Product Reviews

Games in the Art Room: TAG the Art Game

I’m always looking for fun and engaging games to bring into my art room. I am a firm believer that art games can and should be used in the classroom. I think games are a great way to reinforce content and assess students on knowledge retention. Plus, they’re fun, and kids like playing games.

Let me start off by saying, I totally received this game courtesy of the inventor, Mollie Thonneson. I’m not in the least bit ashamed of this, because if people want to send me free stuff to try, then yes, sign me up! I mean, make it relevant. Don’t offer to send me graphing calculators in exchange for an honest product review, because that ain’t happening. Are graphing calculators still a thing? Mollie’s game, TAG the Art Game, on the other hand, totally relevant.

Games in the art room TAG review

I use a few games in my art room, some with more success than others. Remember that time I allowed my students to draw adult content pictures and nearly got fired? Okay, so it didn’t quite go down like that, but I’ll tell you what, I haven’t played that game since.

When Mollie contacted me about trying out her game, I welcomed the opportunity. I’ve been meaning to bring another art game into my classroom, and I had some Free Choice Art Days coming up on my calendar, the timing was perfect.

What is TAG the Art Game?

From the website, “TAG is a collaborative art game where players take turns painting, drawing, and collaging while they create an original piece of abstract art. TAG is played with cards, dice, art supplies and a color wheel. Plays are made by following a series of card prompts. The game ends when a ‘finished?’ card is drawn and all players agree the artwork is done.”

TAG the art game review

What’s in the box?

Glad you asked, Brad (I’m not the only one, right?). I received the TAG the Art Game without supplies version of the game. The box included instructions, a color wheel spinner, a die, and game cards. More on those later. You can also purchase this game with supplies, but since I have plenty of supplies on hand, I opted to receive just the game.

How do you play?

I’m not going to bore you with my half-assed attempt of an explanation. Watch the video. Understand? Okay, yeah, I’m not gonna lie, it seems a little, cumbersome, but trust me, it’s not as complicated as it initially seems. I tried the game with 4th and 6th graders, and they picked it up fairly quickly.

TAG the Art Game Review

How’d it go?

Really well. One student exclaimed, after a couple of turns had passed, “I have to get this game!” Overall, the students loved it, and said they would definitely play it again. From a curriculum point of view, I like that it meets some standards I have a difficult time covering in my classroom, including working collaboratively to make a piece of art and experimenting with materials. While the students and I enjoyed many aspects of the game, we did notice a few downsides.

The pros and cons

TAG the Art Game Review

Obviously there was a problem with the speed of the game. I noticed that students were often sitting and waiting while others were taking their turn, and as any teacher knows, downtime is never a good thing. Students tried to speed the game along by rushing each other or telling each other what they should be doing. It did require some intervention on my part, which I prefer not to do. That being said, when I test ran the game with my 6th graders, we solved the problem by allowing students to take their turns simultaneously. We also reduced the wait time by limiting the number of players to 3-4.

While observing the students play, I noticed that they were confused about how the Location cards worked. I had to explain to them a few times how they were to be used. I expected the students to have difficulty allowing others to mark up their work, but that wasn’t the case. They seemed to enjoy overlapping the different elements.

TAG the Art Game Review

I also expected the students to have difficulties being restricted to a limited color palette, but for the most part, they didn’t. I think some students actually need guidelines or boundaries and work more comfortably within them. We all enjoyed that you could use a variety of materials to play the game, which allowed students some choice in the materials they used. For example, they could choose watercolor paints or Tempera paints. Of course, this all depends on the materials you have on hand or that are provided with the game.

TAG the Art Game Review

Final Thoughts

We all enjoyed this game, and the students who played it were eager to play again. The students who opted out of initially participating in the game were later bugging me for a chance to play. Ideally, I would have a few sets in my room so that more students can play at a time. In a classroom setting, with time really being an issue, I would recommend limiting the number of players to 3-4. Younger students might need more guidance or supervision. I actually want to take this home and try it out with my four year old to see what we can make (I think the recommend age is 7+, but whatev’).

If you’re interested in purchasing this game for your art room, or home, it’s available from the TAG the Art Game website, limited brick and mortar stores, and from (affiliate) Amazon, Tag the Art Game (art supplies NOT included).

What are your favorite games for the art room? Let me know in the comments!

A Day In the Life, Product Reviews

Using A Capsule Wardrobe

If you haven’t already returned to work yet, chances are you will be soon. One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about going back to school, is back to school clothes shopping. Hooray! I’ve been struggling with my wardrobe for years, always feeling like I have nothing to wear, never quite sure what my style is, picking up pieces here and there, all willy nilly, as the mood strikes me. Trying to figure out what to wear to work is one of the biggest time sucks of my morning routine. In January I began putting my weekly outfits together ahead of time, and it was SUCH a big improvement. I’d wake up, take a shower, grab an outfit from the hanger and be on my way. As great as this was, I still hadn’t come to terms with my clothing options. For the new school year, I have a new plan. A capsule wardrobe.

DressDarkBlue DressDarkBlueII SkirtDarkGray SkirtPink

I came across the idea of a capsule wardrobe a few weeks ago. Caroline, author of the blog, Un-Fancy, writes about her experiences with a capsule wardrobe. She defines it as,

“a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you totally LOVE to wear… a capsule wardrobe represents more time and energy for what really matters (less time spent deciding what to wear / less time spent shopping / less time doing laundry or caring for clothes) more money for our dreams + helping others (less money spent on clothes that never get worn) and more contentment and happiness.

BeltYellow WalletTriangle NecklaceCoral WatchFeralBlack

I don’t know about all that, but I do know that since I began my own capsule wardrobe, I’ve been loving it! The process begins with weeding out your wardrobe and keeping only the items that you absolutely love and would wear today. You can read more about it here. I spent about three hours one morning cleaning out my closet and photographing, yes, photographing, the clothes that made the cut and were returning to my closet (more on that in a bit). It felt SO liberating to get rid of all the clothes I might wear some day, or might fit in to after I lose those last five pounds*.

TeeBillowy TeeEyelet TeeNY TeeTheseDays

I now have a better idea of my style, my go-to color palette, the brands I prefer, and my actual size within those brands. As I’m window shopping to update my fall wardrobe, I have more focus and a better understanding of what pieces I need to supplement my wardrobe with. I have a very clear idea of what items I really don’t need any more of. Does anyone really need 6 Gap layering tanks or 5 JCrew Jackie cardigans? The answer is no. I highly recommend taking the capsule wardrobe challenge.

PantsOrange PantsDarkGray JeansHipslung SkirtBlue

If you really want to dive in to this idea, you can take it another step, like I did. I photographed my capsule wardrobe, including jewellery, shoes, bags and scarves (hey, it’s summer vacation, I’ve got the time). I cleaned up the photos with some quick editing and transferred them to my tablet. I downloaded a few style book/closet apps (for the Android, I don’t have an iPhone, and I’m sure there are better options out there for Apple users, as usual), tried them out, and selected my favorite based on what I wanted to use it for. I like the MyDressing app, because it’s quite simple, and I like the way it’s set up for cropping and arranging outfits, but I’m currently using the Personal Closet Lite app. This app allows me to create outfits and save them to certain days. I can view my outfits on a calendar, and I can keep track of what I’ve worn when, so as not to run into the problem of wearing the same shirt every Thursday, and avoid the risk of being called out on it by my students.

ScarfBlueInfinity ScarfPrintedTurquoise KimonaFeather IMG_1325

So what do you think? Are you going to give it a try? Do you have any styling tips or favorite strategies you use for making the hassle of getting dressed in the morning easier?

*Don’t think that I can afford to just throw away 3/4 of my wardrobe. I plan on selling what I can on Poshmark and then donating the rest.

The opinions expressed here are all my own. I have not been compensated in anyway by anyone mentioned in this post.

Product Reviews

A Few of My Favorite Things: Classroom Must-Haves

(I totally meant to have this posted a few weeks ago, long before returning to school, and certainly still in August, as the opening line suggests. However, between birthdays, a going away get together, play dates, a wedding and a root canal, it just didn’t happen.)
It’s August September. Which means it’s time to start preparing to return to school (I realize some of you all of us are already back in the swing of things). Just for fun, I thought I would gather together a collection of some of my favorite things. All of the items below are things that I use in my classroom, or at home. (At this point I will note, I have not been compensated in any way for this post.)

1. Time Timer

I love, love, love this timer. I was first introduced to it through The Art of Education when they were hosting a giveaway about a year ago. I didn’t win the giveaway, but I loved the idea of this timer so much that I purchased one for my classroom. This is probably one of the best classroom purchases I’ve ever made. I set it at the start of class (and if I don’t remember, my students are eager to remind me), and it allows students to monitor class time on their own, without having to ask how much time they have left.
This timer is a great classroom management tool. I often overhear students telling each other, “Shhh. You’re wasting our art time. Look at the red!” It also helps with clean-up, because the students know that when the red gets to “5” (or “10”, depending on the materials we’re using), it’s time to stop working and clean-up. And bonus, I no longer have to watch the clock and remember what time the students came in, and what time they’re leaving (this is especially good if you work at multiple schools with different start times.)

