Please Don't Eat the Artwork


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Printed Neighborhood

This project was inspired by Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artist’s City Prints. I loved the component of students getting to trade their prints!

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The first day, students looked at the artwork of Friedensreich Hundertwasser and used his architecture and designs as inspiration to sketch their own whimsical buildings and houses. After choosing their favorite sketch, students drew it with a ballpoint pen onto styrofoam. They had the opportunity to print as many times as they wanted on any color of paper they wanted. The process was pretty fun!

When all of the prints were dry, the buildings were cut out and students could trade with their friends to create a landscape collage. I am enamored by the talent of these kiddos! 🙂


They picked out a colorful background and used Art Stix to add details.




Italy and Greece

Tomorrow is the first teacher workday for the 2015-2016 school year. That means that it is time for my summer-minded brain to get on board the Back-to-School train. This is easier said than done as I have had the great pleasure and fortune of being able to travel this summer. I went to cities near and far and just returned from an incredible trip to Italy and Greece. If you follow me on Twitter you have seen many of these pictures already but I wanted to put the story all together here on the blog.

This trip was months in the making and was made possible by a very detailed (possibly too detailed) google doc and strict savings plan. It was absolutely incredible to see works of art that I have grown up learning about and teach my students about. There is something very surreal about being surrounded by ruins or frescos that are thousands of years old, it makes you feel connected to humanity in the past, present, and future. This was the second time I have been out of the country and I was just as enchanted and inspired.

So with that in mind I present to you my journey abroad!

We began in Milan. Milan is a modern and clean European city that has more contemporary architecture than architecture of antiquity. However there is a magnificent Duomo cathedral in a Gothic style! This building was enormous and so intricately detailed.


I loved riding the hop-on-hop-off bus in Milan which included an audio tour describing some of the sights.

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The next stop was Monterosso al Mare, one of the cliff towns of Cinque Terre. A friend recommended me to go here and after watching Rick Steves I was sold!

I can only describe Monterosso as magical with its lovely beaches:

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Charming town:

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Splendid views:

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and the BEST pesto I have ever had:


I went on an amazing hike from one town to the next which led through winding vineyard hills and cliffs overlooking the sea:

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The next stop on the trip was Florence. A tour through the Tuscan countryside was first up on the agenda.


Walking around the city of Florence was so much fun, I even stumbled across an exhibit featuring paintings and sculptures of Salvador Dali inspired by the poetry of Dante.



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The Duomo in Florence is astounding:


Near the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge there is a hidden alleyway filled with interesting graffiti:

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The bridge itself is magnificent with its crowded street filled with shops selling gold and jewelry.


The leather market nearby is also quite an experience:


While in Florence I had the chance to visit the Boboli Gardens, part of the Pitti Palace. The garden has many sculptures of mythology and an excellent view overlooking the city.

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After Florence, we headed to the coast for Sorrento. Sorrento is famous for its lemons and coastal fun. The town was charming with shops, restaurants, and small churches.

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The best part of Sorrento was a boat tour to the nearby island of Capri. We got to see the famous lagoons and grottos and float once again in crystal blue Mediterranean water.

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After Sorrento, we travelled to Rome. Rome is a city of mighty magnificence. Everything there is massive and impressive and symbolic. There are sculptures in every plaza that have stories and histories. Just walking through the streets you can truly feel the splendor of one of the greatest cities the world has ever known.

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The magnificence wouldn’t be complete of course without a trip to the Colosseum! Being inside and getting to walk upon and touch ancient stones was so impressive.

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We paid a visit to the Pantheon next and marvelled at the great condition it remains in. Looking up inside you can see the domes roof with a hole in the middle. The design was stunning!

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The Vatican was another stop not to be missed. These pictures really do not capture how completely gigantic this building is.


There was so much amazing art inside from cultures all around the world especially Greece and Egypt.

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Every surface was decorated with vibrant frescos and every ceiling was sculpted with ornate details.


My favorite part of course was the modern art collection including Matisse and Dali!

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The very best part of going to the Vatican was climbing the 551 steps to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. The climb was exhausting and difficult – we spiraled up and up and up through tight steep stairs until we finally emerged high above Rome and looked upon the magnificent city. What a view!

