Wednesday, March 19, 2014


You really can't go wrong with animals. Kids love them. There's so many to learn about. And you can tie art and science together by talking about animals, habitats, life cycles,etc. You can also tie in to social studies by looking at where in the world different animals are found, and how people around the world make art about animals because they are beautiful or scary or symbolic.  Here's a look at some things we've been working on K-2 in My Blue Art Room (and we've been so busy the poor blog has been a bit neglected- on the other hand, we're in the PA top 10 on Artsonia right now... guess where my energies have been directed....)
 With Kinders we learned about different habitats and landscape and drew a background picture for where our animals could live.
 Then we painted some textured paper ala Eric Carle after looking through his Animal Alphabet (hey literacy connection!). Finally we learned how to tear shapes out of paper to create animal shapes, making sure to choose an animal that would match our habitats.
 I asked students what was in their picture and wrote down their sentence. I love hearing their descriptions. I like to use titles or one sentence descriptors as an introduction to art writing- something very important to me.
 First graders started their "Art around the world" unit, and looked at Australian Aboriginal dot paintings for inspiration. We talked about what animals lived there and how they are very different than animals in other places because of how they developed on an island continent separate from other continents.
 They used an animal picture resource sheet for reference and chose which Austalian animal they wanted to paint. They then painted the interior of their animal shape a solid color.
 The next week I showed them a short animation of a dot painting and we talked about how the dots could create patterns or camouflage for an animal, or how the dots in the paintings could show how an animal moves or where it has been (tracks). The dots create a sense of movement.
 Seeing the video really helped them be more thoughtful about why they were making dots. These are much larger than the ones we did last year. I also asked them to come up with an interesting title for their work and I went around with a sharpie again to neatly write their title and name. I've had requests lately from teachers for names on the front so they can see whose art is whose when it's on the walls.
 Finally my 2nd graders have just completed their Oaxacan-inspired wood animal sculptures. We read "Dream Carver" by Diana Cohn, and then planned an imaginary animal to create.
 Then we assembled wood blocks and shapes to create an animal form. Above is a "Rabbit-Deer" and below is a peacock.
 We spent one class period on painting a base coat over the whole sculpture.
 Finally, we added feathers, googly eyes, and painted details to complete it. Students also wrote a short description by completing sentence starters: This is a_______. It lives in________. It's special because____. Sentence starters are great for prompting younger kids' writing about their work. Whereas older children can respond to a question. There's a certain skill to turning a question prompt into a response- my younger kids tend to think they have to copy the question and provide a one-word answer. NOPE! Complete Sentences please!!
More animals are on their way.... Spring is in the air.....

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

More portraits!

 I'm not sure where I found this lesson idea-- somewhere in Pinterest-land probably,but I thought it was a great literacy integrated project. Kids did a 4-square organizer to plan out the cover of their favorite book (title/author, characters/setting, 2 sentence summary, impressions of the book). We talked about how the information they wrote about the characters, setting, and plot should put pictures in their head and help them come up with an illustration for the cover.
 We learned about the parts of a book, and noticed where designers put all the information that makes us want to read the book. After completing the covers,we broke out the construction paper and made collaged self-portrait. What a messy, crazy room it was with paper everywhere!!! It seemed a bit wasteful, but the kids did a great job making interesting hair,slightly in relief. The books were added on,sticking out from the page. Although most of the faces were covered by the books, you can peek down between the layers to see their expressions.
 It was very interesting to see what books were chosen, and how that reflected the reading levels of my 2nd graders. Lots and lots of Dr. Seuss books were chosen, a few Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Magic Treehouse chapter books showed up, and then there were a few kids who stole my heart by selecting Alice in Wonderland and Voyage of the Dawn Treader from the Chronicles of Narnia.
 At their age,I might have chosen Little House on the Prairie as my favorite book series. Of course, I was the early reader and perpetual bookworm always lost in another world of an author's creation.  I hope my students caught some of my enthusiasm for reading through this project- I think kids need to see that adults love reading. Reading gets bogged down in academics and testing. I tricked them into doing a book report with this project, but for the most part the kids seemed engaged in the stories they were showing me.
For the few kids who seemed lost for an idea, I reminded them that there are ALL KINDS of books- including comic books, instruction manuals, fact books, dictionaries, etc. And I have several projects that show Minecraft and Lego building guides.There's even one or two book covers with the words "written and illustrated by" on them because a child wanted to write their own book! 
I greatly admire authors- theirs is a greater art than mine. I make pictures a viewer can explore, but an author paints a whole world of characters and story making us create the images in our own heads actively. This is a great feat....
Keep reading everybody!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tired of snow yet?

 Maybe never. At least my Kinders aren't yet. We tried drawing self-portraits starting with a directed drawing, then adding color and pattern, and finally printing with a q-tip on top to make a flurry or a blizzard.
After 2 years of no snow days, we're getting our fill this year. Another storm may be on the way...

 I'm not sure what's going on in the one above- happy? sad? I think it's exasperated. More snow!!!??? Yay? I don't think we're ever going to get all these projects done. We should just go hibernate and come out when the crocus pops up.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Can you feel the emotion?

 How are you feeling today? I'm feeling pretty proud of my 3rd graders. Right before Winter break we were able to finish our "Emotional Self portraits". I just got around to photographing and sharing these on Artsonia, where you can read their artist statements as well.
 Most of my students did happy faces, but there were a lot of surprised ones too (it's fun to draw surprise), and a few did bored or tired. Whatever emotion they were trying to show, they had to show through facial expression and through their choice of background color.
 We were using the Biggie Tempera cakes for the first time. I had them mix colors right on the paper or on the lids to the trays. Last year I had jars of tempera in boxes on the tables and the kids used popscicle sticks to dole out paint onto a palette and mix. But distribution was such a hassle, and many kids spent more time mixing colors than actually painting. Or they wouldn't ever mix enough. I think the Biggie Tempera was much easier to distribute and use, although the mixing issue was still a slight problem, and many kids were too impatient to let things dry before painting next to an area, and they had colors bleed. It shared issues normally seen in watercolor painting. Overall, the portraits look slightly sloppy, but perhaps I'm just putting adult aesthetics inappropriately on viewing kid paintings... The ones I'm sharing here now are the best from each class. I do have some very careful painters. I wonder how the 4th graders would compare...
 These 2, above and below, I find the most expressive and imaginative. The glasses on the one above make it look so much like the child who painted it- it's oddly the most realistic of the group despite the rough painting. And the one below was a feat of creativity, for unhappy with the way he painted his eyes, he decided to paint a scuba mask on the face and turned it into a diver afraid of an oncoming shark!!
 The half-closed eyes and purply colors make this one soooooo sleepy:
 This one had a funny story about feeling sneaky because he was spying on his sister:
 And apparently this individual has anger issues (I'm not kidding, he actually wrote that in his artist statement!):
 I'm fascinated with their honesty in 3rd grade. They share their thoughts and feeling uninhibitedly. I'm glad they feel art class is a safe place for that and that our projects give them an opportunity for self-expression.
 Last year I had third grade do conversations portraits showing themselves talking with a friend, but this year the kids seemed more invested in just painting their own large self-portrait.
 This Philly's hat and Call ofDuty shirt give me an idea for next year... clothes and accessories make a big difference in showing who you are and what you are interested in. We'll have to try emphasizing that next time.
I wish I could post all of them, but really I already did on Artsonia. Go check out the rest, and feel free to leave a comment for my students!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Happy New Year!

 I went back to school on Tuesday after an extra long Winter break (so great when Christmas is on a Wednesday!). Of course, we're suffering through the coldest weather I've ever known in my entire life... about 1/5 of our students were absent yesterday!
 With my remaining Kindergartners, we looked at the Firework art of Cai Guo-Qiang as well as some fireworks photographs I'd taken on New Year's Eve.We talked about the sounds, sizes, and colors of fireworks and even watched a short video of fireworks in reverse!
 We made hand motions to mimic the sound and expansion of a firework explosion, clap...and going out from the center in a radial motion.
 We used oil pastel on black paper, noting that you can't really see fireworks if they go off during the daytime. As students finished up I asked them to count how many they had drawn and to notice if they were big or small.
 At the end of class, each table group got to come up and make a fireworks show saying "POP!" for their small ones and "BOOM!" for their big ones. I really love this project... it's quick, fun, related to student experience, kinetic, auditory... the best!
I have to share this construction by one of my 4th grade boys. He had finished his stained glass project early, and had time for free choice (a 4th grade rarity). It seems appropriate for this Happy New Year post as it's an awesome Chinese-inspired dragon. I loved how he surrounded it with water diamonds.
I hope the rest of the school year continues as easily as the beginning has been. Happy New Year, everybody! Have a creative year blessed with highly engaged and well-behaved students! (We can dream, right?)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snowy days, medieval times, and still-lifes

