“A&A: It Works!” was announced in this past September’s issue, launching our 85th Anniversary celebration. We were exhilarated when the testimonials started coming in from around the nation.
Our hearts were warmed by the comments and we were thrilled with the response from the young generation of art teachers who use the magazine daily in their art rooms. We enjoyed reading their stories of how they are using the ideas, lesson plans and resources found in Arts & Activities.
The original articles that inspired the following accounts are available on our website. Visit our home page at artsandactivities.com, click on the 85th Anniversary “A&A: It Works” icon, and a veritable treasure of successful ideas and lessons will be yours.
— Maryellen Bridge, Editor and Publisher
by David Laux | January 2014
The January 2014 issue of Arts & Activities is one of my favorites. I was really drawn to the images in David Laux’s article, Sumi-e Samurais. I remember leaving that article open on my desk for weeks, just so I could see those images every day. I was so inspired by it, that I reached out to Adopt-a-Classroom for sumi-e brushes.
I’d had a difficult time finding the right projects to engage my fifth-graders that year. This one was the key. They loved the whole concept of working on samurais and learning about the history. They also felt it was super special to have the new sumi-e brushes. One student in particular, who had never liked to create art, ended up having his samurai displayed at our local art museum! His whole family came to see it. It was a big deal.
Submitted by Amanda Koonlaba, Visual Art Specialist
Lawhon Elementary School
by Irv Osterer | September 2017
The article that inspired this project was in the September 2017 issue, Hands On, by Irv Osterer.
I made a short slide presentation about how artists can use their work to send a message. I started with Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso, showed Barbara Kroger’s work, and ended with the street artist, JR.
This coincided with the publicity about JR’s current work on the border wall between Mexico and California. I played an audio interview from National Public Radio with the slide show. This proved to be powerful because it brought current issues into the mix and the students seemed to respond to it with interest. The way that JR describes the work was open ended and personal.
The question I asked to prompt my students was, “How can you use the imagery of hands to send a message with your artwork?”
Submitted by Hallie Levine, Art Teacher
Pickney Community High School
Celebrating Diversity with Kindergarten and Grade 1 Self-Portraits
by Mered “Pidgie” Lawson | October 2009
I was so excited when I read this article, because we have so many different nationalities in our rural school district. I have used this lesson several times over the years. To start, I read a story to my students, What I Like About Me!, by Allia Zobel-Nolan.
After adding colored patterns on 18″ x 24″ paper with crayons, my students chose the color of paper that best represented their skin type, and used a template to trace an oval head onto it. This was the perfect time to use wallpaper samples to make a shirt. Students added their facial features with construction paper, or chose to draw and color them with a black marker and crayons. Some students added teeth with the construction paper. Students added hair by rolling cut or torn pieces around a pencil for curls. Others just tore or cut pieces for straight hair. Students had the option to add hands with the same skin-tone paper. Several students asked for buttons to embellish their shirts. Students are always proud of their finished projects as they view their work displayed in the hallways of our school, celebrating being different is what makes us special!
Submitted by Gigi D’Ambrosio, Art Teacher,
Inman Elementary School
Inman, South Carolina
Klee Creature Landscapes
By Casey Polczynski | October 2006
I was super excited to choose one of the many articles that completely inspired me to share here in “A&A: It Works!” This was no small task: I have issues dating back to 1987!!
In Klee Creature Landscapes, Casey Polczynski explained three important concepts that I was looking for: storytelling, watercolor painting and printing. The printing aspect piqued my interest, so I decided to put several techniques together. I ended up teaching my students about soap prints, mark making and Wassily Kandinsky—and they loved it!
Soap prints are as simple as 1, 2, 3. Students block off printing areas on their tables with masking tape, then blend primary-colored watercolors, a bar of soap and water, and paint into their blocked area, again, directly on the table. Finally, they lay their drawing paper on top, burnish and pull a cool textured print!
The following class I brought in some storytelling fun and discussed Kandinsky’s art. Students were intrigued with his unique style of abstracting art and his love of music.
So, the final part of this lesson had students placing graphite paper over their prints, and drawing the lines and shapes they heard while listening to Beethoven’s Symphony #9 in D minor. When they pulled the paper away, their lightly drawn lines and shapes became a wonderful mark-making experience!
To complete these works, students went over these lines with Sharpies, colored pencils and oil pastels. Their final works were inspired by Kandinsky and this project made for a great learning activity with beautiful results for my students! Thanks Casey and Arts & Activities!
Submitted by Debi West, Art Educator, Gwinnett County (Georgia)
Public Schools (retired). Now an Art Ed Consultant, Hilton Head, South Carolina
Alive and Kicking: Round and Round
by Don Masse | December 2015
Round and Round is an example of how art teachers can incorporate modern, living artists within our classroom walls. The article focuses on artist Matt Moore from Maine. While Masse teaches a younger group, the project was easily transferred to my seventh-graders. My students examined Moore’s website and narrowed in on his more organic murals. We focused on the same mural Masse did with his students—a colorful piece painted in Portland in 2010. We reviewed vocabulary like symmetry, shape, line, space, overlapping, murals and collaboration.
Students layered the circles the same way as shown in the article. Students used Sharpie® and marker to color symmetrically. The work was displayed on bulletin boards in the hall. Students, teachers, administration and parents have all commented on how beautiful the work is and how they love the display of the work together.
Submitted by Kerri Waller
Art Teacher, Simpson Middle School
Autumn Leaves: An Experiment in Cubism
by Paula Slemmer | October, 1992
This project was a starting point for numerous variations on cubist leaves. The first time I taught it, we used colored marker on plain white copy paper. We followed the same directions as in the article, but used 4 or 5 leaf shapes. They looked very colorful, but seemed to need another step.
The next time I taught the lesson, we added another layer of leaves in contour lines with black Sharpie®. Students who had time went “off the paper” onto another paper. This version looked much more finished. We have also sprayed the colored marker lightly with water to make the colors bleed for yet another look. This past fall, we added salt to the wet markers to add some texture.
Submitted by Donna Staten, Art Specialist,
Gattis Elementary School,
Round Rock, Texas
A&A Art Prints and more
Every issue of Arts & Activities
I have been a subscriber to Arts & Activities for the last 20 years (and a writer for the past six), and I still use the pull-out Art Prints with my students. I started using them as an elementary teacher and now, as a middle school teacher, I use them even more … and not just the current ones!
I always start my students on clay around the beginning of February, thinking that it will be about a one- month project. Not! My students love working with clay—as most do—and my one clay project usually turns into three or four more.
I pulled out two magazines—the May 2011 issue and February 2000. (Yes, I have them all categorized by month and years in several binders.) My students were working on 3D clay gargoyles (from the Feb. 2000 issue). I showed them the Art Print from May 2011—a 3.3-cm Japanese netsuke (miniature sculpture), depicting a monkey with her baby. The gargoyles that we were making were small, but not as small as the 3.3 cm netsuke. While analyzing the print, we discussed miniature figurative sculptures (scale), texture, and form.
Submitted by Glenda Lubiner
Art Teacher, Franklin Academy
Pembroke Pines, Florida
Click On A Title Below To Download PDF Of Article
Art Print: Netsuke depicting a mother monkey and her son
Suzuki Tokuku | May 2011
Gargoyles are Grrrreat!
by Paula Guhin | February 2000
Assorted Henri Rousseau-Inspired Lessons, Art Prints, etc.
1990s to present
I have enjoyed many of Arts & Activities’ Henri Rousseau lessons and resources dating back as far as the early 1990s. What I’ve done with all the project ideas is incorporate them into my two schools—where I teach students, aged 5 to 26, with severe multiple impairments and autism spectrum disorder—as a collaborative project focusing on animals in Rousseau’s paintings, and in the rainforest. Each school was assigned different animal groupings. We have a combination of cut paper, 3D, texture rubbings and paint, markers and stamping!
Submitted by Lori Reuben, Art Teacher–Special Needs
Lincoln Development Center and Pine Grove Learning Center
Grand Rapids Public Schools, Michigan
Choice-Based Art: Diving Deep
by Julie Toole | May 2016
The idea of providing “time, space and support” to students who choose to spend time with a process, idea, technique or medium, can transform art class into an authentic art-studio experience.
Following Julie Toole’s example, I allow my students to decide how long to stay with an artwork or line of thinking and making, and to continue working until “done.” This attitude supports the development of individual style, the creation of series of works, (which can span years), encourages a connection between school and home, and nurtures productive collaborations between like-minded learners. Win-win-win!
Submitted by Nan Hathaway Art Teacher,
Crossett Brook Middle School, Duxbury, Vermont
by Anne Hoffman | March 2017
I tried this wonderful lesson by Anne Hoffman in the March 2017 issue, on the artist WRDSMTH. I never heard of this artist before, and I was intrigued by his work. I thought it would be a great way to spread some kindness in our middle school, the way WRDSMTH does, with his positive messages of hope and perseverance.
I contacted Anne, and she was so gracious and generously gave me her PowerPoint, her typewriter printout, links to the stencils she uses, and lots of encouragement.
I followed her format, and with fantastic results! The students loved this project not only for the power of the quote they chose, but also because they were so successful with every aspect of the project.
Submitted by Stephanie Stamm, Art Teacher
Boyertown West Middle School, Boyertown, Pennsylvania
Integrating the Curriculum: Quadrilateral Nutcrackers: Math+Art+Holidays=Fun Learning for Kids!
by Jenny Knappenberger | December 2016
My third-graders took part in a “Quadrilateral Nutcracker” lesson similar to the one in the December 2016 article by Jenny Knappenberger. They created a tiny version as an ornament!
