Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Art That Makes You Smarter- The Last Supper


Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, c.1495-97
Tempera and Oil on Plaster, 460 x 880 cm.

It has been said that Leonardo da Vinci accomplished more than any other man in history. He was an inventor, a musician, a sculptor, an architect, an engineer, a writer, and a painter (among so many other things). One of his most famous paintings, The Last Supper, is painted in the refectory of the Monastery of Saint Maria delle Grazie in Milan. This painting was copied by other artists of da Vinci's time and has been reproduced widely since. This is a painting of the last supper between Jesus Christ and his disciples. Jesus Christ tells them that one of them will betray him. The men are arranged in groups of three with Christ in the center. Da Vinci experimented with a new mixture (linseed oil, pigments, egg) to paint this piece resulting in restorative work being necessary as early as 1517. The many restorations to this piece have caused damage to the paint and some changes in the actual figures. There is some controversy surrounding the latest restoration, in 1977. It took 22 years, but those in favor of this restorative effort note that almost 50% of the original painting remains and the original brilliant colors are now more evident. 

Questions for Students to Ponder and Explore:
What types of food are the men eating? What is beyond the window? What is linseed oil? Why are the men wearing such a limited number of colors (blue, red, cream, tan)? Why are the men arranged in groups of three? Where are the women?

Arts Integration Ideas (adapt for specific grade levels as needed):
History- Some speculate that da Vinci painted himself into this work. Research theories that both support and refute this speculation. Determine which is most convincing. Write a persuasive piece citing research. 
Writing- View Ultima Cena by Juan de Juanes. Use a Double Bubble Map or a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the two paintings. Use this to create a piece of writing.
Math- Study the perspective of the painting. Use rulers to measure and draw the room (windows, walls, etc.)
Language- Make a Circle Map of nouns in the painting. Sort the nouns into categories. Use the nouns to form sentences and paragraphs about the painting.
Science-  Experiment with the materials da Vinci used to create the paint for this piece.  Create this paint. Test it, experiment with it. What materials would improve this type of paint? Make guesses about what other materials he might have included.

Helpful Resources:

Please leave feedback! I would love to hear about your classroom.
 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Coordinate Owls

Timeframe: 5 hours, spread over the course of several days 
Grade Level: 4th 

I worked with a wonderful fourth grade teacher to develop this project. She wanted something for her students to do that would incorporate math and "some cute owls". We decided to use the coordinate plane to help the students draw an owl! It turned out to be such a cute and educational project! When I saw the finished products and heard the students talking about it, I was amazed at the learning that took place! I just love collaborating with classroom teachers!

Here's what we did:

First, I taped two sheets of graph paper together to make a larger piece. I sketched an owl, being careful to touch points where the lines crossed. You can see my sketch in the photo above. Then, I labeled each point and determined the coordinates. There were about 25 points. I made a list of the coordinates. 

The classroom teacher let her students use two sheets of graph paper taped together to plot each point and connect them to draw their own owl. 

They used what they had learned in the art classroom about variety and pattern to color and decorate their owls. Then, they cut them out and glued to black construction paper. 

They wrote the procedures to incorporate language arts. 

The classroom teacher displayed this project outside her classroom. She posted objectives (below) with the student work so that others would know what the students were learning. 

I LOVE this project. 
It incorporates math, language arts, and visual arts! 
It is appropriate for inclusion classrooms. 
 It is very engaging for students.

Please leave feedback. Let me know if you try this with your students. I would love to hear what worked and didn't work for your classroom!

Share your own ideas, photos, etc!!!
 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Following Directions Center

My students seriously needed some structured activities on which to work while waiting for the other students to finish their main projects*. I decided that "centers" would be the best thing. Implementing these mini-activities (or centers) into my classroom has helped cut down on problems such as misbehavior, mess-making, and mischief in general. 

I spent about 5 weeks at the very beginning of the year teaching rules, procedures, and expectations for these centers. It felt like a LONG time, but it has really paid off in the end. When the students are independently working on centers, I am free to work with students individually and in small groups on other skills they need to complete their main projects. 

Here's what we do: 

Since my classroom is rather small, and I teach up to 30 students per class, it isn't feasible for my students to move from one center to the next. Instead, each table has a center basket placed underneath the general supplies basket. I rotate these each week. This photo shows the general supplies basket on top of the center basket (which is really more like a tray). You can also see the paint that students are using on their main project. I allow students to use any supplies that are on the table to work on their center. They can choose whatever they like as long as they aren't wasteful. 

