a perfectionist! It calls to mind what I think Carol Barton was talking about with experiential learning, how you have to do it again and again to learn how to make it work (making many “mistakes” in the process). I would also suggest the book Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg for an appropriate children’s read aloud on this topic. It has great visuals.

  6. Cynthia L. says:

    Like Alicia, I was able to understand how my students might feel overwhelmed– in my case with the writing demands I place on them. While my comfort zone is writing, for many of my students, their comfort zone lies elsewhere, sometimes with art!
    Today I had my first feeling of success in creating the landscape book. Interestingly enough, I had no text to add to my work. However, I incorporated my love of literature by starting from a poem to guide me with my work. I used “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. As usual, there were a couple of “not quite what I imagined” moments in the creative process. However, I worked around those and felt like this piece was the most authentic one so far this week.
    This led me to reflect on the need to steer my students towards a growth mind set. My challenge students are sometimes the high achievers who set unrealistic expectations for themselves and end of anxious and unsatisfied. I hope the process of creating artists’ books will allow to rethink their attitude towards failure.

    • Mary Louise D says:

      I adore that you used a poem as inspiration for your tunnel book. At first that I was imagining these big scenes from some of my favorite literature and I couldn’t even think of where to begin. Feeling overwhelmed, I did not continue with my initial idea. Your idea of using your experience this week to encourage the growth mindset in your students is fantastic. I am going to piggyback on you and try the same with my little ones.

    • Angie L. says:

      I agree that this week made very clear to me how one can feel secure and confident in one’s comfort zone, and tentative and panicked when outside of it. It is definitely a part of students’ needs that the educational system does not always recognize, and that parents and teachers need to pay attention to.

  7. Debbie S. says:

    I really felt satisfied as I applied the folding and art making techniques from the beginning of the week in the later projects. The foundation allowed me to experiment more, and move more quickly. I think that building on small pieces of learning yet allowing a new application is something I’ll keep in mind as I go back to the classroom. I also think that as I worked there were times when my work didn’t match the notion in my head. I did find that I need to encourage myself to reimagine the work and complete something that I was happy with. One thing that helped me with that process was collaborating with peers and getting feedback through informal conversation. I think that this is something I could bring back to my students as well even giving a peer partner for students to go to as they encounter roadblocks.

    • Kristin R says:

      I agree about collaborating with peers being helpful – I always think best when the process involves talking with others. In my classroom, I always allow, and even encourage, students to talk at their tables while they are writing. Occasionally, of course, talking can be distracting for some students, but the vast majority of the time, I notice students talking about their work – sharing ideas, looking at each other’s drawings, etc. I believe that encouraging students to talk during writing time capitalizes on the the social nature of learning. It’s nice to have these theories about learning validated in our own experiences as adults!

    • Jon B. says:

      Hi Debbie!

      I can totally relate to the satisfaction that you described – I felt the same way. It was so nice to feel like I had the foundational skills to work from when creating a new book. I also noticed that I could begin imagining what I wanted to create inside my book while I was still assembling the materials, rather than completely focusing on the task at hand. This made getting started much easier for me.

  8. Kristin R says:

    The over-riding characteristic of my approach to art-making and writing is impulsiveness. (This is true of my approach to other kinds of tasks too. It’s why I don’t like baking very much — too much careful planning and measuring for my taste.) I tend to just dive in to the work, with only a general picture or feeling in my mind, and without doing much planning and drafting to refine the details. I let the details come out as the process moves along.

    This approach feels the most natural and comfortable to me. But, unfortunately, it’s not the most satisfying. The couple of times this week that I have taken the time and discipline to plan, sketch, brainstorm, etc. — and to revise! — have led to much more satisfactory products.

    Building self-awareness about my comfort zone and the potential pitfalls of staying in my comfort zone is a lesson I would love to share with students. And more specifically, I realize that I can share my experience of the benefits of careful planning, preparation, and revision.

    • Mary Louise D says:

      Being self-aware in the classroom is so important but hard to manage. I often have the same impulsive approach when I try to bring art projects into my classroom, which usually ends with more frustrated than satisfied students. I like how Debbie S. mentioned scaffolding the folding techniques. I need to be self-aware that if I want the projects to be successful I will have to scaffold them to my students, just as it was done for me.
      I believe, through scaffolding, being more self-aware and less impulsive, we can help our students be more successful with their artistic pursuits!

    • Debbie S. says:

      I can relate to both your approach and your self awareness! I too find my approach one of impulsiveness ( or create as you go). I agree with the realization that a carefully planned approach yielded greater benefits!

  9. Mary Louise D says:

    My favorite take away of this week is not one of the books, although they were fantastic, but incorporating them into the classroom. I often find myself either trying to force an art project into a pre-made lesson, or pleading that my students will somehow make miraculous art work out of a lesson we did the day before. During the ABC training I was surrounded by talented artists, phenomenal classroom teachers, and amazing leadership. All of these people shared great ideas on how to construct books within your curriculum as well as ways to collaborate with other teachers in my building.
    I’ve been able to brainstorm with many on how to incorporate art in my classroom in a way that I will be comfortable with and will be able to help my students be successful. In the same thought of making the lessons my own, I really appreciate how the books can be unique to each student.

