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Showing posts from March, 2018

First Grade Slab Animals

My students love clay, and over the years I have come to love it (if for no other reason, because their love of the material means I will have an easy class period anytime I get out clay). In the spring, I always seem to end up doing more clay projects. Kids are more used to clean up routines, so it goes more smoothly. Kids ask to make things they can give for Mother's day gifts and such. And as a practical matter, I like to use up all my clay by the end of the year so it doesn't get too dry and hard to work with; I know I could re-wet the clay, but I find it more trouble than it's worth. I wanted to do a little work with my first grade students to practice hand building techniques. The challenge was to create animals using shapes cut from a slab. In my experience, giving kids the opportunity to build animals by assembling shapes to make the various parts helps to teach them the foundational skill of imagining complex figures as a collection of simple shapes. This is help

How to Make a Clay Maraca

My kindergarten students study Mexico as a part of their social studies curriculum. Early in the school year, we make pinch pots, and this video shows how we can build off the basic pinch pot project to make a maraca. It is a fun project that makes cross-curricular connections with both Social Studies and Music. Students learn about how a maraca produces sound, how to work with clay to prevent pieces from sticking together and they learn a bit of science (#STEAM) as we discuss what happens to clay and paper in the kiln. Students need to understand that clay will shrink by about 10% as it dries out but that the paper will burn causing smoke and that gasses will expand as they are heated. If the exterior is shrinking while gasses on the interior are trying to expand, it will cause the sculpture to blow up and that is why they need to poke a few holes in their maracas to allow smoke to vent out. Kindergarten students are able to handle about 90% of this project without much problem, b

Ceramic Phone or Tablet Stands

I always love finding ways to play with traditional materials in new ways. To be honest, clay was never my forte. My first years teaching every clay project was basically a pinch pot, or a pinch vase, pinch bowl etc. A few years ago, I started to look more critically at my weakest areas and take steps to improve. Placing your cell phone in a bowl or cup will act as DIY speaker/amplifier. Rather than putting my phone in a bowl, I now put my phone or tablet into a ceramic speaker I made. I simply put a pinch pot on its side then cut a slot in the back and decorate. My recommendation is to build monsters, but I give students options on how they want to decorate the form. My preference for monsters is because, with fictive creatures, there is no right or wrong allowing students to focus more on principles of design at play - using rounded or pointed features to create a mood etc. Kids have a lot of fun making these and I think it is always nice to have art that is functional (particu

Fun with Video

Video has always been a tricky medium. Kids are excited by the prospect of making a movie, but most of them don't realize all of the factors at play until it well into the project. Creating a strong video requires strong writing, set design, costume design, performance, awareness of camera placement for a strong visual composition of the frame as well as optimal mic placement and editing. The editing can be particularly complex and while most students are aware that a green screen can be used to replace a background, they are often unaware of how it works and consequently fail to shoot their footage properly. This year I tried a new strategy in my approach to video. I challenged my fifth-grade students to make video adaptations of popular picture books. This approach helped to eliminate some of the stumbling blocks such as writing, which I don't have time to teach in the one hour per week I spend with students. By providing a picture book as a starting point, students had a s

My First Post!

Welcome to my elementary art blog. I will be posting various lesson plans and resources used for teaching k-5 Art. Check back regularly as I intend to update this weekly with videos and other resources that help in my classroom and they can help in yours too. One thing that has been transformative in my teaching is video demonstrations of key skills. I started making videos after coming to the realization that when I did a live demonstration of clay or origami, half the class could not actually see what I was doing. By recording video, I could project it larger so kids could see better, but I also found that it freed me up to focus on my students and my instruction better. I no longer had to worry about the creation of a sample project, I could simply focus on the explanation while also looking at my students to find signs of confusion, anticipate problems etc. If you have not flipped your art room, I highly recommend it. In addition to the relative ease of direct instruction, crea