Saturday, April 25, 2015


In South America, artist paint colorful images on the bark of the amate or fig trees.  As a decoration for an upcoming Fiesta dance, 2nd grade students created their own amate.  The Fiesta decorations are a project each year for my students but I don't want to be caught up in just decorating for the dance.  I always try to bring in a historical or cultural connection for the projects.  In the past, students have created colorful fans, papel picado and pinatas.  For this work, students observed several examples of native Amata prior to designing their own.  A crumpled and smoothed paper bag was used to resemble the amate paper.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Behaviors are Making me Crazy (and look old)!!!

I recently decided to try to draw a self portrait while looking into a make-up mirror and was alarmed at what my eyes were beholding.  In just a few short months, talking about since my yearly school picture, my face has added an exorbitant amount of new wrinkles.  How have I changed so much in just a few month, I thought with extreme alarm.   Immediately, the answer jumped into my conscientiousness - it's the behaviors!  This has been a very challenging school year.  The top tier students have kept everyone on tippy toes and some days teaching has been impossible.  After years of teaching I have found myself scrambling to find new methods and ideas to manage my classes.  A first year teacher shared with me a book she had borrowed and was reading and I thought it might just be able to supply me with some answers.  Luckily, I also knew of someone who owned the book and quickly sent out an email to see if I might borrow it. If you haven't read it yet, find a copy and give it some attention.  The book is Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers by Michael Linsin.  Linsin had me within the first couple of paragraphs as he explained the purpose of the book.  Seems Linsin was a classroom management authority of sorts; even offering professional development on the subject.  He had been a classroom teacher for 15 years when he decided to switch over to teaching Physical Education.  Within minutes of his first class, he knew classroom management as a specialist had an entire different look than it had for him as a classroom teacher.  This book outlines his suggested methods of taking control of your classes even if you only see them once a week.  It's a quick read with some insightful ideas and approaches.  I found myself reflecting, reevaluating and congratulating myself as I read through each section.  Some things I already did, some I definitely need to work on and in some areas I have a need to fine-tune.  With that said, I strongly recommend you get your hands on a copy and give it a read.  I think I'll be purchasing a copy for myself when I return my borrowed copy, to flip back through as a reference and a reminder.  Hopefully, with better classroom management techniques, some of these wrinkles will soften and I'll start looking a little bit more like my old self.  Oh, and this is not an advertisement, I received no compensation for this post You can also visit for more information.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Borrow some Cuisenaire Rods

Cuisenaire Rods
These are called cuisenaire rods or sometimes you have them as cubes.  They are used in most Math programs to help students quickly make number associations.  The white rod is a "1" and they progress up by color to the orange "10".  I recently attended a professional development session focusing on using the rods more effectively with elementary students.  As I looked at the rods, all I saw were possibilities for pattern  With the focus on making connections I decided to use a set in the art room and see if my students could create a pattern project using addition combinations.  I challenged students to pick any number 6 or above to focus their patterns on.  The patterns would represent the addition facts for their number with the goal of creating a colorful pattern in the process.  The big build up was that students were told to not explain the project to their Math teachers to see if the teachers could recognize the connections.  This was our secret!  I pre-drew a 10x9 grid for the students to work with.  All the pre-made grids I could find were too small and the finished product would have been tiny.  The rods are actually measured in centimeters so I used the same measurements for the grid I created.
Diamonds of Orange and Blue or Ten

 Ten "X"
I love you 9 X over

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kindergarten Early Birds

What shapes can we use to create a spring picture showing the early bird trying to capture a worm?

Kindergarten students experimented with shapes to create this cute composition of two early birds struggling to capture a worm.

Creating James Rizzi Cities in First Grade

My students love learning about more current artist.  James Rizzi was a great hit for a current lesson with first graders.  I began the lesson by concentrating on shapes and creating space through overlap.  Students then built their cities in the style of the examples I had shared of Rizzi's work.  I encouraged them to take their time and draw all those many windows necessary to create the buildings and also not to hesitate to have fun by creating some wacky faces on a few of the buildings.  Color pencils were used to add color with my again stressing Rizzi's use of color and that the buildings should not look like "normal" buildings but instead we would be working for wacky and fun.  I was pleased with all the variety and individuality students brought to their Rizzi Cities.
Student Work
Student Work

Student Work
Student Work

Student Work

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Shape experiments to learn to draw people

Student Work
Several pages in the Kindergarten Shape book focus on combining shapes into identifiable forms.  By this point in time of the school year, the majority of Kindergarten students have master the drawing of basic geometric shapes and can easily identify them along with their attributes.  They have draw and colored shapes, textured shapes and cut and collage shapes. For this lesson, they created three different "people" forms using shapes.  The first drawing is of the infamous super hero "Oval Man".  He can only be drawn using an oval and his relative the circle.  This is a directed draw but the students are actively directing what is happening.  As a group, students identify the shape needed for each part of the body in response to my questions.  Some classes unanimously believe the head should be a circle while others opt for an oval.  I follow along as per their suggestions as long as they are reasonable and model the creation of oval man.
student created Oval Man

Student Created Rectangle Robot

For the next drawing, the process is repeated but this time only using rectangles and his relative square for all the designated body parts.  Robot Rectangle is brought to existence through this process.

It all comes together in the final drawing when all four shapes can be used to create a more realistic body of a person.  No stick people in this art room!!!

Student work for Strong Body

Finally, the outlines of clothing are drawn around this final figure so that "Strong Body" will be more realistic.  Of course details like hair are added as well.  Crayons are used to color in the clothing and the transition has been made to drawing real people in Kindergarten.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mona Lisa Self Portraits

Self Portraits are my chosen project for showing student growth in the art room this year.  All grades began the year by drawing a self portrait with instruction the first weeks of school.  My intent is to have students draw three portraits this year.  Classes are working on the 2nd portrait now.  Fourth grade students were given the task of studying a print of the Mona Lisa and recreating it with their own self portrait.  Getting them past the intimidation factor was the biggest hurdle achieved by assuring them that I would only be assessing the portrait itself for growth.  Here are a few of their interpretations along with the self assessment rubric they were given.


U/ 0
S- / 1
S / 2
S+ / 3
Student shows no attempt to “look like a scientist” when drawing a portrait.  No signs of understanding the mathematics of the face.  Features are comic in nature and do not look natural.
Student did not demonstrate an understanding of the mathematics of the face.  Eyes are too high, mouth is too small or misplaced.  Nose is misplaced or appears to be only a shape.  Show no attempt to “look like a scientist”
Student demonstrates an understanding of the mathematics of the face.  Most parts of the face are placed well.  Shows skills in “looking like a scientist”
Students shows correct placement of all the parts of the face.  Shows an understanding and applying the mathematics of the face.  Very skill in “looking like a scientist”