Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cheap Christmas music on Amazon today!

If anyone is like me and cannot, for the life of 'em, find their Christmas music--WHERE DID THOSE CDs GO!?--then hop on over to Amazon today to get "The Essential NOW That's What I Call Music" album for just 99 cents! It has 25 Christmas classics and my kids are diggin' it today.

When Colbie Caillat's "Mistletoe" came on, the following conversation ensued:

4th grader: "Oh yuck, Justin Bieber."
Mrs. Connell: "No, this is a woman singing."
4th grader: "WHAT!? No it isn't!"
Mrs. Connell: "Yes, this is Colbie Caillat."
4th grader: "Oh wow."
4th grader's friend: "Is this Justin Bieber?"

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kandinsky-inspired trees

Let's get right back into the swing of things, shall we?

I love this project! Probably because I have a thing for trees. Our downstairs bathroom is decorated with trees, a collection inspired by one of my aunts, whose tree collection is museum-worthy, boasting pieces from all over the globe. So when I saw this Kandinsky-inspired tree project, I knew we had to try it!

I showed my third graders images of Kandinsky's paintings, focusing on the Circles series.

I demonstrated the process of cutting a square, paring it down into a circle, gluing it onto another color, cutting around the previous circle... repeat, repeat, repeat.

Each 'target' had to have at least three circles and colors but could be bigger and more colorful if desired.


Some students rocked it!

Some didn't.

On the second day, more circles were cut, as were trees with branches. The kids had the option to either use their hand as a tree-ish template...

... or to fold their paper in half and cut a symmetrical tree.

Everything was mounted onto the color of each artist's choice. Gorgeous! I might steal one for my tree bathroom.

Pencils were used to write names on the back--the only time pencils were used the entire project. Some stinkers did try to sneak a writing utensil so they could draw their circles before cutting them, but Officer Connell cracked down on that criminal activity stat!

Side note. Sometimes I am shocked (and embarrassed!) by the lack of basic skills of my students--in particular, gluing and cutting. I attribute this to a few things. We have no art class at the kindergarten level. This saddens me, especially considering the many times the kindergarten teachers have shared that new curricula prevent them from doing the artsy/crafty things they used to do with their little ones. And I think that this "we don't have time to do arts and crafts because we have to get our kids ready for the tests" mentality is pervasive throughout the elementary grades. So onto the art teacher goes the burden of Glue Bottles 101 and Scissors for Beginners... and then reviewing that same information every year. All that to say that I might bump this project down to a younger grade next year, as it was good for workin' those scissors in a circular motion.

Does anyone else see this lack of basic skills? For the veteran teachers, have you seen a decline in basic skills in the past few years?

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Like you, I've spent this weekend heavy-hearted, overwhelmed by Friday's events. I don't know what to say, but I do know how to pray. And as I anxiously await tomorrow's alarm clock, please know that in addition to praying for all those affected by this senseless tragedy, I will be praying very specifically for all of you--my fellow teachers, caretakers of our dear children--for your strength and your safety, and for your peace. May God bless you this week.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Coming off of their autumn-y landscapes dotted with Aspen trees, fifth graders have moved on to seascapes. I've done seascapes for a few years but decided to mix things up this year, combining elements of projects I found here and here.

Like that second plan suggests, I use this project to show the kids the work of Winslow Homer. The more I study his realistic oil paintings, the more I appreciate both his talent and dedication to the subject of the sea.

This year, the kids looked at some of Homer's watercolors and oils before starting their own. Everyone chose a tempera paint color palette with which to cover a 12x18" sheet of white paper. They loved blending their colors and experimenting with brush techniques to achieve smooth waters or crashing seas. They added some sgraffito if desired. On this day, art class was sponsored by the letter M. For MESSY.

On day two, all students painted another 12x18" sheet--this time, watercolors on watercolor paper--for the sky. This day was sponsored by the color blue, a.k.a. an excuse to wear my new blue pants.

The 'ocean paper' was torn horizontally to create white waves and surf--so cool! These pieces were layered onto the watercolor paper to make sky and water meet.

Lastly, we went over a few origami boat folds. Kiddos had lots of paper and sizes from which to choose. I required them to use differing sizes to demonstrate perspective.

I pre-taught my Art Enrichment kids how to do the folds so they could teach the others.

Pile-up in the marina!

My fifth graders really enjoyed this mixed media approach--when I hear, "this is so cool!" and "woooow!" I want to do a happy little dance (and sometimes my blue pants and I indulge).

Some kiddos really went wild with this. I had a few kids 'sink' their ships by ripping them in half, and others made little "S.O.S." flags or named their boats. One of my outside-the-box thinkers asked to use a black Sharpie to draw on the sky; I asked if she'd prefer to paint on clouds but she said she'd like to use the black marker. I said yes and she ended up with this rockin' result, graphic and bold like the rest of the artworks I've seen from her:

Gosh I love these kids.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's that time of year...

Well well well, look what Santa brought, just in time for supply orders!

To date, I have received FOUR copies of the latest Sax catalog. FOUR! One is addressed to my maiden name and one to my married name--mmkay, I get that. I guess.

Number three is addressed to the strings instructor, and the fourth (and final? time will tell) copy is addressed to the band director, who, by the way, is a man.

After each name the address reads, ART TEACHER. Some little elf at Sax must think we are way overstaffed, with 4 art teachers for just 300 children small children.

And did I mention the other 2 copies I got at my other school building? Someone did not check their list twice.

More metal tooling

Some more fourth graders have completed their metal tooling project (shown here last week). I'm feeling better about this project after seeing more results.

Now I just have to figure out how and where to display them, as I have no display cases to my name.

Also, how is it December? The time is getting away from me this year--I must be getting old.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Go vote for your favorite blogs!

Voting has opened for Art Ed Blog of the Year! Go on over to The Art of Ed to vote for the blogs that inspire you! Some of my favorite blogs are nominated and I have great hopes for them! Congrats to all nominees!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Metal tooling medieval style

Please heed my warning: this post is extra long. Also, I meant to post it on Monday. It's been that sort of week.

Each summer, my district invites teachers to create their own week-long classes for local kids. So guess who's asked to do art classes?

This past summer, we used cardboard, glue, and foil to make some cool foil plates based on those I found here (via Pinterest). The kids LOVED them and they looked great (note: we opted to use tempera instead of shoe polish), so I decided to proceed with something similar for this school year.

The gluing was a challenge for some students and did take up a lot of time due to drying, so I decided to do a simpler metal tooling, same premise minus the glue. Then I stumbled upon Ren's metal tooling project here and declared that the subject for this project must be illuminated letters, as this was a genius idea. And because I have an affinity for medieval art. And because I may have become slightly obsessed with illumination after reading this book. Movin' on.

I cut down cardboard boxes with an old(er than I am) paper cutter. I used a 6x8" size. I pre-ripped aluminum foil, too.

We discussed illumination and I talked way too much (which is probably so shocking, considering my concise blog posts, mmhmm). Students spent the remainder of that first day sketching out ideas.

Next class, kiddos wrapped their cardboard with foil. I had them use a glue stick to glue one side of the cardboard before adding their foil, then wrapping the back edges and taping them down for added strength.

With dull pencils, the little illuminators transferred their compositions onto the foil. We had a few rips and tears, but those were covered up with the next step.

With some tempera paint down in the cracks, the letters popped.

I didn't have special foil, but some heavy-duty aluminum foil was on hand. And I think that's why these aren't as fabulous-looking as those on Dali's Moustache. I'll be ordering heavier gauge and various colors for next year to see if that alleviates the problem. On the plus-side, this was a fairly quick project, taking up just 3 classes (45 minutes per class). And the kids enjoyed looking at illuminations from long ago.

And now it's Friday, and it's super rainy, and ohmagoodness, someone get me a cup of caffeine. Happy weekend, all!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A very delicious value project!

In my experience, some of the most successful and enjoyable projects are those chosen at the last minute. This is one of those projects!

One of my third grade classes was a full day ahead of the others and I wanted to slow 'em down to keep everyone on the same project. During my morning hallway duty, laptop in hand, I did a fast Pinterest search for lessons on color value (to reinforce the previous leaf project).

I found this gem and was sold (and hungry!).

My sweeties drew sweet triangular cones and their desired number of ice cream scoops, which they painted using a range of values of one color. Chocolate chips and cherries were optional, though very popular!

As they finished painting, I told the kiddos to come up with a name for their new flavor. Some of my favorites: Green Mint Moon, Bluberry Jam, Bubblegum Chocolate Chip, Polar Bear Super Chip, Spicy Pumpkin, and Biggiblue!

We took a few minutes of the next class to cut and assemble the tasty treats.

How refreshing! Hahaha!

Now who wants to go to Dairy Queen?