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Tiki Cups

This tiki lesson was a fun, somewhat simple lesson that the students seemed to really enjoy. After doing coil building, slabs, creating their own templates, we gave them a little bit of a break by providing them with a simple slab template to give them the base of the cup. For this, we used low fire red clay. We talked about creating emotion in art. I talked to the students about how to make someone look angry, mad, sad, happy, excited, etc. We discussed how to be successful in that by shaping the eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, all a different way. Students came up with their sketches. During the sketches, I had them choose ONE aspect of their tiki that they wanted to emphasize using color. The rest of the tiki was stained with a black underglaze and then clear.

This lesson was a fun alternative because it showed students a different way to glaze ceramic rather than just coating it with a glaze. After these were bisque fired, I then demonstrated how to stain their tiki. We used a watered down black underglaze and you can even make your own stain! We painted the wash all over the tiki, in all the crevices and textured areas especially. We waited about 5-10 minutes for the stain to dry. Then, I had students use a wet sponge to sponge off all of the extra stain, this left the crevices and textures dark, and created a cool look for their tiki. After staining, the students were able to glaze one small aspect of their tiki using color. Lastly, student applied 2-3 coats of clear glaze to the remainder of their tiki.

Overall, this was a really fun lesson to teach and the students seemed to enjoy it.

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Art History Meets Pop Culture Acrylic Paintings

Yesterday was my last day of the school year, and this year, my kids were focused up until the very end! This year, I decided to start an acrylic painting assignment the last few weeks of school. I gave each student a canvas, and I feel like having a canvas helped. Many of the students had never worked on one before so they were really excited at the opportunity to create something great! Working on a canvas enabled them to stay focused, which is definitely hard to do in the month of May and June!

This assignment is one that I have been doing throughout my teaching career. I think this is the third time I have done this! I’ve taught this not only in high school but also in middle school and I love the results! We talked about Pop Culture and what types of things are popular today. Students brainstorm many ideas and come up with a good list. Then, we research all different types of art and artists! I have had them research in a computer lab, but this past time, a computer lab wasn’t available so I brought in a ton of printables and art magazines and books. I had students work in groups to write down different artists that caught their attention and different art movements that they enjoyed.

Then, students had to come to me with an idea. They needed to tell me what artist they wanted to base their painting off of, what painting specifically, and what they would incorporate into the painting to make it more original and their own.

Another really great thing about this assignment is that you can guide students in a direction that they will all be successful. For example, I had some students who were more successful doing a Pop Art inspired painting, where they did not need to mix colors or do any shading or blending. Some students had experience painting before so I guided them in the direction of a Monet or a Rembrandt painting, etc. This way, all students had different results at all different levels, yet they were all able to be successful!

The PowerPoint that I created for this lesson can be found at

I have a variety of different examples on the slideshow, all of which I have permission for.

Besides though examples, take a look at some of my examples from this current school year!

What works for you as an end of the year lesson? Would love to hear! Enjoy summer!!



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Expressive Self Portraits

Quite possibly one of my favorite lesson plans that I do all year. When students hear that I am making them do ANOTHER self portraits, after we just finished up a realistic one, they ask WHY. Once we start working on these, their attitudes typically change and they are a lot more excited.

I like giving the students the option to explore symbolism a little bit further and consider what imagery they can use to show the world more about themselves, rather than just their appearances. The PowerPoint that I created for this lesson can be found here,

I can thank the wonders of Pinterest for many of those photo examples, but I also chose to incorporate Frida Kahlo into this lesson. Frida has so many amazing examples of symbolism and she is truly such an inspiring artist and person, that I wanted my students to learn more about her. We had discussions about The Two Fridas, and also about one of her self portraits. We discussed the symbolism and imagery in her artwork and how it reflects her personality and mood.

Students found this to be very interesting. We also discussed more in depth realism, abstract, and non objective. I told students to consider how realistic they wanted this to be. They had the option to be more symbolism and do a silhouette rather than a realistic approach that would require them to do eyes, nose, mouth, etc. This allowed my students of all different skill levels to choose a way that would be successful for them.

