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!

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day! I never much thought about the significance of Labor Day until a few minutes ago when I checked out Google’s logo for today. It was always a day off work to me. After looking into it a little, I saw that the day recognizes the labor movement and the contributions made by American workers to our country’s economic growth. If you are studying or will study community helpers or careers, this week may be a good one to talk about what Labor Day  means with your students. Need some ideas? Check out this post I’ve done in the past.

Hope you enjoyed your holiday!

Come back real soon!

Teaching Creativity

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Reading (Literature)

Social Studies – History (People Who Make a Difference), Science – Ecology

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock

Painting Techniques, Drawing, Automatism, Action Painting

The other day, I was perusing Pinterest and ran across this Cindy Foley TED video on fostering creativity. Her talk reminded me of an art history course I took last semester. Our instructor highlighted the artists whose ideas/works changed art in each century. These are the kinds of students Cindy Foley wants us to develop, the thinkers and doers.

A few days later my daughter texted me a picture from the Vancouver Art Museum, where she was about to enter the  Picasso, The Artist and his Muses Exhibit. I thought to myself, now, Pablo Picasso is Cindy Foley’s ultimate “Master Builder”.  Through the years, his art changed more than any other artist I know. His art changed so often that it’s labeled by periods. There was the Early Period, the Blue Period, the Rose Period, Cubism, the African Period, Classicism, Surrealism, War and the Later Period. He also worked in many different mediums: drawing, painting, collage, mixed media, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics. He was inspired by animals, birds, people, war, African images, music, other artists and, as evidenced by this latest exhibit, his muses (wives/girlfriends). “Wooooo!”, what a mouthful! Wouldn’t you say that he was an idea man who wasn’t afraid to use them?  A great Picasso web site that shows examples of the ways Picasso manifested all these “ideas” can be found here. (I thoroughly enjoyed googling each muse’s name and finding a special page for each lady on the above mentioned Picasso website . It was intriguing  to see the paintings inspired by each woman.)  An excellent book for introducing Picasso to intermediate level students is  Pablo Picasso, Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists by Mike Venezia. It’s great for introducing some of his periods. “Nude Alert! “Yes there are some nudes in this book. Simply skip those pages. Venezia has written a whole series of Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Arts books. I love how informative they are and the bit of humor he puts in each one. For the younger folk, Picasso’s Trousers by Nicholas Allen shows some of Picasso’s periods. Again, “Nude Alert” and again, skip those pages. It doesn’t take away from the story. I’ve also talked about some of Picasso’s different ideas in the following posts: Family ChangesThe Dog Days of SummerArtist’s Cats, and Pigeons/Friend or Fowl (Pun Intended!)

Now that I’ve expounded ad nauseam about Picasso, let’s talk about ways we can help students become thinkers and doers. After viewing a few more of Foley’s videos, I found that her museum no longer provides lesson plans for teachers.  Instead they offer mini think tank type workshops. She talked about one her son attended where the students planned and created a haunted house. Students brainstormed what they would include and then researched how to complete the things they didn’t know how to do. This format would tie in nicely with research projects. For example, in my post, Pigeons/Friend or Fowl (Pun Intended!),  I suggest that students design their own endangered species or extinct species museum. If you are studying an endangered species and plan to do a research project anyway, why not combine the two? Foley suggests looking into Harvard’s Project Zero. I would choose one of the Artful Thinking questioning techniques  found here. I’ve seen teacher’s in our district using See/ Think/Wonder. Cindy also suggests using the same questioning technique at the end of the project. So, what is a student’s favorite museum? What do they like about it? Is it hands on activities, computer games, statues, etc?  (For Younger students who have never visited a museum, you might read Maisie Goes to the Museum by Lucy Cousins. For older students, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil-Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg would be a good literature book to read to the class and then visit this Met website.) Depending on your time restraints, students could merely design or actually construct a classroom museum. So basically, I think Cindy is saying try more open ended projects in themes that interest your students. The motivation will be there and help with the “fear of ambiguity” concept. Let the students be the idea generators and the teacher the facilitator.

I was also thinking, we need to try to do more projects where we allow our student’s to use their imaginations. Remember when Foley’s daughter got the “mud” image incorrect and said it was “art”?  You could do a project built around different interpretations of accidental or unintentional images. (By the way, do you know the first artist to make accidental art? Why it was  Jackson Pollock . Love this Pollock Mati and Dada video.) A great book fostering this kind of thinking is The Oops Book  by Barney Saltzberg. [If this book had been around while I was still teaching, I definitely would have  used it at the beginning of each year to teach the ecology skill of reusing or repurposing.] Students can see that there is more than one way to interpret an image. Some accidental or oops techniques may be found herehere  and here . You can also find many more unintentional painting methods on my painting Pinterest page found here. After creating some accidental art pieces, students can study them and brainstorm what their image looks like. Students can then use markers or paint to outline and create details and bring their image to life.