I use this board to let the students know exactly what center activity their table will be working on for the week. It is helpful because the supplies used to get transferred from one table to next very easily. I suspect sneaky students were moving the supplies hoping they could get away with working on the center they like best, and then pleading ignorance. They can't do that with this chart posted. The cards must correspond to the materials with which they are working. ;)

This is an index card box that goes with the Following Directions center.
 It holds "How to Draw" cards. 

Below are two examples of the cards. I chose to make these cards for the beginning of the year. I started with about 5 of the same card in each box. It was "How to Draw a Star". Very simple! When I first began teaching this center, I wanted the students to focus on the steps to completing the center, not the actual drawing. (That came later!)

Anyway,  each student used just the one card until they learned all of the steps and could complete the center independently. This took about 3 weeks. However, this was the first center that I introduced. All of the other centers came much more easily for the students once they got the hang of this one. 

I added new cards to the box every week after those first 3 weeks. Now there are about 50 different cards in each box. This gives the students some choice in what they learn to draw. 

These simple steps are written inside the box. (See below.)

Eventually, I started adding "How to Draw" books to the center to give the students more choice in what they learn to draw.

 I really had to enforce the "No Tracing" rule with this! Tracing defeats the purpose of the center, which is to follow directions. Therefore, if they trace, they don't get to participate in the center. Since they are eager to use the "How to Draw" books and cards, they usually obey the rule.

I have this Flow Map posted so they can easily remember what type of Thinking Map to apply to their Following Directions center work. 

1. Draw
2. Color
3. Flow Map
4. Write

This center is differentiated. All students can draw what they see. Therefore, all students can complete the first step. Most students can also make it to the second step. They can use any available supplies (the ones on their table) to add color to what they have drawn. The third step requires a little more of the students. They must make a flow map of the steps to draw whatever they chose. However, most students can also be successful with this because they have the directions in the book or on the card. The fourth step requires the students to write sentences (and a paragraph if time permits) describing the procedures for drawing whatever they chose.

Most students don't have time to make it through all 4 steps in one class period. They are encouraged to bring what they have finished back the next week. 

*Main projects are the big, multi-step projects that hang for display around the school and throughout the community. Centers are like mini-projects that the students can take home after each class period.

Share your own ideas, photos, etc!!!
Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Art That Makes You Smarter- Jackson Pollock

Using Art Prints in the Classroom

Jackson Pollock, Number 32, c.1950
Gloss paint on canvas, 87x118 inches

Jackson Pollock was innovative for his time because he was a painter who didn't really "paint". Instead, he spread paint onto canvases by dripping and pouring. He didn't create a central focal point in his artwork. He placed equal importance on all parts of his paintings, from the edge to the center. He was supported in this by the famous art dealer, Peggy Guggenheim. 

Questions for Students to Ponder and Explore:
What would possess a person to express themselves by dripping paint? How was this innovative for the time period? How have other artists used this technique in modern times? How could this method of painting help a person (physically, emotionally, etc.)? What are the physical aspects of this painting method? What are some other methods of painting that could be considered non-traditional? 

Arts Integration Ideas (adapt for specific grade levels as needed):
Science- Identify the muscles of the human body that would be used when dripping/pouring paint onto a large canvas. Compare and constrast these muscles to the muscles that would be used in the game of baseball or football. OR explore the concepts of force, gravity, absorption, etc. to explain why the paint splatters and spreads the way that it does.  
Math- Splatter paint onto graph paper by dripping or pouring. Measure the area and perimeter of the splatters. OR look at the splatters as if they were a road map. Thick (large) splatters are points of interest, thin splatters are the roads.  Determine distance between points of interest and write directions for how to get from one point to the next. Write word problems for a peer to solve based on this splatter paint road map. Measure and convert to different scales.  Make a scale that is suitable for walking. Walk it out on the playground with a group. OR count large, medium, and small paint splatters. Graph the data in different ways. Analyze the data. 
Language Arts- Create your own paint splatter piece. Imagine that the larger paint splatters are people. What are they doing?  List action verbs to match each. Write sentences with these verbs. (Label each larger splatter with a human name. This would be the subject of the sentence.)
Writing- Write a paragraph that tells how to get from one paint splatter to another. (Example: Exit the left most paint splatter through the largest, top right glob. Continue right for two pencil lenghts. Merge left with the thicker paint strand...). OR Use a view finder to isolate one section of your splattered piece. Pretend that it is an alien in outerspace. Describe what the alien looks like, where they live, etc. OR get students to notice detail by labeling one area of the painting A and another B. Compare both areas. Describe how the areas are alike and different (Example: Area A is slightly smaller than area B. Area B has a flatter top, left side. Area A looks like a firework, area B looks like...)
Special Needs- Let students use pipettes to spread paint. After this has dried, let students trace the edges with their fingers and then draw around the edges with a crayon or marker. Let them cut along this line. Guide them by placing your hand on top of theirs while they cut. Place your hand over theirs as they use the glue. Glue this cut out to a black sheet of paper.

