Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Drawing With Leonardo

Last week we made sketchbooks in my art class & this week--we filled them up! Nah, we didn't fill them, but I certainly gave them a bunch of stuff to draw this week! This week's class was all about Leonardo da Vinci and his magnificent sketchbooks!

The man of the hour--Mr. da Vinci! (There on the left in 1514).

Da Vinci is probably most famous to us today as an artist (painter & sculptor), but he was also an engineer, a town planner, an inventor, a scientist, a writer, musician and more! He filled countless sketchbooks with his notes, studies, and drawings. Here is a lesson that helps kids explore what kind of work he did. The classroom is divided into four stations:

Station One: Drawing From Nature
Station Two: Strange Beasts
Station Three: Backwards Writing
Station Four: Interesting Inventions

I gave a quick discussion about da Vinci's work and then walked around the room explaining what they'd be doing in each station while showing them examples of da Vinci's work relating to each station. They were able to spend about 10 minutes at each station.

Station One: Drawing From Nature

Supplies Needed:

  • Fruits or veggies cut in half (I used an orange and a pepper)
  • Shells, flowers, leaves or other objects from nature
  • Station handout (examples of da Vinci's work relating to the station and instructions for the station).
  • Blank paper (the children could also use their sketchbooks)
  • Colored pencils and crayons
  • Regular pencils and erasers

On the instruction sheet for this station, I had two pages of da Vinci's drawings from nature: oak leaves with acorns and flowers. The instruction sheet encouraged the children to observe (look at) the natural objects on the table and explore how they are formed. Notice the inside and outside of the object. Draw it's texture and color. Draw all of it's parts and label them like da Vinci did in his work.

Station Two: Strange Beasts

Supplies Needed:
  • Station handout (examples of da Vinci's work relating to the station and instructions for the station).
  • Blank paper (the children could also use their sketchbooks)
  • Colored pencils and crayons
  • Regular pencils and erasers
Optional Supplies:
  • Last year, I created a wheel that the children could spin to select different animal parts to combine into strange mythical beasts. I brought these wheels back in for this exercise, but your children can use their imaginations :-)
  • The Bestiary Book from my last year's Medieval Art class (a Bestiary Book is a book of mythical and real animals created in early history to document the animals of the world).
  • Blind draw envelopes I took a couple of envelopes and wrote a description of a beast on the outside of each. The children were instruction to read the description and draw the animal described. When they were done, they could look inside the envelope and see what animal I was describing. This is what they said:
"This beast has the head of a [dog]...the eyes of a cat, the ears of a porcupine...the eyebrows of a lion and the neck of a turtle." (that part is from da Vinci's notebook, I added the next part...) It's claws are deadly and its thin, long body is covered with armor-like disks (It's a dragon).

This beast has a small head, long neck and a whip-like tail. It roars to life and it doesn't chew its food when it eats--it uses a whirling force to inhale its prey. Its body shines and can come in many colors. It is walked by man as it hunts its prey (It's a vacuum). *Please note, many of the children did not like this one--they felt rather grumpy that I had deceived them and "made" them draw an animal. 


On the instruction sheet for this station, I wrote the following: Back in da Vinci's time, travel was limited. Most people never left their village their entire lives! People would talk about the strange animals that lived in other places, but things were often exaggerated!

Create an unusual beast. You can combine the parts of several animals, if you like. Think about these things:
  • Where will your beast live?
  • What color is it?
  • What does it eat?
  • What texture is the coat?
  • Is it mean or nice?
  • Name your animal.
Station Three: Backwards Writing

Supplies Needed:
  • Station handout (examples of da Vinci's work relating to the station and instructions for the station).
  • Blank paper (the children could also use their sketchbooks)
  • Regular pencils and erasers
  • Quills with watered-down tempura paint
  • Hand mirrors

On the instruction sheet for this station, I had an example from da Vinci's sketchbook of his "backward" writing. I also had the alphabet printed backwards so that the children could see how the letter should be formed. They were able to create secret signs and messages using the backward writing. I encouraged them to use a pencil first and then go over it with the quill. 

