Archives for category: art and writing

Here’s a fun way to engage your students’ powers of critical thinking while allowing them to explore their individuality and creativity at the same time. The “Secret Door Ornament” is a lesson that works for virtually any grade level, is easy to present to your students, and uses materials you probably already have on hand at home or in your classroom.

You will need the following: construction paper in a variety of colors, glue or paste or rubber cement, crayons and/or markers, tape, scissors, and old magazines. Optional items could include things such as yarn, glitter, buttons, brads, cotton balls, rubber stamps, sticker dots, and more.

Depending on the age of your students, you will want to either have large ornament shapes pre-cut, or allow your students to draw and cut out their own shapes. (I would suggest using 9X12 or 12X18 inch construction paper for this.) Invite the children to decorate their ornaments any way they like using any materials you have available for them. For older students, expectations could be set very high and be very specific about the level of involvement and sophistication you expect in their surface decorations. Once anything that needs to dry has been allowed to do so, cut the secret door flaps in the ornament. (You might want to do this part depending, again, on the age of your students.)

Next, have the kids look through old magazines for a picture of their own “special wish” that will be placed “inside” their ornament. These wishes could be anything such as a vacation, a toy, or even a special thought. What matters most is that it has special meaning for the child. (You could opt to have your students draw their wish if you don’t have magazines available.)

Finally, have each student tape their special wish to the BACK of their ornament so that it will show through when the secret door is opened. The kids are fascinated with this and will have fun opening the little doors again and again to reveal the special wishes of their classmates. (Be sure to display these on a wall or bulletin board so that your students can reach them.)

While these large ornaments are spectacular and fun for their own sake, opportunities abound for connections to other areas of your curriculum. For example, ornament decoration could be related to a specific area of your curriculum such as science, math, social studies, or even to a book the class is reading. You can make many language arts connections by having students share orally with the class — or even just to a buddy — about their secret wish and why they selected it. You might ask students to journal about the process of decorating their ornament, selecting their special wish, and about what makes that wish meaningful to them. These journal entries could be kept between teacher and student, or could be shared with the class.

So I’m wondering how many of you out there might not need Professional Development, but would really love some fantastic field-tested lesson plans in art? How many of you don’t need or want any PD credits, but you would love the opportunity to learn how easy it can be to incorporate art into your classroom curriculum? How many of  you see the potential that well developed art experiences could have in supporting your efforts to teach the new Common Core State Standards, but you feel intimidated by the subject?

If any of these scenarios sounds like you, would you be interested in purchasing the content only of the Professional Development courses I teach? My course books would be offered at a reasonable price, giving you immediate access to all of the research and theory behind my art experiences, in addition to the lesson plans themselves. (The one thing you wouldn’t get are the Professional Development credits.) I think this might be of particular interest to those of you who homeschool your children and who don’t need any graduate level credit or units, but who would love some fresh, powerful art ideas that could be connected to the rest of your curriculum. These could even be fun for Sunday School teachers and for parents looking for meaningful and creative experiences for their own children!

I have written five different books — two are specifically related to drawing, one to the many interesting things that can be done using paper, another is geared toward the creation of exciting and unique bulletin boards, and one is devoted to the topic of using art as a tool to create and enhance self-esteem. Each of my books was specifically written for the person with little or no art background and/or experience, so do not be afraid of the subject matter! Also, none of my lessons require any “exotic” supplies, which makes them even easier to implement.

I imagine I’d make my books available for purchase right here on this website, probably using something like paypal. Books would be sent electronically as pdf files for you to print out, use on a device, or some combination of both.

So let me know what you think about this, I’d love to hear from you.

Do you remember the simple joy of creating one of these? Consider sharing this wonderful experience with your students this autumn. It couldn’t be easier and the rewards are great!

For supplies, you will need only three things. Paper… nothing fancy… copy paper works great here. Crayons… broken into easy-to-hold chunks with the paper peeled off. An assortment of leaves and maybe even some small twigs and branches.

Your students will love exploring outside to find just the right leaves and twigs. If you have magnifying glasses — even the super inexpensive ones — give them to your students to use. (You won’t believe how focused they get!) Once back inside, explain the process of placing their leaves and twigs underneath their papers so they can rub over them using the sides of their crayons. A simple pantomime of how they will rub over their paper using the crayon is enough — you don’t have do actually do it — let them have the thrill of discovery themselves.

And they will be thrilled! When the rubbed images appear, it’s like magic and they love it! And don’t be fooled into thinking your kids are “too old” for this experience. As a high school art teacher for many years, I was consistently shocked by how many of my juniors and seniors had never done this. And the ones that had, had such fond memories of it, that they loved the opportunity to do it again.

So why devote time to an art experience such as this? Besides the obvious — it’s fun! — so many important things are going on here. Being outside. Exploring. Talking with each other about what they’re finding and doing. Analyzing and making decisions about their leaf selections… colors, shapes, textures, sizes. Using small muscle control to make the rubbings. Deciding on colors and placement of objects. Talking to others about what they’re making. And what if you incorporated writing? Depending on your approach, the curricular possibilities are virtually endless. And then, what if you incorporated science and scientific observation? What about math? The point here is that this simple, joyful activity suddenly becomes the catalyst for a profound level of learning and involvement. (And did I mention that it’s fun?!)

For other simple ideas about how you can easily incorporate art into your classroom and support the curriculum you are teaching everyday, please check out the affordable, convenient, self-paced Professional Development courses I teach through Fresno Pacific University.

Back to school… yes, it’s already that time of year again!

If you’re a teacher looking for an excellent, easy back to school lesson idea — and what teacher isn’t? — then you’ve come to the right place!

Lesson Idea: Create Personalized Calling Cards

For this little lesson, all you will need are some blank cards (index cards without lines will work just fine here and you won’t have to cut anything), some drawing tools (crayons, markers, pencils) and an ink pad with washable ink.

The idea here is to have every student in your class create a “calling card” that represents them. Talk for a moment about what things make each one of us unique. (Things we like to do, things we like to eat, music we like, pets we have, places and people we love, etc.) To reinforce language arts, consider making a list of some of these things as your students mention them.

Ask your students to create their special card and to include the following on one side: Their name (first and last or just first, it’s up to you), drawings and words of things that make them unique (you might want to give them a specific number of items here), and their thumb print (that’s where the washable ink comes in).

Depending on the age and ability levels of your students, modifications can be made to take this from a very simple art experience, to a much more sophisticated design problem that will challenge older students. Reading a story first about how we are all unique and special might be a wonderful introduction to this experience of card making. Asking students to reflect in a journal about their creative process while designing their cards can be a meaningful culmination to the project. Allowing students to select, cut, and glue magazine images on their cards in addition to their words and drawings can also be interesting if you choose to get that involved.

Once finished, these cards will look great displayed in the classroom, or on each child’s desk, or can even be used by the teacher to select students at random for special jobs or to answer questions.

If you’d like to be the kind of teacher who effortlessly brings meaningful art experiences into your classroom on a regular basis — check out the classes I offer through Fresno Pacific University. You won’t be disappointed and your students will love you for it!  🙂

 

At long last — summer is here!

If school is finally out for you, I hope you are enjoying some well deserved rest and relaxation. Teaching is an incredibly demanding profession, and there’s nothing like spending some time doing things you enjoy to recharge your batteries. Look around you. Really see the beauty that this season has to offer. Maybe you’ll write some thoughts down in a journal or notebook… maybe you’ll take some photos… maybe you’ll even try drawing a little sketch or two of something you see in your environment.

Whatever you choose to do… really do it… completely. Savor it! Make relaxing and recharging yourself this summer into an art form.

P.S. And if you find yourself in need of some Professional Development credits, have fun earning them while taking one of my art classes offered through Fresno Pacific University. Learning from home on your schedule… what could be easier? Click on the link above to find out more.

If you are a teacher who works with young students in particular, here’s an idea for you to try.

The next time you plan to ask your students to write something… a response to literature… a journal entry… a science observation… anything, have them draw out their ideas first. Much like a more experienced writer might use notes or an outline to capture the ideas they want to include in their writing, fledgling writers can do the same thing by drawing.

I used this technique many times while teaching first graders, and saw firsthand what a powerful tool it was. Frequently, my young students had wonderful ideas and insights that they wanted to express, but with questions like, “Which way does that letter face again?” and “How is that word spelled?”, their ideas would be all but forgotten as they struggled to remember the mechanics of writing. For those students, writing was primarily a frustrating experience. Their unique little thoughts were being lost before they had a chance to get them down on paper. When I asked my students to draw about what they wanted to write first, they could capture their ideas in their drawings, and then refer back to those drawings as they wrote. Almost immediately, the writing my students produced became more complete, detailed, and vivid. Structurally their writing improved as well, because being able to refer back to their “outline” for substance, gave them the freedom to get the mechanics right too.

Of course, a powerful side benefit of this practice is that children love to draw. By connecting the exciting, familiar activity of drawing with the new and potentially intimidating act of writing, the entire experience becomes less scary, and the students feel more confident about their developing skills as writers and communicators.

Want more ideas for including art in your classroom? Click on “courses for credit” or “Fresno Pacific University” at the top of this page to learn more. Thanks for stopping by!