A little blog makeover

It has to be said.. The blog has been a little neglected of late.

After a few months into the new job and life generally calming down to a more manageable pace, I thought a little revamp was in order.

There are new pages under construction including a ‘Directory of Artists and Photographers’ to add to the existing ‘Textile Artist Directory’ page that I know lots of people use as a ‘go to’ for project development. There will also be recommendations of books, magazines, apps and websites to support your Arty teaching.

In addition to these updates there will be a page dedicated to creative skills with tutorials to help you to develop creative techniques for your own Arty stuff or for your students.

I hope the new look blog will be a little more user friendly and allow more people to put some of the creative tips and techniques into action!

Is there anything else that you feel I should include on the new look blog? If there’s any other Arty bits that you would find useful I’ll try and factor things into the new pages.

Gemma X


It’s that time of year again.. Reflecting on the plans made this time last year (link to last years ramblings:
I seem to have had yet another busy one not to mention the big changes set to happen to work etc. Best laid plans for 2015 didn’t quite get there.. Although, there are some things on my 2015‘ wish list’ that I managed:image

“I embraced technology”
I successfully got to grips with my iPad, used to to create teaching resources and assess work etc. Was even asked to write a piece for the lovely people who make the book creator app (one of my favourites) to share my ideas for developing engaging teaching resources. at school I successfully managed to get iPads for the rest of my team for the start of this academic year so that they can start to benefit from the different applications within their teaching.

“More art for me”
After the nurture post last year I was introduced to the sketchbook circle – narrowly before the December 31st deadline I got signed up and ready for a year of sharing the creative process every month. This has been a lovely way of getting arty without it being WAGOLLs for work!image

I’ve also been keen to get involved in the #teacher5adaysketch holiday projects on Twitter – a perfect excuse to take time out for a brief period in the day and create something… Also another good way of getting to grips with my iPad. The October half term project was used to develop my confidence with sketching with my stylus.

…as for the other wishes made last year, I’m not sure I can comment on whether I managed to be a good HOD. Guess you’ll have to ask my staff that one!

Now.. on to this year. I have opted to slim things down again this time, 5 ‘best bits’ from 2015 and 5 ‘wishes’ for the year ahead:

5 ‘best bits’ from 2015

Branston Teachmeet – sharing engaging literacy ideas

Was brave enough to present at the first teachmeet in Branston in October. I’m one of those people who isn’t totally bothered about standing up in front of people and talking (I was one of those arty drama types at school.)
However, there is something quite different about putting yourself ‘out there’ and presenting something that is quite personal. image
I’m obviously quite happy with my often bonkers approach to teaching and like to develop my own quirky way of doing things. I pride myself on the attention to detail that goes into generating engaging resources for students and in my experience, they seem to work. Standing up and sharing that with a room full of peers was a little daunting to say the least! I’m so pleased that I did it though, it really gave me the confidence boost that I needed. Not only did I manage to do it and stick to my allocated 7 minutes (a tough one for me –I am a talker!) but I also met the lovely Jill Berry, Hywel Roberts, put a face to the fabulous @classcharts as well as lots of other lovely likeminded people… Truly an evening of inspiration and positivity- as professional learning should be! It’s the bit after the event that really surprised me though.

imageHaving a steady stream of fellow teachers asking for advice and sharing their own versions of my literacy ideas was brilliant. It helped to make me feel as though I had developed something worthwhile and that others were benefitting from. I am still getting regular #literacyjenga images and tweets telling me how well the written analysis lessons are going after introducing the different methods inspired by my presentation. I’m just amazed that people ‘get’ my crazy approach and that it’s working for them. Having that recognition makes it feel as though I’m doing something right. It was much needed.

MA graduation – finally did it!!!!


Not a lot needed t explain this one as it pretty much speaks for itself. It was an uphill struggle at times, particularly in the final stages as the workload at school grew and grew. I got there though. The graduation day was lovely and it was so nice to be able to share it with my family. Giving my own kids a window into what might lie ahead for them. Ruby in particular was totally adamant that she wanted to do a graduation like mummy and that she is now going to university ..she is a very determined 9 year old!

Enrichment projects – making it real

I could have quite easily created a list of 5 best bits just using the different enrichment projects that I’ve arranged over the last 12 months.looking back I can’t quite believe how much I’ve managed to do.. And I have to say, most of the opportunities that have come up have been through me being a little bit cheeky and tweeting people.image

In January year 12 were fortunate enough to have an audience with the owner of Doddington Hall to present their design concepts for fashion scarves inspired by the hall and its surroundings. It was lovely to see the students gain confidence and have a pride in their own work. It’s something that has definitely had an impact on their approach to their creative work and even allowed them to have a glimpse into what it is like to work to a set brief and present to the customer in a professional way.

