Professional Practice

Beginning Options for Distance Learning (Ep. 134)

Our teaching is in a state of upheaval right now, and we are all looking for ideas to get started with distance learning. In today’s episode, join Nic as she shares some of her best ideas for lessons and ways to connect with your students.   Full Episode Transcript Below.

Resources and Links


Nic: As we enter these extremely odd times with this COVID-19 situation going on, I wanted to talk a little bit about what are some different options that we can offer to our students as they’re doing distance learning. This is something globally teachers have been dealing with for a longer period than most of us in the United States. I am seeing absolute community gathering of art teachers online just saying, “What can we do? Let’s work together, send out as many lessons as you have. What should we be asking our students?” There’s just some really great, rich conversations happening right now in our community. So today, I wanted to just take a moment to talk about possibilities of things that you could ask your students to do revolving around one question, “What do they have?” What do our students have at home that they can use for creative endeavors and assignments and challenges that we might give to them so that they can continue to be creative beings outside of our classroom and as they are learning at home. This is your host Nic Hahn, and this is Everyday Art Room.

When I was thinking lessons that I could present to my students for distance learning, my first thought was, “What do they have? What do they have at home already and what could they use that they have at home?” When I think about my own home, I realized that my home is not similar to probably most of my students’ homes. I have everything under the sun for my students, my children to use as well as myself. So I have paint and I have glue and I have it all, but I realized that not all families have this at home. So I started just breaking it down, “What do I think families have at home that my students can utilize for their creative endeavors while learning at home or at distance learning?” One thing that I thought that most students are going to have is paper and a pencil.

We might luck out in most households with crayons of some sort or colored pencils or markers, something to add color to these pencil drawings that I would be requiring. So, that brings me to a lesson that I was actually currently working with my students on as we switched over to distance learning. I was doing a continuous line project. In the past I had done continuous line owls with my students and it was a huge success. I wanted to revamp that lesson a little bit and so here in the spring I decided to start kind of experimenting with different animals to do continuous line with and I discovered a rabbit that I was really, really happy with. I broke it down into steps and I was able to teach my students this continuous line project with this rabbit that I had developed.

Now, I am sharing this on my blog so you have the video and I won’t have all the students’ final results because we were interrupted halfway through, but what I like about continuous line is that it allows students to try drawing in a new way, a new challenging way and it’s engaging.

I was doing this with third grade and as soon as I started explaining that my is going to go down on my paper and it’s not going to be lifted until I get done with the entire drawing, one student said to me right away, “Oh yeah, that’s like cursive.” Well, it made me realize that, “Yeah, it is exactly like cursive. Why after 40 some years did I not connect those two?” Anyways, it was a wonderful correlation between what they were learning in their classrooms and what I was teaching them with art continuous line and cursive. I explained how to draw this rabbit and I’ll do this verbally, but please hop on to the links that are down below and find the video that you could share with your students of how to do this continuous line rabbit. I started from the base and I went halfway up my page with an oval, then, continuous lines, so my pencil remains down I went up and did a loop for the ear, a loop for the ear, and then down at the bottom a loop for the nose.

I repeated these ear, ear, nose two times. Then I did the infinity symbol right through where the nose and the mouth were, so there was a curve that took place between the nose and the mouth from the loop that we created, so I did this infinity sign back and forth about three times. When I was done with that, I continued my line, so I did not pick up my pencil, made my two eyes with little scribbles and then to each side of the cheek I went in with some whiskers. Now that was the end of my drawing and I explained to my students that there was so many different ways that you could finish this artwork. We could use colored pencil, we could use paints, we could use markers, and that was really interesting to the students because they could really go in any direction.

If it was interesting to my students in the classroom, I know having those opportunities and those different outlets for them to use whatever they have available to them, whether it be the paints that we have in our classroom or just a pencil and showing some different shades of maybe shading that contour line in, whatever they have available they can use for this project. That’s one reason I thought this would be a good one to bring to distance learning. I also had my students, when they were doing it in my classroom, they had to create this eight times as practice before they started on their final. So we divided our sketchbook page into fourths and then the first time they were able to lift their pencil. So we did this continuous line rabbit together step-by-step, watching the video, pausing it, lifting our pencil, looking at what we were doing in order to learn the gestures they had to make.

The next challenge on the second practice was to keep our pencil down the entire time, but going extremely slow. Practice number three, we sped it up just a little bit, continuous line again and by number four they were feeling very confident in creating this continuous line rabbit. The next four options that they did, they did on their own. So I did have a worksheet that shows step-by-step, again, this will be in our links if you need it, so they were able to follow along with that. And then on the third page that we use from our sketchbook, they drew a full size rabbit head. This is what they showed to me in order to get the final paper. Once they showed me that they were able to make it large on the page, I gave them the final paper where they used a Sharpie marker to create, they colored them in, we used colored pencils within my classroom and then we also… well that was in one day and I should mention this next step, and this part’s really important and why I brought this to distance learning.

Students were encouraged over the week that they could create their own animal using continuous line and create something that wasn’t a rabbit if they so choose. They just had to show me that they practiced it eight times. I had a good handful of students come with their eight time practice of a different animal so that they could do the one that they chose to do. I thought this was spectacular. They were using the skills that I was teaching, but there was choice in the subject that they created, as long as they prove that they could practice it out of class. So, that was pretty great. Once we created our continuous line rabbits on the final page, we colored them in and bubble cut around them. Some classes were a little farther, so what we did was we painted eggs on a colored piece of paper, just painted some ovals so that they could use their continuous line to decorated eggs behind the cutout rabbit head that we would be putting on top of it.

Again, this is when we went into distance learning and therefore I don’t have any final projects from my students to show you, but I’m hoping that some of these students will want to take this challenge at home. Maybe they have the same materials. I’m going to offer this to not only my third graders who are working on it, but also my older students and younger students for just a challenge of continuous line. So that is if I’m assuming that they have paper and a pencil and that is it. Continuous line will be a great project for them to create using my online lessons that I already have. But going back to my original question, what do they have in their homes? Another thought I had was they probably have some sort of food. My hope is that most of my students have food at home.

So one thought I had was eggs. We probably always… Most of my students are going to have eggs at home, so this might be another option, decorating eggs in a thoughtful or artistic way. So a couple of weeks ago on the podcast I mentioned that I am doing a 12 egg challenge for just online use. In the past I have done an Egg-a-day for the entire month of April, so I decorated a new egg and I posted it on Instagram and it just really pushed me to come up with a new egg every single day and be creative every single day. This is something that you could bring to your students as a challenge as well. If they already have eggs in the house, maybe they can decorate them, whether they’re boiled or not, and you can have them sharing what they have created online if you want to offer Instagram or some kind of social media.

But for me and my school, I have Schoology available to me and we will probably use something called Flipgrid. Flipgrid is an online way of communicating with a smaller group of people, so it’s kind of like Instagram or Facebook, but it’s only open to the people that you invite to participate in it.

So my students are going to be able to access that via Schoology, which we have available to most of our students third through fifth grade and they’re going to go onto to Flipgrid and post their eggs. Now if they so choose to do this option, they can, just to be more social and share what they’re doing, but if they choose not to do that, that’s an okay thing too. That’s why I’m trying to come up with many different options for my students. Things that they can do, whether they have technology or if they don’t have the technology they don’t have to create in this way at home. But certainly creating these eggs, decorating the eggs for 12 days, that’s when I was planning on doing is just creating eggs for the first 12 days of April because April 12th is Easter, so I thought that would be a good cutoff for this project.

They could participate in whatever level that they so choose, but it might just be fun to decorate some eggs at home and before they use them in the morning to make their breakfast, they just have a some kind of a smiley face on their egg or something to that effect. Of course what do they have could vary, so I’m planning on giving students a lot of options using just markers, using some dyes, thinking about using, maybe they have tissue paper at home that they could use, maybe they have crayons that they could melt onto the eggs themselves. Allowing some opportunities for ideas as well as giving them the opportunity to be creative on their own is something that I think that this 12 egg project will really help out or lead itself to is giving them a lot of options to do.

The last thing that I was thinking about when I was thinking about what do they have, what available materials do they have at home, I thought about toys. So I’m in love with the show LEGO Masters. It is pretty great. It is a show that’s on TV right now and I’m sure you can find it streaming, LEGO Masters and it shows these adults, teams of two, creating LEGO designs, every week is a different theme or a different challenge. So it’s really creating them in many different ways. I would love to give this challenge to my students and I also like the fact that it involves something that’s pop culture and on TV right now, so they can sit down, watch LEGO Masters, be inspired, and at least I know for my school most students have some sort of blocks or LEGOs at home. So this might be an opportunity for them to use what they have in a creative way, be inspired by pop culture.

I’m not doing extra work, I’m just giving the assignment or the opportunity. Along with this idea of LEGO building or architecture, it could really expand to other fun, playful ways to create. So maybe giving your students the challenge of creating a fort at home, using blankets and pillows and the furniture that they have. That would be so much fun to do in an afternoon. I could also see people using the other materials that they might have at home, such as cardboard. So creating buildings using cardboard and tape and glue might be an option, or if you want even cut out the tape and glue, using that cardboard that you have from products that you’re buying anyways such as cereal boxes or any of those boxes that you have in your pantry, cutting them out into shapes and then making little slits in the cardboard so that the two cardboard pieces can slot together, there’s something called slot shelters that I’ll put a link to as well. That is a really fun way to make sculptures or shelters of some sort using recycled cardboard, scissors and nothing else.

Perhaps the ideas that I brought forth in this podcast today are absolutely perfect. You can relate to them. Maybe one of them you can bring into your distance learning practices. I don’t know. I’m hoping that they were valuable today, but if you didn’t hear exactly what you were hoping for, hop on over to the Art of Education University’s webpage because we are going to try to continue to give you guys exactly what you need at exactly the right time. We have articles coming out every single day. We try to be as current as possible with everything that we do, and that is why the subject today was about distance learning. We know it’s something you need. So, please hop over there, make sure that you have the latest and greatest information, and I appreciate you letting me speak to you on this subject today.

As I mentioned at the start of this podcast, these are extremely strange times and extremely fluid. I’m hoping that today as I record this, what I have to share with you would be valid by the time that it plays in and gets into your households as you listen. My hope is that we are continuing to stay as calm as possible, that we are creating opportunities for our students to be creative outside of our classrooms, but also understanding that might not be the number one priority for our students or for ourselves. Let’s stay calm. Let’s stay healthy. Let’s continue to inspire and create, but just keep that calm as we create content for our students to continue to learn outside of our classrooms.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.