Last year, first graders created Recycled Robot Collagraphs. They were so excited about creating the robots, but because they had to go through the printing press, there were limitations about what they could and couldn’t add onto their projects.

Because we are in a temporary building, we have not been able to use clay the past two years, so I wanted students to be able to build and add more onto their sculptures.

Students started by drawing a sketch of their robot and thinking about what special jobs it would have. Then, they used cardboard and oak tag to create the structure (“bones”) of their robot.

Next, students used paper, foam, gems, wire, pipe cleaners, googely eyes, buttons and other mixed media materials to create the buttons and parts of their robot. Some students began this project with only a couple of classes left before the end of the year, so didn’t get to create a sketch. I felt having a fun, hands on lesson a the end of the year was important, so I let them create without much planning first.

When I teach this lesson in the future, I would definitely do it a little earlier in the year. Students were super excited to create these sculptures, and I think teaching this lesson in mid to late May would take us through the end of the year and be a big hit!



I love giving students choices in class, because I am often inspired by their ideas and use what they create to come up with lesson ideas.

This year, I had a student who earned extra choice with me if he met his behavior goals and earned a certain number of points. He earned this special time a few times this year and on his 3rd or 4th visit with me, he decided he wanted to create a large map of San Fransisco. I was all for it and we began to draw.

A few weeks in, I decided that I wanted to do this lesson with the rest of the second grade for their final project of the year. As inspiration, I showed students a short PowerPoint with a few samples of maps and images of some of the different parts of a map.


I also read the book My Map Book, by Sara Fanelli. Students were prompted to make a map based on a real or imaginary place. I wanted to see what would happen if students could make a map about anything.

They created a sketch and then began working on their final version. The requirements were that each map needed to include a title, pictures or symbols and words (a key or labels).

There was a wide range of responses to this prompt. After looking at student work, I’ve been reflecting on what I would change when I teach this lesson again. Some of the ideas that students came up with were really original and interesting, but some of their final pieces didn’t really look like a map–they didn’t show physical features and wouldn’t help someone navigate the area.


Students enjoyed the freedom to “make what they wanted,” but I think they could learn more in the process. I would definitely do a demonstration of how to draw roads and lakes and make each student create a key. This would guarantee that every students include symbols/pictures in their map. I would also talk more about fonts when creating the title. I checked out a bunch of books from the library, and would tweak the handouts/samples that I printed so students have better resources at their fingertips.


Third grade studies skeletons in science, so this year I asked our PTO to purchase a skeleton for the art room. They said yes and it was delivered this winter. The skeleton sat in a box for a few weeks because I didn’t have the space or time to open it up, but it was fun having the kids guess what was inside. 🙂

First, I taught students about cropping and they created a few thumbnail sketches to choose a composition they were interested in studying. When I originally thought of using the skeleton with third grade, I thought students would draw the entire skeleton, but once it was assembled, I realized that would be too much for them, so I told them to “zoom in” on a part of the skeleton that they thought was interesting. I demoed this on the white board and once I thought students understood what might make an interesting composition, they began sketching. I reminded students that the sketch did not have to have every single detail–it should just give an idea of what part they wanted to focus on and the general shapes they saw.

Once students chose a final composition, they drew a final version onto larger paper.

Then I talked about shading and students began shading their drawings. I told them that they must include at least three different values.


WOW! I was TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY by what students created. While this type of observation drawing was a little hard for some students, most of them ran away with it! They were generally interested in observing the bones and trying to draw them accurately.

In the future, I think I might do this drawing assignment in the fall with older kids closer to Halloween and maybe do a slightly different version with younger students.



Wow!! I have been blown away by this lesson. Last summer I went to the exhibit Spring into Summer with Andy Warhol and Friends! at the Bruce Museum in Connecticut with my mom. When I saw Andy Warhol’s series of Endangered Animal Prints, I knew I wanted to try something similar with my fourth graders this year.

After working abstractly for quite a while, I thought this lesson would be a good way to balance the curriculum because students are challenged to work observationally and experiment with various color combinations and layering.

