Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kids and Clay

  What is it about kids and clay (especially boys)? That seems to be the most popular center I have (that and painting). Just when I think I've seen it all, I get a surprise.

The boys love to pound the clay. I've had to set some parameters so that I actually get some of the boys to use the time to actually produce something other than a squished ball. So I bought some dowels, cut them to about 18 inches, and have taught the kids how to use them as rollers.

Then I instituted a no pounding rule and taught them how to knead the clay (like dough). Then I worked with them a few times and got them set off in the right direction. I also set up a display table so that kids could display their work (with the understanding that it might not be there the following week as others needed to use the clay). The image on the left is a small try. I have since made available an extra table I was using for something else (of less importance). Kids love to see their work displayed (even if for only a day or so).

One of my first surprises was this rose. The 4th grade girl had learned this at home. I love it when this happens.

The picture to the left (with the little girl smiling in the pic) is another of those great surprises.  Wearing that big smile, she eagerly showed me her clay project.  "It's a snail on ice skates!"   Is that cool or what.

Here are a few more creative ideas from students.  I love the Michelin Man!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Drawing in the "Drawing Studio"

Drawing is one of those activities that kids are drawn towards (no pun intended). I try to make all materials available and provide easy access so that the center runs itself. I have lots of step-by-step drawing books and a decent assortment of objects such as fake fruits, bowls and cups, plastic insects, and other objects kids can draw.

I encourage the kids to use the exact step-by-step process they find in the drawing books. Where's there's not a step process offered, I've told them to use their knowledge of shapes and break down the picture into smaller steps. I've demonstrated this process many times and most students seem to grasp the basic ideas of drawing what they see.
I talk a lot about basic shapes and how to use them to create recognizable things. We've studied the ideas of Ed Emberley, Mona Brooks, and Mark Kistler where basic line and shape are the foundation for the drawing lessons presented in their books.

The kids also have sketch books that they keep in their work folders. This is something new I'm trying to manage this year. Students use the sketchbooks to both gather and practice ideas and to showcase some of their work. Sketchbooks are kept in their work folders.
Next week we'll be doing 5 drawing stations. In each station, there will be a different drawing activity. In one, student will work in their sketchbooks, another will focus on Pacific NW Indian art, and a third, zentangle. (another zentangle site) I have several other ideas floating around in my head for other stations, depending on grade levels. I'll share how things go. I'm excited to do both the Indian art and zentangle and see what the kids can (and will) do.

Friday, October 29, 2010

GOOSe Paper

I believe I got this idea from a fellow art teacher on one of the several art discussion lists to which I belong. Paper use is always an issue in my art room. Kids are always "messing up" and in need of a new piece of paper. This problem is two-fold: One, While I want kids to have the freedom to start anew when they make serious mistakes, I also want to encourage my students to finish what they start. And even though I do want my students to view their work with a critical eye, I don't want them to be so self-critical (such as "I suck" or "This stinks") that a simple "mistake" is enough of a reason to quit what they are doing and start over. Rather, I want them to work through their "mistakes." I don't like seeing them give up on themselves so easily.

Two, I simply don't like seeing kids use so much paper unnecessarily (particularly when we're all facing such huge budgetary restrictions). I've found many papers in the recycle bin with just a few scribbles on them or just a dab of paint. One can go through a lot of paper this way! Enter - GOOSe paper.

GOOSe paper is paper that is headed for the recycle bin. It's Good On One Side paper. It can be used for drawing or painting. I started using it last year and the kids were only slightly resistant at first. However, since the beginning of this year, we've only used GOOSe paper for drawing and many kids use GOOSe paper for their paintings as well.

I collect the GOOSe paper from teachers (and have a collection bin in the teacher's work room) and store it on various shelves in my room. It's a small thing but one that I have found very useful. I'd love to hear your thoughts and would especially love to hear if others use GOOSe paper in their rooms as well.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Here teacher. I made this for you!"

I often get students that want me to have the art work they have finished. In fact, over the past few years, I've collected hundreds of such art work and I've tried many ways to encourage the kids to take their work home. I guess I'm just a softy and I couldn't find a comfortable way to refuse artwork.

But this year I've been trying something new (new to me) and it's actually working. I told the kids at the beginning of the year that any and all art work made at school must go home to parents. And any art work they want to give to me, must be made at home. :)

I've actually had many students make me things at home and bring them to school. More importantly, those little art work treasures are going home to parents who can rightfully put them on refrigerators instead of putting them in a collection drawer (which is where those given to me ended up).

