Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fun and fundraiser

Both projects I'm posting here today have been shamelessly borrowed from other bloggers. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

Unfortunately, I can't find the blog that posted the dragonflies last year, I think to give credit for the idea. I thought it was Deep Space Sparkle, but I couldn't find the lesson there, so now I'm not sure. If it's your lesson, please let us know! Please note the artwork posted has both a sun in the corner and a face on the sun. I did not say no to the 9 year old artist, and frankly, I absolutely love the joyful look of the whole piece.

The zebra project (that's a complete bulletin board in the photo) came from Anne at She credits someone else at her blog, but it was her post that really grabbed me.

Back to the dragonflies ~ they were done by grade 4 for the fundraiser project I'm currently completing for our PTSA. The PTSA is very nice to me, subsidizing much of the cost of matting and framing student artwork for permanent display, so I would never say no to the fundraiser. But it's a struggle to come up with ideas, as I consider it sort of a throwaway lesson, that is intended to sell rather than for learning, and that never gets displayed in the school. I have to get them done quickly to meet deadline, so we dive in, complete them, and then move on to my 'real' lessons. I do something different with every grade level, and I change it each year so siblings don't bring home the same artwork as their older sibling the year before.

These cardboard and clothespin zebras are not a typical lesson for me, but just couldn't be resisted. My son went to South Africa and took this photo of a zebra on safari, which I showed the kids:
Then the 3rd grade teacher told me they were studying South Africa, and with Open House coming soon it seemed like a fun way to get a bulletin board up quickly, so in between steps on our PTSA project, the 3rd graders also made these adorable zebras. They are a real hit in the school!

I'm humbled

My blog has received a couple of shout-outs, and they've caught me by surprise, especially since I've been pretty opinionated lately. It doesn't seem that long since I started this blog, and wondered if anyone would ever read it. So I shamelessly left comments all over the place, inviting visitors. I guess it worked!

Anyhow, the first notice was from Maria, at She has included me in a list she has compiled of the top 20 art blogs for educators!!!! Yowsers!! I'm quite flattered. Also on her list are some other art teacher blogs I follow and read regularly, so I'm proud to be included in such good company. Her blog is just starting up and she wants to gather some readers, so please stop and visit. Thanks Maria, for the recognition.

The second notice was from Shiela who featured my blog at She asked if I would place her link on my blog, and I'm happy to put it right here: I can't wait to check it out and will probably spend a bunch of money, because I have a serious addiction to beads and jewelry findings. Fun shopping ahead! Thank you, Shiela!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

my painting mantra & other random stuff

WIPE, WASH, WIPE. That's our painting mantra. It all started with some sponges I got several years ago. I always order a LOT of sponges when I fill out my annual requisitions, but that year I tried a different type. They were cheap, and worthless for washing tables, as the water wouldn't squeeze out and they seemed to smear rather than clean. They were oval shaped, looking like little loaves of bread. So I had a revelation. We would use them for a different purpose, and stick to the traditional rectangular sponges for table cleaning. And it's been that way ever since.

When we paint, I want the colors to stay CLEAN, so that the next class can use the paints without me having to refill. There are so many things we, who have spent our lives around art materials, do naturally. We know how much water to have in our brush, we know how much paint to put on the tip, we know how to paint a smooth edge. But sometime I need reminding that these techniques do not come naturally, that they need to be taught.

SO ~ back to the sponges (which, unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of today). I teach the kids, when they are done using a color, to gently WIPE their brush on the sponge to remove excess paint. Then the WASH the brush in their water (which stays so much cleaner because of the first wipe), and then they WIPE the excess water off the brush.

The paints pictured above were pre-mixed colors for a 2nd grade painting being done for our PTSA fundraiser. The paint trays below were photographed at the end of the morning, after I had scooped the leftover paint back into the containers above. CLEAN!!

Whether wiping on goofy sponges or newspapers, the wipe/wash/wipe mantra really works. Do you have a routine that has really helped in your classroom, whether for painting, or cleanup, or something else? Please share! It took me years and a mistaken sponge order to discover my little trick, so it's never too late to acquire a new trick.

Also today - I have a second grade student who is deaf and totally blind. He didn't attend art very often in younger grades, as his time is taken with special services. But this year will be different. He will be coming to art class regularly, and since I lack the training, I really depend on his 1:1 teaching assistant to take the lead in terms of what works best for him. Today was great. His 1:1 brought wikki sticks with her, and they used them to outline shapes to paint. Then the student was able to feel where the wikki sticks were, and paint inside them to their boundaries to create shapes. And he chose the colors to use, based on associations with favorite things (since he has never seen a color). He was very excited, and it went really well. Yippee!! It's great having support staff who really know their stuff.

With cold nights ahead, my plants needed to come in from their summer home on my porch. So today my sweet hubby delivered them to my classroom for me, along with a chair from my ice cream table & chair set. I plan on using the chair, and maybe a plant or two, it in the coming weeks as part of a still life that will relate to our upcoming "Artist of the Month", my favorite, Matisse.

Enough random stuff!

Monday, September 27, 2010

What is it?!!