Helpful Resources:
Jackson Pollock
13 Paintings Children Should Know by Angela Wenzel
Create Digital Pollock-Style Art (THIS IS GREAT! Would be an interesting early finisher center for iPad or computer.)
William Flewellen Heard- Pollock Inspired Artist- Tupelo, MS

Share your own ideas, photos, etc!!!
 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Art That Makes You Smarter- The School of Athens

Using Art Prints in the Classroom

Raphael Santi, The School of Athens, c.1509/11
Fresco, base length approx. 770 cm

Raphael Santi's father, Giovanni Santi, was a painter who was often invited to the palace in Urbino, Italy. Because of this, the young Raphael was most likely exposed to some of the best artists, writers, and thinkers of the time and place. Raphael eventually apprenticed under an artist friend of his father's named Pietro Vannucci, nicknamed Perugino. By 1504, Raphael had moved to Florence, Italy. Raphael's friendly personality helped him establish himself professionally there. Raphael died in 1518 at the age of 35. His last work Transfiguration for the Cathedral of Narbonne was left unfinished.

The School of Athens is one of the best examples of how he creates depth in his pieces. He uses steps to move his figures back into space. The figures are grouped so as to create depth. The School of Athens was commissioned by Pope Julius II as part of a series at the Vatican meant to unify the Church, classical ideas, literature, and philosophy. Here, Raphael assembles the most famous philosophers of the Golden Age of Greece. He used the likeness of himself and some of his contemporaries to paint the figures in the piece. He wears a black hat on the far right of the painting.

Questions for Students to Ponder and Explore:
What is the sphere the man is holding on the right? Why would children be at the School of Athens? What might be written on the slate in the foreground on the left? What could the men be studying from this slate? Is that a woman standing on the right with a white gown? Who might she represent at the School of Athens? Are any of the other figures female?

Arts Integration Ideas (adapt for specific grade levels as needed):
History/Social Studies/Religion-There are so many things for this category. This is a painting of the philosophers of ancient Greece!! Focus on Greece, philosophy, mythology, etc. 
Science- Look at the black slate on the bottom left. The drawing looks like water in a pipe. Is the water draining? Students could design their own pipe/water system for their dream house. Explore how gravity, force, etc. moves water through pipe systems. How do water systems and piping relate to the subway systems we have in large cities today? (This is a very broad and open ended topic. Upper level students and advanced learners could take this in many directions.) There are tons of pipeline- building games on the internet that students could play. These games force students to think and act quickly to develop piping systems that will work for the flow of liquid. Students could use straws and tape to build their own piping system. OR Raphael studied anatomy to understand how the human body worked. This helped him with his accuracy of drawing/painting the human form. Students can draw from models of human organs. 
Writing- Students can write about where they would place themselves in the painting based on the activities in which they see the philosophers taking part. They should justify this by explaining what they think the philosophers are doing and why they think they belong there. By doing this, they need to be able to describe themselves in such a way that would explain why their presence should be in a certain section of the painting (understand themselves and use written language to convey their understanding).  OR Write a dialogue between the two central figures or a conversation between a selected group of figures that fits with what the figures are doing in the painting. 
Math-Symmetry and tessellations are key factors in this piece. The arches create symmetrical balance. What else about the piece creates this? Take measurements. Students can also identify each tessellation in the painting (there are several). They can expand the tessellation on the floor, making it more complicated with intricate patterns. 
Language- Students can write the sentence that each figure might be speaking (based on their expression in the painting). They will use each of the four sentence types multiple times. To make this activity take less time, students can choose two figures from each quadrant of the painting (upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right). 

