Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Here's hoping your Halloween was safe & happy!

Now back to watching the best zombie movie of all time: Zombieland!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Fabulous Followers & some advice for newer bloggers

When I first started blogging, every time I got a new follower I clicked on that person to see who she or he is.  Did she have a blog?  Where is he from?  If I liked what I saw, I would start following.  As a result, I follow a lot of blogs.  Some of them post regularly, and some, not at all, so it really isn't as crazy as it sounds.

But as my number of followers grew exponentially, it became challenging to check out each and every new one of you.  But still I wanted you, my followers, to know I value you, so that's when I placed you at the top of my blog.  I wouldn't want to keep posting if nobody was reading. 

So today, I decided to take some computer time to see who my followers are.  I randomly started clicking on the little faces, and what a pleasant surprise it was!  There are old friends there, from my 2+ years blogging, who I feel like I've known forever.  And there are followers I've never 'met', many with blogs, from everywhere! The first one I tried was, I think, from Turkey (not really sure since I couldn't read the language), and another from, I assume maybe Denmark or Sweden (again, I'm guessing based on language). Wow.  

Then I saw one from "the Woodstock School" - hmmm - I've recently visited both Woodstock NY (home of the music festival) and Woodstock Vermont, both a reasonable distance from my home for a day trip, but I hadn't heard of the Woodstock School.  No wonder -  this Woodstock School is in India!!!!  Check out their phenomenal high school age student artwork - it will blow you away!

Today, as a result of looking at my followers, I also visited a blogger from Texas:; 
 from Pennsylvania:;
 from Brooklyn (also where my dad was from):;
from Germany, I think (another one in a foreign language):;  
There were more - from Missouri, New Zealand, Nebraska, and Australia for example.  Some of these folks have been around for a while, but more seemed to be relatively new bloggers.

So I have a little advice.  If you have a newish blog, and want people to read it, and to follow it, you have to get them to find you somehow.  Being quiet and waiting for won't make it work.  Your blog is not a field of dreams, where if you build it, people will simply come.  You need to recruit.  You need to make people want to visit you.  Here's what will work:
  • Leave comments frequently on the blogs you read and like.  I don't know about all of you, but when I read a comment from somebody new, who I don't know, I usually click on their profile to see if they have a blog too.  So commenting on a blog is a good way to get people to visit your blog.
  • Post a lot.  You want readers to find something new when they come and visit.  Don't feed those same stale brownies leftover from a month ago!  I want something freshly baked!! ;-)
  • Invite people to visit.  There it is again; you have to leave comments on other blogs and say "come visit my new blog!!!!".  It works.  That's how I got going.  And again, when they visit, they don't want those stale brownies... am I repeating myself?
  • Fix the layout of your blog so that your followers are visible, and your archives are visible too.  My first stop, after I've looked at the current post on a new blog I'm reading, is to dig through their archives and find their FIRST EVER post.  It tells me a lot about you.  Also prominently place your list of labels.  More about that in a few more bullets.
  • For goodness sakes, don't just say "I teach at the Bla-Bla School in Bla-Bla county"  Uh, what state is that in?  Or what country?  Where the heck ARE you???  It made the Woodstock School infinitely more intriguing to know it was in INDIA!  
  • If you are from a place where you speak in a language not commonly used world-over, please put a translator button on your blog.  If I can't figure out what it says, I probably won't come back, and I'll bet I'm not the only one.  I doubt I'm the only blog reader who doesn't read Turkish. 
  • Use labels (also called tags) wisely, for two reasons:
    • You want people to find you using a search engine like Google and shrewd tagging will make all the difference.
    • You want people to be able to find posts that interest them when they get to your blog.  For example, I'm a freak for papier-mache, and for dragons, and for Matisse.  If either of those three things show up in your labels, they will be my first stops.  Or maybe I want to find something I know you previously posted, but I don't know when.  If  there are no labels, it can get pretty painful searching your archives, scrolling through month after month, to find that one lesson you wanted to remember.
  •  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  If you leave a comment on a blog saying "help, I don't know how to do this", readers will hop over and visit and help you out.  Guaranteed.  Art teacher bloggers are nice people!
I think that's more than enough for today, no?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My little adventure

The trailhead sign

A beautiful autumn day - sky blue - trees a glowing amber - perfect day for a hike, no?
Early this fall, hubby and I, both retired, made a pact to get ourselves out in our beautiful Adirondacks as much as possible before snowfall - litttle hikes, climbs, walks etc (in addition to my kayaking excursions).  Because once winter sets in, I'm not so excited about the out-of-doors.  So yesterday we picked the nearby Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve, a climbing trail that would bring us to a gazebo overlooking picturesque Lake George, after a hike of 1.2 miles and an elevation climb of 650' from the trailhead.  There was also an option to continue another 1.5 miles to a waterfall after arriving at the gazebo.  Sounded perfect for a sunny afternoon!

