Friday, March 23, 2012

1st Grade Balloons

It may not jump right out and grab you as such, but this was my 1st grade Kansas Day lesson! We learned that Kansas is the nation's leading producer of helium. In the book we read, there were paintings of beautiful passenger balloons, which were the inspiration. 
I had the project all planned out thinking of them as "hot air balloons"... until I realized that hot air balloons float because of the heat, not because of helium. I double checked the pictures in the book, and after doing a little research, found that helium is still sometimes used in passenger balloons, just like hot air.  When introducing the lesson, we talked about what makes balloons float. Some of the 1st graders knew that helium makes party balloons float, but none of them could guess that helium comes out of the ground. (Here's an interesting article about helium) I showed pictures of hot air balloons, because as far as I can tell passenger balloons pretty much look the same, and we discussed how both hot air and helium float because they are lighter than regular air.

The rest of the first class period was spent painting the sky for the background. I don't know about your students, but mine are always asking me how to make a sunset. We reviewed warm colors on the color wheel, then I introduced the concept of 
Analogous colors are "neighbors". I told the students that colors close to each other on the color wheel blend well together. Each table had yellow, orange, red, and purple paint. We applied the paint on 9x12 inch paper in that order. I did have the students follow along with me on this part to make sure they got their colors in the right order. Not because I wanted little clones, because I wanted them to see how the colors blended and understand analogous. Since we started with yellow, the lightest color of the day, I just asked the students to try to use all the paint on their brush before moving on to the next color. They didn't need to rinse until before they applied purple. After purple, the brushes were rinsed again so they could go back and dab on clouds with yellow paint.
In the 2nd class period, the students "painted" with tissue paper on a 6x9 inch piece of paper. I tested brushing water over the bleeding tissue paper then removing it, but I prefer the more saturated colors from sealing the tissue pieces to the paper with watered down glue. I let the students use whatever tissue colors they wanted, but we did talk about how warm colors would blend in more and cool colors would stand out from the background. I had cut stacks of tissue paper into 1 inch (ish) squares and separated them into tubs by warm and cool. This took quite a bit of upkeep as by the end of almost every one of my 7 first grade classes, the extras were all thrown together instead of kept separate. I got some early finishers to help sort the colors again but it was still kind of a big mess. The only bad part about cutting the tissue with the paper cutter like I did, is that the layers tend to stick together. It is really important to only apply one layer at a time in order to get a good seal and a smooth surface on the paper.

The 3rd class was spent assembling everything. We looked at pictures of passenger balloons and the students described the shape. I described the shape as an ellipse that tapers but a student said "like a lightbulb" and that was a better example. The balloon shape was drawn on the back of the fused tissue paper sheet and then cut out. (I had the students put the scraps in a box, these papers were too cool and colorful to throw away!) I showed how lines could be used to show sections on the balloons and the students added lines to theirs with black crayon. At the end of the 2nd class, students used stamps (made from wrapping yarn around cardboard pieces) to add texture with brown paint to tan tagboard. The textured paper was cut into smaller shapes for the basket. I asked the students to count to 19, or some other random number, when gluing their papers to make sure they stuck. More lines were added to hang the baskets from the balloons and if there was any time left, the students drew passengers.
 Look below for more examples or check out our Artsonia gallery!

This student mixed warm and cool.
Cool colors really make this balloon stand out!
A couple classes had to use oil pastels instead of tissue paper to finish in 2 classes instead of 3.
Warm colors make this balloon blend in more. 
I'm really working with this student on taking his time. He gets really excited and could complete any project in about 2 minutes if his Para and I weren't trying to slow him down. I do love the energy in his brush strokes here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baby Paints

