Monster Silhouettes 2016


I’m doing shadow puppets with my 5th grade students this fall. The preliminary lesson focuses on creating interesting silhouettes in black paper and simply gluing them down to a piece of white paper.

This was a big hit back with the 5th graders back in 2014. This time around, I’m planning my lessons using the online tool I’ve shared my monster silhouette smore ‘flyer’ below.

From a lesson planning perspective, flyers rock the house. I can quickly assemble a lesson with text, video and photos and project it. I can email it, tweet it and share through my K6art facebook page. I can share it with students who were out and need to make up the lesson.

Check it out:

I learned about the shadow puppet process (and this exact lesson) from master art teacher Grace Hulse at the 2014 NAEA conference. At the very same conference, I learned about as a means to organize all the resources in my lesson plans.

I will be posting many future lessons organized with the tool.  Let me know if you find them useful.


Clay Picture Frames – Part I

Painted and assembled Clay picture frames

This spring I collaborated with our third grade teachers on an identity project. These clay picture frames were a perfect fit: they are personal and fun to make. The parents and grandparents absolutely loved these.

The frames require only a single bisque firing and it generally takes only one session to paint them.

Let’s get started!


To make the frames

  • Clay
  • Rolling pins and slats (or slab roller)
  • Cardboard templates
  • Pin tools
  • Textured items
  • Small cookie cutters
  • Letter stamps (like these)
  • Toothbrushes and water
  • Drinking straw
  • Optional: gallon-size Ziplock storage bags and damp paper towels if you need to store for a second class period.

To paint the frames

To assemble and hang the frames

  • Student photos
  • Tape
  • Plastic lanyard cord
  • Pony beads


Print out student photos (ours were 4″x6″).

Create two rectangular cardboard templates: a larger rectangle for the outer frame, and a smaller rectangle for the interior window. Your smaller template should be slightly smaller than the printed photo (ours were 3.5″x5.5″). This will allow you to tape the photos to the back of the frame. I made one set of templates for each table.

Cut a mock frame from cardboard. Test each photo by placing it behind the frame. Be sure the student’s face is visible. Keep in mind the actual clay frame will have a slightly smaller window, as the clay shrinks as it dries.


Cover tables. Set out clay, rollers, and slats (or set out pre-rolled slabs if you have a slab roller). Distribute pin tools and both large and small templates.

Roll the slab (rolling pins/slats or a slab roller). Position the larger rectangle template on the slab and cut around it with the pin tool to create the picture frame (Note: we were able to get two cut rectangles from each slab). Center the smaller window template on the clay frame and cut around it with the pin tool. Set scraps aside and don’t squish them!.

Completed clay frames. Allow 10 days to dry.

Rotate clay frame to portrait position. Stamp name at bottom using letter stamps. Texture frame using texture tools. Optional: use cookie cutters on to create decorative shapes. Attach shapes to the corners: dip a toothbrush in water and gently scrub clay to create slip. Press on the decorations.

Make the hanging holes: an adult should do this. Punch the top of the frame with the drinking straw to make two holes. The straw will fill with clay – don’t remove it, just keep going.

Air dry for 10 days. Bisque fire.


  • Make sure the hanging holes are big enough. Really twist the drinking straw in the holes and make sure it goes all the way through the slab. I had to Dremel out a couple of holes in the fired frames because I wasn’t perfectly diligent in this step.
  • Build the template around the printed photo. Roll and fire a clay sample and make sure the cut window is a just a little smaller than the dimension of the photo. Be sure you can see the student’s face clearly in the photo. Remember, clay shrinks as it dries. That window will shrink…
  • If you are doing this project after school picture day, you could use a standard school pictures to create your template.

I found that showing an instructional video is the best way to teach a clay project like this. The kids have a clear view of my hands. I can show it over and over each class period, and share it with kids who were absent on the day we did the clay project. Plus, I get to show it next year, or whenever I choose to do this project again.

I created a YouTube playlist with the whole process. Here you go!

(P.S. I make instructional videos all the time! Subscribe to my YouTube channel for my latest videos).


In my next post I will show you how we painted and assembled the picture frames .

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Warm and Cool Color Clay Rattles: 100% Success!

Warm and Cool Clay Rattles

If you are looking for a super-successful clay lesson for Kindergarteners-second grade, you’ve come to the right place. These functional clay rattles only requires a single bisque firing, and are finished with a fast and easy warm and cool color process. Students, parents and teachers loved them. I’ve included an instructional video at the end of this post – all my kindergarten students watched it and created the rattles independently.


To create the rattles:

  • Clay
  • Rolling pin and slats (or slab roller)
  • Circle template or bowl to trace
  • Pin tool
  • Texture tools (we used LEGO)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Toothbrushes and water bowls


Roll the slab and cut the circles. Cover the tables. Each table should have a tray of LEGO, one toothbrush for every two students, and small water dish. They also need a couple of squares of toilet paper and a little scrap clay.

table set up

Process is in my instructional video. This was a very effective video: 100% of KINDERGARTENERS did this project correctly and independently the first time. I strongly recommend showing this.

Coloring the rattles:


  • crayons/construction paper crayons, sorted into warm and cool colors
  • individual pans of water color
  • brushes and water cups


Students scribble on the textured ceramic with their crayons. Ideally, one side could be cool color crayons and the other warm. Then they paint over the crayons with (ideally), the opposite color scheme. This was kindergarten….some did it, some didn’t, but they all looked great.

This was a great end of year project: all my water colors had just about run out. Yet we had enough for this project. I sure look tired in this video, though. Typical for end of year…

Set-up for coloring the rattles


Do you have a sure-fire clay project for kindergarten?

Have you tried creating instructional videos?

Art Scouts 2016 – Franklin, TN

I had a super time at Art Scouts hands-on workshop for elementary art teachers, held July 8-9, 2016 in historic Franklin, TN.  I completed 14 projects (clay, weaving, printmaking, weaving, needle felting, painting, collage) which I can immediately use in my arts room back home. Here are some of the fabulous printmaking projects:


Printmaking projects include marker prints, sun prints, Gelli prints and sandpaper prints.

I loved the colorful leaf sun prints. We used watered-down fabric paint and cotton muslin. I found instructions on the Craftiments blog. I never would have tried this own my own…so glad I got to do it at Art Scouts! I will definitely be trying this with my kindergarteners on a sunny (non-windy!) day this year.

It was fun to meet a lot of art teachers from around the U.S. Art teachers really know how to get in the spirit. Check out the fashion:


Art scout fashion: the paint palette hair clip was our needle felting project.

I hope the Art Scouts offer the workshop in the future! I definitely recommend it for elementary art teachers.




Oldenburg: candy, pencil, marker

We used butcher paper, poster tubes, fake spider webs and paint to create large scale sculptures.

We used butcher paper, poster tubes, fake spider webs and paint to create large scale sculptures.+6

5th graders are almost done.

  • Fork: insulation wrapped in tape.
  • Flag, mike & Ike and m&ms: computer images projected onto white butcher paper. Painted with tempera cakes.
  • Pencil and marker: poster tubes
  • Cotton candy: Halloween spider webs sprayed with liquid watercolor over armature.
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