Teachers Connect
Jul 10, 2017


Reflect on your experience today. What are two connections between what you already know and what you learned today? (Remember, this is a way to explore and better understand what you are learning and allows other participants to gain knowledge through your comments. During the week, your blog entries help staff know what needs clarification or further explanation.)


  1. In the past, I paired up with an anatomy teacher and collaborated on a lesson we taught together. Two ideas/connections I made today are: 1 to have the students create Flag Books in which they identify and label body parts. 2 to have students record and describe the art techniques used in each individual student’s book including key content vocabulary- form, proportion etc….Oh and research a women artist to include in our study as in the past we usually shared Leonardo di Vinci’s work…

    • Jon B. says:

      Hi Mimi,

      I love your idea of researching an artist who is a woman, rather than focusing on a well-known and recognized male artist like da Vinci. When I’ve brought my students to NMWA in the past, I often make it a point to emphasize how amazing it is that we get to visit a museum that features artists who were/are women. I also make it a point to share that many museums are skewed toward featuring artists who were/are men and that often provides us with a biased perspective.

    • Janice M. says:

      Yes, Mimi, I need to research more women artists as well. It’s so easy to reach for the big names, forgetting why some names are so well known and others not so much.
      I will be using the flag books to teach art vocabulary and techniques, too. The visual appeal of the book is fantastic.

    • Kristin R says:

      Wow, I love the idea to do an anatomy book! I can picture it as a sort of move-able body, where students could flip through layers (skin, fat, muscle, organs, bone) at different sections of the body.

  2. Alison Yeich says:

    Today after class I found myself pondering how I can implement these bookmaking strategies in the elementary art classroom and minimize the prep work for each class of 25-30 students. It seemed to me that today’s instructor took a fair amount of her own time to pre-cut and organize supplies while still giving us options for color choices (thank you!). I would hope to reach a point where I could have students fold, cut, and hole punch their own materials. From past experience I find that showing students how to make these projects from the beginning to the end empowers them to try it outside of class, and of course, it maximizes valuable teacher planning time by minimizing paper cutting and sorting. Perhaps some colleagues have experience with bookmaking and this challenge? Thanks.

    • Lynn W says:

      This issue of the role of the instructor was on my mind too. In our program we try to have the students do as much as possible from start to finish. This has a direct impact on the types of books we introduce to each grade level. We also try to use our paper so there is little or no waste. A book that can be adapted to all grades is a simple accordion books created from 18 x 24 white sulphite paper cut into 6 x 24 strips. This allows for 3 books from each sheet of paper. Kids then are walked through folding that long strip in 1/2, then folding one “flap” back to the center fold (another 1/2, then the other “flap” back to the center fold. This creates 8 equal spaces for art work. One of my favorite projects, using this style accordion book, done as towards the end of a unit on Line, is creating one continuous line starting at the edge of the first panel on the left….traveling all the way to the edge on the right, picking up on the back where the line stopped on the right then ending where it started on the left. Every time a fold is crossed, students must switch to a new type of line, say, zigzag to curve to straight to wavy etc. Then they go back in and create drawings incorporating the line in each section. Another fun thing is to have them draw collections of things they have or would like to have etc. These types of books are good as side projects. Once initial directions are given, students can get them out and work on when assignment is finished.

      • James Proctor says:

        Wow! I feel that this is always a concern. One technique I use a classroom teacher is to plan with the Art teachers. I collaborate to find ways to front load lessons for the upcoming Art sessions. What can we do in class to prepare for their next session? What materials can I help with before they get to the Art room. I want to maximize their time with the Art teacher, so I am happy to help with prep in any way.

    • Rachael B says:

      The challenge of preparing the materials for large classes is something I’ve thought about as well. A solution I was considering was using paper sizes that don’t require cutting. For complicated folds a transparent sheet of paper that has folding guides may also help students. (Such as tracing paper they can use a transfer technique to place the guides on their own sheets or something)

    • Alicia R. says:

      Alison, I also wondered how I could utilize these book making techniques in a way that could be attainable for 6 yr. olds to self generate. A lot of prep will be needed for my kiddos in the beginning of the year for a project like this. I think that if we practice the cutting and folding techniques in different ways throughout the year this could be attainable in the spring.

