Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers is a monthly roundup of advice and wisdom
from fellow art teachers, put together by the intrepid Glenda Lubiner.
“When I was a kid, my father didn’t really have much hope for me. He thought I was a dreamer; he didn’t think I would amount to anything. My mother also.”— Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry obviously didn’t take what his parents thought to heart. Fortunately for us, he followed his dreams and became an incredible and inspiring architect.
I hope that all of you continue to inspire your students to dream big and follow their dreams. In February 2016, the Huffington Post published this article on their blog: “If You Want Your Children to Survive the Future, Send Them to Art School.” I say no more!
The month of February is a very busy one with Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, and Random Acts of Kindness Week. Lots to do this month and here are some great tips to incorporate clay, community connections and getting ready for the spring art show.
Soup’s On! As a part of an “Empty Bowls” fundraiser for the local food bank in Lakewood, Washington, Lakes High School art teacher Tracy Fortune’s ceramic students made soup bowls. Her advanced students made theirs on the wheel, while her beginners used a slab of clay gently pressed into a plastic bowl covered with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap prevents the clay from sticking).
Using her collection of rubber stamps (great idea) they enhanced their bowls before putting them to dry. Once glazed, they donated the one-of-a-kind bowls to this good cause.
My middle school National Junior Art Honor Society students also made bowls on the wheel for our Empty Bowls event. We also asked local mom and pop Italian restaurants to donate spaghetti for the event. The restaurateurs were overly generous and our guests could have seconds.
We weren’t sure if we would have enough bowls to sell so my principal, who is a great supporter of the arts, let me have a pottery day for the teachers. The teachers loved that they could learn how to use the pottery wheel and donate to a great cause. This year we are going to make pet bowls as well and donate the money raised to the humane society.
Art, Art, We Love Art! Toni Webb, newly retired art teacher from Broward County, Florida, always encouraged every student to have an entry in her art shows. Labeling their work to facilitate her returning the art to students after the show was daunting—until she realized that the school office could print class lists of students on labels, which included their grade and classroom teacher.
As each class came to the art room on set-up week, they mounted and stuck the labels on their own work. Then she had the Art Club (fifth-graders) take it to the media center and hang it by category. Toni solicited cash prizes from local businesses, as well as ribbons and medals.
To make the judging fair, she engaged fellow art teachers from other schools to be the judges. There were up to 11 categories, each with separate prizes. That also made it easier to get teachers to judge because she could limit their time investment to as many categories as they preferred. She gave them certificates of appreciation to show her gratitude.
Classroom teachers were encouraged to bring their classes through the show (located in the media center). She also asked the PTA to serve free refreshments the evening of opening. Parent response was extraordinary, with over 300 attending the opening! (The school had 640 students, and was a Title One school.)
Don’t Leaf Me Alone! It doesn’t have to be fall to make ceramic leaf bowls. Emily Deacon, elementary art teacher from Franklin Academy in Pembroke Pines, Florida, had her students roll out a slab of clay with wooden dowels, cut out the shape of a leaf, and add the veins.
When they were finished, she had them wad up some newsprint paper in a ball and drape the leaf form over the paper. After they were fired, they glazed them with food-safe glaze and had some great bowls.
Happy birthday to Takashi Murakami (Feb. 1, 1962), Paula Modersohn-Becker (Feb. 8, 1876), Grant Wood (Feb. 13, 1891), Elie Nadelman (Feb. 20, 1882), Pierre-August Renoir (Feb. 25, 1841), and Frank Gehry (Feb. 28, 1929).
Thank you Tracy, Toni and Emily for your great tips!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. She is also an adjunct professor at Broward College.
If you would like to share some of your teaching tips, email them to: