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The week before vacation and all through my class, students… have been making Artist Trading Cards!

The week before vacation is usually unpredictable. Some students go on vacation early, or, during this time of year, students are often absent because they’re sick. Because of this, I put most projects on “hold” and started calling this week “ATC week.” (Kindergartners and first graders worked on completing unfinished work so that they can have more 1:1 help and so that we can start new projects when we get back from the break. When kindergartners and 1st graders were finished with all their unfinished work, they had the option of drawing in their sketchbook, or making a “free choice” collage or painting.)

When my second, third and fourth graders came to class, I told them the plan and showed them my ATC Idea Binder. It has samples of cards organized by media–drawing, collage, painting and mixed-media. We spent five minutes looking through the binder and discussing, “What makes a good ATC?”

Then students got to choose where to sit based on media. I had students “vote” what material they were most interested in using (by raising their hand) and then set up the stations based on popularity. In some classes, drawing was most popular, in others collage or painting was more popular, and in some it was split pretty evenly.

Students enjoyed the freedom of choosing their seats and materials, moving from station to station, and working with other students in the class. It was a great way to transition into break and I’m so proud with the ownership students took over coming up with and implementing their own ideas. Check out some of the results…

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I recently posted about Positive Behavior Stickers. As a follow up to that post, I wanted to share another way that I’ve used Avery label stickers. A few weeks ago, I taught a mini-ATC Zentangle lesson to my 3rd graders. I like to do “mini-ATC lessons” in between longer, multi-week projects.

To start the lesson, I introduced the word zen and explained that it is a form of meditation. I told students that sometimes when they create art they might feel “zen” when they are really focused and in the moment of what they are doing. Sometimes they might even forget about everything else around them!

I challenged students to create a Zentangle ATC by creating an intricate doodle inspired by the “Doodle & Noodle” challenge in the book Keys to Drawing with Imagination, by Bert Dodson and zentangle examples that I found on Pinterest. Students used pencils, thin and thick Sharpies and other drawing materials to add color. One of my classes got so into it that I started pointing out “Super Zen” students (students who were super quiet and super focused on their work).

Because so many students were so focused while they were working, I decided to acknowledge them with “Super Zen” stickers. I quickly made a page of Avery labels (it’s easy to copy and paste the text), printed them out and rewarded students with a sticker. One student even found a great spot to put her sticker so that her shirt read “Totally Super Zen Awesome.” ūüôā

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This year, I’m introducing ATCs to 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. I’m starting the year by giving students a couple of assignments. My hope is that these assignments will encourage¬†them experiment more throughout the year and make cards that are more thoughtful and “complete” when they are given choice¬†time.

2nd Graders: Oops! Card

For this lesson, I read the book¬†Beautiful Oops!, by Barney Saltzberg. I talked with students about what choices an artist has when he/she makes a “mistake.” Next, I showed students a few Daily Monster videos and challenged them to turn an “oops” into something new… something scary, or friendly, or beautiful, or funny, or… just about anything they could think of! Students¬†started by transforming their oops with pencil and tracing with Sharpie. Then, they added a background and colored in their ATC.

3rd Graders: Sky Color

For this lesson, I read the book¬†Sky Color, by Peter Reynolds. We discussed that the sky is not always blue and then I demonstrated a few watercolor techniques… painting wet on wet, wax/oil watercolor resist, sprinkling salt, and blotting with a sponge brush, q-tip, paper towel, or bubble wrap. Then students set to work creating an ATC of a type of weather or time of day.

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4th Graders: Abstract Dot Composition

For this lesson, I read the book¬†The Dot, by Peter Reynolds and discussed how students might “make their mark.” After showing abstract spot and dot artworks by Wassily Kandinsky and Yayoi Kusama,¬†students were challenged to create an abstract composition made entirely of dots. Students could choose to use Sharpies, markers, crayons, watercolors, or a combination¬†of materials. **For this lesson, I also showed examples of this lesson from Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artists.

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7th and 8th graders were challenged to design an Artist Trading Card for each of the 7 elements of art and principles of design. Each card has the definition of the word it illustrates glued to the back of it. The goal was to see how much students knew/remembered about the elements and principles and to let them experiment with different art materials.