Posted by: keepingthemistakes | November 14, 2018

My students amaze me!!

My students have been creating such amazing work! They amaze me every day. I’ve been wanting to share more about my art rooms, and I will, because great things are happening. And I’ll talk about how important the arts are for student learning and success in life, too. But for today, I’m going to let their work speak for itself. Enjoy!

First, kindergarten shape collages. We read Lois Ehlert’s books Color Zoo and Color Farm and then I set them free with scissors, paper and glue (with discussion about proper use of scissors and glue, of course).

Next, here are some 3rd grade positive/negative space works of art. I’ve struggled to teach this concept, but this year I’d say 99% of my students “got it!” So exciting, and they look pretty cool, too!

And a few more 3rd grade monochromatic silhouettes. Some haven’t added trees yet!

Here are a few 4th grade fall color scheme paintings in progress. We learned about contour drawing and practiced drawing real pumpkins. We also learned about drawing trees. They’re painting using one color scheme (warm, cool, primary, secondary, or intermediate). Live how they’re turning out!

I’m going to stop for tonight. I have more, so will post again soon!

Posted by: keepingthemistakes | November 14, 2018

Mindful breathing, sharing honestly and being grateful

I have so much student art to share. I’m so proud of the work my kids are doing! But today I want to share about something else.

So, this is my tenth year as an art teacher. All I can say to that is WOW, and how doesn’t he time go by so fast???

Each year I get better at what I’m doing. I also make mistakes, say the wrong thing, raise my voice. But each year I make small steps towards being the teacher I want to be. A big step in that direction started last spring when I started doing mindful breathing at the beginning of every class. That’s 25 +/- classes each week. I’m sure my students have benefitted and learned from this practice, but I can honestly say that it’s been very transformational for me, too. (My dear colleague Denise Bowen inspired me to start doing this) Each class starts with a chime and breathing. I talk about why and how we do it, I share personal stories, and we breathe together.

Last week I had a bad day. During that day, I took a moment alone to breathe, and my day didn’t become perfect, but my outlook improved.

So this week, before we did our breathing, I shared about my bad day. I talked about how cranky I was and how everything annoyed me. I asked if they’d ever had a day like that, and nearly 100% raised their hands. I shared that I spent some time breathing and things improved. I encouraged then to try it when they’re having one of those days. In class, at recess, at lunch, at home.

When I told this story of what happened to me last week (25 times) you could have heard a pin drop. I think my students knew that I was being real with them, and they really listened. Being real matters. Opening up and sharing our own shortcomings and insecurities is important.

Finally, I discovered this video in being grateful and it’s been a great class starter, helping us change the focus from what we’re missing, to what we do have to be grateful for. And it’s catchy! I’m not crazy about the stick people, but other than that, I’m a huge fan. My new favorite YouTube channel! Check it out!

Posted by: keepingthemistakes | September 1, 2017

The beginning of year 9

Wow, 8 years as a teacher, done.  It has gone by fast, hard to believe!  I feel like every year I learn so much and by the start of the next year I have so many new plans and things to begin.  This year is no different, but it definitely feels different so far.  I feel way more on top of things regarding classroom management.  Part of it is due to this book. Also, I finally GET it about procedures and practicing.  For 8 years, when people would say “you need to practice your procedures over and over until your students are doing what you expect” or “don’t talk while they are still talking” etc., I would say “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT!  I ONLY SEE KIDS ONCE A WEEK FOR 45 MINUTES.  WE HAVE TO MAKE ART EVERY SECOND.”  And, yes, I would yell (in my head) when I said it.  And they would respond that we would get more done in the long run because they would be paying attention more and so on.  And I would nod and smile and think HAHAHAHA, NOOOOOO.  Well, let me tell you, it finally sunk in.  And today while my third graders were working on art, I looked up and said “OH, you’re all still here?  You were so quiet I thought you’d all left!”  I’m not gonna say it’s all hearts and flowers every minute of my day, but wow.  It feels totally different in my classroom.  And the key is moderating my voice . . . not yelling, not getting upset . . . and letting each student know that I care about them.  When they leave, I give them my good-bye sign (which is how I used to say good-bye to my own kids when they left for school) and make eye contact with each one of them.  I try to call them by name and tell them to have a good week.  I told them on our first day that my good-bye sign means “I love you (care about you), I’ll think about you while we’re apart, and I hope things are good for you until I see you again.”   I have 8 procedures for each class (if you’re interested in details, send me a message, I’m glad to share), and I shaped them from Cassie Stephens‘ routines that she shared on her podcast Everyday Art Room on The Art of Education.