And what do I do with those pieces of artwork that are made at home and given to me? I have a special board where they are displayed. It's almost full. Then I'll start putting things up on the walls.

I'd love to hear how others handle the issue of kids wanting to give their work to teachers instead of taking them home.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's that time of year!

Well, I did it. I went into my classroom to start the process of setting things up. At the end of last year I stuffed everything I could into the kiln room and put other items on the available counter tops. And so it began - taking it all out, laying it out on the tables, and once again trying to stuff my "too much stuff" into my "not enough space" room. It's always a challenge, especially for someone like me who is organizationally challenged. I'm better than I was, but as I tell my friends, I'm 80% organized and 20% chaos. It's the chaos that kills me. That's why people like me develop the "pile" system.

Maybe your a Pile System organizer. Put stuff in piles, go through the piles and put thing where they go (if you have a place.) If you don't have a place for it, put it in the new pile (the: "doesn't have a storage place yet" pile.)

So my goal as I start this year is to set the room up to accommodate my TAB approach to teaching art. I have new materials that have just arrived, plus materials that other materials that have donated, and they all need a storage place to call their own.

I'm a little behind in posting this but I wanted to add pictures. And believe it or not, I'm STILL trying to organize! But I'm getting there. :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The end is in sight.

I can't believe that there's less than two weeks of school left. I still have projects to finish and a lot of cleaning to do! The kids are ready for summer break and it's probably a good thing to take a break. But I'm already thinking about how I will do things a bit differently next year.

We are nearly finished with our 4th and 5th grade clay projects. It's interesting how one can start out a project with one idea in mind and find that it takes a on a life of its own as things progress. That's the case with our clay pinch pot creatures. You can see the beginning lesson here. It was my idea to have all the kids create a clay pot creature. Yet it didn't take long for me to hear, "Do we have to make a clay pot creature or can we come up with our own idea?" Now what is an art teacher supposed to do with that? There are many things one can create with clay and a clay pot creature isn't a "must know" skill. So after the workshop on how to make a clay pot creature, I found some pictures of other project ideas, made some cards and gave kids choices. I'm so glad I did. I'll post the pictures to my website as soon as I can get things on the computer back in order. I've had to reformat my drive and am still in the process of updating and reinstalling my software.

I was very intrigued with the clay project on the left. Where he got this idea I don't know. It's turned out very nicely after firing. This year I had more projects crack during firing than I've ever before experienced. A few explosions occurred as well. In most cases the kids failed to re-wedge their clay. I think this is my fault. Even one of my examples (my dinosaur) lost its head. But a little glue and acrylic paint and they looked just fine. The one on the right cracked in three pieces. The student failed to score the leg/body connection and those fell off. After an initial gluing with a craft glue, I filled the holes with hot glue. It did the trick.

I hope to complete all the painting/glazing/firing next week. At the moment, all the projects that are completed are on display in the library. I'm very happy with the results.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Art Fair

Each year there is a Youth Fair held at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds in Chehalias Washington. There is a huge elementary art section held in one of the buildings. This year we had 46 entries and it was the first year I was in charge of getting the art to and from the fair. I brought my grandkids and camera along.

The Picasso's were among some of the best at the elementary level (IMO"). I was very surprised to see that they were made by 2nd graders. I would love to learn the technique the teacher used to get such quality work!

I recognized some art work ideas from resources I own and use each year. The Hot Air balloons come from one of Donna Hughes
videos. The "Flowers in Sunshine" are also from the Hughes video series. I recommend all of Donna Hughes videos. I love her ideas and I find her directions easy to follow.

The picture on the left was is my favorite entry. It's one of my student's pictures. I was very happy to see her receive a first place ribbon. Her artwork represents a complete original idea. I asked the student where she got her idea and she responded, "From my head." ;)

There is a gallery of pictures on my Facebook page and I think I have the settings open to all. Please let me know if you can't access the gallery. There are more pictures and some very nice high school entries. The Facebook Gallery can be found here.

