Art education

Fabric Pouches and Personal Symbols

batik bag

My second grade students are currently working on a very complex project– fabric pouches.  I have done this lesson several times throughout the span of my teaching career, but this year, I am using this as one of my lessons that will be assessed for my SGO (student growth objective).  I figured with this project, there would be many dimensions to assess the student’s growth, and many new concepts and techniques to examine.

I introduced the lesson by talking about what fabric is– although this seems like a simple concept, I thought it was necessary to introduce the idea of fabric as an art material (as it is not something we use in the classroom everyday).  I showed the students some Kente Cloth from Africa to introduce them to the idea of patterning on fabric.  Although we are not create a “copy” of Kente Cloth, we used it as an inspiration for its bold patterns and colors.  I gave the students a strip of white cotton fabric (this works best if you tape the four edges of the fabric to a large piece of construction paper, because it stabilizes the fabric and makes it easy to draw on) and asked them to make a simple repeating pattern across the strip using lines and shapes (with a white crayon or oil pastel).  They then painted the fabric using liquid water colors and set them aside to dry.

The next class introduced my students to the idea of personal symbols and how they can be used to express yourself in your artwork.  I asked the students to sketch 5-7 personal symbols (to show various aspects of their personalities, hobbies, interests etc.) and then they worked to sculpt them in model magic.  When these little symbols are dry, they can be painted with watercolor paints.

After the strips of fabric and clay has dried, it is time to sew the fabric into pouches!  I call the students up to my desk one at a time, and fold their strip in half.  We sew two sides on the fabric on my sewing machine and leave the top edge open so we can insert our special personal symbol sculptures. Spending a little one on one time with each student is priceless.  I can make some important personal connections and sneak in a few informal assessment questions while I’m at it!

Lesson Plan:


Patternmaking in art and using personal symbols in art

Materials: White cotton fabric cut into approx. 6 x 16 in strips, masking tape, white oil pastels, liquid water colors, drawing paper, 12×18 in construction paper, needles and thread or sewing machine, model magic.

Preparation: Tape the white fabric onto a piece of construction paper to make it easier for the students to draw their designs. The paper will also act as a blotter when they are painting.

Day 1: We begin this project by discussing different types of lines, and patterns. Students are asked to sketch 2 different patterns using lines only. The most interesting design is selected and transferred onto the white fabric using the oil pastels. Students should make their lines large— small lines or complicated lines are difficult to draw with oil pastel.

Day 2: Students use liquid watercolors to paint their fabric strips. Encourage the students to create a pattern using color. Leave no white spots.

Day 3: Students can sew the bags by hand, or you can assist them with the sewing machine. I have the students come up to my desk one at a time to use my sewing machine.  I sit right next to them and help guide the fabric through the machine and let them work the foot pedals.  Having each student come up to my machine gives me a nice opportunity to do an informal assessment on the students progress– I can ask a few questions about the pattern on their pouch or about the personal symbols they are creating with clay.

Day 4: Students will create small objects to put in their bags. Discuss symbols, and have students sketch small objects to symbolize them. Give each student a small ball of model magic to create their objects with. Paint the object with watercolor or liquid watercolor and place inside of special pouches.

I will continue to update you on the progress of this project.  Students are currently painting their little clay sculptures to be placed in the bag and are loving coming up to my desk to use my sewing machine.

Kindergarten Kings and Queens

I just received some great news this year; my principal actually asked me how much money I needed for my budget, rather than give me a number that the district dictated.  It seems our new interim superintendent believes in “building level management”.  He instructed the principals to dole out budgets as they see fit, rather than having a stipend that was fixed across all schools.  So, next year, I will have almost twice as much money!! I am so excited!  I will finally be able to afford some of the more “luxurious” art materials that I used to covet.  I am dusting off some of my old lesson plans in preparation for rolling in the art dough next year.  Here is one of my favorite lessons with model magic (one of my favorite, easy modeling materials, that I only use very sparingly since it is pricey)

I did this lesson with kindergartners– This variation is “kings and queens” but I have also done this as a self-portrait and they are very successful as well.

clay the clay the clay clay queen

Students were asked to create themselves as a king or queen.


Model Magic, black construction paper- cut into 6×9 in pieces, glue, watercolor paint/brushes/water, Googly  eyes, feathers, beads, sequins, jewels, etc.

Day 1:

First demonstrate basic techniques for clay sculpting.  Have students come up with ideas for shapes to use for head, body, arms and legs.  Each students should first start off by creating a ball for a head and then gently flattening it.  Then add a neck, body, etc.  Demonstrate how to blend the clay together to create a stronger figure. Label with the student’s name and allow to dry.

Day 2:

Glue down any limbs or parts that have come loose or broken off– glue directly to construction paper.  Have the students paint their figure.  I found that it is best for the students to first paint the skin and then their clothes (I found that if they paint their clothes first, the bright colors from their clothes can get mixed into their skin tones).  Make sure to review with the students what parts of the body will be painted with  a skin tone— there are always a few that want to paint the entire body skin colored (and make their figure look naked!).

Day 3:

Embellish!! Pass out lots of fun little stuff and let the kids go wild.  Go around and make sure there are no loose parts or limbs.

Give this lesson a try and see how it works out for you. Do you have a project you like to do but your budget holds your back?  What art materials do you wish you could splurge on?

My Favorite Art Resources- Kindergarten Edition


Today, I would like to introduce a new feature to The Funky Art Teacher blog, My Favorite Art Resources! Each week I will introduce you to some of my favorite supplies, books, websites, and tools.

We have all been in the same situation– we have a few precious dollars to spend on supplies, but don’t know which ones are worth it!  This year I spent a large portion of my budget on gallons of tempera paint, only to realize that I type I purchased is practically worthless!  It is transparent, runny and drives the kids crazy (picture 20 students trying to use red and constantly shouting out to me “this paint is pink… not red!!!!”).

This week I will highlight some of my favorite supplies for kindergarten.

(WARNING– the following post contains real art supplies lovingly used in an actual elementary art room)

photo 5Black Crayola Crayons– These are great for drawing.  Oil pastels make a darker richer line, but are so messy and smudge easily.  Crayons are great for a smooth, black (non messy) outline.  Consider buying the fat chubby crayons for preschool, Kindergarten and First Grade



photo 1

Sargent Glitter Paint- I don’t know what camp your in; Art that looove glitter (ME!) or those that dislike it, but this glitter paint is awesome!  The colors are very vibrant and beautiful.  It manipulates well if you are making “painted paper” for collages.  My favorite quality of this paint is that it is transparent.  Often times our younger students tend to paint outside of the lines, which is fine by me, and the transparency of this paint still allows you to see the orginal drawing (unlike chalky tempera paint)

photo 3Glue Tap Caps- These caps come in handy for the youngest art students.  It is a two part cap that fastens on to any regular school glue bottle.  You do not need to twist the cap to use, but rather the kids tap the glue bottle onto their artwork and the cap releases a small dab of glue.  Sometimes the glue crusts over the tip, so you just need to pick it off a bit.  I have found that the best way to reuse these caps is to take the glue bottles, throw them into a tub of warm water and let them soak for a few hours or overnight.  At that point the glue will be soft and the caps will just twist off and can be rinsed for reuse.


photo 4Stubby Paintbrush- A great staple for the elementary art room.  It holds the perfect amount of paint, is cheap, sturdy and covers a large area in a short amount of time.  These brushes are also great if you are having the students paint large pieces of paper that will later be used in collages.


photo 2Liquid Watercolors- What did art teacher do before these were rolled out?  These paints are BRIGHT, paint up beautifully, are relatively inexpensive, and a little goes a long way.  I usually thin these down to make them last longer.  I like to use these with the kindergarteners mixed into something called Tempera Extender (a clear viscous liquid that is supposed to be added to tempera paint to make it last longer).  By mixing the liquid watercolor and tempera extender, you get a pretty transparent paint that allows the kinders under-drawings to show through.

Let me know if you have any favorite art supplies for younger students!  I am especially looking for recommendations for tempera paint brands that are affordable for my small budget but are not runny or transparent.



Monster Collages- Kindergarten Art

Kindergarten MonsterKindergarten art lessons seem to be a universal challenge to all art teachers.  How do you engage 20+ little learners who are more interested in asking to go to the bathroom and telling you about the latest Scooby Doo movie than listening to your well thought out art lesson of the day?!  A few years ago I submitted a proposal for a presentation at my state art education conference.  I was very happy when my presentation “Conquering Kindergarten” was accepted.  I collected all my favorite art lessons for kindergarten, borrowed a projector from the school and headed out to the convention.  When I walked into my presentation room, I was shocked— there were TONS of people there; some even sitting in the aisles and packed into the doorways.  It seemed kindergarten art was a “tough nut to crack”

Today I am going to share with you one of my favorite art projects for the kindergarten set– Monster Collages.  This lesson has three secret ingredients to engage the kindergarteners

1. MONSTERS!!  Most little kids looooove monsters

2. Simple shapes– break down the monster into shapes that ALL students can draw so every learner is successful

3. Glitter Paint– I know some art teachers HATE glitter, but the kids love it, so I embrace a little sparkle every now and then

To start off this lesson, I used a monster picture book.  I looked for one that had simple text and would be a quick read (in order to hold the kids attention).  I also wanted a book that had a variety of monsters of all shapes, sizes, and colors to give the students some ideas for their own monsters.  A book like this one would be a great choice:

My Very Silly Monster 123s: A Very Silly Counting Book

My Very Silly Monster 123s: A Very Silly Counting Book

I usually gather the students around me on the carpet and read.  After reading the class can brainstorm ideas for how to use shapes to create a monster. Questions to ask: What shapes can you use for a monsters body? What details can we add to our monsters and what shapes can we use to create them?

I send the kids to the seats and give them a piece of white drawing paper (somewhere around 12×18) and a black crayon.  I give students a crayon rather than a pencil because they erase too much when they draw with a pencil.  For this project I have the kids draw step by step, but not in the traditional sense.  I will not demonstrate on a white board or chalk board, but rather just verbally give instructions.  I may say something like this.

1. Close your eyes and imagine your monster.  Try to picture what his body will look like?  What kind of monster will he or she be?

2. Take you crayon and draw a BIG shape for your monsters body– it can be an oval, square, heart etc.

3. Draw some shapes for your monsters arms

4. Draw shapes for your monsters legs

5.  What kind of eyes will your monster have?  What shape can you use to make your eyes?  Will he/she have one eye or 5 eyes?

6. What other details will your monster have– give some suggestions. Horns, claws, antennae

At this point I tell the students to put their name on the back and give them a tray of liquid tempera paint (fluorescent would be fun for this project) and have them paint their monster.  I encourage them to select ONE color for the monster’s body, but can use as many other colors as they wish for the other areas of their monster.  If they have enough time, they can use the black crayon to draw a baby monster similar to their big monster and paint that as well.  This is a good “early finisher” activity for those kids that rip through an art project.

The next art class I have the students make a funky background paper for their monster.  We talk a little about picking contrasting colors.  I give them a sheet of paper, placed on top of a construction paper placemat.  I walk around the room with a bunch of glittery paints and let them pick 2-3 paints that I squeeze on their paper.  They have to cover the whole paper with glitter paint and use a plastic comb tool to rake designs into the wet paint.

The next week when the paper is dry, cut out the monsters and glue them to the background.  If you have a little extra time, the students can make a little book about their monster and attach it to their finished project.

I thought this project turned out quite well.  The students were excited about their monsters and looked forward to sharing them (and their little booklets) with their classmates at the end of class.  I mounted these on black paper to really make the colors pop and included them in our district art show– the parents loved them!

Do you have any successful kindergarten lessons?  Do you  have another monster lesson you like to do or favorite monster book you like to read?  I would love to hear about it!

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