I’m also streamlining my lessons.  In the past 8 years, my lessons have been willy-nilly across grade levels, covering different elements of art at different grade levels throughout the year — Line with Kindergarten, Color with 4th grade, Pattern with 2nd — all at the same time. This year, I’m covering one element per month across grade levels. This month we’re doing pattern.  I’m also doing shorter lessons.  Only seeing kiddos once a week makes big projects last FORever.  I’m not saying we’ll never do big projects, but it won’t be the norm.

Next, I’m incorporating technology in a variety of ways.  Of course, we will be making digital art.  But the thing that will make the most difference for me is that I’m going to incorporate it into our classroom as a way for kids to turn in their artwork (via Seesaw) AND have a digital portfolio parents can access, and provide formative assessments (via flipgrid), which will help me be more objective and timely in my grading.

So, watch for updates on my success or . . . learning (I don’t believe anything is a failure if we’ve learned new things from it) from these new strategies.

Now, for your enjoyment (?) I’m going to share the video I made for our school-wide beginning of the year, and beyond, project.  Join us if you want.  We were able to do this big project thanks to our local Harvey County United Way organization securing a donor to cover the costs!  How awesome is that???  Yay for people willing to support public education and the arts!!!


Posted by: keepingthemistakes | February 16, 2017

How cute are these??

This is a project I learned from my colleague Shelly one of my first years as an art teacher. I read a couple of books about princesses and princes (I like the tumble books version of “The Paper Bag Princess” read by the author, Robert Munsch, and “Princess Penelope’s Parrot” by Helen Lester), have a short lesson on and practice drawing faces, and then have them draw themselves as a prince or princess. We draw with pencil, go over with sharpie, add color, and finally real sparkling jewels. This year we are using watercolor colored pencils, one of my new loves. I also got multicultural crayons for the skintones. These are still in progress, but aren’t they awesome? I wanted to take photos of every single one. I love them all!  This is just one, of five, classes. I did use some restraint 🙂

Posted by: keepingthemistakes | February 10, 2017

It’s been awhile!

I’ve been meaning to post again for a long time. My art teacher life has changed! This year I’m a k-4 teacher, instead of k-8. And, I’m full time instead of 8/10. This makes me incredibly happy, for many reasons. First of all, as I’m sure I’ve alluded to in the past, middle school teaching is not my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved all of my students through the years, but I’m owning the fact that I don’t have the personality type that is a good middle school teacher.

I attended ISTE in Denver, and Podstock in Wichita last summer. Both technology in education conferences and I learned so much! I’m still wrapping my head around much of it and figuring out ways to use it in my classroom.

One fun thing I’ve done this year is made video tutorials for projects and used them to do a faux flipped classroom. It was awesome!! I plan to do more,and even ordered my own Hue HD camera today!! I’ll share more, including a video or two, in another post.

I have more to share, but will save it for another post soon! I’ll end with some photos of our fourth grade contour drawing/color scheme paintings.  Some got it, some didn’t, but they all tried!





Posted by: keepingthemistakes | November 12, 2015

One of those days

My title today means many things.  Thursday is almost always “one of those days” because I see 7 classes, 3 of them middle school, most of them back to back. The day just generally kicks my tail.  By the time my last class comes in my desk is covered with piles of paper, paintbrushes, projector cords, coffee mugs, and so on.  I’m tired, and they are one of my most energetic classes.  Today also brought some amazing growth in art learning and skills, though, so I’m pretty pumped about that.  I’ve been trying to incorporate choice-based art into my middle school classes.  It’s taken time for me to get my thought processes about lessons changed around, but I think I’m getting there.  Last week 7th grade started learning the basics of value and shading and 8th grade started learning various watercolor techniques.  We continued today, and next week I will give them an assignment to take what they’ve learned and do a project that is relevant to them and their interests.  I hope they will run with it.  I’m so excited about the work I’ve seen them do the last two weeks!

