Three Day of the Dead Art Lessons for Elementary Aged Children

 

I first learned about Day of the Dead as a student teacher at Buffalo State College. I was intrigued right away by the imagery related to the holiday. When I moved to Las Vegas I began teaching at schools where at least 50% on my population was Hispanic and most of my students were Hispanic had a Mexican background.

Fast forward 13 years and I am teaching at a school now where half of my student population actually celebrate Day of the Dead! This is a first for me. In previous schools my students didn’t really have much information about the holiday. So having students who do have a background with the holiday, does bring some new challenges. As a teacher who is not Hispanic, I do have to have a lot of knowledge of the holiday, Mexican culture and history, and art. Also given that my student population actually celebrates the holiday, in a city that does recognize the holiday, I do feel that moving forward you need to do some kind of public art display.

To start with I had a PowerPoint on the holiday, some Mexican history and art. My students were really impressed that I knew so much information about their culture. This made them really excited to work with me and we were able to move forward and create all these awesome projects.

For Day of the Dead my second and third graders created Frida Kahlo Calaveras using Crayola Model Magic. Calavera is Spanish for skull. We started by readingGetting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Frida Kahlo as a class. Then students created their skulls out of model magic.

Once they modeled their skulls, they glued them on to a 12″ x 18″ sheet of white paper. We read the book into class periods after the second class. Students wrote their first copy of a letter to Frida Kahlo. I reviewed the steps of writing a friendly letter in my class. Students were asked to find things they had in common with Frida Kahlo such as her love of art, Mexican culture, pets, and science. I reviewed and graded the letters as a formative assessment.

While I was busy grading, and correcting the papers students continued on their projects by drawing Frida’s body, and a detailed, pattered border. Then students added their letter with corrections as a background to their piece and colored in their border along with Frida with marker. To classes will be hanging up their finished works of art in our February music program which will highlight cultures from around the world.

Fourth and fifth graders created Calavera masks this past month using paper. I have a template that I will share below for a skull with slits on the side that can be cut and folded to mold the paper into a 3-D mask. Students first of all colored in their templates using marker. I required that their designs were symmetrical and highly detailed. I showed them examples of real sugar skulls in class to further bring home the points of symmetry and detail.

Then we added hair, eyelashes, hats, bows, and other details with scrap paper. I showed them how to curl the paper using scissors or by twirling it around a marker. I also taught them how to fan fold the hair into crinkle cut pieces. I gave students a lot of creativity with what they added to their mask but I did explain to them the difference between adding 3-D elements into the elements. If they cut out a flat hat and added it to their mask it would not go towards the criteria of having 3 3-dimensional elements in their mask.

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To finish we popped out the noses and teeth, folded and molded the mask so it popped out, include our masks on two 9″ x 11″ construction paper for matting. Students were asked at the end of the lesson to check their own work against the criteria of the project before turning it in for a grade.

I received so many compliments on the masks made by my fourth and fifth graders. For kindergarten and first grade I also made Calavera masks with paper, except I simplified the project. They also had to make their masks symmetrical. However their masks are flat.

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Students drew on the skull template in marker a symmetrical design. I modeled for them how to do that before they went ahead on their project. Then the next session we used glitter and sparkles on our masks after we matter them on 9″x11″ construction paper. Some of these projects are being chosen to be hung for a holiday display at the Smith Center of Performing Arts downtown.

We had so much fun creating these projects. If you need any materials or lesson plans feel free to comment below or in my Instagram. I’ll be more than happy to email them to you.

Fall Projects

I love teaching Day of the Dead for October. Working with students from a Hispanic background, many of them are Mexican-they are already familiar with the holiday. Many of my students have actually celebrated it in Mexico! I do review a PowerPoint on the holiday and its’ traditions prior to starting the lesson.

I have a skull mask template that I make photocopies of and then the kids draw using markers their decorations. We have just started this project and I’m finding sharing actual sugar skulls with my students is very inspirational while they work.

My requirements for my 4th and 5th grade students are that they include repetitive patterns, symmetry, along with the typical bright, colorful designs that are found throughout traditional Mexican art work.

I’ll be sharing more about the finished product as the month goes on.

The other lesson I’m starting for October is a Day of the Dead tribute to the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo with my second and third graders. I read to them her biography, then they need to write a sloppy copy of a letter to her showing what they have learned about her. They can incorporate ideas like pets, art, Mexican heritage in their letter to her to find some common ground. They create the skull using Crayola Model Magic and glue it onto a 12″ x 18″ paper. My students will finish the project by drawing the rest of Frida, writing the letter in fancy handwriting around their Calavera, and creating a frame.

I will share the finished product of this lesson as well. Happy October!

Starting off With a Bang!

What could motivate kids to spend four weeks on the same drawing? A big contest! I have the kids doing a local contest in which their artwork would be hung up in our bank, published in a calendar, and could win $100 for both the child in the school!

The contest is through the teachers credit union. The kids have to draw what makes them happy. I have added that whatever makes them happy cannot be something trademarked or with a logo.

During the first two weeks on a project my students work on the in pencil. Now they’re trying to add color with crayons and markers. I really pushed the idea of adding details by introducing MC Escher’s work. I also require that the stains out of background, foreground, and middle ground. I shared with my students my rubric to make my directions clear.

I’m really excited about how the project is going! It’s a great way for me to learn more about my students and their interests. Especially as a new teacher coming to a new school, these personal projects really help us start to build a rapport.

Van Gogh Sunflowers

For the beginning of the school year I like to choose a project that is communal, and small for each child to participate in. This leaves a lot of time for them to learn all of my procedures and rules during the class period. any good teacher and as of the first two weeks of school it’s all about rules and procedures so that the rest of the school year can run smoothly. This year I created a new lesson based on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Each child was responsible for creating a sunflower in two class periods. Also, during these two class periods we would go over all of my procedures, safety, and rules for the art room. We also reviewed the fire drill.

To start the project I presented the students the Sunflowers painting. We talked about what they saw. They told me about circles, I taught them by geometric shapes. They told me about cylinders and the shape of the vase. We talked about warm colors, analogous colors, I showed them the color wheel. I asked them What the subject of the paining wise: self portrait, portrait, landscape, or still life? I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that all of my kids knew that it was a still life! This is one of my school districts objectives: to teach the subjects in art. Kids should learn the four subjects in art upfront, so that way they are familiar with them throughout the school year.

The students also mentioned to me that there was blue in the background of the painting, this was a cool color. This also gave me a moment to explain to them that I expect to always see a background in their artwork. I don’t want them just to draw the main idea of their project and leave a lot of empty white space.

I passed out 6″ x 6″ white sheets of paper to each student and a pencil on the first day. Each student to their sunflower. On the second day we read Camille and the Sunflowers, to get a better idea about the artist life, and his intent and painting this work of art. This is a really great book to introduce students to life and art of Vincent van Gogh, however it keeps out some of the darker parts of his life. At the very end of the book if your students are older there is a very straightforward biography about him. However with my students being kindergarten through fifth grade I want to keep it a little bit lighter.

On the second day of class we also colored in and cut out our sunflowers. Kindergarten needed some assistance, however I was pleasantly surprised most of them could cut out your sunflowers relatively well. I did remind students of the work of art is a pretty realistic work of art, therefore I expected them to use the warm colors we talked about in class. Afterwards, I used butcher paper to create the background and vases for each of my five murals in the hallway of our school. All together there are 800 sunflowers in these murals. I spent one prep every day for a week stapling up my sunflowers. Luckily they were up in time for open house!

My other lucky little bit during all of this was that our school’s brand new community garden had two large blooming sunflowers while we were creating our works of art! They definitely inspired my students!

Tie-Dyeing Tips for Large Groups


This week at camp my boys tie-dyed for the first time. Growing up this was one of my favorite camp activities! I attended summer camp from the time I was five until I was 15, and even after that I was a counselor.  So seeing my little boys making their tie-dyed napkins at camp was definitely nostalgic for me.

In the past as an art teacher I have done tie-dying for field day. I did it with all 850 of my students! So this advice is for teachers or group leaders that are doing a tie-dye project with a large amount of kids.  I hope these tips and tricks make it easier for you!

  1. Figure out where your T-shirts are going to come from. They need to be white T-shirts. Either the kids can bring them from home or see if there is a budget for these. The PTA might be able to come up with some money for it especially if it’s going to be a huge order of 500+ T-shirts.
  2. There are all kinds of dyesavailable. I recommend buying dye in large bottles rather than small spray kits.  I used old-fashioned RIT dye from the corner market and it worked perfect!
  3. For sizing T-shirts the P.E. teachers held up T-shirt samples to each student as they did attendance and wrote down the size before ordering. This was a lot more efficient than waiting for a written slip from home.  
  4. Have large buckets, rubber bands, and rubber gloves ready.
  5. You’ll need either a tarp or deep sink to place your buckets of dye.  Another option if the weather is good is to work outside on grass.  
  6. Have samples of different tie-dye techniques ready to show the kids.  This is also really good opportunity to practice these techniques!
  7. Have the kids rubber band and fold their T-shirts on their own or with help from an adult.
  8. Place the T-shirts in the dye bath of their choice and once the dye has settled in put the T-shirts in plastic bags with the kids name on it to take home.
  9. Another option is to have the T-shirts placed in plastic bags per class and give them to the classroom teacher to allow dry or wash.
  10. With our T-shirts we used five colors of dye, however red white and blue works great or school colors is another option.  Having limited colors can simplify and streamline the process. I do not recommend asking students to choose which color of dye they want-if you’re working with a huge group like I did that would take a lot of time!

I hope these ideas will inspire other art teachers and group leaders to have fun tie-dying with their students. My students always looked forward to this every year! They wore the T-shirts throughout the year, and they were always excited leading up to this project.  Below I have included some pins for more tips, techniques, and inspiration!



Chagall Windows Lesson Plan

I am fortunate enough to have visited the Chagall Windows in Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center twice.  Upon entering the room with the windows you are surrounded by radiant light illuminating Chagall’s masterpiece telling the story of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. This lesson is a collage project that can be completed by children ages 7-10.

I have included in the resources a book from my favorite art historical book series Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists by Mike Venezia.  He combines cartoons and accurate art historical information in a way that can be used by students of all ages.  When reading his books I typically break them up into 2-3 readings depending the age group.  I have found his books through Amazon, my local library, most school libraries, and Barnes and Noble.Marc Chagall was a Russian Jewish artist who experienced life in the shtetl as a small boy.  A shtetl is a word used to describe  segregated, impoverished villages in Russia.  The shtetl often experienced raids from the Russian army and Chagall experienced anti-Semitism in his life there.  To create these windows in Jerusalem after Israel became a country, was a great honor for him.  He was very proud of his heritage and had great hope for his people.

 

Chagall Windows

Grades 2 – 5

Grouping:  Whole/Individual

Materials: 9″x11″ white paper, water cups, paint brushes, tissue paper, Elmer’s glue, pencils, rulers, and black permanet markers.

Resources: Artwork of Hadassah short film clip, Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Marc Chagall by Mike Venezia

Objectives:  Students will:

  • learn about the life and art of Marc Chagall
  • create an artwork based on the theme of peace
  • create a multi media work of art

Procedures:

  1. Students will view the teacher exemplar and discuss the project (steps, expectations, outcomes).
  2. Students will use their ruler and pencil to draw straight lines (5-6) on their white piece of paper to convey the lead piping that holds stained glass in place.
  3. Students will draw symbols of peace such as the peace sign, angels, doves, olive branches, etc inside the shapes their lines create.
  4. Students will trace everything they have drawn with black permanent marker.
  5. The class will listen to and discuss the book Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Marc Chagall by Mike Venezia.
  6. The class will view a demonstration by the teacher on how to collage pieces of tissue paper over the drawings to give the look of stained glass.
  7. Students will turn in their artwork for assessment.

