This week, elementary art teacher Beth Young tells us her amazing story of arts advocacy in the little town of Decatur, Alabama. She just so happened to write a grant through the state department, and it snowballed into a year-long community celebration of the arts! She garnered the help of authors, artists, community volunteers, and even brought the famous Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend to Decatur. I was able to attend one of the many events with the quilt makers and it was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. (Here is a Facebook post by Noel King, featuring some of the ladies' beautiful voices raised in song!) I am very much looking forward to seeing the Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend again at the AAEA Fall Conference! Thank you, Beth, for sharing your story with all of us, and thank you for all your hard work last year. You are an inspiration! (All photo credits: Beth Young)

a town’s journey of coming together
through the arts, by Beth Young 

     It was a beautiful warm day for February despite the chilling rain from the days before. “Will they come?" I thought to myself as I drove the giant 15 passenger van up to the community center. Oh, how I hoped so. Then, a click-clack and a loud whistle alerted me that a passing train would soon approach. Stopped by a train! Of all days for this to happen! Then, a peace enveloped the van as I was privately serenaded by the most moving music that I’ve ever heard. It was like hearing a bit of Heaven itself as the perfect harmony of Mary Ann Pettway, China Pettway, Lucy Witherspoon, and Gloria Hoppins assured me that everything was going to be alright. My worries about the details of the day (what if people don’t show up, what if the mikes don’t work, what if I say the wrong thing to the crowd, what if.... what if.... what if....) evaporated as every note dripped like honey, sweetening my very soul. My concerns about “me” evolved into hope for “we.” We were going to make it to our own event- a culminating activity from a year of artistic endeavors designed to bring everyone together. Our community would be treated to a time of stitch and song, courtesy of these famous quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. “We” would bask in the luxury of this special treat for everyone. 

     This mindset did not come easily for me. About a year before, I found myself at a crossroads in my career. After nearly twenty years of teaching art, I was feeling the pain of burn out. So often art teachers become little “islands” in our schools. We are a functional but entirely separate entity. Regular classroom teachers can be well meaning but they rarely know what our jobs entail. Many days we are asked to perform a plethora of activities in addition to what we are already doing. We become the “go to” people for bulletin boards, cute displays, and neat play backdrops. We are often respected, but are sometimes considered nothing more than a way for the regular teachers to get their much needed “breaks.” All the while we follow our plans as we manage multiple classrooms and often multiple schools. I’ve found that people in our field respond in one of two ways: 1. We become "high energy," multi-task people who do it all (and then some) with a smile. 2. We gripe and gripe and gripe and then gripe some more. (I found that I was feeling too old and too tired to do #1, so #2 became my way of life.) It’s no wonder that many art teachers feel the need to constantly promote the value of their programs. I was trying to do it all alone and was developing a chip on my shoulder the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the process. Then one day, after some quiet meditation, I had an epiphany. I realized that when we look at “we” instead of “me” change happens. (Also, I decided that worrying about everything was doing me no good. ) 

AAEI Grant:
an amazing opportunity
     In the spirit of this new revelation, a community based art project seemed to be a solution. By enlisting participation from a wide range of people, we could promote the value of art.
     The original plan was a low budget one that would involve the interaction of all three of my schools. However, when we decide not to worry and to allow great things to happen, opportunity came our way!

     One day when I happened to call Andy Meadows, Alabama’s state art specialist, about the guidelines of the state superintendent’s art show, he encouraged me to try for the AAEI (Alabama Art Education Initiative.) This state grant provides up to $25,000 to help schools that do not have art programs and offers up to $20,000 for a chance to expand existing programs. We decided to focus on a program that would incorporate the arts with other areas of study while it would teach children about the adaptive skills of our past. We also planned to offer a series of “power of art” workshops (with STIPD credit) for our faculties. 

     We received the grant! It enabled us to hire some great drawing cards for our community. We hired Nancy Raia to help us pilot a program for senior citizens and children, award winning muralist Markus Tracy to help us put together a community mural, author Irene Latham to give book talks, and four ladies from Gee’s Bend to sing and give workshops throughout the town. Although we were prepared to work together on a shoe string budget, the grant gave us great opportunities. All artists agreed to offer workshops for everyone.