I’ve also started using a curriculum called “Think Art Now” with my 5th & 6th graders, and the 6th graders seemed especially excited (and loud) while working on the Matisse collage project today.  They are my last class, of the day and of the week, and their noise makes me really tired, but I’m glad they are excited about making art.

I’ve also started a new classroom management plan, because the noise and listening levels have risen and dropped respectively.  I feel like I always have to raise my voice to be heard, and I don’t like that.  I found an idea for a wall-haniging of the word “ART”, where you can flip each letter over individually when they are losing ground.  I have a game where they can earn spaces each week toward an art party, so the flipping letters (haha) are based on how many points they will earn.  If you can still read the word ART at the end of the class, they get all 3 points.  If the A is turned around, they earn 2. If the AR are turned around they earn 1, and if the whole word is turned around they earn 0.  I’m not raising my voice or giving them a warning, but just turning the letter around and hoping that those that notice will encourage the others to do what they need to do to not lose the rest.  I also asked them to make a list of classroom expectations they want and can live with, as well as consequences.  And I’m making a little notepad where I can share with the teacher how they did, how many spaces they earned, and which students struggled.  I’m hoping it helps.  Any sharing of things you’ve had success with in your classroom are welcome!  Please comment!

zentangle pumpkin

One of my co-workers has a farm and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse on mini white pumpkins, so next week we are making pumpkin decorations for Thanksgiving.  Some, maybe all, classes will be drawing on them with Sharpies, similar to the one above.  I was going to hot glue construction paper details on them to make turkeys, but when I made my example (thank goodness I tried one first) the paper wouldn’t stay on.  So, I’m kind of back to square one on that and I might just let everyone draw on them.

This week I realized I only have 4 more art classes with my students before Christmas.  What????  How did that happen, and how am I going to get all those polymer clay Christmas ornaments done?  The way time passes is crazy, that’s all I can say.

Thus ends the post of random thoughts at the end of my busiest day.  Happy weekend!

Posted by: keepingthemistakes | May 5, 2015

Counting down . . .

I’ve been an almost total failure in keeping this blog updated this school year.  Not sure what happened, but maybe it can get better.

RIght now we are in the thick of finishing up our clay unit.  Once again, I waited until the last 6 weeks of school to do clay.  Who knows why.  Every year I say I’m not going to wait until the end of the year . . . so far I’m 6 for 6 in doing so. I am getting better about planning and organizing the unit, but I still feel like I get down to the last couple of weeks and I’m scrambling to get the firings done!!!

Here are a few photos of the projects, mostly in progress.  Previous years 2nd grade has done a mammal unit and we made clay mammals.  This year they discontinued that unit so I rearranged which grades made what projects.  I’ll have to rethink next year as well, since two grades did the same project this year.  Kindergartners made texture necklaces for mother’s day

. IMAG1808

FIrst grade is making pinch pots with texture and a melted marble in the bottom of it.  Second grade made mold formed bowls using balls of clay.  Here is a photo of some of them being glazed . . . these are bowls of absent students that I was glazing after school.  I was tired, thus they are all being glazed just the same.  My creativity muscles were tired 🙂


Third and fourth grades are making a coaster/tile with a stamped design using radial balance.

Two weeks ago I took my fourth graders to the Wichita Art Museum.  This is the third year in a row we’ve been able to do this field trip!  The first year I had received a Target Field Trip grant, but the last two years we’ve been able to go because the art museum has a program that pays for buses for field trips so that makes it very doable!  Here’s my selfie with the Chihuly chandelier!


My colleagues and I planned a professional day for art making.  We had a guest artist come and teach us techniques for paper altering that we can use with our students and for our own creative growth.  Using Citra Solv, a natural cleaner, you can make really cool papers, specifically from old National Geographic magazines!  Here is an example of one of the pages I altered.  Fun stuff!  And it smells very citrusy!  Check out the Citra Solv Artist Page here.


Lastly, check out my Vimeo page.  I’ve made several movies of the iPad art my students have done this year.  (Please let me know if that link doesn’t work).

Happy last days of school!

Posted by: keepingthemistakes | February 15, 2015


There was some sort of social media campaign last week to post what you love about teaching with the above hashtag.  I have to admit that last week was incredibly busy.  We had commitments every evening, which made for long days and lots of yawning.  Also, valentine’s day.  At an elementary school.  Yeah.  Wonderful, but wow. I subbed in a 4th grade classroom Friday, and it a great day.  But wow.  The party was total chaos, but then it was time to go home 🙂

I read them the book “The Art of Miss Chew” by Patricia Polacco.  It is such a wonderful book, and the class was completely silent while I read.  When I finished, they broke into applause.  I had to stop a couple of times to hold back tears, because the story touches me so.  You should find it and read it.