We all want our students to be the best they can possibly be. In this time of accountability in education, it’s often difficult to find time to teach in this fashion. After reading this post, I hope you can see the importance of creative thinkers for our future and that of our children. Hopefully, this post has provided some small ways to foster creativity. What ways do you encourage creativity in your classroom? I’d love to hear. Simply click on this post’s title , scroll down to the bottom and leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Come back soon!

Olympic Storytelling

Possible Classroom  Concepts: Language Arts – Storytelling

Social Studies – History  (Archeology, Sports), Science (Ecology)

Mathematics – Pattern, Symmetry

Possible Art Concepts: Art History (Greek Vases)

Drawing (Forms, Moving Human Figure), Pattern, Commercial Art


Hello all! I’ve been wanting to cover storytelling in art for a while now. I’ve been doing a lot of research, but just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger. Then, the Olympics came along and “VOILA, INSPIRATION!”.  You all know the old adage, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” Well, before the invention of the printing press, that’s how word got around. Few people knew how to read because there wasn’t much out there to read. Stories were passed down by word of mouth or through images artists created. One great example of storytelling art is the Greek vase. The vases often contained images of everyday life, stories of Greek gods and even the Olympics. Find a nice example of a Greek vase and some vase characteristics here. Find information about the Olympics for intermediate students here and for preschool and primary students here. Sorry I don’t have many pictures of the Olympic game vases for you. The examples I found all contained quite anatomically correct nude figures. I know, in our school district, nudes were a No No, so I’m sure it’s that way in yours also.

To encourage storytelling and incorporate a few mathematic concepts in your class, you might choose to create a Greek vase with your class. If you have access to computers, students could use this interactive sight to design their own pot. Students could also make their vases using crayon etching or simply draw on black or orange paper.  This teacher  gives a great description of symmetry and how to create a paper vase shape.  Next, students can brainstorm their favorite Olympic sport/athlete. They can act out poses of moving Olympic figures or look at this chart and practice sketching them. I find that starting with a stick figure and fattening it up like the Fine Lines art teacher uses here works best.  The students can then draw their moving figures onto the largest area of their vase. Lastly, the students add pattern above and below their figures. There is also a paper plate vase activity here.

I was thinking of another approach to teaching this concept. Greek vases were used to hold water and wine. What do we use to hold water today?  Why, many of us use the plastic water bottle. This the perfect place to incorporate an ecology lesson. Using the information from this chart and this video, discuss the importance of drinking water from a reusable water bottle. Look at examples of different reusable water bottles found here and here. You could also bring some reusable water bottles from home or students could find some in their lunch boxes. Learn to draw a basic water bottle here. Discuss with students what they like and dislike about their water bottles. Encourage students to design /invent their own reusable water bottle. They can still even decorate it with today’s Olympic athletes and modern patterns. If your school participates in the Square One  fundraising program, students could make their Olympic design for the fundraiser and order a real stainless steel water bottle with their design on it if they like. At times like these, I wish I was still teaching. I would soooooo teach this lesson.

Well, I’ve come to the end of another post. As usual, I’ve learned some new things and the post ended up a little different than I initially intended. What do you all think? How would you or have you taught this concept? To leave a comment, simply click on this post’s title and scroll down to the comment section at the bottom. I’d love to hear from you.

Come back again real soon!

Whoops There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Inventions (Vulcanization), Senses (Smell), Social Studies – History, Careers (Engineers, Commercial Artists), Supply And Demand

Language Arts – Literature, Mathematics – Sorting, Graphing

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – James Rizzi

Commercial Art, Art Careers, Drawing, Paper Sculpture, Color Mixing (Primary Colors, Secondary Colors)

Four posts ago, I talked about clothing being displayed in art museums. Well, guess what? Clothing isn’t the only unusual item being displayed in art museums this summer. The Rise of Sneaker Culture” is currently on display at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, actual sneakers, not Pop art paintings or sculptures of sneakers, but the sneakers themselves. This exhibit was at the Brooklyn Museum, NYC, from July to October of last year and I was really bummed that I missed it. The invention of sneakers became possible after Charles Goodyear invented the process of vulcanization, a way of combining rubber and fabric. Thus, my reference to this song in this post’s title. Read about the very first rubber shoe or plimsoll and more sneaker history  here and here.  Find a video history here.  Find a nice little slide show with descriptions of some of the highlights of the shoe exhibit here and a video here

