3-D Snowflakes


It has been unusually warm here in north Texas. I’m not complaining mind you but I’m craving a little Christmas weather.

The kind of weather where a pot of chili with cornbread takes the chill off your bones. The kind of weather that makes cider and hot chocolate taste good. Sweater weather. So time for a little snow artwork.

My good friend Billie Slater used to bring her Cadets into the building singing…”Pray for snow….pray for snow….” in their best Native American chant rhythm. Well I’m not quite up to that vocally, so we are making snowflakes. Big 3-D snowflakes. I found a very clear tutorial here on the wonderful blog, One Less Headache. Add good instructions plus a sprinkling of science and math and voila, 3-D snowflakes.


I have my winter board done too for a little extra snow mojo.


Let’s get this straight…..not sleet…not ice..I want snow, the big fluffy kind you make snow ice cream with.


Every Once in A While


This is the long haul in teaching. From the enthusiasm and excitement of the first day of school in late August until the Fall Break in November. More and more on weekends I turn to my husband,who is a retired teacher, and say, ” Listen.” He says, ” I know, no one is saying your name, asking a question, tugging on your  arm…it’s quiet.”  I smile. He understands.

But yesterday, something happened that shook me out of my ” Oh my gosh, what now…” mindset. A small quiet fifth-grader, a slender wisp of a boy, did something so grand…..

We were at recess playing a game called ” Steal the Bacon”. Two classes line up at either end of the gym and when their number is called two children from either side run up and try to grab the “Bacon” (a cloth bundled to look like a slab of bacon ) and run back to their side without being tagged.  All children are included in recess games, so several students that have special needs are in the line-ups.

Not once, but twice, this quiet young man was paired up against a special need’s child. Both times, he let the special need’s child win, in a moment that was not too obvious but full of understanding. Both classes in the game applauded, no complaining. It was one of those moments in teaching that happens every once in a while and takes your breath away with its compassion. And in this bitter election season it gives me hope for humanity.

I asked the quiet boy privately why he did what he did. He looked up at me and said,” My mom told me that if someone is like that, it is my job to take care of them, to let them win if they can and feel good.” Good job Mom. I told him I was proud of him and gave him a 200 club ticket, something we do to promote unsolicited acts of kindness. So in this long haul up to Thanksgiving I am thankful to teach a child like that, to experience those moments and learn from them.

Image Pixabay CC0 Public Domain




Andy Griffith in the Art Room?

I began studying the Grant Wood painting, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, in fifth grade this week. The study of the painting is followed by a student composition that shows their understanding of the bird’s-eye point of view used by Wood.


I began the class with an analysis of the painting based on a great lesson plan, from Picturing America, a project from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I asked my class how many knew the story of Paul Revere’s ride.  Not one hand went up. Ready for this I had remembered an OLD episode of The Andy Griffith Show I had seen. I like to use video clips to illustrate my lessons. For this technology-laden generation, anything that appears on a screen captures student’s attention immediately.

My kids were shocked to see a black and white image appear and one young one popped up with, “Oh, my grandma watches this all the time!” Body-blows to my ego non-withstanding, the five minute clip shows sheriff Andy helping history come alive by telling the story of the ride of Paul Revere. In my opinion, a great telling of the story, which made my students look again at Grant Wood’s painting with new eyes. It was a great class.

Wikiart Image



Like I Said..

dog-1240645_1280It’s a good thing to keep journals when you’re a teacher. That way, when you finally do go round the bend, the docs can read your journal and say ” Ah yes, this was the exact moment she slipped over the edge.”


..just after New Years’ a few years back

We were discussing the concept of space in artwork (the area around, within and between objects) in a 5th grade art class. I’m using food as my example because that always gets their attention. I’m talking with one student who is obviously not getting it.

Me: “Tell me the name of a food that has a hole in it.”

Student: Nothing. Silence. Crickets chirping.

Me: “OK, I’ll give you a hint. You eat it for breakfast and you buy it at Dunkin….”

Student:  “Pancakes? ”

Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Me: “Class, help him out.”

Class: “Donuts!”

I’m trying to make this student feel better, so I say …

Me: “Let’s switch to another art element, texture. Here’s where you can use texture in your drawing. If you want to draw your pancakes with something sticky running all over them. Great texture. What would that sticky stuff be?”

Student: “Butter?”

Me: “……OK.”


