Forts & A Summer Read-A-Thon

As the summer reading program at the library comes to a close this weekend we needed a Read-a-thon for a final push to get us to our goal.  The “little guys” had a goal of 100 books and my eldest daughter needed 20. My goal was four books, because it was for the gas card; which we all made our goal.

group photosFor our read-a-thon the older girls (13-15 years) built a structure outside to house our reading event.  It took them about 45 minutes to build the structure for all of them to fit (4 teenage girls, three younger siblings).  We used four kits (Discovery Kids 72-piece build and play construction for set), sheets, laundry clips, pillows, and blankets. This made it very comfy.

I did not tell them how to put it together.  I was having them explore how to put the fort together.   My only requirement was it all needed to connect together (I only had a few sheets).

This was the outcome:

  • They worked together and compromised
  • They communicated
  • They shared
  • Problem solved when they ran out of pieces but still need the structure to stand
  • Helped each other out
  • Learned what worked and what didn’t (there were failures)

It is important in education to let students explore because, “One advantages of the exploration phase is that it provides students with a shared experience” (1).  The girls learned how to build a fort using the materials and they were excited when they were done.

Afterwards, they read in the fort all morning long (2 hours).  The benefits of having the girls spend a solid chunk of time reading were:

  • Having time to dive into a book and have no to limited interruptions
  • Getting to read whatever book you want
  • Promoting reading at their own pace and their level
  • Having natural discussions about their choice of books (not teacher directed)

Then of course there were the cookies and water that were provided.  This is a must for keeping teenage girls going.  There were also animals crackers involved.

After lunch (in the fort) the girls played Spot It and Go Fish. This was a fun way to finish up the afternoon before taking down the fort (15 minutes).

The girls really enjoyed the chance to build their fort and to read. They look forward to doing this again.  Please enjoy our video.



Mrs. Berry

1.    UTAustinX: UT.IITL.11.01x Classroom Strategies for Inquiry-Based Learning

Berry-Fantastic Art Making

Christy Berry

Strawberry by Christy Berry

There is an upcoming strawberry festival in the town next to us this weekend and we are excited to go.  Of course there are lots and lots of strawberries to purchase; it has been a very good year.  Our small berry patch has given us many tasty treats; however, not enough to freeze and make our pies.  We also go for all the arts, crafts, and entertainment.

So this past week I have had my eldest daughter and her friends, along with my middle daughter create strawberry paintings.  They were so focus you could hear a pin drop.  First time all week they were quite.  A couple of days ago we observed strawberries. One of the friends had never eaten a strawberry before.  I asked her mom and she said it was ok for her to try it. I didn’t want and food allergies to emerge all of a sudden. She took tiny bits and thought it was good.

All of them learned about runners and how to take pictures.  They then sketched out their ideas first and practiced.  Today they drew out their plans, applied sharpies and paint.  They also reflected on the processes.  They had a blast making their strawberry paintings.  My six year old was first to be done but she stayed focused for more than an hour; this was her second painting.

For anybody who would like purchase a copy of this lesson actually geared in a classroom setting click here.

Enjoy our Berry Art Video!


Mrs. Berry

Summer Adventure 2016

It’s the beautiful time of the year when students stay home and parents have their turn.  Well, I’m a parent and I had an idea wiggle into my brain that I would have my daughter and her friends read, do a bit of math, and art projects.  Well, today was day one.  I think I already need a nap.

The day started off early when my daughter’s friends showed up an hour early.  Yep and hour early.  Ok, so we were still in our jammies and needed to get dressed and eat breakfast.

The first thing I had the girls do was to put their names on their workbooks.  We also went over the calendar. There will be three months of dedicated sleepovers, movie nights, reading, math, practicing of band instruments (I should probably apologize to the neighbors in advance), science experiments, gardening, theater/zoo/museum visits, and lots of art projects.

Summer Reading

Summer Reading

So today was actually the first day of sign up at the library for their reading program.  It’s free; so that is what we did.  We signed up in our respected grade levels.  My daughter is going for 20 books in six weeks, and the other three will have 100.  Granted that means I’m reading 100 children’s books.  We will be busy.

Afterwards, we headed home and had lunch and read a bit.  After the little ones went down for a nap we headed outside and started to tie-dye shirts.  The girls had a blast.


Tie-Dye Mania

Tye-Dye Shirts

Basic Steps for unpredictable results

  1. Get a t-shirt in your size and tie-dye kit
  2. Fold, wrinkle, ball up your shirt (we just go for it)
  3. Put rubber bands around the shirt to hold your folds
  4. Put gloves on (use the rubber bands in the kits like a bracelet to hold the gloves on so it doesn’t slip-make sure it’s not too tight)
  5. Sometimes it helps to have ones for the feet too-it takes about a week to come off skin
  6. Add water to the dye bottle and shake
  7. Apply dye to shirt
  8. Wrap in Saran-wrap and let it sit for 6-8 hours
  9. Spay with garden hose to get extra dye off
  10. Rinse in large bucket to get extra dye off
  11. Unwrap rubber bands
  12. Rinse again to get more extra dye off
  13. Wash separate from other clothing to get extra dye off
  14. Dry
  15. Finally wear your amazing shirt

We have done tie-dye shirts at the beginning of summer so we can wear them all summer long.  This year they are doing them so I can keep track of them when we go somewhere.


Mrs. Berry

Differentiated Instruction using Schoology

Screenshot 2016-01-17 at 10.43.15 PMWell, it is a new year.  I have been very busy with family and working.  Mostly, my comics class has taken a ton time.  But now that I’m pretty much done building the content I can focus on the other teacher stuff.  Tomorrow I am presenting a portion of what I have been doing in my classroom the first half of the year for our school’s PD technology day.  I used Screencastify to record my presentation on using differentiated instruction.  I also wanted to practice before getting in front of the other teachers.  There is a difference between being in front of your students and being in front of your peers.

I’m not going to lie, what I did took a ton of work.  But it is beneficial to my students.  It’s also not 100% free from errors.  I’m going to tackle those this summer.  I have two videos here; part A is 10 minutes and part B is around 6.  It’s a 45 minute presentation. What am I going to do with the rest of the time? I’m going to add a bit of stuff, like practice.  Yep, practice.

Anyways, for those who have not used Schoology in the classroom it’s a great tool.  I use it in all my classes.  For my comics class I use it for reading articles, watching videos, and discussions.  I also have a link of approved comic websites, games, etc. for my students to utilize.

Without further ado here are the two videos.

If you have any questions or comments about using differentiated instruction or how it could be applied to other content areas write me below.


Mrs. Berry

Folders and Cups

My row of table baskets.

My row of table baskets.

I spent most of my day putting together my table folders and supplies. Something that I am using this year is setting up groups. Something that I have struggled against is time. Not enough time to set up clean up and then have the next group come in and be ready. Even though I am at a middle school; I’m using a technique I used as an elementary art teacher:

I will have a folder for each table group for each class. I have a large poster board paper that I folded in half and then taped the size. I have used teacher rolled paper (very thin) before and it doesn’t last as long (one about a year). Each folder will have a smaller folder for each middle school student (they make their own.) six classes x 8 table groups = 48 folders (these will last a while and I won’t need to do this many next year). Each class is labeled by their hour and then their table name.

I also went to the Dollar store and picked up baskets for each table group. What is slick about this year is that I labeled everything with the table name. I also included fun facts about the artist on the glass to hold the markers, and quotes from three quotes from artist on the crayon holder. This took some time. I did use a black sharpie marker. If I made a mistake I would just use a dry erase marker to fix it.

IMG_9405Here are the artists I used for my table groups. I picked these because they are my favorites.

  • Stan Lee
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Ansel Adams
  • Chuck Close
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Faith Ringgold
  • Sandy Skoglund

IMG_9404Then on each cup I included the following:

  • Date of Birth
  • Place of Birth
  • Country
  • Death (If they had died I put a date; otherwise, it is blank.)
  • 3-4 fun facts about the artist

I am going to be using these cups as time fillers. For example, if I have two extra minutes (which is rarity, we work up to the last second)I will ask the class questions about an artist and say…”which artist was born on….?” That group will get to line up first. I’m in the basement and they want to be first up those stairs. It’s a big deal.

A couple of reasons to put fun facts on the cups:

  • Student will read about their artist and not even know they are finding out information
  • Students will be reading (a sneaky way to incorporate literacy)
  • Students will learn something new
  • It is something different

It took a good three hours to put together the folders and table supplies. By having the baskets it will save time for set up and clean up.