 Here's what it looked like on the way to the gazebo.  Hubby took the two photos below; the rest are pretty much mine.
We've reached the gazebo!  The climb was strenuous and steep, loaded with tree roots, rocks, and vines, but we did it, and the view is awesome!  Other hikers we encounter at the gazebo say the waterfall usually doesn't have a lot of flow, but currently is wonderful, due to recent rainfall, and that we should continue our hike.
view from the gazebo - nice, huh?

beautiful view from the gazebo
Note the dark cloud in the photo below, also shot from the gazebo.  It did not look threatening.  So, bellies full of granola bars, we decided to head on to the waterfall, according to the advice of other hikers we had met.  Maybe not our best decision ever.
Along the way, we passed a couple of groups of hikers on their way back to the gazebo, and all said "the waterfall is awesome!  Keep going!"   The last group we encountered told us we were almost there.  Yeah!  So we kept hiking.  Then suddenly - black sky - and BOOM!  Thunder!  Hubby felt a raindrop and we decided, even though we were in spitting distance of a supposedly beautiful waterfall, we'd better scrap the idea for now.  We turned back and the sky let loose with a pelleting downfall of driving rain.  All those leaves on the ground got wet and slick, and the ground turned to mud.  My glasses (prescription, so I couldn't take them off) got rain smeared and fogged.    Wet tendrils of hair dripped into my face.  The wind kept blowing my hood down.  I couldn't see, and we were charging our way back toward the gazebo when I slipped and and went crashing to the ground.  But we still had almost a mile to go, so hubby helped me up and we kept going.  As we got back to the gazebo, the rain and thunder stopped and the sun came out brightly again.  Someone else at the gazebo shot these pics of hubby and me.  Notice  his wet sweatshirt, and look at all the dirt on me.  But we are smiling.
After gathering our composure, we proceeded down the steep trail.  I gripped my walking stick tightly and we navigated over the shiny wet leaves, rocks, and tree roots.
Ah! An orange trail marker (below)!  I was so happy to know that we were still on the trail, since the wet leaves on the ground had made it harder to see.  My leg was  hurting, especially since the trail was so steep.  But crazy me kept stopping to take pictures anyhow.  The rain-washed woods in the late afternoon sunshine were so pretty.  Everything was glowing.
 Hurray!  We are back at the trailhead!  I was so excited to see our car, but STILL, I stopped and took more pictures..
Trailhead - where we had signed the log book about 4 hours prior
still smiling!
I didn't look at my leg until I got in the car.  My pants were soaked with what I thought was  mud, but much of it was actually blood.  I had punctured my leg somehow when I fell.  My heavy support knee-high socks had  helped contain it, I think.  Got home and cleaned and bandaged it, and dear hubby ordered and picked up a pizza so we wouldn't need to stand and cook dinner, and then I curled up on the couch and watched TV.
So here I am at home today, not leaving the house at all, but instead relaxing with a bandaged leg and some bumps and bruises and aches and pains.  Hubby is tired and muscle-sore too, and just woke from a nap.  I think later I'll make some soup: kale, white beans, and diced tomatoes.  Sound good?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Branching trees revisited

