Friday, May 27, 2016

Squeezing in a Clay Project at the Last Minute

Oh MY, I barely got this one worked in! My third graders made architectural columns out of clay.  This lesson came from the February 2010 Arts & Activities issue, and the lesson was originally by Robin Leenhouts.  It's a perfect fit for my third graders who spend their year learning the basics of art history.  I had a handout on doric, ionic and corinthian columns for students to reference.  Here are a few bisque fired pieces:

The beauty of these is that they work either way, open side up as a pencil/pen holders, or base side up as pedestals for favorite toys. (I'm obviously not a real stickler for accuracy--note the placement of the ionic swirls)
Students painted them with metallic tempera blocks and then sealed the paint with Mod Podge:

The final painting/sealing day was so crazy that I didn't get many photos, but they really did turn out nicely.  
Speaking of, look at this first grade portrait from my Jewelry Portraits lesson:

He wasn't here the last day to finish and add his necklace. OH MY GOODNESS! Have you EVER seen anything more adorable?  It looks just like him! I love it and plan on keeping it FOREVER!
And also this from first grade:

This is how it went down:
"Mrs. Fresia, I'm making bacon and eggs!"
"That sounds perfect!"
"Well, I decided to make them for you!"
They're amazing.  And I wish I would've photographed the paper heart I got from the same class that looks more like marshmallows smooshed together.
No better job in the world (and if you don't think it is, it's probably not the job for you, because really, the only people who need to spend all day everyday with kids are the ones who really want to be there).
For those of you still in school, summer is really, really REALLY close.  For those already on vacation: enjoy every single minute, YOU DESERVE IT!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Never Enough Kindergarten Lessons

Oh, KINDERGARTEN! I know some elementary art educators dislike kindergarten, and while I do really enjoy them, I feel like I never have enough lessons to [adequately] fill the year for them. The last lesson I did with them this year was really the mushing together of two old lessons, line printing (and this lesson):

Note the blue fingers in this photo.

Doesn't that look like some fabulous messy kindergarten fun? It's a simple line review.  I gave each student 3-4 tagboard strips measuring 1" x 18" and had them bend, fold and roll them into different lines then use the EDGE to print on 9 x 12 white paper with tempera paint. Always fun.  Always messy.
Next time, we read Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and drew monsters on the back of our [now dry] line printing/paintings:

We drew with pencil, traced with extra fine point Sharpie.  Then we were ready to draw backgrounds/homes for our monsters/wild things:

Students were allowed to choose marker, crayon and/or Sharpie.  Finally, we cut out our monsters, flipped them over so the paint side was showing (to be line-y fur) and added details with marker before gluing them to the backgrounds:

Not totally sure what's going on here, but I love how sculptural his became.

As always, some understood the directions better than others, but even if they didn't/wouldn't glue it so the paint printing showed, they were all still adorable:

Although, maybe a bit violent?!

And bloody????

Have a great end of the year for those of you who are still in the thick of it, and enjoy a relaxing day or two after your school year ends (no hair combing or dressing around here today--it's my first rainy day of summer!) You all deserve a good rest, art teachers work HARD, friends!

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Cost of Being an Urban Educator

Let me start out by saying, I'm currently an art teacher in a suburban area.  But my first 7 1/2 years were spent in an urban district, and maybe teaching in general (not just in urban environments) is this way, and I'll discover that later? I'm suffering a bit of heartbreak this week.

I taught in an elementary school my first year had a 40% free and reduced lunch population. Seven and a half year later when I left, that number ran up to 90%.  My older children (they're 20 years old now) went to school with me and were the only students out of 330 who paid for breakfast.  After a few months, the cafeteria manager asked me if it would be okay to give them their breakfast free because it was holding up the line and was a bit cumbersome to have mine pay. Students in poverty face many issues, hunger being one, safety being another and just plain old daily stress.  Maybe it's because my own children were friends with all their classmates that this year has been so hard to take.

It's been a rough year in many ways. Several of my former students who are now young adults have done some things (criminal activities, been involved in murders) and fallen victims to circumstances (car accidents, drownings).  This morning I found out that a former student was accidentally shot in the head and killed.  It's wearing me out, and my heart aches for them. And who remembers to tell a former/elementary art teacher?  No one.  It's a sad, sad world when happy smiling faces end up in places they should never be.  It's impossible not to worry about my current students--statistics tell the grim tale that it won't all be positive and happy for everyone.  It just seems like so many of my former students from my urban school are victims or perpetrators of crime, and I want so much more for them.  Big [virtual] hug to all of you who are doing your very best everyday to touch young lives, we all need more positive energy every moment. I could use some myself today.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Some Cretian Castles

My third graders are on their year-long art history journey, and this year we got all the way to the island of Crete and learned some Greek and Roman architecture as well.  We talk about ancient Crete and the Minoan civilization, which was destroyed by volcano around 1450 BC.  Later when the Greek writer Homer wrote about Crete, it was believed to be fiction until an amateur German archaeologist uncovered the remains of the palace Knossos.  For our island of Crete project, we watched Eyewitness Volcano and learned what sort of destruction happens with volcano eruptions. Then we were ready to get to painting some volcanoes:

Sorry for the sideways shot, I can't get it to turn correctly.
We spent a day or two drawing and painting with tempera blocks (man, I do love those and feel like I use them everyday), then I gave each student a 6 x 18 sheet of paper, and had them draw their own long palaces.  We drew with pencil, traced in extra-fine point permanent marker, and then colored with metallic crayon and/or metallic colored pencil.  Finally, we hinged them onto our backgrounds with folded paper.  Here are some finished third grade works:

I love that they're all different, each student was successful and there was a bit of science thrown in with learning about volcanoes.  (can't ever go wrong with Eyewitness videos and books!)
Hang on, friends, the school year is closing fast!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Oh, Faith Ringgold!

Anyone else catch the (winter, maybe?) AOE conference part with Faith Ringgold? The one where she counts on her fingers how many hours she works on art a day?  Adorable, totally real and something I'd have to do if put on the spot.  All that to say that my fifth graders were learning about the artwork of Faith Ringgold.  We looked at some of her quilts, and also her soft sculpture Suzanne.  

I gave them background on several artists (Henry Ossawa Tanner, Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold and Barbara Chase-Riboud), and honestly, by the time we got around to working in Ringgold's style, I had quite a bit to review.  I had a powerpoint presentation scrolling with her art while the students brainstormed.  They could design a quilt (on paper) or a soft sculpture (also paper).  Each student started with a large piece of that super crappy affordable roll paper the school orders for bulletin boards.  Those who were making quilts left them as is, those who wanted soft sculpture folded them before drawing.
They drew with pencil, traced with permanent marker and colored with Playcolor (LOVE Playcolor).

Because the weight and quality of that paper is, um, lacking a bit, it was easy to trace on the back when they were ready to color the other side (soft sculpture makers, which was really almost everyone).

With both sides colored, they were ready to cut and staple.  This part got a little tricky, as they had to really hold their paper together well AND I only own two working staplers.  I had them staple REALLY close together, and remember to leave an opening for stuffing.

We started out stuffing them with all this old Easter grass I had from a Wal Mart donation years ago, but quickly ran out and used things like my recycling bin, crumpled up old magazine pages.  This was a lesson where every student was successful.  I wasn't so successful at taking many photographs of there wonderful work, but I had some amazing ones like a four foot owl, a howling wolf, giant Playstation controller--no two were alike.

Finished Ringgold inspired quilt.

Finished basketball soft sculpture

Wish I had a photo of his finished turtle, as he did a GREAT job.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


My fourth graders have been busy making paper puppets:

Totally made of paper, the mouth opens and closes with the pull of a string.  To begin, we use one piece of 12 x 12" paper to fold a German bell.  Here is a video where I realize how chubby my hands are explaining the folding process:

The folding typically takes one class period.  The next time they come to art, each student gets a 6 x 12" piece of paper that matches the color of their puppet (peach, tan, light or dark brown) and a glue to make their stick.  Here's another chubby hand video explaining the rest of the logistics of puppet making:

I did bust out the shiny paper from the remnants box (if you've never ordered a remnants box, you totally should!) and the "fun" scissors.  
We'd been studying our regional artists and talked about how they painted everyday sort of people.  We've done so much drawing a painting this year, that a nice cut paper project was enthusiastically embraced.
Here are some not-quite-finished student puppets:

 Maybe there's just enough time for a fabulous end of the year puppet show?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Forgot How Great These Are

This castle-on-a-hill lesson is a lesson I used to do with first grade years ago at my old school/old district.  I no longer do it with a grade level because my room is TINY at my current school and they take up SO MUCH room while they're in process, but they're perfect for my [small] adaptive art groups:

Students rolled out clay the first day and the paras and I helped them to cut one straight edge and one castle-line edge. We then wrapped the clay around cardboard tubes and cut doors and windows.  These dried and were fired.  
While all the drying/firing was going on, students used papier mache to build hills on cardboard circles saved from frozen pizza:

This is actually the final layer.
First we crumpled up newspaper and taped it down to form our hill.
Next we papier mache'd a newspaper strip layer,
then a yellow pages strip layer from the phone book,
and finally a layer of dyed-green-with-tempera
mix of water and the kind you can buy in a bag
 (Celluclay, I think it's called).

When our papier mache dried, it's REALLY hard, like kind of concrete feeling (maybe that's the Celluclay?!).  Then we used tissue paper squares to glue "flowers" around the edge of our hills.
I then gave them some pipe cleaners and green Cloud Clay to create a dragon to guard their castle.  It's almost impossible to write names on wet Cloud Clay, so we let them dry on their [dry] hills (which had their name on the bottom):

Drying on top of a cabinet to keep curious little fingers away.

The day that everything was finally ready, students came in to find their bisque fired castles, and some metallic tempera blocks for them to paint with:

Once the castles were painted, all that was left was to hot glue their castles to their hills (I left the dragons free so they could play with them):

The castles-on-hills fit perfectly in a plastic grocery bag to carry home, and all my students had great success with this project!
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