The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Posts tagged “Art

Field Trip: Youth Concert

Way back at the start of the year, my fourth grade partner and I had arranged for our class to have two field trips in April: one to Springfield right before our Spring Holiday and one to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the end of the month to celebrate the end of PARCC testing. Several weeks ago, our awesome music teacher let us know that she was able to secure tickets for our classes to go to the Krannert Center for the Youth Concert, which happened to be scheduled for April 10. That meant that our three April trips would be on the tenth, twelfth, and twenty-first.

Today was the first of the trips. We got to spend a part of the morning at the Krannert Center listening to a performance by the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra of Peter and the Wolf. It was exciting to bring our students to Krannert to see a very different kind of performance from the one we saw back at the start of the year. We talked to the students ahead of time about how to engage with a symphony orchestra performance: quiet and listening, applauding at the end of each piece.

(Obviously, the YouTube video isn’t the performance we saw today, but I wanted to share a video so that students could talk about and share what they saw and heard.)

I wish I could say that everything went flawlessly for my students, but the reality is that some of them have never been to a performance like this before and are still learning how to respond appropriately to such settings. There were many conversation afterwards about it and I hope that my students will find the opportunity to attend the symphony again at some point. I also hope that they will learn from this experience!

Thank you to the symphony members and the Krannert staff for providing such a great learning opportunity and being patient with the hundreds of students who were attending their performance this morning!

KAM-BAM 2017

[NOTE: I started this post several weeks ago. but couldn’t get the photos to load and kept forgetting to finish. Sorry!]

When I first started teaching at Wiley Elementary School, I heard about a program the fifth graders got to participate in called KAM-WAM. Both fifth grade classes spent an entire week at the Krannert Art Museum on the University of Illinois campus, learning about and creating art. I admit it: I was jealous. The second year I was teaching, I continued to be jealous of this and wished that fourth graders could do something similar. During my third year, though, we finally got to do something with the Krannert Art Museum, too!

It wasn’t a week at the museum, but it was still awesome. We got to spend half a day at the museum. The students loved the experience and many of them excitedly brought their families back, many for the first time. The in 2015 we got to expand the program to a full day and KAM-BAM was born.


Wiley fourth graders recently participated in our third full day KAM-BAM with the art museum educators. We divided students into four groups and, after a brief overview of the day, the groups separated and spent the morning exploring, examining, and the discussing art in different exhibits throughout the art museum.




Following lunch in a classroom in the nearby Art and Design building, groups spent the afternoon creating artwork that was inspired by the exhibits they saw. One group repurposed materials to design drinking vessels of the future. Another group designed an exhibit to display items from the exhibit of decorative art. A third group created hidden messages in their artwork. The fourth group created fantastic creatures and told stories about their creatures.








We wrapped up the day by coming together as a large group and sharing with one another. It was an awesome day of art and discussion that gave students the opportunity to do things that they wouldn’t normally do. I left the Krannert Art Museum once again filled with awe at the amazing resources in our community and I hope that many, if not all, of our students will take advantage of these museums and performance spaces!





KAM-BAM 2016

I’ve mentioned quite frequently the amazing resources we have in our community as a result of having both a world-class university and a top-tier community college right here in our backyards: the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the Spurlock Museum, the Staerkel Planetarium, the Pollinatarium, the Arboretum, and the Krannert Art Museum, in addition to many others. (more…)

The Sir Roger de Coverley Dance

In Urbana School District #116, we are very proud of our fine arts programming that is available for all students in all grade levels. In the elementary schools, my students are able to attend special classes for visual arts, music, drama, and dance. In addition, classroom teachers are able to arrange for arts infusion projects with the fine arts teachers, tying the classroom curriculum to the arts. I am not always able to take advantage of such infusion projects, but I was really excited to do one to go along with our social studies unit on colonial America.

I talked with our dance teacher and she was able to find out information about a traditional colonial era dance called the Sir Roger de Coverley (sometimes spelled Coverly) dance. This is a group dance that involves six pairs (traditionally male and female partners, but can easily be done with any arrangement of pairs). We modified it slightly to better accommodate our students and to keep them more actively involved.

After practicing once a week for several weeks, we had a demonstration this morning. Parents, family, and friends were invited to attend, along with our kindergarten buddies. My students demonstrated for the dance first and did an amazing job remembering all of the steps and the turns! Then they invited the audience to join in and they taught the dance to them! Several parents took videos and pictures; alas, because I was helping to prompt the students, I was unable to do either. (Any parents who were there, please feel free to upload to Google Drive and share your videos or pictures with me or burn them onto a disc!)

As I told our audience at the end, the entire thing went about 500 times better than I could have hoped for! There was so much laughter and fun and clapping and enjoyment all around! I love being able to infuse the arts into my curriculum and hope to fit in at least one more project before the end of the year. (I already have an idea in my head to discuss with our music teacher but I haven’t talked to her about it at all yet so I don’t know if we will be able to pull it off or not!)