 It became bigger than we thought.
Everyone wanted to get in on the act.
     We decided to expand our core planning group to include the Morgan County Archives, the Decatur Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Decatur Public Library, the Alabama Center for the Arts, the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, the Decatur Youth Enrichment Center, and local historians Peggy Towns, Judge David Breland, Dr. Wylheme Ragland, and Frances Tate. City Councilman Billy Jackson, Morgan County Commissioner Ray Long, Mayor Don Kyle, Riverside Senior Center, local quilters Bonnie Goodman and Betty Jeffreys, downtown redevelopment planner Rick Paler, the Decatur Daily, WYAM TV, Kappa teacher’s sorority, and local artists and businesses, along with the general public, were also very involved.
No one “took over.” Instead, each venue concentrated on what it did well. The result was a series of well planned events that attracted a variety of people. Teamwork was the key. The following pages highlight our very special year:

A Final Thought:
Sometimes it just takes a call. A sizable grant helped us tremendously, but many people are willing to do a lot for free. All it really takes is to go out of your box to make some new connections. We found that many of the city venues and businesses are in the same boat as us in that they need exposure, so they are more than willing to work together. Good luck!

 For more great photos, videos, and details about our events, go to decaturdaily.com, Irene Latham's website and Irene Latham's blog


Gee's Bend Quilters Talk With Students About Respect, Hard Workdecaturdaily.com

This Youtube video features the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Alabama, a remote community of African Americans directly descended from slaves. The quilts they create are a statement of their culture, beautiful designs that have been featured in the Smithsonean and in international exhibits. These ladies are artistic geniuses, using found fabric scraps to create highly original pieces, unique in their representation of designs passed down through the generations. 



Gee's Bend Quiltmakers, soulsgrowndeep.org
Fabric of Their Lives, Smithsonean Museum
About the Quilts of Gee's Bend in Context, Auburn University

Editor's note: Beth Young was the graphic artist for this article - she put the whole thing together for me. All I had to do was copy, paste, and take a few screen shots of her beautiful work. With much appreciation,

Mrs. Anna Nichols



Rodney Porterfield, the mastermind behind Mr. P Studios on Youtube, has been teaching elementary art in central Alabama since 2006. His instructional videos are a hit with thousands of subscribers, and he even sponsors Art Camps during the summer. Last year, he was honored by his colleagues with the Teacher of the Year award! 
His videos are both wise and silly, full of songs and funny voices, and his joy is contagious! We are delighted this week to have the opportunity to interview Mr. P himself! Rodney shares some classroom management tips as well as his process for producing his videos...

Rodney, will you tell us a little bit about where you teach, the population, and what strategies have helped you the most in dealing with challenges?

     One of the things that I’ve learned during my years is that this age group, K-2, are very eager to tell you details from their lives; wanting to share everything from their family history to what they ate for dinner that night! It is very endearing, but with 43 classes of 20-25 students, that I see for only 30 min. a week, it’s hard to hear them all and have time to teach the art lesson for the day! In the beginning I wouldn’t place too much importance on their stories, favoring teaching over what they had to say. Over the years, however, I have found that it’s those stories that allow you to connect with the students in a more personal way. I actually began telling stories of my own. As they began to connect with me, it wasn’t long before I could get them to do anything I asked! They would attempt tasks they found challenging, I could manage my class more efficiently and correct behaviors with very little push back. In fact, I found that I didn’t even see many of the misbehaviors that my colleagues were experiencing. I call this “Connecting before Correcting." Connect with your students, earn their respect, then speak into their lives.

What is the most challenging thing about being an elementary art teacher?

     Just the sheer volume of it all! Sometimes I envy secondary art teachers simply because they don’t teach every student in the school...it takes a full week for me to see them all. And I have seen it worse... taking twice as long for some of my colleagues. Planning and delivering lessons, however, became much better when I decided to leverage technology and social media. 

