Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My new site is LIVE!

The transition has been made and my WordPress site is now live! Yippee! There are a few differences but I hope you'll find the new site easier to navigate. I hope you'll bear with me as I work out the kinks and organize my posts. Lots of work!
Subscribing to my new blog is easy. Click on the image that looks like this...
...and then you decide how you want to receive my updates.

See you over at my new home! Here's my new link!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Last Post on Blogspot!

I'm in the process of migrating from Blogger to WordPress. I've been searching for ways to organize my blog more efficiently and add new content without packing everything onto my front page.
Blogger has certainly grown into a terrific blog host but the time has come to take control over my own content. And WordPress allows me to do that. The look will be different--more "magazine" style--but I think it'll allow my readers easier access to my content. I can't wait to share it with you.

The last couple of years has been wonderful. When I first created Deep Space Sparkle, it was for the parents. I was so excited by the work my students did in the art room, I just had to share it with the school community. Strangely enough, few parents visited the site.
I did receive visitors though. You guys! Art teachers found their way to my site and began asking questions...and then more questions. I responded to your questions by turning simple posts of my student's artwork into lesson tutorials. At the time, I remember thinking how much I needed a site like this one when I first became an art teacher. I had no curriculum. I had no idea what students expected in art class. I was pretty much clueless.

During my first year of teaching, I waded through websites, books, anything...searching for lesson ideas. Many sites had pictures, but no instruction. What paper did they use? What technique? I studied the artwork with a fine-tooth comb, always asking "How did the art teacher teach this?"
Other sites had instructions but no pictures. Not great for a visual person.
Eventually, my lesson interpretations found their way onto my blog, which was actually a dual purpose blog combining my writing with the art lessons.

I love creating art lessons. I love reading how other teachers develop their lessons and what is important to them. I love knowing that I helped a first year teacher with some ideas to get her going. I love how many art blogs there are today compared with two years ago when there were just a few of us bloggers. Together we're starting an online community for visual learners and thinkers!

So this is my last post on Blogger and soon it'll be the beginning of a new look for Deep Space Sparkle. I'll still be the same. The blog will have the same spirit, just more of it!

See you at my new address It'll be up and running in a few days.
Thanks guys!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Primary and Secondary Colors Art Lesson

I vowed to begin the year with a unit on teaching color theory. It means breaking out the paints when it'd be alot easier sticking to paper and markers but what the heck, I have a sink.

By second grade, most kids know the primary colors and many know the secondary colors. This lesson reinforces the idea that color combinations are infinite and just darn fun to make!

12" x 18" White Paper
Black waterproof marker
Palette of red, yellow and blue (for each child...I know, lots of prep!)
Paint brush and water containers

Step One: Drawing the cute, little fish

I make oval templates for the children. You don't have to of course, but it speeds up the lesson when all anyone wants to get to is the painting! I ask the students to trace 3 big templates and 3 little templates. Add tails, fins, eyes, etc. But no designs...yet!

Step Two: Painting the Primary Colors

Pass out a paper plate or tray with yellow, red and blue tempera paint. One for each student. Ask the children to paint one big fish yellow, one big fish red and another big fish blue. Demonstrate the importance of cleaning their brush.

Step Three: Painting the Secondary Colors

Now for the mixing! Take a tiny scoop of yellow and a tiny scoop of red and mix on the palette. Once they've created their orange, have them paint it on a baby fish. Do the same for blue+yellow=green and red+blue=purple.

It's really common for some things to happen:
1. A child will trace more big fish than small fish.
2. A child will paint more than one fish yellow because the paint feels real good and he just can't help himself.
3. The child can't resist mixing all the colors together.
4. The child gets busy mixing all the colors and makes beautiful designs on his fish (yay!)

For all of these problems, forget it.
Don't correct or point out a problem. The lesson is in the discovery!
Step Four: Adding Value: Painting the Sea

After all the fish have been painted, it's time to bring out a tray of white paint and blue. You can put these in a well-type palette so that the kids can share. Mix blue and white directly onto the paper. Kids LOVE this part...some areas are light, some dark. It's totally within their control!

