Friday, December 21, 2012

Snowflakes for Sandy Elementary

By now many of you have seen this message spread around Facebook, or even in your own schools:

Something we can do for the Students of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Welcome Students to a Winter Wonderland

When school resumes for Sandy Hook, it will be in a new building. Parent-volunteers are working to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonderland with the entire school decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible. We encourage senders to be as creative as possible, remembering that no two snowflakes are alike. Please make and send snowflakes by January 12, 2013 to the Connecticut PTA address: 

Connecticut PTA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

Our local IFT even shared the message, and my colleagues jumped on helping any way they could.  Since today was a shortened day (being the last day before break), I asked my morning classes if they would like to help create snowflakes for Sandy Elementary.

Prior to making the snowflakes, our students had conversations with parents and teachers.  Students had questions earlier in the week, and we addressed them with care and consideration for everyone involved.  When I introduced the idea to my students, I explained that we were doing our part to show that we cared about Sandy Elementary students and wanted to brighten their day.  Even my adorable class clowns were focused with the project.

On a side note, I hate glitter.  As much as I hate glitter, I still pulled it out to make the projects more colorful and bright for the students.  The kids had loads of fun drawing designs with glue on their snowflakes.

By the time we were done, I had quite a few tables covered with glittered snowflakes, and our Jr. High even brought their donations in to join with the elementary's to be shipped off.

I do have to give credit to my co-workers for sending out the school email asking who wanted to get involved.  When our teachers were notified by the union about the project, I was unfortunately out sick, but when I checked my emails and found out the project was going to happen, I was happy to help out any way I could when I came back to work (on another side note, I hate being sick too).  Thank you to my co-workers for starting it and giving me an opportunity to help!

My snowflakes were made with 8.5 x 8.5 inch white paper.  I asked the students to fold three times, then cut out any shapes they wished.  I was thinking of a way for the parents volunteers at Sandy to hang the snowflakes easier, so I had my students glue their snowflakes to colored paper.  The students then trimmed the colors paper any way they wished, by cutting a circle, square, or trimming around the snowflake shape.

Before the students were ready for glue, I gave them a chance to write a positive message to the students on the back of their snowflakes.  Some did, and their words were beautiful.  Made me want to cry.

Last, the students traced designed on their snowflakes with glue.  I controlled the glitter and did the pouring, and no matter how old the students were, they were amazed with how the glitter covered the glue.

Simple snowflake, simple project, wonderful gifts for those who need some happiness.

If you have a chance during this season, please consider doing your part.  The parents are asking for snowflake donations to be shipped by January 12th.  There are plenty of snowflake designs floating around on Pinterest that you can use.

Here are a few ideas I have found to help you out!

Positive/Negative Space Snowflakes

Snowflake Banners

Crayon Resist Snowflakes

Paper Snowflake How-To's

Lacy Snowflake Tutorial

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Choosing a Cart and Finding Some Space: December's Article

This month for Arts & Activities Magazine, my article is titled "Choosing a Cart and Finding Some Space."  The article focuses on what works for you in your traveling situation.

When I began pushing a cart from room to room, I quickly discovered which carts worked and which I wanted to push out of the school.  I hated how heavy carts didn't want to work with me as I tried turning corners or squeezing carts into classrooms.

I also wanted to focus on how to find space to store materials.  In most traveling situations, there is no space to store anything.  The key is to communicate your needs to everyone involved without appearing that you're complaining.  Express the need to share the student's creations.

To view the article, please visit the Stepping Stones page on the online Arts & Activities magazine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's Not the End of the World! Aztec/Mayan Calendars with 5th Grade

Since we've been hearing a lot about the "End of the World" due to the Mayan calendar, I thought it would be funny to create a project inspired by that particular calendar...close to the date of the end of the world!!!!

Here are the materials you need:

-Round 9" or 10" cardboard circles
-A large bag of foam shapes
-Black Paint
-Gold Paint (this can range in price)

The main idea for the project was to introduce radial symmetry.  I began by showing the students a self-created Powerpoint about the Aztecs and the Mayans.  I explained a little bit about the calendars and planning of the days for planting and rituals.  Next, I focused on the design of the calendar. I showed the students how to create radial symmetry with the cardboard circle by asking them to imagine a pizza with four slices, and each slice of pizza looks exactly the same.  My students have a habit of viewing their projects in one way:  the paper in front of them.  When I show them the circle, I tell them that each way the circle turns, the design would remain the same...making it radial symmetrical.