     Recording art instruction and uploading to the web for students to view at their leisure was the best professional move I could have made. But to be honest, I kinda fell into it. It started when my wife was pregnant with our first child about 5-6 years ago. I wanted to be off with her for the first few weeks after the delivery...I knew it would be an adjustment--understatement of the year--and I didn’t want her to be alone during that transition. So began the arduous task of planning several weeks of lessons for my long-term sub. 3-4 typed pages later, and still being on the first lesson, I realized leaving written lesson plans wasn’t going to workout...at least, not on their own. My new Flip Mino-like camera had just arrived (yeah, I was planning on being one of ‘those’ parents) and while I was becoming familiar with it, the idea came to me...record each lesson for my sub to play in my absence. 

the Porterfield family

     Before leaving on paternity leave I gave it a try; I recorded a lesson, played it at the beginning of each class, and afterwards stepped back and facilitated the lesson... letting the video do the teaching. After a little trial and error, I found a ‘formula’ that worked well, and felt comfortable leaving to attend to my new family. Fast forwarding a bit, I still found it to be the best method for delivering lessons.
     Even upon my return, I continued to record art lesson content for my students to enjoy. It wasn’t until I started running out of storage that I began to think about Youtube. After shooting and editing several hours of video, it would’ve been a shame to just get rid of them all just to make more room! So I started the channel as a way to store content that I can recall later when I decide to teach the lesson again. I later decided to publish a few, out of curiosity really, wondering what type of response I would get. 

     Fast forward to today, I have received very positive comments from the content I have published...the best of which come from schools without art teachers and from the homeschool crowd. I have become a resource for their artistic instruction and that, to me, is huge! I feel blessed to be able to share what I do and that people are finding it useful. 

     Logistics? Once I decide on a lesson and gather all the materials together, there’s a point where I, and I imagine all my fellow art teachers do the same, make a few examples. Keeping in mind the skill/ability level of my students, I find the best way to approach the task so that most students end up with a successful piece. It’s here that I start making mental notes for what I’m going to put on video. I start shooting after that. 

     I set up my Sony Webbie HD on a tripod in front of me and my hands work around the three legs of the tripod--yes, I know it’s an ancient camera now, but 5 years ago, it was a great option. If I were to select a camera from today’s tech, I would choose one from the GoPro line of cameras. The quality level of video these cameras produce for the value is astounding and they use the, now standard, SD memory cards instead of the memory stick duo; Sony’s proprietary removable storage media. I usually end up with about 15-20 minutes of raw footage, which I then edit down to about a 5-7 minute video for the classroom. For my age group, that’s the sweet spot; any longer and I’ll lose their attention, any shorter and I don’t have a thorough enough explanation of the lesson. 

     The next step happens on an iPad. I use Apple’s Camera Connection Kit to transfer the raw footage over for editing. There are tons of options for editing video out there. I’m sure any one of them would be a good choice. If you have experience with a video editing program that, of course, would be a great place to start. If not iMovie, in the Apple ecosystem is a great option. Drop-dead simple to get started, and has more than enough bells and whistles to get the job done. If given an opportunity, I wouldn’t change this part of my setup other than to get a more capable iPad...maybe the iPad Pro 9.7. Currently, I’m still rockin an iPad 2...I know...smh!!! 

     Once I have the instructional final cut, I play it at the beginning of each class, directly from the iPad, via my promethean board. For this you’ll need an adaptor. For me, and anyone else having an older iPad it’s called a 30-pin to VGA Adaptor. It allows the connection between your iPad and promethean, or any other projector for that matter, to be made possible. Apple changed their 30-pin dock to something called a Lightning Connector. So anyone with an updated iPad will need a--you guessed it--Lightning to VGA Adaptor. They’re really cool because they allow you to charge your iPad while still being connected to your projection display device of choice. 

     After the students watch the video, I do a little questioning for understanding; 1 minute at the most, just to make certain they know what’s about to happen with the supplies/materials. Then the activity begins. This is also where I take a moment to evaluate the video. If my students and I are not on the same page, or I notice something happening during the hands-on part of class that isn’t addressed in the video, I’ll make a mental note of it to add to the video that evening. With my setup, it’s a simple process to record the new footage and edit it in. Now, while they are engaged in the lesson, I pull my webbie out of my shirt pocket and record footage of their busy little hands. This is, by far, one of my favorite parts of the process. 