Helpful Resources:

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Art That Makes You Smarter: Primavera

Using Art Prints in the Classroom

Botticelli, Primavera, c.1477
Medium: Tempera on wood
Dimensions: 203x314 cm

In Florence, Italy, in the mid 1400s, the wealthy Medici family became patrons of Sandro Botticelli. They commissioned him to paint many pieces possibly including Primavera. The Medici family and Botticelli were interested in allegory and classic mythology during the time this piece was completed. Primavera depicts the coming of Spring. There are several ideas on the meaning of this painting. Some think it is a meeting of lovers. Others think it represents the four seasons or womanhood. Most believe it to be a painting of Venus (central figure), Mercury (left), Cupid (above Venus), and Flora (strewing flowers from her gown). It is widely accepted that this painting is in some way related to a marriage between the Medici and Appiani families. This marriage was arranged to unite both powerful families. The bride and groom had likely not met before the ceremony. Thus, Mercury is driving away not only the dark clouds with his staff, but also the anxiety this marriage would have brought the bride.

Questions for Students to Ponder and Explore:
What make this painting important for the time period? Where are these figures located? What is beyond the trees? Why is one figure painted in dark colors? What does this figure represent? Why are the women dressed so differently? Why does one woman have a flower in her mouth? Why are only two figures wearing shoes? What is represented by the contrast of the dark trees and light sky? How old do you think the figures are?

Arts Integration Ideas (adapt for specific grade levels as needed):
History/Social Studies/Religion- Research the Roman gods. Determine who you think each figure represents and defend your reasoning. Why would an Italian Renaissance painter use Roman figures in his paintings? How is the Italian Renaissance related to Rome? OR Use a double bubble map to compare and contrast Roman and Greek gods. 
Science- Research common plants of the location and time period of this piece. Make a best guess at what type of fruit is growing on the trees and defend your reasoning. Is the vegetation in the painting accurately depicted? Do you think that the artist used actual plants as models for this painting OR did he invent new ones?
Writing- What game might the three ladies on the left be playing? Invent a new game based on what they are doing in the painting. Write the instructions for how to play the new game. (procedural) OR Write a story about the three figures on the right. What are they doing? (fiction) You could also write your own Roman myth based on the painting.
Math- Locate angles in the painting. There are many (Cupids' arrow, between the figures' legs/feet, tree trunks to figures' bodies, etc.). Measure. Use these angles to draw your own picture (could be abstract, doesn't have to have people in it). Paint it. OR Draw a "floor" plan of where each figure is standing. Measure the distance between figures. Use lots of estimation. OR talk about tessellations and the central figures fabric. OR Have an estimation contest. Estimate how many flowers or how many oranges are in the painting. Count to determine the actual number. 
Language- This painting has lots of action because all of the figures are doing something. Some are doing more than one thing. Make a circle map of the verbs in the painting (aiming, dancing, holding, touching, walking, grabbing, biting, etc.). Then use the verbs to write about the painting. 

Helpful Resources:

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Art That Makes You Smarter: The Arnolfini Portrait

Using Art Prints in the Classroom

Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portraitc.1434
Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: 82.2 x 60 cm

There is some mystery around this piece. It is unclear if the painting is of an engagement or marriage. Also, it is unclear if the portrait is of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami OR of Giovanni's brother, Michele, and his wife, Elisabeth. Some even believe it to be a portrait of Jan van Eyck himself, with his wife Margarete.

The mirror in the painting is convex. It shows a larger area than a flat mirror. Flat mirrors had not yet been invented in 1434. It shows that there were other people in the room, yet it is not known who they were. The frame of the mirror shows the Passion of Christ.

The woman in the portrait may or may not have been pregnant. In 1434, women wore dresses that would have concealed that part of their figure.

Questions for Students to Ponder and Explore:
Why are there two pairs of shoes on the floor? Why can't we clearly see the man's feet? What are the cat-like figures on the red seat in the background? Why would a small broom be hanging on the bed? Why would the artist include a small statue of Saint Margaret? How does the (geometric) orthogonal perspective and the reflection in the mirror make this painting innovative for the time period? Why are the colors more vibrant on the right side of the portrait and more muted on the left side?