  3. Shellie M. says:

    I’ve never really made the connection between visual arts and literature as clearly as it was laid out for us today. I’ve understood that both visual art and literature are creative processes but I didn’t realize that they are so closely aligned. I’m trained as an artist so I am well versed in the language of art and the organization of visual elements. When I’m able to approach literature in a similar way it makes it less daunting to imagine teaching both subjects in combined projects in the classroom.

    • Janice M. says:

      Shellie, that’s exactly how I felt. Reading has always been a more arduous process for me. Having such clear cut similarities between art and literature really made me excited. I’ll be using these new skills in my book club meeting this weekend!

      • Jen S. says:

        Ha! And I’m being awakened to seeing art through a reader’s eyes. I’m excited to consider using art to develop critical thinking skills that can be applied to other subject areas. I’ve know for years that I need to do more and more to grow the analytical and questioning skills of my students. I can see this course helping me to do this.

  4. Cynthia L. says:

    1 – What I already know – Evaluation makes a person feel vulnerable. Therefore, an initial evaluation should make the vulnerable person (the student) feel encouraged.
    Connection—Having my peers look at my day’s work felt unnerving, as I do not have an art background. However, having the comments in my journal helped me realize that others may make connections to what I’ve created that provide valuable feedback. Thank you!
    2 – What I already know – Making mistakes in a classroom setting offers a more effective lesson than immediately meeting expectations.
    Connection – While making the flag book, I wanted to keep up with the writing and placed my page 3 facing a direction with the text of 1 & 2. I didn’t like that but wanted to keep up. Later, I went back and changed the direction of the text. The process helped me remember to try to keep an idea of what I want the overall effect to be before putting pieces of my work together.

    • Ashley L. says:

      I really agree with #2. I’m thinking about how we can help students develop the skills to assess their own work on an ongoing basis, leave space for them to correct mistakes (or “mistakes”), and support them in evaluating their choices in situations when there are right answers and when there aren’t – without inflicting our own preferences or biases on them.

  5. Jennifer M. says:

    Two connections for today,:
    1. It is always good to have a reminder of being in student mode in a classroom setting. That said, so often in professional learning settings I hear participants are being “rushed intentionally” in order to “establish change mindset, and the like. Where is the actual research on this?
    2. There’s an interesting tension between feeling free to create and feeling like one should follow the rules… I experienced this today.

    • Kathy A. says:

      It is difficult when teachers have so many rules and regulations, and students feel the pressure of testing for each to feel the space to create. I wonder if any of the art teachers have some ideas on how to give the students and themselves the space to create.

    • Debbie S. says:

      This is a great way to talk about what we can understand by placing ourselves in the role of student! I hadn’t heard about the purposeful rushing. I’d be interested in how that promotes growth mindset.

  6. Debbie S. says:

    I think that seeing the various artists’ books and then engaging in the hands on activities helped me think about the ways that artists’ books can be integrated into my curriculum. I was inspired by the book samples! They represented a variety of forms and helped me think about what an artist’s book really is. Art? Books? Both? What does that mean? I think this came into sharper focus.Working on the books themselves helped me think about the kinds of student decisions and choices that must be made in producing a book ( and not in a theoretical way!) I think it made me understand the art elements that can be woven into a project or assignment in my own room.
    I also have to admit that as I worked I thought about giving directions and how I might make them clear for my own students. I thought the directions are clear and well organized. I would need to be both of those things with the students in my class. I think they could handle it but would be frustrated if I moved too fast or was not step by step for these hands on assignments! I loved all of the work today too! I’m sure my student would too.

  7. Emily Shepardson says:

    In the past I have made several different kinds of accordion books, but I have never made a flag book. I had thought they were difficult and confusing. I was happy to discover that they are neither. I can see using this format to make a sampler book about color theory.

