Latest Posts

Harder is Easier

While I don’t see much benefit in large sets of drawing pencils of various hardness, one shouldn’t overlook the fact that a standard, no.2 pencil is not necessarily the best choice for every task. I find 6H and above are often preferable. I understand they even go up to 10H but these are difficult to find.  I issue each of my students a pencil with a hard lead to use throughout the year. They have plenty of advantages to make the purchase worthwhile. (more…)

Organizing Reference Material

In efforts to better organize my room and materials, I put a lot of time in preparing student reference materials to be used more easily year after year. Student reference materials are simply hard copies of examples and instructions. Some are, of necessity, printed in color…which means they are not cheap to produce and need to be used over and over. These are typically laminated or placed in clear sleeves. Sometimes the sets include stapled booklets. For me, the best solution is to provide a package for each table. I have 24 tables with double seating at some so a few students share. Each table gets a file jacket, which is a manilla or plastic envelope that holds letter-size sheets. Depending on the need, some are flat and others expand to 1″. Inside are placed all the materials and resources that we share for a given project. Of course, it takes a bit of effort to collect and assemble these and I add a bit each year, but the idea is that they will be ready to go when needed. I teach different grade levels, so my resources needed to be in a form that is easy to distribute and collect for individual classes. At the end of a project, the jackets are collected and stored in an expanding document wallet. I use a separate wallet for each project and label them for quick retrieval. (more…)


If a classroom door needs to be left ajar, these door cushions work well. They are intended to keep toddlers from getting fingers pinched but they also work well to prevent a door from slamming or latching. Tethering with some cord keeps it from wandering off. It’s a simple shape constructed of dense foam rubber, so it would be easy to make one and save four or five bucks. One of those, extra thick swim noodles would probably make a couple-dozen of them.


Classroom Clip-Art Library

I have found that a well-stocked library of clip-art is very handy for art class….So long as you can use it efficiently, that is. It’s good for creating resources and students can use images for reference when the project calls for it. I’ve spent significant time collecting and organizing a library of digital clip-art over the years. A moderate amount of the clip-art in my collection was created by me. Some of it came packaged with graphics software. The bulk of the collection, I purchased off a clearance rack in a book store. Its was one of those 12-CD sets of 10,000 images. A good amount of that was unusable crap art that I still run across and delete from time to time. A problem with the files is that they have never been named in a way that would make the images searchable. I have done my best to organize my library into folders based on subject matter…which helps a bit. I also used a batch-renaming application to give the file names a little more unity. The best thing, by far, was to purchase software to manage the files. (more…)

Keep Your Students in Line

You think you know who you’re dealing with? How many of your colleagues glue their desks to the floor?

Mmm hmmm. That’s what I thought.

I’ve been doing this for about fifteen years so its clear that I think it’s awesome. Clear acrylic furniture cups…The little plastic discs that are intended to protect the floor from casters and furniture legs. After I set up my classroom tables, I proceed to glue a cup to the floor beneath all four legs of the 24 tables in my room. My tables are NEVER moved out of place. I never hear the grating sound of a table being scooted around. The polish coat stays intact since it won’t be ground away with table legs and grit. I love it. Our custodians strip and re-wax every summer. In May, I remove all 96 cups, store them,  and start over again when August rolls around. It takes about 45 minutes to do the whole room.

Where Did I Put That?

Art teachers jealously guard their collection of artwork examples. Irreplaceable. Some are teacher-created examples to be sure but the bulk of the collection often consists of student art that has been abandoned or left behind over the years. A few years ago, I set up a method for organizing my project examples. It has proven to work very well for my situation. I use inexpensive “Red  Rope” paper portfolios in a wire paper rack. A lot of student work fits into the 14×20″ size but I also have a number of 20×26″ size for those larger projects. The portfolios fit perfect in a typical wire “posterboard” rack. I label the edges to make certain projects easy to find.