OK, so this is another post that isn't an art lesson. But I just had to share this awesome gourd that I bought at a local farm stand last weekend. The kids at school thought it was a pumpkin with warts growing on it, and keep asking me "Is it REAL, Mrs. Brown?" I can't decide whether it is too crazy to include in a still life, but no matter what, it's definitely cool.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Art Diet

As if I haven't caused enought trouble in blog-world with yesterday's post about the No-No, today I'm responding to a request in a post by blogger-friend Erica at Please read her post titled "Go on an Art DIET with me" about the cutesy cookie-cutter projects that are, as she says, "floating out there in cyberspace". She put it better than I could have, and there's a lot of good dialogue in the comment section of her post. Definitely thought provoking and worth reading.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No-No? or Yes-Yes? My controversial post of the moment

This is going to be a controversial blog post, so dear blog readers, if I offend you I apologize. While it's not my intent to offend, I do feel an obligation to be honest to my readers, and you should know I've given this post quite a bit of thought before putting fingers to the keyboard. So here goes. If I lose readers, so be it. But I am discussing the idea of the No-No board, not the quality of the teacher who uses it. I have seen some marvelously creative and original work posted by teachers who also posted No-No's, so what I am expressing is simply a difference of opinion. Here goes, unfortunately at length:

Some of you have posted about the No-No boards in your rooms, to show unacceptable art practices. The No-No's listed on these boards generally included suns with faces, stick figures, "V" shaped birds, lollipop or broccoli style trees, blue clouds, suns in corners, etc. You can see by the image on the window shade in my art room above (which I created with yellow contact paper and some acrylic paint)that I have a little problem being told "no suns with faces". Oops. And then there is the beautiful Klee painting above, with, yes, stick figures! And this morning, driving to school, I saw birds at a distance in the sky that looked like... drumroll.... letter V's!!! And the clouds in the sky were not white, (and the sky was not blue). Both the clouds AND sky were tints and shades of blues, pinks, grays; just lovely. (My childhood name for this cloud color is "sky-blue-pink".)

SO. The No-No was a new concept for me, so I mulled it over for a while, and then sent an email to other teachers in my district to ask if they'd heard of the No-No board and to solicit their thoughts and opinions on the concept. I considered that they would tell me I was totally out in left field, in which case I would have re-considered my own gut instincts. But that's not what happened. I almost immediately received 1/2 dozen email responses and several more verbal responses, all opposed to the concept. None had ever seen or heard of a No-No board, and none approved. Since nobody was familiar with the concept, I wonder if the No-No is a regional practice perhaps? Did it come from education classes or professional development in a certain part of the country? If you know, please tell me!

Anyhow, I tried to copy and paste all their responses here, but I can't figure out a way to do this, so instead I'll just pick a few quotes to re-type here:

  • "please don't censor kids' art."
  • "There's altogether too much negativity in the world already. Don't pollute the art room."
  • "I hope we're beyond the no no philosophy in education as a whole, not just in art."
  • "I think we should encourage children, not discourage them."
  • "I much prefer your (referring to me) developmental and positive approach to art."
  • "I have seen stick figures in published literature illustrations. (This response went on to discuss faces in suns and moons appearing in Native American and other multicultural literature etc.)"
  • And several emails contained comments about developmental growth, and the appropriateness of drawing "circles with sticks" to represent people (as a developmental step), and developmentally appropriate expectations.
  • Finally, people questioned the concept of posting images of what we DON'T want to see, and suggested as a positive alternative: a "YES-YES Board". (YES: use your imagination; try your best; be courageous; try new things, use your time wisely, make mistakes, look, .... you get the idea, right?)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Put your best foot forward

My 5th graders got their school year off on the right foot, by creating these flip-flops. We created them very quickly, without much instruction beyond the construction, just to get back in the swing of things in the art room.

The inspiration for this lesson came from Jacquelien at

(If it seems like there are a lot of green and yellow themed flip-flops, that's because those are our school colors.)

A Bad Case of Stripes - 2nd version

This 2nd grade project was based on the book A Bad Case of Stripes.

Last year, in first grade, students all became models and drew each other, using ovals and circles ("sausage links") to assemble the body. I had the kids stand up and try various poses to see how their bodies could bend or slant. Using skinny markers to avoid erasing and worrying, students drew the models using a separate "sausage" for each part. We noted that our hips tilt separately from our body, so we used a circle for the hips. Each student had a turn to be a model, striking a different pose.

For this year's project, we recalled/reviewed this process, and then with pencil constructed a figure using circles and ovals. We traced around it with a Sharpie, attempting to add some clothing shapes, and then went color-crazy with markers for our very GOOD case of stripes (and patterns and colors).

We used the "biggie" paints - really, really REALLY old solid tempera cakes that last forever, to paint a page of stripes - some made them straight - vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and some made them curvy. We used big buckets of water so that it didn't need to be changed too often.

Finally we cut out the person we'd made and glued it on to the striped paper.
Voila! Here are our wonderful 2nd grade results!
The bulletin board!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Bad Case of Stripes - 1st version

In my 2nd and 3rd grade classes, I began the year by reading the book A Bad Case of Stripes by David Bannon. It's about a girl on her first day of school, so the timing was appropriate, and it deals with not being afraid to be yourself, to be unique or different - perfect themes for the art room. So here's what we did in grade 3 (grade 2 lesson to follow next week when it's complete):

This was a quickie project. Kids in grade 3 drew themselves with a Sharpie on some clear contact paper I have. Then we peeled the back off the contact paper, stuck on stripes of brightly colored paper, and then cut out the whole person. Some kids used a pattern, others didn't. If was quick and fun. We've been hanging them up on a zebra-striped bulletin board.
We're now creating an animal with a bad case of stripes, the zebra. The 3rd graders are studying South Africa in class, and and since my son was there, all June and July, I have great photos of animals, including the zebra, from his safari, and am excited to share them with the kids. My son probably won't be home until Christmas break, but when he's home, he's promised to come in to school and talk to these 3rd graders about his experience in Africa.
Anyhow - about the zebras lesson - while I don't normally use templates, I couldn't resist the zebra project posted by Anne on her blog and have just started it with the 3rd graders.