Nipisihkopahk Secondary School Art Classroom 2015

Welcome to the Nipisihkopahk Secondary School Art Classroom!  My students and I have worked very hard to organize the classroom sort through years of collected artwork and supplies.

I am very fortunate to have two classrooms joined together.  The main room is where students create their major art projects.  There are plenty of shelves and cupboards designed to store large paper, canvases, sculptures, and various materials.  I’ve been in a couple of poorly designed art classrooms where cleaning and storing materials can really slow things down. Pretty happy with the whole layout of the classroom!  The second classroom is used to create 10 minute sketches from artistaday.com, which is done at the beginning of the block.  Enjoy the perusing and hopefully through the photos and descriptions you are able to take some ideas away!  If you have any questions, I would love to answer them!


One of the posters on the door reads, “Be mentally and visually prepared, behind this door is where extremely seriously talented artists create awesome work.”  Maybe a bit over the top…but I think it helps anyone who enters my class to understand  that I do have high expectations.  Through the various projects and classroom environment we’ve created,  I am hoping to instil a great sense of confidence, ownership, and pride in my students.

As I was sorting old art books, I found a collection of old prints which discuss various aspects of aboriginal culture and teachings.  Great way to both decorate the classroom and educate the students.

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This is an easy classroom set up, as all of the desks are lined up in boring rows and there are no fancy circle groups.  In my opinion, the art room is much easier to navigate and students are able to focus better.  The white board is used to display announcements such as contests.   I Once and a while, if they haven’t been focusing like they normally do, I have to write a specific step-by-step plan for my students.

All of the labels and posters were of my doing.  I try to design the classroom so that it isn’t overwhelmingly feminine or masculine.  I have been in some classrooms where it is quite evident from the environment that the teacher is female.  I am convinced that, if there were any more sparkles, feathers, or pink in these rooms I would begin to taste it!

PicMonkey Collage 1fHere is where my students can store their duotangs. In the folders are their reflections and 10 minute artist of the day sketches.  They can use the folders to store images as well.  Some of the students don’t like to store their duotangs in the binsand would rather keep them in their plan-chests, which is totally fine with me.  The bins are organized by classroom and the block.  Again, I didn’t know what to put on the boards for the longest time.  Finally figured that I could use the color paper to match the bins.  Above the bins are the list of projects that they are currently working on.  As I have been working as a substitute teacher, I have seen how chaotic things can get when a classroom isn’t organized.  I’m trying to make it quite clear to anyone who walked into my classroom what my expectations and routines are.


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There are plenty of plan-chests to store large pieces of artwork and folders.  The plan-chests were not all in one spot at the beginning of the year.  It took a lot of muscle from me and my students to move them all in one spot.  Worth it though!

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Hopefully, over time, a routine and my expectations will be drilled into them!!  If the projects are enjoyable and challenging enough…then staying on task is generally not an issue.  A poster outside of the room reads, “Be respectful and stay on task when you enter this amazingly inspiring and wonderful classroom.”


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There are places to store large canvases and paper above the cabinets.  I purchased the coffee maker and kettle from a second hand store.  The students are allowed to make decaf coffee and hot chocolate if they are on task.  Pretty good incentive to get to work if the kids aren’t fond of making art.


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I have a couple of cabinets behind my desk to store teaching materials.  There are photocopies of my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and Education Degree posted on the cabinet doors.  I’m not sure what goes through the students’ minds when they see them, but I am hoping that they get the message that education is important and that there is some history or humanity behind who their teacher is.  If they wanted to talk about their future with me, I welcome the conversation!  Soon, I am going to make a project for all grades to explore what their goals are and how they will achieve them.  When I first started my practicum, I thought it was strange that a grade eight student was already thinking about specific details when it came to post-secondary education.  I understand the importance of understanding how that direction must  be developed .  Vision enables one to anticipate and plan!

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In front of my main desk is another desk that I use for my art books and booming speakers.  Songza is a great site to use for awesome playlists that get my students into a working rhythm. Usually the pop remix playlist is a safe one.  I have no issues with my students listening to music in my classroom.  Personally, I can’t function without music going!  If a student is more of the quiet type, I allow them to use the second room to work.When my kids ask me about what the three monkeys are all about, I tell them “If you do these things, you won’t get in trouble.  See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil”.