    • Natalie Wagner says:

      I was also hesitant to try the flag book, and was similarly relieved to discover how simple the construction was! Color theory is a great idea. I definitely want to use this style in my English classroom this year, perhaps with each page/flag as a list of vocabulary words (definitions on the back) or each page an event or illustration of a story… I’m excited to try these ideas out!

      • Emily S says:

        I was also thinking that a flag book could be used in a literature class. Each page could be for a single character, and each flag would be about a different stage or aspect of the character throughout the story.

    • Definitely! I also have been intimated my the art bookmaking process – my experience has been limited to accordion books and altered books only – I predict that I will be incorporating these new ideas into future art units…

  8. Rachael B says:

    I had learned about artists books previously, but mostly thought them to be handmade books incorporating prints or drawings. I’ve learned that the genre of artists books includes much more than that, and can even sometimes include commercially reproducible work such as the lasercut book Eccentric City by Beatrice Coron.

    I learned a great deal about a variety of women artists in history. While I had seen Maria Merian’s work before, I did not know much about her. With what I know now I can very easily use her work for a lesson incorporating science into my art classes.

    • Janice M. says:

      Rachael, I recognized Merian’s work, too. I had not known the paintings were done by a woman. I have taken my students outside to draw. I ask my students to draw a tree. They will draw those “lollipop trees” without thinking. Then I say, “Draw a tree so that when I look at your picture, I can pick out which tree you are drawing without you telling me. I get better trees and so do the students. The power of observation: learning to look.

  9. Ashley L. says:

    1. Today’s activities, and the evening reading on VTS, reinforced the importance of process over product – both in creating art and in learning to think and talk about art. (The main reinforcement for process over production for art creation was my own experience working on the flag book and rubber band journal – because I can quickly get bogged down and frustrated when I focus on how projects look at the end.) Because my students are so young (prek), I sometimes have trouble with process vs. product in terms of content knowledge and thinking about when it’s important for them to have true information and when their own thinking is more important. I think that VTS is a great clear moment for me to use to focus solely on thinking.

    2. On a more mundane level, I’ve occasionally thought about choosing materials intentionally – e.g. which paper to provide for different activities – but I feel much better equipped to set my students up for (material) success after the materials exploration in our flag books.

    • Shellie M. says:

      I agree with the importance of process over product. The experience of creating and engaging students in thinking about the process is where the real learning takes place. I’ve always found it difficult to balance this with the need to produce. Images are needed for meetings and to adorn the walls of the school so I feel pressure to have finished products. I’m excited to use VTS in the classroom and find the opportunity to slow down and (hopefully) not worry so much about the end product.

    • Jon B. says:

      Hi Ashley!

      After having the chance to practice VTS in the gallery today, I wanted to let you know that I completely agree with your assessment that the focus of VTS is on the process, rather than the product. This became evident to me today as members of our institute continued to provide a variety of reasonable explanations/narratives for each artwork we explored.

  10. Kathy A. says:

    I appreciated the tour of the museum with the stories of courageous women artists. While I arrived today knowing of some women artists, the tour brought more brave women artists to my awareness. Thank you for sharing their art and inspiring stories!

    I had only a peripheral awareness of artist’s books before today. Being able to see some artists’ books and hear their stories brought a new perspective and greater understanding of the books. While I realize that an artist’s book is an individual work of art, like art in general, they can be made by anyone wishing to express herself.

    • Jen S. says:

      I agree with you Kathy, that the tour was informative and fun. I learned so much which was great because I was embarrassed by how much I did NOT know of women artists. I strive to acknowledge and represent all groups in my library’s collection and in my instruction. I feel like I’ve done a disservice to these amazing women who used their inner ferocity to be who they knew they were inside, despite what the outside world imposed on them. That is something we can all admire, and a good lesson for our students as well.

  11. Kristin R says:

    I have already done some arts integration in my classroom and feel very comfortable with it – I love looking for ways that visual art can fit into my curriculum. And I knew that I have been only scratching the surface as far as possibilities. Today I learned that there is indeed a huge world of possibilities — even just within book-making — and I am excited to discover more in the days ahead.

