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




Since the last entry of this type it’s amazing how many things have changed. My #nurture1314 blog almost looks like it is written by a different person.. not quite sure if that’s a good thing – maybe just a sign of how quickly things change, particularly in the current climate of education.  Looking back and reflecting on it now there are some things on my 20 14 ‘ wish list’ that I managed:

I have started to wear more sensible shoes for work (might seem a tad trivial but my back is very grateful for it!)

I have just about finished my MA – just awaiting game now to see if it’s actually all been worth it and I have passed!

I have started to do more art myself. It may be mostly WAGOLLS at the moment – think it’s a good transition from doing nothing though and it makes me feel less guilty for spending the time making and creating.  In reality,  I don’t mind making things to use at school,  the outcome of the making isn’t as important as the process. I just enjoy the creation and experimentation of physically doing and making  things… in a way, the wide range of examples that I do for school is far more satisfying for my creative needs as I get the chance to play and experiment!

Now.. on to this year. I have opted to slim things down this time (in an attempt to be more efficient and all that) rather than writing out 14 best bits from 2014 and 15 wishes for 2015:

5 ‘best bits’ from 2014Art office

Being appointed as Head of Art – after a few failed attempts to progress in the pastoral system at school I did feel slightly deflated and not sure of where was meant to be. The Head of department role has allowed me to feel like I can use my skills and ideas to benefit others.. its early days but it feels like this is always where I was supposed to go.  We have a really hard working and dedicated team which obviously has made things a lot easier to make changes but also, there’s a lot to be said for just  feeling like you work with nice people who are on the same wavelength as you.

Teaching Art full time – This may seem like a strange one considering the above comments.. However, like many textile teachers I  have always had to teach D&T textiles for KS3 students as well as teaching the more arty version to exam groups. The change of job role this academic year has meant that textiles has been fully integrated into the Art department now.. Arty textiles for everyone!

Lovely new office – The relocation of classrooms etc.  over the Summer was slightly more eventful than anticipated; opening the Art office in the first week of the holiday and finding that the fridge had leaked all over the carpet wasn’t really on the plan! however, like all things, there is usually a silver lining.  After a lot of work, paint and throwing things away – we have a refurbished office (complete with sofas so that we actually have somewhere to sit and mark work now. The image above shows the before (on the right)and the completed job (on the left.)

Going Underground – I had a vision for the department to ensure that the KS3  students bought into their assessment process and new how to develop.. Those of you who have read my staffrm story on bradding will already know that I have a slight obsession with the London Underground – it is this that influenced the branding off the new assessment systems.  The students seem to really understand the differentiated train lines and how they need to improve in order to change trains. The conversations with students aren’t just  ‘what level am I Miss?’ – they are meaningful  discussions about how they an improve.

Saying goodbye to Year 11 – For some teachers, you will read this and fully agree that waving off year 11 each summer is indeed a positive! .. For me it is a slightly more complicated one. This year I said goodbye to my first tutor group, the group of students that I had from their first day in year 7 and supported right through to their last day in June (I even spent most of my Easter holiday hand drawing/painting a version of each of them as their leaving present!-I know, sad!) They were literally like an extension of the family – and I often had ‘proud mum moments’ as well as the ‘disappointed mum chats’ in equal measure over the years! It really was lovely to see how much they had grown up and (in most cases) turned into mature, confident an independent people. The really lovely thing about it all though is that in September I was given a year 12 tutor group – I even have some off my old ‘kids’ back.. even if they didn’t say much as they left year 11, they have told me that they really appreciate having me back for their 6th form journey as I’m their school ‘Mum’ and they know I’ll sort them out!

My lovely tutor group

5 Wishes for 2015 

Be a good HOD – I know this may seem like a bit of a far fetched one…. However; I want to (try my best) to be a supportive, understanding,  inspiring HOD who aims to drive the subject forward and uses the range of subject knowledge that I have to develop the way that art is perceived by the wider school community. It will be interesting to see how this one develops – I anticipate that this will always be on my ‘wish list’ from now on!

Embrace technology – this is a slightly complex one as it involves a range of different aspects of the job.. The ideal situation is to become more efficient with assessment, planning and teaching by using carefully selecting ICT systems. We have already streamlined the way that photography is taught in year 10 by using virtual portfolios.. The new iPad should hopefully go someway to help the quest for more efficient assessment (this extends to continuing to push for increased access to ICT for the students too!) ..looking forward to significantly less books to be carted home.

Accept that I can’t do everything – I am a self confessed perfectionist and this s a tough one.. I hope that this will be a simple way to relieve some of the build up and stress over the last term. It is difficult for me to admit defeat, but I need to be honest more often and tell people when I’m sinking. (Those of you who know me will understand how out of character it is for this one to be on the list.. Although, it’s an important one.. I am more than happy to admit that I can’t pretend to be superwoman anymore!)

MORE Art! – Even if it is just to add to the ever increasing mountain of WAGOLLs for work, I have really enjoyed the making and creative aspect of the job. I often tell my 6th form students that I never started out wanting to be a teacher.. I am a failed designer. The teaching thing just happened by accident. Not that it means I am any less dedicated to the job, it just means that I crave the creative, hands on making ‘thing’ …making working examples for the students helps me to keep creative without having that ‘teacher guilt’ thing that I’m wasting valuable planning/assessment time etc.


Complete the department blog – This is a personal target, I really really really think that it would not only be a HUGE asset to the current cohort of students but would be a really valuable resource for future students (not to mention the wider arty education community) too. The directory sections of my personal textiles blog have been the most visited by far, it is this type of resource that I want to create across the art endorsements…. Watch this space for a fully detailed, all singing and dancing art blog at: soon.

…There are so many more wishes, although being more realistic with my time is something that has to be a priority in order for all the positive change to be sustainable…. It will be interesting to see if I manage it!


Mrs Ary-Textiles




Using Technology to Engage

I have always prided myself on the fact that I can put a good Powerpoint presentation together – you know, using different music and images that the students can relate to (more recently using the Bitstrips app to create different versions of me to ‘speak’ to the students for lesson tasks.)

After observing others on Twitter I decided to download the ‘explain everything app’ to play with. So far I am very impressed with the ease of use; even though I have only had the app a couple of weeks,  I have already used it with GCSE students to explain areas for further detail and to support them with their annotations (inspired by the lovely @LeedsArtTeacher) to give students a clearer idea of exactly where their work needs improving with the use of visual images and written notes.

This initial success with using different ways to communicate information with students has resulted in me testing the app a bit further. The example above is the outcome of discussions with younger KS3 students during their  lessons. They like to get started quickly (this obviously benefits the lesson as they have longer to complete tasks) students also, maybe rather obviously said that they like videos and more interactive media. This got me thinking about how to start a lesson with the ‘explain everything’ app… what if every lesson had a video to set the task – would the students engage quicker? would the novelty of having a ‘video’ telling them what to do instead of me get them settled quicker?

..this is very much an experiment that will be expanded and developed to test the full potential of using the app in lessons. At the moment the voice over is provided by my daughter – the version with my croaky throat was terrible and so cringeworthy to listen to.. my year 8 students might even listen to Ruby more carefully as it’s a break from the norm.

I am really interested to see if this can develop into video demonstrations and other virtual support for use in lessons – possibly to share with other staff in the department.

‘Explain Everything’ is available on both Apple and Android – why not download it and have a play?


Mrs Arty-Textiles