Archives for category: art lesson

IMG_1659What better way to show we love the earth, than by creating some gorgeous Valentine’s Day inspired art work that encourages recycling as well?! Enter “Giant Stuffed Paper Hearts”.

The materials for this spectacular art experience are outrageously simple. You will need butcher paper, “stuffing”, a stapler, any sort of decorative materials, glue, and string or fishing line. (If you have access to butcher paper in “Valentine” colors like pink, red, and purple, that’s great. If not, white and even black will work just as well.)

The idea here is that you are going to have your students cut giant — and I do mean giant — hearts out of butcher paper, decorate them, stuff them, and then hang them from the ceiling. (If your school won’t allow you to hang anything, these could just as easily be stapled to a wall where they will still look puffy and three dimensional.)

While you could use anything for the stuffing of the heart, this experience presents a perfect opportunity to talk about things like recycling, and campus beautification. If you are so inclined, you and your students might walk around the school yard collecting trash and bits of paper. (Gloves might be a good idea here.) Or maybe you could use paper from your own classroom that would normally be thrown in the trash? Newspapers collected from home work well here too. The point is, this art experience is tangible evidence that trash can be transformed again into something else — in this case, into something beautiful.

When cutting out their paper hearts, each child will need two hearts exactly alike, so you can show them how putting two pieces of paper together and cutting them out at the same time will accomplish this. (An alternative to this would be to have them cut out one giant heart, then trace that on to their second piece of butcher paper and then cut that one out.) Depending on how involved you want them to get, and on how you plan to display them, you can instruct your students to decorate only one side of one of their hearts, or one side of each of their hearts. I would really let them go wild here with lots and lots of different decorative materials. Things like paint, construction paper, tissue paper, crepe paper, glitter, lace, ribbons, yarn, buttons, cotton, etc. would all be super fun for the kids to work with. (Because the hearts are large, I would probably not put out any drawing tools for this one, as any drawing the children might do would tend to be small, and the surface decoration for these should really be bold and large.)

Once all surface decorations are finished and have been allowed to dry, place the two hearts together and begin stapling around the edge to connect them. (Staple at least one inch or so in from the edge.) Remember that if you had students decorate two sides, make sure each of those decorated sides face out, and that the plain sides are on the “inside”. After you’ve stapled about half way around the hearts, you may begin stuffing the heart with very loosely crumpled paper or trash. You want to keep these hearts very light, so there’s no need to stuff them full of tightly wadded paper. Use just enough lightly crumpled paper to “fill out” the heart and give it a puffy shape. Finish stapling the remainder of the edge to close the heart, and you’re done. The resulting hearts should be very light, so it will be easy to hang them from your ceiling if you choose to do so. Don’t worry about hanging them at the same height, because hanging them at different heights adds to the fun. You will be amazed at the magnificent display these create and your students will love them!

Share the love! If you decide to do this art experience with your students, I’d love to see the results. Email photos to me at JGomasFaison@gmail.com and with your permission I might even share some of your photos on this blog. Happy heart-making!

IMG_1649With February right around the corner, here is a simple and fun art lesson that will teach your students some important lessons about giving, and about the value of working together, all while challenging them to be creative.

The basic materials required for the Bouquet of Hearts lesson are things I’m sure you have on hand already such as, construction paper, glue, tape, staples, and scissors. For extra embellishments, check around for any fun and unusual materials you might have for the kids to work with like, glitter, ribbon, yarn, buttons, rhinestones, cotton, lace, brads, and so on. You’ll also want something to use as “stems” — like small wooden skewers that can be found in most grocery stores.

Begin by talking to your students about flowers and bouquets. Talk with them about Valentine’s Day as being a day traditionally reserved as a day to proclaim love for others, and tell them you have an idea for how they can participate in this. Tell your students that they will make their own “flowers” out of hearts using all of the fun materials you have provided for them, and that you will be gathering these special paper “flowers” that they make into bouquets that can then be given away. At this point it would be a good idea to have decided how you’re going to distribute their bouquets… will they be going to someone at your school such as your principal, or maybe to a local senior citizen’s center or hospital? In my experience, the students love knowing who the recipient(s) will be. I’ve also found that it’s important to ask them before they even begin, if they are ok with the idea of making their art specifically to give it away. They always are.  🙂

So using heart shapes as the basis for their “flower”, allow students the freedom to explore both cutting and tearing construction paper. They might want to use layers of heart shapes to create their flowers, as well as combine several different colors of paper. Once the foundation of the heart “flower” has been established, encourage your students to utilize the variety of decorative materials you have made available for their use. Once their “flowers” are complete, and have been allowed to dry if necessary, attach their “flower” to a stick or “stem”. You may also want to have them use crepe paper to wrap the stick and perhaps even make construction paper leaves.

When all of the “flowers” have been completed, stand them in a container such as a vase or flower pot. If desired, you could place a small ball of clay in the bottom of the container first to help the “flowers” stand. Lead your students to see that while each of their “flowers” are fantastic on their own, when grouped together, they become magnificent! Each individual “flower” makes an important contribution to the whole bouquet.

At this point, the bouquets are ready to be presented to the lucky recipients. For a meaningful language arts connection, students could be asked to write a brief note to the recipient(s) of their work. I did a project very similar to this one with my continuation high school art classes, and I’m telling you they worked harder and with more focus on this experience — that they knew was going to a local residential facility for senior citizens — than on anything we did before or after it. They encouraged each other to keep working so that every person at that facility would get something from them. It was touching and inspiring.

IMG_1468Here’s a lesson idea that will create a fun, fresh, whimsical look for  your classroom or school this January. Consider the exciting possibility of having your students make REALLY BIG snow people and/or animals! There are lots of options for this lesson, from having your students make life-size snow people that they decorate to look like themselves, to having them create large snow people that they decorate to represent characters from literature or historical figures, or perhaps instead they make snow animals that represent real animals you might be studying in your classroom. You decide how “connected” to your curriculum you want this to be. No matter which way you go, you’re sure to get a wonderful cast of winter characters!

Materials are simple: white butcher paper, construction paper in a variety of colors, paper scraps, fabric and other miscellaneous materials you might have on hand such as cotton, glitter, twigs, wrapping paper, glue, tape, and scissors.

You will have pre-determined the “theme” of the snow people/animals for your class, so talk to your students about what they will be doing. (Obviously, everyone should be working on the same theme, i.e. all will be making themselves, or all will be making a favorite character from literature, etc.)

Talk with them about why tearing out the circles for their snow people (or animals) is a better approach than cutting out the circles. (Tearing produces a more “snow-like” texture.) Have them tear large ball-like shapes out of white butcher paper. To help ensure that all finished snow people are about the same size, it might be a good idea to have large, pre-cut squares to give to the children — each child getting a large, medium, and a small square. If they carefully tear so that they “touch” each side (or edge) of their square, their finished snow people (or animals) should end up being similarly sized. (They don’t have to be identical to each other, just similar. You don’t want one 6 inch tall snow person, and one that is 3 feet tall.) It would be a great idea to have several extra large, medium, and small squares cut out, just in case someone needs to start again. (Someone probably will… and that’s ok.)

Let me stop here and say that for some of you it might be tempting to make one of these yourself and then show it as a sample to your students. There is no need for you to do that. I would suggest instead, demonstrate what careful paper tearing looks like by beginning to tear a large circle out of one of the pre-cut squares like you will be asking them to do. Show them how to “touch” each side (or edge) of their square, using their whole paper. This is all they need to see — they DO NOT need to see a finished snow person or animal in order to make one themselves.

Once the basic snow people or animals have been established, have them cut or tear all of the features they want to use such as eyes, nose, mouth, glasses, braces, mustaches, etc. that will enhance the snow person’s identity. These should be glued to the snow person’s head. After the three graduated body parts have been glued or taped together, your students might want to add special decorations like a hat or scarf. Depending on the “theme” you’ve chosen, consider if any other “accessories” or items need to be created and added to further determine the snow person’s identity. Any “extra” materials you’ve gathered for the children to use will come in handy here, such as fabric, glitter, cotton, twigs, etc.

These large creations would look fantastic in your classroom, but don’t let a lack of display space stop you. Because they are so large, they make a wonderful display along a hallway, in the office, library, or cafeteria. If you’ve chosen a theme that connects with an area of your curriculum, perhaps a bit of writing by each student could be included about the character, historical figure or animal represented.

I’d love to see your display if you have your students make these. Please email photos to JGomasFaison@gmail.com with “Big Snow People” in the subject line. Enjoy!

IMG_1446Just in time for the new year, here’s a lesson idea that’s sure to delight you and your students! Called “Winter Village”, this lesson will create a wonderful group display while it reinforces the concept of geometric shapes.

The materials required are simple: construction paper in a variety of colors (whole sheets and scraps both work well), any drawing tools you have on hand (crayons, markers, color pencils), tape and/or glue sticks, and scissors.

Talk with your students about geometric shapes and tell them that they are each going to “build” their own home, cabin, or castle using just these shapes. Their buildings may be realistic or imaginary, but they must use geometric shapes to construct them. Consider having your students tape or glue their shapes down onto a background sheet of construction paper, which will enable their creations to “grow” with as many shapes as they want to use.

Together you can brainstorm a list of architectural details that make a building distinct, like windows, doors, shingles, addresses, steps, and shutters, as well as all of the different materials buildings can be made of such as bricks, cement, wood, metal, etc. Encourage your students to add these kinds of “textures” and details to their own dwellings using cut or torn paper, or any of the drawing tools you have supplied. For some extra fun, have each child place one of their school photos in one of the windows of their building!