Step Five: Outlining and Defining

For the final step, set out small tubs of black tempera paint and small teeny-tiny brushes. Paint over all marker lines. Add details to fish if desired.
If the painting is dry, a less messy option to finishing the project is to use a black oil pastel. It's just as effective.

Second Grade wonders!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Colorwheel Flowers Art Lesson

I jumped right in this year...messy painting project on Day One! Actually, it was alot of fun and the kids loved it. For my first graders, I wanted to begin the year with a colorwheel lesson. Often I wait until a bit later in the year but it's worth it to start the year with this fundamental project that teaches the mixing of primary colors into secondary colors.

Set-Up & Supplies:
Because this lesson involves mixing, it's important that each child has his/her own palette. In my case, it's recycled styrofoam trays. Paper plates are ideal. Squirt a dime-sized amount of red, blue and yellow tempera paint onto each plate. Set water containers and brushes on the tables.
In addition, set small, round containers (like yogurt containers) on each table with a strip of white paper (12" x 6") and a pencil.

Step One
Trace three circles onto the strip of paper using the containers as templates.
Paint one circle red, one blue and one yellow. Set aside.

Step Two
On a 12" x 18" white paper, draw two lines to divide the paper into 3 sections.
This doesn't have to be at all perfect. Just a rough divide.
If you have a colorwheel chart, you can point to the red and yellow and ask what is between these two colors. Then, instruct the kids to dip paintbrush into the red paint and paint an area on the white paper. Without cleaning brush, dip brush into yellow paint and paint right over the red. Some areas will mix light, some dark. Let the kids really get into this experiment.
Repeat to make Green and Purple.

At the end, you should have orange, purple and green on the sheet of paper
and one very messy palette.

Next Class (or after it all dries!)
Set out scissors and tubs of white school glue mixed with water.
Use brushes to apply glue.

Place a colored piece of 12" x 18" paper at each child's place.
Hand back the strip of paper with the primary painted circles and secondary painted paper.
Cut out circles and glue onto colored paper.

Cut the secondary painted paper into 3 sections: one orange, one purple, one green.
Cut petals from these papers and glue onto flower centers.

Glue petals to colored background paper. Tuck the petals underneath the circle.
For additional colorwheel instruction, glue complementary petals to complimentary circles.

Cutting out petals transforms the paper! Castles, masks...what do you see?

First Grade Efforts!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Create your own Art Lessons the SPARKLE way! Part IV

For the final installment of my SPARKLE Method of developing art lessons, allow me to introduce...
The Elements of Art!
Okay, I know it needs no introduction. We all know the elements of art but I include it in my planning to keep me on track.

The Elements of Art include:

You may have determined that my biggest criteria for a fabulous lesson is kid appeal. I often bypass standard-based art lessons simply because they look or seem too boring. You won't see me teaching a lesson based on The Elements of Art (although I admit, I did once) but I do make a very conscience effort to thread it throughout my units.
There are some elements that I use for every lesson: Line, Shape, Color, Space but I require a little push to include Form, Texture and Value. My SPARKLE method reminds me to include these elements.
The hardest element to inject into my curriculum is form. I'm not partial to working with papier-mache, toilet paper rolls and Kleenex boxes, but I know I must. Building something--anything--is essential to the artistic process. I'm just not that great at it. I worry about things. Like where to store all these creations before and after the project is done and whether or not I have enough table space for boxy build-it's.
Case in point: I once did a lesson based upon a city-scape project in Nellie Shepherd's "My Picture Art Class" book. Oh my goodness! The final results looked so enticing. What fun my little kinders would have building skyscrapers and pasting windows and stars and glitter over gesso-covered boxes. So I started collecting boxes: toothpaste, cereal, frozen dinners, Kraft macaroni and cheese, tissue boxes. I had a huge box in the teachers lounge to throw recycled boxes into. Everyone got into it! Then I started to do the math. I had about 50 kinders. I'd need at least 3 boxes per project. 4 would be better. That's mucho boxes.
But I forged ahead. I cut stacks of tag board into rectangles, set out my huge collection of boxes, filled tubs with gesso and went to town.
Oh gosh. Was it fun!
Now I had 50 wet city-scapes to store and I had very little storage.
You can see where this is going. The project was fun, but it was a pain in the neck.
Oh, I know. There are many ways to make this project work, but I decided that this project--as cute as it was--was meant for a one-on-one interaction between parent and child or a small group.
Form is important. But it has to be realistic for your classroom. Every form-based project I want to do (think I can do) undergoes serious consideration. I usually stick with ceramics--tidy, compact, accessible...but I need to branch out.

