Archives for category: creative process

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)

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking for a unique and creative way to celebrate Earth Day with your students this year? Allow me to suggest Earth Day hats! (Pictured above is a basic, undecorated scored paper hat shown from the side/back.)

The idea here is to have each student in your class create a hat, and then decorate it using Earth Day as the theme. While the basic hat shapes will be the same, each child’s surface decoration will be distinct and unique, making each hat a personal statement about how that child feels about protecting and celebrating the earth.

You will need one sheet of 18X24 inch construction paper for each child in your class — color choice is up to you. You will also need a stapler, any type of glue, scissors, and lots and lots of discard materials for the students to choose from. This could be anything from a scrap paper box, to things like, ribbon, buttons, cotton balls, tooth picks, fabric, feathers, tissue paper, brads, yarn, pipe cleaners, glitter, etc. This art experience is the perfect time to use up a variety of random things you have on hand, and to recycle old things into something fresh, fun, and new!

To make a basic hat, just make one simple scored line in a half circle shape on the long side of a sheet of 18X24 inch construction paper. (See diagram below.) If you’ve never scored paper before, you will simply drag the pointy end of a pair of scissors — or even the tip of a paper clip that’s been bent open will do — gently across the paper. This “scored” line that you’ve just created will allow you to then fold the paper along this curved line. (Scoring as a technique is amazing! Once you start exploring it, you’ll be hooked!) Attach points A and B together with a staple, and you’re done. Super simple! (In the photo at the top of this post, you can see this stapled connection point at the back of the hat.) If you’re working with very young students, it might be a good idea to have the hats made ahead of time for them so that they are all ready to be decorated. Scoring takes a little bit of practice so as not to cut through the paper while you’re doing it, but after a few tries, you will learn what amount of pressure is just right.

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If Earth Day is going to be your theme for hat decoration, it might be a good idea to spend some time talking with your students about all of the different ways they could decorate their hats to show how they feel about protecting and celebrating the earth. They could cut out letters to include words on their hats, they could cut out, or tear out, and create symbols to place on their hats (think earth, sun, clouds, water, plants), they could add fun, three dimensional things to their hats such as paper streamers, ribbons, and more. (I would strongly suggest that you not use drawing materials such as markers, crayons, or pencils for hat decoration, as drawings tend to lack the excitement and involvement that other types of surface decoration provide.) Perhaps this brainstorming could be captured as a list that the students could refer back to while they work?

By this time, your students will be highly motivated to get started creating their hat masterpieces, so there is little left to do beyond getting their hats and materials distributed to them. They will have a blast making something that is such a personal statement, and the fact that they will be able to wear them when they’re complete just sweetens the deal. (I’m envisioning a photo op in here somewhere!) Have fun with this, and I’d love to hear how it goes if you decide to try it! (Pictured below is a basic, undecorated scored paper hat from the front.)

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DSC01110As a teacher of professional development art courses for the past 17 years, I’ve noticed one consistent truth: teachers are reluctant to teach art because they are afraid. Afraid that to effectively teach art, they must “perform” artistically in some way for their students. They repeatedly tell me things like, “I can’t draw” and “I’m not an artist”. My message to them is twofold. First of all, experience has shown me that everyone is creative to some degree — we all just have different levels of art experience and exposure. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, a teacher doesn’t need to be a trained artist, or to be able to draw, in order to present successful, meaningful, and powerful art lessons in their classroom. In fact, I would argue that the most important thing a teacher needs to be when teaching art, is what I would call a “monitor/motivator”, and one of the most profound phrases in the motivator’s toolkit is, “take another look”.

Just as adults can be intimidated by art, so too are the students we teach. It’s no surprise that the higher up in grade level one looks, the more fear and trepidation one will see in the students. This is where the power of the “monitor/motivator” role comes in. By closely monitoring your students as they work on any given art experience, you will be able to support and motivate them as needed, helping to build their confidence. Actively move around the room offering constructive, encouraging words and comments while you closely look at what they are working to create. When students ask for help and want you to solve an art problem for them, resist the urge to do so and suggest that they “take another look”. Ask questions that will encourage their thinking and analysis of their own work, and of the problem at hand. This is critical thinking made manifest.

Because of a limited exposure to art among other things, students often think they are finished with an art making experience long before they really are. This is the crucial point where you can acknowledge what they’ve already accomplished by saying something like, “That’s a really great start!” and then offer the empowering questions, “What else can you do here? Take another look… what else can you explore?” This suggestion to “take another look” lets the student know that there is still more to see and to do, and that your expectation is that they will continue to search for it. You are challenging them to push past what might have been a quick, simple, and safe solution on their part, while letting them know that you have faith in their ability to go beyond it. As you consistently monitor and motivate your students during art experiences, you will see your students look to you for answers less and less, as they begin to trust themselves more and more.

As Maria Montessori once observed, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” Helping your students develop into inquisitive, self-directed, life-long learners is possible, and connecting meaningful, authentic art experiences to your curriculum can foster this development. Please click here to see the affordable, convenient, and self-paced professional development art courses I teach through Fresno Pacific University. (* No art experience needed or required!)

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_1435As we all start this bright new year full of fresh hopes and dreams, my wish for you is that 2013 is a year filled with art. Whether you make art yourself, teach art to your students, or appreciate the art of others, make the time to enjoy the pleasures that an art-filled life has to offer. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Happy New Year!

If you’d like to incorporate some art into your classroom but don’t know where to begin, check out the classes I offer here through Fresno Pacific University. My distance learning classes are affordable, convenient, and flexible.

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.

Like the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”. In so many ways, this wonderful season is especially beautiful, and I encourage you to take a few moments when you can, just to notice it. Really look around you right now. This time of year is heavy on the sparkle and glitter, the warm glow of candles, the riot of color, pattern, and texture. Savor it. Let your eyes just drink it all in. And while you’re at it, why not help your children and students notice this bounty of beauty as well? Amid all the hustle and bustle, show the children in your life how easy — and rewarding — it can be to just stop for a moment, take notice, and enjoy.

In the classroom, this type of “visual study” could be the jumping off point for some very meaningful writing, whether it be reflecting on past holidays, thinking about wishes for the future, or writing about what’s going on right now. Maybe it could be a piece of descriptive writing, filled with as many adjectives and details as possible. Observing something thoughtfully, and then drawing it as carefully and as accurately as possible, is also another worthwhile experience. (This is especially good for quieting down energized little ones while helping improve their focus too.)

Teachers: don’t forget that winter is the perfect time to sign up for professional development courses! The art classes I teach are affordable and convenient — and you have up to one year to finish your course work! Picture yourself… hot cocoa in hand, with warm slippers on your feet, earning 3 units of graduate credit in the cozy comfort of your own home… Click here to find out more.  🙂

While counting your blessings this Thanksgiving, my hope is that you will also take time to notice the many little artistic miracles that surround you, such as vibrant color, rich textures, interesting shapes and forms. When you begin to pay attention, life can truly be a feast for the senses each and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!