In February a select group of year 8 students submitted illustration work to Waitrose food magazine. Something that developed from a cheeky tweet to the editor William Sitwell, the imageproject allowed students to see what it was like to develop art for the real world – working to a very tight publishing deadline, having to redraft work to fit the requirements of the article, working with very specific imagery for the project. It was a fabulous test of their self management skills and they did brilliantly. Most surprising was how much of the work was featured in the printed issue and the press release for by Waitrose themselves.. I even got name checked in the editors letter at the front. It was a true proud teacher moment.

In the summer we were lucky enough to have the exhibition space at Whisby nature reserve for their ‘schools out’ exhibition. Yet another cheeky enquiry resulted in this collaboration and an ideal showcase for work produced in he department by students across all year groups. Seeing it all together was brilliant and allowed the wider local community to see how talented the students are.image

The final ‘big’ project of the year was successfully installing numerous clay poppies made by our new year 7 students into the fabulous surroundings of Lincoln Cathedral. It was a dramatic installation with a mad dash to Tesco for ‘no more nails’ to fix the bits that slid off during the bumpy drive on the cobbles in uphill Lincoln! I’m pleased that I did it though. The kids were able to see their work displayed for something truly meaningful, promoting British values and in such a short space of time since starting secondary school – hopefully something that will have allowed them to see the importance of art.

Throughout the year it has also been fabulous to use Twitter to engage with the artists who inspire the students work. It’s imagelovely to be able to go back into school and show the students what ‘real artists’ think of their work. Kathy Dalwood and Loui Jover in particular this year have said some lovely things and have given students that little extra confidence boost in their ability as artists.
Being creative – getting my confidence back

As I mentioned at the start, having the time to be creative has been much needed. Us art teachers often spend so much time investing in the creativity of others that we lose our own creative confidence. The sketchbook circle and #teacher5adaysketch projects have allowed me to have an excuse to be creative, just to draw without the pressure of scrutiny or particular pressure to meet a brief. It’s been nice just to have a bit of time to do what I enjoy – I’m totally one of those people who has ADHD and stuff less to relax.. I can’t sit and read. Sketching is my relaxing.

New job – all change.. Eek!

In July I was successful in getting a new job. One that will start in January 2016. It’s an opportunity to step back into FE teaching (which is what I trained to do.) secondary teaching has taught me a lot and has given me lots of opportunities that I know I wouldn’t have had otherwise and I am grateful for that. I’m really looking forward to the new challenges that are ahead, it really will be a new year: new start.

5 ‘wishes’ for 2016

Write a bookimage

This sounds a little ambitious, but actually more of a reality than it ever has been before. I obviously had issues after my MA was completed ..think I was getting twitchy with not having to type lots of things! Have already written a few chapters and submitted a proposal for consideration. Just need to keep fingers crossed that it’s good enough for the go ahead now.

More arty stuff

This will mostly be in the form of continuing with the sketchbook circle in 2016.. I have also started my own visual diary #fashionaday to record my outfits everyday in illustration form. It’s early days but I hope to keep this up and continue for the whole year.

I’d also love to get back into doing illustration again.. Seeing the process with the Waitrose magazine project made me realise how much I’d love to get back to designing. It’s been a while since I’ve done it properly but I’d love to give it a go again.

Do a good job

It’s a cliché I know.. But with me starting a new job it’s an important one. Having been pretty well established in the old place I’d really like to just settle in well and make a difference.

More time with my kids

They are growing up WAY too fast. All too often over the last year I have been so frustrated by the bulging Ikea bag of books demanding attention at weekends. It’s something that we all have to deal with but something that has got to change. The hope is that the new job will allow a better work life balance and allow more time. More time for my own kids for a change.

Just more time for me

This is probably the most simple wish but also the most difficult. As a working mum (with a husband who has a tres antisocial police inspector job!) finding time for me is difficult. Scrap that, it’s pretty much impossible! I’m either at work or in charge of the kids, often on my own with my other half working shifts. With the kids that bit older too, there is no longer that golden calm time after they’ve gone to bed (never ceases to amaze me how late they can stay up!) Alongside the creative stuff, I want to try and swim a bit more and actually use my gym membership – even if it’s just for half an hour a few times a week.
It will be interesting to see how things go over the next few months. I am hopeful that the changes are for the better – ultimately it is all in aid of achieving a better work life balance and allow more time for the important things. I wonder what next years nurture entry will be like….

Making Literacy Engaging

I have been on a mission over the last year to improve the quality of written work within Art. It has always been an issue with students seeing us as a purely practical subject – I truly think that some of them choose us at GCSE because they think there is no writing!

After having a play with a few ideas, I found a few that worked. I wrote a little piece on my staffrm profile earlier this year: about ‘Literacy games’, the main focus being on how to get students excited about written lessons in Art.

