Thursday, December 18, 2014

1st Grade Rockets in Space

This isn't a new project. I just like it too much to get rid of it. The end results are super cool, it reinforces basic skills with three types of media, and my first graders love it. That's why I teach it year after year. 

Space is one of those topics that almost all kids love. I get into some basic space knowledge with this lesson and also spend some time describing several images of space shuttles/rockets/etc. I then allow the students to get into their own artwork. 

I typically post my full lesson plan, but this one is simple enough that I'll just post the steps right here. Enjoy!

  • Check out cool pictures of planets and spaceships and watch an awesome space shuttle launch. 
  • Each student uses construction paper to create a space ship.
  • On 12x18 paper, students draw at least three planets and color them using crayons or colored pencils. 
  • The "space" part is painted with black tempera. 
  • Stars are painted on using the handle end of a paintbrush.
  • The spaceship is glued on to finish. 
  • Tuesday, December 9, 2014

    3rd Grade Aboriginal Art

    Aboriginal artwork is fascinating to me. As an artist, I have always been fascinated with the process of making art as much as anything. I enjoy printmaking because of the preparation and thought that goes into a piece before final artwork is ever made. When I think about the process that went into the early Aboriginal art, I'm always amazed. Whenever someone makes their own paint simply to create art I'm impressed. 

    I've taught this aboriginal project for several years and have changed it bit by bit every year. Originally, the students drew and painted an animal on one paper, then did a dotted background on the same paper. That later changed to drawing the animal on a separate paper and adding color with oil pastel before attaching that do the dotted background. This year, I went a similar route with the animals, but changed the background. First, I made it smaller. I went from 12x18 to 12x12. Kids get overwhelmed with the amount of dots they used to have to make. I wanted to simplify that. Second, I allowed students to create some decoration on their backgrounds with cut paper. This further reduced the amount of dotting that was required. I really like how the work turned out this year. I cut at least one full day from the project by making the dotting less complicated. I'll add that on to one of the new projects I came up for later this year. 

    Download the lesson plan here!

    Tuesday, December 2, 2014

    4th Grade Abstract Tint Painting

    Before I do anything else in this post, let me tell you how proud I am of my 4th graders. They absolutely killed this project. When it comes to detailed painting, I never know quite what to expect. These 4th graders once again did some absolutely amazing work. 

    After starting out the year with the totem pole project, 4th grade students were itching to do some painting. This project let them go nuts with just that. We talked about abstract and non-objective artwork and looked at several examples. After that, students used whatever method they wanted to design an abstract composition. I only asked that it have overlapping shapes. 

    The painting portion of the project consisted of using two colors and their tints. Of course we got to break out the mixing trays; this is always a big hit. Kids just love to mix paint. It's simple. 

    The project was finished with some black lines around the original shapes that had been drawn. Students chose between doing this with paint or black crayon. I think the project turned out wonderfully. 

    Download the lesson plan here!

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Yearbook Cover Vote at Thomas Elementary

    Even though the yearbook won't come out until May, students at Thomas are hard at work creating cover art. The yearbook cover contest is an optional out of class project for all students PK-5th grade. I got a ton of entries and narrowed it down to the top 8 for students, teachers, and blog readers to vote on. The link below will take you to a Google form to vote. It will take you 30 seconds even if you haven't had your morning coffee. 

    *The voting is now over. Thanks to everyone who participated!

    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    2nd Grade Egyptian Cats & Dogs

    Here are a few images from a recent 2nd grade project. If you're a long-term reader, you'll know that we've been doing this project for the last several years in 2nd grade. Students are absolutely intrigued by Ancient Egypt and really enjoy the project. 

    Not too much was different this year in terms of technique for this lesson. I swapped out oil pastels for colored pencils. My students have better control with the colored pencils, but they just don't have the nice pop of color the pastels provide. I'll probably give them a choice next year. Enjoy!

    Students use a rough hieroglyphic translation
     to write their name on their work.
    They think that part is super cool!
     Check out my lesson plan here!

    Thursday, November 6, 2014

    Writing about Art

    A couple of people have recently asked me about my use of artist statements in my classroom. This post is for you!

    We all know that art classes aren't only about making art. As teachers, we want to help our students grow into thoughtful adults. I think using a little writing at the end of a project is a great way to have students practice their writing skills and also inject some self reflection into the lesson. 

    Let me tell you how I feel about assessment. Meh. There. I said it. I'm not a big fan of it, although I understand why we use it. I originally started using a little self assessment form that students attached to the back of their artwork. They would circle different areas depending on how they thought they did. I would then circle what I thought. I didn't like that system because too many kids circled only the highest or lowest grades even if they didn't really apply to their work. 

    I have slowly developed artist statements that are different for each project. The format is pretty similar across all projects, but the content is different on each artist statement form. I include a combination of fill-in vocab as well as open ended questions for students to answer. It makes assessing vocab-based and reflection standards much easier and efficient. Here is an example from a recent 5th grade personal logo project.--->
    Simply including a space for a name and teacher save me from so much nameless artwork. (I have no idea how some students manage not to have their name on their work after 3-4 classes of a project.) The artist statements are taped to the back of the finished artwork. In this particular case, it's taped on the back in such a way that it hangs down below the artwork allowing viewers to read what the students have written. I'll make these 2-3 per page so I can quickly photocopy them and not use too much paper. 

    The big question is this. What do you do to include student writing or reflection in your classroom? I'd love to hear all about what you do. I'm sure there are a ton of you doing something way better and far more rad than this. 

    Friday, October 31, 2014

    Party Day!

    I really enjoy our "Fall Harvest" party day. It's a nice break from the first two and a half months of regular school days. With all of the testing that goes on, kids don't really get to have too many fun days anymore. The related arts teachers at Thomas have several traditions, but the best is our Halloween costumes. It has been a tradition for over 18 years that the related arts teachers dress up as a group of three. Why only three? The tradition predates the addition of library as a related arts class- back when our school population wasn't as massive as it is now. Never in all those years have we repeated a costume. (Feel free to comment and suggest groups of three that aren't obvious.) This year we were face cards from a playing card deck. Seeing that my name is Zach, I redrew the jack to add a little joke to the costume. What did everyone else dress up as?

    This picture makes me look like a giant.

    Not too bad for making these mostly the day before and the day of the party.

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    First Grade Mondrian Inspired Fish

    First grade. Whoa. Sometimes I feel less like a teacher and more like a ringmaster. It's incredible how much they grow up throughout the year. For me, first grade is all about skill building and getting the basics down. For example, this particular project is all about primary colors. It is also an introduction to painting with tempera paints. It's a whole new world for many students. 

    This lesson is so simple that I don't think I really need to post an official plan. We start out by describing the characteristics of Piet Mondrian's work. We also discuss why he paints like he does as opposed to creating realistic work. Students then draw a large fish on 12x18 paper and draw shapes with horizontal and vertical lines. On day two, they paint primary colors. I encourage them to leave some white spaces, but many are too psyched about painting and they paint the whole fish. On day three, students cut out their fish, glue it to a black piece of construction paper, then cut the black paper to create a border for the fish. Some students then finish a bit of painting and the others work on a Mondrian vocab word search I made. Overall, I'm really happy with the results of this project. Of course my first graders love it as well. I think some of them would paint all day every day if they were allowed. 

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    3rd Grade Ancient Maps

    Ahoy landlubbers! It be map time at Thomas Elementary. This is the second year I've done this project with 3rd grade and it's a lot of fun and also integrates quite a bit from the social studies curriculum.

    We start the project by looking at a lot of old maps. If you haven't seen any of these before, check the Google. They're pretty rad. There are maps of North America that actually show California as an island. Some maps have sea monsters. Many older maps actually have quite a bit of artwork on them simply to make them beautiful to look at. 

    We discuss the main parts of a map (a part of the 3rd grade social studies curriculum here in Ohio) and also look at various landforms (a part of the 4th grade curriculum). Students are required to have a certain amount of landforms in their map as well as a title, key, and compass rose. 

    My students are each charged with the task of creating a map of a fictional place. Most choose to create their own, but some like to to make maps of places in their favorite book, tv show, or video game. I love to see what they come up with. 

    The last part of the project is to crumple the paper several times to make it look old and also "burn" a part of the map using wet on wet black watercolor. I like the burned edges, but I think the crumpling takes something away from the overall project. I probably won't give that as an option next year. 

    Click here to see my lesson plan!
    Here is the handout that I put together for this lesson. 

    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!