Monthly Archives: February 2017

Collage Birds



Years ago I saw some collaged cardboard birds. After my best friend died, her kids and mine did a grief group each week with activities from the Dougy Center. This activity wasn’t from there but I loved the idea of 3D birds and the kids and I liked doing art together. We made the “word birds” below.


For that project, we put a word about what we needed on one side and what we loved about ourselves on the other. My thought was they could put the bird in their room in a place people could see it like on their dresser or desk and when they needed some extra TLC, they put that side out facing the world. When they were doing okay, the side of what they liked about themselves showed.


This year after getting a giant box of cardboard packing triangles, oodles of paper strips and having loads of scrap paper, I had my students do these birds.


They are really colorful. For the feathers, we used edger scissors  that cut interesting patterns as you cut. Kids LOVE using those scissors and I have a lot of them as they were given to my own kids over the years.


If the students wanted to, they could add words when they were finished but many did not.


I had them fold card stock in half, draw a bird shape, collage both sides and glue them together.I did this in a step by step fashion after the first group struggled a bit.


I learned with the first group that several of them collaged the same side and then the bird would not go together. So for the next group, I had them cut out the birds, have them lay them flat then have them “kiss” or touch tails and draw an “X” on each side that was facing up.


This helped prevent them from collaging the wrong side. I showed them how to glue the beaks and tail feathers on one side so that it would sandwich between when the project was complete. Most of them understood that part, some did not.


They were instructed to decorated all sides of the triangle and leave the bottom of the bird open. They brought them to me and I stapled the triangle feet for them.




Apple Still Life



I did these apples with my K/1 combo class.


I showed them how to draw apples in a bowl, on a table, in a footed bowl and they could do them however they chose to.


We drew them with black crayon and filled in with paint.


One mom told me her child loved it so much he kept drawing apples in bowls.


I think they are a lot of fun.



Recycled Weaving



Our black placemats we use get pretty messy after hundreds of uses. A few days ago, I noticed that the edges of most of them were folded and frayed and that many were bumpy from being wet from paint and glue. I swapped them out for new ones and wanted to use the spattered papers for something. I came up with this for my 1/2 combo class. A week or so ago, a gigantic box of skinny strips showed up in the art room. KISMET!! Students used the black mats at the substrate and the paper strips to weave.



They took paper strips and glued them on one edge of the paper. To remind them to use a small amount of glue and to hold the paper a few seconds so it wouldn’t slide around, we chanted dot, dot, not a lot, lot , press and hold 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

It was a pretty fun way to get them to make sure the one side was stuck before we started weaving. While that dried a bit, they decorated their strips and then did their weaving.


Well, they actually trimmed the edges. Then did their weaving.


Pretty great way to use up a box of paper strips that showed up in the art room and the old placemats as well.


Alma Thomas Collage


“Through color, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man’s inhumanity to man.”



Last year, I did Alma Thomas paintings with my Kindergarten students. They used my home made sponge brushes.


This year, I have TONS of scrap paper. I put the scraps in several shallow bins on each table.


I figure my second graders would enjoy some collage so we looked at the work of Alma Thomas and they came up with these. I told them they could copy the artist or do their own thing.


We barely make a dent in the scrap paper.


Heart Coloring Book Pages




I got the idea for this after seeing so many coloring book pages being done by artists I admire.


Because it is so close to valentine’s day, I had the students use a heart outline and then fill in with lines and shapes.


Talking with one of the parent volunteers, I said wouldn’t it be fun to make a coloring book and sell them as a fundraiser for the foundation or have them at the auction. I brought the idea to my principal and he said great let’s do it.


We decided to donate the profits to a teacher at our site who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and will be out the rest of the year. Our principal and a few teachers will choose 30 hearts to create the book and our district publishing department will make them up for us.



Rainbow Fish



Our School is participating in the Compassion It Program.


Rainbow Fish seemed like a great art project for our Compassion It week. This lesson was done with my preschool students. In the story, Rainbow Fish learns that sharing helps make friends.


I did a directed draw of Rainbow fish. Students used black crayon to draw, oil pastel to fill in the color and liquid watercolor for the water.



Collaged Hearts



In the teacher workroom is a box that says, “Art Scraps”. A few years ago, a recycling minded parent created the box for us. Teachers and parents put all the construction paper and other paper scraps from projects in the box. For this project, we used some of those scraps.


