Please Don't Eat the Artwork


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Usually when I hang displays of artwork, the displays are homogeneous and feature the same project from a variety of different classes. I was inspired by a recent conversation about displaying artwork to mix it up a bit for kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd grade’s self-portraits.

I had an art teacher a long time ago who always said that when displaying artwork you should mix up the projects so that viewers don’t compare the works. Each student’s work should be appreciated on it’s own and that is easier to do when the work is surrounded by a variety of projects.

Since kinder, 2nd, and 3rd grade all finished their self-portraits around the same time, I thought it would be fun to display them all together. They are so colorful and the mixture of media and methods is really awesome to see!



I love how each one is so unique — even though the students experienced the same demonstrations and used the same materials during the process, their products are all so different!

If you are interested in seeing any of the step-by-step lessons for these self-portraits you can see kindergarten’s here, 2nd grade’s here, and 3rd grade’s here.

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Hot Dogs and Cool Cats

I am absolutely thrilled with how these warm and cool color pets went down in first grade. The kiddos were so excited about this project and both the process and product are super fun!


On the first day we talked about warm and cool colors and how to use shapes to draw a cat and dog. Students created a guide for the colors in their sketchbooks.


Then they used This Handout from Teachers Pay Teachers to look at the different shapes that make a cat or dog. I really likes using these handouts as a guideline because it gave the kids a lot of choice and voice for how they wanted their animal to look.



The next week, each student picked if they wanted to do a cat or a dog. They drew their animal BIG on a piece of paper and traced over the lines with sharpie. Then, they decided upon a warm or cool color scheme to paint with water colors.


The third week was used to put it all together. Students had to choose a piece of construction paper that is the opposite of their color scheme. They used crayons and texture mats to create texture in the background.


So I feel like every single art teacher in the world has a big ol’ book of wallpaper samples or patterned scrapbook paper tucked away somewhere in their classroom. And I really wanted these to have some more visual pop so we used those decades-old wall paper samples as a rug/bed for the cats and dogs. The kids absolutely loved being able to choose a patterned paper to cut into an oval. They cut out their animal and glued it down.

Hot diggity dog first graders! These cats and dogs are really cool!

❤ Ms. K

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Warm & Cool Self Portraits

The idea for this project came from Artsy Artful Amy .com!


This project took a looooooong time for 4th graders to complete and I still have kids coming to visit in the morning or during lunch to finish. But I must admit it’s totally worth is because these self-portraits are turning out absolutely beautiful.


On day one, we begin by talking about the proportions of a face. Students use mirrors to practice drawing their self portrait in their sketchbook. They also start brainstorming words that describe themselves. If anyone was having trouble coming up with descriptive words, they could ask their friends and the people at their table to describe them. Thinking of words turned out to be tricky for some, I had to remind students that we are looking for adjectives and descriptive words so no, “potato” is not going to fly.


The next art day, students used a ruler to create horizontal lines going down a piece of 9×12 paper.


They drew a simplified version of their self-portrait on top of the lines. Next, they were supposed to fill the rectangle spaces with their descriptive words and trace everything with sharpie. I showed them how to split up the words to make it fit around the face and how to streeeeetch their letters to fill the space horizontally. This was also tricky because some students started doing acrostics or drawing waaayyyy too small. With a bit or practice and patience, most were able to get the hang of it.

The next step was to choose the color schemes. Young artists decided if they wanted their face to be warm or cool and the background had to be the opposite. Then they used water colors to fill in each space with a different color. This step was tricky because many students instinctively wanted to paint their whole hair shape one color but they eventually got the hang of painting each tiny shape different.


I am SOOOOO excited about these masterpieces, I can tell the kiddos who really put in effort are so proud of their work. I love how personal and expressive these are and it was a great way to get to know my 4th graders. This project is definitely one of those that I will have in my art teacher bag o’ tricks for years to come.

❤ Ms. K!


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If the Dinosaurs Came Back

First graders contemplated what would happen if the dinosaurs came back for this awesome project. There are a few different versions of this project that I have seen and since my own dinosaur lesson for 1st grade really needed an update I figured I would give it the Ol’ College Go. (What does that even mean anyway? I didn’t try at all in college. So I guess I gave it the ol’ Post-College Go.)




We began by reading the adorable book If the Dinosaurs Came Back and noticing the contrast of the illustrations.


We sketched dinosaurs from looking at toy dinosaurs, paying careful attention to shapes and details. I was the Tracing Sheriff and arrested the ‘perps who tried to trace. It just turned into a blob, HA! Do your own work, draw those shapes! 


Then, first graders created a background and wrote a sentence about what would happen if the dinosaurs came back. They traced over their lines with sharpie.

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The next week, we chose one of our dino sketches to draw B I G on another piece of paper. Students could choose to make their dinosaur be warm or cool colors. They added color by painting water on top of tissue paper. These artists were so amazed to see the colors mix and bleed together! WHAT BLOOD?!?! Not real blood guys . . . c’mon, calm down. 


The last step was to cut out the dino and glue it to the background.  Students tried their very best to put together a comprehensible sentence which described their illustration. This ended up being a lot more challenging than one would think due to spelling and punctuation and capital letters and such but Firsties gave it the Ol’ Post-College Go. For your benefit dear reader I have translated the following works of art from First-Grade-Anese to English. Enjoy!


If the dinosaurs came back they would play with me on the playground. 


If the dinosaurs were alive they would help the city. 


If the dinosaurs came back they will help the circus. 

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If the dinosaurs came back people could give them makeup. 

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If the dinosaurs came back they could take swimmers on rides at the beach. 

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If the dinosaurs came back they would make great ski slopes. 


If the dinosaurs came back they would take children for rides. 

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If the dinosaurs came back they could go on a boat. 

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If the dinosaurs came back they would be a car. 


Other excellent answers included: they could do my laundry, they could cook my food for me, they could do my homework for me, and they could help me win at video games. My own personal answer: If the dinosaurs came back they would wash all the paintbrushes off for me at the end of the day. But since the dinosaurs are in fact not here I will just have to do it myself 🙂


Cool Dinosaurs in Hot Places (Take 2)

Last year’s version of this project was successful in teaching warm/cool colors but I thought the product looked kind of cheap. I am a big fan of layers and mixed media so projects that only feature one kind of medium tend to leave me feeling rather nonplussed. The more the merrier when it comes to art materials, especially with young kids who thrive when exploring tactile methods of creating.

SOoooo this year I wanted to change it up a bit. We still made dinosaurs (because DUH dinosaurs are awesome) but I wanted to expose my 1st graders to some more variety of art materials. We began this project by sketching. Students looked at toy dinosaurs (from teh dollar section at Target) and noticed that it is easy to draw something realistic if you break it down into simple shapes.010

Next time we met, we began by talking about warm and cool colors. We brainstormed things that are hot that are warm colors and things that are cold that are cool colors. Ideas mentioned included: ice cream, ice, water, the beach, grass, trees, a volcano,  wind, fire, ovens, the sun, springtime, hot potatoes (?) and snow.


Students chose a color scheme and used oil pastels to draw their design onto big paper. They included details like weather, a horizon line, and patterns. This project was a great STEM connection as the first graders are currently learning all about weather patterns and characteristics in science. The next step was to paint over the drawings with water color. They turned out fantastic!

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Gyotaku Fish

To meet the standard for printmaking, 2nd graders created beautiful fish collages. They looked at traditional Japanese artwork called “Gyotaku” which means “fish-rubbing” and were inspired to create their own colorful underwater artwork. We watched videos of  Gyotaku Printing and used watercolor paints and salt to create a bubbly background.

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The next week was insanely messy and by the end of class the art room looked like it was underwater with all of the blue paint everywhere. Students used a variety of circular objects to create “bubbles” on their backgrounds.