    • Emily S says:

      I hope you do well with incorporating art into your classroom. My rule of thumb for art lessons, and it is probably true for any lesson is: always try it out on yourself first. There are so many unanticipated little steps or materials that you might not have thought about beforehand. Also if it’s not fun or too hard for you, your students won’t enjoy it either.

    • Kathy A. says:

      I agree Mary Louise. I have felt most successful this week in thinking of ways in which I can incorporate all we have learned into my work with very young children. Actually when I think that our objectives this week have been to incorporate what we’ve learned into lessons with our students and not about how our individual projects materialized, my sense of inadequacy melts away. I have appreciated the opportunity to learn so very many interesting ways to incorporate art into my lessons. I have also greatly appreciated fellow participants and staff.
      I felt a sense of the excitement of experimentation as well as some frustration in the new projects. Very young children are quite naturally excited about experimentation. I try to ensure that the children are not frustrated and would present only material that would be appropriate for them.

  10. Natalie Wagner says:

    I found it most satisfying to complete a multi-step project that seemed complicated but ended up being quite simple with persistance. For example, the star book and tunnel boxes. The feeling of accomplishment overshadowed any frustration at the details not being perfect.

    I am excited to try these multi-step projects with my students. The challenge will be to remind myself that the process is worth the time it may take to guide 20+ kids through multiple steps, but I want them to feel how rewarding it can be to generate something seemingly complicated. I think to be successful I will need also to build in time for students to make a prototype, or first draft of their project. I often finished projects this week with the feeling that the next time I attempt this, I can do it even better. That I a further piece I would like my students to experience.

    • Janice M. says:

      Natalie–I, too, was pleasantly surprised how a complicated piece was accomplished in direct, easy steps. To have a book that looks so impressive at the end was a thrill for me–I’m sure my students will light up as well. Taking it slow and breaking down the steps is key. No rushing no matter how excited the students get. I think I will ask the school librarian to display their work. The students get so excited when they see their work out.

    • Ashley L. says:

      I dig your goal of having students feel the excitement to attempt a task a second time. I honestly can’t remember a time in school when I felt inspired to do an activity twice – I hope you find the the right projects to give your students that feeling!

  11. Alison Y. says:

    I would say just giving myself the time and space to sink into creativity, not forcing it if it will not come, and hopefully coming around to projects to finish once I’ve had time to digest them. I hope I give my students to do the same, but will have to double check my pacing in the classroom again come fall!

  12. Emily S says:

    My typical way of working includes sketching out several different versions of a project, and perhaps collecting some references before I begin. I also tend to mull over my ideas for a while. But this week I realized that I couldn’t waste time on the planning stage. I just had to take my first idea and jump right in. And you know, it worked out fine. After all, the goal is to learn new techniques and to make prototypes, and I have succeeded at that.

    • Lynn W says:

      I like your attitude! I agree with you that the accelerated pace of this week had benefits. I’m glad that working off your first response produced positive outcomes. I too feel like I have acquired some new tricks and tools. I know that other colleagues who have attended this institute have been able to incorporate a lot of what they learned in their teaching.

  13. Jen S. says:

    At the start of this course, I consciously set my mind to be open to new and challenging experiences and in that light, I also gave myself permission to be imperfect. I have realized in the past several years, that I even when I’m interested in trying something new, I will avoid starting it because deep down, I know I won’t be perfect. This wasn’t always my reality, but somewhere along the way I narrowed down to what I know I’m good at and what I’m comfortable doing. This does not stretch my mind or inspire me to push my own limits. So experimenting with new things and allowing myself to make mistakes was a challenge this week. I also found that when I persisted, I could create something I appreciated. Several times I got ‘stuck,’ not knowing what to draw or what to write next. But I kept mulling over the assignment, searching my notes and the artwork for inspiration and eventually something came to me. It was good to learn that I can create, sometimes it might just take some more time and effort. I would certainly share this experience with students who have not learned to keep at something that is hard, just to see where they land. And I would explain that it is the process that is the most important, rather than the end product. The process is where we do our best learning and growing and without mistakes we can never get better.

    • Janice M. says:

      I found myself getting stuck at times, too. Having warm ups, rough drafts, and just putting pencil to paper helps. I see the perfectionist issue a lot with my students. I do not allow them to throw out the paper and start again. I ask them to make their “mistakes” a part of the picture. For some of my elementary students, it has become a game. They will even point out the mistakes in their picture that they fixed.

  14. Jon B. says:

    Today I began feeling much more successful when folding paper and assembling my books. The folds felt more familiar, as well as the technique for creating mitered corners for our covers. At times, I could create while only listening to the instructions, rather than pausing to watch the instructor. I had the end in mind and could prepare my materials and assemble them much more efficiently. I did not feel this same sense of satisfaction earlier in the week, as I struggled to keep up with the step-by-step directions with each book we made.

