Zany Zoo – End of the Year Collaborative Mini Unit


So, like most art teachers, I ended up with 1-2 classes for a number of my sections, and there isn’t very much you can do with that.  Instead of just allowing for a free choice day (which would be mass chaos this time of year), I looked to my pinterest board, and found this pin from the blog Art for Small Hands.

It. Has. Been. A. Life. Saver. and a super popular activity for my first, second, and third graders this time of year.

I took the premise of Julie’s lesson (which has a great outline and many helpful tips for the whole lesson) and mashed it with the Exquisite Corpse game that the Surrealists played, and turned it into a collaborative drawing activity.  Students started their animal with a head and neck, and then moved to the next chair at their table, to add a body to their table-mates drawing. Then they moved to the next chair to add a tail, and then legs.  If there were 5 students at a table I had them break the legs into front and back.  If there were 3 students at a table I had them draw the body and the tail together.  For the younger grades it did take them about 1 round to understand the process, but after that first round, they were able to manage the moving around on their own.

I did a demo drawing to show students how they would take turns creating their animals.  I pretended to be different students at a table, and drew in different colors so they would understand.

I did a demo to show students how they would take turns creating their animals. I pretended to be different students at a table, and drew in different colors so they would understand.

I decided to have them get up and move seats, because I know moving around a bit is better for children who are so hyped up that it’s almost the end of the year (or really for any time of year). You could always just have them trade papers to save a bit of time.

When everyone was back at the paper they started, they traced the pencil line in sharpie and added background details and color.  I also showed my students how to take the names of all of the animals and create a new name by selecting parts of the name.  I think this was the part they liked the best!Zany Zoo 2

Zany Zoo 3To take this one step further during the second class while students were finishing, I had them record a bit about their animal via Audioboo.  I shared this with my sister and boyfriend Thursday night, and we had the best time listening to their cute little voices, and noticing the details they added.  I’m sure the parents at my school will treasure these little recordings for a long time.

If you want to kill some time, here is a link to all of the Zany Zoo drawings that have been posted to Audioboo, OR Below are some of my favorites, but really it was so hard to choose!

Animal Portraits – Lesson Inspired by Photographer Nick Brandt


This year, I re-imagined a painting unit I do with second grade.  Instead of just doing regular paintings of African animals (because they study Kenya with their classroom teachers), I did some research on the internet, and found lots of inspiration.

First I stumbled upon the work of Nick Brandt, a photographer who started a foundation to bring attention to endangered species in Kenya.  Then, that got me thinking of ways to change the way students create an animal painting.  Instead of painting the animal in the landscape I asked students to create portraits!  I found this lesson as inspiration for the final look I was hoping my students could achieve.

To introduce the lesson, I created this slide deck though Haiku Deck.  We viewed the work and talked about why Nick Brandt might create portraits of the animals he photographs.  I was so impressed that students were able to understand why Nick Brandt would print his work in black and white!  Students created a sketch from observation, using an animal photo I cropped to help students draw their work in a portrait format (Access photos here).  Over a couple of days they completed their drawing, and painted with tempera paint.  Then it was on to the background, which students completed in watercolor paint.  Again, students used reference images of African landscapes to inspire their work (Access photos here)To wrap up their work, students cut out, and glued their animal to their background, and shared with a partner at their table about their brushstroke techniques, over painted details, or mixed colors.


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To wrap up their work, students cut out, and glued their animal to their background, and shared with a partner at their table about their brushstroke techniques, over painted details, or mixed colors.

This whole unit was developed in connection to my districts common unit.  All elementary school art teachers in the district use common units as a starting off point, in this case for our second grade painting lesson.  We have common units for grades k-6 in painting, drawing, and sculpture.



Chatterpix, Professional Development Opportunities, Video Resources, OH MY!


For a number of years, 3rd graders at Conant have completed this collaborative project that connects their work in the classroom and their work in the art room. In class, students choose and learn more about a particular person, through the use of biographies.  They write a report, dress up as their person, and present to their classmates. In art with me they create a portrait drawing of their person, to be displayed with their report.

Not only do they create a lovely drawing to complement their report, they also learn the difference between portrait and self-portrait while relating those two vocabulary words to what they’ve learned about biography and auto-biography. They also learn additional vocabulary words for describing types of portraits (frontal view, profile view, 3/4 view, bust, full-length, and group).

I made a short video that introduces these types of portraits.  Feel free to use it in your class!

This year, I took it a step further, after learning about the Chatterpix app.  When students were finished coloring their self-portraits, they used an iPad to create a talking photo, aka a Chatterpix.

Each classroom teacher had these drawings on display and with them I posted QR codes that linked back to the videos.  This integration of QR codes came from a class I took at Framingham State University.  (Side note, if you need PDP’s or credits to advance your salary scale, check out what Framingham State has to offer.  It’s very very reasonably priced -$179 a credit, AND it’s online.  Super cool, and both classes I’ve taken have been great) I don’t think many people scanned them, but I know the more I include QR codes in my displays, the more familiar everyone will get with them.  There are many websites to make QR codes.  I like, but also use to shorten links and quickly make QR codes.

Initially I hoped the students would be able to make the QR codes themselves using the QR Reader & Scanner app, but I found that with only 6 iPads, that was too slow going for the short amount of time we have in art.  It just took too long to create the chatterpix, export it to the camera roll, upload to dropbox, grab the video link, and use that link to create a QR code.  So instead the students did everything but make the QR code. Perhaps next year when I am a 1:2 iPad classroom this will be possible. (Yes, I’m getting another 6 iPads via a very successful Donors Choose campaign, and some extra money from the Art Department) Certainly in a 1:1 iPad classroom!

Celebrating Youth Art Month

Youth Art Month Collaborative Display

This year, the youth art month celebration that I usually participate in was moved from Worcester to Boston.  It also became a state wide exhibit, instead of just central Massachusetts.

Inspired by this change, I decided to brainstorm some ways to celebrate at school.  I didn’t want to take on a school wide show, this year though, so I had to figure out small ways to celebrate at school.

I decided to have each of my almost 500 students finish the sentence ‘Art is important to me because….” on either a blue or yellow piece of paper.  These pieces were put together on the bulletin board to spell ‘Celebrate YAM’.

Check out the bulletin board below, and the details of some of the things they wrote.  I was so impressed with the thoughtful ideas they came up with.

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Managing Clean Up: New signs by the sink area


I made a version of these signs a few years ago, but I didn’t really think about my ELL students.  They were a bit hard to read with a drop shadow.  As I was going through my documents before uploading them to Google Drive (YAY cloud storage), I started clearing some things out.  I noticed I had drafts of these signs, so I finalized them, and printed them out.  Instead of waiting for the laminator to warm up, I just threw them in some plastic sleeves and taped them up.  I’m hoping this will help with the ‘accidental spraying’ that’s been happening a lot this year in the art room.  My sink area isn’t in the same space that my workspace is, so when students are cleaning up, I’m not with them.  Hence the need for reminders.

SO, I figured I’d share them here on the blog.  Why make someone else do the work again?!  Just click on the image to download the pdf’s.

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What my 1st graders thought I’d be bringing to San Diego!


I shared with one of my first grade classes that I wouldn’t be seeing them next class, because of my traveling to the National Art Ed Convention.  I just told them quickly as they were leaving class, and their classroom teacher overheard me when she arrived to pick them up.  I thought that was it, and that maybe I’d talk to them about my trip when I saw them the week after.

When I landed in San Diego, I was greeted with a number of emails….one being from this particular classroom teacher.  She shared with me an activity they do during their morning meetings. It’s a memory game called Grandma’s trunk.  You have to repeat what your neighbor has packed before you can put an item in the trunk.  This Thursday it became Miss Hayes’ trunk!  I think they did a great job packing for me, AND I wish I had brought tons of paints, paintbrushes, and a basket of art supplies with me!

I also can’t resist a reason to make a wordle!

Coming Soon


Since I’ve been building up my PLC and PLN I want a formal place to share ideas I’m working through, and successful lessons.  These things don’t have a place in my classroom blog, which is for my students and parents to learn about what is going on in my classroom, so this is where I will put those posts.

Please stay posted!