Students always love working with clay. It is one of the best ways to get students engaged in a lesson. Because of this, it's a great medium to learn and practice other art elements. In this unit, students in 3rd grade were able to review shapes, both geometric and organic, along with discussing texture and learning a bit about a contemporary artist.
This lesson was first introduced to me by one of my best student teachers. When her time was up, I continued the project with a group of students that were behind and I repeated it the following year.. Students were first introduced to the artist Kimmy Cantrell. We looked at some of his sculptures and talked about what students saw in his works. The students were great at picking out many elements and concepts in the work.
After introducing the sculptural faces of Cantrell, the students were instructed to draw out an abstract face inspired by his works. They used black crayons to do this. We reviewed texture and use rubbing plates to color in different sections of the drawing with different textures.
Some wonderful finished works! The first is my example.
Another great option to this project would be creating holes in the clay to add nails or wire to the work after it was finished.
Do you have any other great clay projects that help reinforce shape with students?
Most of the time in my art room, I didn't do much teaching of shapes directly. They just fell in with multiple lessons and we discussed them when it seemed to be needed. There are a few lessons where I concentrated on shapes as one of the core concepts in the lesson.
This is one of them and is my favorite way of teaching students about Organic shapes. It doesn't have a fancy name. I simply referred to it as my Organic Shape lesson. It was generally geared toward to my 1st grade students, but once in a while I came across an older class that could use the practice.
Along with Shape, I also squeezed in an introduction to Space in this lesson when we talked about the background, middle ground, and foreground.
The lesson starts out by handing students a simple piece of grey construction paper that is cut to 9x6.
I hold up my paper and tell students that everyone knows what shape this is. It's a rectangle. I ask students how I know it's a rectangle. I ask them what are the "rules" that make it one. Then I explain that I want to get rid of all the straight edges and turn the shape from a Geometric shape to an Organic or Free-form shape. I demonstrate how to tear off the straight edges going slowly so I don't make it too small. I explain that I still want to have a nice big shape but don't want it to have any straight sides.
I ask students to do the same with their paper. After all of our papers are torn I hold up my paper and begin to slowly rotate it. I explain to students that this is still a shape but now it's not a Geometric shape it is an Organic shape. I ask them to look at my shape and see if they think it looks like something. Students one by one say it looks like a dog, a mountain, a bird, a fish... I then decide on what I think it looks like. I show students how to glue it to a 9x12 white or sometimes light blue paper (depends on what I have on hand). Then I do a quick talk-aloud as I use my crayons to color and add details to my shape to turn it into what I think it needs to be. I also discuss what my background, middle ground, and foreground might need to make a complete picture.
Then I turn the students loose. If they have a hard time figuring out what their shape looks like they brainstorm with members of their group. It's always a fun project that is simple. As students work, I continue to discuss some more shapes that would be Organic and how these shapes are usually found in nature and don't have the names and rules that Geometric shapes do.
Here are some of the results completed over the years.
I'm currently thrilled to be the instructor for The Art of Education's Studio: Printmaking class this month. The Studio courses are AOE's newest courses. These classes allow art teachers to take hands-on graduate level courses from the comfort of their own home! I'm having a blast working with an awesome group of teachers who are exploring a variety of printmaking processes that they can then work into their art curriculum or be inspiration for some personal artwork.
This week the teachers are working on the Collagraph process. Collagraphs are collaged materials glued to a surface that is then printed. This is a fun and inexpensive technique that can be geared toward all grade levels.
I thought that I'd share a couple of lessons that I did with my elementary students using the collagraph process.
The first project was one of my favorite 2nd Grade lessons. I did it year after year for many years, so you know it was a good one (I get bored easy).
For this collagraph project, we just use chipboard or cereal boxes for creating our printing plate and we printed with just black tempera paint.
Students were instructed to pick a creature. This could be an animal, insect, or imaginary creature. They drew out the creature as we talked about both geometric and organic shapes. Students then broke down the different parts of the creature and drew those on the chipboard. These were cut out and glued to another piece of cardboard. I had the students apply a layer of Elmer's glue on top of the shapes that were glued down. This helps keep the parts stuck down and allow for more prints to be pulled.
