Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning Centers for Visual Art #1

As teachers, we are really good at maximizing students' independent learning times by setting out guided learning centers where they can further extend their understanding by consolidating skills or as provocations for exploring new concepts.

By including visual art and craft in our centers, we can help students develop their creativity, problem solving, perseverance and fine motor skills.

I have written 2 resources of Art Learning Center ideas that you can use to support this curriculum area in your classroom.

Set 1 contains ideas about:
* Colouring/Coloring
* Play-dough sculpture
* Pipe-cleaner sculpture
* Drawing guides
* Stencils

Set 2 contains ideas about:
* Chalk board
* Art puzzles
* Cartooning
* Lettering
* Still life
* Weaving

The 2 resources contain all labels and information for setting up these centers and it is recommended that the activities are rotated regularly to keep it fresh.

They are available internationally as digital downloads from:

In New Zealand they are also available as a combined set mailed out on CD from:

Some further resources to help you set up and get started, can be accessed on my Pinterest boards below:

I hope you find these resources useful too !

Thank you for visiting,

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Independent Reading with Purpose

As soon as my students start reading their self selected chapter books for independent reading, It is no longer possible to set book specific comprehension activities . We still want to help them think about what they were reading and to read with purpose. So I made a set of Reader Response Stems based on the same comprehension strategies that I use with them in shared/teacher directed reading sessions.

These Reader Response Stems can be used by the students for any book that they are reading. It can be matched to the strategy you are covering with the class at the time. You could used it for independent practice once you have finished teaching a specific strategy to your class and use it as an assessment tool to see if they are using that strategy fluently or whether they may need some more direct teaching on it.

The 11 strategies covered in the set include:
  • making connections
  • asking questions
  • visualising (making mental pictures)
  • inferring (predicting)
  • summarising
  • synthesising
  • author's message
  • evaluating
  • setting (time and place)
  • characters
  • language

and suit students from ages 9 and older.
You can get your very own copy which includes both a UK and USA spelling set (simply delete the one you don't need from the PDF)
by clicking here (TPT) or here (TNB).

Thank you for visiting,

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Beautiful Oops! - celebrating mistakes

Today I would like to share about celebrating our mistakes and those of our students
While we may give lip service to this notion regularly, unless we tangibly show evidence of the value derived from making mistakes, our students simply won’t believe us.
Mistakes are crucial to discovery and can be doorways to new adventures.

I have shared this book - The Beautiful Oops - with my students this year, as a jumping-off point for discussions around this very topic.

Lets meet the Author:

I consider these first 2 artworks to be exquisitely beautiful. The objective here was to work on painting accuracy by laying down different colours inside each concentric circle track. Even though these students are still developing their skills for painting accurately, the accidental of colour blending along the way meant that they learnt about the medium they were using and also about a new technique in the process. Moments of significant discoveries, at their individual developmental stages. A trophy of new learning - if you will.
For me its these happy accidents that make each student's work unique.
Student aged 4-5

Student aged 4-5

In the next 2 samples, these previous discoveries about blendign with liquid paint/dye are now applied and used with purpose, this time being valued as THE focus of the work.

Student aged 6

Student aged 7

This Y4 sample shows further development of the technique - now being used for a specific sunset effect, forming a layer in the work that enhances the content, other techniques and media.

Student aged 8

My final reference to the book today are these 2 images showing how students can turn trash into treasure. A collaborative Y3 group uses paper off-cuts for creating a coral reef for their fish,
while Y1 students took great delight selecting just the right strip of guillotine trimmings for their weaving.

I leave you with this thought - The past is where you make your mistakes and the future is where you apply the lessons learnt from them.

Happy discovering everybody :)

Thank you for visiting,

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Colour Splash Wall Poster

When I started at my current school, I had to remake a lot of my wall displays that related to the second language my school offered. While my previous school offered Spanish, my current school offers Chinese.

And of course an art room needs colour names up on the wall. I made 3 different sets:
1) Maori - English - Chinese
2) Maori - English
3) Chinese - English

I use the first set in my room but figured the other options might suit your particular circumstances. If you have a different requirement or need extra colours, and would like me to make/extend a set for you, please post me a message below.

You can print them full size for your walls.

Here I printed them 4 to a page and used them to label my crayon containers.

Hope you find them useful too

Thank you for visiting,

Percolator App - iPad

A fun iPad app I used on some of my students Kandinsky Circles is called Percolator. Here are some of their paintings  - percolated :)

Such fun!
You can read more about this app here.

