Summer Art Challenge 2018

I have been absent on here lately due to finishing up my master’s degree, but I am back and plan on using this for resources and information, more consistently.

We have a mere four days of school left this year, so I am gearing up some summer activities for my students and own two children to work on.  Big thanks to the Art of Education for this idea – The Summer Art Challenge!

Download here:  Summer Art Challenge 2018

Reto de Arte para el Verano 2018

Screenshot 2018-05-28 09.50.14


Open Studios

The school year is off and rolling, smoothly and creatively, I might add!

This year, at Hillside, my students will be transitioning to a full Teaching for Artistic Behaviors (TAB) classroom. This means that students are artists who: choose their subject matter, choose their media, and decide when an artwork is complete, and what happens to their art when it is complete. Media is organized into centers, which are essentially 3D lesson plans. The image above, is the collage center.

To kick off the first week of school, we started by drawing around the room (Gaub, 2014). Students were able to try out various drawing materials, set up at the tables. They were also able to explore the drawing center and try using still life objects, templates, drawing books, and texture plates.

TAB regards the student as the artist, and honors children’s ability to make choices. I’m excited for this school year. Check back for more TAB happenings soon!

New TAB Posters

We are getting closer to more studio choices in all of my classes now.  It has been slow going, retraining my students at my new building on what student choice looks like and feels like.  It can be scary for students and teachers alike to embark on a journey where the answers aren’t determined ahead of time.

Due to some ongoing questions and my repeating myself frequently, I created a few new posters for my already quite full classroom walls.

rough vs wow

This poster has been in my classroom for quite some time, but I finally realized I needed to flesh out what some of this actually meant.


In an effort to reduce waste before students start a WOW, they now create a plan, such as this example I made for a papier-mache fish.

planning guide

Next year, I plan on having this guide printed inside their sketchbooks, as we have our sketchbooks soft bound and printed by our district print shop.  So far, it is working, students feel more confident before choosing a studio center and beginning work on an artwork.  I realized that much of the confusion was my fault, as I assumed they knew what planning an artwork looks like.  I had to spell it out.

finishing steps

Implementing Finishing Steps has been the single best procedure to date.  Students are now less likely to ask me, “What do I do next?” or “Am I done?”  Now, they conference with each other, before coming to me.  This has been a game-changer, as their peers are more likely to point out areas to refine, and those grows are always better taken from a peer than a teacher.

More to come, hopefully soon.  Obviously a new school and new grad program has been keeping me very busy and these posts are so far, few and far between.  I have much to share and much to tell, as this has been an exciting school year!

Kindergarten Lines


I have been using lunch trays for kindergarten art for the past couple years now and they have transformed the fast and furious, once per week, thirty minute classes with my littlest students.  The idea behind the lunch trays came from my work with choice-based art and the Montessori approach of spending extended time with an object, media, or idea.

Recently, my kindergarten students experimented with soft-lead pencils, colored conté crayons, mixed color shape crayons, and regular pencils.  We looked around the room for lines, brainstormed different lines, and then they were set free for some time experimenting with the materials.  I brought them back together after a period, and showed them a couple techniques with the materials.  I demonstrated using the conté crayons on their sides, smudging the soft lead pencils with white conté crayons to make them look furry, and smudging pencils with your finger.  See if you can find those techniques in the sampling below.


I love the freedom that this kind of choice gives my kindergarten students, but at the same time, it gives them some structure.  They are still learning procedures and processes in the art room, and this gives them an easy way to clean up, but also maximize their short time in the art room.

Contour & Watercolor Still Life

file_001-2This year I set up some simple still life arrangements for 2nd graders – many had a fall theme.  I grew corn this summer, and brought in some of the beautiful dark purple, almost black ears of corn for some of the arrangements.  All arrangements had a combination of human-made items and natural items.


file_000-5Students practiced contour line drawings in their sketchbooks for almost a whole class period.  Once they felt ready to move on, they started a final draft.


file_000-4Students used watercolor paints to refine and add details.  We worked on mixing colors, making backgrounds of their choice, and painting layers of paint – wet on wet and wet on dry techniques.