     Watching me on video is one thing...and I try extra hard to be entertaining, but the kids busy having fun while learning is a whole other level of entertainment. Many teachers have commented on how their students love to see their peers’ interpretation of the lessons. So, just as easily as before, I add that student footage to the end of the instructional final cut to make my Gold Master that I then upload to Youtube. All and all, the process takes several weeks to finish, mainly due to the fact that it takes that long to finish any one lesson! If I had all the footage, the time invested in actually editing from raw footage to GoldMaster can be done in about an hour. Which speaks to another point I’d like to make. Everything from start to finish is simple, portable, and time efficient...three things that I require or I wouldn’t be able to get it all done on my own. When you think about it, my entire studio fits in a day bag. I can shoot HD quality video on the fly and edit while watching my (now) 2 kids play at the park. Whatever your setup, it has to fit your life or you won’t keep doing it.

What advice do you have for a new art teacher just starting out?

     Use what’s out there. There are tons of really good content already uploaded and available for you to use from a variety of sources, take advantage of it. But let’s say you want to create your own content...here’s a couple of things that would help: 

     Create a brand identity. It gives people a way to identify you from everyone else. This can be as simple as having a catchy name and a really cool format for your videos to follow. They call me Mr. P at school, so I went with MrPstudios; simple and to the point. Also, my format is easy and allows me to stand out a bit as well. When shooting video, my perspective is as though I’m speaking directly to the students...explaining it all to them in a way they can best digest it...which, of course, speaks to the origins of these videos in the first place. 
     I feel that most tutorials (which is technically what I’m producing) are addressing adults, with the assumption that they will then take the lesson to their classroom and teach it themselves. Which is great, but what I do can help those who aren’t comfortable with teaching art. I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve received from teachers who have no art education and know nothing about teaching artistic principles and elements of art, whose students are now receiving art education. It lets those teachers step back and be facilitators, a much more comfortable role to play. 

     Lastly, make sure people can find your videos i.e., use searchable keywords when you title your videos. As educators, we all title our lesson plans when we save them to our computer, jump drive or favorite cloud storage option. And in the beginning, I used those, sometimes obscure, titles on my youtube channel as well. For about a year, I was wondering why most of my videos never made it past 100 views. Then there was one that hit 10,000 views seemingly overnight...then another that passed 3000...and so on. After a close study of my most popular videos, I realized that they were titled something that people would actually type into the search bar...Pointillism, Color Wheel, Self-Portraits are all still my most popular videos to date. I didn’t ditch my whole naming system, after all the video lessons corresponded with the written lesson plans and I needed to keep that continuity. Instead I added, “Art Lessons For Kids” to each of the Youtube titles and that’s when www.youtube.com/MrPstudios started to gain a bit of traction. It’s still not where I’d like for it to be, but I am seeing a sustained growth year over year and that’s a good thing.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

     I plan to continue to grow the channel. I feel that I have a devoted viewer base that I can’t disappoint and a whole other set of students out there that I have yet to meet who are always looking forward to the next silly bit of antics that I (or my wife, a drama teacher) can dream up for them to enjoy. I’m also juggling a couple of ideas that would diversify my portfolio of videos a bit, in an attempt to add content more regularly, especially during the summer months.


Mr. P, thank you for sharing your expertise with us! The joy you share with your students and with all of us is very much appreciated. Being an art teacher is the best job ever! 

"Go, and haaave fun!" Mr. P



Our state conference is coming up very soon, in just a few weeks. Every year, I wonder if I will be able to go. Can I afford it this year? Will my principal let me take a few days off to attend? Is there any chance he would be willing to let the school's professional development account pay for it this year? Sometimes I get to go, and sometimes I don't. Last year I had to miss the conference  due to illness. Sigh. This video (by Tricia Oliver) is from that event, when Nancy Raia led a parade of art educators marching down the Fairhope pier. That conference was amazing, and I had to miss it! 
All the years I have had the opportunity to join hundreds of other art teachers across the state at our annual conference have been wonderful. Always, no matter how hard it is to scrape up the money and get time off, I feel reenergized, refreshed, and humbly blessed just to spend time with other art teachers. I am the only art teacher at my school, so I can't exactly "talk shop" with anyone on a day to day basis. It is so nice to get together with other art teachers and share stories! No one else at the school understands what it is like.

