Archives for category: holiday lesson

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!

Advertisements

IMG_2355With the holiday season upon us, what better way to decorate your classroom, or another location at school, than by having your students make some festive, one-of-a-kind holiday streamers?! This idea can be used at any grade level, and materials can be as simple or as complex as you’d like them to be.

MATERIALS: You will pre-cut one long, thin strip of butcher paper for each child in your class, plus a few extras in case of any “disasters”. 🙂  A good size for these strips would be about 6 inches wide by about 5 or 6 feet long. Decide what materials you’d like them to use to decorate their banners. Depending on your time frame, the age and skill levels of your students, and how involved you want to get, materials can range from crayons only to things like, construction paper and glue, cotton, buttons, brads, tissue paper, and more. You might consider limiting their color choices, so that all designs will be created using red, green, and black for example.

MOTIVATION: Before distributing the banners and supplies, tell your students that they are each going to decorate their paper strip with a vertical (tall) design. This means that they will work from top to bottom and not from left to right as they usually do. Talk about all the possibilities for holiday images including things like designs, lettering, and symbols. Time spent brainstorming before you distribute supplies will pay off greatly once everyone gets to work. In fact, you might consider making a list of things during brainstorming, so that students have something to return to if they feel stuck. (Great language arts connection opportunity, too!) Be sure to stress that the decorations for these streamers need not only be “representational” art. (Art that looks like something.) Images of pure design (nonrepresentational art) can be fantastic here, too. (New vocabulary words!) This will help alleviate stress for those students who might be insecure about their drawing skills.

Once everyone starts working, you might get questions about how to draw this or that. The way I handle this is to “talk them through it” without solving it for them. Ask them questions about the thing they want to draw or represent, leading them to create something themselves. Depending on your students, you might make little pieces of scratch paper available, so they can work out some rough sketches before committing their idea to their banner. This kind of thinking and decision making is a vital part of any meaningful art experience and distinguishes it from merely being a “craft project”.

Once completed, the streamers can be suspended from a line stretched across your room or will even look spectacular if they are taped or stapled to the walls. If you don’t have space in your room for display, perhaps you might consider hanging them in the front office, library, hallway, or cafeteria? If time permits, invite students to describe their streamer decorations and talk about why they did what they did with the class. (Oral language!) Or perhaps you might have them write about their streamer decorations and their decision making during the creative process. (Written language!) If you really want to try something fun, consider introducing the idea of a “critique”. This teaches students how to be careful observers, and how to speak respectfully to each other about the work that has been done. A thoughtful critique also shows students how many other creative solutions there are to any given art problem. When the time comes for winter break, the streamers can be simply rolled up and held with a rubber band or paperclips to be taken home for family and friends to enjoy.

For more ready-to-use art lesson plans, consider registering for my affordable, convenient, self-paced classes here.

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.

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.  🙂

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.