Over the years, the sneaker has evolved along with it’s purpose and scientific advancements. Their first purpose was to keep people’s feet dry or hold croquet balls in place. When sneakers began to be worn for sports, beginning with basketball,  it’s shape changed. The shoes became high tops to protect the ankles. When the shoes became specialized for different sports, the soles changed. Spikes were added to some to aid in running track. Air bubbles, pumped air and springs have been added to allow for better athletic performance. Who made all these advancements possible? Why they were engineers. While investigating this post, I found several sneaker themed, engineer based science lessons online. Check out this one. In the 1950s, influenced by movies starring James Dean and Marlon Brando, sneakers became everyday wear. Later, fashion houses, hip hop stars and sports endorsements made the sneaker a fashion statement. Who designed the outward look of these? They were designed by commercial artists. I found it very interesting that two Jordan Air designers were trained for other fields. Tinker Hatfield, the first Air Jordan designer, was originally an architect. Dwayne Edwards, footwork design director for brand Jordan, was initially a file clerk. Sometimes visual artists like James Rizzi will design the surface of a sneaker. As you can see, the sneaker and it’s history can easily be incorporated into a science or career unit.

After investigating the history of the sneaker, students could brainstorm the next innovation they’d like to see in the future. Students who are into the show Sharktank or other invention series would really love this asignment. They could sketch out their ideas or make a 3D model of a sneaker. Below you will find steps to a 3D sneaker I used to leave for subs. (So frustrating, reinventing the wheel. I had this lesson all made up and threw it away when I retired. Hope you can follow these three steps to a 3D tagboard sneaker.)

The sneaker exhibit may correlate well with literature time if you happen to be reading one of these three sneaker books to your class:  “Pete the Cat-I Love My White Shoes”  by Eric Litwin, James Dean or “Those Shoes”  by Maribeth Boeltz and “Stink and the Worst Super-Stinkey Sneakers” by Megan McDonald.  “I Love My White Shoes” could be modified to an excellent color mixing story for your students. Those of us who are familiar with color theory know that a red shoe mixed with blueberries would turn into a purple shoe, not blue. If Pete would step into water to clean off his shoes, then stepped into lemons  and then blueberries, his shoes would turn green, etc. You get the picture. “Those Shoes” keys into the commercial aspect of sneakers. Younger students would love the first two books. After reading one of the books and looking at examples of sneakers from the exhibit, students could engage in some sorting activities found here and here. The third book is a chapter book and could go along with a science lesson on the senses.

Most students have one or more pairs of sneakers. They can easily identify with a sneaker. So, using a sneaker theme could be of interest to them and  help them remember the classroom concept you are trying to get across. Also, it seems that no theme or subject is an island. There always seems to be crossovers with other subjects. I hope you have found some kernel of knowledge that will help in your everyday teaching.

I hope you will stop by again soon!

Time To Go Shopping!

As I was walking around Walmart today, I was reminded of my days before retirement. This would be the time of year I would traditionally purchase certain art supplies for my classroom. Just as December and January are good months to pick up calendars for classroom art visuals, (I talked about that here), July is the time to stalk up on art supplies for your arts integration program.  Stores like Walmart and office supply stores run specials on some basic art supplies to get people in the door. For example, today I saw Crayola Classic Markers, generally $3.99 a pack, for $.97 in Walmart. (Hint: Don’t get the washable markers. If the child’s work gets wet, the image disappears.) Office depot has Crayola colored pencils for $.50 a pack this week. Staples has a 24 pack of Crayola Crayons for $.50 this week. I realize you can get off brand art supplies inexpensively at the Dollar year round, but I’ve found, on these items, the quality isn’t there. Warning: Don’t go for the 2 pairs of scissors for $.50. I bought them one year and they broke halfway through the year. If these supplies aren’t already on your student’s supply list, I’d purchase 12 packs of markers, 6 packs of colored pencils and 6 packs of crayons. Elmer’s glue and glue sticks are often on special this time of year also. So, for around $25.00 you could get a nice little start on art supplies. Our PTA used to give us a nice little stipend at the beginning of the year and I’d pay myself back then. So, check out the ads in your area and see what kind of bargains you can find.