Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Underground Lives of Ants by 2nd grade

This blogging community is full of super cool people with amazing ideas and lesson plans. Often times, I'll find an idea that is interesting and change it or add to it to suit my student population. It is beyond rare that I find a lesson that I duplicate outright. I've done just that with this project. 

I take absolutely no credit for this lesson. All the props go to Mrs. Knight at Mrs. Knight's Smartest Artists. This post popped up in my Pinterest feed and I immediately repined it to use this year.  

The project is all about the secret underground lives of ants. What goes on in their maze of subterranean tunnels? What if ants were more like us? My students immediately latched on to this project. We initially got all up in the science and talked about ant body parts and habitats. Next, we discussed personification in the illustrations of Beatrix Potter and others. Next, we got to the art. 

My students and I had a blast brainstorming about all of the incredible things that could be happening underground. In the end, my second graders produced some highly creative artwork that we were all proud of. 

Download my version of the lesson plan!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Break Fun & Food

Last week was spring break. Huzzah! It was nice to not only have a short break from school, but to get out of the crazy Ohio weather. My wife, daughter, and I flew to Atlanta, Georgia and then drove to Macon in order to visit family. The weather was in the low 80's and absolutely wonderful. We visited the Georgia Aquarium and I got to view an animal that I've always wanted to see first hand- the whale shark! They actually have four whale sharks in an absolutely massive tank that also holds manta rays and countless other examples of marine life. 

It's hard to get sense of how large the whale shark in this picture is. This one was approximately 30' long!
 After getting back from Georgia, I had some time to relax, read, and have fun with my daughter. I also spent some time in the kitchen. One of my secret "real person" talents is cooking. I absolutely love to cook and would consider going to culinary school if I weren't teaching. I've been on a fresh pasta kick lately, so I decided to include a couple of my creations for you to enjoy. 
Scratch made linguini with spring vegetables.

Scratch made short rib and wild mushroom ravioli served with sautéed brussels sprouts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Mac Barnett Author Visit Today!

Huzzah! The day has arrived. Mac Barnett, author extraordinaire, is at Thomas today to talk to students about his life as an author. Mac is the author of many picture books including Guess Again, Chloe and the Lion, and Caldecott Award winning Extra Yarn. He also writes the Brixton Brothers series among other chapter books. 

When I first learned that Mac Barnett was coming, I was super excited. My two year old daughter absolutely adores his books. I absolutely adore reading them to her. During the course of a typical day, I sometimes read 40 books to her. I tire of some, but Mac's books are so fun that I can read them over and over.

Mac's presentations to students have been incredibly engaging and entertaining. He has a great energy that the kids here absolutely gravitate toward. If you ever get a chance to see him at a book signing or school event, I highly recommend it. If you haven't ever read any of his books, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? I mean, I highly encourage you to check them out. 

Bonus compliment time. Mac told me that the artwork hanging in the halls here is some of the best he has seen during any of his school visits. Score!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

1st Grade Cave Art

Cave art projects are simply made for first grade. What better way to show the simplistic drawing style of Paleolithic people? First graders naturally have a simple feel to their artwork and that style translates perfectly to this project.

Though examples of cave art have been found all around, the most famous is the work in Lascaux, France. There is even a virtual tour of that cave complex that students love to see. Most of the site is in French, but the pictures, of course, work for any language. 

Another cool thing that I like to do during this project is to set the cave art mood. That's a thing, right? I turn off the lights in my classroom and project a campfire on the big screen in my room. One year, a student teacher had the kids draw with all of the tables on their sides. It was really cool, but my tables are incredibly heavy. It definitely took two of us to get everything moved. 

What I like about this project is that it can be as complicated or simple as is needed. This year, it was a two class project because I had a student teacher starting who would be beginning his own lessons. No matter how long it takes, students are always very successful with it. 

Click here to download the full lesson plan!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Finished Dinosaur Demo

Alright. It's absolutely frigid outside. The actual temperature here in Columbus, Ohio on Friday was -10. I couldn't feel my face during outdoor duty this morning. My view from my room is a massive pile of snow that has been plowed from the playground. It's Monday. We all need a little levity. For that, I present to you my finished example piece for my Art Club students. If a bright pink paper mache dinosaur head mounted to the wall doesn't make you laugh, I'm not sure what will. Enjoy. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Art Club Update

I thought I'd tell you all a little more about Art Club. What's the first rule of Art Club? Tell EVERYONE about Art Club. 
I have a total of 20 4th and 5th grade students in Art Club. We meet every Thursday after school until 5:00 for 12 weeks. There was a small fee involved to pay for materials and the club t-shirt (that we screen printed ourselves). Students had to apply to get in and I based entry on the application as well as overall classroom behavior. I limited the group size to 20 because I wanted to work on bigger and more difficult projects. It's also nice not to have 30 kids in my classroom.

We're currently working on paper mache animal heads that will be mounted on wooden backing boards that will be able to hang on the wall. It's kind of a riff off of taxidermy. Anyway, here are a few in process examples. Enjoy.
There's nothing like a big pile of animal heads to give your art room that unique touch.
Saber Tooth Tiger
Of course I had to do an example
piece. This pink Brontosaurus will
wind up in my daughter's room.

Monday, February 9, 2015

2nd Grade Wild Things Printmaking

I wish I had more time in college. There were so many courses I wanted to take when I was in school, but there just wasn't enough time. I never took any printmaking classes. I really enjoy printmaking now and I made it a point last year to make sure I have a good printmaking lesson for each grade level. I wound up presenting about my printmaking curriculum at the AOE summer conference last year.
This is a project I've done for the past several years. My friend Drew Jones, another elementary art teacher in my district, wrote this lesson a while back. Since Drew is a cool dude, he shared it with me. 
This project uses the simple styrofoam printmaking material. After reading Where The Wild Things Are, each student does a ton of sketches in order to design their own original wild thing. The best one is pressed into the foam. Printing takes place over the course of two classes and the project is finished by mounting the prints on black paper and adding some words with construction paper crayons. It's a winner every year!

Click here to download the full lesson plan. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

1st Grade GERMS!!!

If you don't immediately see the irony in this post, then you don't know first graders. To top it off, I sit here writing this; my body full of Mucinex D (the big kid kind), nasal spray, and a bit of coffee for good measure. How ironic is this post? I don't even want to think about it.
On to the cool art. This project was super fun to work on and the results were almost 100% successful for all students. I've got a thing for incorporating science into my art lessons and I was intrigued by the look of different strains of bacteria and viruses. We discussed how some bacteria is good while other types of viruses and bacteria can be harmful to our bodies. Each student did several sketches and choose to create either a good or bad germ.

This is one of those projects that the students can just go nuts with. It's very open and allows a lot of choice. It also allows me to to talk to my first graders about proper germ defense. Trust me, they need it!

Download the full lesson plan here!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Art Club is the Greatest

Art Club might be my best decision in many years. I decided to start it this year and, so far, we've had three meetings. Art Club meets on Thursdays right after school until 5:00. I have 20 4th and 5th graders who all had to apply to join. Of course I got all kids who are in love with art. 20 super talented students and no behavior issues. It's like art teacher heaven. 
1/4 of Art Club in their sweet shirts we screen printed last week. One of these
days I'll remember to take a picture before we get busy making awesome art. 
A big reason for starting Art Club was to give my students some extra opportunities to continue to improve their art skills. I'm able to have them work on projects that would either be too difficult for a whole grade level or impossible to store with 120 kids working on large projects. 

Our first project is animal head sculptures made out of paper mâché. They'll eventually be mounted to boards I cut out of MDF. They'll look similar to taxidermy mounts. The pictures below are a few in-process works. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

There's always something going on in the art room.

One of my goals this year is to post more often. So far, I've not done so well with that goal. (Or as the kids would say, EPIC FAIL!) I think I figured out the problem, though. I tend to only post about finished projects. Between photographing work, writing the post, and attaching the lesson plan, it takes quite a bit of time. During the course of a day, I only have so much time, and the blog often gets pushed to the back of the list of priorities. My new plan is to update more often with random things that are going on in the art room, much like I do with my Instagram feed. These posts will be quick and easy.
One of my favorite third grade projects is going on right now. Collagraph quote prints. My 3rd graders are working really hard to get their printing plate ready to go. We'll start printing this week. As I was unloading the drying rack, I just noticed that every single piece I saw was outstanding. 
I also have a student teacher from The Ohio State University who started recently. He has taken over a couple grade levels so far and is working on self portraits with 2nd grade. Day one of his lesson involved some practice and one girl totally knocked it out of the park. She is supremely talented and is a very, very sweet girl on top of it. Great work Zoie!