Project dates: 7 March-28 March. Due 30 March 2011.

Goal: Create inspired idea journals based on concepts learned from study of traditional African art.

Characteristics of African art: Art has to do with almost every aspect of life. There is no one “African” style. Most African art has a purpose other than just being looked at. Contemporary African artists may work in traditional modes, follow current trends or have no reference to other art at all.

Most used materials: clay, cloth, shells, feathers, textiles, wood, ivory, horns, bones, wood, metal.

Project: Create an Africa Idea Journal.

Day 1

Paint book covers! Watercolor paint a large sheet of paper. Try different approaches.

Day 2

PowerPoint images of traditional African art. In depth look at bronze head of queen mother, Benin.  Finish painting cover papers or pasting in matboard. 

The queen mother was the “head” of the government.

How can you tell from this photograph that this head is made from a hard material?

Can you tell what it is made from?

Bronze is a metal that can be cast in a mold. Does anyone know how this process works?

Do you think this is exactly what the woman looked like in real life? Why or why not?

What details help you understand that she was an important woman in her society?

What things now show that someone is important in society?

Day 3

In depth look at mid-20th century Ndebele jocolo. Finish pasting boards to inside covers of painted paper and begin tearing pages down to correct size.

jocolo, or apron from Ndebele society, South Africa

What is this?

Is the design symmetrical or asymmetrical?

What material did the artist use to create the colored design?

What does the image across the top of the apron resemble?

Day 4

In depth look at African Bamana HeaddressFinish tearing paper to size. Poke holes in editions of pages, prepare paper for sketchbook.

What animal is depicted here?

It's pronounced BAH-mah-nah

What animal is depicted here?

What kind of artwork would you say this is?

How would you feel if you had to dance while wearing this headdress?

Why do you think the Bamana people wore these headresses?

Which features of the antelope are especially prominent in the headdress?

Day 5

Sew page editions into covers.

Have projected an artwork by Betye Saar.

Ask students to bring 5 personally important artifacts.

Show mine for example; brooch, picture, magnet, bookmark, button. Don’t need to explain yet.

Betye Saar

about the unknown
has no boundaries.
Symbols, images, place and cultures merge.
time slips away.
The stars, the cards, the mystic vigil
may hold the answers.
By shifting the point of view
an inner spirit is released.
Free to create.

Betye Saar


Day 6

Collect student artifacts. Talk about mine how they’re important.

Day 7

Have photocopied artifacts ready to be tape transferred. Show tape transfer method, arrangement of collage.

PowerPoint- Art of Africa

Posted in Fourth Grade | Leave a comment

“But you’re a vegetarian…”

On Friday I was snacking on some salsa and celery sticks. It was the end of the day, I needed a little boost. So while the 4th graders finished their projects, I munched. One student asked me, “What are you eating?” I finished what I was chewing (so polite of me) and said, “Oh, I’m just having some raw dragon flesh.” This student looked at me and several other students looked up from their work. “But Ms. O”, one of my artists said, “You’re a vegetarian…”

I love how 4th graders think. They’re smart and they also see what’s really important. We’ve been reading The Little Prince and using the document camera to look at Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s drawings. A few students in each 4th grade class correctly identified Drawing Number One.

Drawing Number One

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Put pencil to paper and start making a line that eventually connects to itself. You just made a shape! Color and line help define shape. Sometimes lines themselves can be shapes.  Let’s discover which objects in this painting, called Parade are lines themselves.

Find lines that are parading as shapes!

How can you tell if something is a shape? Any flat image created with lines that meet is a shape. Shapes can be just outlined or solidly filled in. Look again at Jacob Lawrence’s Parade.

Artists use many shapes. For example, in many works you’ll see geometric shapes like circles, squares, triangles, rectangles and ovals. How does Grant Wood use circles and ovals in his painting Stone City, Iowa ? Where does he use rectangles?

Grant Wood's Stone City, Iowa

Grant Wood, Stone City, Iowa (1930)

What do you see in this painting?

Where did the artist use circles and ovals?

Where did the artist use squares?

What about the hills? How would you define the shapes used for hills? (organic)

Where do you see patterns?

Do you think Stone City looked exactly like the artist painted it?

Show actual photographs of a farming town so that children can compare the photographs to Stone City, Iowa. You can extend this by showing photographs of other areas of the country such as a city, or a mountainous view, and then asking children to imitate Grant Wood’s style while creating a picture of the other geographic location.

We time-travel to the land of One Shape…

Ask children to create their own piece of artwork using only shapes. For example, ask them to draw a picture of a friend or specific object using only circles, only squares or only triangles.

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Hopi K’atsina

Goal: Compare Native American culture with Colonial/expansionist values.  This comparison utilize the art of Native Americans which has a secular and spiritual function.

Necessary Thought: Some things we’ll compare and categorize before beginning the physical project. Check out the presentation. Native American with a focus on Kachina

1st class: Classify, contrast, compare and sequence some ideas about Native American art in general, and specifically Hopi kachina culture.