I’ve been failing once again to post in a timely way, but here’s to new beginnings.  I will say that teaching art, and maybe teaching in general, gets better every year.   I keep thinking I’ll hit the summit and start down the other side, but so far I feel like I’m still climbing.  And learning a lot while I’m doing it.  I’m really hyped about information I’ve found about TAB (teaching for artistic behavior) and Dbae (Discipline based art education).  Basically, it’s teaching techniques, and then letting students come up with their own creative ideas.  I’ve found that I’m not completely comfortable with the kind of art I’ve been teaching — where we all basically make the same thing.  Each student is creative to a certain extent, and they learn the techniques and elements I’m teaching them, but there’s not much time or option for branching out and really creating their own ideas.  I think that’s important, and I’ve struggled with not allowing my students to do that.  Next year, if I still have a job (you’ve probably heard about our wonderful Governor and his support <cough,cough> of education in the great state of Kansas), I’m going to have a TAB/Dbae classroom.  I’m pumped about it.  I’ve already started doing some things with these methods, and it will take some getting used to for me and my students as well!

Since I like posts with photos or videos, I’m going to try to embed a video I made using collaborative art my students made for the Martin Luther King, Jr. community celebration in January.

<p><a href=”″>MLK Movie</a> from <a href=”″>Beth Burns</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>



Posted by: keepingthemistakes | November 12, 2014

This week

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the learning that goes on in an art room.  It’s about art, but it’s also about math, language arts, science, and life. I’ve been feeling like the arts get lots of lip service about other discipline areas seeing the value, but when push comes to shove, the arts almost always end up with the short end of the stick.  I decided to make a list of the things besides art that I’ve taught in my classroom so far this week.

  • Simple chemistry /color mixing
  • Patterns (math)
  • Wiritng/Vocabulary — writing artist statements
  • Social Studies — learning about folk artists
  • Symmetry
  • Prediction (reading a story and predicting with illustrations what is going to happen next)

That’s a short list.  And then there are all the life lessons — trying and allowing yourself to do it wrong so you know how to do it better next time.  And then there’s this

the arts + the brain

And my new word wall!!!

IMAG1123I really believe in this.  I hope we can work to increase the arts in our schools.

Posted by: keepingthemistakes | November 11, 2014

Whoa, seriously?

I just had a pretty long post written and I lost it.  Yikes.  I had covered teaching methods, classroom management, importance of art education.  Wow.  And now it’s all gone, and I’m running out of steam.  I’ll try for it another day.  In a nutshell, I feel like my teaching methods continue to improve, I think art ed. is just as important as regular ed., an I think the art experience needs to be different than the regular classroom experience.

I had also noted a great iPad project I started with 4th grade.  They are writing artist statements and putting them with a manipulated photo self-portrait.  I gave them some prompts/sentence starters, and showed them some that 5th graders had written at another school.  Then, they wrote their own — they shared them at their tables (Kagan style) and then had the option of sharing with the whole class.  Their statements literally brought tears to my eyes. Here are a few gems:

Art is a journey waiting to happen.
Art makes me feel good about myself!
Art is a nice and fun way to change your bad mood.
Art makes me feel like myself.
Art makes me feel confident of myself and happy.
Art is my passion. Art is who I am inside.
When I create art it makes me strong.
When I create art I create life.

Many of my students are English Language Learners, so their use of vocabulary speaks so highly of their classroom teachers!!!  Moments like these are what keep me going some days!

And I’ll end for today with a few photos of projects done this fall. One of my schools has a Fall Fun Night around Halloween and they usually ask me to do art to decorate.  These are the projects we did.


6th  grade, different perspective of an autumn tree





5th Grade Zentangle Pumpkins



3rd Grade Line/Pattern Leaves




2nd Grade Oil Pastel Pumpkins




1st Grade Texture Pumpkins



Kindergarten Q-tip Autumn Trees


8th Grade Autumn Printmaking



7th Grade Chalk/Oil Pastel Batik





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