December is speeding by, and I wanted to share what's been going on in My Blue Artroom between snow days, field trips, half days, and holiday concerts. Really it's a wonder I can get the kids to finish anything when I barely seem to see them!
 First graders were definitely able to relate to our snowy landscape project as it's been nothing but snow around here for the last week and a half. We watched  a clip from "The Snowman" as well- so there are some northern lights showing up in a few drawings.
 We tried to emphasize near and far through scale in these drawings. I just realized there was a penguin in the picture above! Another inspiration from the video I think. Isn't it funny how even kids who grow up in rowhomes with flat roofs still draw square houses with triangle roofs?
 I'm impressed with how detailed Santa's sleigh and reindeer are in this picture. I do not make projects specifically holiday related, but kids are excited about Santa right now.
 My 4th graders are learning about medieval art and did an illuminated letter in metal tooling with sharpie color. While half of one 4th grade class was out for choir rehearsal, I had a lovely group of 16 kids. The small size and roomy space allowed me time and energy to follow creative inspiration to add cardstock frames to their creations for them to embellish. It made a huge difference in how they turned out.
 It also allowed more room for personal expression.
 And more space for imaginative drawing. I love the dragon border repeated from the dragon in the metal below: If only all my classes could be just 16 kids- it was the most relaxing and creative day. They were being artists.
 Kindergartners are learning about genre, starting with still-life. we looked at some Matisse and Cezanne still-life images first. I asked them if any of their parents or they took pictures of food or things at home. It was startling how many of them had access to cameras or tablets for taking pictures. I REALLY wish I had technology in the art room like that. These are tech-literate KINDERGARTNERS!!!!!
 Since I don't have bowls and fruit in the art room, we used art room stuff to make a still-life instead. The kids built a little shape still-life for themselves and then drew each shape on their paper (NO tracing!! okay some tracing was going on.... but some kids needed that support).
Coloring skills have skyrocketed in Kindergarten in the past 2 months. I keep emphasizing "no scribbling- that's what 4-year-olds do and we're 5 and 6 years old!" They are taking it to heart and showing me how careful they can be. I love it! 

I have 3 1/2 more days to teach till Winter break!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

That class that is always ahead!

My first graders have been working on a texture and landscape project. First we did leaf rubbings, then leaf observational drawings, then a landscape background with a horizon line, and finally painted a tree to glue their leaves onto. 
 However, my first graders are a very mixed bunch, and what I'm able to get done with one class is impossible with the next. I don't lie projects to take too long, but if a class can't listen and follow directions things take longer. These trees are from my Tuesday class. They spent a day on rubbings, a day on drawing leaves and backgrounds, and one last rushed day on painting, cutting and gluing leaves.
  It was terribly rushed on the last day, so with my Wednesday class I only did backgrounds and trees- saving cutting and gluing leaves for our pre-Thanksgiving half day. Thursday's class I rushed them through to finish up knowing we'd be out this week, but Friday's class were already a week behind from a previous day off and only got to paint this week.
 So that means when we get back from Thanksgiving I'll have 3 classes ready for a new project and Friday's first grade will have to catch up. But, oh, that speedy Tuesday 1st grade!! Since they completed their trees last week, I had to come up with something for them to do. We talked about different kinds of trees, different seasons, and how sky needs to touch the ground.
 Their drawings are absolutely charming. At the end of class we sorted the pictures out by season, and I asked the kids how they could tell which picture was which season. The flowers, butterfly, and few leaves in the picture above says Spring.
 The sun, beach scene, and short sleeves teel us this palm tree is in summer.
 The orange and red leaves in the tree above make it Fall above. The snowman and star on the fir tree below tell us it's Winter.
It was one of those lovely art days with some kids who were thoroughly engaged in their work. I kind of wonder how this project would be different for kids who live in rural or suburban areas where trees are not so rare. Or for kids in desert areas where they see no trees at all. My urban kids were very excited to draw and touch real leaves and to think about those wondrous trees.