My Dot Lesson

So for a couple of years I’ve been seeing a lot of posts online about the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. I wondered what all the fuss about this book was, and why are educators asking students to just draw a dot? How did this turn into an international day? Around September 15th art teachers around the world celebrate International Dot Day apparently.

As I began searching for ideas on starting the school year with a cool bulletin board and some fun introductory lessons, The Dot lessons kept showing up everywhere. So I decided to take out the book from my school library and read it, and I loved the message. The idea that each student is capable of making their mark. I can’t tell you how many times in my career I have had the same conversation that Vashti, the main character, has with her art teacher in the beginning of the story. The little girl doesn’t think that she can create anything or that she’s good at art. She sits in front of a blank paper defeated. I thought this book teaches a great lesson for my students: to make your marks no matter what. I tell my students all the time that they are artists and no one can draw like them; no one can do what they do because everybody is an individual. So I thought this book would be perfect to start the school year off and set a classroom culture of trying our best and believing in ourselves as artists.

Before the school year began I created a bulletin board using oval shaped paper plates that I purchased off of Amazon as watercolor paints. Most of my bulletin board was empty with the intention that we would be adding our dots later on.

Then I read to all of my students the first week the story The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. We talked about the main idea and students used crayons to design their dots. The following week when students returned they painted with tempera cake paints around their dots or inside of their dots. We discussed the principles of design such as unity and emphasis in this project. We also discussed shape and color, focusing on geometric shapes. This was such a simple project that it gave me time to also go over how we take care of our pants and our brushes. Students were also able to go over some of the classroom procedures for setting up and cleaning up from a somewhat messy activity.

As students finished making their dots I started hanging them up on the bulletin board and I actually ended up lining the other side of the hallway to with our dots. Dots that were very simple I cut out and layered on top of more intricately designed dots. I really like how I overlapped and created dimension to the bulletin board by overlapping. The positive response that I got about this bulletin board from colleagues and parents has been profound. I definitely think we will be celebrating International Dot Day again in the future!

Klimt’s Cradle

This is a lesson plan I wrote about 5 years ago and I was teaching another school. I have always been a big fan of the artwork by Gustav Klimt. I love all of the details and patterns he used in his paintings and of course all of the incredible gold leaf! However I thought that exploring his artwork might be a little difficult with young children. When I saw the painting Cradle that he did of a baby all wrapped up in a quilt I figured I could use this one as an example for the kids to work from.

I start the lesson by introducing the actual painting with my smart projector. We discuss what a quilt is and all the patterns we would see in a quilt. Then I have the students pass out 11″ x 14″ white construction paper. You want a pretty toothy paper because you’re going to end up painting the background. Then I demonstrate how to draw the babies face and the blanket. We also draw all of the “squares” for the quilt which are not actually square is because it’s bundled up. I allow the students to then proceed by drawing a different pattern in each section of their quilt. I have the students start with pencil and then trace everything with black permanent marker. If your younger students do not use permanent markers very often it’s good to go over some basic rules like not drawing on their hands or on the tables with these because they don’t come off.

Students typically take about 2 to 3 class periods with just the drawing and coloring portion of this project. I meet with my students every six days for 50 minutes. I like having all of my students complete the drawing and coloring portion before we do our backgrounds. While we’re doing the drawing and coloring portion I also bring in some art history. This time I read the book Klimt and his Cat-which I honestly found to be more popular with my second and third graders than my kinder and first graders.

For coloring my students used just regular Crayola or Mr. sketch markers. I had them be very colorful with their patterns. To color the baby’s face we used Crayola Multicultural Crayons. Once students completely finished coloring we used gold tempera paint to add color to the background. I took the time to teach the students using a larger paint brush how to spread the paint and not have any added texture or a white spots. Overall I think that the students really enjoyed this lesson. My kinder and first graders who I did this with could connect to the baby painting very well because a lot of them have a little baby brothers and sisters at home.

Ethiopian Baskets

This year for Black History Month I wanted to represent our school community with our art project. I have a large Ethiopian student population at my school. I investigated what types of crafts and art they have in their culture. I found several examples of incredibly bright and beautiful baskets in photographs online. I had done basket weaving before with students during a Native American unit. So I tweaked my project to include more bright colors, geometric patterns, and raffia.

We used a Styrofoam bowl from the grocery store as our loom. The students cut nine slits into the styrofoam bowl and then tied on yarn. You have to have an odd number of slits so when students are weaving in and out they don’t need to skip any slits. Students would just tie on a new color and continue going around and around the bowl until they reached the top. When they reached the top then they would begin experimenting with raffia.

