Emoji: Modern Symbol Communication

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Communication

Social Studies – Different Cultures (Communications), Mathematics – Graphing, Area

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Cave Paintings, Chinese Calligraphy, Hieroglyphics, Native American Pictographs

Symbols, Abstraction, Commercial Art, Showing Emotion

The MoMA (Museum of ModernArt) has recently obtained the original 176 emoji created by Shigetaka Kurita in 1999. This may bring up the age old questions: Are these art? Do these belong in an art museum? I’ve investigated these questions before in posts about fashionbaseball cards and sneakers. In this case, as in the others, I say a resounding yes! Emoji are communication symbols. Symbols have been used as a form of art and communication from the beginning of mankind. Before there was any kind of written alphabet, the cave men drew animals, hunters and handprints on cave walls. We aren’t sure exactly what they meant, but they do give us a peek into their lives. Symbols as forms of communication started over 3,000 years ago in places like Egypt, in the form of hieroglyphics, and China. Chinese calligraphy started out as pictures and abstracted over time to become the alphabet they use today. Native Americans also communicated with symbols called pictographs. You can find a nice concise emoji history at the end of this Art With Jenny K  lesson. Symbols are used in today’s society on road signs, safety signs and even on laundry instruction clothing tags (which I have yet to figure out). So present day emoji are the hieroglyphs, calligraphy or pictographs for the computer age. We find historical symbols in art museums all the time. Emoji are just the next progression in symbol history. They are a universal language that can be understood by people from all over the world. Emoji help people clarify the emotion in a text. One might say we’ve evolved back into symbols.

So let’s take a closer look at the very first emoji. They look very different than the cute colorful emoji of today. Check out some of the differences here. They were based around a twelve by twelve grid made of pixels which reminded me a lot of  the ten by ten grids utilized in mathematics class. The first emoji were not unlike the first Pac Man and Mario Brothers video games. (I’m dating myself here!) Can your students figure out what these first emoji represent? You could give students a blank twelve by twelve grid and paper square tiles. Using the tiles, could your students reproduce one of the emoji symbols on the grid? Could they design their own in the twelve by twelve format? Could students figure out the area taken up by one particular emoji? Present day emoji symbols could be used to create traditional math pictographs like the apples found in this lesson.

A good portion of present day emoji are devoted to faces depicting emotions. Emotions can be expressed through facial expressions and through color. One of the first artists to show emotions this way was Pablo Picasso, during his Blue Period. Note the blue face and sad features in The Old Guitarist. Your students could create their own unique emoji using facial expressions and color like Room 9 Art!’s students did in this lesson. You could also use present day or original emoji to help summarize a reading assignment as Erin*tegration did here.

Before I close, I’d like to talk about a contemporary artist who used symbols in his paintings. Keith Haring started out drawing his symbols on black papers which covered old advertisements in the subways of NYC. People liked his images and soon he began making paintings and sculptures. Look at some of his symbols (babies, dogs, people, televisions, and hearts) here. Read about his life here. Find a nice symbol lesson, using Haring, here.

You don’t need to go all out for emojis like my very favorite vlogger, Cassie Stephens, does here , but I hope you learned something new today. And just maybe found new concepts to spice up your lessons. Have you ever used emoji in your teaching? I’d love to hear how. Simply highlight the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and leave a comment.

Stop by again real soon!

I Heart Lois Ehlert!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Writers, Illustrators, Writing, Literature

Social Studies – Careers, Cultures Around the World (Crafts)

Possible Art Concepts: Art Careers- Illustrators (Lois Ehlert, Eric Carle, David Wisniewski)

Collage, Crafts/Folk Art, Abstract

As a child, I remember thinking that I wasn’t much of a writer. I was familiar with writing mechanics (sentence structure, the parts of a paragraph and the basic elements of a story). I just couldn’t write eloquently on the first try. So, I surmised, that I just wasn’t good at it. It wasn’t until my early teaching days, when an author came to my school, that I realized the fallacy in my thinking. She stood up in front of an assembly, pulled out a stack of papers and said, “This is my first draft!” She pulled out another stack and said, “This is my second draft!”  She continued this action three or four more times. “Lightbulb Moment!” I also had no idea where to even begin writing a story. Once my children were in school, we discovered together that story genres actually had formulas. Who knew that fairy tales had magic numbers? Certainly not me! In third grade, my girls wrote their own fairy tales and in fifth grade they wrote tall tales. They even bound their stories into books. I am truly jealous of the writing gift my children received from authors and teachers. So, I’m still not a GREAT writer, but I give myself a little break these days.

