Wednesday, October 15, 2014

4th Grade Totem Poles

It has been entirely too long since I've posted. I won't bore you with excuses. To make up for it, I'll post a yearly favorite. 

This totem pole project has evolved quite a bit over the years. It was originally a painting project. The problem with that is that kids would have awesome drawings, but not have the painting skills to pull off the final artwork. I switched it over to a collage project and immediately got significantly better results. My latest improvement happened last year. I make handouts with better reference materials. I've always had my students draw from real images of North American animals. I now have them use that reference (in the form of a huge stack of books from the school library), but I also copy a reference handout with images from Students find inspiration from actual animal images as well as from the traditional shapes found in the handout. 

I had some more amazing results this year. I think limiting color use does so much for the work. I have my students limit themselves to four total colors and their work shows greater maturity than I would ever expect to see from 4th grade artwork. Send me pictures if you every try this lesson. I'd love to see work from other students!

Download my lesson plan!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Follow @thomas_elementary_art on Instagram!
I'm sitting at home today. I had to take a personal day to have some electrical work done on my 100 year old house. Consequently, I have some extra time on my hands. I've been working on some staff t-shirt designs and I also decided to start an Instagram account for my classroom. My intention is to use it for some quick daily posts of cool things that are happening in the art room. I was also inspired by Hope Hunter Knight's IG feed in which she's using her IG account as a tool for students to interact with. She posts challenges and students can upload their artistic responses using a particular hashtag. 

As of right now, I have a grand total of ZERO posts on the new account, but I expect that you'll see a pretty constant feed if you check back often. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pencil Sharpener Winner!

Congratulations to the winner of the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener, Misty K! Misty has been contacted and will be able to select her favorite color of pencil sharpener. Thanks to everyone who entered. It's great to find good supplies and also support a small American company run by a teacher! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Last Call for Pencil Sharpener Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway for a Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener has brought in an astounding 531 entries so far. If you want one of these sweet sharpeners, get your name in before the end of the day tomorrow. I'll be announcing the winner on Monday or Tuesday!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

5th Grade Flip Books

Flip book time! I usually like to use flip books as the last project of the year for my 4th grade students. It provides a good introduction for animation and is an ideal end of the year project. Somehow, we ran out of time last year. I'm not entirely sure what happened. You know how it goes. 

My 5th graders started out this school year with a three class flip book project. I require that the books be at least 20 pages. Less than that doesn't allow the animation to be flipped very easily. I just use copy paper that I cut into quarters. It is transparent enough to allow students to see through in order to create movement in their work. 

I usually don't post my teacher examples, but this one is just too much fun. What do you get when you cross a potato with a top hat, a banana peel, an ice cream cone, and 50 pages of flip book animation? This!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Free Pencil Sharpener!

Get your dancin' shoes on. It's giveaway time at Thomas Elementary Art! You guys may be familiar with my ongoing search for the perfect pencil sharpener. I posted about it originally here and got a bunch of good feedback. I was later given the opportunity to review the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener. Well, the fine folks over there were kind enough to allow me to host a giveaway for one of their fantastic sharpeners. You can check out all of the pencil sharpener options here!
I actually just ordered another sharpener to use in addition to the one I received to review. I really like the simplicity, ease of use, and quality of the sharpeners. I think it will be a long term solution for my 600+ students.
Enter the giveaway below. The only requirement is that you must like Classroom Friendly Supplies on Facebook. There are other options that you can also do to increase your chance of winning. Not too bad for a chance at a sweet $25 sharpener! US entries only, please. Classroom Friendly Supplies doesn't ship internationally.
Pencil Sharpener Giveaway on Rafflecopter

Friday, August 29, 2014

Teaching Art Like a Child

I hate it when people call me artsy. I'm not artsy. I'm not the type of teacher who gets pumped up by sweet borders and cute posters- not that there is anything wrong with that. It's just not my style. My art and design education is too ingrained to allow me to put up something in my room that I consider to be poorly designed or executed. When I decorate my room, I want to keep it simple and clean. 

Early this year, I invested heavily in some time, construction paper, and x-acto blades. My inner 9 year old was screaming to make something cool. I did an 8-bit portrait project with my 4th grade students last year. As part of my demonstration piece, I drew myself as an 8-bit character. I thought it would be cool to combine that with some old school Mario elements to use as a door decoration for my room. I've got to say that I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. 
The next thing I decided to do is swap out a piece that I use for classroom management. On my board, I have the letters A-R-T on separate cards. The goal is to have it still spell ART at the end of class. The letters can be flipped to reflect poor choices being made by the class. The A is a warning and can be earned back with good choices. The R being flipped results in some silent working time (because it usually gets flipped for too much noise), and the T being flipped results in a screeching halt to the art class. Of course that happens so rarely that I really don't worry about it. 

The A-R-T letters I have been using for the past few years were starting to fade and the lamination was coming undone. To go along with my door decorations, I used the Mario theme again to make the letters look like the question mark blocks from the game. When a letter is flipped, Boo, the ghost from Mario Bros, is on the back. Making these made me very happy. All of the decorations and ART letters were made from cut construction paper. I think I earned my black belt in x-act cutting. 
I couldn't help but have a little fun with the ghosts I made- mostly because I'm a pretty big dork! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to school, back to school….

It's impossible for me to begin the year without having the back to school song from "Billy Madison" go through my head at least 50 times. It is just a fact of life in my world. I've found that going back to school is significantly more difficult after spending the entire summer with my daughter. The summer days of walks, parks, lots of books, and zoo trips were fun and exciting. I consider it a true gift that I'm able to spend so much time with her during the summer. 
Today is the second day of school, but the first time I'll have students in my room. The first day of school we always have full grade level groups watch the playground rules video and our principal goes over a few news items and reminders. It gets a little boring, so I'm excited to get started with students today.

I'm excited to try a few new things this year. I'm currently most excited about starting an art club this year. The music teacher at Thomas started a running club a couple years ago that has sessions in the fall and spring. I'm planning to have art club fill the gap during the winter in order to give students additional and advanced art opportunities. I've got some really cool ideas for art club!

Another big change this year is that Thomas Elementary is an official "Leader in Me" school. Leader in Me is a program developed around the "7 habits of highly effective people." I'm hoping it is effective and helps develop leadership and responsibility in our students. Does anyone else work at a Leader in Me school?

Friday, July 25, 2014

3rd Grade Machine Brains

Do you know who Rube Goldberg is? If you do, you're cool in my book. If you don't, you will quite soon. This project was originally written by a colleague of mine, but I took it, added to it, and adapted it to my own curricular needs. It was originally written to fit in with the science curriculum (learning about simple machines) in third grade. That curriculum has since changed, but this project keeps on rockin' because it's too cool not to do. 

Rube Goldberg is now the main inspiration for this lesson. I still hit the simple machines pretty hard, but my students think Goldberg's cartoons are hilarious. His fantastically complicated machines are still a source of inspiration for competitions, Mythbusters, and YouTubers. They are all about cause and effect and make sneaky use of science and physics.
A classic example of a Rube Goldberg comic.
 Another source of inspiration for this project is a music video by the band OKGO that was created as a massive Rube Goldberg machine. The band is known for making incredibly creative music videos, including this super rad one that was released recently.

Finally, it comes down to making cool art. Each student spends a ton of time brainstorming and sketching for this project. I challenge them to design a machine that does something that happens in their heads. (Blinking, thinking, chewing, making boogers, etc.) They are required to have at least eight steps and at least four simple machines in their work. I use a projector (just shooting a white screen) to trace the students' silhouettes, then they use construction paper to make the rest of the project. I want at least 95% of the project to be made from the construction paper. I think the project turns out really cool and it really makes students think. I swear I saw some smoke coming out of a few kids' heads this year.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

5th Grade Radial Printmaking

I'm writing this post as I'm attending the AOE Online Conference and drinking a delicious iced cappuccino. How's that for multi-tasking? 

This lesson is a new one for me this year. It is one I included in my presentation on building a printmaking curriculum for the AOE conference. For this lesson, I introduced my students to block printing using E-Z-Cut printing blocks. This material is available in several different names, and essentially replaces linoleum blocks for younger students. I used linoleum blocks in middle and high school and they required a lino cutter tool and bench hook. I remember several students who gauged fingers (and got at least a few stitches) because traditional linoleum is kind of tough to carve. E-Z-Cut is super soft and doesn't require a bench hook. It is incredibly easy to carve and makes this type of printmaking completely feasible for an upper elementary project. 

The secondary idea behind this lesson was radial design. I showed my students how to sketch out a design that would work as a quarter of a radial image. We used some Celtic knots as inspiration (although some students went in their own direction) and got to work with some sketches before drawing out the finished design on a 4"x4" piece of E-Z-Cut. Students carved with a lino cutter tool (always carving away from their hand/body) and were ready to print. They drew an arrow pointing to the center of their design on the back of their printing block to make it a little easier to print the final design. 

I was really impressed with the results of this project. It kept my 5th graders completely engaged even at the very end of the school year. If you teach 5th graders, you understand how impressive that is!

Click here to download my lesson plan for this project!