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Leaving Rome marked the end of the Italian portion of the journey and the beginning of the adventures in Greece. We started out on the island of Santorini, famous for its beaches and sunsets. The appropriately named Black Sand Beach was a rocky shore of volcanic stones.


The sunset was breathtaking and a true masterpiece of the natural world.

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The island is covered in buildings made of white stone and there are many shops including a wonderful pottery studio with some of the nicest and more talented artisans I have ever met!

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The appropriately named Red Beach is a sight to behold with its red stones and rocky shore:


I haven’t been everywhere yet but I am certain that Santorini is one of the most beautiful places on Earth! From this paradise we travelled inland to Athens. I was so excited to see Athens because I teach my 3rd graders about The Parthenon and couldn’t wait to see the building in real life. So first thing we headed up the hill to the Acropolis.

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From the top of the Acropolis you can look out onto all of Athens and Mount Olympus. It was a spectacular view!


Being in front of the Parthenon was a very meaningful experience for me. I was of course impressed by all of the great landmarks in Italy but there was something about seeing this original structure marking the glory of the ancient Greeks that struck a chord for me.


After the descent back down to street level, we visited the Acropolis museum. The museum was beautiful and it was so cool to see so many of the ancient adornments and sculptures up close.

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The next stop in Athens was the original modern Olympics Panathenaic stadium from 1896. It was really neat!


Then we went down the street and made it just in time for the famous changing of the guard. The was the guards moved and dressed was so bizarre and intriguing!


We got to do another hop-on-hop-off bus tour which was a grand way to see Athens. The trip ended with a glorious rooftop view of the acropolis at sunset.


This trip was an incredible experience, I learned so much about structures and art that I have only ever seen in pictures. I am excited to bring this experience back as an influence in my teaching. It is hard to believe that summer is already over!

I’ll post some pictures of my classroom sometime soon as I get it prepared for students. I have a few neat new things I am excited to implement and share. Here’s to a great summer and a great upcoming school year!

❤ Ms. K


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Value Weaving Self Portraits

What do you so when you are scrambling for an end for an end of the year project that will keep 5th graders engaged and hit some overlooked standards? You make something up and keep your fingers crossed that it isn’t a fiasco. This lesson was anything but a fiasco and one that will surely be in my bag o’ classic awesome lessons for years to come.


I needed something that would continue to incorporate craft techniques, touch upon value/tint/shade, and provide a way to show emphasis and contrast. I wanted to utilize skills we have learned already so that during testing and in the weeks after I wouldn’t be pushing tired minds too far but still present an interesting project. On the first day we talked about value and 5th graders painted a value scale.


The next way was all about weaving. Students used the fancy scissors to cut a warp and colorful construction paper for a weft. We briefly discussed color schemes and students could choose any color they wanted but were encouraged to think about their choice and perhaps even make it complementary or monochromatic.

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The next day was a sketching day. We talked about emojis and students used mirrors to draw self portraits with an emoji twist. They picked their favorite to make into a final draft and traced it with sharpie. Then they added a thought or speech bubble.


These turned out so fabulous, I am very impressed with all of them! I love how graphic and bold these portraits are. This was the perfect project to end the school year and to end elementary art with.

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I am really going to miss this year’s 5th grade class. I have known many of them since 3rd grade and it has been a joy to watch them grow into the thoughtful and amazing people they are. Overall this has been a spectacular year and I cannot believe that in a few hours I will be done with my 3rd year of teaching. I like to look back at my posts from my first year sometimes because it reminds me what a dream come true this job truly is for me. I started this year feeling a little burned out and kind of deflated but I feel like I am ending on a strong, positive note. I will be posting during the summer but for all of my kiddos who are reading — I hope you have a great summer and I will see you next year!

❤ Ms. K

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Futurism Inspired Sculptures

3rd graders used scraps to create sculptures inspired by Futurism.


We began by looking at the artwork of Fernand Leger and identifying lines and shapes. We talked about how the artwork is all about the future and movement. I did a quick demo on how cut, fold, and glue paper. Students went to town using scraps from this big ol’ box:


. . . And they were delighted to have access to these fancy scissors which I randomly found in my supply cabinets. . .


One side says the name of the line and the other side has an example of what the cut will look like. Neat-o!


I love how funky these are. The kiddos really let their imaginations run wild to create some awesome sculptures. Our playgrounds are currently being renovated so many of these were inspired by “What I Wish the Playground Will Look Like” Others were mechanical parts, rooms, forests, and even time machines!


