CD Weavings


Just a quick photo of our fourth grade weavings.  I had been given (and kept!) many old CD’s.  This was the perfect lesson for them.  I used a lesson based on one from sallgood’s Make It… a Wonderful Life blog.  She has a wonderful tutorial.  Here is our version.

Students who finished early learned to sew beads onto the weaving to give it more textural interest.

Enjoy these weavings from Mila, Zoe and my demo.


Carousel Creations










Fourth grade students designed, painted and created carousel animals (or in some cases, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds or fish).  We looked at folk art as our  inspiration, studying hand carved examples.  Particular deatil was paid to adding a fancy saddle.  Sometimes it was difficult to find a way for a particular animal to wear a saddle, like a hammerhead shark, but students used their creative problem solving brains to figure it out!  In addition to painting and cutting out, students embellished thier carousel animals with metallic paints and sequins and rhinestones.

Enjoy Maggie’s giraffe and Tyler’s Chicken.

A Stroke of Genius

My fourth graders study brush strokes as a part of the curriculum. It used to be a difficult concept for me to teach, but this lesson has helped create painters out of my students. Art teachers often teach painting with color theory, but few teach the application of paint to a surface. Without learning a painterly technique, students tend to draw with paint, using lollipop shapes and colors with black outline edges.

The process to create the paintings is simple: use a primary color as a center “dot” (for example red). Create a painting around that spot, using the complementary color. Mix various colors, including black and white, with that complement. Last, students paint with a short brushstroke, no longer than a thumb. Our technique: press the brush with paint to the paper and lift it. This is important because students were used to drawing (and painting) lines. Students were encouraged to bring wider, bigger brushes from home; some smart, lazy students loved this!

To help students remember the sets of complementary colors, we call them Christmas colors – red and green, Bronco colors – blue and orange (this IS Colorado!) and Easter colors – purple and yellow.

We discussed that each person’s brushstroke is like a unique fingerprint and looked at many artist’s paintings, such as Van Gogh’s and Monet’s. Students learned color theory, painting skills, and insight into the brushstroke techniques of the Impressionists. It was a painterly experience!

Immense Insects

Guess I should qualify “immense” to mean the insect, not the size of the paper.

Fourth Graders studied the work of Georgia O’Keefe and learned vocabulary words such as magnification, organic forms, and composition. We knew that Georgia painted close up flowers but we choose insects for our subject matter. Of course the boys loved this turn of events, but the girls surprisingly loved their bugs too!

Students were required to draw their bug touching the sides of the paper and/or going off the edges of the paper completely. Many students soon understood that the more they zoomed in on their insect the more abstract yet interesting their painting became. Paintings were first drawn in pencil, retraced in black Sharpie and finally painted with semi moist watercolor paint.

What sort of lesson have you taught using Georgia O’Keefe as a starting off point? Have you made insect themed art?

A is for Art!

These whimsical highlighter letters are a fun color lesson.  I teach this to grade 4’s.  We gridded out the actual letters – this was the hard part.   Gotta love it when kids come to art class and complain about having to “use their math brains”.

After students draw the letters on grid paper and transfer them to cardstock, we create sections by using different line type.  Then we outline with a sharpie and begin to add color with pick, yellow and blue highlighters (the primary colors!)  Next, we layer colors on top – creating secondary colors as we go, orange, green and purple.  The last step is adding whimsical lines that go around and through the letter.  These are gorgeous and a fun way to use highlighters.

Native American Adobe Houses

My Fourth Graders made these fabulous adobe houses. They began by learning about the clay pueblo houses of the Southwest Indians and viewed several examples of this unique style of achitecture. Then they  drew and cut out a design to be replicated in clay.

Supplies:  Red body clay or brown clay with grog added for texture, student drawings of puebloes, needle tooles or tapestry needles, rolling pins, wood plugs (for the vigas), bamboo skewers (for ladders), and weavings that students created.


Pueblo,  Adobe, Viga,  Ceramic,  Slab, Weaving,  Warp,  Weft


1.Each student was given a ball of clay and rolled a slab with a rolling pin.

2.They then placed the adobe template they had drawn and cut out on top of the clay and cut it out ofthe clay using a neddle tool.  (As an alternitive, use a tapestry needle)

3.  These were placed on shelves to air dry before firing in the kiln.

4.  Viga’s (the wooden timbers supporting the structure) were added by gluing the wood plugs onto the fired pieces.

5.  Weavings (done before this lesson) were also glued onto ladders made from bamboo skewers and glued onto the adobe houses to create a finished piece of art.

This was a lesson that was sucessful for all students and became a favorite of many.  They were displayed by gluing a pop tab onto the back with a silicone glue as a “picture hanger”.

Prehistoric Lascaux-style Cave Paintings


Sometimes the simplest of projects can turn out to be the most stunning and successful. My students not only loved making these cave paintings; they also learned a lot about the artwork sounds int the Lascaux caves and surface decoration.
The most famous and outstanding examples of prehistoric art made nearly 20,000 years ago were discovered by accident. The caves at Lascaux in Southern France were found in 1941 by two young boys playing in a field. Their dog disappeared down a hole to chase a ball, and when the boys heard the dog barking below, they followed him down into the caves. The lighted matches they used to guide their way revealed extraordinary drawings of animals. These astonishingly sophisticated examples of man’s earliest art have been studied by scientists and artists since their discovery. For a number of years the caves were open to visitors and tourists, but have been closed since 1963 to protect the art from disintegration and destruction. In this lesson, elementary students learn the rich history of prehistoric art and create their own “cave paintings.”
Before creating, I talked to students about creating their own “cave art.” We looked at examples and talked about the technique and the process.
Anthropology — the study of the history of human beings including their cultural history
Ceramics — the art of making objects of clay which are hardened by firing at a high temperature in a kiln
Composition — the organization of a work of art
Fire — a term used in ceramics; to heat the clay in a kiln at a very high temperature until it is dry and hard and becomes pottery
Kiln — an oven or furnace that reaches very high temperatures (2000°F to 2300°F) and is used for drying, firing, and glazing ceramic ware
Prehistoric — relating to the time before written history
Slab — a rolled out piece of clay of a certain thickness
Template — a positive pattern
Trace — to copy a drawing onto another surface by following the lines of the original drawing
Underglaze — a special type of color that is usually put on a ceramic piece before the glaze. It has no flux (glass former) in it so it stays where it is put when fired and is good for detail work. It is used for paint ing and decorating ceramic pieces.
Red body clay or stoneware clay with grog
Assorted AMACO® Liquid Underglaze Decorating Colors
Assorted AMACO® Velvet Underglazes (Velvets are available in 16 oz. and 2 oz. jars and in sets)
Small brushes for outlining
Paper towels
Card Stock (9″ x 12″)
Pencils and erasers
Bowls of water
Rolling pins
1. The students each got a handful of red clay and rolled a slab (one of the techniques of hand-building)
2.   The students had already drawn an animal that might have been seen in prehistoric times on a piece of cardstock and carefully cut it out.  This was placed on the clay slab so that students could cut out a random shape that looked like broken rock.

3.   The surface decoration – painting – can be done directly on the wet clay.  Underglazes in rock tones (white, gray, brown) were sponged around the edges of the template and out to the edges of the clay.
4. The template was removed and details were added with a thin brush and black underglaze.
5.  Finished pieces were put on a cart to air dry before a trip to the kiln. The cave paintings were fired, but left unglazed to simulate a rough rock like surface.
Kids really loved doing this project and learned about art history, as well.  They were surprised to find that the Icemen were quite talented and drew and painted animals that are worthy of being hung the Louvre Museum!

This lesson was loosely based on a lesson by Allyson Santner, elementary school art teacher in Brownsburg, Indiana.