Thank you to everyone who came out to support my students! They were so excited to see so many people there for them and they had a wonderful time teaching what they had learned to others!

How do you connect the arts to what you are doing?


Adjusting to a Substitute

This has been an odd year for me in terms of time away from the classroom. For the past four years, I have been on various committees and inquiry groups and task forces that have met during school hours that I have had at least one full-day or half-day absence a month throughout the year. That changed this year when my district’s administration made the decision to move most of the meetings to after-school hours, cut back on the frequency of said meetings, and the inquiry group I had been a part of was disbanded when funding requirements changed. As a result, I have had very few absences, other than my once-a-week special education collaboration meeting and my once-every-three weeks Response to Intervention meeting. In fact, I have had two sick days and one personal day for the entire year.

As a result of all of this, my class has not had to adjust to substitute teachers very often. Even with our fine arts/library schedule, those teachers have not been gone very often, either, and so the students have gotten very comfortable with the same teachers being there all day every day.

That changed this week. Our dance teacher has been with the fifth grade students at the Krannert Art Museum as part of their Week at the Museum (KAM-WAM) integrated arts project. The students go to the library each Monday so this was the third day with a substitute teacher for dance. The first day was a bit rocky. Some students had to be removed from the class and others had to be moved away from peers. I remember talking to the substitute about it (a retired teacher from our district) and he expressed concerns about what the rest of the week would be like.

Yesterday was totally different, though. I went to pick them up and they were quietly working on their assignment. They lined up and he said, “So, should I brag on you to your teacher?” The students cheered and he told me how great it had gone. (At least one student who had been sent out of the room the day before I approached him at the start, apologised for his previous behaviour, and promised to do better. And he did!)

Today was a repeat of yesterday. I was so happy! The students seemed to have all adjusted to the fact that they were going to have a different teacher for dance this week, they were okay with him being different from the teacher they were used to, and they realised that the expectations were still the same. Tomorrow will be their last day with a sub and I am fully expecting it to be another awesome day. I am looking forward to reporting to their regular dance teacher that they really pulled it all together and had a fantastic week!

This also makes me more comfortable with a few upcoming absences. I am confident that my students will be able to handle themselves responsibly, treat the substitute respectfully, and accomplish all the things that they will be asked to do.

How do you adjust for changes in your regular schedule?

Mayhem Poets

The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has an amazing Youth Series that they do every school year. They provide discounted tickets for students to attend abbreviated shows in their world-class theatres to bring the arts alive. In the past, students from my school have seen plays, musicals, concerts, and dance performances. Today we had an opportunity to see something new: spoken word.

The performance was by a trio called The Mayhem Poets. The performance included inspirational messages, stories from their own lives, calls for imagination, and audience participation. They made us laugh, they made us cheer, and they made us think.

They also inspired several of our fourth graders to think more deeply about different art forms, including poetry, hip hop, and rap (which I learned many consider to be an acronym for rhythm and poetry). I am hoping to see these students explore these art forms and consider ways that they can use them to share messages they consider to be important to others.

While I had a few students who were not the greatest audience members I will readily admit that, by and large, my class behaved quite well throughout the performance. They knew when to participate and make some noise and they knew when to sit quietly and listen. It isn’t often that 9- and 10-year-old children get to go to a performance space such as the Krannert Center so I am always delighted when the opportunity arises. Also, this was a good preview for our next Krannert trip in April. I definitely know which things I need to go over with my class to help them be even more successful visitors and audience members!


Guest Artist Visit

In large part due to the wonderful grant-writing skills of two teachers in my building, my students were able to spend part of the morning on Tuesday with a guest artist from our community who also works at the Krannert Art Museum on the University of Illinois campus. Ms. Glowacki was a one-time student art teacher in our building, so many of the students already knew her, but this time they got to know her as an artist instead of as a teacher.

My class was invited to join her in art room for about 45 minutes of Tuesday where she showcased several examples of her work, included screen-printed t-shirts, record album covers, and artwork for the Ninth Letter literary journal. She also showed pieces that were part of a solo art exhibit and demonstrated the techniques she uses to create her art.

I was really pleased by how responsive my students were to her presentation. They were respectful, listened politely, asked wonderful questions, and expressed sincere interest in her work and how she creates art. Many were amazed by the variety of coloured pencils, paint markers, and even ink pen styles (one pen had a writing tip of just 0.5 mm!

I often wonder which of my students will be inspired to pursue a career by a guest visitor in our classroom. Will one of them this year decide to learn more about visual arts and graphic design because they saw what Ms. Glowacki does? Will one of them dream of having his or her own solo art exhibit? Will one of them choose to take an elective art class in high school? I don’t know, but I do know that many students will not even consider such things if they don’t know they exist, which is why I will continue to invite and welcome guests into my classroom.

Were you inspired by a special guest when you were in school? What happened?