Before my son was born, the youngest kids I had painted with were 2 or 3 (cousins and niece). I've been letting my (almost) 16 month old son play with art supplies since he was about 7 months old. I was using watercolors and he seemed very interested. I let him point to the color he wanted and loaded the brush for him. He sort of just banged the brush on his paper to see what would happen and I just made sure he didn't try to eat the brush. When he got over the everything-goes-in-my-mouth phase, I started letting him finger paint. Sometimes I put paper and paint on the high chair tray, but lately we've been using the bathtub.
 We have a large tub so I put the paper on the floor of it and let my little guy choose his colors. He usually ends up wanting all 3. I just bought primary colors so far and I'm not super impressed with the cheap finger paint I bought, but since Art at this stage is totally about the process, discovery, and tactile/sensory experience, I don't mind too much. I've seen lots of recipes for homemade finger paint but haven't had an opportunity to try them out yet.
The best part is that when painting is done, all I have to do is take off the diaper and run bath water. One step to clean baby and the tub!

I look forward to introducing more Art experiences in the future. I haven't tried play-doh yet as I'm not sure what the recommended age range is. There is no elementary art in our town so I know that we will be home-schooling in Art!

I also discovered that when making hand or footprints, it is a whole lot easier to use a roller than a brush to cover the surface. I took a footprint each month for my son's 1st year on a canvas with colors to match his room. I didn't think to try the roller until we were almost done. (You can tell I started to run out of room at the end due to his giant feet!) I think I'll redo the middle section, maybe sew some painted fabric over it since I did the writing in a hurry before his birthday party. 
*The blurring was done on the computer. I figure I have enough information about me on here that I should try to keep something private. I know that my readers are lovely people, but I also know there are a lot of not so lovely and honest people out there too.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

State "Space" Symbol Drawings

 There were lots of "S" words involved in this 2nd grade lesson. The Shape of our State was used as the base. The students learned about Space (not outer) and chose to draw at least 5 Kansas Symbols in either the positive or negative space.
One Kansas Farmer: A Kansas Number Book (Count Your Way Across the USA) (Discover America State by State)
In the 1st class period, we read part of One Kansas Farmer, focusing on the symbols for our state like the Sunflower, Cottonwood Tree, Ornate Box Turtle, Meadowlark, Buffalo, Tiger Salamander, and the Honey Bee. We talked about how other things not in the book could be symbols like our capital building and wheat. 
We hadn't talked much about "Space" before so I introduced positive and negative space. I like to stand like a statue with my hand on my head so I can point out that the statue (my body) is positive space and the space around me, as well as the "hole" between my arm and my body are negative space. I showed a piece of paper with the shape of the state of Kansas printed on it and the students identified the shape as positive space and the empty border as negative.

I told the students they would be choosing positive or negative to work in and showed examples of filling the chosen space with symbols. I had lots of pictures printed off for the students to reference at each table. They all "got" the positive/negative space idea, the only challenge was getting them to fill the space. We all know it's tricky to get students to draw big- some would draw their 5 symbols then tell me they were done even though they needed to add more to fill in the gaps.

In the 2nd class, the students used Color Sticks and colored pencils to fill in their drawings. I think that I added a 3rd class period for some classes when the schedule allowed it. When the students finished coloring, they cut out their drawings and glued to a bigger piece of paper. The drawings were started on copy paper so I could reproduce the shape of the state so this step added some stability. I did not tell the students their states needed to face the proper direction, mostly because I didn't think about it in time. Some put their states the "right" way, some just turned the shapes however they wanted.

 Students who finished early wrote artist statements about their work before moving on to free draw. One of the 2nd graders told her teacher this was "The BEST Art project ever!" Kids are so easy to please. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

YAM- Art is Important Because...

 For the YAM bulletin board at my 4th-6th grade school, I cut out giant letters (from 24x36 inch paper), painted a black border for definition, then invited the students to use multicolored markers to write a sentence about why they think Art is important. I filled in the negative space with some photos of student work, a "March is Youth Art Month" sign, and a couple advocacy signs from NAEA.

This bulletin board is best appreciated when you take the time to read what the students wrote. Most were really excited and thought about what they wanted to write. I did find a few silly comments like "chicks dig art"and "everyday I'm shufflin'"but nothing inappropriate, which is always  relief! Check out the photos below to see some of the students' thoughts.

Apparently I use the words "texture" and "details" a lot.

How did I not know about WikiPaintings?

Have you heard of

I want to tie in some more Art History with an upcoming 1st grade Tree lesson. I posted on Twitter and Facebook asking for suggestions (aside from Klimt's Tree of Life and some van Gogh paintings I already knew of.) I started searching and WikiPaintings came up. You can search for a keyword and it brings up results from the huge database. The results can be viewed as sort of a slideshow or you can click on them one at a time. I was just thinking the other day that somebody needed to invent this and it has already been done! What a great resource that allows us to search by theme!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I've been thinking lately about a lesson I taught in my first year and trying to figure out how to write about it. I've felt like I can't commit to one teaching philosophy and the class I'm taking this semester (History, Theories, and Philosophy of Art Education) is making me reflect and question my teaching even more.

The students printed bubble wrap to make a background, sprinkled sand on the bottom, and cut and glued a fish on top. Here is something I wrote in the post:
I am too afraid to let Kindergarten students loose with bottled glue, so I put a squiggle of Elmer's at the bottom of their paper (students chose either horizontal or vertical layouts) and the students sprinkled sand.  I bought a 50 lb bag of play sand at Lowe's for a few dollars and probably only used about a cup for over 100 students.  I placed a little dish of sand at each table and after the sand was sprinkled, the students bent their paper to dump the excess sand back in the dish.  I love the texture the sand adds to the artwork- it makes a nice tactile connection to the element of art.
At the time, I didn't think there was anything wrong with this. Until I got a nasty comment telling me I should find a new career. I wasn't really "afraid" of bottled glue, I said that more as a joke. I didn't apply the glue because I wanted it to look perfect, I did it to save time and clean up with my back-to-back classes. The students told me what kind of line they wanted and I did a quick squiggle so they could get the fun part- sprinkling the sand! If I were to do this lesson again, now that I have more experience and confidence, I would probably just make sure I allowed time for the students to apply the glue. But, you live and learn. I understand the criticism, but my mom always taught me that you "catch more flies with honey." I would have responded much better to encouragement or constructive criticism. Wouldn't it have been nicer to say something like "don't be afraid of the glue bottle, the kids can handle it if you let them practice!" I know that's what I would tell 1st-year-teacher-me if I could go back in time. I hope that I always remember to say things out of love and never just to make people feel bad.
*Maybe I can clarify... I'm not looking for a pity party or saying that comment still haunts me or anything. It definitely wasn't a "comfortable" comment to read. But after I got over the surprise of it, it did make me think. The point is that we should be kind to others, including ourselves and forgive our past "mistakes".

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to your first year of teaching?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy-Ish Youth Art Month

Happy Youth Art Month! I was passing back artwork when I finally got an idea for my K-3rd grade YAM bulletin board. (I had to run back to the work room to pull artwork back out of teacher mailboxes...) I painted Ramon from Peter H. Reynolds' Ish on a piece of poster board, as well as a sun. 
 The words are painted directly on the white butcher paper. I really wish the butcher paper was a bit more opaque. It bugs me that you can see where the layers overlap but hopefully with all the other stuff going on, nobody else notices. I think people walking by on Friday probably thought I just had a really shaky hand when I started painting. I was trying to match the writing from the book. :)
After I painted the message, I connected the end of the last word to Ramon's pencil. This reminds me that I need to make a little sign- Mrs.Morris YAM Book Recommendations or something that will explain Ish. Somebody said "Happy-ish? Like sort of happy?"

I hung students' Ish drawings around the bulletin board. A few weeks ago, K-2nd grade students listened to and discussed Ish then made Ish artwork. They drew directly with sharpie so that if they made a mistake, they had to make it great and couldn't erase! Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the one class period project. It would be great for the first week of school. The drawings below were made by Kindergarten and 1st grade students. Enjoy!

The story of Capture-Ish: "A caterpillar who is broken-hearted because his friend captured him and is taking him to a zoo." Great vocabulary for a Kinder!