Friday, December 2, 2016

Games in the art room

Once per trimester my classes can earn a "Free Choice Day" which I mentioned here. Since that post, I've accumulated some new games and favorites that I wanted to share. 

Zany Chain - Summary: It's like win, lose or draw. They pick a card and read the clue. There are three ideas on the card and they choose one to draw with a metail chain (like a long necklace) on the table. 

Playfoam - Oh, my gracious. This is the coolest stuff ever. The students were so excited to work with it. The best I can describe it, is if playdoh and a rice krispie treat had a baby, it would be this stuff. It doesn't stick to the table. If you seal it in a bag it stays good for over a year. It's pricey, but worth the splurge. 

Magna Doodle - Available at a yard sale near you

Block Buddies - Like tangrams, but for younger kids. Making picture mosaics to match a picture card

Drawering - This year I had four ipads available as a station. I limited them to this app, no selfies, etc. I think the novelty worked, because they didn't fool around at all. They get very zen and relaxed with this. It's like a spirograph without the little circle, wheels where your pen pops out of the space every 3 minutes.

Rubik's Race - Match the pattern by sliding the tiles. Square Up is another version, which I prefer because they each get a separate board and don't have to be seated across from one another. It allows for solo play and includes two shakers.

Scratch Art Anything - I've had them do trees, mittens, bookmarks. Anything to use up the scraps or colors no one wants. 

Many of these items would also be good year round in an art center for early finishers.

Friday, November 18, 2016


Before our large football rivalry, our district has a bonfire at the high school. It's a pretty big deal. Seniors camp out over night to guard the wood. My 4th & 5th grade students were more than eager to tap into the excitement of this annual tradition with chalk pastel bonfires. A few of them decided to roast marshmallows. A great review of warm and cool colors.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


What to do when you find out you can't use sinks for the day and had planned painting and glazing? Today I road tested my Iggy Peck:Architect lesson. For today's lesson, since I was caught a little off guard we read the book and they worked in teams at their tables to build a bridge across a river (a 4x9" piece of blue paper).

Each table had the following items at their disposal:
scrap cardboard
(1) piece of wire
glue sticks
(8) popsicle sticks
(1) straw

The only rule was the bridge could not touch the river in any way. They completely rocked it and were SO proud of themselves. I had not at all predicted the way they would take charge of this project and I never would have come up with some of their solutions. There was only a small moment of fear when one of my shy, quiet girls began stabbing the cardboard with a closed pair of scissors to make notches in the cardboard.

Early finishers were allowed to create a house made of unusual materials. I had a picture of the old lady who lived in a shoe and the Berenstein Bears' tree house.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mini Taxidermy Projects

I've already submitted my Crayola Art Educator grant for the year, but I'm thinking this might be what I do next year. Model Magic Taxidermy heads.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scarecrows Finished

The first group of students finished their scarecrow weavings  today and they are much better than I expected. They really put their hearts into this. Definitely will do this lesson again. Printed out photos of cornfields for inspiration, but did not do direct instruction. I love the way they turned out! Some were early finishers so the texture plates came out and we made the scarecrow faces look like burlap feed bags. So proud of them! If you'd like to teach this lesson but don't want to write the three week lesson plan, check it out here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Scarecrows in progress

My second graders started the scarecrow weaving lesson today and they really rocked it. We had a discussion about what scarecrows are, where you find them, what they do and what objects you would use to make one.

The students made good connections to the use of farm supplies such as hay, feed bags and broomsticks. Our population is divided urban/rural so there are some students who live on or visit farms regularly so that made the lesson come alive for many of our kids.

They were able to draw the face, body and stripes. Next week we will cut the stripes and begin to weave. If this seems like a lesson you'd like to try, check it out here.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Weaving Remix

Since I have taught my woven sweater lesson off and on for four years I was getting a little bored with it and wanted to switch things up this year. In the past both first and second grade did a weaving project, so I decided to drop it from first grade this year and move it earlier in the year for second. They are definitely ready and able to handle it.

This little cheat sheet will really help at their tables or in case a substitute needs to step in.

 I also tweaked my powerpoint to get down to the bare necessities. After attending the AOE conference last year, I was pretty excited to add the Weaving DVD featured in the swag box to my professional library, so I may not use the PowerPoint at all, but it's ready to go.

What's your favorite way to introduce weaving? If you'd love to teach this lesson, but hate to do the planning, it's available for download here.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

I saw a poster in Oriental Trading for the anniversary of "The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" and immediately knew I needed to make this a lesson somehow. Since one point perspective is not my favorite way to start the year, I decided to go back a step and begin with the basics of perspective. Less formulas and rules. Once my students could master the casual perspective basics of overlapping, page placement and scale they were ready.

It took about 3 and a half classes on average to complete the pumpkin patch and I was able to work in lots of third grade vocabulary such as value, silhouette, horizon line and resist.

