Thursday, January 29, 2015

In the Art Room: A Unit on Shape for Kindergarten, Part 1


Hey guys, if you've not entered the UncommonGoods Giveaway yet, scoot yourself over here and do it! The come back for this here post. Thanks!

Hi, y'all! I'm here today to share with you some of the latest kindergarten masterpieces that the wee-est of wee ones have been creating in the art room. Because these lil dudes had never been to art before coming to me, I like to start with the super duper basics. Like the elements of art! Which is why, at the start of the year, I introduce 'em to a big fat hairy unit on line. We create paper line sculptures, paint a variety of lines, create abstract line paintings. Y'all, we are all about lines. And since a line creates a shape, shape is our next unit o' study!
But, before I get to said unit, can we chat about painting with small children for a moment, puh-lease? Let's be honest: they don't come by this kind of loveliness without a whole lotta proper painting how-to's, am I right? Namely, how not to jack up the paint tray (which also translates to "how not to drive your art teacher to drink the paint water"). My kindergarten kids pretty much hit the ground painting. And I've found that with lots of practice and constant reminders of proper painting technique, they can do just about anything. 
So, what do I tell 'em? The same thing every time we paint, from kindergarten all the way on up to fourth grade. It sounds a lil like this:

"Remember! Your paint brush is like a ballerina. She always dances on her tippy-toes. So you only need to put paint on her toes. She never scoots around on her bottom. So we would never smash our brush into our painting. It will ruin your ballerina's toes! And she won't be able to paint you a beautiful masterpiece. "

So, that's Thing One. Thing Two is all about changing colors from one to the next. I don't know what your paint set up is but mine goes a lil sumpthin like this: paint colors distributed in empty egg cartons, two per table of four children (I'm currently a Versa Temp by Sax paint convert. I looove this paint!); tray of water for cleaning and sponges for wiping excess water, two per table of four. And then my lil reminder routine for cleaning goes like this:

"Before you get a new color, your ballerina needs to take a bath. Put your brush in the cup of water and you should hear that paint brush scrub the bottom. It should sound like it's brushing it's teeth! Don't tap your brush on the cup, it will splash on your neighbor's painting! Instead, gently wipe your brush on Dirty Ole Sponge Bob (what we call our filthy painty sponges). Now you're ready for your new color!"

I have found that by making the process of painting and cleaning the brush silly and fun, the kids will do it. Sometimes we'll tell our brushes, "oh! Time to take a bath!" or "Ballerina! Do not scoot on your bottom!" It's hilarious to hear the kids having a full blown convo with their paint brush. But, hey, whatever works, right? So long as the principal doesn't walk in and wanna know why the kids are chatting with animate objects and drag 'em to the guidance counselor. 

Now! On to shapes!
So when I introduce the kids to shapes, I go about it a coupla ways. First we take a gander at this book. I love Lois Ehlert's books, don't you? This book especially is great because the shapes are bold and beautiful and easy for the kids to see. We count them, name them and count their number of sides. Going through this book with the kids helps me gain an understanding of their knowledge of shapes. As does playing a short round of this game.

I usually play this game once when I have a bit of down time with the kids. Again, it helps me gauge their shape knowledge. By this time in the school year, my kindergarten friends have learned quite a bit about shapes. So I like to spice this game up a bit. Instead of just calling out "pink triangle" I might say, "a shape that has three sides that's pink".  But even this simple game doesn't have all the shapes that are in the kinder-curriculum.
Which is why I love this lil handout from guruparents.com. My students are well beyond circles and squares and are now in deep with trapezoids and parallelograms. I used this handout to make flashcards that we run through at the start of our lessons based on shape. We even did a couple vocab games just to get those words stuck in our heads. Here's a lil clip of some of the vocab games we play.
So, what's our first shape-based creation? Well, it's a total rip off our first line-based masterpiece. But the tie-in is just perfect and it only takes one class. Our shape box!
 Now, you can go about creating this shape box a coupla ways. Either have the kids create the box from two strips of black paper (which is great because they'll learn how to make a square but also sucks because it will take them a million years to make said square). OR you can have a glorious parent volunteer bust 'em out in less than 15 minutes. Which is what I opted to do after a class of kinder-kids spent entirely too much time creating a box and not having enough time to create the rest of their shapes. 
 So, let's talk shape making. How'd they make 'em? Well first you start with a strip of paper which is a line. Then ask them..."how can this line become a circle?" Immediately, they'll respond that you need to glue one end to the other. Then show them that if you pinch it once...it's a drop shape! Pinch it twice...you have a crescent! Three times, viola, a triangle. And four, well, perhaps a square or a rectangle, you decide.
Kids found ways to create hearts and even stars. That pretty much made my day. 
What to do after that? Paint shapes, of course! We had many a chat about painting different shapes. The kids were intent on learning to paint stars and hearts. So many demos were given. I also have the tables covered in paper. I always encourage the kids to "practice and paint on the table". This way, once they feel comfortable, they can then paint on their paper. 
By the end of the first day, their paintings looked a little like this. We talked about how to create "rainbow shapes" by outlining the shapes in different colors. 
And one last painting day. It was funny, when some of the kids were finished and put their paintings on the drying rack, they asked if they could work on their shape sculptures again. Ermkay (cue Twilight Zone music).
Now, lest you think we be el finito with this here unit o' shapes, we've got some more work ahead of us. I'm 'bout to introduce organic shapes to these dudes with one of my fave artists, Henri Matisse. Tis time these kids take to creating some scissor-shapes, don't you think? 