^ Some sweet jagged edges ^


^ Some sweet negative space in action ^


^ Some sweet scrolls wavin’ ^


^ “Its a torch” ^


^ “Ms Katzin I am using the cold colors” ^


^ A sweet apple tree ^


^ So I wish I had recorded this student as she described this crazy amazing contraption to me it for like 15 minutes it was all about a dog that had to go through this door thing and do all this stuff. . . I don’t even know ^


^ “I hope the new playground looks like this” ^


^ Sweet pile of rings ^


^ Sweet border ^


^ On the drying rack ^


^ On the wall* ^

* Why do they look different all of a sudden? WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?
Not sorcery — its because this batch was made with scrap construction paper instead of scrap painted paper.

Next up for 3rd grade is clay so stay tuned!


Graffiti Cityscapes

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The inspiration for this project came from Mrs. Kim at Art in the Big Green Room! We began by looking at pictures of cityscapes and skylines on iPads.


Students sketched their designs and transferred them to the top half of a 12×18 paper. They could use inspiration from real cities or make up their own.

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They traced their design with sharpie and used tissue paper and water to add colors. I love this method of “painting!” Originally they were going to paint with tints and shades of tempera but they were so intent on detailed cityscapes that a Plan B needed to be devised so their lovely details did not become muddled messes.

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Whilst digging through my Mary-Poppin’s-Bag-Like supply cabinets, I found some practically never before used metallic colored pencils. And who doesn’t like a bit o’ sparkle?! Students who finished their tissue paper early could use the colored pencils for more details.

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Next, we talked about graffiti. I have done a graffiti project with 5th graders for the past couple of years and this was a great update to that project! Students wrote their name or a school appropriate word in graffiti style typography. They traced it with sharpie and used liquid water colors to add color. They cut out their words to be glued to the “wall”

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The brick wall was created by printmaking**. Students carved a brick pattern into styrofoam and used brayers and paint to print the wall. They rolled brick colored tempera paint and printed their bricks 4 times onto the big paper.


Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!

I think these turned out phenomenally, I am really proud of the stamina and perseverance 5th graders showed during this project. (Jeez, I make it sound like they went through some harrowing event, its only elementary art!) But this was actually pretty challenging and rigorous what with all of the different concepts and mediums. I think next year I might step it up even more and throw in some color scheme restrictions to hit a few more standards. As one of my very vocal kindergarteners said the other day, Check this out, dude! 

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**Now, I really, really, really, REALLY hate printmaking (maybe even more than weaving!) I think it is irrelevant in an age where you can press a button and literally print infinite amounts of images (at least until the CMYK runs out.) I think that the dazzling magic of creating multiple images is lost on younger generations. I believe that there are better artforms that will engage and inspire my students. Also, I just don’t really like it that much, it takes waaaay too much time.

This year I am challenging myself to get out of the box of “multiple prints of whatever blah blah” projects and come up with more interesting ideas for printmaking that do not necessarily just showcase printmaking but rather incorporate it into a mixed media type of project. So this is the first solution I came up with on How To Not Take 8 Weeks To Complete A Printmaking Project. The next one is an amazing 4th grade project that is currently in the works! So stay tuned 🙂

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Starry Night Landscapes



I was so inspired by this lesson from Cassie Stevens for 4th grade’s first project. We began by looking at and talking about Starry Night. We played the art crit game I See, I Think, I Wonder to talk about the artwork. Students got a kick out of these videos:

We began with a background of blue/purple/black tempera paint. Students used the tips of their paintbrushes to create the directional lines and texture from Starry Night.


We also created painted paper using intermediate colors (and some tints and shades) and paint scrapers for texture.


The painted papers were cut up and used to create the ground and woven houses.




The results are stunning, what a great way to kick off the year!

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Faith Ringgold Story Quilts

Check out these fantastic Story Quilts created by 2nd graders. They were inspired bythe book Tar Beach, written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold. For full step-by-step instructions, check out THIS POST.


I will fly in the White House. . . . How will I get past the guards? 


I would fly to Bikini Bottom (From Spongebob Squarepants)


I would fly to Mexico. . . Hi Mexico


I would fly to Portugal. . . YES!


I would fly to Haiti. 


I would fly to a rose. 


I would fly to the moon. 