This theme has developed on and I now have a few successful strategies that seem to work well. Some of these are just embedded into everyday lessons – the writing frames and support mats for annotations etc. (all differentiated for each subject specialism and age range as you would expect) and others are the once a term type strategies that you pop in to encourage deeper thought and analysis at key points in a project. For example, when reflecting on a body of practical work or when discussing and comparing the work of others… This is where I would pull the Jenga out of the cupboard or get the bingo cards out.

I was asked recently why I’ve decided to make literacy a bit of a personal mission – I honestly think it’s because I’m not very confident with writing myself. I’ve often had that ‘Im just good at arty stuff’ type complex.. all through school I was never very good at the written stuff (those of you that know me will know that my verbal skills more than make up fo it!) I think I just know what it feels like to not really know where to start.. what it feels like to sit in a classroom and know what you want to write but not quite how to structure it.

The latest addition to the literacy strategies used is my ‘literacy loyalty cards.’ They are my new favourite – This is probably because there is a bit of drawing on them too! The image below is taken from my recent presentation at #BranstonTM and summarises nicely how the cards are used. They are essentially just a list of works with tick boxes next to them. However, they just look a bit nicer than a normal spelling list and if introduced to the students in a bit more of an engaging way (ie: with the promise of prizes etc.) then they really seem to work.


I have already set homework for KS3 students to learn them as spellings, find examples of artists work showing evidence of the words listed as well as asking them to describe the work of others using at least 3 of the keywords. The cards aren’t about doing something massive and ‘wordy’ – they are to allow the students to gain confidence with more subject specific vocabulary early on in their experience with us in art. The more the students are encouraged to use the words for smaller tasks, the more likely they are to naturally be able to improve the quality of their written work in class when evaluating or researching. The long-term hope is that these students will feel more comfortable with the written element of GCSE courses in our subject areas.. where good quality annotation is often an uphill struggle for a lot of students!

Why not give the loyalty cards a go? It’s early days for me but the students are already engaing with them really well.


Mrs Arty-Textiles

Using book creator app – Making Fabulous Resources

After sharing my usual ramblings on Twitter about my teaching resources I was approached by the @bookcreator app team to write a little something about how I use the app in my teaching and to support the students with their learning.



My top tips for a successful book

  • Think about your image. What will be your key colour for the book? Make sure that it doesn’t over shadow the content. But make sure that there is a consistent accent of this colour on every page.
  • Think about the size of the content on your pages. Try not to make things too small – this is particularly important if you are planning on asking students/parents to read the book on a smartphone.
  • Make sure that you number the pages. This will save time and avoid confusion when you need to set tasks quickly or refer to particular sections of the book in class.
  • Think about how you ‘brand’ your book. Just as it is important to create a consistent look for the pages within each book, if you are planning to create a collection of resources to compliment your existing classroom display or to fit with a certain theme, make sure that they fit. It honestly makes the difference to how the students engage with the resources that you produce.
  • Make sure that you save and publish the books in a range of formats. This allows easy distribution to meet the needs of everyone. PDF files are good for use in school and for printing but can be a bit big for emailing as attachments. To overcome this, a cloud drive (like Dropbox) is a good idea to save your work from home to be able to access in school.
  • Don’t make it too complicated! Try to keep page layouts simple, plan each page roughly and paste all of your backgrounds in before building in your other content… it saves LOADS of time this way!


To read the full article follow the link below:


Mrs Arty-Textiles


Access Art Star

I often wonder why I write the blog.. And it’s true that I feel I have neglected it a bit recently with everything getting busy at work. However, it’s lovely to know that my ramblings on here are appreciated. I got given an ‘access art’ star a few weeks ago for the work and ideas that I share on here. I don’t do this for the thanks or the appreciation.. But it’s nice when it happens.

A little something I wrote for the Access Art website:

“I am Head of Art at Sir Robert Pattinson Academy in Lincolnshire. I am passionate about my subject and love to share ideas and student work online. I am often found imageon Twitter as well as the amazing site – a space to share ideas. I also have my own blog where I share all things specific to my subject.

The Mrs Arty Textiles blog was set up to share the general ramblings and goings on in my classroom. I had never found anything online really before that was specific to teaching Textiles within Art and design-so I started something myself.

I am always told that the most useful part of the site is the Directory of Textiles Artists, this page is added to every year as my fabulous students find new and more interesting textile artists during their project work.

I am a firm believer that supporting each other sharing resources, showing off student work and generating conversation about art teaching is the way forward. I find the virtual community of art teachers such a supportive bunch and I am always more than happy to share ideas as I find just as many when I need a spark of inspiration for my teaching/planning.”
Twitter: @mrsartytextiles

Making it REAL

We are all here for a reason.. (apart from getting the kids through the exams) if you think like me, we are all here to prepare the students that we teach for the outside world, to prepare them for employment and life beyond the safe and predictable environment of the classroom.

In my subject arimage ea it couldn’t be more important. I often get enthusiastic students wanting to be fashion designers reality would they manage the workload? Is is right for me to just teach them the specification and then send them on their way blissfully unaware of the harsh reality of the REAL world!?
This has caused me some concern over the last couple of years. A career in design is hard work. I speak from experience, freelance work is difficult to sustain and then even if you manage to get the holy grail and obtain a permenant position at a high street retailer, it is often a lot less glamorous as it initially seems (I have a friend who after years of hard graft, works for a well known menswear brand designing different blue striped shirt fabrics & has to present them enthusiastically EVERYDAY!)

To support my current group of Textile lovelies I wanted to do something new, something real. To make this happen I set up a project that involved designing for a local client. I was lucky enough to be able to make a connection via email and arrange a real life experience for them. Over the last week my year 12 BTEC Textiles have presented their design outcomes to the owner of Doddington Hall (after using their summer sculpture exhibition as inspiration for fashion scarves.)

imageI have to say, they did me proud. A few were quite nervous with the prospect of discussing their ideas and design concepts with someone REAL. however, they soon settled in and were happily chatting away in no time.
Even though it was quite difficult, I stood back and let them take the lead. It was important for them to jump in and see if they could swim rather than me speaking for them.

On the way back to school they was a real confidence and sense of accomplishment. Even though it didn’t really give them anything in terms of their assessment, it gave them so much by building the foundations of their future careers in the design industry. This is totally something I will do again (despite the HUGE amount of paperwork to get there!) as it feels like I am doing what I am meant to do.. To fully prepare my students for the REAL world. I wish I’d had chances like this, maybe I would have had the confidence to ‘make it’ as a designer rather than being a teacher? ..who knows, at least I can try & make sure that my students are as well prepared as possible so that they can achieve whatever they want – no matter how unobtainable it may seem!

Mrs Arty-Textiles

The most important thing.. well, according to me at least.

There are many crucial elements in education.. This is in no way to suggest that things like assessment and Wagollsfeedback are not important. In my opinion, there is just one thing that is MORE important within my teaching. The thing that never seems to fail to engage the students and help them to understand how to create and improve their work every time… My WAGOLL’s.

Maybe it is because I teach a practical subject, or maybe it is because students just like to be able to visualise their learning.. Kind of a Blue Peter style ‘one I made earlier’, whatever the reason, they work. The image on the left shows a snippet of the WAGOLL table at the front of my classroom – a developing area in my room that is set up for students to use as a constant reference.

When I first started using practical examples (usually a selection taken from previous students as well as my own versions of the project too) I tended to focus on the good ones – what a good one looks like.

I very soon realised though that for some students, the WAGOLL made them feel that the learning was out of their grasp. On reflection, just displaying the really good examples as a positive, sort of ‘ethic of excellence’ motivational learning tool within lessons made them panic. Using differentiated examples instead visually explained the possible outcomes to students without the fear of the unobtainable WAGOLL. In most cases, the students easily identify the example that matches up with their own current level of working, then look towards the next level up for inspiration. I have found that it makes no real difference what the age of the student is – using different graded sketchbooks works just as well with exam groups too. Students usually feel more comfort in understanding what the next ‘step up’ actually looks like. Even if we do want the students to get to an A grade eventually, I have found that starting at a steady pace and supporting the students in making progress to improve their grade outcomes using the differentiated examples has worked better overall rather than just using ‘perfect’ full mark examples.

…on the flip side of this theory, this year I have used what I have affectionately call a ‘WACOLL’ (for my own amusement of course, not necessarily shared with the kids!) stands for ‘what a crap one looks like.’ I used this after my year 10 photographers had gone through the initial skills boot camp over the first term. To give the students confidence in their ability I created a VERY rubbish version of their mini coursework project – I made sure that all of their little bad habits from the early stages of the course were included. We then spent a lesson analysing the example given and providing feedback based on the assessment criteria. Initially, they were too polite to be critical (one of my lovely girls said she didn’t want to offend me but she thought it was really rubbish!) they did soon get into the swing of it though and were able to really accurately assess the work given before identifying the key things that they needed to avoid in their own work.

In short, the use of visual examples, whether they are good, bad or differentiated – is a total winner for me, regardless of the group. I can actually genuinely say that the time spent preparing examples is the best use of my PPA time. The practical and visual examples drive the learning forward in my lessons, they help students to clearly understand how they can leap to the next level as well as supporting them in solidifying their existing knowledge by analysing the work of others. Even though I am known for banging on about assessment, if I had to pick just one thing that makes the most impact in my lessons, it is my WAGOLLs. Watch this space for more virtual examples to be uploaded to support students in developing their learning outside of the classroom too!

Mrs Arty Textiles