Here's an exercise: Look at your collection of art lessons. Randomly grab 20. Out of that 20, determine how many lessons include good examples of each one of the elements of art. If you fall short in one, two or three areas, then you know what your teaching weakness is. Like I said, form, texture and value is mine. Determine yours and develop a few lessons to fill in your holes.
Have fun!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Staying Organized...

Not my best attribute, but I get the job done. Trick for me is having everything I need close by. So when my middle son hijacked my downstairs office and claimed it for his own, I didn't object (well, not too loudly). Instead, I cleaned out my very large upstairs walk-in closest (that in truth has always been too large for the amount of clothes I own) and turned it into a storage area for my lessons. A portion of one wall is devoted to everything I need to walk out the door prepared for a day of teaching art.

See the big boxes of manilla envelopes? That's where all of my lessons are grouped according to grade level. Inside each envelope I have teaching samples, visuals and anything else I might need, like templates, etc. On the outside, I scribble the title for the lesson and the grade level.
Most of last year was spent adding to the boxes. Meaning, I repeated only a few lessons from the previous year. I'll add a whole bunch again this year, but if I get stuck, I know I have 100's of great lessons at my disposal.
I keep lots of teacher books, craft books, magazines, picture books, etc. When I need a source or inspiration for a new lesson, they're right where I need them.
I keep art supplies at the ready for creating new lessons and now, after months of making the move, they are nestled into their new home.
Just in time for a new art year. I start tomorrow!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Create Your Own Art Lessons the SPARKLE way! Part III

Continuing on with my series, Create Your Own Art Lessons the SPARKLE way, I introduce Letters K and L....

Kid Appeal: I get alot of questions from parents about my curriculum, especially whether or not I teach The Masters. While I do have my favorite projects inspired by Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, and Rouault, I tend to favor the introduction of contemporary art in the form of current pop culture, illustrators and slightly less know artists like Fred Babb or Keith Haring.
Studying famous artists is a huge component of elementary art, but so is teaching technique and that is what I tend to focus on. Now, as far as techniques go, there are only so many. What varies is the subject matter. Choosing the subject or project inspiration can sometimes be hard.
I always ask myself this one question:
What are elementary school kids most excited about?
I know upper grade girls are gaga over their some type of animal painting is always a hit. Boys love to animate. They really get into perspective and animation techniques. They also love reptiles. My watercolor chameleons are always a big hit with them.
When brainstorming new lessons, look to kid's magazines (your public library has tons)for inspiration. Often, these magazines will have articles from kids on subjects you might never have thought about. One recent article on whales inspired my whale lesson for 4th grade.
So think beyond Renoir and Degas and seek current inspirations that will inspire and excite your students!

Lingo: The opportunity for language enrichment in art class is endless: armature, bisque, brayer, form, contour, medium, repetition, composition, kiln, etc. Big words for little ones but don't hold back. I love to bathe my demonstrations with colorful descriptions and terminology. Kids love learning big words especially if they can "experience" them.
With every lesson I design, I try to have at least three art terms to speak about. I don't worry too much about standards, feeling that almost every art project I do contains multiple skills, but I do think seriously about how the child benefits from the project. Sometimes thinking too clinically about a lesson causes the little ones to lose interest. Afterall, this is art class not language or math. Have fun and don't be afraid to say it!
Sometimes though, despite our intentions, it can be hard to speak with enthusiasm or exuberance. Perhaps it's hard to keep the kid's attention. I have a strange little tip that might help you think about your "job" a little differently.
Watch a cooking show. Seriously. Any cooking show on The Food Network shares similar attributes: teaching cooking in the most effective way using a personal point of view. I love Nigella Lawson. Her recipes threaten to add ten pounds to my frame but I watch her for her style. She always uses strong verbs and adjectives. I pay attention. She draws me in. She makes food colorful, vibrant and alive and I want to make everything she prepares. That's how you want your students to view you! So take a tip from the pros and learn how they deliver a lesson.

Next up: The Elements of Art!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Create Your Own Art Lessons the SPARKLE way! Part II

If you are following my SPARKLE Method of developing art lessons (here's Part I), today will be all about the A & R: Assessment and Research.

K-Kid Appeal
E-Elements of Art

Assessment: Let's admit one thing right off the bat, developing an art lesson is time consuming. Sure you can pass out supplies and hope for the best, but winging it doesn't do anyone any favors. So set aside some time and really give yourself an opportunity to practice the lesson yourself.
Recently, I've been obsessed with totem poles. I've collected books, posters and downloaded photos from theInternet. I love them. The colors, the symbolism, the design, they're all good. But after many attempts at drawing the actual totem pole, my assessment came back rather dim. It was too hard. I'm trying not to sound whiny here, but it really was difficult. I couldn't come up with a fool-proof strategy for effectively guiding thirty children through a totem-pole drawing lesson. Maybe the medium wasn't working. Perhaps the project should be in 3-D instead of a flat drawing? Maybe clay? What about recycle-ables? Eventually, I scrapped the totem pole painting because if I couldn't teach it to myself, there would be no way a group of kids would be successful (some might, but not all).
So here's the trick: If I can't nail down a project in thirty minutes, I know it won't work for my students. It might be longer for you. But that's my standard. Figure out what your threshold is.

Assessment ends when I can verbally explain every step of the way.

Sometimes, I know a project will be fantastic without even trying it. Sometimes, I go through my assessment steps only to learn that an older or younger age group would have been more appropriate. I've been known to try a project with one grade level at one school, then use the same project with another grade level at another school. Sometimes it's easy to say that a particular lesson is adaptable for any age, but the truth is, when you're teaching thirty kids, all with individual needs, then this statement works too hard to be accurate. That's why I suggest grade levels in my art lessons. A classroom teacher has vastly different needs than a home-school educator.

Research: I'm not a big fan of lengthy research. This is for a number of reasons. One, since my time with the kids is short, I don't want facts and dates to take up too much time and two, unless you're a skilled orator, too many facts tend to bore kids. I know, I know. I can already hear the voices of protests!
But I do incorporate some facts of historical interest. Here's my strategy: I like to find an amusing, interesting or downright bizarre fact about the subject in which I'm teaching and then, make it age appropriate. For instance, when teaching my "Dancing Cow" art lesson (Fun with Animals PDF) I focused on the texture of the cow's nose; soft and velvety. I speak from experience here, telling them all about the snappy Holsteins that dot the countryside around my childhood home. The visualization helps my little first graders when drawing and painting the nose. I might be getting carried away here, but I feel as though the children are imagining themselves what the soft nose must feel like.

As for facts such as birth year, country of origin, parents occupation, etc. I ignore it all unless I can tie in a fact that the kids would find interesting. One of my favorite artists is Maud Lewis. She was born in Nova Scotia and because that's where I was born, I somehow feel entitled to share Maud's life. Like how she used the leftover paints from the fishing yard to use in her paintings. Or how she used to sit on the side of the road selling her paintings (and even cooler, how a lady who actually read this blog bought one of those paintings back in the late 60's).

Use research sparingly in your lessons. At most, spend 5 minutes and even better, accompany any facts with visuals. Basically, get to the painting or drawing as quickly as you can!

I hope these tips help. Of course, you'll have your own strategy's, but isn't it fun to try new things?
Next...Kid Appeal and Lingo!
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