Attending the conference is a chance to hang out with your tribe, to learn new techniques, and to be inspired for the rest of the school year. This is a professional development opportunity, but it is also an opportunity to make lifelong friends and connect with folks who understand. Every conference I have ever attended proved extremely valuable to me; I always learn something new, something that will help me as well as my students. Frankly, the art teachers I meet never cease to amaze me! I have been lucky enough to interview a few of our amazing Alabama art educators here on this blog; Mrs. Betsy LoganMrs. Laura Reichert, Mrs. Marlene Nall Johnt, and Mrs. Becky Guinn.

Over the next few weeks, we will be posting interviews with more of our extraordinary Alabama art teachers. First, Rodney Porterfield of Mr. P. Studios will tell us all about how he puts together his amazing Youtube videos. Then, Beth Young tells the story of how she was able to get a fabulous grant and bring the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend to Decatur last year. These generous ladies visited schools and held quilting events for several weeks, sharing their life stories while raising their voices in song. I was able to attend one of these events, and it was unforgettable. 

If you can, you should make every effort to attend the conference. You will not regret it! This year, the Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend will be guest speakers and I can't wait! This is a tremendous opportunity to meet living legends; they are amazing artists whose work has been exhibited all over the world - their quilts are part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonean in Washington D.C.! 

Come get inspired! "The arts have you covered!" 
Here is a link to the AAEA website and registration form: AAEA Fall Conference

The conference will be from October 21-22 in Decatur, one of the most beautiful cities in Alabama! Decatur is located right on the Tennessee River:

This is a photo I took at a beautiful Decatur park last September when I visited the River Clay Art Festival with my family. My son enjoyed watching the draw bridge raise and lower for a passing barge. We also got to see a train travel over the bridge! 

Thank you so much to Linda Miller and Tammie Clark for all their hard work in putting together this year's conference. I am looking forward to another visit to Decatur! 



There is hope, no matter in what situation you find yourself. Many of us have been there and have survived! The middle school where I teach has grown recently due to re-zoning and poverty levels are increasing. This year we serve some of the most disadvantaged students in our district. These kids are coming to school with trauma that I can't possibly understand, and when I hear about what happens in their neighborhoods my heart cries. What I have learned about classroom management over the years is helping tremendously this year, especially what I learned when doing research for the following articles. I wrote them because I wanted to get to the bottom of how classroom management might be different when you are serving at-risk kids, and because I was tired of hearing trite, canned, quick-fix solutions from so called "education experts." What will work for some situations will not in others. We all have to figure out what is best to serve the needs of our own students. 

Part II - "Which schools and grade levels are the most difficult to manage?

Part III - "How is student behavior effected?

Part IV - "Never let 'em see you sweat"

Part V - "What we can do"

  • Develop good relationships with the kids - this is supremely important for teachers in any situation, but it is the keystone of classroom management in at-risk schools. Part of developing a trust relationship with kids is maintaining a good attitude - the teacher must remain positive and joyful and refuse to take anything personally. This is not easy, but it is vital. "Never let 'em see you sweat!"
  • Be fair and consistent with consequences for misbehavior; be unemotional when administering them. Teach the kids that you care too much about them to allow them to misbehave. The rules are there to protect them and their right to learn! 
  • Use positive reinforcement as much as possible, but in an authentic way. Don't do it to manipulate the kids - they will see right through it. Rewards, no matter what you may have heard, can work wonders. 

I have also found the following resources extremely helpful:

1. Michael Linsin (author of Dream Class) at smartclassroommanagement.com developed his techniques while working in California schools with extremely high poverty. His advice is the best available, especially for those of us who teach elementary age students. He recently wrote a classroom management guide for high school teachers, and he published a book specifically for "specials" teachers, Classroom Management For Art, Music, and PE Teachers. When I started this blog, I put his methods to the test for one full year: here are some articles that I wrote about Linsin: About Smart Classroom Management, & Classroom Management Plan; Testing Linsin's Methods In Middle School

2. Rachel Hessing Wintemburg, The Helpful Art Teacher, has a Facebook page as well as a classroom website where she offers a wealth of wisdom from many years serving low socioeconomic populations in New Jersey. She has over 30 years experience teaching middle school visual art in an urban environment! Here is a recent post on the "Art Teachers" Facebook group where she (and many others) write helpful advice about teaching underprivileged students. 