The students used quadrilaterals from cut paper for their symmetrical nutcrackers, added symmetrical details with black Sharpie® markers and white charcoal pencils, and then mod-podged the ornaments. Fake fur or yarn was added for hair, and a ribbon was taped to the back for ornament hanging. All of them were successful and had fun personalities!
Submitted by Vicky Siegel, Art Teacher
Electa Quinney Elementary, Kaukauna, Wisconsin
Artful Inclusion: Rainsticks
by Rocky Tomascoff | January 2017
After reading Rocky Tomascoff’s article in the January 2017 edition, I was inspired to make beautiful rainsticks with my fifth-grade students. While my students didn’t have the same range of impairments as Rocky’s students, the project allowed for all ability levels within my classroom to produce a successful finished product. I particularly liked all of the choices that Rocky offered his students (nail sizes and types of materials to put inside the rainsticks) because it mirrored how I teach. I always prefer to have a set lesson plan and specific learning goals in addition to a whole menu of choices that appeal to all the different types of individuals in my classroom.
Although we put together the rainsticks as Rocky suggested, we did vary how the rainsticks were decorated. My students first papier-mâchéd newsprint strips to cover the tube and nails, and then used colored tissue paper (the non-bleeding type works best) with a second coat of papier-mâché glue. The finished results were just spectacular—the colors so vibrant and rich!
As a finishing touch, I incorporated one of my favorite art styles from the Aboriginal Australians. I taught my students about dot painting and showed them how to create unique patterns and designs using acrylic paint and the ends of paintbrushes. Some students chose to do that style of dot painting, while other students chose to adorn their rainsticks with yarn in order to add a bit of texture.
When the rainsticks were completed, all of my students were super proud of their wonderful art projects, especially because they could use them as musical instruments. Thanks, Rocky!
Submitted by Anne M. Hoffman, Art Teacher
Shabonee Elementary School, Northbrook, Illinois
Integrating the Curriculum: Sonia Delaunay’s Circles
by Robert Graff | March 2014
I was greatly inspired by Robert Graff’s March 2014 article about Sonia Delaunay’s Circles.
I wanted my students to practice using a ruler. There is a fine motor skill aspect to using a ruler, and they needed practice with that. I also needed a lesson that could be completed in one class period, or about 50 minutes.
So, I turned the lesson from this article into what I like to call a “mini lesson.” I had the students use oil pastels instead of markers because that was what we had on hand. The art work turned out beautifully.
We ended up putting some baby oil on the oil pastel, which made it a bit transparent, and we taped them to the windows of the classroom door for the light to shine through.
Submitted by Amanda Koonlaba, Art Teacher,
Lawhon Elementary School, Tupelo, Mississippi
Art Class Can Be Monkey Business
by Mary Weed | December 1990
Young children can relate to the lively, inquisitive nature of monkeys. My first-graders enjoyed making tempera paintings of them while learning about a wonderful young artist. At an early age, Wang Yani of China was introduced to painting by her father, a professional artist. He entertained his daughter by allowing her to paint freely in his studio. She quickly proved to be a prodigy, having a solo exhibition by age 4, and work featured on a postage stamp by age 8.
We began by painting three to five orange monkey face shapes on 12″ x 24″ white paper. Next we used a fine-point brush and black tempera to add facial features. Palettes of brown and black paint were used to paint bellies, limbs, toes and tails. Students were encouraged to paint a variety of playful poses—tumbling, jumping, hanging upside down, and more.
Submitted by Valerie Taggart, Art Teacher (now retired)
Livingston Manor Central School, New York
Abstract Painting: Be Your Own Captain of Creativity
by Debbi Bovio | April 2017
One of the exciting things about teaching elementary art is that students are open and excited about learning. Younger children display less inhibition, which encourages an openness to new experiences. Therefore, I never hesitate to modify lessons intended for older grades.
Keeping that youthful spontaneity is essential when lesson planning, but it can also be challenging. Children can display anxiety over colors smearing or mixing when creating a painting. This prompted me to teach students a new method using a more abstract approach. Sticking with the limited color palette, second-graders were given two shades of blue, two shades of green, and yellow. Students were given a brush and paper towel, but no water. Excess paint could be wiped on the paper towel, though the idea was to let colors mix. The final guideline was to paint quickly, no more than 20–25 minutes. The results were stunning!
Submitted by Jody Reynolds, Art Teacher
Shenandoah Valley Elementary, Chesterfield, Mo.
Building Unity … and Variety
by Don Masse | September 2015
Recently, when classes changed and I was given my new group of sixth-graders, I looked at my plans for the semester, and knew I wanted to shake things up. I found the perfect lesson in the September 2015 issue: Don Masse’s Building Unity … and Variety. Not only was it collaborative, I could teach it as an opening lesson to the elements and principles of art.
