Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sketchbook Update

I love using the sketchbooks!  Today I decided to try having them out while I'm introducing a lesson and asking the kiddos to take notes.  EVEN THE SECOND GRADERS DID IT!  First grade did, too, but not to the extent of the older ones, of course, since the littles are still learning to write.  But hey, now I am helping to improve LITERACY!  Woohoo!!

As I was going through my slide show, I wrote on the board a few very simple notes about our topic, and I had them copy down the objectives for the project too.  (In our district, we call objectives "I CAN Statements.")  So for my Keith Haring  project, the I CAN statements were:  I CAN make patterns using lines.  I CAN show MOVEMENT in my art.  I CAN talk about the artist Keith Haring. 

I made sure the kids knew how to "Draw with Good Purpose."  This is derivative of the Quantum Learning Key of Excellence about Speaking with good purpose, i.e. not interrupting, using kind words, staying on topic, etc.  So drawing with good purpose means not wasting paper, using it for practice and kind things.  I really emphasised using ALL the space on a page, even if you had to turn it sideways.  I showed examples of lots of sketchbooks from many artists, including Leonardo DaVinci.  So we had a good long discussion about how to use the sketchbooks.  THEY ARE NOT BOOKS FOR FREE DRAW.  My oh my.

Look what they did!

I'm so proud!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Yes.  You read that right.  Paint.  It has chocolate in it.  It smells like chocolate.  It looks like chocolate, and it has a cool texture when it dries.

I am so excited, y'all.  As I walked into the hallway last week, I smelled something delightful and fruity.  I asked my Kindergarten neighbors what the scent was, and they showed me the strawberries they were painting, using strawberry jello and red tempera paint.  They had the texture of strawberries and they smelled divine.  The kids were having such a great time, I decided to experiment for my yummy cupcake lesson....

To make the chocolate scented texture paint, I added a little bit of jell-o pudding powder to brown tempera paint.  I stirred it up and saved it in a baby food jar.  It sat all weekend in the jar and hasn't dried up or gotten smelly.  (Except for smelling like delicious pudding!  *drool*)  I would probably recommend using sugar free jell-o to avoid getting little visitors in your room, but I don't know how that would affect the texture.  The white spots on my test paper are vanilla pudding and white tempera.  They didn't smell like vanilla until they dried, so I considered the chocolate more successful.
Anyhow, I am planning to do my Cupcake Lesson on Wayne Thiebaud very soon, and I wanted to add another fun element to the paint.  Last year I had puffy paint made with shaving cream which we used for icing.  So I think this year I'll have them make the cupcake bottoms with the jello paint, and add the puffy icing for two different textures. 
Here is the paint in the jar so you can see the texture when it is wet.  I am thinking later on when we make texture/value collage papers, I will use a little scented paint!  Hooray for JELL-O!
UPDATE:  (December 2012)  After trying the chocolate paint method above, I've concluded that since it dries VERY hard, it would work best on thicker paper, or cardstock.  I've since switched to a mixture of shaving cream, elmer's glue, and jello pudding powder for fluffier results.  Also, something about adding the jello to the mixture kept the puffy paint fresh for an extra day.  Previously, the shaving cream/glue puff paint would only last in the ziploc bag for one day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Storage Solutions

This year I am trying something new for storing my students' sketchbooks and portfolios.  I found these mobile drawer units at Wal-Mart for $18 each.  The drawers come all the way out, and they can be taken apart, so I am still playing with how tall I want each unit to be.  I am indulging my OCD and making them all the same color, since there were not enough color options to use my color coding.  My problem is that if I stack them on the floor, I will have to bend up and down all the time to get the folders out.  If I stack them double on the counters, I will have to reach up high and I will inevitably drop entire drawers on my head.  So I have tried to stack them as high as I can stand, and use as little counter space as possible.

This is the kind of math problem that keeps me awake at night.  Luckily, everything pops apart easily.

Do ya like my curtains?  I'm going with blue this year, since it's calming and makes the room seem bigger.  I took a shower curtain rod and hot glued it to the cinder block, and hung fabric shower curtains up!  They are the perfect size for my windows!

Sketchbooks 2.0

I have finally gotten my act together and I've made a sample sketchbook.  This is the type I will be using for Kindergarten and 1st grade.  It's small, and easy to make FOR the kids. 

I just made a plain old little book, with card stock for the cover.  I trimmed the copy paper inside to be 8.5 x 10.5 or thereabouts, just to make sure the cover hung over the edges a little bit.

Our workroom has one of these fascinating devices which I am honestly in love with at the moment.  It's called a saddle stapler.  I'd never heard of it until moments ago.  Apparently you can put the folded book over the arch and staple into the crease without bending the staple!

See it.  Love it.

I think it will be very easy to make a million of these for the littles, and I might even decide to make them for the big kids next year, if all goes well.  Right now the big kids are using their brad-folders with blank paper inside as their sketchbooks.  But I feel like those will be harder to use for drawing, since they won't lay flat.  Ideally, I would like to have all the books spiral bound but I suppose that's dreaming...since I don't have anybody to help me do that, and they would all be huge when we were done.

Even though I love my red Swingline stapler, it isn't really up to this task.

I'll let you know how things go!  My plan is to have all the sketchbooks made by the end of the next class rotation, and have all the kids ready to draw in them ASAP.  I want to start the year with a Zentangle lesson so they will all have some go-to art activity when they finish things or when I have a sub.

Monday, August 13, 2012


So every year I try to refine and perfect things I messed up the year before.  Don't we all?  Last year, due to the sheer numbers of kids I had, some of them never actually got the lovely "art journal" packets I made.  New kids came and went, and every time a new kid showed up, I had to run off another packet.  Our copier is in use all the time, and I never seemed to be able to get in there to get that done.  So my solution is this:  Blank pages!  Yes, instead of art journals with tons of....ok let's face it...they were worksheets...My kids will have a sketchbook.  This is where I'll have them do thumbnail sketches, and when they are finished with the day's work they can choose a sketchbook prompt from the board, or from a list I'll print off.  I anticipated confusion, but when I said the word "sketchbook" today for the first time, there were plenty of positive responses from the kiddos. 

Let it be known, I am not a big fan at all of free draw in my class.  The kids tend to waste paper, and leave a mess, and even rush through the project so that they can draw whatever they want.  That's not ok.  They're supposed to be doing their best work all the time,  right?

I usually take the recycled paper from the workroom and let the kids use the blank side for free draw.  This is what
my free draw center looks like pretty much every day.  Tiki Man is angry.

So I just hole punched a pile of white copier paper and had each kid take 10 pages for now, and put them in the brad folders they were supposed to bring to class.  Today I only had time to give one class a sketchbook prompt.  Some of them sat and thought for a long time about it.  I told them it's ok to write in your sketchbook instead of draw.  It's for saving ideas.  So if they are pictures or words, it doesn't matter.  Studies have shown that working consistently in a sketchbook can help improve literacy.  Seriously.  That's what I read.  Somewhere.  I wish I could link you. 

Now I need a nice, organized way to store them.  I had been using colored file boxes, but they are really too small and tore up easily.  I need some rubbermaids, or maybe a shelf system.  If you use sketchbooks with elementary kids, what do you do?  Do you give prompts, or let them just draw and collage freely?  I'd really like to know.  This is something I hope I can be consistently utilizing rather than free draw or busywork.

Have a great start to the year!