Now it's time to work with the materials!

I used a pop can box to store the shapes for each table!  Pie tins also work too (I use them at my second school).

Trick: Tell the students to worry about finding the same shape and size, and NOT to worry about color.  They'll be painting over them anyway.

Trick: Have the students draw an "x" on the circle to separate four slices to fill.  This will help the students design their slices to look the same each time they turn the circle.

Make sure to tell the students to cover every nook and cranny with the black paint.  It helps with the last step of the project, which is to cover again with gold!

I have students use just their fingers to rub the gold paint on top of the black paint, giving the project an "ancient artifact" affect to the project.

Heads up...the circles will curl if students put "too much" paint on.  Just letting you know what to expect!

Some students wanted to just fill the entire circle with symmetry instead of filling the middle with a face.

                    Here are some cartoons I shared with my students.  They thought it was funny!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Art Meets Literature: The Joys of Van Gogh's Cat

Last year, I found the book "Van Gogh's Cat" at our scholastic book fair.  I was excited to see that the book was written and illustrated by 2nd grade students in Muncie, Indiana.  I loved seeing how the students created their own artworks of famous art masterpieces, and created cats jumping out of each page.  I now own about 8 copies of this book: one at home for my daughter, 3 at my second school, and 4 for my home school.  You can say I want my kids to see the book everywhere!  After searching on Pinterest, I saw many lesson ideas inspired by the book too.

I decided to create a lesson inspired by the 2nd graders who created "Van Gogh's Cat.".  I wanted my students to create a picture inspired by a famous masterpiece, then have a cat jump out of their own picture.  I set up folders with colorful images of many famous artworks, and shared them at each table in my classroom.  The awesome part was that none of my students fought over pictures, shared without complaint, and didn't choose the "easy" pictures!

After the students created their pictures (I just used markers and colored pencils on 9" x 12" paper), I had them trace a cat shape on the back of their pictures, then attempt to cut the cat out without cutting from the edge of the paper (for those who were afraid to attempt it, I just pinched a cut in the middle of the paper to start them off).  The students then glued their picture on one side of 12" x 18" paper, and their cat on the other side.

After my students created their pictures, I felt that the school needed to see how I combine art and literature.  I decided to create a bulletin board to share what the students learned, what they created, and a little information about the artist.  Here's my results:

I needed something to draw everyone's attention in the hallway.  If the superintendent or curriculum director walked by, I wanted them to stop and read.

Van Gogh's "Starry Night."  Of course we needed this one...the book was called "Van Gogh's Cat" after all!!!

Henri Matisse's "Fall of Icarus."  It's fun to explain to students that not all body drawings have to be perfect.

Claude Monet's "Bridge Argenteuil."  I'm so glad a student picked this one!  It shows that he liked teh composition more than choosing something easy or abstract.

Piet Mondrian's "Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow." One of our BIP students created this one, and I loved how he focused on the work!  He loved the bright colors and filling his the space.

Andy Warhol's "Campbell Soup."  I'm glad I found a chance to share multiple artists with this project.  The students loved the idea of choosing their own.  I'm very happy that some students wanted to take on the challenge of drawing multiple cans, and they never gave up!

Georgia's O'Keefe's "Red Poppy."  Great composition, and beautiful craftsmanship with this challenge!

Alma Woodsey Thomas's "The Eclipse."  I love talking about Alma's abstract much that I introduce her to two different grade levels!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Turkey Puppets!!!!!!

Kindergarten students have the most enthusiastic reactions when they see what project they will make.   The project that gives the most reaction is always the turkey puppets.  At this time in their art journey, I begin pushing the drawing and cutting skills  a little more by creating challenges.

In the beginning of the school year, I start with assemblage and proper use of materials, such as how much glue to use and placement of pieces to create an artwork.  Drawing is then introduced with using simple shapes to create artworks.  Then comes the scissors.

The kindergarten in my district come from many diverse backgrounds.  Some have used scissors and know perfectly well how to use them, and others need that little extra help in handling scissors.  Once I feel they are ready, it's close to Thanksgiving time, which is a grand time to bring on the turkeys!

Here is the list of materials I use:

-Brown paper bags (trimmed down for kindergarten hand sizes)
-Black Marker

(Cut a mass quantity of each for your current amount of students, plus save some for next year so you know which sizes to cut!)

-Dark brown colored paper cut down to 4" x 5" size
-Yellow colored paper cut down to 2" x 2" squares (for beak and feet), then more at 1.5" x 5" size (for feathers)
-Red colored paper cut down to 2" x 3" size (for waddle), then more at 1.5" x 5" size (for feathers)
-White paper cut down to 2" x 3" size
-Blue, Green, Purple, and Orange colored paper cut down to 1.5" x 5" (for feathers)

Start by showing the students which side is the back and front.  Since paper bags have flaps, I call that the backside since the flap can ruffle the tail feathers.  After the students write their names, I show then which shapes to draw on the paper:

Dark Brown Paper:  Draw a big oval first, then cut out.  This part is the body.

White Paper:  fold paper in half, draw circle, then cut the circle out, which makes two since the paper was folded!  This part is the eyes.

Red Paper:  I tell the students to cut out any funny shape they want.  They like that!  This part is the waddle.

Yellow Paper:  I tell the students to just cut a corner off a square, and they get a triangle!  That part is the beak.  Take two more squares, draw a circle on one, then cut out two squares at the same time, making two circles!  This will be the two feet!

Red, Green, Blue, Orange, Yellow, and Purple Strips: These are the tail feathers!  Have the students glue one at a time on the back flap, then voila!  You have a turkey puppet!

Use the black marker to draw pupils in the eyes.

This project should take only one class period.  If you have overachievers, show them how to trim the feather to look more feather-pointed.  More details can be added.

                     (I thought this one was cute!  She decorated the turkey in a field of flowers!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Giving Thanks for Art

It's that time of year to give thanks for what we have, not to dwell on what we want!  Here's my Thanksgiving list of things I'm thankful for:

I am thankful for a classroom.  When I traveled to three schools, having at least one classroom was helpful.  It was my home base, and the place I stored most of my materials.  Now I travel to two schools, and there is a classroom at both.  I do miss pushing the cart because I enjoyed being a part of the classroom and seeing my co-workers.  I know it sounds weird!

I am thankful for my co-workers.  Even though going from one school to another is tricky, I'm happy to know I have friends wherever I go.

I am thankful for a budget.  I have friends that teach in schools with little to no money for art supplies, and I try to give when I can to help them out.  With the budget that I have, I am able to create a decent curriculum to bring everything about ART to my students.

I am thankful for a staff that doesn't look at me like I'm a plan period.

I am thankful for administration that communicates with me.  Because I travel and was unaware of alot going on my first year, I vocalized my concern for wanting to know what was going on!  Now I know when students transfer in/out, when a field trip or assembly happens, or even when a contest happens in the district!

I am thankful for my students.  When they walk into my room, I don't hear a single complaint.  Instead, I hear, "What are we making today?" or "I showed my project to my family and they hung it on the wall!"  I am also thankful for their enthusiasm, their participation, their pride in being responsible, and their high fives in the hallway.

I am thankful for my art education colleagues.  Yes, you guys are awesome.  I love how we share ideas, stay active in the arts community, and how we are advocates for the arts in education.  You rock!

I am thankful for ART.  I love my job.  Enough said.

Please take the time to think of what you're thankful for.  And if you can't, think of ways to make your situation better for you.  You spend most of your time during the day at work, away from your family.  Make that time enjoyable for you!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Revisiting "Pros and Cons: Balancing the Scales While Traveling to Multiple Schools"

My third article is published!  This month, I focused on the pros and cons of traveling to multiple schools and pushing a cart from room to room.  I wanted to share how even though you may feel like you're being pushed around or struggling with storage and materials, there are positives to each situation.  I am very thankful that Arts & Activities shared my advice with fellow art educators, and I hope to continue to work together with colleagues to strengthen our practice and be advocates in our field!

To view the article, turn to page 12 here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sharing Spaces

I've been pondering how to write this particular piece because I'm having a tricky situation this year.  Allow me to share the story:

I share an art room with another art teacher.

There's the brunt of the story.  No juicy details, no cat fights or name-calling...just sharing.

I do not wish to make anyone appear as a complainer or share frustrations.  As I've been pondering, I felt the need to share ways to create an inspiring art space that could be shared between two artists, or two dominant type A personalities.

I would like to list some challenges I have come across and share with you what works best in my situation.

Challenge #1: Veteran Teacher vs. Novice.  In my case, I am the novice.  I've been in the district for 6 years, my co-worker for over 20 years.  Knowledge and wisdom are wonderful tools, as well as mentorship possibilities.  Respect the advice your co-worker gives.  He or she may have some good stories to share.

Challenge #2: Materials.  I learned from day one that materials that are ordered are ordered separately.  We have saved on countless frustrations because we knew to keep our materials separate.  We share very few materials, such as the drying rack, paint cups, and the cutting board, but almost everything else is our own.  When we were both on carts, we had our own storage space separated, and it worked wonderfully.  Now that we have a shared room, we have our own shelves and space in the room for our materials.  This way, when one teacher walks out and the next teacher walks in, our materials are still there...especially the consumables.  With a shared room now, we combined crayons, markers, and colored pencils, and drawing books since they're the most used items for projects.  Everything else...still separate.  We like it that way.

(My old cart!  It's now turned into the resource cart: art books, coloring sheets, crayons, colored pencils, games)

Challenge #3: Communication. When it came time to set up the room, I was extremely passive.  I thought, "Hey, she's been wanting a room for the past few years, she's got it, I'll let her figure the floor plan!"   Then, when it was arranged, I found it incredibly difficult to navigate.  Instead of holding it in, I felt the right thing to do was to talk with my co-worker about the set-up and what would work best in both of our situations.  We came to an agreement, and now we're good.  If you've ever seen the end of the movie "Legally Blonde 2," you'll know what I'm talking about.  Speak up and share your voice, but don't be a meanie about it.

(With being on a cart for years, we are slowly building up out visuals for the room.  It takes time!)

Challenge #4: Display Space.  Throughout the school, everyone battles for display space.  My co-worker and I have specific spaces, but we have had conflicts with the usage of that space.  This year, we decided to alternate displays each month.  This gives us a chance to showcase student work from both art teachers.  My challenge is that I wished I could show more  of my student's work.  Who doesn't want to show off their awesome, amazing masterpieces?  Still, as role models for our students, we show how sharing is positive thing to do!

(Look familiar?  Yes, it's a Keith Haring inspired project I found on Pinterest.  Thank you to the original creator, my 5th graders were proud!)

(My co-worker's display space)

Challenge #5: Dealing With the Little Mistakes.  It's been two months into the school year, and we have had a few mistakes along the way.  The key is forgiveness.  Everyone makes mistakes, and holding grudges is never a good thing to your stress and your health.  Oops, one of us forgot to lock the paper cabinet.  It happens.  There can be a list of little mistakes that happen every day, the key is to communicate, be respectful, and try not to make the same mistake twice.

(Always make sure you double check your space before passing it over to the next person!)

In a way, I feel that writing this has helped me to understand that any frustrations I may have had, it's nothing compared to the big picture:  We are there for the kids.  We love our jobs, and we love art.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Revisiting "Knowing Your Schedule and Expectations"

I wanted to share my second article in Arts & Activities Magazine!  In each edition throughout the year, I will have an article focused on balancing traveling, cart, and classroom situations.  The article in this issue is called "Knowing Your Schedule and Expectations," which focuses on what you are expected to do in your district and with your own schedule.

As always, I hope whatever advice I give helps you!

You can visit the article on page twelve here:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall-Inspired Creations

It's that time of year!  I enjoy fall projects.  I love the colors, shapes, and other elements we visit when creating the student's projects.  I try my best to make all fall-inpired projects unrelated to Halloween.  With such a diverse community in our school, I try to create projects that are fun and inspiring, with room to create Halloween decorations if the student wishes.  Here are some of the projects I've done in the past and a few I've done this year:

1st Grade: Fall Leaves

Yes, it's a Pinterest idea.  When I saw an example of how to use clear ziploc bags to create a fall leaf snowglobe effect, I was exstatic!  You start with a light blue and brown paper cut 12" x 12."  I demonstrated how to fold the brown paper to cut a rectangle out, which made the frame.  Students then glued tree tops and grass, then glued down little colored pieces for the fall leaves.  The project was topped off with a little person colored and cut out!

