Musings about the importance and impact of art and art education in the 21st century.

Musings about the importance of art and art education

1st grade Paul Klee 2d and 3D Fish

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in

I just finished a unit on Paul Klee with my first graders.  Both projects were based on the artwork The Golden Fish. 

The first project was a 2-dimensional one.  I had the kids begin with 12x12' white paper folding in half two times to create four rows.  The kids filled in each row with a different pattern in oil pastel and then painted watercolor over the top.  I was hoping the patterns would be a little more dynamic and a little less straightforward, but since I don't teach kindergarten, this was the first project I'd ever done with this group of children.and wasn't sure where they were at developmentally.

After that I used guided drawing at our class carpet to demonstrate how to draw a fish.  Each child got a whiteboard and dry erase marker and followed along with me.  When they felt comfortable enough, they returned to their seat and drew their fish on 9x12" white paper, and again, used oil pastel and then watercolor to fill it in.

The fish and patterned background alone didn't look like it was enough for me. You know when you look at the outcome of a project and it just doesn't look "done"?  That's what I was feeling, and so,  I used 18x18" construction paper, and created some fish stencils from oak tag using the dye cut machine we have on our main office.  The kids first traced the fish with a marker (no pencil), and could overlap or crop the fish as they saw fit. After that, they used chalk pastel to trace and then gently smudge the outline to give a decorative effect. Overall, the border really helped make the project look complete, and gave it some "oomph".

The second project were ceramic pinch pot fish.  I gave the kids large balls of clay and some how they wittled their fish down to the petite size you see below.  They still look adorable, but I kept saying to the kids, "it's o.k. you can use the whole piece of clay!" lol!

I used amaco"crystaltex glaze in Milky Way (the speckled dark blue) and Mayco ''Stroke & Coat" and 'Candy Apple Red, Dandelion, and Blue yonder.  I've also done a few other lessons on Klee:
4th grade Klee Heads

1st Grade Around the Fish

1st Grade Mixed Media Klee Trees

4th Grade Painted Klee Heads

3rd grade Sinbad the Sailor

Square 1 Art Fundraiser

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in

Every other year I work with the PTO (parent teacher organization) to do a school-wide fundraiser along with the company Square 1 Art.  If you're not familiar with the company, click the link HeRe

They basically put your students work on all different types of objects and a portion of the money comes back to the school. Two years ago I had the students create different animals, fishes, birds, cats, etc, and then fill them in with different patterns. This year I had about 3 weeks to get over 600 forms completed, so I decided to create painted landscapes with everyone.  At first I had a few classes use tissue paper to create a collage and then add a marker landscape over it, but there was too much room for error and I had to be a drill sergeant to make sure the kiddo's really glued the tissue paper flat. Here are a few of the tissue paper samples.  These are the brighter ones, unfortunately some of them ended up coming out really dark

After trying a few classes without the tissue paper, using only paint and then marker over that, I found the results to be pretty much fool proof.  Here's a few samples....I always marvel at the variety of results I get even though I'm teaching the same things to every class!


4th Grade Paul Klee Heads

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in


I've taught variations of this lesson before, but this variation is my favorite.  In the past I've had the kids use tempera paints and create tints and shades to fill in their drawings, but I was finding that the opacity of the tempera was causing them to cover over or accidentally fill in all the great details they had originally drawn in.  Thinking on that, this year I decided to scrap the focus on tints and shades and focus on warm and cool color families using watercolors.  I got a little of the value in with the watercolors, reviewing with them how adding water to the watercolor paints lightens the value and would be the equivalent of adding a white to a tempera paint.

These were the original projects:
 These are this years projects:

They have A LOT more personality than their predecessors, lol! The kids really got into this project.  They liked the fact that the head didn't have to look realistic but was simply comprised of implied shapes.

For the project each table got a water bucket, small brushes, white oil pastels and 2 sets of regular watercolor paints and 2 sets of Crayola "mixing color" sets (thank you Cassie Stephens).  The mixing set has 2 yellows, a cyan, blue-violet, and a white, the white is pretty useless but the kids loved the blue-violet and cyan colors. The oil pastels were used to replicate the texture found in Klee's painting.

Overall, the lesson took 4, 40 minute periods.  I HIGHLY suggest investing in some inexpensive hand towels to use when painting instead of paper towels.  If your school is anything like mine, the paper towels are really flimsy and don't absorb anything..I bought the rags seen in the pictures below from amazon. They came in a set of 24 for about 25 bucks. Or you could always send out an email and get some donated.  I don't recommend cutting larger towels down because the loose unbound edges won't hold up.
 The first we examined the work and discussed its features.  I then demonstrated how to use a ruler and gave out a bunch of various sized lids for them to trace circles and draw straight lines.  They used black Sharpie first, so if they made a mistake, we discussed ways to make it become part of the art.  On a side note, one of my favorite things of all time that kids say to me is, "ya know Ms. C.  I had made a mistake but then I fixed it and it turned into something that I really like about my work."  I feel like if I've given them the confidence and opportunity to make mistakes and then "fix them" that I've taught them an important life lesson. I mean, let's face it, life is about what we do with the mistakes and wrong turns we make!

Day 2 was devoted to learning and then painting warm and cool colors. I had a smartboard slide with a diagram showing both color families for the kids to use as reference.
Day  3 reviewed and discussed a Powerpoint on Klee's life and work and then the kids continued painting adding the white oil pastel.

 Day 4 we finished painting.  For their background they had the option of using the same color family, using both, or using the opposite one.  I think the next time I teach this lesson I'll have the students just continue with the same color family. I discussed with them that they didn't want the background to be so busy it competed with their heads, but I think impulsiveness won out. Keeping it all the same may help keep the face the focal point.  Maybe I'll even have them cut the heads out and mount on a solid piece of contrasting paper like I did with the first lesson examples.

3rd grade plate weaving

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in

 Weaving is one of those things that I wish I had learned in grad school.  When your studying to be  an art teacher you take your theory classes, you take your methods classes, and you take your fine art classes, but the multitude of media you will teach your students is something that, for the most part, you'll have to learn on the job. For me, weaving was definitely an on the job learning experience.  Without all the great art ed blog posts about various types of weaving I don't know how I would've learned everything I have about it!

I got this particular project from Cassie Stephens. She had posted it awhile ago but is actually posting a whole series right now on weaving. The link for the original project is here: However, she recently posted a whole new tree plate weaving post that you can check out here

The link for her weaving series is here: 

The project took 5-6, 40 minute periods.  The first period was dedicated to viewing and discussing landscape paintings and how artists create a sense of depth in their paintings by using value, scale, and detail.  I then showed the kids how to mix tints of white with green to make the grass and they painted their plates. 

On day two the kids added details with Sharpie markers and then modge podged the plates to give them a nice sheen. 

Day three consisted of making the notches in the plate and then creating the "tree" loom. In Cassie's post, I believed she used a template to show the kids where to cut.  I tried this but found that my kids didn't need it.  It was easier for me to just demonstrate making 8-10 notches in the top and 2 on the bottom, centered on their landscape.  That was, of course, after I explained what a "notch" was, lol.

 On day four and five the kids weaved.  I have a visualizer hooked up to my computer and smartboard, and I found it using it was perfect for this lesson. Having the ability to show the kids how to weave, tie knots, tie on new threads and knot the final thread close-up really helped them to understand what to do.
 Day six was a catch-up for the kids that were absent or who just work really slowly!