Free Computer Timer and Alarm Clock

The worst art teacher feeling in the world is looking at the clock while your students are painting and realizing that they leave in 3 minutes! I have tried multiple alarm solutions to avoid that stomach-sinking feeling. For a year, I had alarms set on my phone. It was better than nothing, but sometimes the alarm wasn’t loud enough. And it was a pain to dig around in my purse every class period. This year I decided to find an alarm program that I could install on my computer. (My school uses Windows operating systems.) The best program by far was Free Alarm Clock.

Free Alarm Clock

Right now, I have 16 alarms set on my computer. It is so easy to set up the alarms. It took about 5 minutes to create alarms for the whole day. You can choose different sounds for each alarm. I have one sound for clean-up and a different sound for leaving. My students have gotten to the point where they instinctively start cleaning up once they hear the alarm! It’s also easy to edit the alarms. When I’m starting a messier project that requires more clean-up time, I can quickly change the alarm in between classes. My absolute favorite thing about this program is that if I have my computer on mute, it will still sound the alarm.

Free Alarm Clock

I use a countdown timer once clean-up time has started so students know how much time they have left. (Any minutes that they save go towards their Centers Day on Friday.) I wanted a simple, bold timer for my computer so that kids could easily see how much time they could save. I really like this Minimalistic Countdown Timer.

Minimalistic Countdown Timer

The timer automatically goes to full screen, which is nice when I want my students to be aware of how much time they have left. But if I need to do something on my computer, I can minimize it, and it still runs in the background. I have found that periodically announcing how much time they have left helps my students to hold each other accountable and encourage one another to finish cleaning up.

Minimalistic Countdown Timer

It is crazy easy to set, start, pause, and re-set the timer. There is a 3 second countdown to start using the timer in the free version, but I haven’t found that it keeps me from doing what I need to do. (Honestly, it’s nice to have an excuse to stand still for 3 seconds!) If you can buy the full version, that lag time goes away and you get other features.

Minimalistic Countdown Timer

The screen that displays when your time is up makes it very clear that the timer has stopped. However, I usually stop the countdown timer when the kids are done cleaning so that it doesn’t interfere with our circle time.

Both the alarms and the countdown timer have made my classroom run so much smoother. It opens up so much of my brain space, not having to constantly check the clock to figure out when we need to start cleaning up. The timer has reinforced the idea of saving minutes for Centers Day. Giving my students clear information about how much time they have to clean puts them in control of saving as many minutes as possible for stations on Friday.

Organize Artwork using Art History

Students learn art history through a coloring center that uses artwork from an artist their table is named after.

 Elementary students learn about and connect with the artists their tables are named after.

Downloadable PowerPoints: Table Artists 2015 & Table Artists 2016

Supply Box Printables: Table Artist Images & Table Artist Names

 

I only have my students for 28 class periods, which makes me want to fit art history into every facet of our classroom routines. I discovered a great way to expose my students to important art history figures while keeping their artwork organized and easy to pass out.

Students learn art history through a coloring center that uses artwork from an artist their table is named after.

The supply box at each table has their artist’s name taped on it, along with a portrait and example of the artist’s work. The names change each year, so that over a student’s experience at our school they will become familiar with 24 different artists. I choose a diverse group of artists from different time periods and styles.

Organize student artwork by naming tables after famous artists.

On Centers Days, we spend 5-10 minutes learning about one of the artists that their tables are named after. We discuss the artist as a class first, then each table discusses their answer to a question about specific works of art. I created a Coloring Page Center so that my students would have something tangible to help them remember each artist.

Organize student artwork by naming tables after famous artists.

I publish an art newsletter that keeps our faculty and staff informed about what is going on in the Art Room. I post it in the bathrooms and leave a stack in our waiting area for parents to read. Each month, I include a section about one of our table artists.

cassat

I created folders for each class that have their artist’s name written on both sides. This is how they turn in their artwork at the end of each period. I use the folders as a way to separate their art on the drying rack. It makes passing out artwork at the beginning of class so much easier!

Keep track of student artwork by naming tables after famous artists.

These simple routines have made our classroom run smoothly. Students always know how to turn in their art and at the beginning of the period they can get right to work. They are so excited when we get to learn about the artist that their table is named after!

Eagle Challenge

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

As an art teacher, sometimes I bristle when people ask me to make “decorations.” There are a few exceptions – I am always excited to do a unit on papel picado for Cinco de Mayo. When the music teacher told me about a concert the symphony would be putting on for the community at our school  and asked if the art students would like to be involved, I jumped at the chance!

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

She told me that one of the themes of the concert was going to be the eagle. I decided to create a challenge assignment for the students and leave the medium and interpretation of the eagle up to them.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

It was incredible to see how many different directions the students took their ideas. I made a list of possible media on the board and let them decide if they wanted to work alone or with a partner.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

Because the art was going to be viewed from far away, I made one of the limitations of the challenge be that their artwork had to be at least 12″ X 18″ – many students went much larger than that.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

The artwork turned out incredible! Having it displayed along the walls when the symphony played made a big impact. It was a great opportunity for a lot of them to work with larger pieces of paper.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

Supplies:   Watercolors, Lino-cut materials, Chalk pastels, Sharpies, Colored pencil

Paper Challenge

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

High school students design a solution to the challenge “Create a piece of artwork using only paper and adhesives.”

Supplies:

  • Paper (Construction, card stock, origami, etc.),
  • Adhesives (Glue, tape, staples, etc.)

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

At the beginning of the second semester, I decided I wanted to try something new. With such small classes, I felt like I could open up the projects so that students had more room to explore. I came up with the idea of presenting assignments as “challenges.”

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

The first challenge they did was simple: I asked them to create a piece of artwork using only paper and adhesives.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

In order to get their brains thinking of ideas, I showed them a PowerPoint filled with examples of artwork that were made out of paper. I made it very broad so that they could see how many different directions they could take their project. I didn’t leave the PowerPoint up while they sketched because I wanted to encourage them to come up with their own solution instead of copying another project exactly.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

Another way I helped them to think of ideas was to list examples of all the different kinds of paper and adhesives that we had in the room. If a student was stuck coming up with an initial idea, I would help them begin to narrow it down by asking them if they wanted to make a 3D or 2D piece of artwork.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

Instead of requiring them to do a sketch first, I told them they could choose between sketching or experimenting with an idea. I was impressed by how many of them took their experiment seriously and came up with some very cool results.

 

 

Functional Clay

functional 6

After finishing the figurine project, I opened up clay as a medium students could use when they were working on Independent Projects. Some students decided to make functional clay projects, either on the wheel or using hand-building techniques.

Functional Clay - Students hand-built or threw on the wheel to create clay pieces they could use everyday!

For hand-building, I showed students how to roll out coils, score and slip them, and then blend them together to create bowls or cups.

Functional Clay - Students hand-built or threw on the wheel to create clay pieces they could use everyday!

A lot of students got more adventurous with their glazing. They created patterns in the clay and then glazed their piece using different colors.

Functional Clay - Students hand-built or threw on the wheel to create clay pieces they could use everyday!

Some students tried throwing a couple times and then moved on to other ideas. A handful of students really stuck with it and practiced throwing any chance they got! It was exciting to see how much they improved over time.

Functional Clay - Students hand-built or threw on the wheel to create clay pieces they could use everyday!

It was so much fun to display their work in the cases in our main hallway and cafeteria. I realized pretty quickly that I needed to change out the displays more frequently than I planned. So many students were anxious to take their clay projects home and quite a few of them wanted to give it to someone as a gift.

Functional Clay - Students hand-built or threw on the wheel to create clay pieces they could use everyday!

Supplies: Clay, Glaze, Clay tools, Wheel, Bats

Figurines

Functional Clay - Students hand-built or threw on the wheel to create clay pieces they could use everyday!

I decided to try a new concept for my clay project this year.  When it was time to teach the element of Form, I started the class off with a PowerPoint of a wide variety of figurines. I showed them examples of animal and human figurines from ancient cultures. Then I showed them a wide variety of figurines that were created by current artists. (Downloadable PowerPoint: Clay Figurines)

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

I opened up the definition of “figurine” to be any small object that was around 4-6 inches tall. I told students that their project didn’t have to be realistic. Many students came up with some very interesting abstract forms.

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

We started the process by talking about basic hand-building techniques, like scoring, sliping, and hollowing out clay. I was so excited to open up the kiln to see that every single student’s artwork was intact! (Another big advantage to clay figurines is that I was able to fit them all into one load.)

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

It was interesting to see what students came up with as their subject. I was impressed with the wide variety of ideas they had.

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

This was their first experience using clay in my class. I wanted them to get excited about the medium without being overwhelmed. The size limitation meant that they could really take their time and put a lot of detail in their work.

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

Some students were able to finish early enough that they had time to create another clay project. I let them choose if they wanted to work on another figurine or move on to making a functional clay project.

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

Supplies: Clay, glaze, slip, clay tools

Downloadable PowerPoint: Clay Figurines

Abstract or Realistic?

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

For the first semester this year, I took a new approach to teaching the Elements of Art. Instead of just having a project that used the element we were focusing on, I explained the concept and then gave my students a choice of two projects – one that was realistic and one that was abstract.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

On the first day of class, I showed my students examples of realistic and abstract artwork. I also demonstrated how artwork is not either/or when it comes to abstract and realistic. We talked about how any piece could fit anywhere on a “timeline” of representational to non-representational artwork.

abstract vs real 2

In the middle of the year, I had them work in groups to practice thinking about where a piece of artwork would fit on the “abstract to realistic” continuum. I printed out five pieces of artwork for each group and had them discuss and sort where they would place each one.

abstract vs real

Doing all of this work with abstract vs. realistic up front made it easier when we got into more complicated concepts like Space. Since they already understood that they could make artwork anywhere along that continuum, they could focus their energy on understanding the element of Space.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

After discussing the element of Space, I gave students the option of creating a more abstract notan or a more realistic drawing of a room. The notan used the concept of positive and negative space, while the room focused on drawing in two-point perspective. (For the room drawing I used the same lesson from last year about Surreal Spaces, but I only briefly touched on incorporating surrealism.)

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

Some students drew incredibly realistic rooms, while others created more surreal atmospheres. The notans were equally diverse. It was exciting to see my students exploring the full spectrum of abstract to realistic artwork.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

I could see that opening up the assignment helped students to feel more comfortable being adventurous with their project. Instead of ending up with a set of cookie cutter pieces of artwork, each student’s art was truly unique. Another benefit was that even though my students each picked one project, they got to learn about and see the process of doing the other assignment while they watched their classmates.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

Abstract (Notans): Black construction paper, White construction paper, scissors, X-acto knives, glue

Realistic (Perspective drawings): Drawing paper, colored pencils, markers

Downloadable PowerPoint: Abstract vs. Realistic

Safe City Winner

SafeCity1

One of my students won second place for the Safe City contest at our high school. Safe City is a contest that several different districts in our area participate in. Each school puts together a team of teachers and administrators to choose a first, second, and third place winner.

SafeCity2

My students could choose to work from several of the suggested themes: family violence, suicide, bullying, or cyber-bullying. For this project, we focused on the Element of Texture. Because it is a required contest for all art teachers to participate in, many of my students had created a poster in Elementary or Middle School.

SafeCity3

In order to make the project new and interesting, I showed my students examples of artists who incorporate text into their artwork. Each student could decide how to include words in their drawing.

 SafeCity4  SafeCity5  SafeCity6

I was so proud of how this student wove the text throughout his drawing and turned each letter into a detailed and powerful representation of the tough subject matter he tackled. He won a $50 award; he and his family were invited to a celebration for Safe City. I’m so proud of him!

Watercolor Animals

Create abstract and realistic watercolor animals using a variety of painting techniques.

My students started this painting while they were waiting for their clay projects to get bisque fired. I showed them examples of incredibly detailed animal drawings, most of which were filled with abstract designs. Since they had just finished creating an animal out of clay, I gave them the option to choose another subject if they wanted to. I had a big box of animal photos and facts for student to look through if they decided to draw an animal.

Create abstract and realistic watercolor animals using a variety of painting techniques.

They sketched their design before transferring it to watercolor paper using the carbon copy technique. (They shaded the back of the sketch with pencil, taped it on top of the watercolor paper, and traced over their design.) Before they began painting, we had a day of experimenting with the watercolors. I demonstrated five different techniques. I’ve found that letting students practice on a small piece of paper first gives them more confidence on the final artwork.

Glazed wash, Wet on wet, Sgraffito, Salt, Rubbing alcohol
Glazed wash, Wet on wet, Sgraffito, Salt, Rubbing alcohol

For the glazed wash, students would paint a color and let it dry, then paint another color. This showed them that watercolors are transparent and that you have to let the first layer dry if you don’t want the next color to mix with it. I gave them small spray bottles to moisten their paper with for the wet on wet technique. (I bought body mist at the dollar store and filled it with water.) When they combined colors on the wet paper, the colors blended together in an interesting way.

Students experimented with watercolor techniques.

I explained that “sgraffito” means scratched in Italian and showed them that they could use the other end of their paintbrush to scratch a design into the paint. In order to make the salt technique successful, they had to paint a very liquid-y layer before they sprinkled the salt on top. Once the paint dried, they could scrap off the salt with a rag. The rubbing alcohol was the most popular technique. After painting a fairly wet layer, they would dip a Q-tip into rubbing alcohol and then splash it onto their paper.

Create abstract and realistic watercolor animals using a variety of painting techniques.

It was so much fun to see so many of my students come up with their own ideas of what they wanted their subject to be. My goal is for students to become more and more comfortable branching out on their own as the year progresses.

Students experimented with watercolor techniques.

After they were finished with the watercolor portion of the project, they worked on an Independent Project while they waited for the paint to dry. Then, they used felt tip pens and Sharpie to trace over their pencil lines. This really made their designs pop. I almost didn’t include this part because our order of black pens hadn’t come in. I glad I re-ordered them because their pieces looked so much more polished after this step.

Students experimented with watercolor techniques.

We worked on this project in bits and pieces because it was combined with the clay project and fell in the middle of a testing week. It was easy for my students to pick it back up where they left it. I will definitely pair it with clay again.

Create abstract and realistic watercolor animals using a variety of painting techniques.

Materials:

  • Watercolor paint
  • Mixing trays
  • Brushes
  • Watercolor paper
  • Small container of salt
  • Small container of rubbing alcohol
  • Q-tips
  • Felt tip pens
  • Sharpies

Animal Containers

Create a cup or bowl using coil-building, then attach animal features. Functional and unique!

High school students use coil and hand-building techniques to create ceramic animal containers.

Supplies:

  • Reclaimed clay
  • Clay tools, plastic knives, unfolded paperclips for carving
  • Small containers of slip
  • Underglaze, clear glaze
  • Bristle brushes (hold the glaze better)
  • Sponges

Create a cup or bowl using coil-building, then attach animal features. Functional and unique!

The students created a container and added animal features to it. I started by having the students draw a rough sketch of what their design would look like from 3 different perspectives: front, side and back. I emphasized that this was a rough sketch. Some of my students were getting frustrated because the drawing didn’t look like the idea they had in their mind. I told them that the sketch was just a plan. I wanted them to put their artistic energy into making the clay look like the image they had in their mind.

Create a cup or bowl using coil-building, then attach animal features. Functional and unique!

I began by teaching them how to coil build a container. They could choose whatever kind of container they wanted. I put very few limitations on this project because I wanted to see where their creativity would take them. While they were coil-building, I constantly reminded them to score and slip. I also focused on having them smooth out the sides of the container when they were finished. The flat side of a plastic knife works really well for getting a smooth, even edge.

Create a cup or bowl using coil-building, then attach animal features. Functional and unique!

After they finished their container, I taught them hand-building techniques to add their animal features. I told them that you can’t add a solid piece of clay that is bigger than the circle your fingers make when you do the “A-okay” sign. (A piece any bigger than that will have air bubbles, which could cause it to explode in the kiln.) I also reminded them to score and slip every single thing they added on. If they didn’t do those two things, the piece would pop off in the kiln. I had a handful of breaks, but we were able to repair them with glaze paste and another coat of glaze.

Bisque fired artwork
Bisque fired artwork

While we waited for the pieces to air dry and get bisque fired, I had the students work on a watercolor project. Once they were all fired, we spent a week glazing. They used underglaze, with a coat of clear glaze on top. We spent a lot of time talking about how to take care of the glazes, since they are the most expensive art supply we’ll work with all year. I had them dip right into the original container, so that we wouldn’t waste glaze pouring it back and forth. I also emphasized how critical it was that they wash their brush in between colors.

Underglaze, Clear glaze, Fired artwork
Underglaze, Clear glaze, Fired artwork

I explained to my students that the underglaze would appear much lighter when they painted it. I showed them finished examples so that they could see how the colors would brighten and darken in the kiln. We talked about chemical reactions, especially when they were putting on the coat of clear glaze. I reassured them that the clear glaze would not stay blue; the heat of the kiln would turn it into glass.

Create a cup or bowl using coil-building, then attach animal features. Functional and unique!

The underglaze had to dry overnight before they could put the clear glaze on. I demonstrated how to dab on the clear glaze instead of paint it on, so that it wouldn’t smear the underglaze. There were a few students who had really gone above and beyond with their clay project. I allowed them to use special glazes that would create interesting reactions.

Create a cup or bowl using coil-building, then attach animal features. Functional and unique!

Some of my students finished glazing in just two days. I had them work on Independent Projects if they finished extra early. When about half of my class was done, I set up a table with watercolor supplies and had them continue working on their painting. The watercolor project paired really well with glazing. I was able to reference watercolors when I explained that glazes are transparent, which means you can’t cover one color up by painting another color on top of it.

Create a cup or bowl using coil-building, then attach animal features. Functional and unique!

Once all of the glazed pieces had been fired, I lined the back counters of my room with all the work from all of my class periods. Usually, my students write about their own artwork for a critique. For this project I wanted them to be able to see everyone’s work, since I wouldn’t be able to hang their work on the walls. I lined that edges of the counter with neon “Do NOT touch the art!” signs and told the student not to let their fingers, nose or toes cross the blue line I taped on the floors. One table at a time walked through the back of the room and observed the art. Each student chose one piece of art, other than their own. As their critique, I asked them to describe the form and glaze well enough that I would know which piece they were talking about. I also asked them to imagine what would they use it for, if they could buy it and take it home.

Create a cup or bowl using coil-building, then attach animal features. Functional and unique!

A Note on Materials: The only way we were able to afford to do this project is because a local artist donates big buckets of his clay scraps to us. Us art teachers spend a lot of prep time re-claiming the clay. It’s a bit time-consuming, but oddly therapeutic (and a great workout!)