As I was making a PowerPoint of some examples of Warhol’s prints, I came across this lesson by Mr. Stoller at Thomas Elementary. I used some of his images when presenting this lesson to my students, but gave them more color options and used Pacon Fadeless Paper to print on. I also set out pieces of painted paper for students to use if they wanted a more textured effect. (The prints measure 6″x6.”)

In my intro, I described Warhol’s commission (as described in the above link), defined endangered species, and showed students examples of prints from his series.


I printed out a variety of images of endangered animals ahead of time and students looked through my selection, or asked me to look at the WWF Species Directory and print out a picture of an another animal on the list. They were surprised and curious at the different levels of conservation status–from near threatened and vulnerable to endangered and critically endangered.


After drawing their animal with pencil, students taped their drawing to a square piece of Styrofoam and traced the outline of their animal with a pencil. Then, they lifted up their paper and carved their lines using a carving tool.


Next, students were ready to print layer one. I reviewed how to use the printmaking tools and students got to work. For the first layer of ink, students are limited to one color, but could choose different colors of paper if they wanted to.


After printing at least four copies of the first layer of their animal, students washed off their Styrofoam, dried it and reattached the tape. (Before printing, I had students trace the outline of their tape with a Sharpie so they would know where to attach it.) Students used the same method as above to trace the eyes, nose, mouth, fins, fur or other details of their animal and then carve the lines with pencil.


Then students cut out the outline of their animal and  began printing their second layer of ink.


Some students loved the printing process so much that they printed a third layer of ink to create a background or to change the color of a specific detail of their animal.

The last step was to create a background and/or add details. Students had three options for this step:

  1. oil pastels to add brighter colors;
  2. colored pencils to add fine details;
  3. or collage papers, including tissue paper, painted paper and construction paper.

Below is a sample of students finished prints.


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Left: Kehinde Wiley, Barack Obama, 2018 Right: Amy Sherald, Michelle Obama, 2018

“Beginning with Gilbert Stuart‘s portrait of George Washington, it has been traditional for the President of the United States to have an official portrait taken during his time in office, most commonly an oil painting. This tradition has continued to modern times, although since the adoption of photography as a widely used and reliable technology, the official portrait may also be a photograph (or at least a photograph may be substituted while a painting is being made). Currently, an official oil portrait is commissioned after the presidential term is finished, and takes one or two years to be finished.”

After looking at the official presidential portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, second graders were asked, “In the future, how do you want to be remembered?” Students thought about the things that are important to them and answered this question in a variety of ways. They began by creating a sketch, then transferred their sketch onto larger paper using a pencil. Then they colored in their portrait using crayons, markers or colored pencils. Below are a few examples of process photos.




After practicing making all different types of lines, I challenged kindergarteners to develop strong printmaking and coloring skills by making colorful Mandala Line Prints.

First, k’s reviewed different types of lines and drew them onto a triangle piece of Styrofoam using a magic marker. Next, they carved their lines using a wooden carving tool.

At the beginning of the next class, I demonstrated how to print with the ink. Students watched how to use the rollers to put ink onto the Styrofoam, line up their triangle on their paper (so the long side touched the edge) and then print their design with a clean roller. K’s watched as the ink came off the Styrofoam and onto the paper and learned that each time they wanted to print, they needed to reink their piece of Styrofoam.

After the demo, students who were ready to go began printing. I put out piles of paper on the rug and set up the tables in my room so that there were different ink colors at each table. Students chose which table they wanted to go to to do their printing. Each student printed their triangle into their paper four times.

Each student made two “final prints” so that they could try out different colored inks on different colored papers. If a student didn’t use enough ink or didn’t press hard enough with the roller, their print didn’t show up. When this happened, I had students reink their triangle and try printing on the back of their paper.


The last step was to color in their lines with colored pencils. I talk about choosing colors that are different then their ink color so that their lines “stand out.” Sometimes I hold up their papers from across the room and ask them if they can still see their colors… and sometimes they ask a friend to hold up their work while they walk across the room to check out their work from “far away.” 🙂


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The second grade Not-a-Box sculptures continue to impress me! This is hands-down one of my favorite lessons to teach all year. I usually plan for these to take three classes, but students almost a spend six-seven class periods working on these. Here are just a few of the many amazing sculptures my students created this year.