    Today I remembered that trying new things involves a willingness to be vulnerable and to take risks. Next school year I’ll be with a new group of students, who will also be with a new group of peers. In addition to creating a safe a nurturing environment, I want to ensure that I openly model a willingness to try new things and make mistakes while learning. I think it’s important to verbalize these feelings for younger students, as many may become frustrated with difficult or new tasks (including making artists’ books), providing language that will help them accurately share how they are feeling. I want my students to know that these feelings are completely normal and that even adults must find ways to work through them.

    When writing my autobiographical poem earlier this week, I found it incredibly helpful to create a few lists of words that described me (adjectives, likes, hopes, fears) prior to writing. I also thought creating an event map when writing my personal narrative helped me organize and sequence my story. I look forward to modeling both of these strategies when working with students, especially those who have trouble beginning their writing or organizing their thinking.

  15. Ashley L. says:

    As someone who “is not good at art,” I think my goals of learning the new skills and of focusing over process over product helped me to feel successful in a room full of people who make beautiful things. I think that mastery of concepts/skills, and doing my personal best, as a source of satisfaction, rather than “doing better” than others’ is an important message to relay to my students. I think it has also been helpful for me to be reminded of the critical importance of meeting students where they are – that not everyone’s products are going to be equally impressive, and to focus rather on the effort and heart that goes into students’ work.

    • Debbie C. says:

      Ashley, I believe as educators we all grew this week in empathy and understanding for our young students who struggle with new concepts. As I was frustrated with a few of my books this week, I had to remind myself it was more about the process and journey than the outcome. Something I will remember as the school year starts this fall. As an art teacher, I once was more concerned about the perfect-stay-in-the-lines piece from my students. I sure have changed that paradigm way of thinking. Today, I look for effort, thinking, meaningful discussions, and expression. I concur in meeting students ” where they are”

    • Jon B. says:

      Hi Ashley!

      I totally relate to not feeling like a person who is “good at art.” I think you make two points that I’d like to remember this coming school year: the importance of feeling successful with your personal best, and the importance of meeting each student where they are. Thank you for these reminders!

  16. Debbie C. says:

    To me, the bookmaking process is very therapeutic and it was very satisfying to have had time to sit and work through problems. Books are instantly gratifying and are able to be expressed in a variety of media. This week I felt it refreshing to revisit some of the basics. Repetition makes permanence therefore I am grateful for the opportunity to create. I am taking many examples that have rejuvenated my artistic spirit home to my students this fall. Interestingly, as I reflect on this week, the most significant amount of growth came from the writing portion. I can honestly say I have learned more about writing and how to improve my skills than I have in a really long time. I am looking forward to enriching my students art through writing as well as to include the great children’s books we’ve read. VTS gave me a new approach to talking about art and it goes without saying that my appreciation for women’s art has exploded!

  17. Lynn W says:

    I like to sit with, and develop, one concept at a time. I also like to bring that idea into reality one piece of art at a time. I do deviate from this process to work on similarly themed “sister” pieces. This week, blew that out of the water, so to speak. With all the books to make and writing to do…..I often felt like a fly being chased with a flyswatter. What saved me was a commitment I made to myself before I even started the workshop. I pledged that I would stay true to myself and themes I visit regularly when crafting my projects. At times when I felt most overwhelmed I would remind myself to step back and look for the “secret door” that would allow me to find a place of my own within the assignment.
    I plan to keep encouraging my students to own what they create. I also want to listen more attentively to students that are not following directions just in case they are searching for their own secret door.

    • Jen S. says:

      I love your imagery! A secret door puts my frustration in a positive light, it is no longer frustration but a search to discover something wonderful! I will need to remember this. I was also wondering what your themes are that you go back to? What grounds you in your artwork? Maybe I need some themes. Or maybe I have them already I just don’t know it. LOL.

  18. Shellie M. says:

    As an art teacher, creating the books felt like home. I could easily come up with visuals and ideas for the designs. I understood the language and it never really felt like a struggle. The writing part, however, was painful. Even though they are both creative processes they access different parts of the brain. Coming up with ideas for poetry was a struggle. This really helped drive home to me the struggles my students face and that they all have their strengths snd weaknesses, affinities and aversions. But the more I was “forced” to write, the easier it became. I even started to enjoy it a little bit! I can see that introducing writing into the art room will be a joy for some and torture for others. I’ll be prepared for that and easy to encourage them along the journey.

  19. Angie L. says:

    The success that I achieved in some of my work this week came after the painful realization that I could not become an art teacher in just one week of training… My ambitions were much higher than my knowledge and skill level. When I scaled my expectations down to my level, I was able to achieve more satisfaction about my work. This links strongly to the growth mindset that I try to instill in my students who are still learning to read, write, and speak French. I felt their pain this week, as well as the calmness that comes from ‘being where your feet are’… which does not mean further progress will not come later.

  20. Traci says:

    This is test comment

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