Note about my computer access,  for my screen saver, my computer is programmed to automatically lock after two minutes.  Somehow they think it is okay to go on my computer whenever they feel like it.  Unlike other classrooms, my students are using my computer often for researching images.  I’m teaching them that it is not cool to jump on my computer whenever and that they need my permission.


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The thought of having classroom pets always excited me.  When I was in high school, my science teacher had various types of fish and hamsters that we could get distracted with and my wildlife teacher had spiders and stick bugs.  Animals just make a class feel more homey and fun!  Maybe someday I will bring in critters of my own, but for now, the three little owlets I purchased from the dollar store will have to do!  They are still fantastic and put a smile on all of the kids faces when they come to talk with me.

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Keeping my desk organized and free of any artwork.  More little sculptures that I picked up from the second hand store.

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Painting routines can be a real challenge in art classes.  I am still figuring out the details for cleaning and not wasting paint. For the majority of the time, my students have a great routine going!  At first, I was verbally reminding them, but I figured that I may as well make a couple of small posters. The routine is as follows: students need an apron, wax paper, paper towel, water, and brushes.  The paint is placed on the wax paper instead of using traditional circle plastic palettes.  I abhor the cleaning of these plastic containers and storing them can be a challenge.  Once and a while I will show students how to store their paint in containers using a damp paper towel, so they don’t always have to start from square one on their color mixing.


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More reminders of how to take care of art supplies.  Organizing a classroom takes one step at a time and learning through mistakes.  Cleaning the paint brushes concept is one that I will conquer someday!  Before my time a class painted the words “Believe” in front of the sink.  A nice touch!

Above the sink is a large shelf that can’t handle a lot of weight and is in an awkward place.  I couldn’t figure out what to do with it for the longest time.  Finally pieced it together that I can use the little easels to display the black and white paintings I had found earlier that year.

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More daily routines posted around the room.  I also made a random bin to throw duotangs and loose papers in that students haven’t bothered to put away.  As you’ve probably figured out, I am not fond of clutter.  One more solution to a problem.


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Handing in and marking work in any subject can be a nightmare.  Again, it took some time to figure out what I should do with the extra wooden folders, but finally realized that I could use it the folders to organize completed assignments!  For easy access, above these folders, are commonly used “artist a day” and reflection worksheets.  There is a hand in and graded section as well.


Artist of the Day

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This is the second classroom where students complete the artist a day sketch before they begin their work.  I have found that this warm up helps my students get into the mindset to be focused and create work.  I reason with them that this practice is like warming up before playing sports.  I ask them “what happens if you don’t stretch before you play a game?”  The jest of the analogy is that if they don’t warm up before the big game, they could start off on the wrong foot and not do their best.  Through this practice they are hopefully inspired and learn about the elements and principles of art, see new and old work, and they are able to critique…fantastic solution to reach higher level learning and foil the plans of tardy students who like to interrupt the flow of learning.  Students have no excuse to write in their reflections that they learned “nothing” that day.  After years of art school and ample critiques and art history classes, it’s incredibly easy to ramble on and on about the various aspects of the art.  I have to put on a 10 minute timer so I don’t get carried away!

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Instead of a blank wall in the second room, I am hoping that these past artist from 20 years ago can inspire my students. The claustrophobic display reminds me of the salon style galleries (see below).  Soon their own work will be on these walls.  Many of my students have been taking home their work, so only time will tell as to how that goal will go.

The tables are a bit worn out in this room, so a few students and I placed some red poster paper on top on the tables.  Maybe some day they can be painted them with an enamel paint, but this quick and easy solution will have to do for now.


New School


Old School


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It was really nice to have a small collections of art books from classes before.  I found some little wooden display easels for the books and artwork to use on the shelves and tables.

Before my students leave the classroom they need to write reflections in their duotangs. This practice helps me and the students to be conscious of what is being taught and brings accountability to both parties.  If I see that a majority of the students are not replying properly, I am able to have a conversation with them and see why that is.


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