First Few Weeks

Where to begin...

I've recently been hired as a Long Term Art Substitute at an Elementary School in Dauphin County.  I started on January 24th and will be in this position until June 10th when school lets out for the summer.  I am having a fantastic time teaching!  We are doing so many great projects and the students are responding so well to all of them.  We do have full day kindergarten at this school and we run on a 6 day cycle.

First, a few photos...

My classroom.
The room has a large window on which I display artwork.
These are 4th grade "Winter Blasts".
Abstract Art bulletin board.
Balance bulletin board
3rd Grade Clay Unit wall

Artist of the Week is a small recognition that I give to a student who has done an exceptional job on their artwork.  I keep a tab of students who have been Artist of the Week during the current school year so as not to choose the same student twice in one year.  I try to get a few in from each grade level on different projects.  The A.O.W. changes every cycle day 1, so the student(s) have their artwork displayed in the school for about a week before the next one is chosen and hung.

Artist of the Week.  Two 4th graders were chosen for their "Winter Blasts".

A few projects I would like to share...

1st Grade - 1st graders are currently working on making "Shape Robots."  We discussed various shapes and I briefly introduced Paul Klee's artwork, focusing on "Senecio".  We talked about how artists use shapes in their artwork, particularly Klee.  We also discussed which shapes are found in the classroom and out in the world.  Next, I showed them how shapes can be used to build things and I built a figure out of foam blocks.  The students quickly figured out that the figure was a robot and I showed an example of the project they would be starting...A Shape Robot.

Paul Klee's "Senecio"
The first class period students cut out their shapes.  For the entire 25 minutes remaining in the class, the students were cutting shapes.  I modeled how to draw and cut the shapes and I told them the more shapes they have the more interesting their robot would be.  They cut squares, rectangles, half circles, and triangles from various colors of construction paper.  They were given envelopes and were instructed to write their names and class section on the front and keep their shapes inside.

The second class period was dedicated to arranging the shapes into a robot on a sheet of 12x18 white paper.  After I demonstrated, the students were told not to glue until they were totally happy with their arrangement.  They worked diligently and carefully arranging their shapes just the way they wanted before gluing...

The third class period will be for decorating and embellishing the Shape Robots.  Using, markers, stickers, and other pieces of construction paper or patterned paper, the students will put a face and other details on their robots.

2nd Grade - Second graders are starting a project titled, "Miro, Miro on the Wall, who has the prettiest hands of all?"  Introduction and motivation for this project began with a brief review of Abstract Art.  We discussed two major players in the Abstract movement, Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miro.

Wassily Kandinsky
Joan Miro

As a class, we determined that Kandinsky was better known for his smooth, beautiful blending of colors and Miro for his lines and shapes.  Next, I gathered the students around a table to demonstrate the project...

The first step is to trace their hand on white 9x12 paper with a pencil.  Then, they retrace their hand again overlapping the first drawing.  Then again, overlapping the 1st and 2nd drawing.  And once again, overlapping the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd drawings.  The overlapping of the hands will create many intricate lines and shapes reminiscent of Miro.  Next, the students will retrace the contour lines (this is a vocab term) of their hands with a black sharpie marker.

Next, students will use oil pastels to color in the small shapes created by the overlapping.  Each shape and space should be a different color.  The large spaces can be colored in with more than one color and blended together in the style of Kandinsky.  I demonstrated how to blend oil pastels together using a paper towel, explaining that oil pastels are used for smudging and blending because they are more oily and slick than regular crayons.  

Student using a paper towel to blend colors

Finished Example
The final step is to color all the leftover white areas on the page on the outside of the hands.  The entire page should be filled with vibrant, blended colors.

4th Grade - Fourth graders have started Scherenschnitte Cards.  We discussed that sometimes artists look to different cultures for inspiration in their art.  Picasso had his African Tribal Masks, Gauguin had his Tahitian beauties and for this project my 4th graders are looking to Germany for influence.  I introduced the word by daring some of my students to try to pronounce it.  After several tries, the students got it right.  The word is of course pronounced "Sharon-shnit."  

We reviewed compound words and I explained that German words are almost always compound words.  The word Scheren means "scissor" and the word Schnitte means "cut".  So by compounding the words together the entire word means "scissor-cut".  I also showed them other culture's artwork similar to the German Scherenschnitte, for example, Japanese paper cutting is called Monkiri ("Mon-keer-ee").  I explained that Scherenschnittes are created from one single sheet of paper using many different cutting tools.  Using the book, "PAPER: Folded, Cut, Sculpted" I showed pictures of Scherenschnittes ranging from elaborate and complex to decorative to very simple.

Referring to the simple examples in the book, I also showed my own samples of the project.  At this point, we reviewed symmetry, since all my examples and the simple examples in the book showed symmetry.  We also reviewed contrasting colors as Scherenschnittes are better shown in contrasting hues (for this project, we used black and white).  After this introduction, I demonstrated the steps to creating a Scherenschnitte card...

First, students chose either a white or black 12x18 sheet of paper.  Whichever color they chose, they needed to get the opposite in a size 9x12.  The 12x18 is folded in half as well as the 9x12.  On the 9x12 paper, use a heart pattern tracer or another shape tracer and trace half the shape along the fold, so when the shape is cut out it will remain in tact.  After the shape is traced, students can start to draw shapes on the inside.  Once the inside is complete, students should keep the paper folded while cutting out around the large shape.  

Then, use a pencil to poke a hole into the smaller shapes on the inside and wiggle the scissors into the hole to cut it out.  When all shapes on the inside are cut out, the students can glue them to the front of the 12x18 and decorate the outside of the card using markers.  Students can write a message on the inside as well.  

*Note - it is key to make sure the shapes are on the larger side and not smushed up against each other.  If shapes are too small, it will be much more difficult to cut them out after the hole is poked.  Also, allow shapes to have some "breathing room".  Students should have at least a half inch between their shapes.  If the paper between the shapes is too thin it will rip.

This student added the hearts she cut out
to the lower corners of her card


  1. I hope you don't mind. I posted a link to this blog entry on my bulletin board blog.


  2. I also posted a link to your blog. I was doing research on Paul Klee and came across your post. Check out my blog and you can see the post, Lily's Art.


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