Arts Integration Ideas (adapt for specific grade levels as needed):
History/Social Studies/Religion- Research the Passion of Christ to determine why this would be included in a painting of this time period. OR research dating and marriage traditions of this time period. Compare and contrast those to the dating and marriage traditions of modern times.
Science- Research common plants of the location and time period of this piece. Make a best guess at what type of plant is outside the window and defend your reasoning. OR compare and contrast convex and concave lenses. Determine the historical implications of each and how they relate to our daily lives.
Writing- Write a love letter from the man in the portrait to the woman in the portrait. Write a love letter from the woman in the portrait to the man in the portrait. Show understanding of the time period through choice of wording.  OR write about the event from the perspective of one of the people in the mirror. This would require making an educated guess about who is shown in the mirror and what role they would have played at this event.
Math- Draw a floor plan for the room. Based on your estimations of the contents (furniture, people, window, etc.), what would be the dimensions of the room? Determine area and perimeter. Determine the size of each wooden floor panel that would be necessary to fill the room. Compare the number of floor panels in the portrait to your judgements about the dimensions of the room. OR measure the contents of the room, including the people, furniture, window, fruit, shoes, and dog. Determine if the proportions are real or if artistic liberty was taken in the painting. For instance, does the size of the fruit make sense proportionally compared to the size of the people based on the placement of each in the portrait? (Discuss foreshortening.)
Language- Use prepositions to tell about the piece. (The oranges are on the table, etc.) OR use adjectives to describe the right side of the painting and the left side.

Helpful Resources:
Jan van Eyck-Wikipedia
The Arnolfini Portrait- Wikipedia
13 Paintings Children Should Know by Angela Wenzel
The Arnolfini Portrait- National Gallery, London
50 Artists You Should Know
Short Lessons in Art History: Artists and Their Work

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Watermelon Self-Portraits

9 year old
Timeframe: 1-2 hours total for the visual art 
Grade Level: All grades

Watermelons are a staple snack for late summer and early fall in the south. They're juicy and messy, and so refreshing when it is hot. Its always fun to get outside and have what my grandmother used to call a "watermelon cutting".

During one of my art camps, we did just that. We had a traditional, southern "watermelon cutting". We put quilts on the ground, picnic style. I gave each student a slice of watermelon and took their picture while they took the first big bite. Obviously, I won't post those here for privacy reasons. But, the picture served for the basis of these Watermelon Self-Portraits.

I got the idea for this art activity while searching ideas for summer photography of children. There is so much adorable photography out there of children eating watermelons. There is also a lot of great  artwork featuring children eating watermelons to show students with this project. Google it!

Here's what we did:

After I let each student study the digital copy of their photo, we began drawing self-portraits.
8 year old

We actually drew the entire face first. Then we went back and drew the watermelon slice and hands. It really seemed to help the younger students to draw the whole face first, and then draw the watermelon and hands on top. We erased the parts of the face that would be covered by the watermelon slice. I think this helped them with their proportions. However, the hands were still very hard for them to draw. We had to practice and practice!!

6 year old
We selected a pattern from the fabric of the quilts to use as our background. Then we traced over our pencil lines with a black permanent marker. 
9 year old
We used Crayola Multicultural tempera to paint our skin. This paint is WONDERFUL for painting people, because it is always so hard for students to mix skin tones themselves. We used Yasutomo Pearlescent Watercolors to paint the rest. Tempera cakes would work great for the background if you are strapped for cash and can't afford to use that much Yasutomo!

This activity is great for summertime. It would also be a great beginning of the year activity for a regular classroom. 

Here are some integration ideas for the younger grades:
  • Save the seeds and glue to a piece of construction paper to tell addition and subtraction stories.
  • Sort the small, medium, and large seeds for graphing.
  • Have a seed spitting contest to incorporate measurement. (Just keep it outside, because that could be a disaster indoors!)
  • Do a descriptive writing piece and incorporate the science of the 5 senses. 
  • Use a seed to make a Flow Map of the watermelon lifecycle (glue it to the actual map).

Here are some integration ideas for the older grades:
  • Use the seeds to make an array of a multiplication fact.
  • Do a piece of descriptive writing OR a piece of procedural writing. Some procedures would be "How to Cut a Watermelon" (after watching the teacher demonstrate), "How to Clean Up After Eating a Watermelon", "How to Make Watermelon Juice".
  • Do a scientific experiment to determine the best way to get the seeds to sprout AND write about it.
  • Paint the seeds, create a class mosaic, then write about the teamwork process.
  • Put all of the seeds in a jar, have a contest to let the lower grades estimate how many, then write a blog post or newspaper article about the event.
  • Write an "I Remember When" poem about another time they had watermelon OR about the time they had watermelon at school
  • Google image search "Americana Watermelon Artwork" for a social studies unit to address stereotypes in American History, then do a persuasive writing piece.

10 year old
 (She did a great job on the hands!)

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Thursday, September 20, 2012

You Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog

Timeframe: 2 hours- small group setting
Grade Level: pre K +

Recently, I taught a series of week long art "camps" for kids at my home. I was so pleased when I realized that the students had fallen in love with a hound dog who lives with me. Her name is Alli. At first, she was a distraction. They wanted to pet her, chase her, feed her, take her outside, and trick her. In fact, I went to the kitchen to refill a drink during snack time, and returned to find a trail of popcorn from the living room, down the hallway, and into the guest shower! They were trying to lure Alli to a bath!

It was only when I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to engage them as learners that Alli became the focus, not the distraction. 

Now, if you are a teacher who is looking for projects for your classroom, don't fret! You don't have to take your dog to school. If I had been able to plan ahead for this project, I would have used a children's book  to get the students excited about hound dogs. I hear Charlie the Ranch Dog is excellent, though I have never actually read it. I would probably use the Elvis Presley song as a prompt as well. We would do some movement and reading before the visual art activity.
Here's what we did:

Basic shapes were used to draw the face of a dog. The top of the head is a soft square, the ears are long ovals, the nose is a soft rectangle etc. I use the word "soft" when talking about shapes with no sharp corners. They also used black permanent markers to trace their pencil lines.

An exiting 5th grader at work.
An exiting Kindergartener at work. 
An exiting 1st grader at work.

Next, they used white crayons to color clouds in the background and blue watercolors to create a resist. This looks like clouds in the sky behind the dog.

Last, they painted the dog using pearlescent watercolor cakes. I like Yasutomo brand. I use them a lot in my art lessons.

Super proud of this one!
This is the finished work of an entering Kindergartener!
She's never been to school or daycare!

Here's Alli!

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Monday, September 10, 2012

Prickly Pear Cactus

Timeframe: Four-45 minute sessions
Grade Level: 4th

Classroom Management Helpful Hint:
Use a large black garbage bag to collect scraps of paper. When class starts, have one student from each table go to the bag and return with an arm load of the scrap paper. At the end of class, have them return what is left to the bag.


I absolutely love Denise M. Logan's Dynamic Art Projects for Children. I refer to it often, and that is where the idea for this lesson originated. However, I really enjoy adding my own twist on the projects. I also enjoy letting my students add theirs.

Here's what we did:
The students drew the cactus in pencil on a sheet of 11x14 white drawing paper. They divided each pad of the cactus into two or three sections. They used construction paper crayons to first color each section a different color, then to draw designs.

I asked the students to use the same crayon for drawing designs that they used for coloring. I wanted them to see that there is a difference in coloring and drawing with a crayon. I also wanted them to see how different amounts of pressure on the crayon can create different effects.

They used Crayola Twistables to trace around the edge of the cactus and each pad. Also, throughout this lesson, students were required to use the correct vocabulary for the parts of a cactus.

Drawing and coloring the cactus took about one- 45 minute session.

Next, the students cut out the cactus and glued it to a sheet of 11x14 black construction paper. They had to make sure that the bottom of the cactus lined up with the bottom edge of the construction paper.

They used a lot of different kinds of paper to make the spines: origami, scrapbook, construction, wrapping paper, painted scraps, etc. They had to cut each spine (a triangle shape) individually to get the desired look. When they tried to cut out a strip of triangles connected at the bottom (looked like monster teeth), they couldn't properly glue it to the rounded pads of the cactus. They did find that it was easiest and quickest to fold the paper and cut several spines at once. Then they would put drops of glue around the pad and place several spines at a time. Instead of cut one spine, add one drop of glue, place spine, cut another, drop of glue, place spine...You get the idea.

It took at least two- 45 minute sessions to cut and glue all of the spines.

I had to stress to the students that it was okay if their spines stuck off the edge of the paper. I didn't want them to let the size of the paper confine their artwork.

The final touch was to use puff paint to draw more designs on the cactus. I also stressed to them that they were using the paint to draw MORE designs, not to trace the designs that were already drawn.

This took one-45 minute session.
This student chose to use blue as her dominant color and other cool colors to accent. She also chose not to use the puff paint to add more designs to her cactus. I like to let the students have some creative control over their artwork!

This is a really eye-catching art project for the art classroom! I love the contrast of the brightly colored spines to the black paper. It would also make a great writing prompt for the regular classroom. ARTS INTEGRATION!!!

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Hokusai's Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji

Timeframe: 3-45 minute sessions
Grade Level: 5th
Materials: 12x18 white tag board (2 sheets per student), white copy paper scraps, warm color tempera cakes, paintbrushes, water, oil pastels (black, gray, and shades of blue), scissors, glue, black liquid watercolor, styrofoam plates, wooden scratch tools

Here's what we did:
Students viewed Hokusai's Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. They located Japan on a map and discussed the importance of Mount Fuji in Japanese culture. This particular set of students really connected with this project because they were familiar with a local Japanese eatery called Mt. Fuji. 