    I also learned SO much more about art books than I knew existed. I had previously considered illustrations in books to be a type of visual art — but had no idea that artists’ books could be works of art unto themselves. Of course, an illustrator’s work is also a piece of art unto itself. And both can tell stories or enhance stories or can stand alone as simply something enjoyable to look at. This brings up such interesting questions about what is art, who decides what is art, what is the purpose of art, etc. All of these ideas and questions were new to me — but about such a familiar thing as a book. I loved being challenged to think in new and expanded ways about something (books) that I thought I already knew.

  12. James Proctor says:

    The first connection between what I already know and what I learned today is that I could not name 5 women artists. Before today I would have thought that surely I could name at least 5 female artists. Throughout the day and the tour of the museum, I was reminded of female artists that I had been exposed to in the past, but was unable to recall when asked earlier. I was also reminded that there is more than one form of art and that in fact open up other areas for consideration. When originally asked the question, I did not consider photography at all. I could not believe it.
    The second connection between what I already know and what I learned today is the extent to which the artists of today are embracing technology and commerce by making works of art available to the pubic by partnering with companies to put their work on consumable items. Making art available in forms for everyday use is genius. I was aware that this was happening on some levels, but the tour and the talk today helped open my eyes to the possibilities.

    • Rachael B says:

      The idea of making artists books more consumable was a new idea for me as well. I love the idea of making art more accessible. In art school there was a lot of pushback and talk of ‘cheating’ when it came to incorperating technology. So it’s nice to see artists taking advantage and making art more available to the masses instead of just the elite.

  13. Mary Louise D says:

    Coming into the program I felt very overwhelmed by the syllabus with the various book types. I was unaware of how many variations there were on artist books. Prior to today, my only experience with artist books was altering a printed text in a 2-D art class in high school. After we saw the examples in the museum’s collection I felt more comfortable with what we were set to create. I really enjoyed making the rubber band book with the life cycle of the butterfly. While I had seen flip books done for life cycles before, I had never seen one with the using a print. I thought that was a great way to involve creativity and different type of media into science curriculum.

  14. Jen S. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed all of the learning experiences today. I’m enjoying learning and doing what I am genuinely interested in. This is a new experience as so much of my professional development experiences, especially in the last few years, have been chosen for me. The Institute is giving time, space, materials and support for me to experiment with bringing my ideas to reality. Being able to explore my creative side is like taking a deep breath after swimming the length of a pool. In the last few years, I could feel the desire to create, to draw, to write to build something, but I’ve felt that I didn’t have the time, space, materials to do it. I especially felt like I couldn’t possibly quiet my mind enough to gather those creative thoughts. I wanted to do more, but at the same time I felt too confined to move.
    A few years ago I read the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck, which explains the growth vs fixed mindset people may develop. I realized that my personal expectation for perfection was preventing me from trying various artistic mediums. It was halting my creativity for fear I would do it wrong. In preparation for this class, I tried to adjust my mindset to be open to creating what came to mind, without imposing unrealistic expectations on myself. I am telling myself to experiment and explore and just try various methods and see what works. Today, when we were directed to use all of the materials to illustrate(?)/decorate(?) the covers of our flag books, I decided I would do just that. I made simple blue waves with both paints and the pastels, mixing and changing the pressure I applied. I told myself, just try. See what happens. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Ha! Thank goodness, because my afterthought, a drawn bow on the spine turned out pretty awful looking. Oh well. I’m not stressing. I’m learning. I’m growing.

    • Kathy A. says:

      We could all take “a page from that book” that learning and perfection can be mutually exclusive. Thanks for reminding us.

  15. Natalie Wagner says:

    Today was a lot of fun. I knew that artist books were works of art that shared features with books, but in making the flag book with practical notes about book-making materials, I realized that artist book’s can also be useful for the learning process and as a study tool and resource students can go back to over and over. Today I also got a taste of how my students must feel when we try to fit the artistic process into our limited class time- you simply cannot let perfect be the enemy of the good! Sometimes you must make creative choices quickly in order to finish a project.

    • Janice M says:

      I find that getting the students to keep moving along in their work one of the more difficult tasks. I need time to think and consider,too, before putting pen to paper. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist but I do want to do a good job. I want my students to feel proud of their work. Maybe limiting choices can help to keep the students from stressing about what to do.

