Thursday, November 6, 2014

Giant Pop Art Portraits

Central Idea: A self portrait reflects both the characteristics and emotion of the person who creates it

Lines of Inquiry: how artists express emotion, the process of creating a portrait

It all started with a selfie.  After having a look at various portraits and the elements that make some more interesting to the viewer than others, the Grade 5's used iPads to take 3 or 4 selfies and uploaded them to our class Flickr account.  The next step was to digitally create a line drawing of that picture.  We used an online stencil maker program.  Once the children had a line drawing they were happy with, we uploaded that image to to create a large image using A4 pieces of paper.

Once the pdf files were printed (most of them were made up of 9 pages), piecing them together was the next challenge.  A large piece of paper was put on top of the line drawing and the tracing began.  Some children needed help choosing only the most essential details to create their face.  Once they had a drawing they were happy with, we outlined the pencil in black glue and let them dry.

The next lesson was looking in depth at how artists portray the light and shadows on faces.  Children practiced shading on blank face worksheets and decided on bright color combinations for their final piece.

Kids are thrilled with the results of their effort.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Growth Mindset in the Art Room

Since reading Mind in the Making, I've been fascinated with Carol Dweck's research into fixed vs growth mindsets.  I saw some of the information from here in an anchor chart for the regular classroom and thought it would be great to make one for my art room.  I hope other art teachers find it useful, I am about to enlarge it using and stick it on my wall.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bodies in Motion

This unit is an integration into the Grade 3 Who We Are Unit that investigates body systems.

Visual Arts Central idea: Artists study the human body to better convey movement and expression

Lines of Inquiry: Why artists study the human body, how is the human body depicted across various genres

Tuning in was lots of great discussion about the following video: 

Students were introduced to the concept of proportion and a class was spent sketching the human figure in various poses.  Kids took turns being models and we also used manikins.  We looked at the work of Edgar Degas and I found a wonderful clip which talks about his use of line to show jittery dancers backstage.

For the final piece, children created poseable paper mannikins and decided on an opening pose. They used sticky tac to adhere the manikin to a piece of paper and traced it in pencil, then in marker.  The children moved the manikin a little (not too much) and traced twice again (pencil, then marker) until there were 4 or 5 outlines on the paper.  

The last step was to add the motion lines around their figures to give the entire piece a feeling of movement. This project was inspired by a post at but and adapted to meet the needs of younger children.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

PYP Visual Arts Central Ideas II

PYP Art teachers-- do you ever wish you had a crystal ball to come up with a central idea that you can use in a stand alone planner, or one that's broad enough that you can integrate?  Solid central ideas are no easy task!  Here is another version of a previous post, with some new central ideas and organized by related concept.


Celebrations and traditions are an important part of our cultural identity.
Architecture often reflects culture.
Lives are changed through encounters with people of different beliefs and cultures.

Celebrations are important to people all around the world.

Cultural traditions can be preserved in artwork, and can help people express their identities.
Beliefs, values, and ideas are represented and communicated through symbols.

Expression of belief is all around us.

Traditional art help us make sense of our world and to understand aspects of culture.

Rituals, traditions and artifacts of different cultures are expressions of their beliefs and values.

Images communicate ideas and information.

We are able to choose what we think and how we express ourselves.

People can create emotive messages to influence an audience.

Humans express their ideas and use persuasion to influence others.

People use a variety of languages to communicate their ideas and feelings.

Stories can be constructed, told and interpreted in different ways.

Through the arts people use different forms of expression to convey their uniqueness as human beings.

Visual art is a language through which people explore ways to communicate personal ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Creative expression provides many ways to communicate ideas and emotions.

Artistic expression can be a reflection of the social consciousness of the time.
Through the Arts people express, explore and interpret ideas and feelings.

Personal perspectives influence how people communicate through the arts. 

Everyone belongs to an ethnic group, each having its own forms of expression.

Visual arts is a language through which people explore ways to communicate personal ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Images and ideas from our imagination can be expressed in many ways.

Visual expression is an art form.

There is more than one way to tell a story.

Effective communication takes many forms.

Ideas and feelings are expressed and interpreted through the visual arts.

Images and ideas from our imagination can be expressed in many ways.

We choose and use different forms of digital media for specific purposes and specific audiences.

People communicate through the arts to express their beliefs and feelings.

Art forms can represent various messages and contexts in the past and present.

A portrait reflects the emotions and characteristics of the person depicted.

Images and ideas from our surroundings can be expressed in many ways.

The fine arts provide us with the opportunity to reflect on, extend, and enjoy creativity.
People use different materials and resources to express feelings, ideas and understanding.

The natural world inspires and challenges artistic development.

Art can be used to communicate ideas and experiences creatively.

We have unique ways to express our point of view.

Colors are used and interpreted in a variety of ways around us.

