salmon2Objective: Students will discover the ideas and practices behind Pacific Northwest Native American Totems.

Students will use organic shapes and reflections to create symmetry.

Students will practice reading comprehension and fluency.

Vocabulary: Totem, Pacific Northwest, Ovoid, U-Form, Split U-Form, L-Form, S-Form,  Symmetry, Reflection, Repetition

Time: 1 hour and a half

Difficulty: *****

What You Will Need:  Sharpies in Black, Red, Turquoise and Tan, Pencil, Drawing Paper cut 12X12.  The books, “Sharing Our World,” by Native Northest, and “Totem Pole,” by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith.  Printed Tracers (found here:Bear Eagle frog Orca owl Raven Salmon SeaTurtle Wolf ), and information packets (found here: Native American Art of the Pacific Northwest )

Preparing For The Project: Cut drawing paper 12 inch squares.  Print out tracers and information packets.  Read “Sharing Our World,” and “Totem Pole.”  Review the vocabulary from the unit. Pass out paper, rulers, pencils and 

Project time: Pass out 12X12 paper, and allow students to chose tracers.

  1. Have students cut out their tracers and recycle the excess.
  2. For students who plan on creating a bear, eagle, frog, owl, sea turtle, or wolf, they will fold their 12X12 paper in half.  Raven, salmon and Orca will not need to be folded.
  3. Students will place the straight edge of their tracer on the folded edge of their paper.  Students will trace the animal’s silhouette on to half of the project.  Can students guess why we would only trace half of their animals?

bearfaceowlface4. Stwolffaceudents can use the packet to help them draw half of the animals face on the artwork.  See images on the left. Why would we draw only half?   

5. Then students will add shapes for paws, feet, or fins. Suggest using some of the 5 common shapes into the designs. See images on the right. Bearprogress owlprogress salmonprogress


6. Students will then fill the rest of the negative space with the Ovoids, U-forms, Split U-forms, L-Forms and S-Forms only.  The shapes should fit together like pieces of a puzzle.  Students should look for areas where the shape might fit perfectly, even using the silhouette lines as lines for their shapes.  See images below.

20150901_093443 wolf Turtle frog salmon

7. Students will then take their work to the window or lightbowolf2x.  They will trace the opposite side of their work on the opposite side of the paper.  This is how their work will create symmetry.  Students who create a raven, orca or salmon will have to create symmetry some other way (note the salmon’s tail).  When students open their work, they should have an animal with symmetrical patterns inside.

8. Students will trace their work with sharpies.

9. Students will color in their work. They will only use the colors black, red turquoise and tan.  These colors are significant to Pacific Northwest Totems, because of the materials used to create the paint.  Black Paint was created from ash, and was used liberally in Totem art.  Red paint was created from Terra cotta clay and was the other main color used in the art.  The turquoise color was (from my understanding) created from a mineral found in sedimentary rock, and was difficult to create, and was often only used sparsely.  The tan represents the cedar wood that the totem would have been carved into.  salmon

*I generally ask the students to color with black first (note image on the right). Then allow them to move to red, tan and turquoise.

10. When students are finished coloring, they can cut their work out and mount it onto brown construction paper.


  turtle3 frog2  wolf3

Assessment:  Hang the artwork around the room.  Pair students up with another student’s work.  Ask students to find all 5 shapes in that work. Discuss their findings.  If students have access to ipads, students can take pictures of the different animals in the class.  With a photo editing program, students create a totem pole out of their favorite works. They can post a picture of their totem pole with a writing element.  Students could ask readers to respond to their post by providing their own totem or written response.  Teachers can tweet a link to student blogs for more traffic; the #commentsforkids will guide other educators to interact with your students’ writings.


MATH: Alluring Autumn Arrays

IMG_0084Objective: Students will practice solving word problems while creating monotype prints on Gelli plates.

Vocabulary: Array, rows, columns, factors, multiples

Time: Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Difficulty Level: *****

What You Will Need: A Gelli Plate or ingredients for creating a homemade gel plate,  tempera, brayer (ink roller), paper and this PDF:array

Preparing for Project:  A Gelli plate may be purchased at many places, including, but if you would prefer to save money a gel plate can be made by mixing 8Tbsp gelatin with 12 oz of glycerin and 1 1/2 cups hot water.  Pour into a 9X13 pan and chill.  When the gelatin has congealed, it will maintain its form in room temperature, and can be used like a Gelli plate. 

Print off a PDF for each student.

Project Time:

1. Each student needs to cut two pages of leaves.  Encourage students to cut on the lines, or the shapes on their final work will be skewed. 

2. While students are cutting out their leaves, you can call students up to print a “background image” for their array.  I used orange and gold to give it a festive feel.  Pour tempera paint onto the gel plate and spread it thin using the brayer.  Students can use their fingers to draw into the paint, or press random shapes into the surface of the plate.  When they are done, lay construction paper over the gel plate and rub gently with your hands.  Remove the paper and your “background print” will be complete.


3.  As students finish cutting out their leaves, begin calling them up to IMG_2384complete their array.  Spread brown tempera paint onto the gel plate and provide the student with one of the 4 word problems found on the PDF.  Ask the student to solve the word problem using the leaves to create an array on the gel plate.

