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Henna Hands

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Fourth graders created these scratch art hands as part of a unit on the art of India.  They looked at images of henna hands and henna designs for inspiration.  This was their first experience using a wooden stylus to etch through scratch art paper.  They took great care with the new process.  Objectives included etching precise lines, balancing light and dark areas, and filling the space.  They cut a freehand border after using a glue stick to attach the hand to colored paper.  Next time I will allow students to lightly pencil in a border before cutting.

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We started this lesson with a brief power point about the Middle Ages.  Students viewed images of castles, queens, kings, knights, armor, tapestries and illuminated letters.  Students worked on 16 x 20″ pages of heavy peach  paper.  To ensure the portrait was large, I had students create their own oval face template on scrap paper.  They traced the oval lightly in chalk onto the large paper.  From that point on, the students used black tempera to add the face, crown and clothing.  We looked at examples of kings and queens for ideas when designing the crown and royal clothing.  Students used jumbo craypas to add color.  The final step was to use the sides of broken craypas to layer color in the background.  White was used to provide contrast between the portrait and background.

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Second and third graders designed a glowing Pysanky using chalk on black paper.  Reading Rainbows Reshenka’s Eggs was the inspiration for these beautiful drawings.  The author demonstrated the process of using dyes and wax to create the traditional Ukrainian eggs.  We examined Pysankys to note the basic format of the design.  Students used double horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines to set up their design.  They added traditional Pysanky lines and motifs to create symmetrical images.  During the demonstration I showed how to hold the chalk before dipping the. tip into water.  I reminded students to keep hands off any colored areas to avoid smudges.  They used a kneaded eraser to clean up the few smudges.  Ambrite chalk produces the most vibrant colors compared to the other brands I have used.

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Students used their own water cup and shared chalk with a partner.

Nutcracker Portraits

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This December lesson was incredibly successful for 4 reasons:

1. Interest was high because every student was participating in our winter musical: The Nutcracker. 

2. The lesson was structured yet allowed for creative choices.

3. Every step and part was demonstrated.


December lessons work best when presented in small, highly structured doses. Full color visuals were available at every table, charts of different parts were presented as needed, and real nutcrackers were on display for inspiration. Students chose 2 or 3 colors for the jacket and hat, just like teams use the same 2 or 3 colors for their uniforms and headgear.

Day 1-Jacket

  • Critique images of nutcrackers’ uniforms, noting colors, shapes, details, designs, etc.
  • Select colors from precut papers:   1 12″x 6″ for jacket,  2 4″ x 6″ pieces for the jacket center and shoulders, 1   2″ x 6″ piece for the very center of the jacket.
  • Glue the jacket and center pieces down.
  • Fold and trim the shoulder pieces and then glue into place.
  • Add sashes, medals, etc.

Day 2-Face

  • Select skin toned paper.  Trace and cut a circle. Glue onto the jacket, slightly overlapping the jacket.
  • Add cut paper/Sharpie eyes in the center of the face.  Add eyebrows with Sharpies. Refer to charts for samples.
  • Add cheeks if desired, using colored paper or colored pencils.
  • Draw a simple long triangle or circle nose in Sharpie.
  • Practice and draw a mustache under the nose.
  • Add a small red rectangle for the open mouth.  Cut teeth from white paper and glue into place.
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Day 3-Hat or crown and hair

  • Repeat at least 2 colors that were used in the jacket.
  • Cut a symmetrical hat or crown.
  • Add details with colored paper.
  • Draw hair with a Sharpie.

Day 3-Glitter/beard

  • Outline the entire headpiece with glue.  Make sure to have the glue TIP TOUCH paper to ensure a uniform line.
  • Outline shapes on the hat with glue, and add small glue shapes if desired.
  • Sprinkle glue on the entire hat all at once.
  • Shake off the extra glitter into a cup.
  • Outline all parts of the jacket with glue.  Include glue buttons and fringe.
  • Sprinkle glue on the entire jacket all at once.
  • Shake of the extra glue into a cup.
  • Add a faux fur beard along the bottom of the mouth.

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My seconds graders were so into Elf on a Shelf.  They loved making these 42″ elves.  The secret to their success was to present a part and complete it before going onto the  next.  We started with the shirt and pants.  Students were allowed to use 2 or 3 colors for the suit and hat.  We talked about their favorite sports teams, and how each part of the uniform repeated the same colors.  The next class focused on the face, ears, hands and shoes.  On the last day, students fit a special hat onto the head and decorated it with the their “team” colors.  We brainstormed elf jobs and students could add a tool, ribbon, present, etc. for their elf to hold.

Polar Express

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This lesson focused on the artist as illustrator.  First graders were asked to illustrate the Polar Express as part of an integrated lesson.  They first looked at photos of the Polar Express and toy trains.  They identified simple shapes and how they were put together before drawing their own.  Students drew with jumbo white craypas.  They included an engine, cars, snow bank, pine trees, a moon and falling snow.  They had to take care not to smudge when adding color with craypas.

Textured Clay Ornaments

2014-12-17 12.38.09These beautiful ornaments were created by kindergarteners.  Students had explored texture in previous lessons – crayon rubbings and exploring pressed textures in  playdough.  They started with a “burger” of clay which was pressed flat and flipped.  Students chose from a variety of found objects- marker caps, shells, popsicle sticks, etc.  They pressed their found object into the clay randomly.  Cookie cutters were used for the shapes.  After firing, the ornaments were painted with diluted tempera.  The top was wiped with a piece of sponge to highlight the texture.  Students applied a coat of tempera varnish for a glossy finish.  They chose a ribbon for me to tie onto their ornament.  Each student had time to create several ornaments.


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