1st Grade: Color-Changing Leaves

I start by sharing leave I have found with different colors, like green changing to yellow and red.  The students love to see the leaves up close, and they do say they don't take the time to look at the leaves since they're busy crunching them below their feet!  I use this project to show how to color mix.  With focusing on one set of complimentary colors, students enjoy watching the paint change colors after drawing their football-shaped leaves.  Tempura cake trays are best with cart-pushing and storage.

Kindergarten: Fall Trees

I like to question the students about trees!  I ask the students what parts of the trees were, as well as how the branches just reach anywhere they wish on the top on the tree.  I show the students how to just the strips for branches, and even how to tear the strips to have more fun.  The hardest part is making a bunch of fall colors leaf squares.  I spend some spare time before/after school at the paper cutter and trim enough pieces to last at least two years.  Even though it doesn't show it in this example, I like to ask the students to create a cubby hole in the tree and to draw the animal that's preparing to hibernate.

Kindergarten: Texture Pumpkins
This project was created to introduce the element of texture to my kindergarten students.  I start by showing the students a pumpkin!  I bring in the small baby pumpkins to pass around, and I ask the students if the pumpkin is soft or hard, smooth or bumpy, warm or cold.  After discussing texture, I show the students how to create their own textures on a pumpkin picture with the use of texture plates.  To save on students fighting over certain textures, I pass out a set of plates for each table.  Make sure you explain to the students how they need to color in the entire picture, as well as moving the texture plate over to complete the entire sky or grass!  This simple project was also created with 11 x 17 paper, which was run through a copy machine.  Over 100 copies of my hand-drawn pumpkins for my kiddos!

Choose to create with or without faces!

1st Grade: 3-Dimensional Pumpkins
This project is awesome, except you need to be on your toes with the class.  I have pre-cut strips of orange paper, and give the students four pieces each.  I ask the students to glue two pieces together to make a plus sign, then two other pieces together to make an "x."  Next, I tell the students to glue the plus sign on top of the x to make a star.

After the star is made, I tell the students to take two opposite ends and make an octopus, then to glue each end to the top to create the orange ball.  After the ball is complete, the students have the option to make a pumpkin face and add stems and leaves on the top.

3rd Grade: Pumpkin Patch
This assemblage project is my introduction to the grounds: back, middle, and foreground.  We talk about gluing the background first, starting with the grass line and moon/stars (daytime pictures are an option).  Next, the students design their own fence.  I get a wide range of fences with this project, some with gates open, and some with a  complete fence across the paper.  After the middle ground, the pumpkins are glued to the front, along with yarn vines and multiple leaves.  I ask the students to create three different pumpkin shapes: big, medium, and small to show distance in the pumpkin patch.

4th Grade: Pumpkin Farm
I like to re-visit the perspective idea with 4th grade.  It helps remind them of the grounds, as well as how to create the perspective.  Pumpkins are also easy shapes to draw, and painting is always fun!  I've seen this project done at the second grade level, yet in my school the students were not quite at the level to make something like this.  I show the students how to create the pumpkin circle large at the bottom of the paper, then how to shrink the circle smaller until the circles are time, which will show distance.  I also show the students the perspective house  I introduce watercolors at this level as well, and students practice their techniques working on this landscape.

Kindergarten: Fall Leaves
In this project, I introduce oil pastels and mixed media to the students.  I created leaf stencils from the die cuts in out school, and I've used the same set since my first year teaching.  I ask the students if they ever traced their own hand before, and they get excited when they tell me that they have!  I ask the students to trace at least 4 stencils, then they get fall color oil pastels to color in the leaves (mixing different colors each leaf).  I then have the students top it off with a blue wash for the sky.

6th Grade: Value Pumpkins
I haven't done this project in awhile since I changed the 6th grade curriculum to follow social studies (art history) but I used to buy a pumpkin just for this project!  I would have the lamp on the side of the pumpkin while the students drew from whatever corner of the room they were sitting.  I then taught how to crosshatch for texture, as well as using colors to show light and shadow.  Maybe I should bring this one back...

2nd Grade: 3-Dimensional Fall Trees
Paper sculptures!!!!  I love showing the students how to create a 3-D tree with paper.  I show them how to make a base (two-layered for stability), the how to fold the ends to make roots to glue to the ground.  The students then glue a green top on all the sides, then tissue paper the leaves.  I've had some creative mini ideas from students in this one, from raking a pile of leaves to making pumpkins on the board!

For more fall project ideas, please visit my Pinterest Fall-Inspired Projects Board!