Station Four: Interesting Inventions

Supplies Needed:
  • Items to take apart (I used a spring-type clothespin, a cassette tape, a Lego man, a ball point pen and a wine bottle opener)
  • Station handout (examples of da Vinci's work relating to the station and instructions for the station).
  • Blank paper (the children could also use their sketchbooks)
  • Colored pencils and crayons
  • Regular pencils and erasers

On the instruction sheet for this station, I had a couple of da Vinci's drawings of inventions (the giant crossbow and the armored car). The instruction sheet encouraged the children to observe (look at) the manmade objects on the table and explore how they are built. They could draw the outside of the object (or the object "together") and then take it apart and draw the pieces (of everything except the wine opener). I encouraged them to notice the details such as: screws, lettering, switches, textures, edges and springs.

OR...they could create an invention of their own. They needed to think about what the invention would do, what it would look like and what the parts would be. These could be labeled (maybe with backwards writing!). 

All in all this was a great class where the children were able to explore the many facets of Leonardo da Vinci's work! These stations could be turned into three to four separate classes if you wish, but I think my hour-long class was just enough for my students to get a little sampling of the wonderful work of da Vinci!


"Da Vinci," by Mike Venezia (ISBN 0-516-42275-8)
"Discovering Great Artists," by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (ISBN 0-935607-09-9)
"Eyewitness Books: Renaissance," by Andrew Langley (ISBN 0-7894-6624-4)
"Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer," by Robert Byrd (ISBN 0-525-47033-6)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Leaves are "FALL"-ing Picture

In honor of the first day of Fall which is tomorrow, I have this super craft. I saw it on display at a local library and had to try it at home with my preschooler who is four. It was a bit challenging for him, so I worked with him to do the tissue paper "puffs" so he didn't get too frustrated with them. My 9 yo was saying he just had to make one as well!

This project is a good way to explore a few different kinds of media and practice fine motor control. It also uses many items you may have on hand. I liked spending time with my little one and we had a wonderful discussion about fall and leaves. ENJOY!

Supplies Needed:

  • 8 1/2x11" piece of white card stock
  • pencil and eraser
  • scissors
  • black marker
  • crayons, colored pencils or markers to color in the tree trunks
  • tissue paper, various colors, cut into 1" squares
  • Elmer's glue in a little tray
  • zip-top plastic baggie
  • tape
  • hole punch
  • various paper scraps in leaf colors
1. Fold the card stock about 4" up from the bottom. On the larger portion of the cardstock, draw two trees in a way that creates a frame. You can keep it simple. Make sure the area that is in the center of the trees (that you will be cutting away) is smaller than your zip-top bag, so that the edges of the baggie don't show. 

2. Once you have the drawing the way you want, outline the trees, trucks, roots, ground, etc. with a black marker, if desired.

3. Using the scissors, cut away the center portion of the drawing. 

4. Talk about the color of bark and grass. Have your child look outside for inspiration. My son noticed that bark is kind of gray sometimes, so he colored his tree trunks grey. Have your child color those in (a side note: I don't ever say something HAS to be a certain color. We may look at something in nature & talk about the colors we see, but the artist gets to choose what color s/he wants).

5. Pour a bit of Elmer's glue (white school glue) in a tray. Take a square of tissue paper and cover the end of a pencil eraser with it. Dip the tissue-covered end of the pencil into the glue and then touch it to the paper in the leaf section. Pull the pencil away and the tissue "puff" will be left behind. Continue doing this until the entire leaf section is full of puffs.
Working on his tissue paper "leaves," he says "Mom, I'm excited about this picture!"

6. Now, to make the falling leaves: use a hole punch to punch different colors of paper. Gather all of the little dots you've punched out and add them to the zip-top bag. Seal the baggie and attach the baggie to the back of your frame with clear tape. We folded the bottom portion of the card stock around and stapled the layers together at the edges.

Once the piece is dry, your child can shake the picture and show the autumn leaves falling to the ground! ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Easy Sketchbook

In order to study one of my favorite Renaissance artists, Leonardo da Vinci, I'm having my art students make their own sketchbooks to keep in the classroom. This project is very rewarding for the children. They learn to create a VERY EASY BOOK while learning a few things about the Renaissance, Da Vinci, bookmaking and drawing. I also had them do a name tag for the front that teaches a quick lesson on value.

I'll keep these sketchbooks in the classroom and they can use them if they finish their work early. Easy. Fun. Cheap. YEAH! The sketchbooks and the name tags are adapted from two projects I saw on one of my favorite art blogs: Art Projects for Kids. I LOVE this site! She does such wonderful projects! Enjoy!

