Holiday Gifts For Your Classroom

As Black Friday approaches, all minds seem to be on gift giving. Why not gift your classroom, children, grandchildren, and/or friend’s children with a gift of an art book?  I would and do.  Listed below are some of my favorite books that would be excellent additions to an Arts Integration classroom library.

Art Medium (Technique)Books

The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas, The Usborne Complete Book of Art Projects, The Usborne Complete Book of Art Skills, The Usborne Pocket Artist (It contains all the Usborne drawing books in one. Very economical! An added bonus, it has internet links.)

Art History Books

Cave Paintings to Picasso– The Inside Scoop on 50 Masterpieces by  Henry Sayre is a great book with large reproductions and a short anecdote about each image. Usborne The Children’s Book of Art breaks art down into themes and shows examples of art works depicting said themes. It also has internet links.

The Perfect Combination – Art History Plus Art Activities

The following books were written by Penny King and published by Crabtree Publishing in 1997. They are kind of hard to find, but an excellent resource if you can get your hands on them.  Amazon carries used copies as low as $.01 plus $3.99 shipping. As you can see, the themes of these books align nicely teaching units.

Stories (Artists’ Workshop) , Myths and Legends (Artists’ Workshop) , Landscapes (Artists’ Workshop), Sports and Games (Artists’ Workshop) , Animals (Artists’ Workshop) 

Over the years, the Usborne art books have evolved. They began writing a book series highlighting an artist and pairing them with previously published art techniques. I love these books. I gift them all the time. Usborne My Very First Art Book and My Very First Art Famous Paintings are great for preschoolers and primary students. The Usborne Art Treasury is perfect for intermediate students. If I could get just one book, I’d get one from this group.

Check these out online. I think you’ll be impressed.

Hope you’ll drop by again soon!

Holiday Card Tradition

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Writing/ Communication ( Greeting Cards), Social Studies – History (Victorian Times), Family Traditions

Possible Art Concepts: Art Careers – Graphic Art (Greeting Card Designer)

In my last two posts, I discussed artistic forms of communication and their history. (books and postcards) With the holidays approaching, I thought I’d talk about the holiday card tradition. Holiday communication began in Victorian times when students would write end of year letters to their parents. These letters would give parents an update of their academic progress and give hints for gifts as a reward. The first commercial Christmas card was produce by Sir Henry Cole in 1843.


Read more about the boys written notes and the story behind this first card here:

What kind of writing are you currently teaching in your class? How might the students infuse this skill into a greeting card? Look here for lots of teaching themes and creative ideas to incorporate greeting card making into your curriculum.

Love this post with all the different media you can use to make the cards.

40 Homemade Cards for Kids to Make

So, whether you are teaching family holiday traditions, writing or both, this post may be for you.

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Hope to see you soon!

Postcards: The First Texts,Tweets and Emojis?

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Communication (Postcards), Writing

Social Studies – Hobbies (Postcard Collecting/Deltiology), Industrial Revolution, Family (Traditions)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Wiener Werkstätte/Viennese Secession (Viennese Version Of The Arts And Craft Movement)/Josef Hoffmann, Norman Rockwell

Art Careers – Graphic Design (Post Cards)

In my last post, I talked about pattern books from the Renaissance. For the next two posts I’ll be discussing two other art related forms of communication.

A few weeks ago, my all time favorite blogger, Cassie Stephens, posted a blog about creating felted postcards at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. She was teaching a workshop in conjunction with the “Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte” exhibit. You can read more about her workshop here:

I have to say that I knew nothing about postcards and my curiosity was piqued. I began by looking into the Wiener Werkstätte postcards. You can read a short description about the exhibit here:

and see some examples of these art postcards (Nude Alert – There are a few nudes, so, pick and choose the images that you  would like to share with your students) here:


My investigation did not stop there. I started looking into the history of postcards. Read a short history here:

I love the following video about early postcards in Great Britain. Here is where postcards were likened to texts and tweets of today. The narrator also compares stamp positioning to today’s Emojis.

Read more about the Language of Stamps here:

You may think that postcards are following in the footsteps of books and letter writing and being replaced by electronics. They are. Just google “today’s postcards” and you will find numerous electronic postcard travel blogs. When was the the last time you received a travel postcard from a friend? They have been replaced by phone texts and Facebook posts. The postcard is alive and well from advertisers. I receive two or three a day in the mail. Surprisingly enough, thanks to internet art blogger, Frank Warren, postcards are still hanging in there and even making the news.  Warren started a challenge over 10 years ago to get people to send him anonymous secrets revealed on homemade postcards. He presently has an exhibition, “PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard” at the National Postal Museum. The exhibit contains a pyramid comprised of a quarter million postcards Warren has received. The exhibit will be on display until September of 2016. Read more about the exhibit here:

So, why not help out this dying art?  It’s that time of year again, when students create turkeys, Indian corn, cornucopias, and the like. It is also the time when we share all the things for which we are thankful. Why not combine these two activities into a nice writing project in the form of a postcard. Look here to find a template:

Postcard Template

Tired of your same ole Thanksgiving ideas. Why not show Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want” painting and talk about it’s history found in the Honoring The American Spirit section of the following post.

and ask students to create their family’s Thanksgiving feast on the front of their postcard like the one found in this lesson (Just have students make an oval table to fit the format better):

After students complete their family portrait on the front of their postcard, ask students to flip over their card and complete the postcard by addressing it  to a favorite family member and writing a short message including the sentence: ” I am thankful for…….”