Here are the amazing results.

If you love the lesson, but hate writing your own plans check this out.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Pair of Socks

As I look to wrap up my first year teaching art to Kindergarten I've been checking my curriculum guide and the National Art Standards to see what else I can squeeze in. A while back I had pinned this adorable book to my books for art educators board and decided it was finally time to develop the lesson plan.

Art Lesson Plan Teaching Pattern

For my sample I decided to use the Placolor set. It goes on like an oil pastel but dries completely smudge free in less than a few minutes. This is a fun alternative to the richness of an oil pastel minus the messy clean up AND my overflowing drying rack. I'm all about that in May!

Using some digital patterns that I had created in Photoshop for signs and labels, I made a set of cards for the students to play a memory match game. After I print and cut them apart, they can turn all of the pairs upside down and test their memories. I think this would be a fun closure activity for those finishing early.

If you've gotta have the details on this plan for your classroom, it's available for download here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rocking Out in Kindergarten.

My students started their "pet fish" rock paintings. To start, I picked up about 100 rocks from a friend and we washed them off. I primed them with a layer of white acrylic so the colors would pop. Week one, we read the story "Only One You" and discussed what it means to be original. I then had them trace their rock shape on scrap paper and plan the design for the following class.

Week two we talked about patterns and practiced tapping out a few and filling in the blank to predict patterns. Using permanent markers, they added faces and patterns to their fish. Here are a handful of our finished pet fish ready to go home.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Magazine Bowls

Saw a great step by step tutorial on and decided it's the perfect last project of the year. The library is getting rid of magazines (score!) and the bowls can be any size.

The other thing I like about this is the ability for students to easily prep their own materials after finishing the current project. It's the time of year where they are wrapping things up and are at various stages. I know as soon as they finish they can either tear pages out of magazines or start folding magazine pages. If you'd to do this project without having to write your own three-session lesson plan, you can get mine here.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Toy Story Reveal

Fourth grade finished their toy story perspective drawings. The results were remarkable and the students really enjoyed this approach to the projects I have tried in the past. Definitely a keeper. Will make some revisions in the future. I love the option with the jenga tower for my gifted students to challenge themselves by removing a few pieces.

If you'd like more details on how this lesson is presented, this plan is available for download here.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Toy Story

I've been teaching perspective just about the same for the past ten years and sadly, I've been teaching it the way it was taught to me. Which isn't always a bad thing. Except for when it's boring and not relevant.

This year, I'm trying a new perspective lesson with my 4th graders. They are going to draw a box from worm's eye view. So I had them start with some homework. They had to promise me that they would put a toy that is a rectangular prism or cube on the floor and lay on their belly and look at it. They were supposed to rotate the object so that a corner, not a flat side was the closest thing to their face. Most were very excited to brainstorm a list of things that could potentially fall into this category.

I gave myself some homework as well, and set up a few photos at home to display on the board during the next class. For some reason they really love knowing that I have a daughter just about their age. They think it's funny that I borrow her toys and things for our lessons. So I knew this would be a crowd pleaser.

Today we started following the steps to creating the box using two point perspective. I reminded them that they were working like an animator from the film "Toy Story" and they were drawing not what Andy would see, but the little green army men. I had them imagine what they could see. Could they see the top of the jenga blocks? (NO!) Could they see out the window? (NO!) Could they see the outlet (YES) the carpet? (YES). The jury is still out, but I felt like more of them were with me, and had a clear picture in their minds of where we were going. So, ah....homework for the win?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mack Stack

After the kindergarten students read Yertle the Turtle and completed the three design centers, the following week we began our paintings. We discussed what we learned about building. We decided that Yertle would stand on the bottom, and we would add the turtles on top, each one getting smaller than the one before and facing opposite directions to balance the pile. We gave each shell a different pattern with black crayon and then used watered down tempera on top to do a wax resist.

Finished works

The lesson plan is available on TpT.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kindergarten Centers

My colleague shared a great lesson idea for kindergarten based on the book "Yertle the Turtle." She did painting with her students. After reading the book for the first time in about 3 decades I decided to go in a slightly different direction. I was hoping to make the lesson two weeks instead of one and to have centers so that the students could try a variety of media.

This was a great book for the month of March, when there is a great push to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday. I love the anti-bullying angle of the book. We also spent some time talking about how the students could create a better throne for Yertle.

I love the ability to incorporate games and play into this lesson. We have a game called "Table and Chairs" where you have to stack plastic items until it finally falls over. It's a great way for them to think about balance and structural integrity. Full copy of the two-session lesson plan available here.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

To Bin or Not to Bin

Do you leave table bins out for all classes of common essentials, or do you have each class pass supplies out as needed?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Kandinsky Snails

A very cute pin of snails keeps popping up in my pinterest feed, unfortunately it's a broken link. I would love to attribute it to the right person but can't find them. When I saw the picture of all the snails displayed together, I immediately pictured Kandinsky's Concentric Circles in Squares and knew I had my next Kindergarten lesson planned.

