Specialist Spotlight: October

A Glance Inside Specialist Classrooms This Month

Art with Ms. Olson

I have been teaching elementary visual art for 19 years! This is my third year at Claxton Elementary. I am licensed in K-12 Visual Art and ESL. I received National Board Certification in Early Childhood through Middle Childhood Visual Art in 2011. My favorite part of teaching Elementary Visual Art is helping young artists develop their artistic skills to express their unique perspective. It doesn’t get much better than seeing the world through a young artist’s head, heart and hands!


All classes started the school year with art class procedures and how Claxton’s ARTS behavior model looks in the art room. We explored art class growth mindsets and social emotional connections with literature and the specific books as listed within the following grade levels.

  • K- It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr inspired our newest Claxton kiddos with an art lesson that focused on acceptance. Kindergartners created self-portraits and voluntarily participated with “It’s okay to be …” statements in a lively Paideia seminar. Students demonstrated diversity and tolerance in their words and drawings. We can make room for everyone in our art room because “it’s okay to be different.”
    From our outsides to our insides, we are currently working on “Dem Bones, Dem Dancing Bones”! Kinders are learning how artists draw bodies in motion with skeleton drawings. X-Rays, singing, dancing and drawing combine for some art and science fun! And music! And dance! Get “dem bones” moving!

  • 1st- First grade students read along with I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont. The main character rhymes his way into a comical painting frenzy! We are learning about how we keep our art materials on paper in the art room as compared to the book’s painterly main character. First grade artists imagined themselves covered in colorful paint and drew self-portraits. In addition to the self-portraits, we are currently working on traced hand and arm mixed media art projects. Echoing the main character’s painterly passion, their arms, hands and fingers demonstrate the use of pattern created with the art elements line and shape. Each of their fingers shows a different pattern. We are on our own adventure creating various painting applications with paint brushes and drinking straw “blow” painting around their pattern hands. They love it! Don’t be surprised if they ask for watercolor paints and drinking straws! We will complete this mixed media project with a little paint roller action. The students are thrilled with the alternative painting techniques and I couldn’t possibly say, “Ya ain’t gonna paint no more!”

  • 2nd-The second grade Arty Smarty students learned about Vashti and her fear to express herself in The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Vashti’s art teacher encourages her to “Make your mark, and see where it takes you.” She courageously overcomes her fear and practices herself into artistic confidence. By the end of the book, she is spreading her confidence by encouraging a little boy to “make his mark”. Second graders followed Vashti’s example by practicing painting their own variety of dots with primary colors and secondary color mixing. Students followed color mixing “recipes” as well as learning how to use the color wheel as an artist’s tool. The simple motif of the dot/circle frees the students from image based creating so they can fully experience the joy of color and explore it as an element of art.

  • 3rd and 4th- Third graders and fourth graders also learned about the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Primary and secondary colors were a review for these students. They doubled their color mixing palette by creating three kinds of greens, three types of oranges and three purples/violets with learning about tertiary colors. The students applied their color mixing skills creatively in their own dot paintings reminiscent of the book character Vashti’s artwork. Third grade dot paintings are on display in Claxton’s main lobby and the bulletin boards by the art room in celebration of Peter H. Reynold’s Dot Day that was on September 15th. Third and fourth grade students were assessed on their color mixing skills by completing their own color wheels including primary, secondary and tertiary colors.Wow! These kids and their SKILLS! I am constantly awed and impressed by our students’ commitment to creating! The students will have these color wheels in their art class portfolios for reference throughout the school year.

  • 5th-Fifth grade artists and I read The Art of Freedom: How Artists See America by Bob Raczka. Fifth grade Visual Art and Social Studies curriculum focuses on the contributions of both America and American artists to art history. Students learned how American artists create artwork from their individual perspective related to common themes. Fifth graders then began crayon drawings sharing their own perspective by visually completing the statement “America is…” as prompted by the book’s text format. Students are currently working on completing the drawings with the addition of mixed media with watercolor painting. Student’s are experimenting with their own unique style in the two art mediums with drawing and painting. Students made their own decisions regarding the use of the two materials and their balance within their compositions. The variety of subjects and themes used demonstrates the diversity of interest and motivation across their myriad perspectives. No two artworks are alike even though they may have explored a common theme!

Drama with Ms. Rigsby

I'm starting Year 10 of teaching at Claxton this year! I am dual licensed in Drama & Elementary Education. My favorite part of teaching Elementary Drama is channeling raw energy and excitement into creative play!