The circles we used were 10 inches in diameter—a little larger than the circles Don’s students used. I added in radial symmetry to show students how, when shapes are repeated, they become a pattern. I also gave them an introduction to color theory.
Don had his students design on colored paper and glue it down on white paper; my students designed on white and glued onto black. This was a project where all students—regardless of ability level—were successful.
Submitted by Kerri Waller, Simpson Middle School
by Joan Sterling | April 2007
Like most art teachers, I keep resources on file—sometimes for a long time. As I was looking through some older issues of Arts & Activities, I found an article I had marked several years ago: Fantastic Chagall. It really inspired me since Marc Chagall is one of my favorite artists. I was able to modify the lesson, making it simpler for my first- and second-graders, and more challenging for my fifth- and sixth-graders.
We all began by discussing dreams. Some things in dreams aren’t real—like people flying, animals talking and time going really fast. The students focused on a dream or a real event that made them happy. All compositions included at least one person from the dream or event, at least one building or structure, and one “prop” or thing that could convey the way the student felt during the dream or event. They were encouraged to have people floating or flying, animals and things with human qualities, and anything that would make their compositions fantasy-like.
The children used oil pastels, being sure that everything in their compositions had soft edges—no outlines. When the finished work was displayed in our main hall, everyone remarked how they loved the “Fantastic Chagall-like” art.
Submitted by Tara Meleones
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School
Long Beach, Mississippi
Drawing with Scissors
by Lauren Sapoch | October 2016
The idea for this project came from Lauren Sapoch’s article, Drawing with Scissors. I used it to teach organic shapes, which traditionally has been a hard concept for my students. It really helped. The children also enjoyed working with the bright papers.
I remember watching them work together on where to place the shapes. They were talking it out, deciding how the shapes should be arranged. “We need a larger shape in this top corner because there is a larger shape in this bottom corner. I want it to balance,” was just one of the comments I heard.
This was a quick lesson that packed a big punch!
Submitted by Amanda Koonlaba, Visual Art Specialist, Lawhon
Elementary School Tupelo, Mississippi
Goldfish Bowls … Inspired by Matisse
by Karen Evans | October 2001
I was inspired by Karen Evans’ Matisse “Goldfish” lesson, but I worked with my elementary students to create goldfish bowls with a “mid-century twist.”
We used construction paper, printed paper, glitter, markers, watercolor paints and crayons. Salt was added to the watercolor for a splashy, saltwater tank look.
My youngest student had a penchant for lava lamps, which inspired even more modernism into an already modern subject.
Submitted by Barbara Jean Hanson
Lockwood Elementary School
Eaton Rapids, Michigan
Who’s This? … Torn Paper People Collage
by Robin Cerise Terry | March 1990
I adapted this lesson to make mixed-media self-portraits with my first-graders. It was one of my favorite lessons—a little messy, but well worth it. The resulting art was absolutely delightful! The torn-paper edges created a sense of movement and whimsy that couldn’t be achieved with hard-edged scissor cuts.
We began by tearing a circular head from colored construction paper that matched each child’s skin tone (multicultural paper assortments worked great for this). Tearing paper can be frustrating at first, but the kids learned to grasp the paper between their thumbs and index fingers to guide the tears into the desired shape. We added a rectangular neck, gluing both pieces down on 12″ x 18″ paper. Small bits of construction paper were then used to make the facial features.
Colored tissue paper was torn to create clothing, followed by more torn construction paper for arms, hands, legs, hair and shoes.
In our second class, we continued the collage process, adding torn-paper buttons, hats, purses, baseball mitts, pets, kites, skateboards, and more. I applied a coat of Mod Podge to the figures before the next class.
During the third class, we used Sharpie markers to add linear details and, time permitting, rubbed soft pastels into the paper for background color.
These charming self-portraits would grace the hallway of the primary wing, bringing a smile to all who passed by.
Submitted by Valerie Taggart, Art Teacher (now retired)
Livingston Manor Central School, New York
Lively Jack-O’-Lantern Still Life
by Christy Sanzaro | October 2010
Learning to draw through observation teaches children to draw what they see, and helps them understand how a 3D object is translated to a 2D drawing. A simplified version of this still-life project with an autumnal spin was a great way for my K–3 students to hone their observational skills.
I focused this lesson on the common element of ellipses found in each of the containers I set out for display. I pointed out that the bottoms and tops of these containers were curved rather than straight, which would also make for a more three-dimensional drawing.
Chalk pastels and charcoal shadows added color and depth to their permanent-marker drawings and brightly colored watercolor-washed backgrounds made for the perfect finishing touches to their still lifes.
Submitted by Mary Beggs Bosley
Private Art Instructor
Seal Beach, California