While our plates dried we worked on some simple rhyming poems that would go along with their creatures. Eventually, myself or a parent volunteer typed the students' poems out so that we could put a copy of the prints and poems together into small books that the students would get to take home. Each student ended up having the whole class' work. (This was back before the big technology boom, so if I was to repeat this project today, I would put the work on a website or blog to share with students instead of the hundreds of pieces of paper I went through back then.)
Here are some finished student works -
A couple years later, I had students revisit the Collagraph process.
These older students - usually 4th grade - explored different materials to create different textures on their printing plate. We used cardboard, yarn, paper, and other thin odds and ends around the art room. Students printed with white printing ink on black paper. After this print they applied acrylic paints quickly with paint brushes to different parts and printed on white paper. The final print was done by rolling the white ink over their plate that still had some of the acrylic paint left on it. They printed this on a more neutral colored paper. If the plate was still workable and time was left, they could explore more prints of their choice.
Here is an example of the three prints described above -
One of my favorite parts of this project was that the printing plates often ended up looking like wonderful works of art themselves!
Last month I shared that I was trying the monthly subscription to ArtSnacks as a fun way to try out some new supplies and create in a beautiful handmade journal I purchased a while back. And let's face it - who doesn't like getting a box of creative goodies in the mail each month?
My second box arrived early this month.
It was an interesting mix and I honestly enjoyed using every item. I loved the short handle of the "free-style" brush that I used to create some color washes. The pen has a surprising hard feel to it that allowed for a smooth but controlled mark that didn't bleed. My favorite by far was the Blackwing pencil. These pencils were once known as the $40 pencil. Since I pulled it out of the box, it has become my favorite pencil. The shape and removable eraser is very unique.
I decided to just go for it without any real direction - just let the drawing evolve. I knew I would use the violet acrylic and brush to create some wash of color on the pages - in addition to the natural dye of the boiled page on the right. November- themed images popped into my mind.
I ended up with this strange concoction. I'm certainly not thrilled with it...but oh well! Here it is!
It's that time of year when we start to see the hand turkeys pop up. Along with that comes art teachers complaining about the "dreaded" hand turkeys that kids make. You may not believe the following statement from this veteran art educator, but here it goes.
I don't mind the hand turkey! I see nothing wrong with seeing a child (or even an adult) trace their hand and add details to turn it into a turkey.
There, I said it. I'm all about creating and making art in any way or form possible. That even includes those hand turkeys or even an occasional lollipop tree. If someone is drawing, coloring, painting, building, or doing anything else creative - I say go for it! If it brings you joy or puts a smile on your face then by all means make a hand turkey!
Another way to include the turkey into an art lesson - Symmetrical Turkeys
I've mentioned before that I've never built my curriculum around seasonal things, but if I could work it into what we were doing I would jump at the chance. Elementary students enjoy seasons and holidays, and I like to see them happy. There have been a few years where I've worked in this symmetrical turkey lesson -usually with my upper-elementary students. We were reviewing warm and cool colors. I had students paint some different papers with a wet on wet technique using the two color schemes. We saved the warm color one for the background on our turkeys.
We talked about symmetry and shapes that we could use in creating a symmetrical turkey. Folding a black paper in half, we started by creating the head, beak and eyes. Students drew out parts they were going to cut out with a pencil. I showed students how we can use a hole punch to start to cut out an interior section and then just let them go! It was a fun project that involved a lot of cutting practice and problem solving.
Finished turkeys were glued to the warm colored painting background and then students could trim around to the turkey or leave it a full sheet.
So - what's your view on the Hand Turkey? If you are daring enough - share your own version of a hand turkey!
Since the leaves were falling outside, they became the subject matter for this exploration. It could really be anything you wish students to draw. I had some leave shapes that the kindergarten students could put under their paper and trace if they wanted or just look at and draw from. I would have preferred to have real leaves for them, but that morning it was raining and plans didn't work out.