Mrs. Berry

So it begins…..


My view when I first opened my classroom door.

Well, I’ve started to set up my classroom. It will take about two weeks to get it set. This fall, I am teaching six art classes to 6th-8th grade students. I have a nice normal schedule and I am very happy. I am teaching two Art 1 classes, two Comics classes, and 2 Design classes. This is the first time that I’m not pregnant at the beginning of the school year for this school. I am able to a lot more than what I have done in the past. Each time I go into my room, I’m spending around 4-6 hours organizing and setting up. The first day, I moved furniture. I am going with groups of four this year because I plan on having a lot more group work due to the training this summer. I had two great days of PD that were actually helpful to my class. Students will be going one to one devices sometime this fall. All my students will have Chromebooks. I have also router in my room, remember I’m in the basement. There is no signal.


After I moved furniture.

So after moving the desks where I wanted them I moved the old library shelves (pretty much all the stuff in my room has been pieced together from everywhere in the district). On the first day I cut cardboard to fit across the shelves. I save the boxes that paper comes in every year. You never know when it will come in handy. And on that day it did.

IMG_9395 IMG_9397 IMG_9398I also updated my set of classroom expectations and turned it into a painting. I painted two saying above my sink to help remind students what to do while at the sink. I painted them on my whiteboards with acrylic paint. (I picked this up at Home Depot. It’s a shower backing that they cut into 12” by 12” boards.) That way if I ever want to change it I can.


Picture sorting. So many to choose from.

The second day that I went in I started to hang posters. Something that I did last year, that made hanging artwork up easier this year was Velcro. This is slicker than snot. It costs a bit up front but then I don’t worry about putting holes into my walls or stuff falling down. I also don’t need to worry about tape on the front and back. I just put it up. It works well as long as I can remember which poster goes where.IMG_9390IMG_9391

I still have much to do to get my room ready. Enjoy the rest of your summer!


Mrs. Berry

Artist Trading Cards

front of cardWell, it’s has been a busy summer.  I have been having many adventures with my family.  I know I said, I would write posts.  It’s been a very busy summer.  As school is just right around the corner I have started to write lesson plans.  Yes, I know it’s a month away.  It will be here soon than you know.  One of the lessons that I plan on using this fall is one called artist trading cards.  A couple of years ago I participated in the first Grumbacher trading cards. Click here link to the post about it. I won and received some cool stuff.  They are currently on their 39th swap.

So I thought way not have a swap with another school.  I asked a fellow art teacher and she agreed to swap cards for our sixth grade students.  Rock on!  So I sat down a wrote my lesson.  I wanted to change my element of art lesson up a bit and have students do a bit of investigating line.  I also went to a 2 day PD where the focus was having students transition from teacher led student led. It was a great workshop. Since this is one of the first lessons of the year there is a bit more teacher guidance to help students develop anatomy.

So here is the simple version of my lesson

  1. Students find images 15-20 with line as the focus asking questions about their finds
    1. Is this a line and how to I know it’s a line?
    2. How do I know it is different from other lines that I have found?
  2. Students create a plan and receive feedback from classmates
    1. How does my artist trading card use lines?
    2. Do I have enough lines (10 or more)?
    3. Did I use neatness and craftsmanship?
  3.  Student create card
  4. Students receive feedback from classmates
    1. How does my artist trading card use lines?
    2. Do I have enough lines (10 or more)?
    3. Did I use neatness and craftsmanship?
  5. Turn in the project

I have the full version on my Artist Trading Cards: Line.  Here is a description of the lesson.

Students are always showing off their artwork and creating drawings for each other. This lesson uses that motivation by having students create artist trading cards. Specifically, this lesson has students use line in their trading card. The assessments and objectives are geared towards grade 6. However, this could be used at any grade level.

When you purchase this lesson you will receive an electronic file that includes National/Michigan/Common Core benchmarks addressed in the lesson, assessment, materials list, teacher example, step-by-step instructions, accommodation suggestions, vocabulary word cut outs, and student handout with directions/rubric.

If anybody is interested in trading cards with seventh or eighth grade students please let me know.


Mrs. Berry

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