3. Amy Zschaber, of artfulartsyamy.com, wrote a fantastic article several years ago while she was still teaching middle school art: she describes "re-direction" strategies and specifics of how she dealt with misbehavior at a high poverty middle school in Georgia: Classroom Management In the Art Room; When You Need Help

4. Eric Gibbons, artedguru.com, has an article with many resources about teaching in at-risk environments: Urban Survival Guide

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols



If you have ever done printmaking with any age, you understand the mess! Inky fingers, wet prints everywhere, brayers and tubes of ink cluttering up the tables and counters, not to mention all that newspaper all over the room! How in the world do you get the kids to clean up in 10 minutes, keep their prints clean, and keep the students (and yourself) calm through it all? 

The following list of tips have helped me to manage the chaos of printmaking with middle schoolers; if you are looking for elementary tips, there are extra resources at the bottom of this post...

Tip #1: KEEP IT SIMPLE! Start with the messy supplies sloooowly and keep the objectives very, very basic. The first day of printing, I had a few  students at a time pull a test print, taking turns at the counter while the rest of the students painted with watercolor at their tables. (I wanted them to prepare interesting backgrounds for their prints with the paint, and it allowed them an opportunity to experiment with the paint without any pressure of an official learning objective. I adored the beautiful images they made, too!)

Here is one printing station set up for test prints. Only a few students at a time printed, which allowed me a better opportunity to re-teach and supervise. The rest of the class painted with watercolor at the tables:

All the kids left the tables just like this at the end of class. It helped tremendously for me to be able to say, "Look at your tables - this is what they need to look like when the bell rings!" 

Tip #2: USE VIDEOS - these visual aids are wonderful to show the kids goals for clean up as well as to re-teach (see tip #5 below for an instructional video). Below is a video I shot before school to show all my classes what the room SHOULD look like before dismissal...I used it as a bell-ringer:

This is how the central counter in my classroom looks during the middle of class: most of the inking tiles are out on the tables, the inks are scattered, there are printing plates and used paper towels everywhere. Messy, messy messy! 

And this is how one student decided to organize it at the end of class! Neat and tidy! I always ask an art aide to help me organize the counter, lining up brayers and inking tiles neatly. This kid was amazing! 

Tip #Three: DON'T WASH ANYTHING AT THE END OF CLASS....the kids just return all the tools to the counter! To save time, I just lightly spritz with water at the end of each class and the next class uses most of the same colors. (During class, the kids have to check with me before washing off an inking tile, in order to save the ink, and they can wash their brayers if needed. I let them pick their own colors but encourage them to try to use up what is there, first.) All the inking tiles are out on the tables during class, and they all have to be returned to the counter at the end of class. The kids have to clean off the tables at the end of each class, too. This results in a lot of trashed newspapers! There are at least 6 - 8 full bags of trash at the end of the day when we do printmaking. 

Tip #Four: USE STUDENT AIDS...The students take turns every week helping with classroom duties, and I ask these "Art Aides" individually to pick up certain items, like all of the brayers or all of the inking tiles. I have to stand by the counter to oversee where they all end up if it is a younger group. More mature groups require very little coaching, but most of my classes have to be watched closely during clean-up. Even though I am watching them, they still try to get away with mischief! It never ceases to amaze me. I was looking right at two 6th graders who decided to smack each other with newspapers. Maybe they thought that because they were all the way on the other side of the room that I wouldn't notice? Hmmmm. 

Tip #Five: PRINT ON MAGAZINES OR TELEPHONE BOOKS...Seriously, this tip was so stupidly simple it never occured to me until I was reading art education blogs online a few years ago. The kids turn to a fresh page every time they add ink onto the printing plate or when they print. This means they have an INK FREE surface to print on, which means the print will (hopefully) be CLEAN! Thank you to all those art education bloggers for brilliant ideas! 

