Saturday, December 27, 2014

An Art Lesson For My K- 2 Autistic Students

Here is simple art lesson I did with my K- 2 autistic class. And... it involves a literacy component!

I start the lesson by showing the kids an image of Frosty looking up at a star. We then talk about how sometimes people look up at a star and make a wish. While the kids start working with simple shapes to make their Frosty, I asked them to start thinking about the question "What do you wish for in the year 2015."

After they were done putting everything together, the kids then tell me what their wish  for the New Year is.

Here is what some of the kids came up with.

Here's another post I've written about autism in the art room. 

 Do you have an art lessons that works well with your autistic students? How about sharing your secrets in the comments below?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How To Draw Aztec Sun Stones

Math Connections In Art Class

Aztec sun stones are a good way to introduce the ancient history of the Aztec culture of Mexico. (Helpful!) 

But, it's also a good way to bring math into an art lesson. (Awesome!) There are a few math vocabulary words/concepts that are incorporated into making these. 

This lesson is a kind of  a 2 for 1- art history and math! Yea, that's a good thing!

Concentric Circles

We start out drawing 4 concentric circle. They're given  the sizes for the inside and outside (1st & 4th) circles. They have to come up with the measurements for the two inside circles.


After that, they design the sun face inside the center circle. They can add eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, cheeks etc. Their choice.

I swear, some of the designs for the faces they come up with are amazing!!!

My only requirement for the sun face  is that the tongue is sticking out. On the original, ancient Aztec sun stones it was actually a knife sticking out of the mouth. (FYI- don't tell them this!) I tone this down a little and require a tongue to be sticking out.

Geometric Shapes

For this project, I require that the kids draw patterns with geometric shapes. So the next thing we  do is talk about the definitions of geometric shapes vs. organic shapes. And we also talk about what a pattern is. 

On the second concentric circle, the kids are asked to draw some kind of  sun ray pattern around the face. Repeated rectangles or triangles  of various sizes, work just fine for this section. But, as long as it's geometric, the sun ray pattern is all their own!

After that, the kids get to start drawing their geometric patterns in pencil on all the other concentric circles.

The kids then outline all of their pencil designs in marker. They get to chose the color  that they outline them in- black, blue, purple or green. (These colors work best in covering up the pencil marks.)
The kids then get to color their sun stones in. They can use either crayons or colored pencils. You can also require that they use certain color families, if you are trying to teach color concepts. For these, they were able use what ever color combinations they wanted.

So, what do you think of these sun stones? Would they work in your art class?
I'd love to hear what you think about them! You can comment below.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Portraits- With A Colorful Twist

What would happen if you ate a box of crayons?!

That's the question I ask my class when we begin this art lesson. As you can imagine, I get all kinds of answers. And some of the replies they come up with are pretty funny.

We start off drawing an oval shape for the head in the middle of the paper.  The kids then add  the eyes, nose and mouth. I usually tell the kids if their hair started changing colors their mouth would probably drop open in awe. But they can add any facial expression they like. They then add a neck and shoulders.

We then start dividing the background into into different shapes that fan out to the edges of the paper. Some lines going toward the shoulders, right and left sides and top of the paper.

They then outline all the pencil lines with a black Sharpie.

We then start discussing what patterns are- repeating lines, shapes and colors. Then the kids start designing their patterns in the hair. They use either crayons or colored pencil to create the patterns.

Oh, and here's the bulletin board I created with these. It was titled 'Look what happens... when you eat a box of crayons!!!' 

What do you think about these portraits? What do you think would happen if you ate a box of crayons? I'd love to hear if these would work in your art class.

Friday, November 28, 2014

How To Make An 'Egyptian' Mummy

Ancient Egypt is one subject that the kids always love to learn about in art class. Who can't resist a good mummy story!

The whole history of pyramids, pharaohs and mummies can be quite fascinating. I have a few different versions of making mummies, but the following is one my favorites. 

Here's how we design them!!!

We start out reviewing the whole history of the pyramids, the ancient Egyptian religious system, with their gods and goddesses, and the mummification process. After that we're ready to make our mummies.

The ancients  mummies  had pectorals  on their chest designed in  the image  of  the  Egyptian  god  Horus. The Egyptians believed that Horus guided them to the afterlife. So  the  first thing require is that the kids design  a pectoral for the mummy's chest. They can choose any symbol for  their pectoral (except Horus- it's already been done), but it must  have two wings on either side. The  mummies above have an eagle pectoral and a doughnut pectoral.

The kids then get an overview of Egyptian hieroglyphics system. They have to write a word at least 5 letters long, using the hieroglyph symbols, that they put on somewhere their mummy. Either horizontal or vertical.

They then have them make up 3 'hieroglyph' symbols of their own, that they add to their mummy. The Egyptian Hieroglyphs symbols were representation of objects  important to  Egyptian life- things such as water, loafs of bread, grass reeds, etc. The kid- designed 'hieroglyph' symbols should be objects important to their life.

Other things they are required to add to their mummies are- some kind of a crown, a few strands of jeweled necklaces and jewels in their hair.  The mummies  needed this to make sure they didn't lose their  social status in the afterlife. So they were buried in their 'bling'.

Below are a couple of mummies that kids designed in their 'own' style. Some times I let the kids do that if they're really creative and have a vision of how it will be differentiated.  Once in a while you gotta let the kids go their own way! Use some discretion and give 'em a little leeway. I think these came out really nice.

What do you think of our Egyptian mummies? Would they work in you art room? I'd love to hear what you think about them. You can comment below.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How To Draw 2 Point Perspective Castles

Hey, do you need an art project that injects a little history into it? Well, you might want to try this 2 point perspective project on castles.

Here's how the project is introduced.  The kids are asked- What is the difference between a palace and a castle? You'll get a lot of different answers but we eventually get to the nitty gritty: a palace is for pleasure/recreation and a castle is for protection. I then review the background history, who it protects and the different parts of a castle- the walls, the moat, the towers, etc. Reviewing all the parts of the castle helps them to  start thinking about what they will put into their castle.

There's a lot of using a ruler and measurements involved, depending on the size of your paper. The size paper we use is 12 x 18. Here's the run down on how we get  the different sections of the castle set up. Check out the visual below.

The things that are required by the kids to do are- line up windows to the vanishing points, add towers, a mote and some kind of landscaping. Kids like to add  a lot of extras such as, flags, brick work and a bridge over the moat, but I don't require those.

A work in progress
This project works well because the kids can really come up with their own twist to it. There are so many ways they can change it up and make it their own. You always get a lot of different style of castles. 

What do you think of this 2 point perspective project? Do you have a castle project that works in your art class? I'd like to hear about it in the comments below.

If you'd like to see another 2 point perspective project, check this out.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Autism In The Art Room

At some point in your teaching career you will probable have kids on the Autism Spectrum in your art class. Mainstreaming special needs students into regular classrooms is usually a part of their IEPs. For art teachers with not a lot of training in Special Education, this can be quite a challenge.

It doesn't have to be though. There are  strategies to support children with autism and allows them to have a successful and positive art experience in your art class. And that's something that we're all aiming for!

I recently went to a work shop for art teachers on autism that was presented by The Autism Project. The workshop helped me become aware of the challenges these kids face due to their disability. I want to share what I learned with you.

Here are 10 things that a person with autism wishes you know about them (and may not be able to express) while they're in your art class.

1. I'm a person trying to be happy and successful in school. But social situations are hard for me. I struggle to join and be part of a group.

2. My sensory system isn't reliable.

3. Sometimes I can't do what you're asking. It is not because I don't want to.

4. I'm a concrete thinker. It's hard to be flexible when things are different than how I thought they would be. Sometimes I don't understand other views or choices available. I get easily stuck.

5. Communication is hard for me. I can hear words, but I don't always understand your message. Also, I have a tough time telling you what I'm thinking and feeling. Sometimes, I need extra time to find the words in my head.

6. I learn best with my sense of sight.

7. I'm great at many different things.

8. Waiting is difficult for me. I live in the present. 

9. It is hard for me to hold my feelings in when I'm anxious or angry. I can have meltdowns, tantrums or withdraw.

10. Accept me for me; I will accept you for you.

What are some strategies we can use to help our autistic students who will eventually be a part of our art class?