Supplies Needed:

  • 1 piece, 3x5" index card without lines
  • Pencil and ruler
  • Fine point black marker
  • Colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • Packing tape-clear
  • 1 piece, 8 1/2x11" piece cardstock, any color
  • 10 pieces, 8 1/2x11" white copy paper
  • 24" or so, ribbon or cord for binding

Prepare the name tag:
1. Using the pencil and ruler, draw faint lines every 1" lengthwise along the index card.

2. Creating the pencil point: mark the center of one narrow end of the index card, this will be the tip of your pencil point. Then, along the top and bottom edge of the index card, make a mark about 1 1/4" in, this will be where your pencil begins to come to a point. Using these guides make the triangluar portion of the pencil (the sharpened part). 

3. Using a fine tip marker, outline the lines along the length of the pencil and draw in the tip, or colored portion, of the pencil. You can write your name on the pencil at this point. When done the marker work, use an eraser to remove your pencil lines.

4. Use colored pencil to lightly shade the upper portion of the pencil. Then, use slightly more pressure to color the middle section of the pencil a slightly darker shade. Finally, use even more pressure to color the bottom section of the pencil. This gives the illusion that the pencil is three dimensional. A similar technique can be used on the wooden portion of the pencil point to create dimension there. Color the tip of your pencil.

5. Using scissors, cut away the excess paper around the tip of the pencil point, if desired.

Make the sketchbook:
1. Fold the card stock in half the wider way (hamburger fold). Do the same with the 10 sheets of copy paper. If you fold the paper lengthwise, your sketchbook will be too skinny.

2. Place the copy paper inside the card stock with all of the sheets nesting together.

3. Wrap the ribbon or cord around the center fold of the paper/card stock bundle and tie the cord securely with a knot. This knot can stay at the top, middle or bottom of the binding--it doesn't matter.

4. Adhere the name tag to the front of your sketchbook with packing tape.

Ta-da! You are ready to sketch!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Illuminated Names

This is a wonderful project for students to get to know each other. I saw this in the book, "Medieval Projects Your Can Do," by Martha Graves. This is a great resource for parents and educators and it is full of lovely, simple little projects.
This shows the various stages on the project all at once.

I have the children introduce themselves and give a couple of brief bits of information about themselves (favorite sports, colors, animals, etc). Then we talk about how they can incorporate those ideas into a fancy letter of their names. Simple and fun and everyone leaves with a piece they are proud of and is uniquely theirs!

Supplies Needed:

  • Large index card (5x7" or so) without lines on it
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Ruler with inches
  • Reference books with illuminated letters or calligraphy (optional, but nice)
  • Fine tip markers (we used sharpie brand in black and other colors)
  • Colored pencils, optional (when we wanted to add a hint of color)
  • Gold paint pen or gold acrylic paint with a fine brush

1. With the pencil and ruler, lightly make horizontal guidelines every 1" on the index card.

2. Check out the reference books for inspiration and lightly draw the initial, or first letter of your name onto the index card. It should be large about 3" tall (mine touched both the top guideline and the bottom guideline on my index card). See below for the reference books I had on hand.

3. You can letter the rest of your name now, if you'd like. I made my letters about 1" tall and used a plain text I found in a book.

4. Add details to your initial. This is where all of the things that make you YOU come in! The girl I am making this for loves art and is seven. She also has a grandmother who does a lot with protecting sea turtles (and this little girl is interested in that), so I put a sea turtle and a seascape in there as well.

5. Use a marker to fill in the piece. I used black first and then colored in parts with other colored markers. I wasn't crazy about how dark the marker colors were getting, so I used colored pencils for the elements that I wanted to be secondary. When I was done the marker work I used an eraser to remove my guidelines and THEN I did the colored pencil work.

6. When it is done, use a gold paint pen to add some pizazz to the piece. This is part of what makes this art so "illuminating" because the gold makes it appear to be shining with light and color.

Here are some of my students' pieces, below. ENJOY!

The students could choose their first or last name.

This student traced over the pencil guidelines with gold with beautiful results!

Lovely lettering!

References for this class:

A Letter to a Teacher

A wonderful letter I rec'd through a group I subscribe to. Beautiful! Please let me be able to raise my children so they "know" this.

Respected Teacher, 

My son will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.

It will take time, I know; but teach him, if you can, that a dollar earned is far more valuable than five found. 

Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning. 
Steer him away from envy, if you can. 

Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to tick. 

Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books.. but also give him quiet time to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside. 

In school teach him it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat. 

Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if every one tells him they are wrong. 

Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough. 

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when every one is getting on the bandwagon. 

Teach him to listen to all men but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through. 

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness. 

Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders; but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. 

Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob… and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right. 

Treat him gently; but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel. 

Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind. 

This is a big order; but see what you can do. He is such a fine little fellow, my son. 

Abraham Lincoln. (US President Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s Head Master) 

Friday, September 9, 2011

What (ART SKILLS) should my child know?

Since I teach art classes that are not in the public school system, I am responsible for creating my own art curriculum. Teach whatever I want?!? You'd think that would be great (and it is, sort-of)! But sometimes it can be overwelming to know where to being. And how do I know what I should be teaching? What are other children at this age learning in art class? 

The home school group I teach for deals with a different time period each year. This year, the entire cooperative will focus on the 1500's-1700's. Knowing that, I start by brainstorming art ideas. I look at the major art movements of that time and make a list of art that is iconic to the time.

Then, I focus on the current calendar. I look at what is happening throughout the year in terms of holidays and celebrations and ask around to see what the children will be learning in their other classes. I start plugging projects into my calendar, making sure I'm offering the children an opportunity to work in a variety of media: clay, collage, paint, etc.

One of my favorite resources to make age-appropriate decisions about my curriculum I found through the NH Department of Education's website. It is called the Miami-Dade County Competency Based Curriculum.

This is a wonderful resource for parents and educators who want to make sure that their students are getting a well-rounded art experience. It is not a full-blown curriculum with a list of projects. What it is is a list of skills and experiences, organized by grade-level. While that may be too general for some, I like it because I can adapt these skills and experiences to whatever subject or series I am teaching. It's great for classroom planning and for making sure that my projects and curriculum as a whole are multi-layered and challenging. A great reference to have on file!

Check it out!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Art Signs & Portable Display Boards

I have been getting everything ready to send the two oldest children off to school (done!) and now I'm preparing for my art classes. I am scheduled to have four classes per week in four different places, so I am thinking portability is the way to go with my materials! I also have been yearning for a couple of bulletin boards even though I don't have a room of my own. Here's what I've come up with so far:

Changeable Art Signs
I wanted an art sign that I could use for my bulletin boards, binder covers, and for signs around the schools I'd be teaching at (possibly pointing the way to my classroom). I wanted something bold and fun and handmade, but I didn't want to make a dozen signs up (and I can't possibly know ALL of the signs I'll need three weeks before I need them!). So, I created the background of the sign with cut paper. I went with the iconic palette and brush. I then picked up some cardstock letters at the craft store that have upper and lowercase letters in one pack. I use the poster tack putty to temporarily hold the letters I want on my sign & then make a color photocopy of the sign-VOILA! Instant sign that forms a cohesive "look" to my art class materials.

Word Wall
In my art classes I do introduce a variety of art vocabulary to my students. This vocab isn't tested or anything (since my classes are for elementary students and are more for "enrichment"), but I saw an idea I had to try on this blog I like called For The Love of Art . This site is wonderful! She shared a few pictures of her classroom and one of the pictures was for an art room "Word Wall." Great! Now I'd have a place to track all of the words my students have learned all in one place. Yippee! I created mine from a display board I bought at a discount store, placed my cardstock letters on it & covered the entire thing with Contact paper. I then attached my laminated "Word Wall" sign with velcro so I can remove and/or change the sign in the future if I want to.
The vocab will be written on 1"x3" labels so I can add
and remove as necessary.

Where & When Board
Another thing I've been wanting to do with my students is show them where and when the art is occurring. This board has a world map laminated on it permanently, but the timeline and sign are stuck on with velcro so I can change them as needed. This timeline has art and world history dates from the 1400's-1700's since that is what I'm covering in my first art class. We'll be moving through history in a linear fashion (pretty much) and I'm planning on using a red piece of yarn to connect the point on the timeline to the place on the globe that relates to the art form or artist we are covering that week. I just have to make a snazzy "you are here" sort of marker. I also want to take an example of the art project that we did each week, print it out and temporarily attach it to the board so that we can see how things are progressing in class (and in time). This will be awesome to display at the final art show of the year.
Right now, I'm using the board to plan my "Art Around the World" classes,
beginning in late September.

So, that's what I've been up to! Enjoy!
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