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As a follow up on my recent post, Managing Materials: Watercolors, I wanted to share one way I use up old watercolors in my room… by making painted paper!

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When watercolors run low, I replace them, but usually there is a little bit of paint left over in the paint pans. So I use them up and create “painted paper” that students can then use when they make collages or ATCs.

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I keep a box of “throw away” drawings… those “mostly-empty-pieces-of-paper-that-a-kid-spends-10-minutes-drawing-on-and-then-insists-that-it’s-“bad”-and-that-they-need-a-new-paper” drawings. The ones that usually end up in the garbage/recycling bin. I am usually able to convince students to erase a “mistake,” turn it into something new, or use the back of the page. But, sometimes the student has already tried alternatives and is getting frustrated because nothing seems to be working. Sometimes I agree with the student–sometimes it’s better to start fresh. So I keep the unfinished papers and put them in a box. I also add my incomplete teacher samples (I teach 5 sections of each grade level, so some times I end up with A LOT of teacher samples) and work that gets left behind at the end of the year (or work that gets left behind when a student moves and forgets to tell me).

Then I color all of the white parts of the page (using crayon, oil pastels, texture plates, and those almost-empty watercolors). After I have a bunch of painted papers, I cut them up into smaller pieces and add them to the “painted paper” box.

It is so gratifying when students reuse those almost-thrown-out pieces of paper and create something complete new with them.

How to you reuse/repurpose materials in the art room? What creative solutions do you have for managing supplies and minimizing costs?

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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.” 🙂

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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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