Create Kachina sketches, or large sheets of paper where we keep our ideas. These will be kept in our art folders.

On the Kachina sketch, design a kachina that represents an ancestor, place, element or idea important to you. Draw a picture of that kachina and make up a story to tell where he or she came from and what is the purpose of that kachina.

2nd class: Using your Kachina sketch…

Project: Choose to create one of the following:

a. costume for a Kachina

b. mask of a Kachina

c. actual Kachina doll

Imagine you can use any material!  Predict what steps you’ll need to do to achieve your goal.

Develop your project over several class periods, using supplies in class.

Presentations will be given on these Kachina, and a “pantheon” of Kachina’s will be displayed in the school library.

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Abstract Art

19 March 2011

Group work casting masks

The second graders drew images of abstract faces. We used plaster and life masks to cast realistic faces. Then we’re going to make them abstract by cutting, rearranging, appropriating other materials.

Objective: Describe and create a piece of abstract art, or art that does not strongly represent the actual object.

Project: Begin by having students paste about 4 to 5 pieces of colored tissue squares on a larger sheet, canvas or board. They will do this precisely to start off class, giving the glue time to dry.

I used this PowerPoint. Abstract Presentation

Abstract art: Doesn’t look like the real thing.

There are only two rules...


Several examples

To explore abstract art, student artists create “blind contour drawings”. Work as a pair, each student having a piece of paper. The students make portraits of one another, drawing the partner without ever lifting the pncil from their paper. Children should draw very slowly and look only at their partner while drawing. When the drawings are complete, have children show the works to one another. The results will be abstract faces.

Realistic art: Looks like the real thing.

Albrecht Durer's painting of a young hare

My artists have been studying portrait, so they will be creating the portrait of a class member, using the blind contour method.

Distribute images from magazines or newspapers of fairly simple scenes or objects (a teapot, a close-up portrait, sneakers, etc. ) Point out that these images are realistic. Review the definition of realism– images that are true to life. Then, have children carefully cut their images into four different section and rearrange them on their desk. The resulting recombined images are abstract. Their resulting compositions no longer describe the object as it would appear in the obserable world. Then, have children select one shape and one color to represent their object. This, too, can be a form of abstract art.

Abstract art: Does not look true to life, or realistic.

abstract sculpture by Constantin Brancusi

Art example on which to focus: Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space (1928) ask:

What do you see?

The title of this piece is Bird in Space. What makes it look like a bird?

How did Brancusi design Bird in Space so that it looks very simple?

Why do you think Brancusi made his idea of a bird so simple and abstract?

Matisse’s The Snail (1953)

what do you see?

What colors and shapes do you see?

How did Matisse create a spiral in this piece?

What animal has a spiral?

Is this a realistic or abstract piece of art?

Turn this realistic group of fruit into an ABSTRACT group of fruit!



This food looks's a photograph!

1. Choose a fruit from the group above.

2. Choose a shape to represent that piece of fruit. Draw.

3. Choose a color to represent that piece of fruit. Draw.

Here are some examples that the second graders created!

abstract art created in class!

So the students were then able to work independently and paint on plastic sheets to make their abstract fruit or vegetables, using the same guidelines of one color and one shape. The paint we used was Pebeo brand “arti’stick”. You can find info on their website


Artist working with his now-wet-later-to-be-peel-able-paint

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Line- A Day (or two) at the Beach

Goal: Consider and observe spiral lines in nature. Invent curved, wavy, spiral lines after compiling a group of lines on your paper.

Bellringer: Begin class by asking students to use lines to draw different sizes and types of shells. Give students large sheets of paper and challenge them to fill the entire sheet. Focus on how they use line to describe the shapes.

What kind of a line creates this shell?

“What do you see in this painting?”

“What type of line did O’Keeffe use?”

“What happens to the lines and color as the line moves into the center of the spiral?”

“Where else have you seen this kind of line?”

Project: Line hunt! As astronomers we’ll use our telescopes to hunt for organic lines around the classroom. We’ll make a legend and travel around the planets to find these lines. We’ll later use lines to draw personal constellations or star patterns on scratch-board. We’ll experiment scratching thick lines, think lines and whatever we’d like.

2nd class period: We traveled to the beach to be able to firsthand observe shells and the lines they make!

Shell painting

Lines lines lines!

What do these lines look like to you?

Developing lines

Translate some of the drawings you did of the shells into large-scale paintings. If students took home their drawings, take a few minutes to review O’Keeffe’s painting, make some new drawings and start on the painting. EXPLORE line. Let artists  make whatever lines they’d like.  Students will not be allowed to use secondary colors. The primary colors, black and white are ok.

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Inspired by…Early Americans

What are those long, graceful pieces?

What can you see here that is not from nature?

Believed to have been the owner of the bear claw necklace.

Mew-hu-she-kaw, known as White Cloud

Goal: Integrate spiritual, functional and beautiful aspects into one personally meaningful artwork.