And if you would like to enlarge these to poster sizes of your choice, try a website called Rasterbator here

They look great decorating your walls and hallways.

Thank you for visiting,

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kandinsky Circle Paintings

Vassily Kandinsky's work has always fascinated me. How a seemingly random arrangements of abstract shapes and varied colours can look so interesting, fascinating and even beautiful. He has intrigued me for a long time, I even painted one of his least known paintings while attending university (many years ago) .
It wasn't until recently that I found out why.
Did you know he had a condition called called Synaesthesia? For Kandinsky, musical notes elicited certain colour pairings and he used this ability to try and capture on canvas, the visual equivalent of a symphony - WOW!

In my research for suitable art lesson stimuli, I came across many school art lessons that pay respect to this great artist and I started to wonder how I could incorporate him into lessons for my 4-6 year olds (Y1 and Y3).
Our completed murals - Y1 on the left and Y3 on the right. Next time I think I'll call it Kandinsky's Quilt :)

Again I cut water grade paper to A6 size (14.8cm x 10.5cm)
For my Y1 students I provided: wax crayons and liquid dye (or liquid water colour)
For my Y3 students I provided: wax crayons and tempera block paint

liquid dye - the students rotated around the table using the colours of their choice

The Y1's were required to draw concentric circles increasing outwards to the edge of the paper, aiming for a 2 finger gap between each circle.
The tempera blocks with the teacher model

The Y3's started with 3 dots randomly placed on the paper and then drawing the concentric circles and overlapping these as they went.

After learning about Kandinsky during our theory lesson, the Y1 students painted their rings with liquid dye colours of their choice while the Y3 students used the tempera blocks and aimed to change colour for every shape, resulting in a stained glass effect.

Put together the individual pieces made for a stunning mural in the Art Space.
I was able to observe and support/correct paintbrush grips and techniques, and students could use this small activity as skill practice for painting accuracy. It was also a perfectly manageable way to train students for wet work procedures in my room - using, managing, sharing resources, setting aside to dry and cleaning up.
Also - what to do if something went wrong. One student found that his adjoining colours ran together when he used too much, creating a new colour. I was curious what he would do/feel about this, having just shared the story - 'the beautiful oops' with the class. When he pointed it out I said: "wow - lucky you. You've made a beautiful oop!"
He grinned ear to ear and proudly continued on in a positive mindset on his journey of discovery.

Here are a few individual pieces:

I would love to know how you have explored Kandinsky with your students? Post a link below if you have made or seen a post about it :)

Thank you for visiting,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Whole School Art Mural - Mini Me

So I wanted to try an idea I came across on Pinterest that I could do with every class as a warm up to the term and end up with a mural by the end of the year that represented every child that I had taught.
This image is the first 2 grade levels on display, please excuse the wobble - its a pano shot from my iphone.

First I cut  wet grade paper to A6 size and by cutting for each class as they were due to arrive, meant I didn't spent hours over the guillotine :)

For variety, I selected a colour scheme for each class at the grade levels (3 per grade) as follows:
- red, orange, yellow
- yellow green blue
- blue, purple red

We used wax crayons and liquid dye (paint) for the medium

I modeled the steps on the board as the children told me what to do next, e.g.
T: "Who can tell me how to start drawing my face?"
S1: "You start with a circle, miss"
S2: "Actually its more like an oval"
T drawing: "Like this?"  .....and so on.

Through this tutorial (that was actually reversed because the students were doing the guiding and I was drawing same as they were) it broke down barriers between new teacher and student very quickly. I could also ascertain at a high level the type of approach students had toward art and how they felt about themselves as artists.

I asked the students to draw straight away with the indelible crayon to:
- get away from the 'it needs to be perfect' mindset
- get students to concentrate on what they were doing
- experience making mistakes and see that it is okay
- use a tool that was thick and cumbersome to work with,
- keep the drawings simple and force students to look carefully at shape, size and position of the elements of the face before drawing them.
In short - to be risk-takers/courageous artists and thinkers (IBO learner attributes).

By the way, I don't like erasers in the classroom but more about that later :)

Once students had 'lightly' followed the tutorial, I asked them to make any modifications that they felt their's needed, then to darken up the lines that they wanted to keep. I also asked them to colour some parts solid and to pattern other parts for individuality, aiming to be different from the people sitting beside them.
Finally they selected a liquid dye colour and gave their mini-me portraits a wash.

Once I have taught all the classes, I will have a huge mural across my ceiling that blends through the colour wheel from red to red:)
Here are some student sample close-ups - ages 4-6  :)

 Thank you for visiting,