Next, students created the background. They used one piece of the 12x18 white tag board to create a background. They used black, gray, and shades of blue oil pastels to color in a back and forth motion across the paper. It can be easily seen in this photo. They did not smear the pastels. Crayons would also work well for this project. I made sure the students understood that the back and forth motion had to be controlled by their wrists and hands. They were not free to "scribble scrabble". Then, they did a wash over the entire background with black liquid condensed watercolor watered down to a gray. (This created a resist with the oil pastels. "Resist" is a great vocabulary word to introduce with this project, and it lends easily to science mini-lesson about oil and water.)

On the second sheet of 12x18 white tagboard, students drew the basic shape of a volcano and cut it out. 

They used the wooden scratch tools to carve random designs into the back of the stryofoam plate. This created a stamp which allowed for further discussion of Hokusai's woodblock printing method. Then, they used warm color tempera cakes to paint the back of the plate and stamp it onto the basic volcano shape. I asked the students to go off of the volcano sheet with their stamp. This means that  A LOT of paint got on the tables. I made sure they understood that it was okay to get the paint on the tables because tempera cakes wash up easily.

They used the copy paper scraps to cut out a cloud and the ash that is running down the side of the basic volcano shape. Finally, they glued everything to the background.
This project was done in conjunction with a 5th grade science unit on the forces of nature. It is a great arts integration project.

Images and Text Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Umbrella Queen

Timeframe: 3-45 minute sessions
Grade Level: 3rd-4th
Materials: 12x18 white tag board, 9x12 white tag board, pearlescent watercolors, black permanent markers, 9x12 black construction paper

This project is very dear to my heart because it is based on a book that is set in Thailand. My husband is from Sakkonnakon, Thailand. It is a very small village near the Laotioan border. This book, The Umbrella Queen, is set in a small town very much like Sakkonnakon. 

The plot of the book involves a young girl who is learning the trade of the older women in her family. She is learning to paint umbrellas. Each year in this village, a woman is selected as Umbrella Queen based on her ability to paint the most beautiful and proper umbrella. The girl never dreams that she could be the Umbrella Queen, because she doesn't paint by the rules. 

This book also addresses the right of an artist to freely express themselves. So, it is a great book to use in the art classroom. It would also be great for the regular classroom when focusing on retelling.

I chose to have the students focus on the elephant for their project, even though it is not a crucial part of the story. However, if I were using this in the regular education classroom, I would let each student or group of students create a different scene from the book.

Here's what we did:

I read the book to the students, and we discussed plot, characters, setting. They had lots of questions about Thai culture. I answered those to the best of my ability before moving to a discussion of the composition of the illustrations. 

The students drew circles on a sheet of 12x18 white tag board. They turned these circles into the tops of umbrellas. They focused on using patterns to create their umbrellas. They outilned with black permanent markers and painted with pearlescent watercolors. They only painted the umbrellas, leaving the background white. 
Next, they drew an elephant on a 9x12 sheet of white tag board. They outlined with a black permanent marker and painted with pearlescent watercolors. They cut the elephant out and glued to a black sheet of construction paper. They cut around the elephant on the black paper for emphasis. Then, they glued both pieces to the 12x18 sheet of umbrellas. 

This project is great for multiple age levels. 

The projects on this post were completed by 
entering 1st grade through entering 8th grade students.

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Monday, July 30, 2012


WOW! I just read the most thought provoking article on Education Rethink. This is the first article that I've read on the site, therefore I can't vouch for the worth of any other post. However, I do think this one in particular is a worthy read for anyone, but especially for art teachers, artists, and art lovers.
What is the difference between graffiti and art?

We Need Art Parks addresses an issue that has weighed heavily on my mind since I became an art teacher in the fall of 2011. While I have always been an art lover, I never before understood the importance of the arts in our communities and schools. After teaching first grade for 6 years, then teaching elementary visual art, I became acutely aware of the impact the arts can have on a person, especially a young learner. The fact that most of our communities and schools have a lack of one of the fundamental aspects of human existence concerns me. WE NEED MORE ART!

John T. Spencer dips his toes into the "Art or Vandalism" controversy over graffiti in We Need Art Parks.  However, the "meat" of the article is the idea that our communities have a need for more art. Told through a conversation between children, Spencer asserts that, "We need art to be like sports".

That statement is well worth repeating:
 "We need art to be like sports." 

