What is Art Journaling? Ideas for Middle School Students

An art journal is a journal in which you combine art and words to express yourself. That’s it. It’s not complex, and there really aren’t any rules for art journaling. It’s all about self-expression.

Art journaling has a long-standing artistic tradition. Artists through the centuries have kept notebooks in which they sketched, practiced, experimented, and recorded themselves. Vincent vanGogh kept notebooks (and he used moleskins!). Picasso and DaVinci were two other prolific sketchbook keepers. You are in good company! If you feel like exploring famous and not-so-famous artists’ sketchbooks, go to Artists’ Sketchbooks Online.

Today, artist’s journals are illustrated journals on any theme or combination thereof. It can be a record of your daily thoughts, a travel journal, an exercise or diet diary, a dream journal, a place where you jot down your goals, a to-do lists, or almost any record that you’d like to keep.What is Art Journaling? @EvaVarga.net

Art Journal Themes

There are many different types of art journals. Ones revealing travel adventures, ones for writing and drawing about everyday life, ones that mark certain life events or struggles. The following are just a few ideas for themes.

  • Looking Inward – who am I as an artist, citizen of my country, student, sister, brother, etc.
  • My Favorite Things – paint or draw all of your favorite things like a warm cup of cocoa, jumping in the lake on a hot day, etc.
  • My Favorite Quotes – paint your favorite quote, poem, Bible verse and use some of the words in the art.
  • Seasonal Journals – pick a season and journal all things of that time of year.
  • Gratitude Journal – a simple expression of what you are grateful for each day coupled with a quick sketch
  • Emotions Journal – a specific journal to express ones emotions through art.
  • Reading Journal – record impressions of thoughts or short reviews of books that you have recently read.
  • Today I Know – coupling lots of journaling with doodling, sketching, and collage, this journal format is fabulous for reflecting on what you’ve learned or discovered each day.

Journaling, as part of a school curriculum, strengthens and refines students’ cognitive skills by teaching them to observe, to become aware of what they have observed with all of their senses, and, to exercise their imaginations and critical skills through developing hypotheses to explain what has been observed. Using a journal allows students a place to record and preserve what has been seen, done, and thought in the course of her work.

What is Art Journaling? @EvaVarga.netIntegrated Curriculum

Art journaling is also a great way to integrate art into your language arts and science curriculum. The journals can become a place for creative writing and personal reflections. If you encourage students to write personal material in the journals as in a diary, you can give them the option of folding a page over on itself to indicate that the contents underneath are something that they are not yet ready to share. If they later decide that they do want you to look at the page, they can unfold it and let you know.

In our homeschool, we predominately use our art journals as a method of trying new art techniques or media. However, we also use it as a reading journal, creating a visual or artistic impression of books we’ve read.

Art & Writing Prompts

Student writing will often naturally lend itself to creative expressions of art. Here a just a few ideas to get you started.

  • What do the characters in the book we just read look like in your mind?
  • Imagine a future in which we each have a personalized robot servant. What would yours be like? What would it do? What features would it have? Use both words and pictures to describe your robot.
  • What road-trip would you take if you suddenly could? Write about it. Sketch a picture of what you might see.
  • Choose a favorite quote. What images does it bring to mind?
  • Write a description of something very dark (like a crow) in a very light place (like a field of snow).  Make the dark thing seem innocent and the light thing seem ominous.
  • Pick two characters from different books you’ve read this year. What would they say to each other? What would they do – go for a walk, enjoy a meal, or ?

Follow Michelle Cannon’s board Art Journaling on Pinterest.

Curriculum Plans for 2015-16 (8th and 6th grade)

This upcoming school year promises many new challenges and experiences for us. We are very excited to be moving back to Oregon, more specifically to the southern coast where Patrick and I both grew up.

While we will be surrounded by family, the transition will not be without obstacles. The homeschool community is much, much smaller compared to the previous two communities in which we have lived (Bend, Oregon and Redding, California). Therefore establishing connections may require a little more effort on my part.Our Curriculum Choices @EvaVarga.net

Geneva will be entering 8th grade this fall while Jeffrey will begin 6th grade. I will continue to teach the same material to them both. Their skills are relatively equal in most areas so as a homeschool mom of two – it works. Best of all, it requires less planning on my part.

Science & Nature Study

These past couple of years, I have been coordinating STEM Club for our local homeschool community. With our move, I have decided to step back from this for awhile and see what opportunities are available. My daughter has also expressed interest in volunteering at the local interpretive center as well as initiating a long-term study of the impact of invasive turtles on the local ecosystem.

As we will be living on the Oregon coast, the ecology is significantly different than that of the High Desert or the Central Valley and Cascade Foothills of Northern California. I am very excited to explore the area more in-depth with the kids. We will thereby be resuming our regular nature studies in conjunction with Barb’s monthly Outdoor Hour Challenges at Handbook of Nature Study.

Both kiddos have asked to learn more about astronomy so I will be putting together lesson plans and projects to follow their interests. Thus while I will continue to develop my own curriculum for science, we will be engaging in lessons independently rather than with a small group of other homeschoolers. I will also be require more reading of each of the kids. I will be using CK-12 Life Science and CK-12 Earth Science in addition to other free science curriculum I’ve found. 

Math

Life of Fred has been working very well for us since we transitioned from Singapore 6B a couple of years ago. Jeffrey is presently in the middle of  Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology. Geneva is using Advanced Algebra. When they struggle with a concept, we have used Khan Academy.

One of the biggest benefits of our move is being close to family. Patrick’s uncle is a retired high school math teacher. We will be reaching out to him in hopes of meeting once every couple of weeks to go over their assignments. This will be a huge relief for me as I always struggled with algebra myself. Additionally, we will be looking into the possibility of concurrent enrollment for math at the local community college.

Language Arts

Writing

As the summer was just getting started, we started using Cover Story which I had purchased at a discount from Homeschool Buyers Co-op. Cover Story takes middle school students – 6th through 8th grade – on a guided tour through the process of creating the content for their own magazine. In a single school year, students are led, step by step, on a fun, thought-provoking journey of exploration and creation. They write poems, short stories, non-fiction articles, letters, and many other short pieces. We’ve only just begun (having completed the first three weeks) but we look forward to jumping back in when the dust settles from our move. { Homeschool Buyers Co-op will again offer a GroupBuy savings for Cover Story on 07-27-2015. Save up to 20%. }

Literature

We utilized a few Brave Writer Boomerang single issues a bit last year. We liked it but I just didn’t follow through and plan ahead as I should have. I know I need to do better. My goal therefore is to create a plan or a list of books for each of the kids for the upcoming school year. I will be sharing more details on this when I’ve mapped it out better.

We will also begin an in depth study of the history of English utilizing King Alfred’s English.  This unique combination study of both English and history will provide a look at words, grammar, Shakespeare, the Bible, and language. The supplemental activities and materials (including primary sources!) provided on the website will help guide us – we are very excited to explore our language from this perspective.

Our Curriculum Choices: Mandarin @EvaVarga.net

Foreign Language

Fluency in a foreign language is very important to me. My daughter expressed her interest in learning Chinese when we were just beginning our homeschool journey so that is the path we have followed ever since. I have shared a little about How I Teach Mandarin previously. Though Shawn has moved across the country, we have had success with continuing our Mandarin language instruction via Skype or FaceTime.

We will continue to use Discovering Chinese Pro, the middle school curriculum developed by Better ChineseOur Road to Mandarin Fluency has been very rewarding as we’ve been able to travel to China as well as make life long friends. We have taken some time off these past couple months as Shawn was traveling back home to China, conflicts with summer camp, and soon our travels abroad. We plan to resume our regular twice a week sessions come late September.

At summer camp, the kids are learning Norwegian. I would really like to continue incorporating our ancestral language into our weekly lessons but I always slip up. Perhaps our move will ensure I stick with it. We shall see.