Lois Ehlert addresses all my writing insecurities in The Scraps Book. In this autobiographical piece, she talks about her journey to becoming a writer and illustrator. She speaks about not getting to your goals instantly and touches on her process in writing /illustrating her work. This is a great book to include in a careers unit, writing unit or just to encourage children to follow their dreams. She also addresses the nurturing of her creativity in the book, Hands. What a coincidence! My dad worked with wood and enjoyed puttering in the garden, while my mom did all kinds of fiber projects. Observe Lois talking about growing up in a creative family in this video.

I love Ehlert’s books and often used them as motivation when I taught art. In this  recent post, we looked at shapes in art. Lois illustrates shapes in her books Color Zoo and Color Farm.  These two books are also great to use while covering an animal science unit, a social studies community unit, or an abstract art unit. Plant stages are addressed in Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf,  Growing Vegetable Soup, and Planting a Rainbow. Fall colors and imagination are featured in Leaf Man. One of my favorite fall kindergarten projects was inspired by this book.


We would use fall leaf colors to create leaf rubbings that resembled Georgia O’Keeffe’s Autumn Leaves, Lake George, 1924. (A few hints: 1. Do rubbings on yellow roll bulletin board paper. The thickness is just right!  2. Laminate fresh colorful leaves into placemats. Leaves stay put while rubbing and the placemats last for years.) We then cut out each leaf, read Leaf Man and collaged our leaves together into either an original leaf man/woman or animal. Since kindergarten would study shadows around the same time, we taped a chop stick to the back of our creation. Voila, instant shadow puppet. I’ve talked a bit about shadow puppetry here. An easy way to make a shadow puppet stage can be found here. Then we were off to the races creating our own Leaf Man adventure. So much FUN! I also love Market day: A Story Told With Folk Art. This book can be used in a cultures around the world social studies unit.

When reading picture books to your class, please highlight the illustrators and reinforce that they are one of the many kinds of artists found in the world. Ehlert employs a variety of techniques which make her a fantastic illustrator. She customizes the shape and size of the book to fit the story. Hands is small and rectangular, just like hands and gloves.  Leaf Man is large and square, which when opened becomes a large rectangular shape. This is a perfect format for the character’s panoramic journey. The abstract colorful collaged illustrations are eye catching and appealing. She often employs cutouts to reinforce concepts and lead you into the next page of the book (Color Zoo and Color Farm). Lois adds interest by including cut shape pages and flaps in her books (Hands). She also uses photo collage in her illustrations. (Market Day: A Story Told With Folk Art)

Some other writer/collage illustrators that I admire are Eric Carle and  David Wisniewski.

What are your favorite Ehlert books and how do you use them in your classroom? I’d love to hear about it. To reply simply highlight the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

I hope you’ll stop by again real soon.

“Ceci n’est pas un Cube!”

Possible Classroom Concepts:  Mathematics: Geometry (3D Shapes)

Language Arts: Literature, Science – Recycling, Repurposing

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Louise Nevelson, Pol Bury, David Smith, Tom Otterness

Elements of Art (Form), Sculpture (Relief, Free Standing), Assemblage, Drawing (One Point Perspective, Shading), Nonobjective, Abstract

Today on my last post about geometry (I also talked about it herehere and here), we will be investigating what math teachers call 3D shapes and art teachers call forms. A form is another element of art, the building blocks of all works of art. Forms in many cases are quite literally building blocks, LOL.

Have you ever given a child a gift and they ended up carrying off and playing with the box  instead of that expensive something you chose?


I certainly have! Well, that is the premise for the book,  Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis. You can also find a video of the book here. I love this book because it highlights creativity, something I recently talked about here. At what age do kids lose the imagination gift? I hope with your help, they never will.


Rene Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images (This is not a pipe.)”

Portis’ book also reminds me of Magritte’s “This is not a pipe.” painting, thus the title of this post.

So, now let’s look at the creative ways famous artists have used “a box” and other 3D shapes or forms. Sculptor, Louise Nevelson, put forms inside boxes. She would pick up discarded pieces of wood from all over New York City and arrange them inside wooden boxes. She was another artist who recycled and repurposed way before it became popular or necessary. Calder and Picasso also recycled. Nevelson would then paint the boxes a solid color of black, white or gold.  Lastly, the sculptor would stack the boxes together in an interesting way. Because we view these works only from the front, we call the works relief sculptures. Students could “I Spy” spheres, cylinders and cubes in the Nevelson sculpture found in this lesson. A short bio can be found  here. There is a nice concise and informative video here. Sculptor, Pol Bury, also put forms inside a box in his work, “16 Balls, 16 Cubes in 8 Rows”. How are the two sculptor’s works the same and different? Just think of all the sets and addition facts one could identify and reinforce using Bury’s relief sculpture! Sculptor. David Smith created a series of stacked metal cube works appropriately titled Cubi. Scroll down to David Smith’s name in this post to see Cubi XI.  What number does Roman numeral XI represent? The Cubi seem pretty nonojective (Meaning they don’t seem to be representing any person, place or thing.). Tom Otterness is a sculptor who combines basic forms into abstract (Meaning you can tell what it is but it is not realistic.) people. You can find some examples of Otterness’ sculptures here. He even created some playgrounds, one of which you can see here.

