Tag Archives: Stretch & Explore

This year, I want to give first graders a few more sketchbook assignments so that they can learn different ways to use their sketchbook. For this lesson, I read the book Ten Black Dots, by Donald Crews. The book shows various ideas for transforming a dot into something different. After reading the book, first graders sketched what they wanted to turn a dot (or many dots!) into.

Next, students used their sketch as inspiration for a collage. After making a plan in their sketchbook, students used paper to create the shapes they saw in their sketch.


I really liked taking Making Faces with Lynn Whippe. The two week format was a lot to absorb, so I’m planning to rewatch the videos over the summer and make some more faces in order to focus in on how to use some of these ideas with students next year. I do know that I will definitely be teaching one or two Portrait ATC assignments inspired by this course! Stay tuned. ūüôā


I have enjoyed many of the Making Faces prompts so far. They are introducing me to new ways of sequencing steps. Lesson three is called “Facing Backwards” and provides multiple prompts for creating backgrounds and layering faces on top of them. Lesson four is all about collaging. Some of these are made by cutting up and rearranging other portraits that I didn’t like as much. I’m really excited to try something similar with some of my classes next year. I’m not sure if all of these are “done” yet, but I’ve really enjoyed the process so far which is the whole point. ūüôā


Making Faces has begun! The course is only two weeks long, and I signed up a few days after the start date, so I’ve been playing a bit of catchup with the assignments.


I’m currently teaching two self-portrait lessons–one with second graders and one with third graders. After watching the course description video, I realized that my portrait lessons often focus on self-portraits and I began to question why that is. Yes, self-portrait assignments are great for developing observation skills, practicing mixing tans, browns and beige skin tones and personal expression. But I’d also like to mix it up a bit.


Each of the six lessons in this course is presented as a 20-25 minute video. Lynn provides multiple prompts for “warming up” and encourages being playful and experimental throughout the process. Below are a few images from lessons 1-3. ūüôā




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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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.


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.



The 8th graders created a stencil of someone important to them. I got a grant to buy spray paint from the  PTO and Blick happened to have a buy 5, get 1 free sale on Montana Black spray paint. It comes in a lot of different colors. I printed out some tips from this instructables lesson and reviewed them while I demonstrated how to use the spray paint. Then students practiced using spray paint to print their image. They also wore dentist-like masks to keep the fumes out (not pictured.)


Next, they’ll create a background and then create a final print by layering their stencil on top.


Before giving students “real clay,” I like to have them practice pinching, rolling and pressing using modeling clay. Kindergarteners came up with a lot of great ways to¬†build and made animals, plants, bridges, and many other sculptures. W in KN came up with this delicious idea!

IMG_9783After working on observational leaf paintings for a few weeks, I wanted students to have a different painting experience. For this lesson, students created abstract paintings while listening to music. The goal was to “try and translate the song–the sounds you hear, speeds you feel, and emotions you experience–into lines, shapes, and colors.” I played four different instrumental songs and encouraged students to think about different ways¬†they could use their paint and brushes to describe the sounds.

Here are some of their reflections :

Which song was your favorite? Why did you like it best?

E: “The second song because [the painting I made of it] is very colorful and has wavy lines”.

N: “The third song because mine looks like a rainbow monster. The song sounded very colorful.”

T: “The fourth song because I put more dots [in my painting] because I thought it matched the sounds in the song.”

What did you like about making these paintings?

J: “It was fun because one of the songs was electric music and I was thinking about a humongous blue lightning explosion.”

E: “I liked that you get to do the pictures in your unique way.”

M: “For the first song, I thought it was really slow so I let my brush do it’s own thing.”

G: “That you could make them weird and use different colors that you probably wouldn‚Äôt always use.”

B: “With both art and music you can translate the notes into colors, shapes, and flavors. Like ‘That note is‚Ķ definitely this color or this flavor.’ The third song I thought about it as flavors and I was able to translate [the sound] into a deep purple.”

R: “I liked that none of the songs started out the way that they ended. Some started out slow and then went fast. You got different pieces and could use different types of paints [to make the different sounds.]”

C: “I liked that we were more free‚Ķ listening to the music and trying to turn it into colors seemed more creative.”

L: “We had a lot of freedom finding out what colors the song would be.”

What was difficult about this process?

A: “It was hard not to turn things into pictures because some kids who like to run might want to turn [a song] into somebody running. One of the songs reminded me of the beach and I wanted to paint the beach.”

M: “Trying to paint the one that had words.”

A: “It was hard choosing the colors because you don‚Äôt always know what color to make something.”

T: “The fourth song was really hard because all the colors that I put looked really messy. So then I used the end of the brush (the pointy part) and scraped it and then it looked like a huge rainbow underneath.”

O: “Not drawing things that I know. In the fourth song I really wanted to paint a person.”

F: “For different sounds in the songs, you had to match the color. For the last one it was hard to find the color to fit. The second one was easy to find the color because it was very fast, but the fourth one was harder.”