“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!

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!