I told the students to try tying knots, making bows, creating bundles and tying those on, even incorporating some of the yarn and raffia into pom-poms.

Some things to keep in mind with this project is that Ethiopian baskets are extremely bright and colorful. Many of them incorporate both tan and bright colors. So I had pulled out my brightest colors of yarn along with some tan yarns for the students to create patterns with as they wove.

Also, most Ethiopian baskets have a geometric pattern inside. I had the students use colored Sharpie markers to draw a radial design in the bottom of the bowl. When we hung them up I would just staple the bottoms of the bowls to the bulletin boards.

during this project some of my students who are Ethiopian volunteered to share with the class some aspects of their culture in a written report. The students presented the written report to the class -highlighting the different types of food, holidays, and languages they have in Ethiopia. I learned a lot through this part of the project as I am not familiar with Ethiopian culture. The children taught me how the baskets are used in every day life in Ethiopia. They explained that the larger baskets with lids are used to hold bread and keep it warm, while the flatter baskets have different dishes of food set out.

What projects do you have lined up for February? Please share below in the comments.

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.

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!

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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Art Teacher Tips for When the Kiln is a Disaster!

kiln

What do you do so when you open the kiln it doesn’t look like a grenade went off and destroyed all of your projects?

1. Do not hollow a closed ceramic object, that’s just asking for it.

2. If something is very thick create a hollow area that comes through one end of the clay object.

3. Let your green ware dry at least five, if not a week before firing.

4. Teach your students how to properly wedge, that means not pounding it into oblivion!

5. Set the first firing for one-two hours so to let the moisture out, the second for an hour, then let it run for the final firing.

 

What if you do have an explosion?

1. Get all the large pieces of pottery shards out with your hands and throw them out.

2. Have a custodian come in and vacuum out the remaining small pieces and dust. The dust is highly toxic.

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

Psychedelic Self-Portraits

On of the most exciting periods of music and art to study when I was a teenager and pre-teen was the Psychedelic era.  It seemed radical, revolutionary, and free.  Freedom is what those pre-teens and teenagers are craving so why not peak their interest with a lesson on John Lennon and Richard Avedon?

 

psychedelic

Title:Beatles Psychedelic Self-Portraits

Grades: Gr 4-8

Art Lesson Plan-4 50 minute sessions

Enduring Idea: Heroes and Heroines

Rationale: Throughout, time humans have created or selected heroes to teach lessons that portray virtuous characteristics and noble archetypes that help an individual, a nation or a culture survive and thrive.  Artists, have often been influenced by heroes and have portrayed real or mythological heroes in their artworks.

Materials: pencils. erasers, markers, 12″x 18″ white paper

Resources: Beatles by Avedon, John’s Secret Dreams: The John Lennon Story, examples of psychedelic art (Peter Max, Richard Avedon, concert posters), self-critique form

Preparation: precut white paper to 12″x 18″, gather examples of psychedelic art, and create an exemplar, create a self-critique form students can use to check their work according to the criteria they were given to complete the assignment

National Arts Standard Anchor (s):

#2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
#8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Objectives:
*Students will learn about the life of John Lennon and the Beatles
*Students will learn why John Lennon is considered a hero
*Students will become familiar with the psychedelic art of the 1960’s
*Students will create a self-portrait in the style of Richard Avedon’s portraits of the Beatles.

Vocabulary:
Psychedelic, Abstract, Self-Portrait, Repetitive Pattern

Interdisciplinary Standards:

  • Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

Procedures: Day 1:  S will view teacher exemplar. T will review the lesson steps. S will listen to the book John’s Secret Dreams: The John Lennon Story. T “Why did John Lennon stage a bed in?” “What did John Lennon believe in?”  “What can we learn from his actions?”  S will pair up and trace their heads on a white paper in pencil.  Day 2: T will review the lesson steps.  T will review with class the examples of psychedelic art using the Elements of Art and Principals of Design.  S will use a ruler and pencil to add a psychedelic pattern to his/her self -portrait.  Day 3: S will review the steps of the lesson and vocabulary.  S will begin coloring in his/her self portrait with bright colored markers.  Day 4: S will finish coloring in his/her self-portrait.  S will use the self-critique form to self-critique his/her project using the elements of art and principals of design. S will hand in his/her project along with the self-critique form for grading.

Assessment:

S neatly and carefully drew the outline of his/her head on the paper and added a repetitive pattern. 3/10
S neatly and carefully colored in his her self-portrait using bright bold colors to create abstraction.  4/10
S answered all the questions on his/her critique form, demonstrating thoughtfulness as to how they describe their project using the elements and principals. 3/10