Thursday, October 11, 2018

Working with Collage and Paper-Made Projects: October's Stepping Stones

Paper is a staple material used by art educators of all age levels, and with it comes a multitude of ideas for projects, planning, and exploration.  Depending on the grade levels you teach, there are plenty of ways to use your imagination when creating paper-based projects and collage.

When purchasing paper for your class projects, you have many size options, the most common being 9 x 12 or 12 x 18.  Many art teachers trim down their paper for project sizes or templates, which creates extra paper trimmings. These trimmings are the best to use for collage paper projects.  When I was teaching from a cart, I saved box lids from the copy machine paper and created bins for each color of scrap paper. In using this method, I was able to use every last bit of paper down to the last scrap.  

Paper Storage: If you save multiple colors of paper for projects, brainstorm a way to store them.  You can create boxes for each color (or color combinations), stacked shelves, or bins.  When I traveled, I created a separate cart to hold all the different colored scrap boxes.  Now that I’m in a classroom, I used book holders for my paper scraps that fit nicely into a shelf.

Collage: Project ideas are infinite, and in knowing your students, you can develop a project that sparks their interests while teaching important concepts.  One type of paper project is a collage. A collage is an artwork made by attaching various materials, such as photographs, paper, or fabric onto a backing.  You can create a collage in a landscape, still life, portrait, abstract art, or various images unified together.  One of the concepts I love to teach with collage projects is perspective, enhancing foreground, middleground, and background details.  One example I teach is a pumpkin patch with 3rd grade. In using colored paper and scraps, students learn how to place background details first before adding the middle ground and foreground details.  

Painted Paper: Another way to encourage creativity with collage projects is by making painted paper.  One method is using Geli plates, where students can create monoprints of texture and pattern on paper to use for collage projects.  Geli plates create a monoprint by rolling paint (either tempura or acrylic) onto the plate and removing paint to create an image prior to placing paper on top for the print.  Once you pull the paper off the plate, you have a print you can use for collage projects! You can also use other methods to paint paper, such as marbling, or stamping.

Mosaics: You can create a project that encourages pattern, repetition, and patience by making a paper mosaic.  A mosaic is a picture or pattern produced by arranging together small colored pieces, which could be stone, tile, glass, or in this case, paper!  Paper mosaic projects can be created by ripping or cutting small pieces of paper and arranging them to create an image. One artist we like to visit with mosaic projects is Alma Woodsey Thomas, a African-American abstract painter.  Alma’s paintings titled “Eclipse” and “Starry Night with Astronaut” are two popular images with our elementary students because they enjoy the colors, patterns, and ideas behind the creation of the paintings. When creating a mosaic project with your students, make sure the size is appropriate for their age level.  In reflection from prior lessons, I notice that younger students can lose interest quickly when they don’t see their progress coming along in a timely fashion.

Paper Sculptures and Origami: You can encourage creating 3-dimensional artworks using paper too!  3-Dimensional art can be achieved using paper and a few folding and gluing techniques!  When imagining paper sculptures, many people think about origami, which is the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures.  You can also create paper sculpture projects, like spheres with strips of paper, or relief projects with folded or textured paper.  3D paper projects can be started as early as Kindergarten. After my students learn how to create 3D out of paper, they love to make their own pop-up projects on their own!

Handmade Paper: Let’s say you used your paper scraps to the point where they need to be tossed or recycled.  If you have the materials to make handmade paper, consider recycling your scraps by teaching students how to create hand-made paper!  Just by using a blender, strainer, and water bins, you can re-use certain papers to create something new! In the past, I’ve done handmade paper with after school art classes because the process can get messy.

If you run short of paper project ideas for the grade level you teach, don’t hesitate to visit art teacher groups on social media, blogs, or pins on Pinterest!  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

My Favorite Art Supplies

Every art teacher has an absolute favorite art supply they LOVE to use with their students, and they can tell by how enthusiastic we are to introduce it!  For this school year, I changed a few things up with my 5th grade students and they've been loving their projects so far!  From photography to needle felt to mask making, I'm enjoying their reflections on their lessons so far.

I'd like to list off a top 5 of my favorite art supplies to use in my classroom.  This is a fresh list for this school year, plus I'll list off the pros and cons of each (because not everything is 100% perfect!)