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Hope you will stop by again real soon!

Pattern Through The Ages

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – European History ( Renaissance, Women’s Education, Communication), Colonial Crafts ( Samplers)

Mathematics: Pattern, Symmetry (Line Of Symmetry And Rotational)

Fine Motor Skills (Stitching)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, Pattern Books

Principles of Art – Pattern, Balance (Symmetrical/ Linear and Radial), Printmaking, Portraits, Crafts (Fiber Art – Stitchery/Samplers)

I often see and experience things and so much want to share them with you. Then I think, “How does this correlate with classroom curriculum?” Case in point, last weekend I went to New York City to visit my daughter. We had what turned out to be a glorious Renaissance weekend. On Friday night, we went to see “Something Rotten, The Musical”. It is a fictional story set in the time of the Renaissance, chronicles events and people of the time, and highlights almost every musical ever made.  If you love musicals, this show is a must see. They received close to a standing ovation at the conclusion of every song. I’ve NEVER seen such audience enthusiasm and appreciation in a show. How this show did not win the Best Musical Tony Award last year, I will never know. Alas, I digress. On Saturday, we went to the Met to see the “Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and The Print Revolution” exhibit. What do you know, this show was also set in the time of the Renaissance. Thus my coining the weekend, the Renaissance weekend. The more I thought about it, the more classroom correlations I found. Let me share a couple with you.

First, let me share a short history. To set the mood for this lesson and learn a little about what was happening in this time period, you or your students could watch ” Welcome to the Renaissance” from “Something Rotten, the Musical” here:

Middle School students would benefit from this site:

Next, we will talk about Leonardo da Vinci once more. I have already talked about him here:

and here:

Now I’ve known that da Vinci was a painter, mathematician, inventor, engineer, scientist, anatomist, botanist and architect. What I didn’t know was that he influenced the evolution of pattern and graphics for clothing, home goods and architecture. It all started when another of my all time favorite artists, Albrecht Durer, interpreted six of da Vinci’s sketches into a series of wood engraved prints.


Albrecht Durer’s “The First Knot”. Interlaced Roundel with an Oblong Panel in its Center

Above is the first print. With each consecutive print, the pattern becomes more varied and intricate. Durer’s contemporaries saw this series of prints and were inspired to create intricate print series of their own. You can view the rest of Durer’s interpretations here:

Now, in the 1400’s the printing press had been invented by Johannes Gutenberg. Find out more about the history of printmaking and Gutenburg in these places:

During the Renaissance, people were looking for different genres of books to produce. In 1532, Johann Schonsperger the Younger printed the first pattern book in Augsburg, Germany. These pattern books provided a variety of designs to be used as reference for people from all social economic levels, who wished to embellish clothing and home items. The pattern book genre soon was adopted in other countries across Europe. In true Renaissance style, many varieties of pattern and pattern books were devised and shared. See an example of  two pages of a pattern book below:


Find out more about the exhibit and see a slideshow here:

Met Exhibit Highlights Renaissance Textile Design

and still more information here:

Can you see the influence of the pattern books in the clothing worn by the sitters in the following two portraits? How many different patterns can you find and identify?

62.55 028

62.55 028

Robert Peake the Elder’s “Princess Elizabeth”


Bernhard Strigel’s “Portrait of a Woman” 


Okay, let’s say you would like to correlate with a geometry lesson. Students can identify the different kinds of patterns and symmetry found in da Vinci/Durer’s roundels and pattern book designs.

Some of our modern day pattern books are adult coloring books and zentangle books.  Zentangle is kind of like yoga for the mind.  Copying the zentangle designs is supposed to help you focus and relax. The following post is a creative zentangle. Students can use it to create their own patterns and symmetrical designs similar to those of the Renaissance. Upon completion students can identify the geometry skills they used or trade papers and have fellow students identify them.

Students could transfer their designs onto a styrofoam tray and block print them into a rotational/radial composition, just like Durer’s prints.

An easy inexpensive way to print a styrofoam tray is to color it with a water based marker and print onto water moistened paper.

Social Studies

Until public education came along, young girls were taught skills that would help them run a household. One of these skills was embroidery in the way of samplers. Read a short sampler history entitled, “Girlhood Embroidery”, here:

As you can glean from the above post, samplers continued into Colonial times. So, this post could also be used in a Colonial craft unit. Another Colonial craft that I’ve covered recently can be found here:

If you are brave enough to stitch in the classroom, the following post may be helpful.

Affording 25 to 30 wooden hoops for a classroom is not practical. A more affordable option is to staple bogus paper to the back of burlap. Bogus paper is an inexpensive gray drawing paper which prevents bunching as you sew. When the stitchery is complete, the paper easily tears away.

For younger students. try sewing nonslip drawer liners from the dollar store.

So, whether studying math or social studies, this post may be for you.

Any suggestions? How would you teach this?

Come by again real soon!