  16. Jon B. says:

    I’m simply amazed during every tour I’ve been on at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and today’s Fierce Woman tour was no different. As an adult, I’ve learned to challenge myself to continue to search for the narrative behind the mainstream that often marginalizes minorities, in this case artists who are women. I particularly enjoyed learning about how acting “fierce” looked differently depending on the century, geographical location and/or political ideology. Thinking about artists and their works in this way provided me with a more complete context and a greater appreciation for their contributions.

    Today was my first experience viewing artist books in a formal museum setting and then getting the opportunity to create my own. I hadn’t realized how developed the genre of artist books was, nor how powerfully these pieces can blend content, media and artistic vision into one work. As an educator, with years of experience working with museums and in “arts-integration” schools, I am surprised I’ve never heard of other teachers using artist books in their classrooms. The cross-content potential for a project-based learning approach is evident. For example, when creating our Rubber-Band Journals today, we incorporated science (the lifecycle of the butterfly) with printmaking to create a journal that students could use to: record daily observations of an in-class butterfly rearing project (scientific writing); or to record poems/stories inspired by the natural world…. etc.

    Not only do I feel like I learned about a new genre of art, but I also learned how purposefully artists (and educators) need to be when choosing the paper/materials they will be working with. I know that I will be referencing the Flag Book that I created today when planning future projects for my second graders. There are so many different types of paper, each serving a specific purpose. Until today, I had a general understanding of the different types of paper, but experimenting with a variety of media on so many different types gave me a new perspective.

    When I applied to attend this institute, I had high hopes that I would learn some techniques for improving how I integrated the arts and core content areas in my classroom. After today, I am thrilled at the amount of information that I can already bring back to my school to share with the second grade team. I’m looking forward to a fantastic week!

    On a personal note, I was surprised by how stressed I felt while I was attempting to make my artist books today. I wanted my book to be folded and designed “perfectly,” a desire that I have observed in many of my students over the years. For me, these feelings serve as a reminder of the importance of acknowledging every child’s unique abilities and encouraging them to be proud of what they can create, rather than comparing their work to someone else. I hope I can remember this as we continue to create artist books together.

    • Angie C. says:

      Hi, Jon,
      I can totally identify with the stress about the work not being ‘good enough’… That is something that I combat fiercely in my students, and yet when I am a student myself, I find that I can now better understand their point of view. Growth mindset goes out the window, and severe self-criticism takes over, especially in comparison to others’ work, without taking into account their years of experience or affinity. I still need to find a place to learn about the basic elements of art, which have been defined in the binder, but not really explained / demonstrated here. It is probably not the forum for it. It is frustrating to have an idea and not be able to implement it. Time to explore is also short as so much information is packed into this week.

  17. Janice M. says:

    As an art teacher, I am familiar with reading a picture or sculpture. What I learned today is how the reading of a visual piece of work so closely parallels a reading of the written word.
    A second connection I made was how visual art can be used as a vehicle for teaching any sort of lesson. I know the stained glass windows in cathedrals taught the illiterate congregation the stories of the bible. However, we can expand on that idea to teach any number of lessons. Visual representations of ideas and narrative are powerful lessons.

    • Debbie C. says:

      I support your idea of how the arts can support/enhance/lead a lesson in other disciplines. It helps the child with relevancy and application. I once taught with a GT teacher who used famous paintings to teach creative writing. The students were to chose a fine art piece and create a story giving the subject(s) in the painting voice. Although the writings were fiction, it brought the painting to life and these were 5th grade students! Their stories have stayed with me even to this day.

  18. Debbie C. says:

    I start teaching the elements of design early in my art program. I start with kinder and reinforce every year with different sketchbook ideas and projects that can incorporate an element. As we were making the flag books I felt it would be a wonderful exercise for my fifth graders to use the elements. They can show their understanding by artistically representing each element on the front and back covers. The flags inside the book would be each element and its definition.
    Another activity I came away with was the gallery walk around the room looking at each others work and commenting in our art journal. I am a huge advocate for sketchbooks/art journals and although we have critiqued each others work ( positively) I have never used this particular exercise. Positive feedback can do wonders for students who are not sure of their work – especially from their peers. Even better is that it is written down for permanence. I will definitely implement the flag book and the written critique with my fifth grade art students in the fall.