I would fly to New York. 


I will fly into the TV. 


I am Alix and I will fly to the ocean. 


I will fly to Coca-Cola world.


I would fly to New York. 


I would fly to Minecraft. 



I would fly to Ice Cream Land. 




I would fly to New Orleans. 




I love how imaginative these are, so full of stories and creativity!

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Kinetic Sculptures

Back in the fall, I attended the GAEA conference where I went to a session about kinetic art. The presenter showed us how to make an awesome kinetic sculpture using a simple machine and basic materials. I thought this would be a fabulous and fun connection for 4th graders who student kinetic energy and simple machines.


We began by looking at the artwork of Theo Jansen who is one of my favorite artists. I first discovered his work through a Ted Talk several years ago and it resonates with me for a number of reasons, mainly that the work is a flawless symbiosis of art and science (yay!) The kids were really impressed by Jansen’s Strandbeests and enjoyed comparing his work to other kinetic sculptures. Check out the You Tube user “Perpetual Useless” for more awesome kinetic art.

We talked a little about radial balance and students created designs on recycled CDs with sharpies.


The next week, students used tempera paint to decorate recycled tubes.

Mexican flag:




Then it was time to put the machines together. We talked about a wheel and axle and how the machine would work. With a lot of peer support and teamwork, students were able to construct their machine using a rubber band, popsicle sticks, and a lifesaver mint.

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We went in the hallway and outside to race them and it was a blast!

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Keith Haring meets Andy Warhol Pop Prints

I was so excited to begin this project with 4th graders. I LOVe Pop Art! I did somethign similar last year but wanted to put a little twist on it for this year. Students learned all about the gestural work of Keith Haring and the repetition of Andy Warhol. They decided that the best way to combine the two inspirations of the artists would be to do multiple prints of gestures. We talked about pop art and how it features something that is popular at the time. Students included their own personal “pop art” in their designs withe everything from sports to video games.

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We began by sketching each other which was a really fun day. (One of those days that remind me why being an art teacher is so much fun!)


Students paid particular attention to the positive and negative space that their poses created. They chose one of their favorites to trace onto a piece of styrofoam for printing. The pop-art connection came in when students added something from pop culture to their design. Ideas ranged from hobbies to video games to shopping.


4th graders printed using complementary colors. While some students printed, others worked on an op-art hand. (Step-by-step lesson HERE)


The prints came out pretty neat and provided the 4th graders with great exposure to printmaking, Pop Art, and personal expression.

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Once all students had finished, we had a small critique. Students wrote comments on sticky notes and left them on each other’s artwork. They really enjoyed getting to see each other’s artwork and talking to their friends about the process and product.

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Jasper Johns Inspired Collagraph Prints

After doing this project last year it became one of my most popular projects and continues to float around Pinterest. It was originally inspired by a lesson on my county’s website and I have decided to change it up once again this year. Students began by looking at the artwork of Jasper Johns and talking about symbolism. They had to use creative strategies to brainstorm some letters and numbers that have personal symbolism to them. This was a great experience in creative thinking: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.

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Students used complementary colors to create 2 dual-colored prints.


While some students printed at the printing station, other students worked on a color wheel at their tables.


The printing system needed some tweaking – especially at first – but overall it has worked out well for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Some of the changes included: getting rid of the phone books for rolling out ink (tempera paint) because they were too flimsy and ripped apart. Instead, students ended up rolling the paint directly on the surface which was covered in laminated posters. Easy clean up! The second change was switching out the construction paper for white newsprint. The details of materials came out a lot better and it was much easier to rub over the textures. The paper reallty picked up the colors and looked so cool with the two-toned prints. I am quite happy with how this project turned out and feel like my students got great exposure to printmaking as an art form.

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The “one out of 2” or “1/2” that some of them have is because they had to label their edition. They were amazed to learn that you can print hundreds and hundreds of times using the same plate. The whole process is illustrated really nicely in this video:

The last step of the project was a scavenger hunt/critique. Each student had to collect their classmate’s “autograph” to fill up their scavenger hunt boxes. This was a great way to get students to look at and talk about each other’s art. They had so much fun visiting their classmates and discussing the reasons behind their artistic choices. Here is the Word document version of the scavenger hunt: collagraph scavenger hunt 034 (2)

This project produced my favorite rubric I have seen so far this year:

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