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!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Starting Off the School Year on the Right Foot

It's July, and the last thing many of us want to think about is going back to school.  But, summer is for planning out our next year ahead of time, and even I've been chilling on the couch gathering my plans for the first week of August.

For this month's Art Ed Blogger's Network theme, we're all discussing how to plan the first week of school.  For September's Arts & Activities Stepping Stones column, I will also be sharing a few more tidbits of advice for starting fresh.

So let's say your first day back at work is mid-August.  When is a good time to start setting up?

I personally like to give myself the entire week before.  After 12 years of teaching, I learned that giving myself more time to plan works better in my favor, especially with having young kids at home.

See the above photo?  That was a nightmare.  Always be prepared in case your space looks like this!

I spend the first two days taking down the board coverings, unpacking the supply boxes, rearranging furniture, and setting up my floor plan.

The next set of days is for designing bulletin boards and displays, setting up the centers and supply bins, and organizing resources.  Decorating can take up quite a bit of time, especially when you walk in without a game plan.

The last set of days are set up for paperwork, seating charts, and first few weeks of lessons...and every year, there is something I still need to copy right before the students come in.

For the first week of school, I meet my classes for the first time.  I start off with giving each child an assigned seat.  Not everyone does this right away (which is okay), but in my case, I find it demonstrates to my students that I start off orderly and planned, and in return, my students are more receptive to learning.


Students are also introduced to our class "Art Jobs" board, which changes each week.  Each table is given a specific job to accomplish for that day.

I also spend some time discussing expectations with the students.  One of the examples I go over is the "No-No" and Yes-Yes" board.  It makes the students laugh every year when I talk about the floating houses and blue sky lines.

After each class discussion, I give each student a blank paper and give them time to work on their first drawing, which is a self portrait.  It's my beginning "pre-test" for my SLOs, which demonstrates growth over time.  For each grade level throughout the year, I design a "post-test" portrait drawing to measure growth over a few months.  All portrait drawings are saved each year until the end of the students' 6th grade year.  As a farewell gift, I hand back their portrait drawings collected since kindergarten, and they giggle and cry over their artworks created since first attending the school!

After completing all the beginning portrait drawings, we spend the next week of classes working on our International Dot Day projects!

When I was on a cart, I needed to plan my classes in many other ways.  In the past, Ive written about how to set-up when you're expected to teach from room to room.  Here are a few articles I'd like to share for my cart peeps:

The Pros and Cons of Teaching from a Cart

Choosing Your Cart and Finding Space

 This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the second Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Developing Your Summer Art Classes!

Hello teachers!  For many of you, we are on summer break!  Most of us take the time to chill out and catch up on our PDs and make time for our own art.  Some, like me, continue to teach summer classes.  For the past few years, I've offered summer classes at a local art studio.  Some have been successful, while others were low attendance.  If you're interested in offering classes over the summer, I would like to offer some advice with planning and prepping.

1. Plan your projects in advance.  I find that picking and choosing classes can be very tricky while you're heavily involved during the school year, but the earlier you plan what you wish to teach, the better prepared you are for your classes.  If you're working with a studio, park district, or gallery, your collaborator would also want your class descriptions to plan their next few months as well.  Park districts especially want their classes listed a few months in advance in order to notify the community of upcoming events.

2. Prep your materials in advance.  If you're borrowing non-consumables (like brayers or brushes) from your classes, make sure to pack them up and return them once you're done in the beginning of the school year.  I normally create a checklist before closing up my room and return everything when I head back to set up in August.

3. Prep your examples in advance.  My summer art classes normally take about two hours each day, so projects are more involved than my 40-minute classes during the school year.  As your first year teaching summer classes, you may be spending quite a bit of time creating al the examples, but over time, you will find yourself creating fewer since you may be repeating projects.

4. Decide what you want to charge.  Most paint party classes range from $25-$35 for a two hour class, which covers materials, space rental fees, and a little for you to cover your time (or babysitter). It's good to try and keep a consistent amount so parents know what they can spend.

