Archives for category: art & math

IMG_2582I don’t know about you, but I feel like the USPS really outdid itself with the release of this heart stamp… just in time for mailing out your Valentines the old-school way.

Have you ever stopped to consider postage stamps as art? (I’ll wait while you consider it.) They’re like teeny-tiny little canvases hiding out in plain sight in the midst of our everyday lives! By calling attention to postage stamps, you begin to get your students thinking about the fact that someone has to design those stamps. Someone has to come up with an idea and then create the artwork that eventually becomes the stamp that gets printed and used by many, many people! (Talk about great exposure!)

Now consider having your students design their own postage stamps. The beauty of this art lesson is that the subject matter is virtually limitless, meaning you can connect it to any subject you are teaching! Learning about geography? Students design stamps based on geography! Reading a certain book? Students design stamps based on something related to that book! It’s Black History Month? Your students can design stamps based on someone they admire that you are currently studying! Learning the alphabet? Students design stamps based on the first letter of their names! It’s genius, right?!

IMG_2583Keep the materials simple for this lesson: A sheet of 9X12 inch drawing paper (plain white construction paper — or even 8.5X11 inch copy paper will do in a pinch) for each child, with two 3X4 inch rectangles on it. (Depending on the age and ability levels of your students, this could be a great opportunity for them to practice their measuring skills.) Then you just need some drawing tools… whatever you have on hand like crayons, colored pencils, and fine tip markers.

I would spend a few minutes talking with your students about postage stamps and maybe even have some actual stamps to show them. There is a tremendous variety so you won’t have any trouble finding some that they will be able to relate to and get excited about. For example, click here to see some wonderful Harry Potter themed stamps. (Be sure to put all samples away once your students begin designing their own.)

Tell them that you’re going to have them work about 4 times larger than an actual stamp, so they’ll have a nice big surface to decorate. (For the very young, you might want them to work even larger than the 3X4 inch rectangle suggested.)

Then talk about the subject matter you’d like them to use for their stamp designs. As mentioned above, your options are many here. In my experience, it’s best to decide ahead of time what the “theme” will be rather than telling them they can design “anything”. Sometimes having no restrictions becomes almost paralyzing, and trust me — you’ll still get a tremendous amount of variety within your theme. (Unless you say something very specific like, “Everyone design a stamp with George Washington on it.” You get the idea.)

IMG_2585Depending on how involved you want to get, when the stamp designs are finished, you can use a single hole punch to punch around the edges of the stamps to make realistic looking perforations, or you can use scissors with different edged blades to get a similar look. Still looking for more? How about having your students write something about their stamp design and why they did what they did? Or perhaps they can write a short piece about the subject of their stamp? Ask them to share what they’ve drawn and written with a neighbor or the whole class, and you’ve got some oral language thrown into the mix!

Have fun with this, and please share your results if you try it with your students. I’d love to see how it goes!

IMG_1778It’s never too early to encourage students to begin thinking about careers that interest them. This simple, yet powerful art experience called “Career Cubes” is a fun way to do just that, while incorporating critical thinking, writing and even a little research if you desire.

You will need the following materials: Light-weight cardboard — used file folders work great here, masking tape, construction paper scraps, scissors, glue, color pencils, crayons, and markers. Additionally, things like yarn or string, staplers, brads, and discard magazines could also be included.

Each child will need 6 light-weight cardboard squares. They can be any size, but I’ve found 4 inches by 4 inches to be a nice, workable surface. Depending on the age and ability level of your students, measuring and cutting out their 6 squares can be great math practice. You could also provide a template for tracing, or you could provide the squares to them already cut out. (The more carefully the squares are measured and cut, the better the resulting cube will fit together.)

The reason 6 individual squares are used, rather than a “cube pattern”, is that the separate squares provide a more challenging set of 6 individual compositions, and a more interesting approach to cube construction.

I would suggest deciding ahead of time what your expectations are for each side of the career cubes. (Your specific requirements for your students will vary greatly based upon the age and ability levels of your students, but even for the very young, I would be sure you have some sort of guidelines established for them.) For example, if your students are older, you might require the following: One side devoted to “naming” the career, three sides will be visual representations of that career, one side will be a written statement about why the student has chosen that career — or is interested in that career — and one side devoted to some basic research on the career such as schooling required, etc., for a total of six sides.

