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Foam Carving Tiles

I like to do a foam tile carving project with my Art 2 students each year. It’s an easy way to incorporate simple three-dimensional relief sculpture into a curriculum. The material carves easily with scratch art type tools and tongue depressors cut down to a flat edge.This year, we are doing contour names. It was fairly easy to create concentric contoured name lettering for each student. They transfer the image to the tile surface with graphite and begin on the outer edges to “step” the stripes one by one right up to the letters. We may paint or stain them when complete.

Preinstructional Drawings

I like to begin a new group of students with a series of preinstructional drawings. One of the series makes use of a small still-life object. One is placed in front of each student to be drawn for a example of drawing from life in order to compare that activity with a number of other drawing types. Finding good objects to draw isn’t always easy. I need the items small for a brief drawing and easy storage, yet with enough detail to maintain their interest. Pictured here are a number of objects that I have used for several years.

I like this thing…

I picked up two of these from Harbor Freight over the holiday. It’s already proving to be as useful as expected in the classroom. The price was $18.99 in-store. I notice that the price online has gone up (since a week ago) to $19.99. I don’t know if this price has been updated in the stores yet but I am glad decided to purchase two of them when I did. All metal construction and very handy storage for probably any classroom. I use mine near my desk for supplies that I need access to. The trays are 12″ across and it’s 18″ high over-all The bottom two trays have larger compartments and the top two have more smaller ones. As it requires assembly, one could easily leave out some dividers to adjust the compartment sizes.

Which brings me to the one negative and it is that virtually nothing comes assembled. There are no less that 75 tiny bolts with their accompanying washers and nuts. It is by no means difficult. It just takes some time to do it all….Particularly if you’re assembling two of them.

Nutcracker Graphics

My wife’s students were going to see a performance of The Nutcracker this week so she asked me to help her out with an activity for when they return. I prepared a set of nutcracker inspired faces for her students to color. They are full page designs but also set up to print in other sizes. There are 31 different faces altogether so the students can choose the one they want and they will make an interesting display when hung together on a wall. The graphics can be colored with marker, colored pencil and crayon. They would also be useful for other mediums. I have no doubt that I will, at some point, use them for scratch-art images. Watercolor and watercolor pencil actually work well on photocopies…particularly with heavy outlined graphics that divide up the paper quite a lot like these. The toner actually works as a bit of a resist to help the paper hold up to the wet media. When applying water medium to copy paper, I use water sparingly of course. I also find it’s best to paint one area, leave the adjacent area blank and paint the next one. Continue leaving a blank space between painted spaces over the whole paper surface. When the paint is thoroughly dry,one can go back and apply paint to the intermediate areas. This helps keep the paper from warping and curling excessively which causes water media to pool. It also prevents colors from bleeding into one another. Sometimes I will have each student begin two designs. This way, one can be drying while the other is being painted.

The nutcracker graphics are available in my TPT store.

Drawing in Linear Perspective

Quite a line-up of projects have come and gone since I began teaching. Linear perspective, however, will always have a place in my curriculum. It’s one of those fundamental techniques that can be put to use by a wide range of skill and experience levels. There are also endless varieties of drawings that perspective can be applied to. I put together a package of my resources for a number of perspective drawings I have enjoyed doing with my classes. I posted it to TPT this week.

Shading with Texture

My classes will be moving on to Scratch-Art soon. I always like to precede scratch-art with some texture shading lessons. I have quite a few handouts prepared for this but I only use a selection of them depending on the grade and skill level. Currently, I am working with 6th grade. We began a few days ago with pointillism. I show a few examples of pointillism in art and then demonstrate some techniques using a digital metronome to establish rhythm. The students then begin my pointillism fish handout. They work on it the remaining 20 minutes of the 45 minute period. This is the bulk of the time to be spent on the activity and it is not enough time to complete the fish if executed properly. The following day, I may allow a few minutes at the beginning of the period to get a bit more done on it before moving on to the next texture. I discuss it briefly and then provide the next handout with approximately twenty minutes left to practice. We keep up the same procedure for the next few days to work on five different handouts/textures. I expect students to complete about a third of each worksheet and I emphasize that they are to show me that they can create different values before moving on. We use regular ball-point pen for the activities with the exception of felt marker on the fish pointillism.

Classroom Muzak

As students work on projects, I find it beneficial to play some instrumental background music. With the right music selections, it tends to set a relaxing mood and helps them stay on task. In this post, I thought I would comment on what kinds of music I have found to work well. (more…)

Mystery Art

I have not arrived at the perfect solution to students neglecting to identify their artwork. There always seems to be a handful of papers with no name and so, cannot be graded. One helpful strategy has been to designate a place that students can retrieve unidentified artwork. For me, installing some clips at the back of my classroom allows me to post unidentified work out of the way but students can still see it. Students are also updated regularly as to their average and any missing work they may have. Nevertheless, at the end of a grading period, there are usually three or more unclaimed papers…completed…that those student never bothered to get credit for. The clips are also large enough for the occasional lost item such as a stray colored pencil, ruler, or marker cap.

Aestheometry Designs

Students are currently working on their Aestheometry design. Pictured here are the materials that we use daily. Upper left: Nineteen different aestheometry practice sheets that are distributed over several class periods. Upper middle: The large paper with the number four is a student folder that we create at the beginning of the year. It’s a 18×24″ sheet of heavy paper folder in half and labeled with the student’s name and class period. Upper right: A green cardboard ruler I provide for my students and a plastic/mesh zipper bag for individual student materials. The pink card inside is numbered according to the student’s seating assignment. Among other things, the bag contains a hard-lead pencil and eraser. Lower left: A manila file jacket for resources. One of these is supplied to each table. Lower right: The contents of the manila resource folder. A booklet of aestheometry instructions and examples. It’s probably around 10 pages front to back and corner stapled. Also, three examples printed in color and laminated so they can be reused. In fact, my goal is to preserve all the file jackets and their contents and use them year after year. (more…)

Christmas Tree Cooperative Poster

I recently posted a new cooperative grid product in my store. This bundle contians four versions. The coloring grid features pre-printed sections ready to be colored and assembled by the students. The drawing grid guides the students in drawing the sections themselves prior to coloring in various media. One can choose to have students complete a Christmas tree decorated with star ornaments or awareness-style ribbons.  (more…)

On the Board

Students are working on their Aestheometry Designs. I provide several days worth of design exercises and encourage students to experiment with a variety of materials before beginning the final designs. Each student will complete a design on white paper and a second one on black paper. I provide metallic colored pencils for the black paper but some students choose to bring in opaque gel pens.

PDF Editing

My TeachersPayTeachers store consists primarily of resources in PDF format. A number of customers have inquired about editing the files. The majority of these files are not intended to be edited by customers and I would not encourage it. Rather, if you find an error in a file, let me know through the TPT question and answer engine or email me so that I can repair it. If you’d like to see a feature added to a product, I’d be interested in hearing about that as well. I’ve done it dozens of times. It’s usually very little trouble and it serves to make my products better.

Some items, however, are perfectly appropriate to edit yourself. My collection of A.R. party invitations, for example, might need dates or details added to the file. I have various classroom forms that might better serve with a bit of customization. In these circumstances, I regularly recommend PDFbuddy(more…)

Overhead Display

My classroom is equipped with video display for demonstration purposes. I chose to use a cheap video camera that cost about $120 twelve years ago. I mention it because I have compared it to ELMO document cameras costing in excess of $1000 and I prefer my set-up in every way. Expensive document cameras seem to be less suitable for video. The frame-rate on the ones I have seen is low enough that the video image appears stuttered. A pencil shading demonstration, for example, would show my hand jumping abruptly around the screen like poor stop-motion animation or something. The camera video is much smoother. Additionally, it can double as a camera to record video. As for longevity, I seldom ever turn mine off. I literally turn it on in August and leave it on through the weekend all year. I turn it off before school is out for holidays..but then, only if I remember to. So its been running for twelve years and shows no degradation in the image or camera sensitivity. (more…)

Marker Multiplied

When using marker in class, I like to encourage students to try applying additional layers. It tends to deepen the color and lessens some of the characteristic streaky texture that marker is notorious for. Some colors and brands benefit more than others. Black, for example always seems to look richer and less…marker-ish. I give a quick lesson early on and emphasize that one should allow the marker layer to dry thoroughly before attempting a 2nd coat. Waiting until the following day is best. It becomes a handy technique particularly for students who finish a bit early and need an additional activity. In the picture, the upper right corner has a single layer of marker coloring while the rest of the drawing has a second coat. The markers used were Crayola cone-tip watercolor markers in the non-washable variety. (more…)

Elusive Gel Pens

Students are currently working on their Hidden Lizard Drawings. We color the background and leave the creatures blank at first. Once the background is done, they can visualize and make a more informed decision about what to do with the design on the animal itself. At this time, I discuss some of the materials and techniques to help point them in the right direction. During the last couple of days on the drawing, I like to provide some white opaque pens so the students can add a few highlights to the animals such and reflections in the eyes and on the skin texture.  This is getting more challenging because my favorite pens for this are getting more difficult to acquire. (more…)

Prison Tool Control

I don’t use them all the time, but for some materials and situations, these blocks make things much easier. Dad calls it prison tool control because it’s among the methods of accounting for tools used by inmates.The advantage being that one can see at a glance if all the materials have been returned before dismissing students. If the block is full before distributing materials, then it should be full again when materials are put away. Easy. Right now I have three blocks that each hold 24 items. I wish I had made them to hold 28 or 30 as my classes are larger these days. One has small holes for pencil-size items. The other two have medium and large holes. Scratch-art tools and special markers have a tendency to “wander” unless special arrangements are made. Of course, one does have to be diligent about using them. Forget to check the block once and you’re back to replacing those lost items. If a school district has a wood shop program, special favors could be called in. They are easy to make, but a drill press is really a must in my opinion.

Subtle Reminder

I’m the type who will lose track of time while focusing on other things and be caught off-guard by the bell to dismiss class. Of course, the bell ringing before my students have been instructed to put away materials once in a while is not a big deal. Still, I would choose to be consistent and allow appropriate time in every class if it were possible. At the same time, I don’t want to be a clock-watcher. If you carry an iPhone at all times, I recommend looking into Alarm Clock Pro in the app store. I’m sure Android has similar functions/apps as well. Alarms Clock Pro is one of many apps that allow the programming of multiple silent alarms. As for myself, the Invisible Clock is a better choice because I prefer not to carry my phone around in my classroom. The Invisible Clock is a pocket-watch with some unique features. One can program up to 12 individual alarms for a 24 hour period and can be switched easily from beep, to vibrate, and to off. It can be carried in a pocket, clipped to clothing, or worn on a lanyard. (more…)

Harder is Easier

While I don’t see much benefit in large sets of drawing pencils of various hardness, one shouldn’t overlook the fact that a standard, no.2 pencil is not necessarily the best choice for every task. I find 6H and above are often preferable. I understand they even go up to 10H but these are difficult to find.  I issue each of my students a pencil with a hard lead to use throughout the year. They have plenty of advantages to make the purchase worthwhile. (more…)

Organizing Reference Material

In efforts to better organize my room and materials, I put a lot of time in preparing student reference materials to be used more easily year after year. Student reference materials are simply hard copies of examples and instructions. Some are, of necessity, printed in color…which means they are not cheap to produce and need to be used over and over. These are typically laminated or placed in clear sleeves. Sometimes the sets include stapled booklets. For me, the best solution is to provide a package for each table. I have 24 tables with double seating at some so a few students share. Each table gets a file jacket, which is a manilla or plastic envelope that holds letter-size sheets. Depending on the need, some are flat and others expand to 1″. Inside are placed all the materials and resources that we share for a given project. Of course, it takes a bit of effort to collect and assemble these and I add a bit each year, but the idea is that they will be ready to go when needed. I teach different grade levels, so my resources needed to be in a form that is easy to distribute and collect for individual classes. At the end of a project, the jackets are collected and stored in an expanding document wallet. I use a separate wallet for each project and label them for quick retrieval. (more…)


If a classroom door needs to be left ajar, these door cushions work well. They are intended to keep toddlers from getting fingers pinched but they also work well to prevent a door from slamming or latching. Tethering with some cord keeps it from wandering off. It’s a simple shape constructed of dense foam rubber, so it would be easy to make one and save four or five bucks. One of those, extra thick swim noodles would probably make a couple-dozen of them.