At school I'm so busy with stuff that I can hardly keep my head above water. We're "into the thick of things" with 4th and 5th graders painting and glazing their clay projects. We also are making end of year sketch books (to take home for the summer and keep drawing). Many students have odds and ends in their folders to complete. And two weeks ago I introduced the collage center. I love to experiment at the end of the year and try new things and I love to keep the kids busy. I have some ideas for end of year centers but have to get caught up with all the other "stuff" that's on the table first.

Hope your year has gone well for you all.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wet Chalk Drawings

I found this project on and really enjoyed the entire process. Don't let the website's name fool you, it has lessons for many ages. This was a 4th/5th grade project and took several weeks (but can easily be adapted for other grades too).

I call it chalk painting and tell the kids that they are using chalk to paint their pictures. The process is simple: Students choose different colors of chalk and dip that chalk into white tempera paint and "paint" pictures they have drawn. The chalk and paint together makes a colorful paste and goes on very easily. It takes a bit of getting used to and one can overdo it with the white paint. If the chalk doesn't form a pasty substance when mixed with the paint, the student needs more paint. (Sometimes there's enough white paint already on the paper so remind them to grab it with the chalk and mix it in.) Experiment with this technique and see what works best for you. You want both the chalk color and the white paint to show. It gives a very soft look (these pictures really don't do it justice - too much reflection when I scanned them). I hadn't thought of trying other colors of paint along with the white (like a brown for the window shelf) but that might be worth trying).

We used light-brown colored construction paper but other colors would work well too. Construction paper is best as it is stronger than plain white paper.

First the students drew the vase/flowers/fruit/curtains in pencil and then outlined them in black permanent marker. Finally the students painted their
pictures using colored chalk and tempera paint. Most students re-outlined in black marker after the paint had dried. If students are careful, they can avoid this step by not painting over the black lines.

In the pre-lesson for this project we talked about balance, design, background, overlapping, and how to use the surface of a paper to create depth. Much more could be said but I left it at that. The tricky part I found was getting the students to understand the importance of placement of the vase and the flowers. The end picture is supposed to look like a vase of flowers sitting on a window shelf with curtains pulled to both sides. Pictures were not flaky or powdery.

The lesson can be found here.

A gallery of more student work is here. I would love to hear your comments or questions.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Warm and cool color project 4th grade

I've always been a fan of bright colorful projects. That's probably why this project appealed to me the moment I saw it. It's a pretty simple grid drawing. The students can either use grid paper or make the grids themselves using a ruler. After the grids were drawn I gave a quick demonstration on how to draw the fish.

Students use warm colors for the fish and cool colors for the water. Adding more than one fish adds to the visual effect of the picture and is what I recommended. But what I didn't expect is how long this project took some kids. It wasn't as engaging as I had hoped which probably accounts for the time it took to complete the pictures. Some kids loved them, others not so much. I think in the future I'd make this an optional project at one of my centers (we did this one whole group last year). Some kids eat this stuff up and all they need is a couple of examples to look at and they are off. As you can see, with just one fish it looks rather empty. Here is one of my favorites. It violates the "color rule" a bit but it has character.

Currently we are on Spring Break. Wishing you all a relaxing time off. Get refreshed! I managed to catch a cold and have been in bed the past two days. Happy Spring.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Clay Pot Creatures

4th and 5th graders were introduced to clay in our one day workshop. While they've used non-hardening clay many times before, most of them have not used natural clay. In the past we've made wall pockets and tile pictures but this year I decided to teach the kids how to make pinch pot creatures. We used this PowerPoint for group instruction.

I was a bit surprised at how difficult this was for some kids. Some had difficulty properly making the legs. But I encouraged them on, gave individual help where needed, and eventually most caught on. My plan was that on the first day kids would just practice making pinch pot creatures and the following week they'd make one completely on their own. It's been said that the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. I should have known. Some kids didn't want to make a pinch pot creature and had an idea of their own. Since I believe that kids should have a choice (sometime not but mostly yes) I decided that the pinch pot creature would be optional. I showed them how to make a tile, and showed a few examples of tiles I've made (for examples). And off we go!

I'll share more later as the projects begin to get finished. I have pinch pot creatures, cups and saucers, assorted tiles and other creative projects underway. I keep pictures of former student's work for examples and have found some interesting things on the net as well. This year I printed them all out making several copies of each and gluing them on construction paper. I made these pictures available as models to work from. I'm glad I did. I'd be more than happy to share what I have if there is interest. Here are a few more pictures of our first day.

I would love to hear comments and ideas of what any of you have done in the past.