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“Doodling serves as a means of keeping the hand or fingers limber, so that they are always ready for serious work.” – Charles E. Burchfield

Doesn’t everyone doodle? When I was a kid, I’d fill our phone book with doodles as I stretched the phone cord as far as I could to attain privacy away from my family to talk with a friend. I’d bring the phone book along and pretty much fill it with ball point pen doodles while I chatted. Mention phone cord and phone book in the same sentence and I’m really showing my age. Mention doodling and suddenly we have something in common. We can all look back at a time we’ve found ourselves doodling, whether sitting in a meeting, a classroom, or watching TV.

Not long ago a company who shall not be named decided to attempt to corner the market on doodling, certifying official trainers and copyrighting doodling patterns. Longtime doodlers carried on with their doodling, never referring to what they were doing by the newly trademarked name. In our classroom, we refer to these carefully executed line patterns as ZoneDoodles. Zone – because doodling is a great way to get your head in the creative zone. Doodle – well, duh.

In a recent post (here: https://monalisaliveshere.me/2018/10/22/sketchbooks-and-zonedoodles/) I described the sketchbooks students created to help make their thinking visible, describing the ZoneDoodles they created on the cover.

Kyah Montano

Click on one image to view as a slide show:

These ZoneDoodles are created by dividing the 2 dimensional picture plane of the manila tag cover with intersecting lines that travel from the left side to right side of the page to create separate sections. Each section is then filled with repetitive line patterns with Sharpie. Color is then added with regular water-based markers to amplify the patterns. Examples of line pattern were provided as a resource for students, but only when original ideas had been temporarily exhausted. This took about two 50 minutes blocks to finish.

The gallery of student ZoneDoodles on Artsonia is here: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1607890

Annabel Palmer

After students finished their marker-on-paper ZoneDoodles, I introduced them to the Autodesk Sketchbook app with the purpose of creating Digital ZoneDoodles. Students explored layers, brushes, and the flood fill option in Sketchbook.

Click on one image to view as a slide show:

Because these are digital images, they have a more polished, professional looks to them. The kids were very pleased. I especially enjoy how some experimented with importing images to fill sections, particularly the ramen noodles.

The gallery of student ZoneDoodles and Artists Statements on Artsonia is here: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1610669


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Sketchbooks and ZoneDoodles

“Fostering thinking requires making thinking visible.

Thinking happens mostly in our heads, invisible to others and even to ourselves. Effective thinkers make their thinking visible, meaning they externalize their thoughts through speaking, writing, drawing, or some other method. They can then direct and improve those thoughts. Visible Thinking also emphasizes documenting thinking for later reflection.” – Ron Ritchhart and David Perkins Educational Leadership Feb2008

“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.” – John Singer Sargent

This is the fourth year we’ve made sketchbooks in my 5/6 art classes, (after all, we are makers) because making them ourselves helps to create greater student investment in using them. In prior years, students had been asked to purchase sketchbooks as part of their school supplies. They were asked to purchase 9 x 12 sketchbooks and I provide them for those who couldn’t/didn’t buy them. This worked well when students remembered to bring them to class, which they didn’t always, and sometimes they lost them for good. That was pretty frustrating. One year I squirreled away copy paper boxes and kept them as storage bins for sketchbooks for each of my nine classes. That kept them in the classroom – no longer lost or forgotten. However, those nine boxes took up a lot of space.

In 2015, I attended a Project Zero Classroom workshop for a week in the summer. You can read my reflection on that experience here. I found myself inspired and consumed by thoughts on learning both in content and instruction, especially in comparison to what I was seeing in my school and reading about from educators across the country. I realized I was teaching in a way that guided kids through projects, which although deep in layers of content, were more project/product based than process-based. At the end of the week at Project Zero, my cohort group were assigned the summative task to come up with a headline that captured each of our take aways, or going forward goals. Throughout the week, my international group of educators had gently teased me about my Boston speech mannerisms (I can’t help it!) which ended up being captured in my headline:

Actual Headline posted on the wall at Project Zero Classroom

As I prepared for back-to-school throughout the rest of the summer, I focused on Slowing Down The Learning by developing deep and rich projects that allowed for a focus on process, whether creative, collaborative, or communicative. This is when sketchbooks became very important in my classroom.

Students use the sketchbooks for daily Creativity Sparks (bellringers), planning projects, and reflection. They use them as Discovery Logs as they progress through units. These handmade sketchbooks are an integral to the learning in our classroom.

Here is Bridget M to give a tour of her sketchbook:

Prior to teaching, I had a twenty year career in the printing industry. I well knew the process of making books, I just had to simplify it enough to ensure success for all of my students. I settled on a 16 page saddle-stitch book which would end up at 7.5″ x 11″, and fit well in the locker bins which were being discarded at school.

Here is how to make the books:

Cover stock varies year to year, from 26 x 40 sheets of actual cover stock donated by a local printer to Manilla Tag, which is what we used this year. And this is the paper I order for the text:

We call these extra-long staplers “turbo staplers”…

These steps are shown through a demonstration and are posted as a reminder…

In my school most electives teachers get all new classes in January for the start of term three, so I facilitate sketchbook making twice each year. Each time we make sketchbooks, we try out a new process for the cover artwork, including Collage, ZoneDoodles (my version of zentangle), Compass Shape Watercolor, Paper Circuits, Blown-Splatter-Drip Painting, Mandalas, and this year – Colorful ZoneDoodles, which will be shared in an upcoming post.


ZoneDoodle with metallic Sharpies

Compass Shape Watercolor

Paper Circuits

Blown (straw), Splatter, Drip Painting


Colorful ZoneDoodle






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RESPECT: One Rule Fits All

Respect is what I want from you
Respect is what I need
Respect is what I want
Respect is what I need – Otis Redding

Last week I was cleaning out the art department storage area at school and came upon the pieces from a collaborative art project from long ago – probably during the 2006/2007 school year – which I can tell only by the names of the artists still written on the back of the panels. (I love these moments when names of former students recall sweet memories from long ago).

Curious to see what kind of shape the project was in, I pulled out all the panels and except for 20 or so missing mosaic tabs/tiles, it was in great shape.

Fortunately, I had a bag of tabs left over so I easily patched the missing areas. I have a pre-service student teacher one day each week this semester, Shaina, who quickly offered to lend a hand. Once the individual 8″ squares were all set, Shaina and I laid them out in order following the grid mock-up:

There are 110 individual squares that make up the mosaic. After we had laid out the squares, we glued them in 2 columns of 5 squares each on large pieces of black tag board. I laminated the 11 large sheets, then trimmed off the excess laminate. I used a staple gun to stick them to the bulletin board. I don’t mind that it’s slightly crooked, just thrilled to have all the pieces and to be able to display them. Here is the label to explain the project:

And a few more photos:

butterflies - 1 (2)





I designed this mural as a collaborative effort for my students (7th and 8th grade at the time) so they could see the magnitude of a cooperative project – as in a “many hands make light work” sort of way. We were using a Character Education curriculum then for which the most important tenet was Respect, and I expected the large word posted on a wall in a prominent place would be impactful. Fortunately (or maybe especially right now) Respect is a timeless ideal in every situation from individual relationships with family or friends, the school community, the work place, within political discourse, and throughout a civil society.


This project was part of a deeper project about classic mosaics, art history, and architecture. For those faithful to the elements of art and principles of design, the concepts we’re utilizing here are Shape, Color (warm/cool), Contrast, and Emphasis. This would also be a good project to tie into an exploration of stained glass.


I designed the grid mock-up by shading in the block letters with orange and then numbering the squares. I then looked at each square individually on the graph paper and transferred it to the 8″ x 8″ grids  that I had photocopied using check marks to indicate where the warm color tiles should be glued. Students worked in groups of four to complete each square.

When this first hung on the board, each square was still separate – that was a lot of stapling. I suspect the laminator wasn’t operational at the time or something, because stapling 110 individual squares is just a little crazy.

These are the paper tiles we used:


I love this piece. It is colorful and vibrant and impactful with its message. My students did a fabulous job working together to bring this to life. However, it was my idea, not theirs. As I consider whether or not to do this or something similar again, I would use the creation of a large cooperative piece like this as the introduction or “hook” into a project-based learning unit or a more student-centered unit on mosaics. Once the collaborative piece is finished, I would put it out to the kids for their input on possibilities for content, images, and medium. I would like to see what they’d come up with, and I expect it would be great.




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Couldn’t Make It To Open House?

Couldn’t make it Open House this week? No worries at all!

This is a super busy time of year and one can’t do everything! It was a pleasure to see so many parents and guardians Wednesday night and I appreciate your stopping by to say “hi” and check out the art room. If you weren’t able to make it, please know you can stop by any time. Here is what the room looks like in a 360 Panorama (click on the photo to see the room): 

Open House visitors enjoyed the following video, which shows highlights of last year’s 5/6 Miscoe Hill Art Program and should give you some idea of what to expect this year (click on the photo to see the video):

Also available was the back-to-school letter containing a breakdown of grading criteria and my contact information. Here is a link to the letter: Welcome to 5 2018

Speaking of contact information, I have emailed every address I had for my students’ parents and guardians last week. If you did not receive an email from me, please let me know at agentili@mursd.org 

It was a pleasure to meet some of you this week and I look forward to meeting the rest of you one day soon, possibly at conferences or at the Art Show in the spring.


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International Dot Day 2018

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In the Miscoe Hill 5/6Art room we have had a blast creating dots and watching them come to life using the Quiver app on iPads. Why create dots? Because of the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Here is a narrated video of the story:

We colored in templates made by Quiver and then used the app to view the dots we have made. Quiver uses Augmented Reality to transform the dots into dynamic, moving dots. You can download the Quiver app to any mobile device, print the template, and view the dots with augmented reality. Here is a video how it works (please substitute “Quiver” for “Colar” because the app has changed hands since I made this video:

As students view their dots with augmented reality, they’ve been capturing them in photos and videos on the iPads. Here is a compilation of their artwork:

Nice work, right? The video will be posted on the International Dot Day wall and on Twitter with the hashtag #DotDay18. Over thirteen million Dot makers will participate in International Dot Day this year!

To see a heart-warming story about one a former student and the impact Dot Day had on her, please follow this link: Shea on Fablevision 

Always remember:

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We Remember 2001-2018

“No more hurting people – Peace” – Martin Richard

My thoughts this Tuesday morning on the seventeenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001:

As I walk through the halls of my school, the same school where I was teaching third grade on that day, I think: “We were here when it happened.” As I pass by classrooms and see the teachers with whom I shared shock and horror on that day, I think: “We have never been the same.” And as I look at the students going about their normal student lives, I think: “None of these kids had been born then. They will never know the fear and anger their parents felt as the drama played out for weeks and months following the event. And they will learn about this in class and in books, as removed and dispassionate as my generation was in learning about historical events when we were young.” 

The following is from my social media post on September 11, 2013:


Flag pins made by third grade students following 9/11/2001

I wore this “flag” pin to school today, as I have for the past 12 years. I was a third grade classroom teacher on 9/11/2001 and had a lovely class of 26 or so kids who I had just met a few weeks earlier. We were just settling in to our school day when an urgent announcement was made for all teachers to check their email. The email informed us of the terrorist attacks and asked to keep our cool and not to talk to our students about it. That was a tall order. We had so many questions. We had email, but few of us had cell phones or cell service then, so we didn’t have access to news or each other. The school internet was shut down almost immediately. Teachers talked quietly in hallways, in doors between classes, and at lunch we gathered around a TV in the teachers room and watched in horror as the planes hit the towers, over and over again. And then we returned to our classrooms. Numb. What a long, difficult day it was. 

My son was in the same school with me, at that time in a fifth grade classroom with a teacher I trusted and respected. Still, somewhere in the middle of the day, I snuck a moment to go across the school and up the stairs to simply look at him, to see for myself that he was okay. I had to see him.

Later that day, the administrators went class-to-class in the 5th and 6th grade classrooms to tell the kids what had happened. I grew concerned for my third graders, who rode the same buses with the older kids. Although they are young adults now, I can still visualize their little faces as we gathered around for circle time at the end of the day. “You will hear stories from other kids on the bus about bad things that happened today,” I told them, trying hard to keep it together, “Just promise me that you’ll try not to listen, and wait until you get home to let your parents be the first ones who you talk to about what happened.” 

The days that followed were full of questions, theories, and patriotism. My classroom became a safe haven, a respite from the incessant news reports. My students had a great need to “do something to help”. We made the pins in the photo above and sold them for $1 each. We also made a simpler version with just 6 large beads on a large safety pin. Entire extended families worked on the pins at home. Parents gravitated to the classroom and helped my third graders produce pin after pin. Together we raised several hundred dollars for George Bush’s “America’s Fund for Afghan Children” .

Today is Tuesday, September 11. My third grade class of 2001 students are now 25 or 26 years old. I wonder what they remember from our shared experience seventeen years ago. I wonder if they or their families still have the pins we made. I wonder what they will tell their own children about that day as they bring them into this world over the next decade. Lastly, I hope I did well by them and their families on September 11, 2001 and in the weeks and months that followed.

We remember.

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Managing Classroom Management

“When I was a teacher, I’d walk into the classroom. I stood at the board. I was the man. I directed operations. I was an intellectual and artistic and moral traffic cop, and I – and I would direct the class, most of the time.”  Frank McCourt

Believe me, I know I’m showing my age by quoting Frank McCourt here. The kids may have never heard of him, but we older folks know what a brilliant writer he was. In his 2005 memoir, Teacher Man, McCourt tells his stories about teaching English to high school students. I chose this quote because I think all teachers can relate to it. Many of us feel this way, others of us feel we should feel this way, but don’t.

This post is being shared as part of the Art Ed Bloggers Network, comprised of art educators who post about a common topic on the second Tuesday of the month. The topic this month is Classroom Management.

Rather than talk about traditional classroom management such as behaviors, routines, and room set up, I want to talk about facilitating art classes through learning management systems for centralized delivery of instruction, student accountability, and to make a teacher’s life a little easier. I encounter many art educators who can’t fathom how this applies to the art room, so I’d like to give a few examples. My district uses Google Classroom and I’ve been using it with my classes for the past three years.

Google Classroom is really easy to use. It is intuitive and although Google continues to make changes based on input from teachers, it is easy to keep up with the changes. I love it for the centralized delivery of instruction – the assignment you post can be accessed at any time by students and can be augmented with in-class reminders and explanation as needed to meet the needs of all learners. Also, parents can be invited to follow the class, which is so helpful with school-to-family communication.

I also love the option to assign a question to the class and receive individual responses in private comments or as posts to a stream everyone in the class can read and then respond to when appropriate. Often the quiet kids won’t speak in front of the class and posting privately is a big help in hearing those voices that are otherwise silent. Another way to do this is through Google Forms – surveys for groups or individuals. They can be linked directly to a Google Classroom assignment or announcement.

Of course, Google Classroom is perfect for a centralized delivery of resources as well. Teachers can make them available in folders within the class or through assignments or announcements. Google Docs can be dispersed as one Doc to be collaboratively edited or delivered individually to each of the students.

Other resources easily delivered through Google Classroom are links to websites, videos, or project sites as in the image below, the student page of a project based learning unit Google Site.

Perhaps the most helpful thing about Google Classroom in the art room is the benefit of students taking photos of their artwork and turning it in at all phases of the process, not just at the end. This is also a good option for formative assessment in the art room – for example asking students to draw a still life or self portrait (or something) without instruction. The teacher can see what the student(s) already knows and can plan instruction accordingly. When most art teachers see between 400-800 students per year, this is SO much better than rifling through hundreds of pieces of artwork. Plus there is something about looking at all of the pieces within a class at once that comparisons and groupings can be better created.

Another Google tool I want to use with my students is Google Keep. I began using it this summer and I really like it. For me it will replace BlendSpace, which I use to gather websites, images, articles, etc for a topic. With Keep, one can add all of those things plus direct uploads from Gmail and Docs. I expect this will be a good tool for making thinking visible with my art students, whether individually or in groups.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with a large group of teachers (35+) in Florida to facilitate their professional development exploration of Technology in Art Education. I eventually named the session ARTnology. In speaking with the Instructional Technology Director for the district, I learned that they used Canvas as the learning management system. I was familiar with the platform from my job as a  part-time online coach for the past two years with Harvard Graduate School of Education, but didn’t know the ins and outs of setting up classes.

I set about learning the platform the way I always learn – by doing it. I created a class in canvas for the art teachers who would be at the ARTnology workshop. This way, we could both learn the platform. Only a few of the art teachers were currently using Canvas, and as stated above, many couldn’t fathom its use in the art classroom. I posted a few discussion questions to get the ball rolling and the active discussion ensued.

Canvas includes the option to click on “Student View”, which is really helpful and reassuring. I remember when I first started using Google Classroom, asking for a student email address for myself so I could log in and see the platform from the student perspective. This feature is built-in to Canvas (see side bar right below).

The trickiest part of learning this platform was in understanding the terminology and hierarchy such as Modules, which is different from Google Classroom. Although Google Classroom has some changes this year and one of them is the ability to group content together in Modules. I haven’t used it yet, but I expect it will work similarly to Canvas.

As we compared notes in the PD workshop, we found that both of our districts used different grading platforms than the learning management systems we employ. Although grading in Google Classroom can be exported as csv files (comma separated values) which work well with Excel or Sheets, it is not compatible with our grading platform.

One aspect of Canvas that is quite appealing to art teachers is the option for students to create e-portfolios. Students upload their work to their own file and the file follows them through the grade levels.

Classroom Management in the traditional sense is full of systems, routines, and processes. Introducing learning management systems to art classes eliminates some of these and streamlines instruction and accountability for all students. Learning management systems mimic systems currently used in the workplace. Once students are comfortable with a platform, they can take ownership of their work and their progress, and will become accustomed to reflection as a regular part of art making.

When Frank McCourt states above, “I was the man. I directed operations” we probably all share a common visualization – teacher at the front of the room, students waiting for the next instruction, daring not to take their education into their own hands. With learning management systems, students actively contribute to the classroom systems and processes while the teacher provides the structure for them to build upon – like the Wizard of Oz. And if you use it enough consistently, the kids will run with it as if it were their own and will “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

The Wizard Revealed – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1939

Thanks to the Art Ed Bloggers Network for giving me a chance to think about classroom management. Now that this is done I can begin to wrap my head around setting up classes for 2018/19. I look forward to implementing the new elements Google has added to Classroom.

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger’s Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the second Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

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