Spring Owls

These bright-eyed owls were made by my daughter and her first-grade classmates.

Crayon rubbings over texture tiles imply feathers and the cut trees were modeled after Henri Matisse’s “painting with scissors” technique.

Michaels and Party City both carry Duff Goldman’s texture tiles for fondant.  I’m not a baker so I wasn’t aware that such things existed, but they are very cool (and pricey).  Any time I have a coupon, I pick up a set.  Lakeshore Learning carries a 6-pack of tiles that aren’t quite as sophisticated but are more reasonably priced. 

I brought the tiles to class, along with my collection of peeled and broken crayons and 12×18 sheets of spring-colored paper.  I had drawn outlines of owl wings, ahead shape and a body on white paper and made a set of copies for each student.

The children started with the crayon rubbings, which were a hit all around.

Then the cutting began.

“Painting With Scissors”
As the children cut out their owl parts, I talked about Henri Matisse and his paper cutouts.  How he called his technique “painting with scissors” and did it freehand – no tracing or templates.  Relevant, I thought, as many this age are quite concerned with doing things exactly the right way.

But the children were too busy wrestling with scissors and owl wings to pay much attention.

After a quick, silent apology to Matisse, I explained the next steps.  Choose two sheets of 12×18 paper in different colors – one for the background, one for tree branches.  Cut out branches for your owl to sit on – try rectangles or Y-shapes.  Use scraps to cut out eyes, beaks and feet.

The freehand cutting was a real challenge to a couple of kids.  All in all, everyone did a great job, but it took loads of encouragement and many still looked skeptically at the imperfect edges.

Finally, I encouraged them to lay out their pieces (Matisse took great care in arranging his cutouts before gluing them), but these children were READY TO GLUE.

I absolutlely love the results, but with only 40 minutes, start to finish, this one could’ve been simpler.

Snack Bag Class Portrait

My Sample

The idea for a fun tribute sign for Teacher Appreciation Week came from another great art lesson at Art Projects for Kids.

Two other moms and I had 30 minutes with our daughters’ class while their teacher enjoyed a special luncheon.  I remembered coming across APK’s Self-Portrait Painting, hoping I’d have a chance to do it.  But, we didn’t have time to paint.

Since the doodles I make on my daughter’s snack bags have become a popular topic of discussion in the classroom, I thought the kids would have fun making their own snack bag drawings.  (My daughter, in fact, had been bugging me to do a “snack bag art lesson,” so I selfishly hoped this would appease her.)

Before class, I cut a bunch of bags in half and spent time laying them out on poster board.  I wanted enough panels for all of the children, plus more to spell out the message, “We love Mrs. Smith.”

Of course, any paper could be substituted for the snack bags – I’d probably use cardstock with Sharpies.

Three instructions – (1) With a black Sharpie, write your name clearly on the bottom. (2) Then, draw a picture of your head.  If you have space add something you like (butterfly, baseball, musical note, etc).  (3) Then, add color with colored Sharpies.

Ed Emberley came in handy, too.  His step-by-step instruction makes drawing quick, easy and highly rewarding for 

kids.  (Paper, markers and an Ed Emberly drawing book make a great birthday gift.)  I recreated 4 pages from Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Faces on big, white paper and hung them up for optional reference.

As each child finished, we used rubber cement to stick his bag to the poster board (2 pieces, stapled together and trimmed to fit 30 bag halves).  Those who finished early made portraits of the kids who were absent or drew the panels needed to spell out the message to their teacher.

This project brought out the children’s sweet side, too.  Despite my planning, we still ended up with space for extra panels (clearly, math is not my forte!).  On their own, several kids made drawings of things they knew their teacher liked, like her favorite baseball team.

A happy accident and wholly attributable to the kids, it was the first thing she noticed.
CP Snack Bag Portrait

Faaamily Book!

When my daughter was 3-months-old, I lay her on her back next to me and read “Who Said Moo?,” over and over again until my arms hurt from holding the book up.  Next came “Rainbow Fish.”  We both loved it.

Now, she’s 6, her brother is 5 and their dad and I still read to them every night.  They run down the hall announcing ”Faamily Book!,” after they’ve brushed teeth and dressed for bed.  But it can be a struggle to find books that appeal to both of them – a reader and a non-reader, a girly girl and a boyish boy, school-age and pre-k.

Enter Magic Tree House.  Great series that our daughter has read independently, but was also interested in listening to.  As was our son.  He loved it as much as she did and the brother and sister protagonists make it a perfect fit if you have boys and girls.

Next, Charlotte’s Web.  We all cried when Charlotte died and cheered when her babies were born.  Stuart Little was a big hit, too.

Then we moved on to Junior Classics for Young Readers by Dalmatian Publishing, available sometimes in Target’s Dollar section.  We think these abridged versions of the classics are well-done.  Plus, they have an illustration on every few pages.  Our son enjoyed The Secret Garden and A Little Princess as much as our daughter did, but he played with Legos through Little Women.  (Truth be told, his dad would rather have been playing with Legos, too.)

