16 student works are featured at the Hoover Library this month!


3rd & 4th grade shots of working with tangrams & perceptual puzzles

For the entire month of December, all K-5 classes have been working with tangrams (try out your skills at http://pbskids.org/sagwa/games/tangrams/index.html) and other perceptual puzzles. This was a change in direction of my plans for all of my classes… The decision came after collaborating with the 1st grade teachers. They are working on quilts, with math as the content area, and thought it would be great to do a special project with each of their classes tying it the math concepts to art concepts. I thought it was a great idea and began working with model magic with one of the first grade classes. Each student was to create a quilt pattern – one they had each colored on many worksheets in their classroom. I quickly realized that they were incapable of reproducing the basics of each square and/or the shapes and patterns that could be created within each square. This led me to try out simply drawing/reproducing various quilt patterns with EVERY grade level… the results rather alarmed me. Basically it’s easy for them to color in a pattern on a copied sheet of paper, but to create their own – whether in 2D or 3D form – most students struggled. After speaking with many of my colleagues & gathering their wisdom & materials, I decided to introduce tangrams & other perceptual puzzles to the kids. The kids absolutely love them and I’m glad I took this route… I learned something in the process too – about what helps kids think & perceive – and that even I, the art teacher, struggled to make the square with the 7 tangram pieces!

So this is my 3rd year at this elementary school and I’ve finally gotten to the point where my kids know what I expect from them & they know their art vocabulary. This lesson’s vocab included words like blending, horizon line,  and background… it’s great to NOT have to explain what I mean to these kids on those particular words & that leaves more time for them to work on their projects! Sweet! Anyhoo, we discussed blending on the pumpkin – I demonstrated – and then they were on their own. It was up to them where their pumpkins would be placed – pumpkin patch, kitchen counter, sidewalk, yard, etc. This was a one day project… I loved the results – they were all so different – which is why I teach art and not math! 🙂


Wow. I’m old. Sesame Street just celebrated its 40th and I did in October… Sesame Street is something almost all of my students can relate to, and it’s also something the adults can relate to… so I figured I’d do an entire K-5 Pop Art style project (Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, etc.). We are in the throes of working on our art work in the classroom BUT I’m happy to post pictures of our faculty’s favorite characters & their drawings. The smiles I’ve seen from adults and children working on this project are awesome – good memories for a lot of us young and old.

Day 1 we tempera painted a simple background of a road with the sky coming down to the horizon line (vocab word!).

Day 2 we made our school bases after looking at a photograph of a real school bus and breaking it down into the simplest shapes. The kids then cut their buses out and we’ll glue them to the background.

First time I’ve done this lesson – I’m diggin’ the school buses.


This year, our schedule has afforded us the opportunity to have time to work with the K-5 classroom teachers in a much more meaningful way – for our students, and for us – by collaborating. The concept of integration is old, but valuable… students grasp concepts with more mental strength and longevity when the gaps are bridged from the classroom to art & music rooms. The fact that we’re confined to 4 cinder block walls to gain an even more meaningful experience is a different topic for a different day… ANYHOO, I’ve got many projects of collaborative teaching on the block with one completed. I worked with a 5th grade teacher and her students on a Civil Rights project. We met, talked, and discussed at length an idea that would provide the students an opportunity to create something provocative – something others would take notice of…  Last year, I’d done a project with some 5th grade students using digital photography and PowerPoint – based on Barbara Kruger’s works. That lesson went so well and provided such feedback that I thought this would be a great way to have the students deliver THEIR message of civil rights… I went into their classroom with a PowerPoint of appropriate Kruger images and we discussed the meaning behind the words, the use of black & white to create a stark, simple message, etc. The kids and their teacher had different interpretations (I love art!) for each of the images – and it was making them THINK! After the lesson, we talked about how they could use Kruger’s art as inspiration for their own messages and art works. After I left, the classroom teacher did the whole art lesson with her students – Mrs. Fox is an artist herself and excellent with technology, so it was no problem for her to carry the rest of the lesson out as prime facilitator. Click here to see all of the results of this collaborative effort: http://mfox.wiki.hoover.k12.al.us/



I’m not going to lie, educational videos are usually the most boring clips of information on the planet. Every once in awhile though, a speaker who understands that education doesn’t have to be boring to be interesting and fun comes along – and then they spice it up with the arts. This clip I’ve watched about 6 times now… powerful, and in my humble opinion, the hard, cold truth about our educational system.

First – Happy Veterans Day! Thanks to all who are serving or have served our country. I have past and current family members who are honored on this day.

ed emberly

I’ve been BAD about updating this blog (and therefore my lessons) for awhile…  I won’t bore anyone reading this with excuses but will write that I’m doing a variety of lessons with all grade levels. As someone who gets bored easily, I have to mix up my lessons with the kiddos – all 36 classes of them. If I’m teaching a particular concept with one grade level, I simply cannot do it 6 times over with the same theme or subject matter. Only one thing makes me break with this pattern – and that’s when my kids forget some of the basic principles of art that I KNOW I’ve taught – preached it like a mantra as a matter of fact. One of those things is a secret that some artists/teachers never share (they didn’t share it with me for sure), and it can provide a framework for ANYONE to have the capacity to DRAW OR PAINT ANYTHING!!! The secret is this – almost everything is comprised of lines and shapes. Instead of perceiving an object as a complete entity, simply break it down into basic shapes and lines – and you can draw it or paint it. Period. Details come last. It is very, very hard for kids to grasp this concept as they are concrete thinkers during their elementary years – so no matter how I say it, teach it, it’s still lost on them from week to week. Last Tuesday I had a come apart because I asked two of my 5th grade classes to draw leaves I’d gathered and one of the classes absolutely FAILED, which means I’d failed as a teacher. They forgot, again, to break the leaves down to simple lines and shapes. Furthermore, I WELCOME mistakes – that’s how we learn!! Instead of attempts to draw realistic leaves, I got a bunch of ovals with square stems and veins that look like a math grid – AHHHHHHH!!!! After that class, I went directly to the library and checked out every single drawing book on their shelves and added my own drawing books until each table in my room was covered with a pile of ’em. Quite simply, drawing books show us those very same basic shapes and lines that can be used to draw/paint almost anything. For the past week, and I’m thinking of adding another one, I have taught this same concept to 36 classes – again. The sad truth is, I can’t permanently sear this information on their forming brains seeing them only once a week, and therefore it must be repeated, and often.

I discovered this profound truth in basic shapes and lines as a child. Growing up in the 70s, we didn’t have as much to divert our attentions as kids today do. My mom kicked us out of the house – and most of the time, that was great with us – until dusk. We played games, rode our big wheels, and really LOOKED at our environments – bugs, moss, trees, etc. When it rained, we were stuck inside and often took to drawing. We had books that we used until the spines cracked and the pages were worn and torn. Most of them were by Ed Emberly, and I owe my understanding of how to draw to him – not to any adult, teacher or otherwise. And (yes, I just started a sentence with AND) that is why I will use him in my art room today – along with a slew (sp?!) of other authors/illustrators…  My hope is that if some kids don’t get my mantra, then maybe a few of them will pick up the concept from those books – just like I did. Props to Ed – you rock.


As mentioned in a previous posts, we used space as our theme for these super cool works of art – it is also a part of their curriculum. We started by sketching works on manila paper, then tracing them, then using the tracing paper on the backs of the heavyweight foil. Once completed with the foil, we used a wash of india ink on the top of each outer space work. The works turned out waaaay cool!

As mentioned in a previous posts, we used insects as our theme for these super cool works of art. We started by sketching works on manila paper, then tracing them, then using the tracing paper on the backs of the heavyweight foil. Once completed with the foil, we used a wash of india ink on the top of each insect work. The kids did a fantastic job!


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