History & Geography

We love to travel and like most, we learn best by immersion and first-hand experiences. Thus, to really understand the history of ancient Greece and Rome (our focus this past year has been ancient times), we will be traveling abroad with Trafalgar. We will first spend ten days in Italy (Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Assisi, and the Italian Lakes) followed by Athens and the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. I will be sharing snippets of our trip along the way via Instagram and I’ll post more in-depth travel posts soon.

To prepare for our trip, we have been moving very slowly through Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World. We are only half-way through the book so we’ll continue to work through it upon our return. Hopefully, by January we will move on to the medieval times. So much for my original plan of following a four year cycle; it takes us 6 years!   How We Use North Star Geography @EvaVarga.netAdditionally, we will continue to incorporate activities from North Star Geography. Designed specifically for middle and high school ages, it is an engaging Geography curriculum. We are excited to continue with this program and will be creating our own world atlases (one of the many projects described in the companion guide).

Performing Arts

The kids are both adamant they want to continue to study music. I am confidant we will be able to find a piano instructor for Jeffrey. I am a little apprehensive for Geneva, however. The preliminary leg work I have done thus far has only generated one name and she is only available intermittently for one year as she is a graduate student and will be relocating at the end of the school year.

The community has a great lab band but there is youth symphony is not an option. I’ll have to reach out to the local schools to inquire whether they accept string instruments.

big book homeschool ideasThe Big Book of Homeschooling

To get tons of great advice, and move beyond the basics of academics, pick up a copy of The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Topics include active learning, inquiry science in middle school, learning with video games, using LEGO bricks for learning, teaching on the road, learning with movies, high school literature, and stamp collecting.

This book can carry you through all your years of homeschooling, covering the stages your children will mature through: preschoolers, elementary grades, middle school, and high school. As your life situation changes, you will find new chapters that apply to you. You can view the full table of contents to see all 103 topics!

 

Our Homeschool Planner

Working from home as well as homeschooling my kids requires me to be organized. As I have every year for the past six years, I will be using the Well Planned Day homeschool planner. I have tried a few others when we first began homeschool and I have perused others, yet I keep coming back to this one. It just works for me.

I love that it provides templates for meal planning as well as keeping track of the books the kids have read and an ongoing record of their grades. They have student planners available as well but my kiddos prefer that I send them an email each week. They thereby create a note on their iPad and delete each assignment as they go.

This post has been linked to the 2015 Not Back to School Hop.  Join the fun!

Soils Support Agriculture: Ideas to Integrate Writing

This month’s International Year of Soils theme is Soils Support Agriculture. The soil is the ultimate source of nutrients our bodies need. The vitamins and minerals that are a necessary part of our diet come from plants that have, in turn, gotten those same vitamins and minerals from the soil. Soils support agriculture by serving as the foundation of where we grow food.

soilssupportagWriting Contest

Each year, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom sponsors a writing contest for youth. Their goal is to promote reading, writing and the arts, while also furthering the understanding of agriculture in our lives.

As a part of our Writer’s Workshop, I encouraged all of my students to submit an entry. Much to our delight, we recently learned that my son’s story was selected as a regional winner.

Papa’s Oranges

The young boy looked out the window and could see nothing but trees for as far as he could see. He knew he wasn’t at home. He glanced at the clock next to the bed, it was 7:00 a.m. The only thing he remembered was that he fell asleep in the car going to visit his papa. “I guess this is it,” the boy said to himself.

Every tree he could see was covered with oranges. His mom had said that his papa had a large orchard so he guessed this was his house. He jumped out of bed, threw on his shoes, and ran outside. “Mom, Dad, and Papa must not be up yet,” he thought.

He kept running until he could not see the house very well. He reached up and picked one of the oranges. He peeled it, the juice overwhelmed his taste buds. He wiped his face with his sleeve as the juice dripped down his chin.

“Is it good?” asked someone from behind him.

The boy jumped in surprise. “Yes, very.” The boy noticed it was his grandfather. “I thought you were asleep!” the boy cried.

“Well I am going for a walk. Would you like to join?” asked his grandfather.

“It would be my pleasure.”

They started walking even further into the orchard. Only then the boy saw what his papa was wearing. He had on a brown Fedora that was placed a little back on his head. He wore a tan shirt with a weathered leather jacket, long brown pants, and for some reason a whip was coiled on his hip.

“What’s that for?” the boy asked, pointing.

“Oh, my whip? It’s for Yankees – people that poison trees and pick all the fruit,” his papa answered with a grin.

They boy asked more questions as they continued to walk. “When I was pealing the orange, why was it so hard?”

“Well, you were in the juvenile patch so the orange peels are thicker. Those trees can grow to be 20 to 30 feet tall. Orange trees can bear fruit they reach their full height. Right ahead of us is the mature patch,” answered his papa.

As they continued to walk, his papa kept on talking about how the oranges grow. “I grow two kinds of oranges. Washington navels for an early season harvest and Valencia for a later season harvest.”

“How do you know when to harvest them?” the boy asked.

“Oranges develop their sweetness over time on the tree. I like to taste them each week. That’s how I know they are ready.”

“I love oranges, Papa. I like helping you, too.”

“I was thinking that when I retire you could take over,” his papa said as they returned to the house.

“You are joking!” the boy said disbelievingly.

“No, I am not. Are you interested?”

“Yes!!” the boy yelled.

“I thought you would like to have it.”

The boy then ran inside to tell his parents.

Lesson Plans

The Chemistry of Fertilizers – California Foundation AITC ~ Hands-on experiments, activities, practice problems, discussions and writing assignments are incorporated as students learn to break compounds into ions, make a fertilizer and test several fertilizers for phosphate content.

Chemistry in Plant Nutrition and Growth – Alaska AITC ~ Lesson plan with information, tables, diagrams, and questions about plant nutrients in soil.

Soil Sam – Illinois AITC ~ Students make a “Soil Sam” with a baby food jar to hold the soil and grass seeds planted to grow “hair”. Includes suggested additions to learn about fertilizers.

Writer’s Workshop: Art Journaling

Art Journaling has been a huge hit in our weekly Writer’s Workshop. An art journal is much like a diary. Anyone can make an art journal. The only difference is how you use it. You can use it like a diary every day, like a comic book of your life, things that happened to you, or just do sketches of interesting or memorable moments from your day or week.

In Writer’s Workshop, we have been using it as a means to express ourselves with words as well as with art. We create lists, include excerpts from books, and collages of words that have meaning to us as individuals. They become “art journals” when we add any kind of illustration or embellishment to the pages.

GIAmAs we were first getting started with art journaling a few weeks ago, I selected the prompt “A few things about yourself” as our first assignment for the new year.

I first asked the students to create a watercolor wash as the background. In the center, they were asked to write in bold lettering, “I Am”.  Thereafter they were instructed to glue down words they cut from a newspaper or magazine that they felt described them as individuals to create something of a collage. I love the artistic details of the page pictured above.

We don’t always have time during workshop to complete the art journal page. I thereby instruct them to finish them at home as homework.

Some students didn’t have access to print material that they could cut apart at home so they chose to write out descriptive words in pen. I just love how she has her words going around in a circle.

JIAm

The kids have really enjoyed the art journaling lessons and writing explorations. Here are few of the lessons we have completed previously.

There are dozens of articles about artists’ journals and how to create and keep your own art journal. As I find ideas and inspiration, I pin them to a collaborative Pinterest board that Michelle Cannon recently started, Art Journaling. You will also find tips for success pinned here as well as links to mixed media journals and other useful supplies.

Follow Michelle Cannon’s board Art Journaling on Pinterest.

Writer’s Workshop: Heart Mapping

Sometimes coming up with topics and things to write about can be difficult. In Writer’s Workshop this month, we talked about where our writing ideas come from.

When you put your thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper you are opening yourself up to whoever reads your writing. You are letting readers see into your heart. That is where a lot of your ideas can come from – your heart. Real authors also use their hearts to help them decide what they want to write about as well. Authors think about special people, places, and things that are close to their hearts to help them write their own stories.
image
A heart map is a visual representation of your heart, displaying topics that live there; these topics are ones we show passion for and find interesting if we are reading or writing about them.

Your heart map is for you, to help you discover your inner vision and your own unique voice that derives from your unique experiences and passions.

Begin by asking students to think about the things and people that are important to them. Go around the circle and allow each student to share one thing that is in their heart – one thing that is special or important to them.

Share samples of student heart mapping you’ve found online or demonstrate the process of creating your own heart map.

Use these guiding questions to help students uncover what is in their heart. The questions are to help students think about what is important to them and what they may want to include.

  • What has stayed in your heart?
  • What has really affected your heart?
  • What people have been important to you? Are they friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, teachers, and other people?
  • What are some experiences or central events that you will never forget?
  • What special moments stand out to you?
  • What happy or sad memories do you have?
  • What secrets have you kept in your heart?
  • What small things or objects are important to you – a tree in your backyard, a trophy, a stuffed animal… ?
  • What places, books, fears, scars, journeys, dreams, relationships, animals, comforts, and learning experiences do you hold in your heart?
  • Should some things be outside of the heart and some inside of it?
  • Do you want to draw more than one heart – good and bad; happy and sad; secret and open – and include different things inside each heart?
  • Do different colors represent different emotions, events, relationships?
  • What’s at the center of your heart? around the edges?

heartmapjOnce you have considered these questions, encourage students to begin their own heart map.  They may wish to draw a rough draft and then a final copy into their art journal after they have made any revisions.

Draw a large heart on your paper. In the center of your heart, place the most important person, place, or thing. Then, work your way out using specific words in each section. Verbalize each section as you’re placing it on your map (e.g., “My brother and I go to heritage camp in the summer. I’m going to write ‘Heritage Camp’ in my heart since I have so many memories of camp.”)

Tips: Take your time – possibly taking a break to give your long-term memory time to do its work. Do not worry too much about the illustrations, but do take care with the contents of your heart, filling your heart map with as much personal meaning as you can.

Encourage students to color in sections of their heart (e.g., they might want to color code it: purple for people, green for places, blue for things, yellow for ideas) once they’ve filled in all of the sections.

When a student runs out of ideas for his next story, he can re-visit his heart map to find an appropriate topic. The heart map has become the single best idea I’ve ever seen for keeping students from saying, “I don’t know what to write about.”

Writer’s Workshop: Blackout Poetry

In the month of November, we read Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief for book club.  When we gathered for Writer’s Workshop, I gave each student a Percy Jackson word search puzzle. For about 2 to 3 minutes, they were allowed to find as many words as possible. This was a great segue to our lesson on Blackout Poetry.
Gblackout
Blackout poetry focuses on rearranging words to create a different meaning. Also known as newspaper blackout poetry, the author uses a permanent marker to cross out or eliminate whatever words or images she sees as unnecessary or irrelevant to the effect she’s seeking to create. The central idea is to devise a completely new text from previously published words and images, which the reader is free to interpret as desired.

Austin Kleon is the person who is credited with first creating this process. He has even published a best selling book with these types of poems, Newspaper Blackout.
Lblackout
When you are starting out with black out poetry do not read the article as you normally would. Look at the words as raw material. See the words as tools to be manipulated. You may toggle between two articles or remain within one. Your creation does not have to relate to the original article in anyway. You should take the authors words and twist them in to your very own creation. You are making fiction out of nonfiction.

Tip: Do not linger over one article for too long. If an article does not spark inspiration MOVE ON!

Kblackout
The kids had a great time creating their own black out poems.  My daughter has even dedicated a book with which to use specifically for this style of writing.

Have you explored this style of poetry yourself or with your children? Share your work in the comments!