The results of this lesson are stunning – everyone’s painting turned out phenomenal!  Check out a sampling of the work below:















New School Year, New Building, Keeping Busy

I’m still here!  Just busier than ever.  The school year is in full swing, my devices are bursting at the seams with images of the excellent projects my students have been working on, I just can’t carve out the time lately to post them all.

13652256_1004953409622925_647128293_nThis school year marks a few big changes for me as a teacher, a new building, full-time for the first time in 3 years, and the starting of a graduate degree program, and I am presenting my work with See Saw at the Art Educators of Iowa Conference next week!


So, my time has been spent organizing my new space.  This is my clay cart – I keep all the necessary clay tools together on a cart.  It makes clay set up and clean up a breeze!  I even post this image on the overhead with arrows, to show the kids where to put things away.


The bigger drying rack this year has been put to good use already.


Watercolor trays have been working hard – on various projects.  One of my favorite watercolor projects this week has been the second grade contour line still life paintings.  Stay tuned for updates on current projects, coming soon!

I am… Collaborative Artwork

Last year, at my previous school, we worked on a collaborative project for the hallway.  It was put on display when the school board held a meeting in our building, as a way to showcase the students’ self-image and shine a positive spotlight on them.  We started with a large white banner and I hand-lettered the phrase, “I am…”   Then, I drew some geometric shapes around the outsides, as a way to give the kids some starting points.


zentangle-up-closeOn another piece of paper, I drew some black & white and colorful doodles with felt tip pen and marker.  I placed all my Zentangle books on the table as a resource for more designs.


i-am-with-shapesI kept this table open, as a choice, during work time.  Over the course of a few weeks, the students began filling in the spaces on the banner.


i-am-students-workingThe students began filling in pencil, adding patterns, and showing one another how they created their designs.  The peer teaching that came about was fantastic to watch.  They also began to find creative ways to add-on to one another’s designs, make refinements to areas that looked rushed or did not follow with the theme (for example, just writing words and not making designs).


i-am-wallThe finished banner was hung on the wall, in a central hallway.  The students and staff then wrote one word to describe themselves.  These words were written on neon rectangles and then hung with sticky tabs, in a tiled and random order.  The results were stunning to look at.

3rd Grade Alphabet Collaborative Art

IMG_0278 (1)

3rd grade students worked on an alphabet/numerical collaborative project this spring.  One set of letters was chosen from the three classes to be sent to China, to our sister school.  Above, is the selected alphabet.

Letters were chosen from the following guidelines:

  • Creative & original work
  • Use color pencil techniques demonstrated in class
  • Tried Zentangle ideas
  • Used space creatively

The other letters and numbers, some of which were second and third ones created by students, are displayed in the school hallway frames over the summer.  See below for other examples.




Plastic Cup Animations

A teacher friend of mine, recently alerted me to this really neat project idea – using plastic stacked cups to create simple animations. I knew I had to try it out – so I used it as one of those end of the year fun projects.

I started by showing my students a sample, explaining how to stack so that the drawn details would line up correctly, being careful not to smear wet marker.  The idea originally came from this video.

The end results were fantastic!  The students were absolutely enthralled with the simplicity of making art with plastic cups and permanent markers.  They were collaborative too – “Hey check this out!” and “Hey, I will draw you a hat, if you draw the shoes on mine.”  Some students combined their cups to create stacks of 4 -5 cups.  They quickly realized that the stacking would alter where they needed to draw.  Mistakes also weren’t allowed – they had to turn it into something beautiful.

I got more rave reviews from this one-day lesson than some of my more meticulously crafted lessons from earlier in the year. Hey, you win some and lose some as an art teacher.  I personally really love teaching the every day art lessons – I feel they have the biggest impact on students.  Often, there are more ah-ha moments when students are using everyday items and have faster end results with a project.

Check out a few of the works from 6th graders below: