Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Games in the art room

We somehow ended up with a mindware catalogue in our home before Christmas. This was dangerous for a number of reasons. It got me wondering what kinds of games and toys other art teachers use in their rooms. The following are some staples in my classroom for days when they earn a "free art day" as part of their PBIS reward. 

1- Etch a Sketch
2- Magna-Doodle
3. Wooden Blocks
4. Shape by Shape
5. Square by Square
6. Tables and Chairs
7. Doodle Dice
8. Logic Dots
9. Jenga
11. Qbitz

I love that Qbitz calls itself a game a visual dexterity. That's going right on my lesson plan. 

Which games do you use in your art classroom?

*This is not a sponsored post. I have purchased all above items for use in my classroom.

Who will see their shadow this year

If you had asked me where I stood on "seasonal" art projects three years ago I would have asked you where I would find the time. I was going to be super busy with all the critiques and social issues that I was infusing into each lesson. Please don't bother me with your pumpkin/nutcracker lessons. I'm a little too busy cramming ten thousand years of art history down the first graders' throats.


So over winter break I was browsing the children's book area as I am wont to do when I have giftcards and I saw yet another book that I had to have for school. My daughter is now nine and I can't even pretend these books are for her anymore. But it sure was a sweet ride while it lasted. The cynic in me noted how quickly (Dec 26th) the Christmas books had vanished in favor of Valentines day themes. Right there amid all those red hearts I saw this little gem. That's right. Because no one know how to plan for a holiday themed art project like this girl right here. I'm already feeling that uneasy pang that we may not finish in time for Groundhogs Day if there is snow. Fingers crossed for no snow!

The book reminded me of a cool lesson I have seen and pinned no less than 3 times over the past couple years and it seemed like just the right time. My second graders will be starting a figure drawing unit once we return, and I've decided to have them try the crushed foil sculptures with shadows.

Can't wait to give it a go.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Student Work

Some of the recent works from my students:

Melted Snowman Pinchpots (2nd Grade)

Symmetrical Nutcracker (2nd)

Still Life Drawings (3rd)

Still Life Paintings (4th)

Snowmen at Night Landscape Collage (1st)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gift box still life

Last year I did a still life lesson with my fourth grade that I wanted to switch up for this year. I remembered seeing an idea on pinterest to practice 2 point perspective by drawing gift boxes and decided this would be an easy way to grab attention during the craziness between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This lesson easily takes four weeks from start to finish and there are many great extensions I could add (such as creatures stirring in the foreground). Lesson plan available here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I love when a trip to Barnes & Noble becomes a new lesson plan. A few years ago, I did an exquisite corpse lesson with my Art 1 high school students. It was a wrap up activity after an arduous portrait project. We did a mash-up of everyone's images and it was lots of fun. I don't know why I didn't think of it for my elementary students. Below are my 9th grade student samples (a single student page followed by a mash-up)

Keith Graves' book "Monsterator" will get your students excited about exquisite corpse. It could be done as a follow up to a portrait unit, or as a stand alone. I'd like to bind each class set together into an album. There are not many lessons I can say this for, but I truly believe you could go 1st-12th grade with this and it would still be relevant and enjoyable.

It could be a great fall "sub lesson" for middle - high school. Teachers could create a worksheet like the one I'm including with the lesson plan over on TpT to simplify the measuring for the younger students. And when they're done? Why not let them play a game?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Simple Display System

I've implemented a student artist of the week program at my schools over the past three years. In addition to a certificate and having their work added to our Artsonia online art gallery, this year the students will also have their work on display in the classroom for the week. With 12 sections at this particular school I had to find a simple way to switch out the art quickly. Using thumbtacks and binder clips I think I have my answer. I also display the boards in chronological order (which helps me get the work up and down and back into the right folder faster. Each class has their homeroom teacher name at the bottom and I use the grade level color code for the background color to help the students easily find it. Simple. Inexpensive.

And yes, I totally realize how lucky I am that my 6' cabinets are all covered in bulletin board material. I highly recommend that as well!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Art Class - by the book

In first grade I've been trying to connect lessons in a meaningful, sequential way. We started the first class Reading Peter Reynold's "The dot" which we followed up on our next lesson with the book "When a line bends, a shape begins." They will soon be reading the book "Spookly the Square Pumpkin" as we talk about shape and form.

Since I share buildings I've started purchasing a few books as iBooks. One of my classrooms is set up for reading, with a nice carpeted area, and the other isn't. I like that I can project the pictures large enough for all to see without moving. I do miss turning the pages and the up close feeling of reading to the class.

Monday, September 22, 2014

In-spidered- by Mondrian

Last year I tried the Mondrian Spider web lesson with first grade and it was pretty successful. This year I decided to add a powerpoint to teach the students more about the De Stijl artists. Presented it for the first time today and it went really well.

Here's a snap-shot of the powerpoint I made:

They also did a little practice worksheet today as a group. We talked about composition, what is and isn't part of De Stijl aesthetic. Then they had to draw a tree using those parameters. I had them do a horizon line, a vertical for the tree, then as many branches as they wanted and finally adding square "leaves." I kind of like this a little better than the spider web, but since I had them do it small on scrap paper....that idea goes into next year's idea bank. They will create spider webs next week.

This item for sale on TpT. Now you don't need to spend an hour this weekend making your own powerpoint!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Free Color Theory Worksheet

As part of our evaluations, each teacher is required to write an SLO (Student Learning Objective). Our department decided to focus on color theory for 3rd grade. We are in the process of collecting our baseline data. I may use a worksheet like this as my post test. Offering as a free download on TpT.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer Vacation

Ah, summertime. Nothing but sleeping in and lazing around by the pool, amiright?

Curriculum mapping is currently taking over an entire room in my house. For once, I'm trying to plan things by month as to not need to use the drying rack for more than one grade level at a time. Emptying fourth grade paintings during my lunch so I can reload with second grade paintings the same afternoon is getting a bit old. I also like to do printmaking with each grade, so that's another wet storage issue. I did order an over the door drying rack for one of my rooms but that only gets me 20 extra spots.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Posting Your Objectives

A few years back my high school began asking for teachers to write their daily objectives on the board. Those of us who taught 7 classes and may have had to share rooms tried to think of creative ways to handle this with the limited board space we already have.
At the high school level I used mini dry erase boards to cover an existing bulletin board. I could write the studio objective up and leave it up for as long as the project might take without having to worry the custodian might erase it each night and keeping my other boards free. I still use four of the boards at one of my buildings to display daily objectives even though it is not required there (yet). I modified the system at my other building using 4x6 magnetic photo frames and love it.

I can fit an index card inside each photo frame. I save them and can reuse them when the standard is taught to another grade level. I love the structured look and how easy it is for anyone to find out what we're learning.

Getting Ready for Your Sub

Nothing makes me cringe more than the thought of being absent from school. We are currently having a terrible shortage of subs (made the front page of the news today in fact) and so instead of having one person in my room all day, there might be other teachers or administrators covering my classes. EEK! All the more reason to tidy up and make sure ANYONE can walk in and deliver a 40 minute lesson.
This year I started a sub shelf. It is eye level behind my desk directly above the printer. There is a note to the sub that is under the clear desk mat directing them to self-select from that area in the event they can't follow the art lesson for the day.

I've included the "Getting to know the world's Greatest Artist" series, How to Draw books and sub-friendly lessons (inside the binder).

Art Teacher's Guide to Organization

It there is something that Charlotte has made abundantly clear this spring, it's that my strengths as a teacher lie in organization and planning. If that's your weakness, one of the easiest things to jump start your organization is color coding. One of the worst things to do is spend four hours looking through pinterest. It's kryptonite, I know.  Here is something you can do TODAY that will yield time savings TODAY.

Place your important stuff, notes to your sub, your schedule, etc on your desk. Place a piece of plexiglass (or if you can afford it, a see-through desk mat on top). Use colored markers and color code grade level (or course, if teaching high school). Every day before you leave, make sure that area is clear so a sub can jump in if needed.

Under my mat I have: Color coded schedule, A note to the sub, The district, what to do in case of emergency card and my class counts (the number of kids in each grade level or by each day - so helpful when counting out supplies or making photocopies).

I have the rest of the steps posted for free over at Teachers Pay Teachers. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Curb Alert

At the end of the year some of us may find ourselves packing up our room. Maybe you're preparing to change classrooms (I know I am!) In my nine years of teaching I have taught in ten rooms and a cart. These are some things that I normally do that make this process easier.

1. Measure the new space. I measure the room, the desks and empty wall space. I make a blueprint for each room. This is not to be confused with a seating chart (which I also do). This is for me so that if I am wondering if that free bookshelf someone wants to get rid of will fit in my room, I can figure it out. I also keep photos of each room in my laptop or smartphone. I also shoot a video from the center while rotating.

2. Inventory the new room. Be sure to find out if anything is going with the old teacher or has been promised to someone else. Consider all wall space. What can be hung, mounted on the surface?

3. Be open to moving desks around. I know some people don't like to move the kids once the year starts and I am not one of those people. They are in the space for 40 minutes. I am there for 40+ hours per week. It has to work for everyone.

4. Plan storage for Wet and 3D items before setting up student desks. Room flow and easy access to sinks make for better clean up and happier teachers.