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“Dip and stamp. . .dip and stamp. . . dip and stamp. . . ”

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Meanwhile, a few kiddos at a time worked on their Gyotaku prints at the counter. They carefully painted a rubber fish with tempera paint and gently rubbed a piece of newsprint to make a print.

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The last step of the process was to cut out the fish, some coral/seaweed, and a jellyfish to complete a cool collage.

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We used scrap strips of paper from our roller coaster hats to cut out shapes for plants and whatever else the students could imagine!

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This project made quite a splash, I’m sure you can sea! 🙂

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One Day Lessons

Due to field trips, holidays, assemblies, and all kinds of other occurances, some classes end up being behind. I like to keep each class as close to on track as I can so scheduling projects doesn’t become a logistical nightmare. Therefore, I have come up with a few one day lessons that are appropriate and can be adapted for k, 1st, and 2nd graders. I use these lessons for classes that are a little ahead of the others or if we are waiting for our ceramics to be fired in the kiln.


This lesson begins with storytime. We read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom which the kids pretty much know by heart.


After the story, students use oil pastels to write the alphabet one letter at a time on their paper. We talk about what words start with the letters and the difference between capital and lowercase letters. Then we use water color paints to paint a coconut tree.


If there is enough time at the end, we watch the song video and then it gets stuck in my head for a week.


Students look at hearts painted by one of my all-time favorite artists Peter Max. We talk about warm and cool colors, positive and negative space,  and symmetry.


We look around the room to find other things that are symmetrical like human bodies, cabinets, windows, etc. First, we begin by folding a paper in half “hamburger style” then we cut out a “fancy letter C” to make a heart. They set their “positive space” heart off to the side and use their “negative space” heart as a template. With oil pastels, students color on a white piece of paper. When they pull of their “negative space” heart, a perfect heart is left behind!


Kinders were given the option to use any color but 2nd graders had to chose if they wanted their heart to be warm or cool and do the opposite in the background. Students used watercolor paints to fill up their papers with color.

^Kindergarten Example ^


^ Kindergarten Example ^



^ 2nd Grade Example ^

^ 2nd Grade Example ^



1st Grade Cool Dinosaurs in Hot Places

1st Graders have been working on Dinosaurs! We began by looking at landscapes and talking about HORIZON LINE (where the sky and ground meet). We looked a dinosaur books from the media center and plastic toy dinosaurs to see what kinds of shapes we can use to draw a dinosaur. 1st graders drew their designs in their sketchbooks that included a pattern, at least 2 plants, and they had to decide if it was night or day. (Next time around I will include precipitation to align with their science unit).


Next, we talked about WARM AND COOL COLORS and students had the option of coloring their dinosaur with either color scheme. The kids had fun with this project and really enjoyed making up stories about their dinos. One student even burst into song with a great rendition to “Walk the Dinosaur” (refer to this video:





With a bird and artist on its back while cooking an egg:



With a backwards cap:



An “AAB” pattern:



With a DJ, a microphone, some rappers, and a cake:







2nd Grade Fall Leaves

2nd Graders are finishing up their fall leaves artworks. We began by reading the book “Leaf Man” by Lois Elhert.

This book has beautiful collage illustrations that are all made from leaves. We talked about what happens to leaves when the seasons change and what fall leaves look like. Then, students drew different leaves in their sketchbooks. They looked at real leaves for inspiration as well as the book “Autumn Leaves” by Ken Robbins. (The media center at my school had several copies of it which certainly came in handy.)

Students were instructed to draw big and include details like stems and veins. We talked about parts of a leaf and how human beings also have veins which bring them air just like in leaves. (A great cross-curricular connection!)

Then, the kids transfered their designs to black paper and went over their lines with glue. It was important to draw big so the glue lines did not turn into a blob.

The next time we met, we talked about the colors fall leaves change and identified them as WARM COLORS. Using oil pastels, students colored in their leaves with warm colors and colored the background with COOL COLORS.

The artwork came out quite beautiful and looks a little like stained glass. This is a project that I observed during student teaching but never got to see the end of so I am happy to finally see the product. 🙂