Clay Fish from Templates Swim into Sixth Grade

Today my fabulous colleagues stayed after school for a clay session. We made clay fish using slabs and templates. The sixth grade does this project in the spring.  Allow three 40+ minute sessions for this lesson.

Day 1: Select template. Roll slab and cut fish. Wrap in wet paper towels and store in gallon Ziploc bag

Day 2: Add details and texture.

Allow to dry.  Bisque fire…..then

Day 3: Glaze.

Texture tools include pencils, marker caps, glue caps and tips, and carved rubber stamps



Plaster wrap masks for 5th grade

Cat mask under construction

Oh boy!  One of the most anticipated projects of the year is under way. And one of my biggest logistical challenges is under way as well.

The 5th graders are making plaster wrap masks.

We are using Pacon plaster wrap in the 20 lb. box. We started with a dollar store bowl as the armature, and wrapped it in foil.  Next, we applied four layers of wet plaster wrap. Now we are adding the facial features.

I used to make papier-mache masks on a balloon armature, but this year a student has a latex allergy so balloons are out. A blessing in disguise! Plaster wrap dries quickly. It is only week 3 and most students have a good start on their faces.

We have 75 students in three 5th grade classes. We are using up every free inch of my horizontal drying space to accommodate the masks week to week!

Here are some logistical tips:

*Use pre-cut foil to cover the armature. Don’t waste your time cutting foil! I get mine at Costco.

*Cut the plaster strips on the paper cutter. Double up the thickness and go twice as fast.

*Use a dedicated set of ‘plaster scissors’. Don’t bother scraping off the plaster. Use same set every year.

*Use a different color armature for each class.

*Tape off a dedicated drying area for each class.

*Use a big pitcher or watering can to refill the dipping bowls (we use old Cool Whip tubs for dipping bowls).

*Don’t you dare let the kids dump the dipping bowls down the sink at the end of class! Use a 5 gallon bucket and let the sediment settle before pouring off water.

Update: The plaster mask project continues in part two of this series.

Drying masks. Each class/table has a dedicated drying area to speed prep.

Your scissors will get yucky. Use a separate set for this project.


Dollar store bowl makes a nice armature

Cut plaster wrap on paper cutter.

Watercolor Marker Fall Leaf Prints

Second graders use watercolor markers to make colorful leaf prints. Allow two sessions.

The second graders just completed their annual fall leaf project. This year I used fall leaves to introduce second graders to the warm colors and printmaking in a two-part lesson.

Day 1: rub and paint

We discussed the warm colors and looked at some real fall leaves. Kids did leaf rubbings with real leaves and white crayons on white paper, and then painted over the paper with red, orange and yellow watercolors.

Day 2: watercolor marker printing

Today kids inked the backs of freshly fallen fall leaves with black watercolor markers and printed them on the colored paper. We used red and orange markers on rubber leaf stamps (similar to those used for gyotaku).

Allow time for extra time at the sink for hand washing.

What a hit!  All the kids loved the printing process. The second grade teachers LOVE the completed art as well and are trying to nab it for Thanksgiving place mats.

If you’ve never tried printmaking with watercolor markers, give it a try. There is almost no prep time and minimal clean up. You’ll be thankful!

I use Mr. Sketch watercolor markers. You could use any brand of water-based marker, but be sure they are very moist.


Clay Dragons Roar into First Grade!

Little hands make clay dragons. Remind students to keep dragons 'fat' - they will break if they get too thin.

First grade made their clay dragons this week. How much fun is that?

Students began by rolling the clay into a fat coil (‘snake’).

Next they bent the snakes into a shape. Easy shapes include ‘C’ and ‘S’, or an open ‘O’ dragon chasing it’s tail. You can also drape the snake over a dowel to form a hump (trickier…).

(This year I simplified my life and wisely chose one shape per class. It is so much easier to sort the fired clay!)

Kids used fingers to pinch scales going along the spine. Use a blunt pencil or toothpick to poke holes for eyes and nostrils.

Snip the mouth open with an old pair of scissors.

Skip the feet (feet are overrated!).

An adult writes the student’s name (or number) on the clay with a toothpick.

Note: if you choose to try the ‘hump’ dragon, slide dragons off the end of the pin after only one day of drying and carefully load in the kiln in a damp state.

After bisque firing, we glazed the dragons. After brushing on three coats of glaze, kids could use a toothpick dipped in glaze to dot on some more decorations.


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