4th grade student charcoal drawing, fall 2010

photo on top of  'Stewart's Mountain'  - no 'Y' trees here!
In a post last October, I wrote this:  "Many of you post about drawing/painting trees, using the "V" or "Y" method. The problem is, when I look out my window here, every tree has a distinct trunk that continues, narrowing, to the top of the tree. Actually, with all the woods out my window, I only can see ONE tree that has a "Y" trunk, though there are plenty of "Y" branches. So unlike the rest of you, I generally don't teach tree drawing that way. It happens that THESE trees in this post all head right off the top of the paper, solving the problem of "how to end the tree". Maybe it's cheating, but they look pretty good, don't you agree?"
I don't want to seem critical, but where did this "Y" tree craze come from?  We have all practiced observational drawing, so why not use observation to see how trees are really put together?  When my students drew these trees, we looked at the trees out the windows, we looked at photos of trees, and they practiced.  The kids learned that branches can grow out of the trunk anywhere, sometimes near the bottom.  Sometimes they grow upward, sometimes downward, sometimes straight, sometimes bent.  The kids drew lightly with pencil and erased where a branch was to grow out.  They similarly branched their branches.  Sometimes the trunks were split, but not always.  Am I making sense?  Am I offending you?  (I hope not.)
 These tree drawings, completed with black and white charcoal pencils by 4th graders, were all previously posted, some last fall here, some the prior fall here.
a real "V" branching tree?!
The trees in the photo below were painted by 3rd grades.  I posted more about this lesson last fall, here.  We were learning about Van Gogh, texture, and warm and cool colors.  The trees and textural designs were drawn first with glue, with playground sand sprinkled on it.  Tempera was painted over the dry glue and sand, with warm or cool for the tree, and the opposite for the negative space.  
 The tree below was created for a Klimt project, by a 4th grader.  It's hard to tell, but the ground is collaged with fabric and patterned papers, and the tree and background are bedecked with jewels and glitter-glue.  I don't seem to have any other photos of these trees. 
and yet another branching tree?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

While you were working...

I drove past my former school today, and ended up just a few miles down the road, in  my kayak, here.

It was a beautiful October day
Nobody was on the lake  but me.  Amazing.

Our camp, viewed from the lake

Inside the camp, with wood stove newly installed!

viewed from above
 I had several other photos to show you, but they were all vertical and Blogger seemed to think it needed to rotate all the vertical photos.  So I took mercy on you and deleted them all, so you didn't have to bend your necks sideways, even though they included my favorites.  Does anyone know of a solution to this?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Crooked old cardboard houses


I found this really cool lesson idea in an Arts & Activities magazine two or three years ago, I believe before I started blogging.  I have always saved every cardboard shipping box that arrived in my classroom, and also rescued ones that were discarded by other teachers.  And if there was a BIG box in the hallway somewhere, perhaps from a new bulletin board, that big flat cardboard was quickly spirited to my room.  I have used the cardboard for signs, constructions, props for musical productions, and everything imaginable.  I always had a huge supply of it tucked into a corner of my classroom. 

 The original idea was for these to become haunted houses, but we ran out of time to have them done in time for Halloween.  So instead they became old run-down ramshackle houses, with lots of potential for future haunting.  So we didn't get around to putting raffia or straw on the ground, building spiderwebs in the windows with strings of hot glue, or having ghosts or skeletons lurking about.  It didn't matter though; the kids had a wonderful time building them, and were really satisfied with their constructions. And I wouldn't be surprised if some of them became haunted when they arrived at home.  The project required working collaboratively, and also demanded a lot of creative thinking.  I gave very little instruction, and let the students figure out how to make the houses stay together.  Here's how it happened:
The kids worked alone or in pairs; it was up to them.  But even if they worked alone, there was a LOT of collaboration.  I had a huge pile of cardboard scraps, NONE of it cut in right angle corners, so nothing would fit together square (I did this on purpose, to both encourage creative thinking and to help make the houses look old and crooked.)  I also provided small wooden shapes, tongue depressors, toothpicks, craft sticks, balsa wood sticks, and cut up pieces of corrugated cardboard.  I also provided Elmer's Glue-All (not Elmer's School Glue; the Elmer's Glue-All is significantly stronger), and lots of push-pins.

The students began by selecting a base, and wrote their names and teacher initial on the underside.  Then they started to select walls, and glue.  Push pins were used to temporarily hold things in place as glue set.  There was a lot of one person holding while the other glued.  Students had to experiment to figure out how to balance the oddball shapes and tilting walls.  Sometimes, toothpicks were inserted into the corrugated insides of the cardboard to act as a peg to help hold sides together. I believe we spent  no more than three class sessions building them.  The first session was just to get started, choose cardboard for bases, and maybe get up the first couple of walls.  In subsequent session or sessions, more walls were added, extra stories, and also roofs, ladders, porches, and other embellishments as time permitted.

 In the end, I gave them all a dusting coat of spray paint with some brown and black.  Again, time permitting, they could be further embellished at this point to make them spooky. 
This is a great way to use up some of your excess scraps of cardboard!