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.


WRITING: Drawing Prompts that also make great writing prompts!

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 8.52.47 AMEvery year I create monthly art challenges for students who finish their work early.  Recently, I began asking students who finished their Artist Challenge Early, to use the drawing prompt as a writing prompt on the back!  The incredible amount of creativity children have is amazing!

I’ve shared the artist challenges below in PDF form!  Enjoy!



















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. 

SCIENCE: Labeling the Parts of a Flower

Objective: Students will learn the anatomy of a flower by creating their own 3D flower.

Vocabulary: Petal, Sepal, Stem, Stamen, Pistil, Stigma, Style, Ovary, Anther and Filament

Time: A 2 Day project, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Difficulty Level: *****

What You Will Need: Wire (14 gauge armature wire works best), Popsicle sticks, straws,  Acrylic Gloss Medium or Mod Podge, Acrylic Paints, Aluminum foil, Green electrical tape or Duct tape, Model Magic and small cups or containers.


Preparing for Project:

1. You will need to cut wire to approximately 9 inches.  You will need 6 of these wires for each student. You will also need to cut wire to 3 inches.  You will need 6 of these wires for each student also.DSCN0512

2. Tear a 6 inch strip of Aluminum foil for each student.

3. Pour approximately 3-4 tablespoons of Gloss Medium or Mod Podge into the cups or containers (this can be done up to an hour before students begin the activity). You will need 1 cup for each student.

Project Time:

DAY 1:

DSCN05131. Pass out the 6 long wires to each student.  Have the students bend their wires in half.  Using their hands, have the students turn their wires into the shape of a football, leaving the bottom inch pinched together (see picture below).  This will soon become their petals.

DSCN05142. Have the students lay their 6 wire petals down on the aluminum foil and flatten the wires as best as they can.


3.  Pass out the Acrylic Gloss Medium to the students.  After students have arranged their petals on the foil, they may add 3-4 drops of acrylic paint into their medium.  Do not use tempera paint.  This will make the petals crack.  Mix the medium and paint together.

4. When students have combined their mixture, they can then pour their mixture into the center of the petals. Use Popsicle sticks to spread the mixture even.  Students will want to make sure that the mixture is touching, even slightly overlapping their wires on all sides.


5.  Set the petals aside to dry overnight. Sometimes moving the petals can be tricky. If you can place trays, place mats, or even tag board, under the foil before you start, I’ve found that it is much easier to move the wet artwork.


6.  Pass out the 3 inch wires and a quarter sized piece of model magic to each student.

DSCN0520DSCN05197.  Have students tear a tiny piece of model magic and roll it into a Tic-Tac shape.  Students can add the piece of clay to the end of a 3 inch wire. Repeat this step until all 6 wires have the Tic-Tac shaped Anther.


8. Take the remaining clay and mold a Pistil.  Place the stamen and pistils next to their petals to dry.


DAY 2:

1.  Have students peel their petals off of the aluminum foil (kids LOVE this part). If any of the mixture seeped out  past the wire, students can use scissors to trim the excess.

2. Pass out a straw to each student.  Push each stamen inside of the end of the straw and wrap with tape.IMG_2128



IMG_21293. Take three of your petals and arrange them around the top edge of the straw. Secure the petals with tape. Then take the remaining petals and arrange them between each of the first three petals.  Secure with tape.

4. You can make Sepal by cutting a few rectangle pieces of tape. Fold the edge of the tape diagonally.  The exposed tapeIMG_2130 at the bottom can be used to adhere the sepal to the straw.  With green tape, wrap the end of the wires, all the way down to the bottom of the straw.

5.  Gently have the students bend the wires of the petals outward.


IMG_2131IMG_21326. place a generous amount of glue at the center of the flower and place your pistil at the center.  It is important that the flower is standing to dry.



Assessment: When the flowers are dry, students can use pins to label the parts of the flower.  If your students have iPads, they can take a photograph of their flower and label the photograph. Frappuccino bottles, or other glass bottles are a great way to display their amazing work!

WRITING: Introduction to How-To writing

Objective: Students will discover the importance of descriptive language in expository writing through this exercise.

Vocabulary: adjective

Time: Approximately 1 hour 

Difficulty: *****

What You Will Need: 9×12 paper, manilla envelopes, writing paper, pencils, crayons, rulers, and other drawing materials.

Preparing For The Project: Introduce How-To writing to your students.  Reading a how-to essay to the class, or following the steps of a how-to essay are both great ways to help students to understand the direction their work will need to take.  For a couple of great illustrations and writing prompts, check out this blog:

Discuss with your students how important it is to consider each step carefully as they prepare to describe the process they are about to explain.  As a common illustration of this, I’ve seen teachers bring a loaf of bread and some jelly to the classroom. The teacher will ask the class to explain how to make a jelly sandwich.  Many times, a student will offer the instruction, “Spread the jelly on the bread,” and the teacher will smear jelly over the bag of bread.  Because the students’ assumed that the teacher would already know that he or she should take the bread out of the bag, they forget to include the instruction. 

Illustrating how important descriptive language is in how-to writing is often very beneficial to the students as well.  Similar to the illustration above, a student may offer, “Put the jelly on the bread,” as a sufficient instruction.  Often times the teacher will place the whole jar of jelly on top of the bread.  Using specific adjectives and other descriptive language helps the audience to understand the instruction given.  In this case, spread would be a much more descriptive verb than put.

To Illustrate this further, students  will help a classmate create a work of art. 