    • Mary Louise D says:

      I have done gallery walks in the past, but never with the feedback element. Like Debbie, I plan on implementing this into my classroom next year. While I teach math, I try and incorporate art/writing whenever possible. I think having students write down positive feedback for each other will help them gain confidence, while also giving me an idea if they understand the assignment and what they were supposed to represent in their art.

  19. Lynn W says:

    One thing I appreciated today was the commitment of the instructors to move things along and get in all the learning they had planned for the day. I feel a real desire on the part of the staff that we taking the course get as much as possible out of the course.

    Before today, I had seen and read a fair amount about artist books. After our session, especially the time spent in the art books library, I have a greater appreciation for the variety of books that can fall into the category of artist books. Listening to the discussion that followed our time in the library, where we tried to clarify what is meant by the term artist book, I made a connection to other discussions I had been a part of where people were asking “what makes it art?”. Whether is it a sculptor that welds together shovels or a painter that paints on a found mattress….at the “end of the day”for me it is the artist’s intention and/or motivations that determines whether it is an artist book, a sculptor, or a painting.

    Intention and motivation are highly personal and not always entirely conscious. I see this in very young children. Many create with a confidence and determination that they probably couldn’t really verbalize. This is where the magic lies. With this in mind I was a little sad that the “how to draw” work sheets were introduced and praised. When I walked around the room for the gallery walk, it was obvious that many, including me, had followed closely the combination of lines and shapes on the worksheets. I could not help but think there would have been a greater variety of shapes and lines used to depict the life cycle of the butterfly if we had just been given some strictly observational photographs of these same stages.

    • Angie C. says:

      I’m happy to read your comment, as it reminds me that my panic about how fast things are going is not universally shared. I appreciate the commitment to share as much as possible, but feel stressed by the pace and the lack of time to think / process. That, however, may be due to my lack of experience making art. I did not feel the same stress about the writing.
      The same is true about the step by step how to draw instructions, which were helpful to me. However, I too wished we had seen pictures (photographs or various paintings) of butterflies and cocoons projected on the screen as something to observe and more like something we would do in class.

      • Mary Louise D says:

        I agree with both of you, that the pace is a bit daunting. However, I think it is a good reminder as teachers that we have to be careful with our students and make sure we pace our projects at a speed that will be enjoyable and not stressful. I see your point about the how to draw sheets, and agree that real photographs would have been a great addition. But, I took the how to draw pictures as an idea on how to encourage our students to participate; especially those who say they “can’t” create art.

  20. Cynthia L. says:

    I was thinking about your second comment too. There is a tension between a desire for accessibility, a democratic value, and a sense that reproduction diminishes a works value because too many people enjoy it or enjoy it in unintended ways.

  21. Debbie C. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the gallery walk today as well. The back stories bring the art to life establishing a more meaningful connection. Sometimes it is this connection that inspires us to create or make our own lives more meaningful. Often times the artist appears to be this OZ creature behind the curtain splashing paint everywhere. They are human just like us searching for a voice, meaning, to tell a story, to advocate… I was inspired by each artist today and cannot wait to discover 5 more women artists!

  22. Angie C. says:

    I already knew that I could add more art to my classroom, but I didn’t know how. I learned how to make two different types of art books. I wish the directions had been printed, as that is easier for me to follow than visual / verbal, but on the other hand, I wrote the notes down for myself & hope to be able to follow the steps on my own. (I do know directions are also on the site, as per lesson plans). I knew you could use styrofoam for printing, and I learned from my art teacher colleague how to add lines in the background to add to the picture. I knew about Sara Bernhard being an actress, and I learned that she was also a sculptor. I knew about Josephine Baker (& Faith Ringgold), but I did not know Beyonce paid her homage by wearing a banana skirt (and a top)…

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