Any or all of these artists might provide a different method for evaluating a 3D shape unit.  Students could rummage through their recycle bins at home and bring in examples of forms, such as cardboard boxes, paper rolls, etc.  One activity students might do could be a “Not a Paper Tube!” activity. After reading “Not a Box”, give each child a paper tube, scissors. glue, tape and cardboard. Then, just see what they come up with. I’ll tell you, the sky is the limit on this one. Just look at how many paper tube possibilities I’ve found on Pinterest. Another idea is to have students arrange and glue the recycled treasures inside boxes or stack them. They could make them abstract or nonobjective. Lastly older students could strengthen their drawing skills by making a one point perspective box using this drawer drawing lesson as a guide. They could then use this lesson to guide them to drawing and shading forms for inside the box. Or, instead they could just draw the forms stacked into nonobjective or abstract sculpture drawings. They could even design their own playgrounds. At the conclusion of their project, students could write a narrative explaining how and why they created their masterpieces. They should also include all the geometric vocabulary and definitions involved in the sculpture’s making.

What an EXCITING way to combine mathematics, science and art!!!! Have you used any art in your geometry units? I’d love to hear about them. Simply highlight the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

Hope to see you again real soon!

“A Line Connects To Become A Shape!”

Possible Classroom Concepts: Mathematics – Geometry (Shapes), Pattern

Language Arts – Literature, Social Studies – Communities

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Paul Klee, Mary Blair, Sonia Delaunay, Rob Dunlavey, Jacob Lawrence, Josef Albers

Elements Of Art (Shape, Color), Collage, Pattern

Just as Paul Klee’s quote, “A line is a dot that went for a walk.”, explains what a line is, Rhonda Gowler Green’s picture book title,  When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins explains how a shape is formedShape is another Element of Art, the building blocks of all artworks. So, famous artworks are a natural place to spy shapes and their characteristics. Two great picture books that can help you accomplish this task are  I Spy Shapes in Art  by Lucy Mickelwait and  Museum Shapes by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As Mickelwait points out in her book, one can expand the “I Spys” in these books beyond the text. Look here to see the imaginative way this Mom used I Spy Shapes in Art in a math lesson for her sons.

Paul Klee’s  “Red Balloon” and “Castle and Sun”

If you choose not to go the book route, let me point out some artists who are famous for using shapes in their artwork. First we’ll return to our old friend Paul Klee. Not only is he famous for lines, but more so for using geometric shapes to create abstract compositions. One can see he is depicting  a balloon, a sun and buildings without them appearing realistic. You could use these two paintings for identifying geometric shapes, counting, identifying sets of shapes, etc. You could also combine your geometry lesson with a social studies communities unit. Love this lesson. It combines geometry, communities, literature, art history and friendship all in one lesson. Mary Blair , animator and designer of Disney’s It’s a Small World ride, also created buildings and castles from basic shapes. I love the community extensions found in this shape community unit. Find a video highlighting shapes in architecture here. Another artist, Sonia Delaunay, is famous for creating shape patterns for fabrics. Find a short bio and some examples of her work herehere and hereRob Dunlavey used shapes to create many abstract people doodles. Look here to see some examples. There is even an artist, Josef Albers, who painted squares. The book, An Eye For Color, The Story of Josef Albers, by Natasha Wing explains how investigating one shape led this artist into an exciting investigation into color theory.

As you can see it isn’t much of a stretch to throw a few famous artworks into the shape portion of your geometry unit. I hope you will.

I’d love to hear how you have used art in a math unit. Simply highlight the title of this post and scroll to the bottom to leave a comment.

Hope to see you again real soon!


Lines, Lines and More Lines

Possible Classroom Concepts: Mathematics – Geometry (Lines)

Language Arts – Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Paul Klee, Bridget Riley, Wassily Kandinsky

Elements of Art (Lines, Colors), Nonobjective Art, Primary and Secondary Colors

“Now for the next installment of Integrating Art and Geometry.”  In my last post, we talked about a point or dot. The next logical geometric concept is line. As artist, Paul Klee, put it, “A line is a dot that went for a walk.”  In geometry, a line is described as an infinite number of points that extend infinitely either direction. The two theories are similar wouldn’t you say? In art, a line is one of the “elements of art”. The other elements being shape, form, color, space and texture. Art teachers teach the elements just as classroom teachers teach the alphabet and numbers. The  elements are the building blocks of all works of art.

