Monday, November 25, 2013

In progress

We are out for Thanksgiving week, and I am very thankful for this time to rest and recharge. I am also thankful for the work we do together - here's where we left off - many good posts to come in December when we get back...


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Clay Boards for Tabletops

I started clay works with my K-2 kids this week, and I am happy to see that the clay boards I made 3 years ago are holding up just fine. I can't recommend these highly enough if you use clay in your artroom! 
Before I made these, I had some dusty, shaggy burlap mats that left clay dust all over the table, and slid around a lot when kids tried to roll slabs and such. It was a clean up nightmare, trying to keep the tables in decent shape changing from class to class and project to project. So...
I measured my tables and realized that a single board per table would be too big and heavy, so I made two per table from thin plywood and wrapped them in canvas. Here is the back view (still really clean after 3 years!):


They are heavy enough to stay in place but not too heavy. The key is to keep the dirty sides together and the clean sides together. For example, on each table, fold one over the other like closing a book, stack them on your rolling cart, and the clean side faces up. Then roll to the next table and do the same. This keeps the dust inside. I have a little mini broom and dustpan that we sweep them with if there are a lot of crumbs. It takes a couple of minutes to pick them up and the tables are perfect for the next non-clay-using class! Here's a pic that shows the cart I store them on in the back:

If I remember correctly, it was about a $60 investment but so so worth it. You can roll coils and throw slabs until your heart is content! I remember the first few times we used them, water and slip pills caused them to bend very slightly, but keeping them stacked on top of each other solved that problem overnight. Something to try if you haven't - happy building!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Character Collage: Deconstruction

***UPDATE: I just added my worksheet for this lesson to my Teachers pay Teachers store! I made it slightly more generic to fit the needs of the teachers who were requesting it - hope you like it!

This project was based on the series by Thom Pastrano called "The Streets," (see it here which I discovered over at Shine Brite Zamorano ( last year - I have been anxiously awaiting the time when I could work it in to my 4th grade curriculum, and here it is! I am proud to say that most of my kids knew who the Sesame Street characters were - I wouldn't be the person I am today without PBS! (change of subject - anybody know why Blogger won't let me select phrases anymore to make a link? I'm having to insert the whole thing!)
Let me begin by saying... this one was much harder than I expected! We started out by defining the terms "realistic, abstract, and nonobjective" and looking at some examples of abstract art that used deconstruction, or taking the pieces apart and putting them back together in a new way - a challenge that many artists find very refreshing and meaningful. We even had a mini-LA lesson as we deconstructed the word "deconstruction" and found the root word and talked about the prefixes de- and re-. Confused yet? :)

An example of deconstruction and reorganization by Swiss artist Ursus Wehrli 
Here comes the fun part - students selected their favorite animated characters and researched them using technology. We made a planning page with thumbnails of these characters in deconstructed and reconstructed forms, and then selected the best one for our collages.


The collage step sent a few of us over the edge, as stated in their critiques - although some students really enjoyed the challenge, I appreciate it when they tell me they were disappointed they didn't get to draw or make a realistic character. And hey, abstract art isn't for everybody, but we should all understand the intention. I thought collage was the perfect medium for a hard-edge type design, but it was very time consuming and a bit frustrating for those of us not-so-fantastic cutters-and-gluers.  Next year we will definitely do this lesson again, but we may have a drawn alternative. But the good news is... we were showing off some super higher level thinking and even critiqued ourselves and our classmates at the end. One thing I keep remembering and reminding the kids - we have to take chances to get better!!!  Enjoy our deconstructed characters... I think they're great!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Blog Hopping: AOE Winter Conference - sign up!

I'm getting excited about my first conference presentation at The Art of Education's Winter Online Conference! There are a bunch of our favorite art teacher bloggers scheduled to present on some exciting and relevant topics. My topic combines an old favorite, student portfolios, with the new challenge of student-created goals and tracking growth. Collaboration is one of my favorite parts of being a teacher, and I hope that many of you will attend and share your ideas through the chat sessions!
Find out how to register and more here:

Vegetable Collage (Matisse)

Another year of some great veggie collages inspired by Collage-Master Henri Matisse - read all about it and see a nice video of Matisse in action from last year's post here!
This year we switched it up a little, using neutrals in the background. Tasty!