4. Once the student has solved the word problem with the correct array, lay the paper over the plate.  Align the background print with plate as best as possible.  Rub gently with your hands and peel the paper off of the gel plate.



5. For added visual interest, students could create a border with gold paint, making dots with q-tips, or foam cut-outs.  Students could also create another layer using gold paint and actual leaves they’ve collected from the ground. 


Assessment: Post the artwork around the room.  To reinforce the topic, break the students into groups and have them find a work of art the coincides with each of the word problems on the PDF page. 

MATH: Fraction Friends

Objective: Students will be able to distinguish pieces of a whole, recognized through physical mass and expressed through fractions.

Vocabulary: fractions, whole, half, quarter, eighth

Time: 1 hour

Difficulty: *****

What You Will Need: Model Magic Clay, Pencil, Markers, and a Fraction Worksheet (download PDF) Fraction Turtle

Preparing For The Project: This project is not meant to introduce fractions but to support the concepts you are already teaching.  If you have not discussed fractions, it may be necessary to pre-teach the concepts.  Print off a Fraction Turtle PDF for each student. Separate model magic for each of your students.  Usually I separate one 2 ounce pouch for 5 students. 

Project time:

1. As you are passing out the clay, students can play and roll the clay around.  If you are using model magic, the clay works better after it has been warmed by the students hands.  If you chose another air dry clay, you may want the children to refrain from playing with it as it may dry out and crumble. 

2.  Have the students hold their clay up in the air.  Right now they have one whole piece of clay.  To the best of their ability, have students break their clay into 2 equal halves. and place their clay in the boxes labelled 1/2 on their worksheet. Check for understanding.     DSCN0593                DSCN0594

3. Have the students grab 1 half of their clay and hold it up in the air.  DSCN0596Have them separate their clay into two equal parts. and move the pieces down to the boxes labelled 1/4.  Now our clay is separated into one half and 2 quarters.  Does this work?  If we add it all up does it still make one whole?  Repeat this step with the other half piece of clay.  Now we have 4 quarters. Does this still equal one whole?

4. With each quarter, follow the same step. DSCN0597Move the clay down into the 1/8 box.  As the students separate their clay, continue to ask questions for understanding  (i.e. We have 2 eighths and 3 quarters, does this equal a whole?).

5. Once we have 8 eighths, we may begin creating our clay turtle.  Ask the students DSCN0603to grab 2/8 clay and roll it into a sphere. If you would prefer not to paint your turtles later, model magic can be dyed using markers.  Put out a few different shades of green.  before students make their shapes, they can add color to their clay and mix it in.  This is a great alternative to painting in your classroom.

6. Ask the students to flatten their sphere.  I tell my students not to flatten their sphere like a pancake, but like a pebble. This is the body of their turtle.  For understanding, you can ask the students how much clay is left on their fraction sheet.  For advanced primary students, you can even ask them to simplify the the fraction.

DSCN06047.  Ask the students to grab one eighth of clay off of the worksheet and roll it into a sphere.  This will be the head of the turtle.  Without removing the clay from the table, add the head to the body of your turtle.  How much clay, have we used so far?  Can we simplify that fraction?

8. Ask the students to grab one eighth of the clay and tear it into two equal parts.  We now have separated 1/8 into 2/16.  Repeat this with another piece of clay.  DSCN0605Your worksheet should look like this.  We will be using all four pieces for the legs.  Have the students roll the clay into cylinders. DSCN0608Attach the clay to the body of the turtle. Gently press with your fingers where the body and the leg meet, as to keep the legs from falling off when the clay has dried.

9. Using one-eighth clay, we are going to add details to our turtle.  Start by ripping a small piece from  your clay and form it into a cone.  This can be added to the body as a tail. DSCN0609 Taking two pieces of clay, students can roll them into spheres and flattened on the face for eyes.  Students can take two smaller pieces and roll them into spheres for the pupils. DSCN0611 Using the rest of that one-eighth piece of clay, students can create toenails for their turtles.  DSCN0612

10. To finish our turtle, we must make a shell!  Take the remaining two-eighths clay and roll the clay into a coil or “snake.”  The goal in rolling a coil is to try to keep it even.  As students roll their clay, they should be looking to see if they have wider and thinner areas along the length of their coil.  If a student has a very thick area, they can focus on rolling that area more.  If the clay is too thin in areas, they are pressing to firmly, and may need to start over.  When DSCN0614each student has a coil, roll the coils up like a snail shell.  First fold the first bit of clay over on itself like a hook, then roll the clay around it until the clay is gone. DSCN0615

11.  The turtle shell can be added to the top of the turtle.  Students should press gently to allow the clay to adhere to itself.  To add pattern, students can poke dots in the middle of the clay with a pencil. DSCN061812. Using a pen cap, or the side of a spoon, you can help the students to add a smile under their eyes.  Allow 24 hours to dry.

13. PAINT AND ENJOY!  A great way to give these turtles a polished look is to spray them with a gloss varnish or to paint them with acrylic gloss medium.

Assessment: Students can display their turtles with decals or flags that show the fractions used to create their turtle.