5. Figure out what time you wish to offer your class.  Classes can be offered any time throughout the day, depending on when you're available.  I was only able to do morning classes, and our studio owner held afternoon classes.  We've discovered that it really depends on when parents are available to bring their children in, so sometimes I have full classes and other times I have 2-3 students.

6. Don't overdo yourself!  Remember this is your break too!  Teaching summer classes is a great way to explore new lesson options with multiple age levels.  It can be fun to teach to a different crowd, but remember not to overdo yourself.

Have fun with your summer classes and PDs!

Here are a few successful classes I've offered in the past!

 This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the second Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Connecting to Nature with Art: June's Stepping Stones

This month, teachers are closing up their classrooms, or already enjoying the beginning of summer break. If you’re still in session or out of the classroom, June is a wonderful time to begin reconnecting with the natural elements and be re-inspired to design lessons for the next school year. Summer break is my time to recharge, and the best way to do that is by being outdoors and enjoying nature as often as possible. This month’s theme is natural environments and I’d like to focus on how to use nature to reconnect and be inspired for the next school year.

(Walking a labyrinth is a god way to clear your mind while being outdoors.  Labyrinths can be found at many conservatories, preserves, or wellness centers.)

Connect to Earth by taking care of your physical self. We put forth so much extra effort during the school year that it takes a toll on us physically. If you do not keep up with a daily routine, consider stretching exercises. Spend time going outdoors, observing your surroundings. Do some yoga, meditate, or just sit in the shade to relax. Besides exercise, summertime is also when most of us have time to create. If you don’t have space at home, look for a local art studio to have a space for yourself. Practice new techniques or create new pieces from what materials you love to work with. Consider bringing some clay home to create sculptures for yourself, as well as examples for your classroom.

Connect to Air by exercising your creative thinking and imagination. The element of air represents thinking, designing, and learning. In the summer months, consider taking your professional development courses to increase your knowledge and experiences. Take time to learn something new. Write down any ideas that come to mind, so when you have time to pursue it, you will not forget the lightbulbs that lit up in your brains. Completing professional development will not only help elevate your status where you work, but builds your confidence in what lessons and processes you teach.

Connect to Fire by igniting your passion for the arts. At the end of the school year, many of our candles are burnt on both ends. It’s not just teaching, but all the extra activities that happen around this time of year, such as graduations, recitals, and more. With feeling worn out, we lose our passion for what we love, which for us, is anything having to do with the arts. Use this time to rekindle your passion. Visit a museum or gallery. Be a student and take an art class. Watch a dance or musical performance. Last summer, I discovered fire dancing, which has become popular as outdoor nighttime performances.

Connect to Water by recognizing the emotions and feelings you put into your work. Are you feeling burnt out after a challenging school year? It’s okay, you are not the only one! Sadly, criticism of showing outward emotion is real, so we tell ourselves to bottle our sensitivity inside. If you feel this way, use this summer to release your emotions constructively through your work. The more you do for yourself, the better you’ll be for helping others. This is why it is so important to take time for yourself, even if you’re a parent of kids any age. On the flip side, if you have a special place to visit (like a vacation spot), you may find inspiration for your own artwork or lessons you teach just by being in a place that makes you happy! For example, our family cottage is on a large lake. I love to sit on the picnic bench with a watercolor pad and paint the scene I see before me. Just by sitting and painting the nature around me recharges my batteries and helps me to recharge for the next school year.

Connect to Spirit by being yourself and recognizing where your inspiration comes from. One of the great joys of being on social media as an educator is that we have found so many ways to gather ideas and resources to use for our classrooms and curriculum. Ideas are inspiring and help motivate you to design more authentic projects for your students. Connecting with other art teachers has also been important because we’ve developed a community support system. This summer, when you’re planning for the following school year, design lessons that inspire both you and your students. The more excited you are about the materials you teach, the more students will be inspired as well. Be yourself and your work will be authentic too.

I wish the best of luck for those who are completing their school years, as well as those who continue to teach throughout the summer. You are all amazing educators and deserve the time to take a step and breath. I look forward to the amazing works our students will create in the following school year!