People can express themselves in many ways.

Architecture inspires and challenges artistic development.


Personal experiences provide the sparks for artistic creation.

Personal histories allow us to reflect on who we are and where we’ve come from.

In life and in art, people use their bodies to express who they are and how they feel.

Culture may be expressed in a variety of ways.


Visual representations facilitate our understanding of the world around us.

Art is an expression of human feelings and ideas and is open to interpretation.

Noticing and analyzing patterns helps us interpret, explain and respond to our environment.

Our cultural heritage allows us to celebrate who we are, and shapes our vision of the future.

Media can influence thinking and behavior.


We can use a variety of artistic techniques and materials to represent nature.

Rocks and sand are in our natural environment and we use, value and interact with them in a variety of ways. 

The natural world provides inspiration to artists.

People can establish practices to maintain and sustain the earth’s resources.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Art Room Organizational Superstar!

Ok, I am pretty far from an organizational superstar (as anyone might peeked at the detritus in my school bag has discovered) but I have once again moved art rooms and in the spirit of new beginnings, I'll share a few new things I've put in place.

#1: Three tables instead of six I've got the Keith Haring Table (yellow), the Yayoi Kusama table (red) and the Rene Margritte table (blue.)  Each "table" is actually three tables pushed together.  Much easier than a million different table names.  I also like the way having both a color and artist differentiate for my very mixed bag of kiddos-- the higher level kids latch on to the artist name and the sample work they see, the ELL/SEN kids tend to just rely on remembering the color.

#2 Each class shelf is divided up by table AND class.  A small piece of colored tape on their class shelf shows the red table sketchbook collector where their stuff goes.  I can choose one person from the red table to hand out sketchbooks for their little group-- it's a lot faster to hand out 6 sketchbooks to people sitting together than 20  people scattered all around the room.  Not sure why I didn't do this 10 years ago!

#3 Seating chart on clip board sticky back velcroed right next to the class shelf.  I just discovered sticky backed velcro last year, it's amazing stuff.  Each table is has 3 pieces of work by an artist taped to the top. So little Johnny (or Mohammed in my case) can immediately see that he not only sits at the big blue Renee Margritte table, but at the painting taped to his individual table top has a large green apple on it.  This is also reflected on my seating chart, with the names written in pencil so I can move kids around as necessary.  A sub can find the seating chart and class shelves easily.

#4 Tags for the drying rack Last year I started marking off territory on the drying rack with colored masking tape and asking kids to do things like, "put your painting above the blue line."  This year I am finding my 3rd graders have problems with even that....  So, I laminated a paper with each class code on it and stuck it to a few popsicle sticks.  The idea is that I'll remember to label real estate for each class when it's their time to hit the drying rack and I can pop then in and out as needed.

That's all for now, kids are hard at work on Haring Style sketchbook covers which I will share shortly!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Middle Eastern Doors

Central Idea: Expression of belief is all around us.
Lines of Inquiry: Middle eastern architecture, the roles of pattern in Islamic art

These lovely ceramic and glass  pieces would have been a great culmination of a unit focusing on Islamic Art but it being the end of the year and given the time it takes to "do clay", we worked backwards.  The doors were the first thing we did and then we backtracked and explore patterns and their role in Islamic art.

I got the idea for this project over here, but I adapted it a bit.  The children were given pre-cut slabs and I had examples of middle eastern archway shapes for them to take a look at.  They decided on their shapes for the whole piece and the interior door.  In retrospect, this would have been a good design lesson for them to play with in their sketchbooks-- but again,  it was May and we just didn't have enough time.

The children were given scrap paper that was cut to the same size as their slabs-- they had to fold it in half and draw half an arch, then once they cut the folded paper it was perfectly symmetrical.  They used the paper as a tracer for their clay and then used that same piece to draw, cut and trace their interior door.

Here was the success criteria for the patterns which were imprinted with screws:
The most challenging part was using a subtractive technique to carve out the interior doors.  This is where the glass shards were going to go so they needed to be level and deep enough to hold liquid (hot molten glass that is!).  Many kids made them too shallow or poked holes in the bottom, it wasn't easy.

After the bisque firing, the kids used three coats of Crystaltex glaze and then the fun of picking glass for the doors began!  I had a ton of glass for fusing left by the previous art teacher but glass marbles or broken bottles would work just as well. I look forward to next year when this unit and project can get given the time and attention it really deserves. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pinch Pots with a Twist

One of my favorite ways to get kids to think creatively is to get them to look at a familiar object in a new way.  My fourth graders this year took on the age old elementary art staple, the Pinch Pot.  Once they knew the basic method to create the pot, they had to make theirs unique but still functional.

Here are some of the results:

I have been away from my blog for a while (the last post was January) I was busy creating a little pinch pot of my own, our little miss Maya, born 11 Feb 2014.