Submitted by: Jan Johnson, elementary art teacher from Fairfax County Public Schools.
Product Title: Toobers & Zots
Grade Levels: Kindergarten & up
Product Review: Intended as creative building tools for open ended play, Toobers & Zots are made out of the same material as swimming pool “noodles.” The large tube pieces, called toobers, are of varying lengths from a couple of feet to over a yard. Toobers have wire inside which allows them to maintain whatever shape they are twisted into. They can be curled, bent, folded, and zigzagged into three dimensional forms. The other pieces, called skinnies and zots, can be attached to the toobers and other skinnies and zots. They add a decorative element to the work. There are over a hundred dots, short tubes, star bursts, circles, crowns, and other shapes. Watch the video of my Kindergartners using this product below.
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This medium allows my students to work in a scale that is larger than they normally get to experience. Because of the abundance of material in each kit, several students can easily work cooperatively on one sculpture. I would suggest that you allow 1-3 students per box. Although my students do not get to keep their work when they are done, I take a photo of each student with their work and print a copy of it for them.
The forms come in a small box in which they fit tightly. Once they are put to use, it is near impossible to get them back in their cardboard box. I put each set in a plastic box about the size of two shoe boxes. The long tube pieces I keep separately in a large plastic bin. Storage is an issue for these currently, as I have limited storage space in my classroom.
The person in my county who introduced us to Toobers & Zot said that they are durable. She had been using her sets for over eight years.
When I priced them online, they seemed to be expensive. Amazon is selling them for around $24 a set. I did see several other sites offering them and the price was comparable. There were sets on eBay, new and used, for considerably less. Our county ordered so many thousands of sets of these, they were able to work out a much better deal with the company.
Though these were purchased for a specific lesson in my kindergarten curriculum, my older students have begged me to let them try them out as well. The kindergarteners thoroughly enjoyed using them and were slow to put them away.
Bucket Rating (5 out of 5 – Love! Need it! Gotta have it now!):
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After you get all of the routines and procedures in place, how do you reinforce those positive student actions? One way is by creating a Positive Reinforcement Game Board for your art room. I discovered this system from my colleague, Cassie, when I first started teaching and we shared a classroom. The game board can be as simple as a piece of poster board or as elaborate as your imagination can make it.
When I started using the game board it was called the “behavior game.” I know, how unexciting, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. This year I asked my students to come up with a new theme for the game board and they choose Artopoly based on Monopoly. Many of the game board spaces have images of public art found in Chicago instead of the traditional Monopoly spaces. You can pick any theme for your game board such as an artist palette, a book like Mouse Paint or a museum such as the Art Institute of Chicago. The idea behind it is simple but very effective in motivating my elementary students. Follow the classroom rules and you can advance around the game board to earn a reward.
Here’s how it works:
- The game board rules are your classroom rules.
- Each day your classes can earn a certain number of spaces to advance on the game board by following the classroom rules. My classes earn up to five spaces a day, but you can pick a number that works for your classes. I keep track of how many spaces my classes have earned by drawing stars on the dry erase board.
- When the students are lined up at the end of art class, move their class game piece forward the amount of spaces they’ve earned for the day. At first my class game pieces were little flags made out of construction paper and push pins. Now they are made of scrap leather bookmarks that a local bank had extra of from a free give away and T-pins.
- When a class reaches the end of the game board they earn a big reward! Remember, because this is a long-term incentive, the reward needs to be very enticing to your students. For my classes it’s an art party with numerous art centers to choose from while an art-themed movie is playing. Art centers can be a collage with scrap boxes, free draw, scented markers, gel pens, stamps, tracers, modeling clay, play dough, puzzles, leftover chalk pastels, leftover oil pastels, colored pencils, how to draw books, watercolor, crayons, weaving, markers, computers or murals on butcher-block paper. Basically, art centers are any media that encourages exploration, development of fine motor control or won’t cost extra.
New Twist on the Game Board
This year my school district adopted new nutrition rules that do not allow food to be used as a reward. I used to have a popcorn art party when a class reached the end of the game board with the art-themed movie and a few extra art activities. To replace the popcorn, my classes generated a list of art centers (listed above) that they would like to earn as they advance around the game board. When a class lands on a ? space I ask them an art question based on the content we studied that day or from previous years. If they answer the question correctly they earn an art center. To keep track of what each class has earned, I drew fish bowls to go with our all school behavior system The Fish Philosophy. This new twist on the game has worked out great! Students are working even harder to earn an art party but they don’t realize it. It also gives me another way to review content studied each day in class.