While talking about points, we looked at Op artist, Bridget Riley’s dot paintings. It just so happens that Riley also made line paintings. You can see one of her line paintings and those of other line painters here. (This includes a line painting by our friend, Paul Klee!)  Since both geometry and art include the concept of line, why not combine the two units of study? I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine. Find some nice interactive line activities here.


Wassily Kandinsky’s “Composition VIII”

You could also examine Kandinsky’s “Composition VIII”. As you can see, Wassily has included many lines in this nonobjective composition. (Nonobjective means that the artist is not trying to reproduce a person, place or thing. I always told my students the prefix non means no, so it means no object.)  This piece can be used as a review for line concepts or at the end of the entire geometry  unit. This painting is a gold mine, containing lines, shapes, and  angles. First, play “Eye Spy” with the class to see how many line concepts Kandinsky included in his painting. (i.e.: line segments, intersecting lines, perpendicular lines, parallel lines, etc.) Okay, I know that the short lines are not true line segments because they do not include a point at either end. These thoughts can be pointed out during the class discussion. How are these lines the same and different from geometry lines? Students can then prove their understanding of line concepts by creating their own black crayon nonobjective line compositions. To enrich this lesson further, read  The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock or watch this reading  from youtube. To brighten up these line compositions, the students can add color with watercolors. Students could also use only primary colors (red, yellow and blue) to discover or review the secondary colors they make where the colors overlap. You could even play some music while they paint just like Kandinsky did. After the works dry, students can turn over their papers and compose a written explanation of the  line concepts they included. Or, students can trade papers and see how many line concepts each neighbor can point out. You can see Kandinsky in the process of painting here.

For this lesson have “No more pencils, no more books!” Let’s have crayons, paints and music please! Give it a try!

Come by again real soon!

The Point.

Possible Classroom Concepts: Mathematics – Geometry ( Point, Line, Shape)

Language Arts – Literature, Science – Molecules, Social Studies – Countries Around The World (Australia)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – George Seurat, Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Yayoi Kusama, Chuck Close, Ben Heine

Elements of Art – Shape (Circle), Line

Positive/Negative Space

The next couple of posts will be devoted to how art and math correlate. There’s an excellent book entitled Math at the Art Museum by Group Majoongmul which can give you some great ideas. 

In honor of “International Dot Day”, which is quickly approaching on September 15th, let’s start with the smallest math unit, “the point”.  In art, we would call a point a dot or very very very small circle. Most of you are probably familiar with the picture book,  The Dot, by Peter Reynolds. If not, buy it, check it out of the library or view the story in this video. It’s a must see for so many reasons. Here are some mathematical concepts you can “point” out as you read The Dot  for literature on Dot Day or any other day.  The very first mark that Vashti made was a representation of a mathematical point. Later, Vashti goes on to create larger dots which represent the shape of a circle. One dot is even a negative shape of a circle. I love this book because it shows Vashti thinking, brainstorming and using her imagination. This is a continuation of a concept I recently talked about in this post. At the end of the book, Vashti encourages the young boy to make a line (the next concept after a point in geometry). You might encourage your students to predict what will happen next in the story, to use their thinking skills and brainstorm what the boy will do with line (how he will use his imagination).  Students could also choose a different geometric shape and see how many different ways they can depict it.


George Seurat’s “Saturday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte”

The evolution of dots in art history closely follows Vashti’s dot journey. George Seurat started the whole trend with very small points/dots repeated over and over again. This movement is called “Point”illism . In the 1950’s, the dots got bigger in a movement called  Op ArtBridget Riley and  Victor Vasarely really embraced the dot. Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama also made dotted art at that time and continues to create dot art to this day in paintings, sculptures and installations. She sees dots as part of the universe going into infinity, like molecules make up objects and planets make up a universe. This is a scientific way of looking at dots. Chuck Close and Ben Heine are contemporary artists who make dotted portraits. For more dot artists and dot art ideas check out my Pinterest Circles board here.

The Australian Aboriginal culture also uses dots in their paintings. Examples and the story behind them can be found here and a video can be found here. This would be a GREAT addition to a social studies unit on countries around the world.

So, whether you’d like to celebrate an entire Dot Day including many subject areas or in a small way with one subject, I hope this post has been helpful! Have you ever celebrated Dot Day? If so, please share what you have done. I’d love to hear. Simply, click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

I hope you’ll visit again real soon!