Til then!
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

UncommonGoods and a Giveaway!

Hey, y'all! I'm comin' attcha today with some super good stuff from UncommonGoods. If you're not familiar with this fantastical online retailer, they've been around since 1999 and are based outta a historic army terminal in Brooklyn. They specialize in selling unique and handcrafted gifts from around the world with the majority of goods created right here in the U.S. UncommonGoods is actually my baby gift go-to because I absolutely love these sweet socks and this hilarious baby fortune-tellin' gift

So when UncommonGoods asked me if I'd be interested in picking out a couple of goodies from their site AND sharing that love with you in the form of a giveaway, y'all know I jumped at the chance. I'd love to say that I did it just for you but, shoot! Have you seen the delightfulness on their site? I was stoked to pick out some treasures for myself. After I placed my order, I seriously received my box of goodies two days later! And promptly created this unboxing video just for you. I know, I'm such a giver.
Words cannot express how delightful that box smelled! It was the Chai Tea Kit that I ordered. I'm lovin' that tea! 

Now, I know what you're thinking..."did she mention a giveaway?!" Oh, I toooootally did. Just you wait, Ima getting there. 
First lemme show you all the yummies I picked out. If you've never perused UncommonGood's website before, they have it laid out in such an easy to navigate kind of way. I spent entirely too much time scrolling through the gifts for women section as well as the jewelry and art pages. And there's this incredible section where you can personalize your gifts which I find to be all the more sweet. When I discovered this Around the World Scarf, I knew it would be just the perfect thing to wear in my art room when we discuss other cultures. I had fun wearing it both as a scarf and a shrug!
One of my New Year's Resolutions (okay, my only one. I try not to set myself up for failure) was to stop drinking coffee. It's been an absolute nightmare (coffee gives me so much power that I feel as though I could flip cars and leap tall buildings, man!) but tea has made the transition bearable. Especially tasty teas. Which is why I was excited to see that Chai Tea Kit!  
I mean, look how pretty it is! Any tea drinker would be a fan. 
Never having made homemade chai tea before, I was happy to see that it came with clear directions. AND it didn't require any fancy tea making equipment. Just a saucepan to boil the ingredients and a strainer. I can handle that scandal. 
Especially if this is the result. Do you happen to have Scratch -n- Sniff on your phone? If so, I swear, if you scratch that cuppa, you'll smell the chai-tasticness.
Another pick of mine was this belt by Jenny Krauss. I've seen these belts before and I've always wanted one. There are actually several belts by this artist on the site but this one really struck me. I love the retro colors and the motif totally puts me in a Klimt state of mind. 
Such a funky combo, right? Love it!
I couldn't help wearing it today!
Of course, y'all know I have a soft spot for needle felting. If I have a sweater in my closet long enough, Ima gonna needle felt something on it. That being said, I've never really tried my hand at three dimensional needle felting. I've always been a little afraid to give it a go. That's why I jumped a the chance to try this Owl Needle Felting Kit. It contains a generous amount of roving as well as super detailed directions. I cannot wait to start creating these cute little dudes!
Alrightie, friends, so how bouts that giveaway, hmmm? UncommonGoods is generously offering a $50 gift certificate! How awesome is that?! To enter to win, all you gotta do is the following:

*  Leave a comment below. You can tell me what you'd spend your $50 on or simply something you love on the UncommonGoods site. 

* Leave your email address! This way I can contact you if you are the lucky winner.

