Classroom Resources

The Classroom Teacher, winter 2013-14

What started as a diversion on a cold January 2012 morning for TCTA member Donna Staten has turned into a pursuit that has transformed how she teaches art at Gattis Elementary in Round Rock ISD. In less than two years, she has pinned 67,000 lessons, samples and videos onto more than 350 Pinterest boards. Staten has created such a well-organized collection of ideas and inspiration that her Pinterest profile has more than 50,000 followers.

But they aren’t the only ones paying attention to this power pinner; she’s quickly become nationally known for being a pro at using Pinterest in the classroom. Staten has presented one of her Pinterest art lessons at the National Art Education Association conference. She has been featured in Pinterest’s own blog. And in fall 2013, she was one of five teachers invited by the Gates Foundation to participate in a roundtable discussion on social media in education in New York City.

What’s so pleasing about Pinterest?

Staten says it’s connecting and sharing ideas with pinners from around the globe. “There’s a whole world of people doing the same thing I’m doing,” she says, “the same issues, the same problems. Many have solutions.”

She’s organized those solutions — in the form of pins (which are essentially links to online images, articles or videos) — by topic into Pinterest boards, or collections of pins, which make up her Pinterest profile.

Having these resources all on one website makes it easier for Staten to find what she needs when she needs it — say, for example, when the kindergarteners get a little restless at the end of a 50-minute class. With Pinterest, she quickly pulls up a two-minute video on shapes and colors to draw their attention back to the lesson.

“There’s never down time when you have things pinned,” she says.

How has Pinterest changed her teaching?

One word: multimedia. Staten says today’s students aren’t the same as those she first taught 28 years ago. They’re accustomed to videos and games and using technology in so many aspects of their lives. So she pins songs and video clips that relate to her lessons to get students excited about the topics.

She’s also implemented ideas for classroom management that she found on Pinterest, including one that has streamlined the pencil-sharpening process and another that has provided a “calm jar” for students to hold when they need a short timeout.

“I’m very organized,” she says, “but I have learned so much about classroom organization, and I feel like everything is flowing much smoother.”

Pinterest has also changed how she organizes her materials. “If I am teaching a lesson on Picasso, I don’t need to pull out books, slides and heavy prints,” she says. “I have them pinned on Pinterest, along with lesson plans and sample work from kids in the past. It’s all right there, organized and quick to access.”

What tips does the Pinterest pro offer fellow TCTA members?

  • Map your boards. Before you hit “Pin it” even once, create a plan by listing the boards you’d like to create. Staten’s boards are organized with sharing in mind (art blogs all in one, printables in another), but she says if she were to start over, she’d create a board for each lesson she teaches. That way, she could have the various resources that relate to each lesson in one place.
  • Keep each board’s focus narrow. “I started with one board about clay, and before I knew it I had 2,000 pins on it,” she says, explaining that too many pins on one board makes it harder to find the one you’re looking for. Her solution was to divide that board into 15 more specific ones, but that took days, as pins must be moved from board to board one at a time (something Staten hopes Pinterest will change).
  • Don’t pin anything that isn’t kid-friendly. Staten recommends having a separate (not easily searchable) Pinterest profile for personal pins. While she controls which boards she shows her students during class, Pinterest profiles are public, and students will look at them at home. Pinners can have “secret” boards; Staten says she uses those as holding pens for pins she hasn’t yet assigned to a board.
  • Note the length of videos. Always preview video clips and note the length of each video in the comment section of your pin, so when you return to it later, you will know how long it runs.

Follow Donna Staten’s Pinterest profile at pinterest.com/artgirl90, and learn more about Pinterest with “Pinning 101” at about.pinterest.com/basics.