  • K- We have been, and will continue to be working with dramatic play centers! Students get to use props and costumes to play out fun scenarios like Pizza Parlor, Birthday Party, Airplane, Sandwich Shop, and Doctor's office.
  • 1st- We have been building our ensemble by playing challenging games together. We will be beginning our unit studying the Plot of Stories: Characters, BME, and Problems & Solutions!
  • 2nd- We have been building our ensemble by playing challenging games together. We will be reviewing Plot and changing the plot elements of stories we know.

All 3rd-5th Graders took a survey about their experience and preferences in Drama Class. As a group, we then analyzed the data to learn about our ensemble. We then participated in some creative challenges to build our Ensemble MoJo!

  • 3rd- We are filming a Seuss Mashup Video Project and incorporating some backgrounds they create in Art!
  • 4th & 5th: We are working on plot structures through some beginning playwriting! We are connecting an expanding on to what they are learning in ELA/Reading in their classrooms.

Guidance Lessons with Mr. Ackerman

I'm starting Year 11 of teaching! I am licensed in both School Counseling and School Social Work. My favorite part of being a guidance counselor is teaching students that ALL emotions and feelings are normal. I enjoy teaching them acceptable ways of expressing their emotions in all environments.

  • K- We are beginning our unit in Learner Skills using the 2nd Step Social/Emotional Curriculum. Student are teaching Puppy and Snail how to be a good listener and friend in their new Kindergarten class.

  • 1st- We are learning how to identify emotions and label them. We are learning new words to describe our emotions also. There are so many more feelings other than mad, happy, sad, and scared. Let’s talk about them all!

  • 2nd- We are learning about how to read facial expressions to understand how a person may be feeling. Not everyone is comfortable talking about their feelings but we can learn a lot from non-verbal cues.

  • 3rd- We are learning about making an observation of your environment to understand how people are feeling and why they may be feeling the way that they do. We are also learning that, in the moment, feelings can change. They do not always have to stay the same

  • 4th- We are continuing to talk about how feelings can change, not just in the moment, but feeling can also change over time. Do you feel the same way about roller coasters now as you did when you were 5 years old?

  • 5th- In 5th grade, we are focusing on careers. We will be learning about new careers using PAWS in Jobland. Students will answer some questions and learn about jobs that may be related to things they are interested in. They always have the options to explore and learn about other career paths as well.

Library & Inquiry 20% with Ms. Brown

I'm starting Year 8 of teaching! I am licensed in Education with a Masters of Library and Information. My favorite part of teaching Elementary Media is that I get to work with the students from kindergarten all the way up to 5th grade.

  • K, 1 and 2 - We kicked off library classes this year with some inspiration from one of my teacher heroes, Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. It is my hope that students at Claxton Elementary will ‘read in the wild’; whether they crack open a book while waiting for a dentist appointment, snuggle up with a book when they go to bed at night, or fall into the magic of a book while riding on the bus or in the car. We celebrated being ‘wild readers’ by reading Shine-A-Light books by flashlight in a tent set up in the back of the library (we can even read while camping!). The following week, we went into the makerspace and created a class Shine-A-Light book, using Ms. Olson’s light table and tapping into our creativity. We also were so excited to welcome author/illustrator extraordinaire, Grace Lin, to Claxton and enjoyed her newest picture book called Big Mooncake for Little Star! Next, we are looking forward to our first author/illustrator study of the year by enjoying beautiful books by Duncan Tonatiuh. Mr. Tonatiuh is originally from Mexico and incorporates some Spanish into his writing as his illustrations are heavily influenced by Pre-Columbian art. We will take the opportunity to learn a little Spanish as we read! Our study on Duncan Tonatiuh will even lead us into a mini-exploration of Mexico, where I lived for seven years, and will culminate in channeling our creativity through Day of the Dead makerspace stations!

  • 3rd, 4th and 5th - Our Inquiry 20% class got off to a strong start. For the first two weeks of school, each Inquiry 20% class met in the library with Ms. Eggett and I and we had the opportunity to show the students what the class will look like. We explored the Inquiry 20% website, watched some of the instructional videos we have linked up, and had the students put their student folders together. Each of the classes will start off with the students setting a goal for what they hope to accomplish during that class period. The bulk of the class will be spent with the students walking themselves through one of the four steps we have laid out of the inquiry process: topic development, finding resources and taking notes, final product, and reflection. During the last five minutes of each class, students will have a chance to reflect on whether or not they accomplished the goal they had set for themselves and what they have learned. Students are currently hard at work on their inquiry project and are learning about subjects ranging from modern architecture to the French Revolution to the Library of Congress to the Fibonacci Sequence! We are so grateful to our amazing instruction assistants, Ms. Findley, Ms. Goode and Mr. Headen for guiding our students along in the Inquiry 20%!

Music with Mr. Butler

I'm starting Year 19 of teaching -my 12th year at Claxton! I am licensed in K-12 Music and Spanish . My favorite part of teaching Elementary Music is teaching a subject in which all can participate and be successful.
  • It is so much fun to welcome new Kindergarteners to the music lessons! We get started on our musical journey by imitating simple rhythmic and melodic patterns in voice and body percussion. Singing and marching to The Grand Old Duke of York gets us moving and learning about tempo (the speed of music). Learning that words have inherent rhythm, and finding those rhythms in our names, helps the music teacher begin learning all the new names. As we start playing our first music room instruments, we work on following the basic cues of a conductor. Simple rhythm instruments (rhythm sticks, hand drums, triangles, etc.) allow for an accessible way for all students to feel successful with simple music making. Singing silly songs (like Froggy Went a Courtin’) gives us a chance to be exposed to new vocabulary and ideas as we begin to understand that music is our ticket to learning about all kinds of other subjects..

  • 1st- We start our year in first grade with some work songs; The Wee Dwarves, Tatus (Polish Haying Song). They get us moving, introduce us to new vocabulary, give us a context for discussing the basic elements of music, and tie-in to some character education (work ethic, being “kind-hearted folk.”) We review basics of rhythm (quarter notes and eighth notes) and train our musical attention skills with lots of rhythm stick activities. The students particularly love the rhythm stick version of Simon Says.

  • 2nd- We start our second grade year with a greeting song from east Africa, Jambo Bwana, and a dance song from west Africa, Kye Kye Kule. We start learning about the musical concept of form by singing call-and-response, call-and-answer, and multiple verse songs. Students are excited to get into our class music books (2nd grade is the first year we have class sets of music books) as we begin with learning to follow a song score with Song Time. Rhythm stick activities help us review basic rhythmic notation and train our musical attention skills. We are looking forward to our visiting LEAF artist residency in mid-October.

  • 3rd- We begin our third grade year singing across languages with Jambo Sana, a greeting song. Hand drums play a key role in building rhythm and percussion skills, reviewing note value, and some fun musical games. We venture into our music books for musical learning with songs like Rocky Mountain as we begin a stronger focus on knowing our note names on the staff which will lead to recorder flute playing later in the school year.

  • 4th- Singing in Swahili with a greeting song from Kenya, Jambo Bwana, kicks off our 4th grade year. The song helps us learn about chord structure and patterns. Hand drums play a key role in building rhythm and percussion skills, reviewing note value, and some fun musical games. Autumn Rounds helps us celebrate the season and leads us into learning about canon form, which we also experiment with on percussion instruments.

  • 5th- The Glad Song, and Autumn Rounds get our 5th grade year off to a singing start. The songs helps us learn about melodic movement, canon form, and allow for some basic accompaniment with rhythm instruments. Hand drums play a key role in reviewing and building rhythm and percussion skills, reviewing note value, and some fun musical games. We tie-in American geography and history as we sing and discuss Woody Guthrie’s classic, This Land is Your Land.

P.E. with Coach Swain

I'm starting my 7th year of teaching at Claxton! I am licensed in Physical Education grades K-12 . My favorite part of teaching Elementary P.E. has to be the awesome relationships I am able to have with my students. I am also in my 10th year coaching football and baseball at Asheville High School. I am so excited because I am now to the point in my career where I get to coach my former Claxton students!

  • Kindergarten and 1st Grades have been working on the manipulatives of tossing catching and balancing. We have been using bean bags and scarves. The students have also had a blast working on locomotors as well as listening and following directions with a “Listen and Move” song as well as the ever popular “Animal Actions.” They also had a blast playing Trash Your Neighbors Yard.

  • Our 2nd - 5th grade students have been having a blast using their math skills as they and a partner earn and trade money in our super active game Risky Business. This is a game which we tie into the Stock Market and risks taken in the Stock Market. You would not believe how much fun they have running laps to earn their money!

Upcoming Arts Events For Students

  • Construction of Monarch Butterfly garden is underway!
  • 2nd Grade Leaf Residency begins October 17th-19th, with Dr. Nativo from Guatemala.
  • Didgeridoo Assembly on November 8th!
  • Seussical Jr. performances will be November 16th-18th.
  • Hour of Code week is December 3-7th.
  • Storytelling Festival is on December 7th- during the school day!
  • Our Annual Art to Remember Fundraiser will be in Spring, just in time for Mother's Day & Father's Day