A couple of years ago, when I was out on maternity leave, my fabulous sub read this book at the start of the school year. I hadn’t previously heard of it, but I was so grateful to her for having read it to my students. For the rest of the year, anytime students made a “mistake,” their peers were quick to remind them that they could turn it into a beautiful oops. Unfortunately, when my sub left, she took the book with her, but I was sure to pick up my own copy for my classroom.
For more art room books must-haves, check out this list from The Art of Education.

3. Etch A Sketch

Remember these? I picked a couple Etch A Sketches up years ago at TJMaxx for my classroom (one of them has since been stolen). I was shocked by what a hit these were. Students who aren’t normally into art love drawing on these. There is always a fight over the one Etch A Sketch in my classroom, which is why I used some PTO funds to purchase some more this year. If you can, you should definitely get a couple of these. They make great “I’m finished!” activities. You’ll be amazed by what the students can produce. I once had an elementary student who was capable of very accurately replicating buildings in the community on an Etch A Sketch. Without the aid of a photo. In under 20 minutes. Needless to say, his peers and I were blown away. In fact, his mom informed me that an Etch A Sketch was the only thing he had asked for for Christmas. 
Want to see some amazing Etch A Sketch artwork? Check out this artist, Bryan Etch (I know this artist, and I can tell you from personal experience that he throws some fab parties).
Not to be confused with teacher pens. I know some of you don’t mind sharing pencils with the students, and you probably think it’s just easier that way. Good for you. I need my own pencils (hello, germs!), and I need them to be easily identifiable as mine. I picked up this set from Anthropologie, but you can find funky pencils anywhere. Or make your own. I half expected my special pencils to go walking, but I was pleasantly surprised when they never did. In fact, I only went through two of these last year! How awesome is that? Anytime I misplaced my pencil, or left it on a table, students were very quick to return it to me. I make a big deal about never starting class without my pencil, so my students are always helping me keep track of it.
I don’t actually use these in my classroom, but I’m thinking about it. We have these at home, and they are great for my two-year old. She is intense when it comes to crayons with paper wrappers. She will sit there and peel off every little bit of paper from her crayons. And if she can’t get the paper off, guess who gets stuck doing it? I picked up a pack of Twistables for a long car trip, and I haven’t looked back. No more peeling paper!

So there you have it. A few of my favorite classroom items. What are your must-haves in your classroom? Are there any products that you just can’t live without?

Gripes, Product Reviews

Dear Crayola®:

Why? I mean, seriously, why? Why, oh why, would you do this to us poor teachers? Apparently your new marker design is “greener” since they’re made from recycled bottle caps, and I’m all about being green, BUT I am not a fan of dumb ideas. And this, Crayola®, this is a dumb design.

When a child reaches into the box of markers for the blue marker, takes the blue cap off the marker, and starts coloring, you know what they’re expecting? Yeah, they’re expecting to be coloring in blue. Not purple or green or black or red. And you know what it sounds like when a student discovers that the marker they thought was blue turns out to be green? Well, I can tell you one thing, it doesn’t sound like a happy art student.

So I ask you again, Crayola®, why would you do this? I mean, what Kindergartner is going to take the time to test the color of the marker before using it? Well, as it turns out, it’s the Kindergartner whose marker caps were on the wrong color marker three times in a row. But that’s besides the point.

Take a close look at what you’ve designed. ALL black markers in which the only indicator of color is the removable cap?* Really, Crayola®, really? Wasn’t there a better “green” solution being tossed around during your brain storming sessions? You guys came up with Model Magic® for crying out loud. And Color Wonder®. Did you even think to ask any teachers what they thought? Because I guarantee you they’d spot the flaw in your design instantly.

I suggest you head back to the drawing board. Pun intended.

UPDATE: Apparently the color is written on the side of the marker. I did not know this. But I think that just proves my point even further. If the art teacher doesn’t even notice the name on the side, how will the kids? (Thanks Shaunautumn, for pointing that out!)

* Yes, I realize the tip of the marker can indicate color, but again, that approach is flawed. Red and orange look an awfully lot alike, and how can one expect eager, excited students who rarely ever get to use markers to take the time to study the tip prior to coloring? But you get that, right? Of course you do.

Product Reviews

Scoring Some Sweet Swag

One of the perks of working as a graduate assistant in an art ed department is occasionally walking into my office to discover free goodies on my desk. Sometimes the products I get are just free samples, but occasionally some of them are new products that are just hitting the market. Regardless of whether they’re new or old, it is always cool to score some sweet swag. Here’s a sampling of some of the stuff I’ve taken home over the last two semesters.

Here’s my quick little run down of the products and where you can purchase them* (top to bottom, left to right):
  1. Crayola® Twistables Slick Stix™ Crayon– These are more oil pastel than crayon, in my opinion. They remind me of lipstick tubes, and I can totally picture numerous little girls leaving my art room with gold lips because they thought the same thing. The product easily writes on skin and is slightly glittery, so… I’m not sure I would ever use these in my art room. At almost $1 a crayon, I don’t really think they’re worth the cost, but if you’re interested, you can find them here. Don’t expect to find the cool gold color I have though. Apparently they only come in the standard red, yellow, blue, green and orange colors. 
  2. Crayola® Dry-Erase Crayons– This is a really great idea. I can’t stand the smell of dry-erase markers, and I hate how quickly they fry out. I have yet to try these out since I don’t have access to a dry-erase board. I would be hesitant to use them without testing them out first. I’m a little doubtful of how well they would work, and more importantly, how well they would erase. That being said, at $4.99 per box 8, these might actually be worth the cost. Assuming they work just as well or better than the standard dry-erase markers. You can find them here
  3. Crayola® Triangular Crayon– I love this crayon. It fits very nicely in your fingers and the best part? It doesn’t roll! There’s nothing worse than having a First Grader dump out a box of crayons on their table, resulting in all the crayons rolling off the table and onto the floor. This crayon has won numerous awards, and I can see why. However, at $3.99 per 16 ct., they might not be for every classroom, especially with today’s constraints on budgets. You can find them here.
  4. Crayola® ??? Crayon– For the life of me, I cannot find this crayon anywhere. I can only assume it’s simply a wrapper-free crayon, which I think is a fairly genius idea. I hate finding peeled crayon wrapper all over my art room floor. This crayon is five-sided, which I’m not sure I understand. Maybe it’s to prevent rolling? Got me.
  5. Sax® Arts & Crafts Pencil Case– I’m pretty sure this is just a promotional item and isn’t for sale. I can’t find it anywhere on their website. However, navigating their website is kind of frustrating, so I didn’t spend too much time on it. I also have this case in blue.
  6. Westcott® Children’s Scissors with Microban® – Well, the idea of these is good, I guess. In my opinion, it’s not worth spending $1.99 on a pair antimicrobial scissors. I like the colors and the cushioning on the handle, but I have a hard time believing that an art room needs antimicrobial scissors. If you’re interested, you can find them here.
  7. Faber-Castell® PITT Artist Pens– These are pretty neat, but definitely not for use in the regular art room. The big brush is new and costs about $19.80 per wallet of 4. The regular sized ones cost about $16.45 per wallet of 6 and come in a variety of shades, however I didn’t come across the hot pink one I have. I don’t use pens very often in my work, but I imagine these are good quality pens. You can find them here.
  8. Faber-Castell® Art Grip Pencils, Aquarelle Pencils and Graphite Sketch Pencils– I love the look of these pencils and the grips feel great. They’re available as regular colored pencils and as watercolor pencils. I happen to love watercolor pencils. These are on the expensive side and would be great for a serious artist but not so much in a regular art room. You can find them here and here. I have used these graphite pencils frequently for sketching and happen to love them.
  9. Dick Blick® Note Pad Cover– This is most likely another promotional item and not available for sale. It came with a notepad and a discount coupon. Their website can be found here
  10. Crayola® Model Magic® – I love Model Magic®! I used it all the time in my art room. It’s great when you don’t have access to a kiln and can’t use clay. This pack happens to be blue. I’ve never used the colored Model Magic® in my room, because I like the versatility of the white. Model Magic® is available everywhere, but here’s their official site where they offer some great ideas.
  11. Fiskars® Kids Scissors – They’re Fiskars®, they’re great, they work for righties and lefties. Need I say more? They have a lifetime warranty, the handle is antimicrobial (unlike other brands, Fiskars® doesn’t brag about this on their packaging, but it’s there, in the fine print) and every art room needs them. ‘Nuff said. Here’s their site
  12. Faber-Castell® Short Colored Pencils – (see above)
  13. Crayola® Construction Paper Crayons – I used to use these in my cart room all the time. They work great on black paper and other dark colors. Not so much on light colored paper. Check them out here. 

Phew! That was tough work. Just so you know, aside from the free goodies some professor leaves on my desk for me, I didn’t receive any sort of compensation from these companies (of course, in the future, if they want to send me free stuff to review, I wouldn’t complain).

* I’m sure you can find them other places too, and probably for cheaper, but I didn’t feel like taking any more time to research it. Sorry.