Needle Felting

Needle felting is a new love this year.  I fell in love with working with felted wool a few years back by making small felted items of my own, then expanding to felt sculptures.  I even teach needle-felting art classes on the side at a local art studio.  I was finally able to purchase enough foam blocks, wool, and needles for my 5th grade classes and introduce needle-felted sculptures this month.  We're almost done with creating owls for our final product, and the students LOVE it!!!!

Obviously, the pro is that your students, no matter if they like art or not, may love to work with this new medium.  The act of using the needle to compact the wool (as long as you teach them how to use the needle gently), has been very meditative for my students, plus they love to decorate their creations!

Now for the lots of extra needles used for felting.  In one class alone, I had over 6 students crack a needle from accidentally bending while poking the needle in the wool.  Always dispose of the broken needles safely, and collect the needles one at a time to make sure you have them all prior to the class leaving.  Also, have lots of bandaids on hand.  As much as you ask your students to watch their fingers while they felt, every now and then you'll get a student that looks up and "ouch!"  It only takes one time for them to poke their finger and they know to watch their hand afterwards!

On a side note:  Before you consider introducing needle felting to a class, or even an entire grade level, be confident that you know your students can respect the materials.  With the felting needles, create a system to hand out and collect that will help you to keep tabs on what you have.  This is a project that is extremely fun and addicting, but with needles involved, keep a closer eye on the materials.

Ceramic Clay

I don't know why I love ceramic clay so much, but my students can tell you that they look forward to their clay projects every year!  From 3rd grade on, each grade level learns a new ceramic technique and creates a product that demonstrates the technique learned.

The pros?  I don't know one student that has said they hate clay.  Once the projects are back from the kiln, they always want to take their projects home to give as gifts for friends and family.  I also love talking about the science of the clay: how wet clay has water inside, but once dry, the space the water took up in the clay empties, causing the clay to shrink.  It's also nice to talk about how clay changes from soft to roc solid after bisque firing, or how glaze become glassy at a higher firing.

The cons:  I really want a kiln at my own school...we have a shared kiln in the district at the jr. high, so between four art teachers, we drive our projects over to be fired.  With the limited time, space, and firing schedule, I'm not able to glaze most projects.  Instead, we use acrylic paints.  It's also hard when assemblies, days off, or other events happen that makes the class sit another week in bags, causing the wet clay to begin drying out over time.  Prior to driving the pieces over, I need to be 100% sure that all students created their bisque pieces.  With driving, there's also the risk of pieces breaking off, which happens all the time.

Although the con list is longer, the pros totally outweigh the cons.  Ceramic clay is totally worth it!

Liquid Watercolors

I use liquid watercolors toward the end of the school year.  From the class packs I ordered, there are many vibrant colors for students to use, plus create effects with the water.  I create trays of each color for tables to use, and refilling is easy.

The pros?  It's the end of the year, you're packing up most of the room, but the liquid watercolors can be shared from one class to the next.  Easy clean up and washes out of clothes.  The cons?  Yellow.  It's like egg dyes, the yellow color gets tainted easily if students do not wash their brushes.  You can tell when someone doesn't wash their brush when you hear a student yes a name out loud!

Tempura Cakes

With younger grade levels, I love the tempura cakes.  I love how easy they are to set up and clean up. When a student mixes the colors on top, they're easy to wipe or rinse off.  Trays are easy to pass out and students help in collecting.  So many pros!  The cons?  When you run out of a color or when the cake crumbles, it's hard to refill.  I'm always letting students know that even if you see the bottom, you can still get the color from the paint cake that's left in the tray.


This may be a controversial art material, but this technology has been one of the most useful resources for our projects.  Since our district implemented 1 + 1 chrome books, students are learning so much with what's available.  I have students bring their chrome books when they're finishing a project.  The artwork image is uploaded onto Artsonia, so students are able to write their artist statements and reflections directly to the site.  I also have a Google Classroom set up for each class, which holds important links, videos, quizzes, and resources for their projects.  I can share small tutorial videos that help students see how to create their needle felt, or zentangle, or take a photograph, and more.  When they're done, my classroom website contains a Symbaloo of art-related website, such as sand art, graffiti art, using a mouse or cursor to create faces and other drawings, and more.  If a students needs to see a photo as a reference, they can safely Google an image to assist with their drawing.  Students can send digital artworks created wirelessly to my printer for their final products.  I absolutely love having the chrome books in art.  The con?  Students needs to bring the books themselves since I do not have them in my classroom, which in reality, is a good thing because we work with a lot of messy materials!