After leaves were drawn on the paper, a thick line of glue was applied to the lines. Many students needed lots of time for this. It's unfortunate that many Kindergarten teachers shy away from letting students use bottles of glue. Many forbid it in their classrooms opting for glue sticks that don't ever really stick. Some will use the good old bottles of Elmer's but will pour it into a plate or sponge for students. They need that fine-motor practice of squeezing and applying the glue, so I gave them that opportunity whenever I could.
Once the glue lines were covering the lines, the students sprinkled a generous amount of coarse salt onto the glue. I tapped off the extra and placed them on the drying rack for the students.
The following class, I tapped any remaining salt that isn't stuck down off and passed out the papers and supplies to students.
We had a brief discussion about what they think will happen when they put the watery paint on top of the salt. I wrote down some of the answers to document them with the final products. Here are some of what they said:
Giving students a chance to experiment with color without asking them to produce a work of art can be both helpful and fun. If you haven't tried the Milk and Soap color experiment with students yet, consider setting up a station in your room for students to give it a try.
Here's what you need:
Like many great projects, I stumbled into creating this one trying to help my students with a problem they were having. A handful of years ago, I had a group of 3rd grade students who were struggling with the concept of Intermediate colors for some reason. A quick pre-assessment told me this was an area we needed to work on. I knew they needed some more hands-on experimenting to practice mixing those in-between colors that seemed to have this group baffled. What better way than to spend a class period or two making painted papers!
The following two art classes, students spent time creating a landscape collage inspired by the work of Grant Wood. They had their six papers and many decided to cut them in half and trade with other students so they had even more different textures to work with. The whole unit took about 5 (45minute) art classes but was well worth the time spent. The last day of landscape work, I showed them Dropping in on Grant Wood while they worked.
Before starting a new lesson the next class I had students do a cooperative learning activity as a formative assessment to check to see if they were ready to move on. With their finished project in hand in one hand and the other in the air, they did a "hand up - pair up" activity. They wandered around the room and gave a "high five" to another student to pair up. Then one student pointed out one part of their partner's landscape that they liked and did two things. 1. Named the Intermediate color and 2. Explained how they would make that color. Then they switched roles. When the pair was finished their hands went back into the air and they found another student to pair up with. I was able to wander around and check to make sure everyone had the concept down. I had my class list with me and just made a quick mark to document where they were at.
Trying something new
The once-a-month subscription box craze started with cosmetics and has grown to include all sorts of things from wine, snacks, dog treats and more.
I saw an advertisement (probably on Facebook) about ArtSnacks and thought it looked like a fun way to try out different supplies. So...I signed up. I figured I'd try it for a few months and cancel if I didn't care for it.
I have a handmade sketchbook that I purchased in Florida last year that I haven't used yet. It was so uniquely created that I had to buy it. I try to make a point to purchase something handmade from artists whenever I travel. This artist boiled the pages with flowers and leaves pressed on some of the pages. The colors from the natural elements created beautifully stained pages. She put these in among some unstained ones to create fun books. You can see these on her website -rachelleeason.com
My goal is to fill the pages using the supplies I get each month. I think that I will attempt to use only the supplies contained in each month's box for a page or spread in the book. I'm going to let the month inspire the creation.
Here's my first one - October
Do you have a subscription to a monthly box? What is it? Can you recommend any subscriptions?
So...take the students outside and gather up some leaves and start printing!
View the video demonstration below for complete instructions.
Theresa Gillespie spent over 20 years teaching Art in the Moline School District in Illinois. She has a BA degree in Art Education and a MEd degree in Education & Technology. She also is a graduate level instructor for The Art of Education
where she enjoys helping art educators from around the world continue their education and professional development. In the spring of 2013 Theresa and her husband Chuck opened up ArtysBug Studio in Moline. She left the classroom in the spring of 2015 to spend more time working with the artists that come into ArtsyBug and working with teachers taking AOE courses. Though she has left the classroom, she has not left the Art Education field.