I also gave them an option in what art mediums they wanted to use. They had the options of graphite, colored pencil, pastel, watercolor, or mixed media. After the presentation, I had students write 5-10 things about themselves in their sketchbooks. These could be interests, personality, mood, appearance, home life, friends, etc. We then broke those down and considered how to interpret them into a symbol or some sort of imagery.

Students brainstormed with the others at their tables and came up with some ideas. When they had enough ideas, they began a sketch of what their portrait would look like. I offered suggestions to make sure that students were challenging themselves enough, and were not doing things too hard. I told students that if they chose not to draw a realistic face, that they needed to put extra details somewhere else, to ensure that all students were still working the same amount.

I graded these using four main components. Subject Matter & Creativity, Use of Symbolism and Details, Craftsmanship, and Effort.

I was SO happy with how these turned out. Here are some of the great examples from my classes!


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Sgraffito Pots

Sgraffito is such a fun technique to use! For this project, I had students work a little bit smaller than normal, and I had them really focus in on the intricacy and details that they could incorporate into their designs. I had them sketch some sort of design. We also talked about Emphasis, and I encouraged them to use a bright colored glaze for the inside, since the outside was mostly black and white.

I asked students to have a lid, a handle, and if they had time, some sort of foot. Students really enjoyed this technique because it gave them the opportunity to draw freely and easily incorporate some of their favorite designs and ideas into their ceramic artwork.

Included are a few of my favorite examples!


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Personalized Mandalas

After finishing Contour & Blind Contour Line Drawings, I wanted my students to take a different approach to our focus on Line, Shape, and Color. I wanted to do something completely different from the contour and blind contour lines… something more focused, intricate, neat, organized, etc. I decided to do Mandalas!

This was my first time teaching this lesson and I really love the results! I typically have sketchbook prompts posted on the board when students come in. They begin drawing for the first ten minutes or so of class. The week before starting mandalas, I had students draw symbols or designs that were simple, yet described themselves. I had students draw bows, flowers, bikes, ice cream, pizza, basketballs, baseball, just to name a few. Students built up many small symbols in their sketchbooks.

We then took a look at Mandalas. Students were guided through setting up a circular grid using compasses. I asked students to personalize their mandalas into an original composition. Again, they were asked to choose a color scheme or a color combination of some sort.

Students were focused and really enjoyed this project. At the end, I had a google classroom assignment that was essentially an Exit Slip. It asked students to Compare and Contrast the difference between the Contour and Blind Contour Line Drawing Vs. Mandalas. I also asked students questions that were personal to their work, to offer them a reflection opportunity to discuss what they did or did not like.

This was hands down one of my favorite lessons I have taught! Pictures below!


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Chuck Close Inspired Acrylic Paintings

I created this unit for high school painting classes but I have also adapted it to fit my seventh grade classes. This unit is a series of two different paintings. This is a great thing to do once students have learned basic color theory, color mixing, etc.

To begin, pre assess the student’s knowledge of the following: Abstract, Chuck Close, Warm Vs. Cool Colors, Grid, Non-Objective and Acrylic. (For me, although I was teaching a high school painting class, some students did not know acrylic vs. watercolor)!

The first thing I taught them in this unit was the difference between warm and cool colors. We looked at various examples and talked about how they make us feel. I then taught them about Chuck Close. We looked at his work before he became paralyzed, then compared and contrasted it with the work that he did after he was paralyzed. We talked about his grid method and discussed how to set up a grid within our artwork. We discuss advantages and disadvantages of working with a grid. We then covered one more thing: Non-Objective art. We looked at various examples until I felt that students had a good understanding of what it meant.

The first painting served as a great practice for good craftsmanship and working with acrylics. Students were asked to create a non-objective acrylic painting using a grid and either warm or cool colors. This is how they turned out:chuckclose img_8956 img_9331 img_9332 img_9333 img_8645