An exciting way to display these once they are finished, is to cut away any background paper that is still showing, and then place all of their little houses on a “winter scene/landscape” bulletin board, thus creating a little winter village made up of all of your students’ buildings. They may want to add a few trees, street signs, and lamp posts around town to complete their village scene. A little torn paper “snow” on the roof tops would look fantastic too.

If you decide to create a winter village with your students, I’d love to see it! Please email photos to: JGomasFaison@gmail.com and please put “Winter Village” in the subject line.

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.

Nothing captures the sprit of the holidays like working together to accomplish a common goal. To that end, here is a simple — yet impressive — art experience you can do with your students that is sure to delight all of you!

The materials list is simple — all you really need is construction paper. If you have several shades of green on hand, I would suggest using all of them. The variety of greens (tints and shades, also known as lights and darks) will enhance the look of your tree. If you only have one green on hand, don’t despair because that will also look great. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try making an all white tree. Trust me — it will look magnificent!

The idea here is that each child will be tearing out one or more “branches” that will be arranged together to form a tree. You might spend a few minutes talking with the kids about the fact that trees are made of individual branches, and that together, they make an entire tree. Looking at a real tree or at photographs of trees will also help them to see that the general shape of pine tree branches is sort of triangular. Give each child a sheet of large construction paper and ask them to carefully tear out a large branch/triangular shape. Tell them that their branch must touch at least three sides of their paper. (This will encourage them to work “large”.)

You may decide to have each child make more than one branch, depending on how many children you have, and on how big you want your group tree to be. When all of the branches are complete, pin or staple them to a wall or bulletin board in a “tree-type” arrangement. (I would suggest putting your tree together after school, that way you can tell your students that they will be surprised the next day to see how all of their individual pieces made something great together. Talk about building anticipation!) Don’t worry about how each branch looks, because they will all look fantastic when they are arranged together to form your class tree. 

Especially for Halloween, I’m sharing a great little art trick, that turns out to be a pretty neat treat as well.

First of all, a basic understanding of colors is helpful. Generally, all colors can be divided into two broad categories known as “warm” or “cool”. Warm colors — red, yellow, orange — are those that you associate with warmth, or with warm things such as fire, the sun, or hot lava. Cool colors — blue, blue-green, aqua — are those that you associate with a feeling of cool and with cool things such as the ocean, sky, ice and snow. (A few colors can work in either category depending on their composition. Green and purple are good examples of this duality because each is made by mixing a warm color with a cool color.)

Children are fascinated not only by colors and color mixing, but also with the idea that colors can make us feel a certain way based on their perceived warmth or coolness. Advertisers and designers are particularly adept at using our innate feelings about color to their advantage. As it turns out, warm and cool colors can also be used to manipulate our visual perception as well.

Which brings me to the art trick I promised! When creating any type of artwork, if you’d like to enhance the illusion of depth in your piece, remember this simple trick: warm colors advance and cool colors recede. Even the lightest application of cool colors over an area of your work, be it a painting, a drawing, or whatever, will make it look like it has been pushed back and is farther away from you. The opposite is true for warm color application, making that area magically seem as if it is closer to you, advancing toward you. And if you apply both in the same piece — warm colors on foreground images, and cool colors on background images — Wow! The illusion is striking!

Try this little trick for yourself and teach it to your students. The results are a treat and will be sure to delight both artist and viewer!

If you’re an elementary school teacher, you know that young students are very enthusiastic about art. They are willing to try just about anything, and they are willing to try it with gusto. The older children get, however, the more reluctant they become to try their hand at art. When art experiences are authentic, they usually say a great deal about the artist, so by their very nature can make one feel vulnerable. By the time students become young adults, many have completely shut down artistically.

As a teacher at both the elementary and the secondary levels, it has been my experience that the single most important way to engage the reluctant older student in art, is to first meet them where they are. Initial lesson designs should rely heavily on skills that they likely already possess or will find less intimidating. (For example, painting a still life realistically using watercolors would probably not be a good first lesson choice, but using a pencil to create an abstract design using thick and thin lines might be.) Beginning with art experiences that virtually guarantee success, and showing students that you value their authentic efforts, will build their confidence and enable them to move on to ever more challenging art production.

A second approach that I used time and time again was that of providing a specific age context for the work they were doing. For example, while keeping expectations for involvement and exploration of materials very high, I would ask my high school students to imagine they were creating a particular piece of art for a viewing audience of very young children. This would allow them to “play” with images and design like a child, while still remaining their “cool”, older selves. It consistently produced wonderful results.

By presenting thoughtful lessons, and by demonstrating interest through questions and constructive suggestions, the teacher can create an atmosphere where otherwise reluctant older students will feel safe and are willing to take creative risks as they explore new materials, skills, and concepts in art.

If you’d like some tried and tested lesson plans that are sure to engage students of all ages, please check out my professional development class offerings through Fresno Pacific University.

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.