5. Label things as you unpack. It's frustrating to open 10 cabinets looking for a glue gun. Even if it's just painter's tape until you can make something pretty. I label my sinks (Sink 1, 2 and 3 or Sink A, B & C). Students are divided and informed of their sink assignment during first class where a sink is needed. Yes. Even with high school kids.

6. Use the change of room as a reason to purge. You know all the people who send kids to your classroom for a paintbrush, some colored pencils or other art tools? As you're weeding things out, make a curb alert pile outside your room. Even when I'm not changing rooms I've done this. People DO want your sloppy brush and your tiny nub of a colored pencil. I send a notice to the entire building and most of my "junk" is gone in less than 30 minutes and I didn't have to move it.


So proud of my 4th graders who rocked out their landscape paintings in 3 classes. Due to field trips and other fun end of year activities I was concerned that the quality wouldn't be there and they did an amazing job.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Chihuly Revisited

Last year using the Crayola Art Education Grant, I was able to purchase the resources and materials to do a lesson with 3rd and 4th grade on Dale Chihuly. The transparent seashell paintings were so beautiful that I had to do that lesson again. I showed portions of the video that related to stained glass and transparency to the students. They we sketched seashells from my collection and each student traced their best onto clear acetate with a black sharpie. We used marker and white acrylic paint on the back to create these beautiful shells.

I am lucky enough to have a gorgeous display case which is accessible from my room. This was after the first class. The case is now filled with dozens of shells. This helps students understand art as an installation and as a collaborative process.

Unit plans for this lesson are available here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Castle and Sun with Paul Klee

Getting to know the world's greatest artists is an easy way to introduce young students to famous artists. I was preparing a lesson that I hoped could be finished with a sub during an anticipated absence. We started with a reading of the Paul Klee book from this series. Students learned about abstract artworks. I shared a print out of castle and sun. We talked about castles they have seen or made (almost every student has made a sand castle, or a castle from blocks, so this was a good entry point for our discussion). I told them we were going to draw, as if we were building with blocks or legos. They made a 1" grid on brown kraft paper. Students who finished early drew a castle from their imagination on scrap paper. During the next class I showed them how to convert their castle into one made of colored blocks. In hindsight, I might actually bring legos or blocks in next year and have them start with that as a group activity at their table. I've actually done that activity at the high school with great success (maybe it was the novelty of 15 year olds using blocks).

We used construction paper crayons to make the colors pop. There are a lot of really nice castles that are not finished yet. Can't wait to see them develop.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pastel Seashells

May has been a month of all things summer related. As first grade finished their jellyfish, second grade began drawing seashells from observation. We spent one class period doing step by step drawings of scallops, channelled turbans and moon snails. Then I placed a collection of shells on each table and they could draw a new shell on their brown kraft paper. For the second week, I gave a pastel demonstration and they ran with it.

The little sign in the bottom right corner is something new I started adding to bulletin boards. It's the QR code to the artsonia gallery for this project.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Sponge Hierarchy

Last week I had to take a personal day and had laid out things for my sub as best as humanly possible. As I went to flip the lights off something caught my eye and I had a moment of sheer terror. I had left my "good sponges" out in plain sight. Good sponges. What if my sub wasn't sponge-worthy? I can't be alone in the coveting of a good sponge. Here's the hierarchy as far as I know it.

Level 1. Brand new sponge. Glorious and yellow from the cellophane packaging. A new sponge gets cut into thirds or sometimes quarters right from the package. (Sponges don't grow on trees, y'all.)
This sponge can only be used for printmaking. Once it mops up a table or something with glitter, it's all downhill.
Level 2. Once students have misused a printmaking sponge it can be used for moping up small spills by the teacher. This sponge is still too pretty to be given directly to students.
Level 3. Your everyday free range sponge. This can be used by anyone for just about anything.
Level 4. This sponge has seen better days. When wrung thoroughly the water from this sponge is always slightly gray and smells of gym socks. It can be cut down into shapes for sponge painting or stamping. Several of them can be used as packing peanuts for taking home clay projects.

I don't think you're ready for these jellies

First grade rocked their jellyfish paintings.

I had intended for this to be a one day lesson, but after thinking of the various steps and uncovering a Mark Kistler DVD I made some changes. On the first day we talked about watercolor paint, transparency and I demonstrated how to do a wash. They were given the blue liquid watercolors and a mop brush. I had them paint their backgrounds only - which took all of 5 minutes. While the backgrounds dried on their table, I fired up the DVD which had a segment on drawing jellyfish. They got very good at drawing the shape.
For the second week, I demonstrated how to paint the jellyfish, including the forced air tentacles. They used the rest of the time to paint. It's a much better result than if we'd done it all in one class.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Drawing with Scissors

After reading the book Matisse: The King of Color students did an amazing job with their collages. This lesson addressed figure drawing, silhouette, emphasis, movement. During bus duty the next day a student walked by and said "The King of Color is Here." A keeper for next year.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

DIY Liquid Watercolors

This week I had a need for blue watercolor paint and lots of it. We're talking about 150 first graders painting the ocean. I had visions of little hands gripping mop brushes and dripping the paint all over including the yellow pan. I wished I could just give them blue and nothing else. So I did.

