Monthly Archives: January 2014

Explorer Portraits



The Social Studies books come with decks of cards. The teachers use them for all sorts of things. I like to use them for portraits. For fourth grade, we looked at the early CAlifornia Explorers. For fifth grade, they look at the explorers of the world. I have had the students use chalk pastel, colored pencil or marker for this lesson.

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They frame their portraits in interesting borders and use a name ribbon across the picture so that viewers know who the explorer is.


Student used the social studies cards for reference or they could find other images of their explorer.

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King and Queen of Hearts



Students learned about the history of the playing card and looked at historic examples of playing cards. We talked about what they noticed in the cards-pattern, line, symmetry and shape. They drew an image of themselves as a king or queen of hearts-a perfect lesson to celebrate Valentine’s Day. A similar project can be seen in the Arts Attack program for grade 5.

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The challenging part was explaining how to create a symmetrical, upside down copy of the art.  Students first folded their paper in half and drew a king or a queen. To draw the other half, they folded the paper over their finished image and then lifted the paper enough to see the first drawing-then they were able to see where to draw the next lines.


Once they finished their drawings, they painted with tempera paint. I love how very different they all are. Each child interpreting pattern, line, harmony and balance in their own ways.


This student came in late and was only able to complete half which was totally fine with me. Look at all that detail!



Hearts with Tints, shades and tones



I have been doing this lesson for years and the results are always different.  First graders were instructed to draw hearts of varying sizes and patterns on their papers.

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Once they finished the drawings, we talked about how to create tints-add white to a color; shades-add black to a color and tones-add gray to a color. They used red paint to create the tints, shades and tones.  Using the newly created colors, they filled in their hearts.


Martin Luther King, jr.



I have a couple of favorite second grade teachers who often request me as their substitute. I am always happy to be in their classrooms as they  have fantastic classroom management and the lesson plans with supplies are on the desk ready to go with everything I could need-a dream sub job to be sure.

My favorite thing about subbing for them is that when they have an open slot in the schedule,  they let me do what I love: teach art!

This lesson was the result of seeing “guided drawing MLK” on the schedule. One of my least favorite guided drawing lessons. For some reason, the image the kids use as reference is not very flattering of MLK and the completed drawings never turn out very well.


I am pretty sure that the first time I saw this lesson was at the Teaching with Style blog.

I have found the most success doing this positive negative space lesson is to either make a template for the kids to trace or to print the image on white construction paper and have them cut it out.

It is also may be good to do this as step-by-step lesson particularly with the younger ones. A lot of little artists struggle with the idea of taking half the picture and gluing it one side with the other half being glued on the opposite side.

To cut out the eye and the eyebrow, you have to fold the paper at that spot so that is something else it is best to show kids how to do.


Sandpaper and Crayons



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This project has been around for ages. I remember making my own sandpaper iron-ons and putting them onto t-shirts and napkins as a kid.

I did this with the after school group. The students drew on the sandpaper with crayon. I ironed their images onto pieces of fabric that we cut with pinking shears.

It works best with simple designs, finer grade sandpaper and lots of crayon.



Egypt Art Lesson



I absolutely love printmaking. So any excuse to get out the brayers and ink is a good day for me. This lesson came from a request of a 6th grade team who wanted something for their Egypt Unit. I found a great “Draw like an Egyptian” lesson from the Boise Art Museum:

The students have often done cartouches with their name in hieroglyphics. We just combined the Egyptian drawings with the print making.

First, the students drew their hieroglyphic name on newsprint. They traced over it with black marker so it would show through the other side.

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Once they had that done, they turned the paper over and traced the hieroglyphics onto a styrofoam printing plate. I set up a printing station at the back of the classroom and students took turns printing their cartouche with gold ink onto black paper.

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Once finished with the cartouche plates, the students began their drawing. We talked about the cube system used by tomb artists so that each drawing was the same. We looked at examples of tomb art so they could see the way in which the gods, people and pharaohs were depicted.  We also talked about the colors that were used and that all things had meaning-even color.

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When they finished their drawings, they cut them out and glued them onto the cartouche pages.


Insect Photo Booth


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When I saw this “teeny tiny insect photo booth strips” art by cartoonist Laura Park, I knew that it could easily be adapted as a lesson for second grade to complement their insect unit.

More of her work can be seen here-

For this lesson, I gave students plastic insects as reference. They were to imagine what would happen if an insect went into a photo booth. They could make them anthropomorphic and could add accessories like hats, glasses, scarves, etc.

Students used long strips of paper and first drew four squares. Once complete, they went to work creating four images for their photo booth pictures. We used water color paint for color. They were not done as miniatures.


One teacher I work with mounted the finished work to construction paper and had students write captions for each image. 


Burlap Stitching


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Grade one students used yarn and burlap to create these stitched images.

Students  used a template and chalk to trace a heart, circle (for the sun) or star. They used blunt darning needles with the yarn. I taught them how to create a simple running stitch.  Once complete, we used chopsticks and yarn to create a hanger. I did serge the edge of these so they would not fray but preventing fraying can be achieved with simple sewing, a line of glue or even tape.