..just before Thanksgiving a few years back

A student in my 6th grade art class tells this story as his “one Good Thing that happened to you this weekend” story. We are talking about Thanksgiving dinner at the time and this young man says, ” My Dad likes turkey but he doesn’t like to shoot them, so he catches them in a bag.” I let that sink in for a minute and then say, “Really?”  ” Yeah,” he says.

“We have some property that’s fenced in with tin and we corner the turkeys. But this one got out and it chased me and pecked me.” Laughter fills the classroom as he is enjoying the telling and I’m thinking, “Probably so.” He goes on.” So we kept that one as a pet.” “Really , the one that pecked you?” I said. “Yep.” he says. ” I named it Speedy.”



Photo: CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay


Bad Hair Day


Repetition of shapes, lines and colors is one of the strongest organizing principles in art and it takes practice to see it and create it.

A simple and fun drawing exercise called Bad Hair Day on The Incredible Art Department website helps bring this concept into focus.

Fun, because everyone can relate to “bad hair day” and useful because it emphasizes the use of a repeated shape as a pattern. The “hair” is divided into at least five sections. Each section must have a different pattern in it.

This started out as a sub project, but my 5th and 6th grade students enjoyed it so much we continued the project over several says. Here are the results.

The Daily Prompt – Colorful

A wonderful website called artyfactory.com has a Pop Art lesson plan that produced some very colorful Mona Lisas from my 5th graders a few years back. They grid the drawing and copy it square by square, then paint each square with a different color, texture or tone. It always suprises me how the mind balks at drawing hands. Tough stuff, but such good practice at isolating shapes. I hope you have as much fun looking at them as we did making them. Here’s the lesson site.

Chinese Lanterns


Hallway 2Inspired by the wonderful blog , What’s Happening in the Art Room?, I decided to try Chinese Lanterns this year with my 5th grade art students. These lanterns involve developing a drawing that will work on four vertical panels as well as on a three-dimensional rectangle. I gave students the option of coming up with four separate ideas, one for each panel, or having one idea wrap around the rectangle. In addition, students focused on successfully using soft colored pencil technique in their composition.

Lanterns are used in a myriad of celebrations in China, the most famous being The Lantern Festival, which is the customary end to the Chinese New Year celebration.

Chinese New Year begins February 8th in 2016. This is the Year of the Monkey. DSC09232What 5th grader wouldn’t love that?

An ancient Chinese folk custom is to attach a riddle, poem or phrase to the lanterns, so I added this to our project (additional writing component). I think my students were as excited about their riddles as they were their lanterns.


Riddles 2

Here’s how we did it.


  • 12 x 18 white drawing paper
  • rulers
  • scissors
  • pencils, erasers and colored pencils
  • poster board for lantern stencil
  • black construction paper – 7 inch squares (2 per lantern)
  • yarn or string
  • hot glue gun (under adult supervision only)


I began this project in January, right as we came back from the Winter Holiday. I asked the students how they celebrated the New Year. I had them write a resolution in their sketchbook; which I defined as ” A plan to do something positive to make your life better .”  We talked about resolving only things we had control over and what a positive resolution was. We even broke down the word, discovering that “solution” is part of resolution. What child does not need to practice planning positive ways to make their life better?

This exercise became a springboard for talking about New Year’s celebrations around the world, which in turn brought us to the Chinese New Year and creating our lantern.

I discussed coloring technique with my students, which in this project is coloring solidly, but LIGHTLY! The idea was to mimic the soft watercolor work of Chinese art. They drew their compositions in pencil first, which they outlined in colored pencil, then softly filled in the interior. As always, some are more successful than others.


After they created their colored pencil drawing, they laid a template I made from poster board over the top. The template was a little smaller than the drawing and has the four panels separated by notches (see picture below). Students used a ruler to draw light pencil lines to separate the panels.


Students handed the drawing over to me for folding and assembly because this really requires a hot glue gun.


The top and bottom of the lantern is a seven inch square of black construction paper. I used a pointed tool to poke a hole in the center of each square and pushed the yarn through the hole and hot glued it on the underside. The folded rectangle is hot glued to the squares to complete the lantern.

DSC09233 DSC09234

While I was assembling and gluing and burning myself about fifty times, the students were coming up with their riddle, which is attached to the bottom of the lantern.

Acres of Lanterns in Production

We displayed these at open house and they were a big hit. Congratulations to my creative 5th grade artists.