“This is a playground with a school! There is a slide and it works. It is also in the evening.”

Art Studio
“This is an art studio. There is a little girl standing on the floor. The little girl is me (in my pigtails).”

“This is awesome. This is an art studio.”


Basketball Gym
“This is a basketball gym and a soccer gym. And sometimes an exercise gym. Hope you like it.”

Cottage & Backyard
“I made my not-a-box into a little brick cottage. There is a pool in the corner, a tree in the other corner and the stuff near the tree that is kind of stringy is moss.”

“I made my box into a bunny hole. (The bag on the back has bunnies you can play with.) Mine and C’s connect! Mine is a up close version of her back yard. I got the idea for the pond from N. The mama bunny’s name is Clover because my mom had a bunny named Clover!”


Pokemon Center
“This is about Pokemon. Two people are in the Pokemon Center and they are catching Pokemon and one escaped.”

Headless Nick’s House
“This is Headless Nick’s house. He does not haunt muggles*. He is the ghost of Gryffindor.”

muggles = normal people


“I made a sun and a sky. I made a campfire with wood.”


Wolf in the Forest
“Hi. I’m a wolf. I live in the forest and I eat fish and more food.”


“This is a house with a dog house. And with a garden and flowers. And with people on a trampoline.”


This is a picture of the note I attached to each student’s project. I have begun including notes when I send home 3D work to give parents a little more info about the process behind the artwork.

For a full description of this unit, click here.


We get a lot of snow in Boston–this year we’ve had five snow days!–so I’ve designed a landscape painting unit that incorporates some of the magic of the winter season. For this assignment, students create a “snow globe” landscape painting of a cold or winter landscape (which also allows students to choose a cold place other than Boston).

As inspiration, I show students a slideshow of illustrations and student examples from previous years and ask questions like “What animals do you see when it’s cold?” and “What does the sky look like when it’s cold?”


I also show illustrations from The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats and describe what a horizon line is: a line that separates the ground from the sky. There are a lot of interesting lines used throughout this book!

I also create a “resource station” of picture books, reference books, toy animals and “how-to-draw” handouts for students to use as they work.


After this discussion, students begin composing a cold/winter landscape in their sketchbook. They begin by drawing a horizon line.


Then they add “clues” so that viewers know it’s a cold place, like winter trees, snow, foot prints, winter animals, Christmas lights, wind, etc.


During the next class, students trace a circle tracer onto a piece of watercolor paper and redraw their landscape inside the circle.


After drawing with pencil, students have the option of tracing their lines with Sharpies before coloring their picture with crayons.


On the third or fourth day (depending on the pace of the class), I demonstrate a few different painting techniques that students can use to make a snow effect:


1. Students can draw snowflakes with white crayon or oil pastel and then paint over them with watercolors.


2. Students can paint with watercolors and then sprinkle salt on top.


3. Students can paint with watercolors and then use a q-tip to paint snowflakes on with white acrylic paint.


4. Students can add small dots of glue and then sprinkle glitter over the glue to create snow.


After painting, students cut out their image and then create and attach a base on to the back of their picture to create a snow globe. Lastly, students write a sentence or two to describe their artwork.

A selection of finished paintings is currently on display in the main hallway. 🙂

Below is a  list of books I check out for students to reference during this lesson:

  • The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
  • No Two Alike, by Keith Baker
  • Snow Music, by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • Snowballs, Lois Elhert
  • Face to Face with Polar Bears, Norbert Rosing & Elizabeth Carney
  • Marven of the Great North Woods, Kathryn Lasky
  • Snowboard Twist, Jean Craighead George
  • When Winter Comes, by Nancy Van Laan
  • The Christmas Doll, by Wendy Mathis Parker
  • Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
  • The Fiddler of the Northern Lights, by Natalie Kisey-Warnock
  • The Snowman, Raymond Briggs
  • Penguins, Seymour Simon
  • Nora and the Great Bear, by Ute Krause
  • Blizzard, by John Rocco
  • Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen