Canal House Reflections


canal house reflections print

Third graders just finished making reflection prints. They made reflections of the canal homes in Amsterdam, and they just loved the printing process.


  • white paper, 9″x12″ (we used sulphite paper)
  • watercolor markers (we used Mr. Sketch)
  • oil pastels (we used Crayola)
  • spray bottle

Day 1:

We looked at photos of canal homes in Venice, Italy and Amsterdam. The third graders were excited to see houses that had canals out front instead of streets! We looked at this photo of Amsterdam canal houses, and paid special attention to the reflection of the houses in the water.

Houses in Amsterdam reflected in canal.

Houses in Amsterdam reflected in canal. Photo source:

Then we looked at this beautiful artwork, ‘Canal Homes of Amsterdam’ by San Diego artist Grant Pecoff. Students noticed  how the reflection was wavy, probably because of waves on the canal. They also noticed the roof tops were a little wavy as well!

Canal Homes of Amsterdam by San Diego artist Grant Pecoff

Canal Homes of Amsterdam by San Diego artist Grant Pecoff.

Time for the art project!

canal house collage


1. Fold paper ‘hot dog style’. On the upper half, make canal houses. Color the sky completely.

2. Take artwork to the printing station. Spray the lower half of their artwork with water.

3. Fold the colored half down and rub.

4. Open carefully. If the color didn’t transfer to the bottom half, spray a little more water and try again.

Let dry.

Canal house reflectionsDay 2:

The dry artworks looked great. However, we noticed the top half was a little blurry after printing. The students re-outlined the buildings on the top half of their reflections. Then they re-colored the top half with matching oil pastels.

After the reflection has dried,  outline top half with sharpie, and color with matching oil pastels.

After the reflection has dried, re-outline top half and color in with matching oil pastels.

 canal house reflection

We mounted these without left and right borders so they can be displayed side by side, just like real canal houses!

This lesson was adapted from this fun lesson on the Fine Lines blog. To learn more about San Diego artist Grant Pecoff, and see more of his colorful artworks, please visit his website .



First Grade Shape Monsters

Organic shape monsterFirst graders created fabulous organic shape monsters. The lesson comes straight from this post on the We Heart Art blog. We began by reading Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty. Then we looked at the student examples of monsters on the We Heart Art blog post.

We had a discussion of geometric shapes vs. organic shapes. Then I passed out a knotted loop of yarn to each student and they had fun stretching it and re-stretching it into different organic shapes. Finally, they placed the yarn on white paper and traced inside the loop, creating the body of the shape monster.

Students added all sorts of fun details. Some students preferred scary monsters, some preferred friendly monsters. To finish the project, the students cut out their monsters and glued them to colored construction paper.

In all, this project is PERFECT for first graders. I will definitely repeat next year!


IMG_0676 IMG_0677 IMG_0678 IMG_0679

Super Hero Self-Portraits

super hero pinableLook! Up in the sky! It’s a bird….it’s a plane….no – it’s a second grader!

Second graders had a blast drawing themselves as super heroes. We began by looking at pictures of super heroes:


After looking carefully, we noticed the super heroes had certain features. Many had:

  • symbol or letter on chest
  • belt
  • tools
  • mask
  • cape or wings
  • boots

We talked about how the super heroes had super powers that ordinary people did not have, and that they used these powers to help others.

The students brainstormed. They invented new super heroes that swam underwater with sharks or saved horses. Some had magic arrows or swords, some had super dog (or cat) side-kicks. Overall, the students were HIGHLY engaged. This was a home run hit and I will definitely teach again next year!

This lesson was inspired Marnie Hyland’s photos on Art Education 2.0, via Pinterest.

Second grade results:

superhero collage

superhero self portrait 2

Do you have a special twist on a self-portrait project?

Tie Dye Snowflakes

tie dye snowflake collage 3

Give your snowflake project a colorful twist – ‘tie dye’ them! Sixth grade just finished their tie dye snowflake collages, made with coffee filters and painted with tempera cakes. This lesson was inspired by this post at A Faithful Attempt blog.

Sixth graders cut and paint coffee filter snowflakes, then use them in a collage. Allow two 40-minute classes.

Sixth graders cut and paint coffee filter snowflakes, then use them in a collage. Allow two 40-minute classes.

Day 1:

We began by viewing all the excellent student examples on the Faithful Attempt blog. Next, we folded our coffee filter rounds and cut our snowflakes using this method. NOTE: DO NOT OPEN THE PAPERS AT THIS TIME! Students painted their folded snowflakes with tempera cakes, then clipped on a numbered clothespin.

Students were allowed to make multiple snowflakes, so long as the folded flakes could fit stacked up in a single clothespin. One student was able to fit three painted snowflakes in a single clothespin. I let the papers dry on a sheet of cardboard.

Label each snowflake with a numbered clothespin.

Label each snowflake with a numbered clothespin. If you have multiple classes, use a different colored number for each class.

Day 2:

The sixth graders carefully opened their papers. THEY LOVED THE RESULTS! They mounted the snowflakes on construction paper using glue stick (tip – glue down the center first and carefully work your way out to the edges).

I was going to stop the project at that point, when someone asked me if she could double-mat their work. Then someone asked me if he could make a decorative border. I pulled out the ‘fancy’ scissors and the scrap paper bin, and gave them free rein. Our snowflake project turned into a collage project!

Sixth grade results:

tie dye snowflake collage 1tie dye snowflake collage 2

For more cool snowflake ideas, check out my previous post: Cut Paper Snowflakes Designed on an iPad.

Drawing and Shading Geometric Forms

drawing and shading geometric forms

I have always wanted to teach students how to draw and shade spheres, cubes and other forms, but I lacked confidence. Then I found two great worksheets via Pinterest that made the lesson really successful.

Any shading lesson has to begin with a discussion of value. We looked at some black and white photographs and noticed the variety of grays, from very light to almost black.

I gave each student a photocopy of a completed value scale and this handy value worksheet at




The sixth graders did part one – filling in the value scale on the right of the worksheet.

Next, we took a close look at a real sphere (in our case, a red rubber playground ball). I turned off the overhead lights and focused a single light source on our red rubber ball. We identified highlights and cast shadows, and saw how shadows gradually got lighter further out from the object.

Now the students did part two of the worksheet – roughly shading the sphere to match their new value scales.


Next class, we looked at a variety of geometric forms.

geometric forms


The best thing I ever found on Pinterest may be this tutorial from Shawna Tenney at Imagine Art! I made a copy for each student.

One by one, I lit each form with a desk lamp. We looked at highlights, cast shadows, and other light and dark areas. Then we drew the forms according to the tutorial.

This drawing tutorial worksheet really helped!

This drawing tutorial worksheet really helped!

Students used paper stumps to blend the graphite into a smooth gradient. They loved the stumps!

drawing and shading forms


drawing and shading forms

drawing and shading geometric forms

Early finishers had the option of drawing one or more of the forms using colored pencil.

Very successful! Great job sixth graders! And thanks again, Pinterest!

 How do you teach value and shading?



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