Before handing out the first square, encourage discussion and brainstorming about what types of careers your students are interested in. Talk with them about how different careers could be visually represented… for example, what sort of symbols might one make if they wanted to become an architect? A nurse? Make a list if you like of the many possibilities your students come up with. After you feel your students have been sufficiently motivated, concentrating on only one square at a time, have your students begin the process of surface decoration. Depending on your available art supplies, the squares could be decorated with a variety of materials, or you might limit them to just using cut and/or torn construction paper. The choice is yours. If you decide to require a written component, you might like students to write in their own best handwriting, or perhaps you’d like them to write and compose something on the computer that they can attach to one square. Depending on your schedule, you might have students work on this in one, uninterrupted block of time, or perhaps you might break the process into smaller, shorter work sessions. (Squares, along with bits and pieces, can be easily stored in ziplock bags while in progress.) Lots of options here to make this work for your students, your curricular objectives, and your time frame.

When all 6 sides of a student’s career cube are complete, the cube can be constructed. First, lay out four sides. Be sure to leave a small amount of space between squares to serve as a “hinge”, and tape with masking tape like this:

IMG_1779

IMG_1780Then attach the remaining two sides to the four you just taped like this:

IMG_1782Now bring all sides together to form a cube and tape securely.

IMG_1785Masking tape used neatly on the “outside” of the cube is fine and can become part of the surface decoration. Once complete, each student will have created a unique, concrete representation of his or her desired career choice. Career cubes are fun displayed individually on student desks, stacked up as a group, or can even be hung from the ceiling if you are clever. Your students will love not only making them, but looking at them as well!

IMG_1763I’m so excited to introduce something brand new on my blog! I’m calling them “Art Kits”, and it’s super easy to be entered into a drawing to win one.

Each Art Kit is valued at over $100.00, and includes everything you see in the photo above, as well as an easy to follow, step-by-step lesson plan and 50 sheets of white drawing paper — And it can be YOURS for FREE!

I’ll be giving away a kit exactly like the one you see pictured above, every three months for the next year — that’s four kits in all! This is called Art Kit #1: Observational Drawing: Sea Shells. In addition to all of the fun stuff you see in the photo, you’ll also get a step-by-step lesson plan that you can use in your classroom immediately. (No art experience on your part is required or necessary.)

Students of all ages will love looking through their magnifying glasses to see a detailed view of any one of the interesting shells included. The lesson plan will walk you through an easy to present lesson that will encourage your students to carefully observe a shell and then create an original drawing of what they see. Soft lead pencils and special erasers will help them get their drawings “just right”. They will be thrilled to then add color with chalk using the ordinary blending tools of cotton balls and Q-tips! In addition to the excitement of creating art, you’ll see lots of valuable curriculum connection possibilities for your students in science, math, and language arts.

Here’s how to win!

1) Register for one or more of the affordable, convenient, self-paced Professional Development Art Classes that I teach through Fresno Pacific University here. Each registration will earn you 6 Entries into the Art Kit drawing.

2) Refer a colleague who registers for one or more of my courses and you’ll earn another 6 Entries into the Art Kit drawing. (I must be notified via email of the name of the person who made the referral in order for them to be given their 6 entries for that referral.)

3) Comments on my blog or Facebook page will each earn 1 entry into the Art Kit drawing. (Only one comment per person, per day will count towards entry into the drawing.)

Registrations, referrals, and comments will earn entry into the Art Kit drawings based on the following time table:

April-May-June: Winner’s name drawn on July 1, 2013

July-August-September: Winner’s name drawn on October 1, 2013

October-Nov-Dec: Winner’s name drawn on January 1, 2014

January-February-March: Winner’s name drawn on April 1, 2014

As you can see above, I’m breaking the year into quarters with April-May-June being the first block of time for the first Art Kit drawing. So for example, all course registrations received, colleagues referred & registered, and comments made from April 1, 2013 until June 30, 2013 will be included, and I will draw the winning name on July 1, 2013. Then the process begins again for July-August-September and so on, until the fourth and final Art Kit winner is drawn on April 1, 2014.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Fresno Pacific University and register for one of my art classes! Then get a friend or colleague to do the same! While you’re on a roll, comment on any of my blog posts or head on over to my Facebook page and get typing! You can’t win one of these great kits if you don’t enter… so get going and get excited!

(If you’d like to purchase Art Kit #1: Observational Drawing: Sea Shells, please contact me via email for information at JGomasFaison@gmail.com)

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.

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.