We all know that blue is always the first color gone from the watercolor box anyway. I popped out the remnants from all of my old watercolor boxes and tossed them into shallow water bowls. Pouring a little warm water (enough to cover) into each dish, I left them to soak while I went about my day. Checked on them about four hours later and BAM! Liquid watercolor paint in a dish big enough for 4 mop brushes. I'd like to do this at the end of the year with all my remnants (separate by color) and store them in the little applicator bottles I found. Not sure what the shelf life will be. Sounds like a summer science project.

Backgrounds are done. Next week: Jellyfish!

Monday, May 5, 2014


First grade took their weaving projects to the next level, using the finished paper as a checkered tablecloth for a picnic. We talked about food shapes and creating a balanced meal by eating a rainbow. Students then decorated the edge of their plate and glued it onto the tablecloth.

They looks so cheerful in the hallways. This was their recycled project for Earth Day. We used up almost all of the paper in my scrap box. Lesson with introductory powerpoint available here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Shrinking Arcimboldo

4th grade had so much fun getting their heads shrunk. We studied Arcimboldo and used their photos to create a profile to fill with their favorite things. I think these will be great Mother's Day gifts.

Friday, April 25, 2014


2nd Grade used up lots of paper from my scrap box to celebrate earth day with some beautiful paper mosaics.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Word Palette

Much more fun than a "word wall." I color coded the words to the colors I use for each grade so that when a lesson is over, I can easily spot and take down the key words and add the new ones. I sketched the shape on bulletin board paper and then cut away the palette to show the brown cork underneath. The letters are hand written with a thick marker, but you could cut them out if desired.

I saw a similar bulletin a few months ago on pinterest but apparently didn't pin it! If it was you, I'd love to give credit. Let me know who you are!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Imagine Dragons, Part 2

Second Grade finished their scratch art dragons. We were able to add landscape vocabulary to round out this project. After students colored a landscape background and glued their dragon they were invited to add fire. Using straws they blew orange paint from the dragons nose/mouth. They had so much fun.

Lesson plan available here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Imagine Dragons

I am so excited to introduce this lesson to my second grade class this week. We're going to start by reading the book "There's no such thing as Dragons."

Then we will imagine what a dragon looks like and draw it onto transfer paper. It will become a scratch art lesson in texture and finally part of a larger illustration where students get to become a fire-breathing dragon as they shoot orange paint through a straw with their own breath.

This lesson could definitely evolve for upper levels. Tying into popular fiction such as Harry Potter, How to Train your Dragon and Eragon. I've swiped a few of my daughter's favorite books to take in and share such as "Room on the Broom" and "That's not my dragon."

What's your favorite dragon book to use in the art room?

Friday, March 21, 2014


Working on a new way to introduce paper weaving to my first grade classes. This lesson starts with a  10 minute powerpoint. I am hoping they will sit still for me!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Printmaking Lesson

4th grade is finishing up their printmaking projects. Having them use a gridded drawing really helped. Each students made up to four prints and selected their two best to turn in for grading. Some of the students really liked and chose to include their ghost print.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Georgia on my mind

This year's Crayola grant had me revisiting my Georgia goes 3D lesson. I changed the approach by having students START with the cup/vase design so they had a place to store the flowers as they were created. We read a Georgia O'Keefe biography and created the cups the same day. Tip: I wrote their initials on the bottom of the cup before they arrived. I wrote them with a colored sharpie to match their table color. If I'm going to have 90 of these sitting around I better be able to figure out who they belong to!

2nd class: We used old modeling clay in the bottom of the cup to weigh it down (also a great way to get rid of all the modeling clay they ends up gray/brown that no one wants). They rolled it into a sphere. Tapped the bottom flat and pinched the top. It looked like a hershey's kiss. Then as the flowers were created, we attached the flower heads to pipe-cleaners and inserted into the modeling clay. I didn't bother to have the wrap the stems in clay this year. We saved that and let them do a second week of flower making.

After the last flower was done, we added tissue paper around the stems to hide the modeling clay. At one of my schools I have a lovely display case that I can load from inside my room and it faces the hall. I was able to store work there in progress. It was fun for the whole school to guess what would blossom.

 So very pleased.