The video on the left is one of my students using a magazine to keep her prints clean...she paid very close attention to the instructions!
The video on the right is the instructional video - all the directions I gave the kids on how to print are here. (A 7th grader shot the video - she did a great job!) 

Tip #Six: DON'T DISMISS ANYONE UNTIL EVERYTHING IS CLEAN...Make them clean to YOUR expectations before they leave! I will walk around the room with either a laser pointer or a yardstick to point out items the kids missed. There is always a bit of trash, paper, or ink left out. I don't say a word, I just stand there and point. This year, I even made a sign that I taped to the end of a yardstick that said, "No one leaves until all trash and materials are picked up." I walk around with that sign (holding it like I am holding a flag) and point, and the kids think it is really funny. They know I am not being mean, that I expect them to do a good job. I really don't let them leave until EVERYTHING is put away, and they know it! I tell them to help each other out, and I warn them not to "be the one who holds everybody back!" 

Tip #7: USE SARAN WRAP TO SAVE YOUR INK...if there is still a lot of ink left on the inking tiles after the last class, I line all of them up on the counter in a row and cover them with Saran wrap plastic.  There's no sense wasting all that expensive ink! 

Tip #8: STUDENTS WASH ALL THE TOOLS AT THE END OF THE DAY...they love to help wash all those brayers and inking tiles! This is actually a pretty fun chore, not like washing the dishes at home, lol. 

I have done printmaking many times in the past, and I think I have a pretty good plan....even if it is the end of the year, with distracted, wild, kids!

......Most of my 187 middle school students had never done any kind of printmaking before: they had never even heard of the technique. They loved it, though! It was messy, it was chaotic, but it sure was fun! The theme for the unit was "Beauty," and the kids had some pretty interesting ideas for images! 

Here is a link to the introductory lesson on my classroom blog, and here is another link to an article about the results. (If you would like to see what we did each day, scroll down to the bottom of the post.) This unit was one of the best units we have done all year; every single student was pleased with their prints, no matter how "talented" they believed themselves to be. Success! 

What are your best tips for staying sane during printmaking? 


Creative Printmaking Projects For Kids,  The Art Curator For Kids, by Cindy Ingram

Community Maps, 5th Grade Printmaking, Mrs. Knight's Smartest Artists

Troubleshooting Printmaking In the Elementary Artroom,  Cassie Stephens, Youtube

Printed Cityscape Collages With Third Grade, Cassie Stephens

Kindergarten Students Flipping Their Own Instruction For Printmaking, Mini Matisse, by Nic Hahn

Collection of Articles, from theartofed

5 Secrets For Managing the Mess of Printmaking, by Heather Crockett, theartofed

How To Make Printmaking Easy For Even Your Most Rambunctious Class, by Alecia Eggers, theartofed

Albrecht Durer and Printmaking (On the Cheap), artfulartsyamy, by Amy Zschaber

Easy-Peasy Screenprinting Activity, by Phyllis Levine Brown, There's a Dragon In My Art Room

If you would like to know the day by day breakdown of activities, here is what we did each day of the printmaking unit: 

Day 1: An Introduction to Printmaking; Students Think of An Idea Based on the Theme of "Beauty"

Days 2, 3: Creating a Relief Printing Plate

Day 4: Students Revise and Edit Their Designs On the Printing Plates (Working on the Design, Reviewing Vocabulary, and Writing About Beauty)

Day 5: Printmaking Video Clips (I had to be out this day)

Day 6: Getting Ready To Print: Vocabulary Quiz and Painted Papers

Days 7-13: Printing a Limited Edition of Fine Art Prints
  • Day 7: Printing the Proof 
  • Days 8 & 9: Printing an Edition of Black and White Prints
  • Days 10 - 12: Printing an Edition of Colored Prints
  • Day 13: Students complete a self-evaluation, a written reflection, and begin working on their cards for teachers
Days 14 - 16: Students Make Cards Out of Their Prints In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Week 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols

Below is an inking tile that a 7th grader "messed up:" she didn't like the colors so she just smooshed the brayer through all the colors to see what would happen: