September 19, 2017

A Unit On City Scapes: 1st Grade

For the past 4 weeks we've been exploring city scapes in 1st grade! I know some of you might think that sounds kind of boring for the kids, but trust me...they've loved it!  
WEEK  ONE: STANDARD/BASIC CITY SCAPE - At this point I'm still trying to get the 1st graders to understand that there are "layers" to a picture(foreground, middle ground, and background).

WEEK TWO:  PATTERN BUILDINGS- I have students draw three buildings that go from one side to the spaces.  They then create unique patterns on each building.  We use marker to color.  They are very bold/bright...and kids love markers.

WEEK THREE:  CREATURES ATTACKING THE CITY!!! -  The kids LOVE THIS!  We look at classic movie posters of King Kong & Godzilla for inspiration.  They then create a city scape that is being attacked by their original creature.  We talk about mode of destruction, people's reactions, and the details to make it look like the city is under attack.  

WEEK FOUR:  SKYLINES AT SUNSET- This lesson a lot of us do, but the kids really enjoy it...and I feel it allows students to works on some skill building.  Here are some of my students' examples. I think they are awesome...and even more awesome when you think these are 1st graders!!!

September 17, 2017

Sunday Devotional With Mr. E: Doubt

I've met a lot of people in the arts that come off as very confident & secure.  Though I dare say confident & secure can sometimes come across as cocky & arrogant.  I've always been intrigued by such people.  Even though I've been involved with the arts for a majority of my life, I've always struggled with doubt.   I would see those seemingly "confident & secure" and wonder how they were so sure?  What was it that made them think they were so wonderful?  I've come to realize that even those that seem so sure of themselves wrestle with feelings of doubt from time to time. The cocky & arrogant are often covering up their own insecurities.  In the arts, doubt is natural as we extend ourselves in new & challenging ways.  It is what we do with doubt that will define us in our artistic endeavors.  Will we allow it to destroy us?  Will we allow it to push us to new heights?

But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"  And God said, "I will be with you..." 
Exodus 3:11-12a

Moses doubted.  Peter doubted.  Thomas doubted.  Those of us that wrestle with doubt are in good company.   I think that we should take comfort in the fact that so many heroes of the faith wrestled with doubt at some point in their life. We all have weaknesses.  We all have struggles.  However, how we proceed changes everything.  It isn't that we move forward devoid of all doubt, but that even in our doubt we take steps of faith trusting in The One that has gone before us.  As we take those steps of faith our doubt will begin to diminish.  We will begin to trust God more with our "everything".  We will see He is faithful...even when we are not.  When Moses spoke to God of his insecurities and doubts....God did not tell Moses it would be all sunshine & roses.  God said, "I will be with you.."!  There is comfort in knowing God is always there with us....even when we doubt. 

September 15, 2017


So awhile back I received this....

"As a valued alumnus of the BGSU School of Art, we would like to invite you to participate in MILESTONES: A CELEBRATION OF BGSU SCHOOL OF ART ALUMNI.

The exhibition will open on Saturday, September 30th, and run through November 9th, 2017. The studio divisions in the School of Art – Graphic Design, 2-D Studies, 3-D Studies, and Art Education – are each inviting 10 alumni who graduated prior to 2011 and who represent some of the School’s most important accomplishments."

I have to admit..I was honored and horrified at the same time!  As a busy art educator, blogger, and father of three young children....I do not "make" the time to create my own work like I should.  So with this wonderful invitation to participate in the Milestones Alumni Show...I got crackin' on some art!!  I enjoyed creating...even though it meant less sleep than usual(ha ha).  I learned a lot through the experience...including how to ship work through the mail(and how much it costs..OUCH!).  

Today when I was on Twitter..I noticed the info graphic for the show that was posted by the BGSU School of Art.  THEY USED MY WORK TO FLANK THE SIDES OF THE INFORMATION!!!! 

I'm very excited, and will be making the trip north at the end of the month for the opening.  I'll get a chance to hang out with the art education students at BGSU, and reconnect with some of my classmates that live in the area!!  If you are in the northwest Ohio area...PLEASE COME!!!  

So this happened....

Me & Mrs. E all dressed up!
We don't have many date nights 
with three young kids!! ha ha

I found out last month that I was named the Middle Tennessee Art Teacher of the Year by TAEA.  It means a great deal to me to receive such awards...because they are decided by fellow art teachers who know our job & what we do day in  & day out!!

Then I found out that our district wanted to recognize the fact that I had received this award at a school board meeting.  Now..I'm not one for such fuss(I hate getting dressed up!) would have been fine if they would have just mentioned it in passing at the meeting. However, my visual art director & my wife wanted me to I did.  It was nice to represent art in our district...and put a spotlight on the fact that great things are happening in Nashville!!
My friend Tina(beside me) was named TN Art Teacher of the Year!!
Allison Ross(in front) is our new visual art coordinator...and a great friend!

September 13, 2017

Only Human...

Anyone else get the 80's song in their head!!
(some of you young ones...probably not!)

KID: "Mr. E, what is PROGESS??
ME: "What? What are you talking about?"
KID: "I think your turtle board is suppose to say PROGRESS, but you put up PROGESS."
ME:  "Why are you looking around my room anyways, trouble maker...don't you have work to do??"
KID: SHAKES HIS HEAD AT ME..."You're a mess Mr. E!"
(I love this kid...has been with me since Kindergarten!! Obviously more observant than me! ha ha)  

Yes, Mr. E is only human & makes mistakes! 
  Please note...we are 
In my hurry to create my bulletin boards & have my classroom ready for the new school year... I guess this just slipped by me?!?!  I do find it super funny & amazing that it took 5 weeks for anyone to notice...and it wasn't me(who practically lives in my classroom!!).  

Have you made any goofs like this??
Share in the comments!!  

September 11, 2017


I love teaching Narrative Art in 3rd Grade!  Their eyes light up when they make the connection between literature & visual arts.  They are amazed by the power they have to create stories through their pictures.  It really is a light bulb moment(that I wish came sooner...and it does for some).  3rd graders just get it!  We start it off with questions about vocabulary, and connect the literature version of the word with the art version of the word(really not a huge difference).  We usually refer to a story they are all familiar with as a point of reference.


I allow them some brain storming time before beginning their drawings.  After about 35 min, I stop the students, and have them partner up with others across the room.  They have to share the story of their partner's art work(and the partner is not allowed to interject at all until their buddy is finished explaining what they see).  

Once they have both had an opportunity to share...they return to their seats and make the necessary changes to help convey their stories more effectively. 

I've spoken with our new technology and writing teacher...and she is going to take them when we're done and the students will write the stores behind their narrative drawings!!

September 10, 2017

Sunday Devotional With Mr. E: Comfort

Visual art, music, dance, drama, these things people find great comfort.  A painting to get lost in, a song to carry you away, a dance that puts a bounce in your step, a play that transports you to another time & place, or a written piece that makes you think & feel in a deeper way.  The arts are known to help people heal mentally, physically, and emotionally. There is power there that is often underappreciated because it is difficult to chart or extrapolate.  In my own life, I know there are works of art that I revisit like an old friend...seeing them brings a sense of peace, joy, & comfort.  There are songs that envelop me like loved ones' arms....whispering truth to me as they hold me close.  Eyes must be diverted & songs come to an end, but thankful are those of us that know the power of the arts...even for a temporary diversion from the experiences that challenge us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

In John 16:33...scripture lets us know "In this world you will have trouble." It isn't "IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE" or "MAYBE YOU'LL HAVE TROUBLE" is "YOU. WILL. HAVE. TROUBLE."!  Trouble takes many forms.  Some is self inflicted....bad choices catching up with us.  Some is inflicted by others.  Sometimes nature inflicts trouble into our life.  Sometimes trouble happens, and we see no one or no thing to blame.  God has never promised us a trouble free life.  Things are going to happen.  However, the question is....HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?  For the believer,  as we get to know our God & learn of His truths...we can find comfort in Him!  As we continue to grow in our faith & have opportunity to trust Him with our "troubles"....we will see He is always there, always loving, and always faithful.  Through these experiences we can take these truths & comfort those God puts in our path that are experiencing their own troubles.  We can approach them with great compassion, understanding, and love....because we have received the same!  


September 08, 2017

Collage Fish: Kindergarten

This week I'm introducing my kindergarten students to collage...which also means introducing scissors/scissor safety & glue usage.  Personally, I feel collage is more challenging than painting with kindergarten.  There are more elements & unknown variables.  Unlike years ago...students don't have the opportunity to cut & glue in their classrooms(and if they can bet it is glue sticks!).  Kindergarten teachers have so many more requirements that they don't have time for activity type learning which requires these things in their classroom.  There is also that fact that fewer children are having exposure to scissor & glue use at home. Sooooo....when we get these awesome little sponges...we are going to be doing a lot of introducing and correcting.  I think the main issue I've been seeing this week is scissor grip.  I've literally had students that had NO IDEA how to pick up, hold, and use scissors!  I know I shouldn't be amazed by this...but I kind of am!

I've only had a few students that just couldn't get it at all.  Most of them were able to do "something".  I view this as a time to introduce & build upon I'm looking at the long term & not just the immediate.  Some of the kids that are struggling now...will be master scissor users by January!!

September 06, 2017

Repurposing Markers

So after my last post on MARKERS ( ), and the amazing response/discussion on Facebook that came out of it......I thought I'd share about my repurposing of markers into liquid watercolor (I thought I'd done this recently..but I couldn't find it...only a post from 2011 when I first tried it - ).

So a couple years ago I started repurposing markers WITH my students.  I brought in empty water bottles(washed & dried)...and filled them about half full with tap water.  The students and I took our box of dying/dead markers...and started coming up with color combinations we wanted to try. We made predictions of what colors we thought they'd make.  It was science, writing, and art all rolled into one fun experiment!!

You can easily drop 6 markers into a standard water bottle...possibly more depending on the thickness.  We noticed our colors were pretty light the following week.  So I told the students we'd allow evaporation to happen...and that should make a more concentrated color.  We left them for over a month before we tested them again.  The color was deeper/richer when we retested them.  Then I just decided to leave them...and see what would happen.  

A few grew mold.....but most became great liquid watercolor to use in our classroom!  The best part...they were already in a bottle!! Easy to pour..easy to store!!!  

September 05, 2017


Markers are probably my least favorite art supply.  Markers dry out, kids color with them anyways, they smudge and smear....I just don't care for them!  BUT KIDS LOVE THEM!!!!!!!  
So I keep them around to appease the masses. I have blue lid boxes for markers.  Each table get a box filled to the point of exploding!  We have to go over with EVER class about markers making a click sound to insure they are closed....not to color marker over marker...and...if it seems to be dry...LET MR. E KNOW!!!

 I separate my markers out based on it is easier to replace bad markers & see what you have left in your reserves!  Simple clear plastic shoe boxes do the trick!! Most of the boxes have two colors in them....except one! 

Do you have this problem...WAY TOO MANY PURPLES?!?!  Where do they all come from? Why do I have so many?? Do kids not like using they don't get used up?  Do purple markers last longer than other colors?? WHAT'S THE DEAL?!?!?! 

What is your least favorite supply??

September 03, 2017

Sunday Devotional With Mr.E: Humbly Great

I often over think & over do my art.  Something in me believes that work that is flashier, bolder, and more powerful is what makes art great. If people don't get smacked in the face by the message or the look than it isn't good art.  I think this mentality comes partially from being inundated by images from pop culture and advertisement.  There is so much competition for an overcrowded market of products, objects, and ideas.  The "loudest" gets heard.  However, this isn't true about all "great" art.  Sometimes the quietest & most unassuming work possess a power & depth that cannot be matched by the loud & flashy images that via for our attention.  The humbly great art appeals to our heart & soul with it's simple truth.

Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, "Wash, and be clean"?  So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God' and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. 
 2 Kings 5: 13-14

If you aren't familiar with the story of Naaman you will want to read 
2 Kings 5: 1-14 to understand the context of this scripture better.  

Many people ask God for big things.  This isn't a bad thing.  God desires us to come to Him with our wants, needs, hopes, dreams, pains, and sorrows.  The problem comes in our expectations of how the Lord is going to answer.  We need to trust God to be God in how He answers our prayers.  It isn't always how we want them to be answered.  It isn't always how we expect them to be answered.  Sometimes, the answer to our prayer is that they aren't answered.  In these situations we might get mad/upset with God...stamp our feet...question if God hears us...and a host of other responses that aren't very becoming of someone who knows the Lord.  However, God is not surprised by our response.  He patiently waits for us to finish our "fit", and finally see that His way of answering us is the best way.  We must humbly come before the Lord with our everything, and when we do...we will see that our Great God has been with us through everything.  He hears us...he knows our thoughts...and he knows our heart...and He answers our cries.  

September 01, 2017

Another Day Off!?!?!

I'm not your normal teacher! 
(You must be new here if you thought differently?!? ha ha)
We had a day called off because of the eclipse...and now a day off because of flooding! That is two of our five weather related excused days gone...and it is only Sept 1st!!!  I love schedule & these days really throw me off!

August 31, 2017

Painting With Kindergarten

Are you afraid to paint with Kindergarten.....

ha ha Just kidding! ha ha

Painting with Kindergarten is truly a joy for them....AND YOU!
However, you need to set yourself up for success. Many of your students will have limited experience painting before your classroom.  You have to be very organized & very clear in your expectations.  

Set yourself up for success!!!
I have the BIGGIE PANS watercolor...where there are 4 giant pats of paint(Red, Blue, Yellow, Green).  However, they were looking a little rough, and it is going to be awhile before I can order.  So instead I set up the four colors in the refill strips I had left over from last year.  Limiting your color choices helps prevent MUD from happening by young artists.  It also helps encourage the mixing of colors to make new ones!! 

Pre-fill water cups half full. I use the fat/short tumbler cups from Dollar Tree/Dollar General.  They last forever and don't tip easily.  I also go ahead and place two paint brushes in each cup.  This helps speed up the process.  You need your attention to be on the kids...not getting things ready.  Paper towels at the ready for never know with Kindergarten.  Sometimes they're great...sometimes they are a hot mess! ha ha  I also use cut up old art shirts for rags.  I wet them and squeeze them out so they are good to go when cleanup time happens at the end of class.  

I place the water cup and paint on their table and tell them NOT to move them.  Placing it right between the two of them will help avoid them standing up, reaching, and bumping the table...causing their table partner to mess up or spilling the water cup!  I also go a through a whole funny thing about tap tappin' the brush on the side of the cup(something they are NOT allowed to do...because it makes a mess and it is annoying to listen to!)....and a shtick about washing your brush every time so you don't mix colors.  The kids this year have done AMAZING so far...but it isn't always like that.  Reminding often for young artists is NOT a bad thing!! ha

The results of their hard work!!  I love how different & beautiful each one is!!
(These are a part of a larger fish unit I do at the start of the school year to build confidence and explore different media!)


August 30, 2017

The Trickle Down Effect


I know I'm totally going to sound like the man yelling from his front door..."YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!!"  However, what I'm going to share is true/real & unfortunate!

There has been a great deal of change over my 20+ years as an educator.  Some of it I've agreed with...and others not so much.  One of the BIGGEST changes has been in Kindergarten.  Lets face it...Kindergarten isn't Kindergarten anymore.  The requirements have been upped...the rigor has been increased...and the focus is completely different.  I'm going to say it...."WHEN I WAS A KID..." Kindergarten was about learning to get along with others, tying your shoes, telling time, learning the basics of language & mathematics. Play was important because teachers knew that's where you learned skills to be a good person.  Creating was encouraged because that built hand skills, reasoning skills, and imagination....all important to be a successful student.

Now what are we that need "social emotional learning" because they don't know how to get along with others, can't share, and have their feelings hurt if someone doesn't bow down to their every whim.  You know what would help...time playing together in the lower grades instead of pushing rigor down their throats!

It is also impacting their skills/learning.  Kindergarten teachers no longer are able to do all the cutting and gluing they use to do because of all the requirements they have to get through that aren't developmentally appropriate.  So I'm seeing kids with very weak hand skills that can't cut, can't hold a pencil, and squeeze out a whole bottle of glue for a little piece of paper.  Kindergarten (at least in our district) no longer teaches pattern!  It is smacking me in the face this year with my 1st graders.  A project I've done for some time that use to have 95% of the class being able to successfully complete only has less than 10%.  The implications go far beyond art.

They say we can't do what we've always done because kids are different...families are different...schools are different.  This is true, but if we really looked at the needs of our students...we'd realize some of the "old ways" were actually right on target for the needs of our students TODAY!



I've seen many teachers on several of the awesome social media sites that keep us connected...who are new to teaching or new to teaching art.  As a new teacher, you could become baffled by the variance in a given classroom.  How do you encourage & grow students that are all at such different points.  The answer is simply....GET TO KNOW THEM!!!!  As you get to know your students and their art will be able to tell if they are really putting the work into their creations...or if they are just messing around.  Once you have a good idea of their will better be able to encourage them toward growth! 

This student worked the WHOLE time, but erased a lot, and then ended up drawing with their crayon.  They are new to me, and I know that it will take a little time to help them along in this.  

This student did a great job, but rushed their coloring a bit toward the end to finish.  That is an easy fix.  Encouraging the student to slow down, and to mind their craftmanship.  Done is not always better if it isn't their best. Encouraging them that it is ok to be "unfinished" will help this student improve their work.

This student did a wonderful job, but was frustrated by not getting all the details done they wanted.  I LOVE THIS PICTURE!  However, you have to keep in mind what the artists expectations are.  Help them adjust their expectations...or reassure them that they will be able to finish another time.  This way they don't become frustrated in your classroom!!

Every year is different.  Every class is different.  Every student is different!! Enjoy the differences...and embrace the joy of helping your students become the best artist THEY can be!!!

August 27, 2017

Sunday Devotional With Mr. E: Moving Beyond

At the end of my first year of teaching my mother suffered three strokes at the age of 47.  My father helped nurse his bride of 28 years back to health.  Then at the end of my second year of teaching...after celebrating their 29th anniversary & his 50th birthday....he died less than a week after being diagnosed with cancer.  I arrived home two hours after he passed away...too late to say goodbye.  I was devastated.  I "processed" in many ways, but of coarse as an artist spent much time in my sketch book trying to work through all that was going on in my heart and mind. That's what artists do.  We use our experiences, questions, pains, hopes, and dreams to fuel our artistic endeavors.   For a long time I tried to capture the horror of cancer through my art.  Notice I said "tried".  I thought I needed to see the monster in order to fully deal with my dad's death.  However, every time I tried to create a visual representation of always ended up looking more like life.  Macabre colors morphed into those of joy.  Darkness morphed into light.  I stopped trying to force myself to create something that was obviously not in me to do. 

 A woman giving birth to a child has a pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:21-22

I questioned why I was unable to create what I thought would be my catharsis.  I wondered if I was not in touch with my emotions enough to do what I thought I needed to do.  I spent much time in prayer  trying to understand the reason for my seeming artist block.  Then I realized why.  I wasn't in that place anymore.  I had moved beyond needing something/someone to blame, and was now seeing all the things that my father had blessed me with.  I was seeing the similarities between us.  I was remembering the wisdom he shared with me(in his own unique way).  The encouragement & nudges(shoves!) I needed to become me that he gave.  My mind could not think of the cancer...because it was so filled with thinking about the life my father had provided for me & guided me to embrace.  I moved beyond blame...because that would hold me captive in a place my father would have never wanted me to remain!!  Moving beyond the pain we are going through is not forgetting our loss, but choosing to live a life that has been reshaped by our circumstances...not crushed.  

In this world...there will be trials, tribulations, pain, and grief that will permeate every part of our being.  There will be days we think we can't go on because of how heavy our heart is.  We will look inward & outward and feel that hope has abandoned us.  However...we must look upward.  We must look to the one who knows our pain...knows our loss...and knows we can't go on another minute in our suffering.  He invites us to collapse in his arms & grieve.  In the safety of his embrace we can ask our questions, scream our frustrations, and wrestle with our doubts.  He will not let us go.  He will not leave us.  He knows our pain is real today.....but he also knows the joy in our tomorrow. He knows the promises he made,  and he is faithful to fulfill them.  He wants us to move beyond the moment when we are able, and remember the eternal that is waiting for us to embrace its truth.

August 25, 2017

Art With Mr. E's Chair Footies

Here is a video to help you understand the hows & whys of the "CHAIR FOOTIES"!!!

August 24, 2017

Mr. E's Art Room: 2017-2018

I have been so slow about getting this posted! Please forgive me.  So here is a look into my classroom this year! I do a different color theme every year in my room...this year it is BRIGHTS!  It overwhelmed me at first because the past two years the colors have been much more subdued, but we all need a jolt to our system from time to time! ha ha  Feel free to leave a comment, email, or contact me on social media if you have any questions.

A few from the hallway!  I do have a nice large room..which I'm thankful for!  When the school was built in 1989...this space was designed as an art room(although it only has one small sink that is too high for young children to reach..that has always puzzled me!)

A few from the supply closet.

A view from my supply shelves.

Here is my reading area!  I read to my kindergarten students every time they come to art! I've had 20 yrs to collect all these books...grants...parent donations...and my family giving me sets of books for birthdays/Christmas.  It takes time, but a great classroom library is worth it.

The little table was made by my dad when he was in high school!  It is special to have something made by his hands in my space.  The chair...has seen better days! ha ha  I got it at a yard sale about 16 yrs ago for $5!! I'm actively looking for a funky new one!

My supply center!  These are more my everyday supplies that I allow students to pass out  & such.  Each color box represents a different supply.  The yarn boxes are so awesome!! Have had them for probably about 15 yrs or so. The top shelf has all my old teacher examples.  (I really need to clean them out and organize them better!!)

This is how I store student art work for the 9 weeks.  Each class has a box.  It keeps visual clutter down & keeps things organized!  I've had these boxes for about 6 years...maybe more?

Art Shirts!  I have people donate t-shirts for us to use in the art room.  They work out great.  We have a washer and drier at our school so I can keep up with them!!!

I painted the knight GREEN!!! I LOVE IT!!!  I've wanted to do that since I "adopted"
 him. The kids noticed right away the first week of school.

Word Walls...still in fashion?  I like mine.  I use the words on magnets and move them over to my example board when the words go with what we are studying.  Plus..the word wall acts as a word bank when we are writing about art that students can use.

This is my THINK ABOUT, TALK ABOUT, WRITE ABOUT board.  I have questions to get students thinking about their work & the work of others.  

I'm going to change a couple of the sections later on, but used the posters as a place holder for the time being.  I use to get all kinds of bent out of shape if that were to happen before...but since having kids..and my health issues...I've gotten more laid back! ha ha 

I did a post about this board a day or two ago....I LOVE IT! 

Every year I redo above my classroom door with foam to match my color theme I use in my room. .  It stays bright and colorful all year & sets my room apart from others.  

This is my " OUTSIDE THE ART ROOM" board. It is literally outside the art room.  This is where I put the pictures kids make me at home or at recess.  They are always so proud to see these pieces displayed. 

The last few days of school...I have my students make turtles in the color of my color theme for the next school year.  That way I have art hanging when kids get back...and it is super fun seeing them try to find theirs!! ha ha