Project time:

1. It is now your students’ turn to practice how-to writing. Pass out drawing paper, writing paper, pencils, rulers and crayons to the students.  Students can work independently to draw and write their instructions. The assignment is for students to  describe how to draw a clown for a classmate.  As they draw on one piece of paper,  they will also write the steps of how to draw their clown on their writing paper.  Remind them to use their details generously.  Is the paper landscape or portrait? What materials come first?  What size is each shape?  Where does each shape belong? What is the name given on the crayon that is being used? Can another child repeat what I am drawing without seeing the artwork? Students should use as many of the tools as they can to be as descriptive as possible.  Give students approximately 45 minutes to draw and write. DSCN0638 DSCN0637 DSCN0649

2. When the students have finished their drawing and their writing ask them to double check their work.  Students will then slip their drawings into the manilla envelope and staple the instructions to the outside of the envelope.


3. Later, pass out another piece of drawing paper and the sealed envelops to a different student, or if you have the luxury, trade your packet with the packet from another class in your grade level.  The object is to give the packet to a student who is unfamiliar with the artwork inside. 

4. Students will follow the steps that were written on the front of the envelope give to them.  Invite the students to be as literal about the instructions they are following as you were when you put the jar of jelly on the bread.  The exercise works best if students do not assume any missing information.  Students will need about 15 minutes to complete the steps on the envelope. 


5. Allow time for your class to meet and collaborate with the writer of their packets.  Discuss what important information was missing, and how the writer could have instructed their audience more effectively.  Allow time for students to give positive feedback as well.  

Assessment:  Students should have access to the drawing that was made from their writing.  Guide the students through a self-assessment process, or create a rubric for students to gauge their level of success in the exercise.  For further illustration, find a few students who may be willing to volunteer their writing to be an example to the class.  As a class, re-write the steps. Post them on your classroom blog and a invite readers to respond with a photo!

WRITING: Awesome Alliteration Activity

IMG_2163Objective: Students will be able to create alliterations based on the poem “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” By Jack Prelutsky.

Vocabulary: Alliteration

Time: Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes

Difficulty: *****

What You Will Need: 12X18 Paper, Pencils, Sharpies, and Colored Pencils or Crayons

Preparing For The Project:

Introduce the concept of Alliteration to your students. Read the poem, “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” by Jack Prelutsky to the students.  If you would prefer, there is a clever video of a man reading the poem in a silly voice with fun animation on You Tube. The link is below:

Work through the different flavors of ice cream with the students and decide which flavors are alliterations and which flavors are not (for example, “Cocoa Mocha Macaroni” is not an alliteration, but “Checkerberry Cheddar Chew” is).

On A piece of scratch paper, have the students write out a list of 5 new Bleezer-style flavors that are alliterations. To make the flavors crazy, I often ask them to pair 1 dinner flavor with 1 dessert flavor (Taco Tapioca Twist).  I also advise the students to keep their flavors to food items only, or some students have the tendency to become gruesome.  Finally I write a list of adjectives we might typically see at the end of ice cream flavors.  Here is my list:

Twist, Dip, Swirl, Sherbet, Nut, Fudge, Chip, Chunk, Chew, Cluster, Ripple, and Ribbon

Project time:

1. Guide the student through the drawing process using the drawing guide PDF below.

Bleezer’s Ice Cream

2. Pass out crayons or Colored pencils and allow the students to color their work.  Have the students think about their flavors, and encourage them to chose their colors based on their original Bleezer-style flavors.  As students are coloring their work, I walk around and correct spelling.

3. Students can write their flavors in their best penmanship along side their ice cream scoops. If I have time, I lightly write lines with a ruler that students can use as a guide for writing.

Assessment: Hang the artwork around the room.  Have students make a list of their favorite alliterations from their classmates’ work.  Discuss their findings.  If students have access to ipads, students could blog about their experience and post a picture of their work.  Students could ask readers to respond to their post by providing their own Bleezer-style ice cream alliteration.  Teachers can tweet a link to student blogs for more traffic; the #commentsforkids will guide other educators to interact with your students’ writings. 

READING COMPREHENSION: Calling All Illustrators!

Objective: Students will be able to exercise their reading comprehension skills by creating an illustration that uses as many of the story’s details as possible. 

Vocabulary: adjective/detail

Time:45 minutes

Difficulty: *****

What You Will Need: Paper, Pencils, Erasers, Colored Pencils, Sharpies and Reading Comprehension Stories (PDF below)

Preparing For The Project: Read through the 8 short stories in the PDF below.  Choose one story and make enough copies for each student.  READING COMPREHENSION STORIES

Project time:

1.At the beginning of the project.  Read the story you’ve chosen to aloud to the class. Be expressive and emphasize as many of the adjectives as you can to help students retain the information.  Send the students to their seats and ask them to begin to illustrate the story only using the details in the story.  Give them about 5 minutes to draw.

2. Pass out the stories to the students. Ask students to follow along with you as you read aloud again.  Ask the students to flip their story over and continue to illustrate only using the details in the story.  Give them another 5 minutes to draw.

3.  Allow the students to read their stories silently to themselves.  As they read, allow them to underline details that they forgot in their story.  Then have the students flip their papers over again and allow them to finish their drawings.

4.  As they finish drawing they can trace over their pencil lines with sharpie and color their work. 

Assessment: This project is a great item to put out on a bulletin board.  Post the story and your students illustrations.  You can also guide students through a self-assessment activity, where students can read through the story again.  If they added the detail into their illustration they can circle the adjective, if they forgot it they can underline it.