Red Rope portfolios are available from a number of suppliers.

Care for the Chair

These things are great! Nylon caps with felt pads for the feet of your classroom chairs. They are silent and they prevent those streaks, scuffs and worn areas on the floor. Forget about those ridiculous looking tennis balls stuck on chair legs. When I got these, my concern was that the felt base would not last  and I would have to replace them too often. It is safe to say that I was mistaken….kind of amazingly mistaken. I installed these around 12 years ago and the original ones are still intact. I have used a couple dozen spares to replace ones that have been lost. Pretty impressive considering all the grime that students track in every year.

I bought them from Shiffler Equipment. These days 100 caps costs around $30…well worth the money in my opinion. They also sell a tool to help remove them when necessary. The manufacturer suggested a dab of glue when installing to help them stay in place. I understand the latest model of the caps is deeper and may not need the adhesive.

Why are you being asked to register as a customer?

If you have purchased or are interested in my teacher resources, I encourage you to register as a customer. 

While TPT is a great marketplace for buyers and sellers, I have found the customer communication options are very limited. With an accurate mailing list I am better able to notify my customers of sales and other opportunities. Additionally, I would be able to bring products to my customers that require a different type of distribution.

I’ll also give you a free download just for signing up!

Portable Pencil Point Processor

It’s probably unusual for a teacher to prefer not to have a sharpener permanently installed. For the most part, I rely on handheld sharpeners in my classes. Even before I shifted to the manual sharpeners, I didn’t care for having a wall-mounted crank model permanently installed. My solution was to have a crank sharpener mounted to a concrete stepping stone. I used PC-11 epoxy to glue the sharpener and a couple of handles to the stone. I also added felt pads to the bottom. This solution allowed me to move the sharpener and even put it away when not needed.

Easy Receipts

Gotta love a good stamp. There is a student art fee at my school to help purchase some of the supplies used in class. A few years ago, my school began to issue student planners. I promptly purchased a custom date stamp so that I could stamp the “receipt” in a student’s planner and stop writing receipts all the time. Even without the planners, I believe a date stamp receipt would be of use for many teachers who are responsible for collecting funds.

Stump Blending

For my Art 2 classes, I demonstrate how to use and make available some medium-sized blending stumps for use with colored pencil. I only provide them as an option as, at this level, some students really take to them while others could not care less. In my experience, the stumps can’t salvage poor shading. Rather, one can blend good shading and just make it noticeably smoother.


Organizing individual student supplies

I buy several dozen of these at a time. Another use I have found for the zipper bags I purchased from Dick Blick is for individual supply storage for students. I created a laminated, numbered insert for each bag that corresponds to a seat/table in the classroom. Each student is issued a bag for the year and they are easily distributed at the beginning of each class on days when those supplies are being used. They typically contain a hard-lead pencil, eraser, and project-specific supplies like scratch-art tools or a felt pen. I use a supply tub rack system for sorting the bags by class.

Zipper Supply Bags

I’ve had a lot of luck in my classes with these zipper supply bags. The ones I purchased were from Dick Blick and I was originally concerned that the zippers would not hold up. A couple of year later they are in good shape even with daily use.  One had a zipper tab fall off…just the pull tab, which can be replaced with a piece of cord or something. A handful were abused by students but only cosmetically damaged and still function fine. Overall, I consider them them indispensable.


Sharpener maintenence


Even custom built monster sharpeners eventually need replacement blades. One can prolong the useful life of a sharpener by swapping blades on the dual hole models. This is due to the fact that one blade will likely get more use than the other. In my classes, the sharpeners are used most heavily for extra thick Prang colored pencils I provide, resulting in the blade for the smaller opening lasting much longer. My first step when encountering a dull blade is to use a screwdriver to switch blades from one hole to the other. I also can’t say enough about the use of premium sharpeners as compared to School Specialty budget versions. Many of the blades originally installed are still going over a year later with no particular maintenance needed.