Project: Design a symbol that represents a power, skill or characteristic of an animal or nature. Think of how strong water can be, or consider the patience of a caterpillar. There are many examples in nature. Draw this symbol onto a piece of tagboard, scratch it into a bead, or create it out of clay. If made from clay, give it a hole so that it can later be strung onto a piece of jewelry.  

Claw shaped beads

Read the same story we read in class- THE HUNTING OF THE GREAT BEAR

Create three separate drawings of animals whose qualities you would like to share. Each drawing you will re-do on a clay bead. Or you may create the animal as the bead itself. Remember to poke holes all the way through!

Doing more than expected

Homework: Generate a list or some drawings of things from home that are beautiful and useful. Some of my examples: my seat cushion in the studio, the bowl I always use at lunch…

What are those holes?

Braiding practice

Instruct the entire class using long strands, in groups of 10. Then each table will work on braiding. Make a contest or otherwise check the braiding of each group. Teach a simple 3-strand braid.

Students will begin with a simple 3-strand braid. Using 3 different colors, students will create a bracelet.

Using the same group-teaching technique as above, teach a 4-strand braid.

If they have mastered this technique, they can learn a 4-strand braid, also creating a bracelet, necklace or something for him or herself.

Make yarn available to students and teach them appropriate lengths, scissor use, how to tie-off ends, taping it to desk or chair.

In retrospect, braiding and placing beads on the necklace or bracelet would have been important to do before making the beads. This way students could see how large the hole needs to be, and experience different shapes, sizes and colors of beads.

Symbol design

Goal: Create a symbol for self, family and universe. Integrate these symbols into a design for a belt or other wearable work.

In your sketchbook, create and draw a symbol for yourself, your family and the universe.

Cut a long sheet of paper into the length of a belt that would fit you. Make sure it would be long enough to tie.

After being inspired by southwest Indian American weavings, work  on your paper to create an idea for what you would do if you could make a belt or other piece of clothing. After painting and filling in your design, add features like the warp and weft of the fibers.

You will then create a belt out of a strip of burlap. This should be as long as the paper you designed. On this belt you may paint, weave in or sew on your personal symbols. Remember, you were inspired by Indian American weavings!


“I like to look at the grass as it goes back and forth on windy days.” -Madison

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Viking helmets (hold the horns, please)

After our study of viking helmets, we made our own in class! Each 3rd grader will be photographed, then his or her helmet attached to the photograph!

To study what we studied…What…no horns?

Feel free to post anything we may have left our or of which we’ve been misinformed.

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2nd grade: Interpret an immigrant’s story

Activity: Create a memoir from the story of an immigrant. 2nd graders interview an immigrant and create an artwork based on that interview.

For more stories see

Watch the first half of Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant and keep your eyes open for some symbols of freedom.

"The Immigrant"

Imagine what immigration was like...


Three different stories


But first a question…what is the difference between emigrate and immigrate? I’ll give you a hint…

immigrate: to leave one’s country and move to another, usually for permanent residence.

emigrate: tell me what you think (Post a comment)

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My Best Guess…and tiles and calligraphy

Its okay to ask questions!

We’ve had more happening on this project! We had a visitor from the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake ( their website ). Here are some sample questions  that Mr. Muhammed addressed:

What sports do you like to play?

What are drinks like in Islam?

Which is your favorite pillar of Islam?

Do you like pizza?

What questions do you have from just looking?

I studied Arabic in Egypt a few years ago. I learned a lot about Islamic culture, but I felt inadequate to give the student artists answers to their questions. So we invited Muhammed. After he left, I had the students write any questions they still had or wish they would have asked. What would you ask?

In 4th grade we’ve begun a new project…learning about Islamic art. We’ve taken a contemporary approach by looking at artifacts which were gathered from the Middle East in the past 10 years. Here is a photograph of these artifacts grouped together.

Grouping of Artifacts

Students will research their object, trying to find out what it is, and IF it relates to Islam. We’re trying to find a connection between contemporary culture and the centuries-old Islam.

Here are some close ups of the artifacts:

Okay, I'll give you a hint.

I'll give you a hint here...

Here's a Hint...

You don't know yet...


1 Paragraph, written or typed. 5 Sentences total.

Talk to 2 other people. Write what they think then tell me what YOU think.

You can submit this in person or here on the blog!

Hope you had a relaxing break!

Tile Project

Project: design a tile, using any design, pattern or image you’d like to include. The only thing you’re not allowed to represent is a person.

Calligraphy Project

Like Chinese art, calligraphy is one of the most important Islamic arts.

This is because of al-Qur’an, the holy book containing the teachings of God received through the prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an is only really the Qur’ana when read, studied and recited in Arabic. So Muslims study Arabic to be able to worship properly. Most Muslims are not Arab…they don’t already speak Arabic! There are over a billion Muslims, and only a small percentage live in the Middle East! (Understanding Arabs )

Project: Using your own name, or the name of someone special to you, create or invent a way to show off that name. Consider making a small sketchbook, a special picture or invent a way to make that name look cool.

Posted in Fourth Grade | 26 Comments