Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture...Oh My!

The trick to travelling is knowing what materials to use for your lessons, and how to carry them around or store then with little space.   Here are a few tips that I picked up on with the three dominant materials I use in my curriculum.


Some rooms I travel to have sinks…I love it.  I can choose student helpers to fill the water bowls, wash brushes, and collect painting materials.  Having a sink in a classroom is a blessing when travelling from room to room, but not all rooms have a sink. 

My 6th grade students are amazing with filling bowls of water in the bathroom and taking bowls and brushes back after class to wash.  But when it comes to younger grades, it may be best to work with what’s in the room. 

If you have a separate cart to work with, load it with a pail for used water, smaller pail for dirty brushes, newspapers, brushes, water jug, paper towels, plastic bowls, and palettes of your choice (I prefer paper plates, which are easier to toss).  Also, load the paint you plan on using…tempura, acrylic, watercolor, or tempura cakes are the more common elementary paints.    If you are able to acquire a cart for this purpose, leave it right outside of the classroom for easy transport. 

I have a separate drying rack on wheels to transport from room to room.  During class time, I leave it outside of the rooms for mobility, but during clean up I push it in to allow students to place their paintings during clean up.

When passing out the materials, choose your helpers with passing out brushes, paper towels, and newspaper.  While the helpers are passing out, set up your paint palette and pour your water cups.  You can also choose more helpers to pass out the paint and water once you’re done setting up.

Cleaning up can also be orderly if planned out.  Depending on the way the tables are set up on the classroom, you can choose more helpers to collect the water, dump the used water in the pail, and use paper towels to wipe out the cups.  Other helpers can collect the used brushes and place them in the dirty brush pail.  The individual students can wipe down their own desks with the paper towels or baby wipes.  While the students are cleaning up, you can call the students’ names individually to bring their paintings to you for the drying rack or drying table.  If you have a class of good listeners, this works like a charm.  If you know the students will take a little longer with clean up, plan a little extra time and work on training them to be “quick, quiet, and clean” during the clean up process.  “Quick, quiet, and clean” is a cool tool phrase used for students to stay on task with cleaning up in their classrooms at a few of my schools.


Drawing materials are easier to work with when travelling.  Every time I push the cart, I have a box of markers, crayons, and some colored pencils for students to use.  The projects are also simpler to prepare, set up, and collect once finished.

One trick I found that was simple was to create many projects in the same size.   I pre-cut most of my white or manila paper the same exact size, and store it in a box top on my cart. 

 I collect copy paper box lids to hold materials, and they store plenty of items for projects, such as colored paper scraps, handouts, random craft materials, and more.  Once a project is complete, I store the box top on a shelf, label it for the following year, and when you need it again, you have some pre-made materials ready!

The schools I travel to already require students to have their own pencils, markers/crayons, erasers, scissors and glue.  Don’t assume that all students will have these since items can get lost.  Make sure you have some additional materials to help students who do not have the items you require for the project.  

Other drawing materials, such as charcoal, pastels, or special colored pencils are items you supply.  I requested donations of plastic containers in the beginning of the school year, and they are great for storing materials when travelling from room to room. 

When creating colored paper projects, I found it difficult at first to provide the colored paper for all classrooms.  I found it easier to create a box top of each colored paper to use, which helps save scraps, and can stay in the hallway lined along the wall.  When passing out materials, I call a few students at a time to collect the colors they need in the hallway, and during clean up, I have helpers separate the scraps before I push the boxes to the next classroom door.


Three-dimensional materials are the trickiest to work with on a cart, and in some cases, I hear that teacher give up on sculpture projects, saying it’s too much of a hassle.  It is possible to still incorporate sculpture! 
Before I start a sculpture project, I inform the homeroom teacher and plan a space to keep the student work during the week.  In most cases, I store plastic bins on top of storage closets or shelves, which keeps projects out of student reach.

I’ve been lucky with a kiln to share with the junior high at my home base school, but I do not have the capability to take ceramic clay from one school to the other.  Instead, I order air-dry clay for ceramic-like projects, such as coil pottery and slab.  The students are still learning the process, and you don’t have to carry items in your car to the kiln.

With air dry clay, be cautious with how the projects are put together.  Make sure students use the slip/score process, or when the items dry out, they will fall apart.  I always have a back-up plan of using a hot glue gun to fix student projects the following week.

Another sculpture material that’s great to use is soft air dry clay, such as Crayola model magic or Amaco’s air-dry clay.  The clay is softer to use, fun to play with, and so many ideas can be created from the clay.  Although there are many colors to order, you may not be able to squeeze it into your budget.  I like to order plain white, which gives the students a chance to use markers or paint to complete their sculptures.

Now that I teach higher grades on a cart, I get to plan how to distribute more advanced materials…scratchboards, metal embossing, printmaking materials, and more.  My question to you is:  How do you handle your materials while travelling?  Everyone has their preferred method!

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