*Be consistent
*Have routines and be predictable
*Have as few transitions as possible
*Have a visual schedule of tasks to be done in class
*Have close end tasks or projects with a clear finish

I hope there's something here that will work for you in your art class. If you know of any other tips, strategies or supports   for autistic students in the art class, I'd like to hear about them.

Here's a  simple lesson with a literacy component I use in my autistic art class. Check it out here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

3 Helpful Apps For The Travelling Art Teacher

I'm back teaching art at the elementary level after 8 years of teaching at the middle school level. 

My program is now known as 'Art on a Cart'. I have no classroom, no computers and no tablets. I'm travelling from room to room.

If you're travelling like me, you know its tough to incorporate technology into your art program. Never mind having the kids actually make something with it. 

But if you're like me, you still want to use technology, so the kids (and parents) see the benefits of it in the art class. 

What do you do?

Use an IPad and a VGA cord.

As I go from room to room, I can quickly plug into the class room projectors. They are already set up in the rooms that I travel to, so it just takes a couple of minutes at the beginning of class as they're clearing their desks.

And I've found 3 very different apps that have been helpful to me as I travel. One is for classroom management, one involves art history and one helps with classroom presentations.

Keynote- This is my favorite app to use to make slide presentations when I  introduce a lesson. It's easy to do a search for images, save them, then insert into the Keynote slides.  You can sync it (through Bluetooth) to a Keynote Remote  app on your phone and  simply move through the slides for your presentation. The kids also love the animations that can be added to the slides. Here's a hint. There's lots of oohs and aahs when they see the Fire or Confetti animations.


Too Noisy- This is an app you can use for behavior management. It's actually a sound meter. You  set  it to the the level of sound that is acceptable in your class. You then set it to how many minutes of acceptable noise before the class can earn a star. I usually set it for four minutes.

The needle keeps track of  the level of the sound. If the needle moves above your set sound level an alarm will go off. You can set it so the class  will lose a star if the alarm goes off. The kids actually ask me to set this up all the time, they love earning the stars.


Touch Van Gogh- This is an app to use when introducing the  paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. It is produced  by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, so a lot of research went into the information provided by the app. It provides information about various paintings of his, such as where and when a painting was made, what the locations look like today,  the damage to the painting, the colors used and the painting style. You also get an up close detailed view of the paintings. It is a touch screen app so you can chose to have the kids come up and touch the pad to get the information.

Introducing technology can be a trial when you are travelling from room to room. And there are so many choices of apps that are available out there. I hope at least one of these apps is helpful to you. 

If you know of any other apps that would be great for a travelling art teacher, I'd love to hear about it.

Keep Creating!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Printmaking With Recyclables

As art teachers, we're always looking for ways to make art projects on the cheap.  Using recyclable objects is a good way to save some money and still make some great art projects. 

I'm going to show you how you can do a print making lesson with recycled gallon water bottle tops.

Above are the gallon water bottle tops that I use.

The bottle tops have a large surface for printing and a built in handle to hold onto. Having the handles makes them easy to use, even for little hands.

The next step is to get sheets of textured foam at your local craft store. You can then cut to size, then glue on to the flat surface of the bottle top.

You can see the foam glued onto the bottle caps below. There are a variety of textures you can glue on to the bottle tops.

The next step is you're ready to print! All you need is a lesson idea.

I chose to use these printers to create textured skin on an chameleon lesson.

First, draw your chameleon. For this lesson, I used the chameleon drawing template from the website Art Projects For Kids.

Pick out your paint colors. Load up your  printers with paint and start printing.

The bumps from the foam makes the texture on the chameleon's  skin start to  appear.

You can add another color. You can even add another texture, if you chose a different style of foam on your printers.

Create your chameleon's background. And your done!

The bottle top printers are easy to clean off with soap and water. You can even use them again on another lesson.

What do you think of using recyclables for printmaking?

 Are there recyclables that work for you when you teach printmaking? I'd like to hear about it. 

Keep Creating!