Students in my 1/2 combo class were given heart templates to trace. They then filled the hearts with scraps of paper.


I used cups of white glue mixed with water and some sponge brushes that were donated. They traced the heart templates with our black Staonal Crayons. They used scissors or tearing to make the pieces of paper smaller.


Because they came out so nice, I did the lesson again with my K/1 group.


For them I pre-traced the hearts to save time. There is only one class of this combo and it is small. They actually ended up having time to cut the hearts out and glue them onto black paper. I think it is always good for students to have extra scissor practice and the black background really makes the hearts stand out.


Student Murals


In January 2015, I did a workshop for teachers with Hiep Nguyen. He has an organization called Circle Painitng. I had seen his work on the internet for a few years and loved it. Then I saw him at an art educator’s conference and he was offering a workshop for teachers. I signed up and had a great time meeting other educators, learning his techniques, hearing his philosophy, and of course making art. The class was really a game changer for me. I realized I could do murals with my students.


Since then, we’ve done several murals. Our Circle Paintings were done as a Family Art Night. There are four sections of paper. They hang in our stairwells.


This “What Lifts You” Mural based on the work of Kelsey Montague was finished in the Fall.

Thanks to Hiep’s workshop, I use roofing paper as our substrate. It’s relatively inexpensive, flame retardant and can be removed fairly easily. Our custodian just staples it to the wall for us. If the murals need to be removed for any reason, they can easily be take down without a lot of wall damage and of course no need to re-paint.


This morning, our custodian installed our “We are all the colors of the earth” mural that my student volunteers completed this week. I hope the kids are excited on Monday to see their mural on the wall!


Our awesome custodian had me meet him early Saturday morning to hang the work. I told him he for sure needed to flip over his Compassion It bracelet!


Art Room Tips #1


20170131_101317.jpgWhen I first started at my school, we qualified for Title 1 funding. I felt it was important to make my budget stretch as far as it could and reached out for donations. I asked for things people were discarding or recycling. Silk flowers, old markers, crayons, card stock, wrapping paper, craft items. I even had a couple of donations of paper from local printers. These donations have been the springboard for many art projects over the years.

I now teach almost a thousand students. We are no longer a Title 1 school and we have a larger budget for art. I still like to be conservative with my supplies. I still use recycled or donated items and do my best to be considerate of all the fundraising our parents do to keep art at our site.

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The water cups we use are donated as are the plates they sit in. One of my favorite items to use is the lean cuisine trays. They are the perfect size for a water cup and a half a sponge. They also stack nicely. The sponges were purchased from the 99 cent store and cut in half. Students share this set up when painting.


For tempera paint, we use paper plates. I used to use recycled lean cuisine plates but California is often in a drought and it seems better to throw away a plate than use the copious amounts of water needed for washing. I use the same plates for several days or until they become really messy .


Students share one plate. I call it the “supply plate”. If they are mixing colors, they do it directly on their papers or in a plastic lid like those from a yogurt cup. I also use those plastic lids for glue for my pre-K to K friends.


It saves us from using too much glue and they get some much needed eye-hand coordination in the process. Most of them don’t mind and find it fun to peel off the dried glue.


This my set up is for liquid watercolors. We use them periodically. I like them for the bright colors. I put a few drops of liquid watercolor in the plastic souffle cup and add water. I store the lidded cups in a box I picked up from Costco. It fits perfectly in my cupboard and is fairly shallow. The nice thing about the cardboard box is that is absorbs watercolor that may be on the bottom of the cups and the best part is it was free.


For lessons with PreK, I often give each pair 2 cool colors then I swap them with their neighbor for 2 warm colors. Three of those little cups will fit in the tray so for older students. I use three warm colors and three cool colors. The little trays have saved us from big spills many times.


The black papers are our placemats. Years ago, our admin ordered paper that was much larger than a teacher needed and passed it off to me. I needed something to cover the tables and these were perfect.

My youngest students do not usually get water and sponge plates for tempera. I have them wipe their brush on the placemats between colors. This process works for many reasons-brighter colors, less time making “strawberry water” and “milk water” and more time actually painting, it eliminates water spills as well.

I use the same placemat papers for much of the year until they are overly covered in stuff or are bumpy or torn. When they get to that point, I chop it up for collage or paper making.