This was great timing as the students had just finished a lesson on color mixing so to continue that theme we talked about the order of the rainbow and how rainbows are formed. They understood there had to be the presence of water so that helped with a sneaky trick I had planned.

Each student received a coffee filter and was told to draw a circle in the center and color it solid with a marker that was one of the rainbow colors. The next step was to make 2 concentric circles around the first using colors in the rainbow that touch one another. When they were finished we misted each one with a water bottle and left them to dry.

The next week I remarked that their coffee filters reminded me of snail shells. We set to work creating spirals inside the shell. They cut them out and selected a body color. All items were glued down onto background paper and faces were added.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hang ups

Last week the music teacher asked if I had a need for some nifty bulletin board pins. I was picturing pushpins with glitter or something equally tacky. The kind of bizarre thing that makes people think of an art teacher. So I was pleasantly surprised when she handed me a box of these.
The design is very sleek and allows me to quickly pin work in the hallway or wherever WITHOUT staples, thumbtacks, t-pins or other nonsense. When I decided to order more I found them on amazon and staples and they are a bit pricey, but I've decided to invest in this timesaver. I swap out 28 artworks every week to have a rotating "Artist of the Week" represented from each one of my classes. My previous system of thumbtacks and binder clips was functional, but not this easy.  With the binder clips, if you don't find the exact center, the artwork would hang lopsided. If I was hanging 12x18 or larger I needed two clips. These are sturdy enough to only need one, which means I can hang up in half the time. And, if you're like me, you won't have to run back to the art room when you are hanging up your 3rd of 25 artworks and realize (again) that you're out of staples. Every. Single. Time.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Joy of Palette Knives

In preparation for their landscape paintings, I recently shared a Bob Ross painting clip with my fourth graders. It was completely silent. The amazing kind of jaw dropped wonder that I remember from my own discovery of Bob Ross in the mid-eighties was reflected back to me on every face. The first question when I turned off the video: "Do we get to use that knife thing?"

Yes, grasshopper.

It turns out, that I will be letting them use "that knife thing" a whole lot once I discovered how much easier it is to clean 30 palette knives as opposed to 30 paintbrushes. Like the difference between washing a bald head or Rapunzel's hair.

Wet sponges on their tables made all the difference. Now I'm encouraging ALL paint mixing to be done with the knive and to apply paint with the knife or a brush. I will definitely bring this idea to the other grades, expecially for color wheels and other things where they don't have to paint in a specific shape. Saving so much time and paint this way. I'd have to imagine it will extend the life of my brushes as well.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mouse Paint Remix

I bought the book "Mouse Paint" my first year of teaching and used it the first week of school for a first grade lesson. I have also used the book with my Art 2 students in high school as the basis for an illustration prompt. Now that I am back at the elementary level, I have used this book with every grade at some point. As my kindergarten students wrapped up their paper sculptures I was looking to move on with sculpture but not sure if I wanted to tackle clay. I remembered seeing the mini-mice lesson from Deep Space Sparkle. I've also been seeing lots of play-doh color wheels on pinterest and decided to combine the two using Mouse Paint as my inspiration. I'm going to road test it next week. I used model magic. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Drum Dream Girl

The book "The Drum Dream Girl" by Margarita Engle is a wonderful story with gorgeous illustrations. When I showed my music teacher she immediately agreed to collaborate with me. Since she does drums with second grade, I created a project for that grade.

We will end with a partner activity where students will respond to their classmate's work using haiku.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Riding the wave of the classroom discussions of Martin Luther King's Dream Speech, this month I introduced two dream inspired projects. My first graders began a painting unit. For three weeks students created sheets of paper using marbling, wet on wet, gradations, squeegees, stippling, blotto, diffuser paper and more.

During the last class, I read the book "Dreams" by Ezra Jack Keats. The students were excited to search for "their" techniques in the book. I like this reversed format of ending with the book instead of starting. We focused on an illustration of the apartment building where everyone is dreaming. We used their paint explorations to fill each window where someone is dreaming.

The second lesson is a collaborative one I started with our music teacher. During their lesson last week, I read the book The Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle. We talked about discrimination and determination. The illustrations in this book are so vivid and layered. The students loved searching for patterns as I read. I find that if I give them a job while reading, whether it be a word to listen for, or a specific thing to spot, it increases their engagement. In this case, they were on the hunt for patterns, and were to give me a quiet "thumbs up" whenever they spotted one. The music teacher reinforced the use of repetition and patterns in music. We will be following this up next week with scratch art illustrations of a drum of their choice.