Assessment:

  1. Student drew a picture using a ruler and showing peace symbols neatly and with detail.  2/5
  2. Student traced his drawing neatly with permanent marker.  1/5
  3. Student collaged using appropriate amounts of glue and tissue paper carefully.  2/5

If I wanted to do this project with a younger group, I would simply have them layer tissue paper on top of white paper to experience the fractals of light and color found in stained glass windows.  I have included a slideshow of my photos from Hadassah Medical Center.  They sell a very nice set of postcards depicting Marc Chagall’s designs in the gift shop.  That might be something worth contacting them for.

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Floral May Crafts for Toddlers

may flowers
April showers bring May flowers right? So this month I’ve been doing a lot of floral crafts with my boys. The first one I shared on Instagram and in a previous post which is a Monet Waterlilies craft.  Monet was a French impressionist painter in the 19 century who built an incredible garden in his home complete with a Japanese bridge and water lily pond which he painted over and over again. This is a simple process art project that then gets turned into a craft.  For more information on how to make it you can check out my previous post here.

monet 2Later on for Mother’s Day we made paper plate flowers which are also a simple process art activity. The boys use bright colors and painted paper plates. Afterwards we practiced cutting with our safety scissors little slips along the side of both plates. Then we bent the tabs that we created to resemble petals on a flower. To finish we added a green construction paper stem and leaf.  Both boys painted a paper plates, Ben helped with the cutting, and Adam helped with the gluing.

flower cardWe created some friends willows based off of a Pinterest pan I found last month. We did this project in play group along with the water lilies. For this project I pre-drew the willows on white card stock sized 9″ x 11″. Are used a sharpie marker, but any permanent marker will do. You don’t want to use Crayola markers because they will smear when the paint is applied. We then dipped hour some into different colors of paint and pressed around the flower. It’s a simple cute process project that could then be turned into a card or framed.

I did a willow, but on Pinterest it initially came to me as a dandelion.  There are so many cute thumbprint flowers on Pinterest.  I’ll share some pins below.  Let me know if you try any in the comments below.  Happy May!

Thumbprint Dandelion - Kid Craft - this idea would be a great gift for a teacher or a DIY project for grandparents!:

Thumbprint Art Project For Kids - Easy craft idea! Painted flower pots make cute homemade Mother's Day Gifts. Crafts:

Mother's day gift idea from thebubblegumtree.blogspot.com:

 

Art History Gameboards

art-history-games2

I am truly an art nerd.  Who couldn’t be when artists have such interesting lives?  From Frida Kahlo’s bus accident and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera to Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying experiments kids are fascinated by the lives of famous artists.

One year I broke my art club into teams of 4 kids (I had 40 art clubbers).  Each team would research an artist in the library, come up with a timeline of that artist’s life, and create a game board game based on their research.  The school librarian helped the kids research the artists they chose and write their timelines.  When I approved their timeline they began building their game boards using cardboard boxes, duct tape and white butcher paper.  Then they had to design their game board in pencil using facts from the artist’s life, a portrait of him/her, and motifs found in works of art by that artist.  They used Crayola Model Magic to model the pieces that would move across the board and tempera paint with glue to paint the pieces. Once all the game boards were finished we had a party and the kids played the games while they munched on chips and drank soda.  We hung the game boards around the art room for years to come as they were full of factual information I wanted my students to learn.  This is a lesson I loved and would definitely do again!

art-history-games

Galaxy Marbled Valentines

Galaxy is been a huge DIY trend lately. We explored this with our latest play group meeting. We created three different crafts the delved into the galaxy. One project that was very popular was galaxy marbled paper. Afterwards we all took them home to create our Valentines!  This is a really easy and fun project to do with a toddler and it’s cheap using materials you probably already have!

galaxy-valentines
To start I covered a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Then I lay down a layer of men’s shaving cream. I added a few drops of pink, purple, and blue food coloring to the shaving cream and used a straw to swirl it around.



After we pressed a piece of card stock on top of the shaving cream and we peeled it off.  We ran it underwater. When the water clears off the shaving cream a marbled effect is left behind.


From there the paper can dry can then be used to create cards, hearts, artwork, and a variety of arts and crafts projects.  We had a lot of fun creating our galaxy art projects. We hope you will too!