And that's it! The winner will be announced Monday, February 2nd so be sure to stay tuned, all y'all! 
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

What the Art Teacher Wore #131 and Happy Surprises

 Dorkin' Out Tuesday: My sweet baby bro got me that rainbow tie and suspenders for Christmas. Upon my request. He asked mom, "Does she REALLY want this stuff?" You know it! One kid said I looked like "Dr. Art". I'll take that! blouse: thrifted; rainbow tie and suspenders: Amazon; skirt and tights: Target

Hey, y'all! I hope you had a super fantastical week, are all rested up and ready to roll for that one day of the week that I swear always seems to come a day early: Monday. My week was an exciting one. I found out on Wednesday that I was crowned Teacher of the Year at my school (and by "crowned", I mean no such thing. I was, however, given a lovely amount of paperwork to complete). I was very honored as I work with the best educators in all the land. It was funny, when the announcement was made, I was in the middle of teaching third grade. When the kids heard my name, they were all, "Hey! That's YOU, Mrs. Stephens!" And I was all, "Are you sure? I thought there was another Mrs. Stephens at this school. I think she teaches Deep Sea Fishing." To which they rolled their eyes and gave me their best, "Mrs. Steeeeepheeeeeens" reprimand. 

Then, just this morning, I found out that this here blog received this: 

That's right, y'all. Ima First Place Wild Card. Can I get that printed on a t-shirt, please? Can I go around acting (even more) like a crazy person and when someone questions my behavior, can I do this...
Werd.

In all seriousness, I'm excited to receive such a title! Thank you so very much for the nominations and the votes. It really means a lot. If you've not checked out the list of winners (as well as nominations!), please be sure to do so. There are so many incredible art teacherin' bloggers out there who I'd be lost without their advice, tips -n- tricks as well as friendship. Often times, teaching art can be like teaching on a deserted island without a single soul in sight who "gets" you. Thankfully, the interwebs have made it so we can all stay connected and sane. Ish. 

Oh and one last thing before I shuddup. I now have 700 lovely "followers" of this here blog! Now, normally, I don't like a follower but in this case, if you wanna follow me, well then, who am I to stop you? Welcome, all you new readers! It's super fantastical to have you here.

AND one last-last thing (I swear), since I've blabbed enough in this post, we'll resume our Artsy Book Clubbin' chat next week, ermkay? Cuz, let's be honest, you stopped reading this post like 5 minutes ago, didn't you? THAT'S what I thought. Y'all have a great week and I'll be back attcha soon.
 Prom Dress Wednesday: I love this stinkin' dress, specially with a big fat crinoline underneath cuz I feel like I'm going to some sorta artsy prom all day long. Course, the crinoline drives the kids crazy because every time I walk past their table, my big skirt knocks their painting/pencil/papers/you-name-its off their table. "Mrs. Stephens! Your swishy skirt took my paper!" Sorry, not sorry. sweater: vintage, thrifted; necklace: The Paper Source; Jackson Pollock Dress: made by me, details here; tights: Target
 Sharpen Yer Pencils Thursday: So I got this dress a while back and it's been super popular among art teachers for obvious reasons. Howevers, if you do order this dress, just be aware that the catalog which will flood your mailbox is, um, very interesting. One that you'll wanna have stashed away when company comes over. sweater: thrifted; dress: The Pyramid Collection; tights: Target
Runs with Scissors Friday: I love a skirt with a good art teacherin' motif, don't you? sweater: vintage, thrifted; top and tights: Target; bow belt: Pin Up Girl Clothing; scissor skirt: ModCloth
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Weaving Series: A Woven Clutch

Welcome to the season finale of the Weaving Series, y'all! I do hope that you've enjoyed this little trip down weaving lane as much as I have. I know I was always super stressed about teaching kids this craft when I didn't feel so confident myself. I'm hoping that these posts, videos and avalanche of photos have been useful for you. Here's a recap of all the posts from this series:

The Weaving Series: Paper Loom Weaving (perfect for first grade)
The Weaving Series: Straw Weaving (second grade and up)
The Weaving Series: Circle Loom Weaving (second grade and up)
The Weaving Series: CD Loom Weaving (second grade and up)

The Weaving Series: Ojo de Dios (second grade and up)
 
The Weaving Series: Tree Weaving (third grade and up)

So, I'd love to hear from you! Have you given any of these projects a go? Did you find the videos useful or are step-by-step photos your preference? If I do another series, what would you be interested in? Thank you so much for the feedback, guys!
Today I'm sharing with you a woven clutch project that is just perfect for those kids in fourth grade and up. It brings together all of those skills learned from previous weaving experiences however it's simple enough for those that have never woven before to do. 

A while back, I shared a series of posts that detail how to weave a basic pouch. You'll definitely want to start here if you've never created a woven pouch before. In this post, I'm going to show you how to get fancy with your pouch (btw, I have a habit of calling these creations a "pouch" for fear that I'll drop the "purse" bomb in front of a class of boys. And you know what that would mean: Game.Over.) So, follow these links to begin your pouch then c'mon back for some fancy stitchin':

Pouch Weaving, One: Getting Started
Pouch Weaving, Two: Weaving the Flap
Pouch Weaving, Three: Removing the Weaving
Pouch Weaving, Four: Weaving the Cord

So in today's post, Ima gonna show you how to do a little tapestry weaving along with creating a buttonhole and a checkerboard pattern.
Just to be a brag-a-saurus for a pinch, can I just tell you how much I love the back of this clutch? It took me a while (weaving with fine yarn was prolly not the smartest move) but I love the way it looks...and I'm already dreaming up my next woven clutch! Lemme show you how I created this triangular tapestry.
For this, you'll be using a dovetail tapestry stitch. For me, this entailed weaving with four needles at once (confusing? kinda. But for those middle and high school kids, def doable): two needles of brown yarn for the sides and two needles of pink for the triangles on either side of the clutch.
I found this super groovy 1970's craft book which had these super groove diagrams of all the stitches. This is a close up of what that dovetail woven stitch looks like. 
I wove this guy a couple years ago with some funky yarn. While I think the end result was cool, weaving with that stuff is a headache. For your first go, I'd definitely use regular yarn.
You can see a different take on that dovetail weave here. 
Now, let's talk buttonhole. That was simple. I really like simple. That checkerboard pattern? Gave me 5 new gray hairs and a migraine. Mostly cuz I wasn't doing it right for the longest time. In this clip, I'll show you how it's done (bear with me, it's confusing):

Here's a peak at what the buttonhole weave looks like. You're just creating an opening. Cake.
And here's that confounded checkerboard weave. Oui. It's not hard it's just confusing for the small minded like myself. 



The cord is by far the most fun and simplest thing to create. My kids love creating these! We turn them into bracelets, belts and, of course, the strap for our clutch. I've created these cords with kids as young as second grade. 
To attach the cords, I usually hand sew them to the side of the pouch. On my larger clutch, I first stitched a figure-eight around the base of the cord before hand sewing it to the clutch. I'm so happy with these little guys! And I know you and your students would be as well.

DISCLAIMER, SHAMELESS SELF-PROMO: Y'all. If you've not voted for your fave art ed blog, would you mind taking a moment to do so? There's some fantastic ones and my crazy blog is in the mix (in the "Wild Card" division). If you'd be so kind to cast your vote (you can vote for as many blogs as you like), that'd be just swell. Here's the link. 
And there you have it! The season finale of The Weaving Series! I do hope you enjoyed this woven adventure. 
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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Weaving Series: Tree Weaving

Hello there, weavers! I present to y'all today one of my fave weaving projects: Tree Weaving! If this looks familiar to you, that's cuz I shared this process with you a coupla years back and it's one of the most viewed posts on this here blog (which means, like 10 people read that post, yay!). I hope means a good amount of y'all have given it a go! 
My third graders finished these lovelies off in the early fall with summer still on their mind. However, many of them opted to weave with fall colors for the leaves which turned out super cute as well. I originally stumbled upon this idea when trying to dream up a different weaving experience for this age group as I was kinda feelin like our past project of weaving on peg looms had grown kinda stale (read: I was super tired of it. I have a really hard time repeating projects. Are y'all like that? It would make my life so much easier if I did!). So, playing around one day, I created this:
Which then I got me so excited I created another one! 
So just what does one need to create a tree weaving? Lemme see, rustle up the following:

* Chinet Plates. Don't skimp, y'all. They are pricey but they are the best. The thickness of the plates is what makes them a stable weaving surface. 

* Paint. I don't think it matters what kind. The Chinet plate is so thick, you might be able to even use watercolor on it. Hmmm...

* Warping Yarn. I had a variety of browns, tans and grays on hand for the tree trunk.

* Weaving Yarn. Whatever colors your heart desires! Let's get started.

For the complete lesson of how we painted these plates, please follow this link. It's way more in-depth about that portion of this here lesson. Today, I'm just sharing clips of how to do the actual warping and weaving. 
In this clip, I'll walk you through cutting the correct amount of notches in your plate and warping your loom. If you don't like hearing the sound of my voice, go here for the visual step by steppies. 
I'll show you a coupla different methods of weaving. Start at the top or the bottom, it's up to you. Definitely give it a go first before unleashing the kids on those plates. 
My early finishers worked on their artists statements which they glued to the back of their plates. They had a choice, they could either write about the product, the process or something they learned. In a paragraph form, of course (cuz, you know, if you don't remind them of that, you'll get the word "cool" or "grate" or "ausome" on the back of the plate. Not that my students would ever do that, cough, ahem).
What I'm finding in these self-reflection/artist statement writings is that the kids often talk about how they could do better. I like that. Not that I would ever say that to a kid but I like that they are motivated to try harder. 
Need more weaving goodness? Here you go, kids!

The Weaving Series: Paper Loom Weaving (perfect for first grade)
The Weaving Series: Straw Weaving (second grade and up)
The Weaving Series: Circle Loom Weaving (second grade and up)

The Weaving Series: CD Loom Weaving (second grade and up)

The Weaving Series: Ojo de Dios (second grade and up) 

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