Both kids also liked The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Black Beauty, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Ann of Green Gables.  We omitted a few paragraphs about the town drunk in Tom Sawyer - not ready to go there yet.  In Ann of Green Gables, when Ann mistakenly gives Diana currant wine, we got away with a brief explanation about a ‘grown-up drink that makes kids sick.’

Now, we’re on to Harry Potter, halfway through The Goblet of Fire (Book 4).  I’m amazed at how enthralling this 734-page book is to kids this young.  My husband uses a different voice for each character and does it so consistently that the kids know right away who is ‘talking.’  (Of course, his theatrics don’t explain the several hundred million other copies of Harry Potter books that have sold.)

Good, old-fashioned plot and wonderfully-developed characters, plus an enthusiastic reader.  Faaamily Book!

Very Nice Cats

One of my favorite art teacher sites, Art Projects for Kids, includes a wonderfully simple lesson, “How to Draw a Cat.”  Because of Kathy Barbro’s clear instruction, I was able to help 22 first graders make the most charming cats, which their teacher promptly dispayed in the hallway.

To ensure bright colors, I added a brief explanation of complementary colors.  And because I only had 40 minutes with them, I limited their color selection to pairs of oil pastels that I’d bound together before class.

I’d also hoped to find a basic color wheel that I could give each child – a tool for them to take home.  I searched online and at local art and paint stores to no avail,  so I made my own – my husband made the graphic, I printed them on cardstock and added game spinners that I found at Michaels.

Since then, Art Projects for Kids has posted a free color wheel download.  A great tool – thank you!

Finally, I found a great explanation of complementary colors here, and made labels for the children’s artwork that included the color wheel and a place for the kids to sign their names.

The children were thrilled with their results!

Thanksgiving Party – 1st Grade

These Turkey Centers took place in a first-grade classroom where the children sit at round tables.  The kids took their usual seats, did the activity at that table first, and then moved to other tables as spots opened up.  This set-up has been requested now by two wonderful, experienced teachers and it works really well.

Turkey Sun Catchers
With Sharpie markers, Oriental Trading’s Jumbo Turkey Sun Catchers are fantastic!  My youngest Thanksgiving houseguests – ages 4-7 – loved them, too.

I tried all kinds of gel paint at home with my own kids first, but opted for Sharpies in class, as one of the reviewers on OT suggested.  Kids this age love Sharpies (who could blame them?) and they’re low maintenance, which is always good for a class party.  I also brought along suction cup hangers so they could be hung up for instant gratification.

Chopsticks Pass-Along
This activity from Family Fun was a big hit.  We had a few parent helpers at the party and the mom whom I asked to run this table had fun with it and changed things up as needed.

We put a cranberry, a candy corn, an acorn, a small gourd (fake), and a miniature ear of Indian corn (from the grocery store) in each of 2 fancy crystal cracker dishes.  I had some Thanksgiving-themed melanime plates from Pottery Barn Kids that I set at each seat at a table.  To start, we told two of the children to pick up one thing at a time from the crystal dish and pass it to their neighbor’s plate.  The kids raced, changed directions, passed things smallest to biggest and biggest to smallest and tried it with both the rubberbanded chopsticks and loose chopsticks (I’d left a few pair unconnected).

For instructions on how to attach the chopsticks together, click here.  A local Japanese restaurant gave the chopsticks to me for free.

After playing this game, the kids picked up a regular-sized Tootsie Roll Pop (Dum Dums were too small) in a felt Turkey Lollipop Cover - inexpensive and good quality.

Turkey Headbands
The teacher provided a turkey headband for the children to make, similar to this one.  I’d also orderd a foam headband kit from Oriental Trading that we ended up using at a Girl Scouts Daisy meeting instead.  I’m not a fan of the foam kits, but if you are, these are cute ones. 

The parent helpers and teacher wore drumstick headbands, which I’d ordered for our own Thanksgiving celebration at home.

Pin the Pilgrim Hat on the Turkey
When I spotted this paper game in Target’s Dollar section, I snatched it up and used the self-serve laminator at FedEx Office.  I brought my own orange bandana and the kids could choose whether to be blindfolded or not.  Every one received a “Happy Thanksgiving” pencil for playing.

Turkey Cookie Decorating
This popular turkey cookie from Pillsbury is perfect as a party treat or decorating activity.  None of the moms wanted to bake so we used the round sugar cookies from the Publix bakery.  The children put them in Ziploc bags to take home.

Parents brought in Oreo Turkeys, fruit and cheese for the kids to eat at the party.

Loot Bags
Michaels has sturdy kraft bags that stand up on their own, even when empty  - I love to personalize them and use them for goody bags.  Everything fit – the suncatcher, the cookie, pencil and lollipop.