Our culture places an enormous amount of importance on sports. The fact that the 2012 Summer Olympics have just kicked off can only be a testament to that. We take our kids to little league ballgames at parks built for the sole purpose of sports activities. We buy season tickets to collegiate games of our favorite football teams. We buy the jerseys and car tags of our favorite Major League Baseball teams. We watch Basketball Wives. All things "Sports" are readily available to the masses! 

Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this. I love sports too. I will be sitting right beside you at Davis Wade Stadium this fall to see my beloved Bulldogs play football. And, I'm not saying that our culture doesn't place any value on the arts. It does. 

I'm just saying, "What if...". 

What if we could promote the arts on the same level that we promote sports activities? What if we had places for art competitions the way we have little league baseball fields? What if students had more access to the arts both in school and in the community?

Research has shown over and over that an education rich in the arts greatly increases a student's level of academic success. It increases test scores and graduation rates. It provides a positive outlet for students who are experiencing negative emotions. The arts add value to a community. They provide a common ground for reaching across social barriers, including race, economic status, and age. The arts make the world a more beautiful place. If you don't believe me, check out some of these wonderful resources: Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education, Mississippi Arts Commission, National Arts Education Association.

I would personally like to see more arts activities and festivals in our schools, more art-related activities in our communities. The arts bond human beings together emotionally. Like sports, the arts can bring groups of people together. The arts can unify us for the common good. We need more of that in this country during these trying times. When so many lines are drawn politically, economically, socially, etc., we definitely need more art! 

A Call to Action:

How can we accomplish this? How can we make art like sports? Here are a few ways that I know of: become a member of your local art museum (see below), contact local arts teachers for volunteer opportunities in the schools (just call, they want your help), donate arts materials to local organizations like the Girl Scouts and 4-H Clubs (again, just make the call), follow your local arts organizations on Facebook for updates on arts events in your area (see below), become a member of this blog for more ideas (check the right hand column and click "Join This Site"). 

I can guarantee that if you do any of these things your efforts will be welcomed and appreciated. Also, don't forget to comment below with your own ideas! Let's start a discussion and bring to life all of the possibilities that the arts can offer! 

By the way, while I am on the subject of supporting your local arts organizations, The Gumtree Museum of Art in Tupelo, MS is a wonderful community resource for visual arts. Please check out the site, follow on Facebook, and support the museum by becoming a member.

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room (text)

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Timeframe: 4-45 minute sessions
Grade Level: 5th
Materials: pencils, black oil pastels, liquid watercolors, salt, paintbrushes, 12x18 white drawing paper, 9x12 white drawing paper (2 sheets per student OR fold another 12x18 in half), glue, scissors, cardboard, construction paper crayons, 12x18 black construction paper

This project was inspired by a Dick Blick lesson plan entitled, Painted Story Quilt. I was so intrigued by this lesson, it is absolutely beautiful. However, we didn't have the budget to purchase all of the materials required to do it the Dick Blick way. So, I improvised and came up with my own lesson that is similar but cheaper. I used the concept of "Dreams" as a focus. We discussed dreams in class, and the students imagined and sketched a scene from a dream. I must say they came up with some of the most creative sketches I've ever seen in the elementary art room. (I also want to point out that I am working on finding funds for my classroom that will allow us to do the full Dick Blick lesson. It is really a great lesson, and I am trying to find a way to bring it to my students!)

The first step was to draw the main image for the dream. All of the students kept the field, fence, barn idea; but drew their own images to jump over the fence. One student had two apples with faces, arms, and legs. They were really able to come up with some unique images for this project, even though they all used the same basic background. I told the students that they could be as detailed or as vague as they wanted. This particular student has the basic, "fuzzy" outline of a horse. 

They outlined everything with black oil pastels. The black oil pastels give a different, more powerful look than a black permanent marker would. It is more dreamy, and less defined. The background and the main images are painted with liquid watercolors and sprinkled with salt for texture. 

The main images are glued to a piece of cardboard and then glued to the background. This adds depth.

The border around the image was created by drawing designs on a 12x18 piece of white drawing paper with construction paper crayons; then painting over with liquid watercolors to create a resist. Then the students just cut out shapes and attached to the edges on the black construction paper with glue. Make sure the students don't try to cut out their designs. They need to cut over them. In other words, warn them not to cut on the lines they drew. This way you get shapes with more than one color and design.

Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room

Featured Post

See the Art of Europe with Me

Have you ever dreamt of visiting the Van Gogh Museum? Here’s your chance! I am super excited to announce that Cindy Ingram (the Art C...