A Bridge Pic, Just Because

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies (State Waterways and Bridges), Language Arts – Literature, Storytelling,  Science – Engineering (Bridges)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Faith Ringgold, Media – Quilts, Painting, Principles of Art – Proportion, Art Careers – Fine Artist, Commercial Artist, Illustrator, Point of View

                                                     Because I hail from Maryland,                                                                             And because Maryland has a big ole bay nearly splitting it in two,                                             And lots of rivers, creeks and streams peppering through it,                                             And because there are two bridges connecting the eastern and western shores of                                                                         Maryland.                                                                                                             And because fourth grade always studies Maryland,                                                                    A bridge project was always on my art teaching bucket list. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition. However, if a bridge lesson had come about, I would have gone straight to Faith Ringgold for inspiration.


You probably know Ringgold as the writer /illustrator of the book,  Tar Beach, but those illustrations are actually her artwork. She is an artist who creates painted storytelling quilts. Quilts are a part of her African American Heritage and the stories come from her childhood memories . The George Washington Bridge and other bridges are frequently depicted in her storytelling quilts. Sonny’s Quilt”, Dancing on the George Washington Bridge”, and Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge: Woman on a Bridge #2″ are three bridge examples. What do these three works have in common? They all show people doing something on a bridge. In my virtual lesson, I would ask students what experiences they may have had on, under or around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or other Maryland bridges. (Road over, ran/ walked over in a marathon, a boat ride under, fishing under, hung out at Sandy Point Beach nearby, flew over in an airplane). Do you have famous waterways and bridges in your state you could include in a social studies lesson? As an art teacher, this project would follow a lesson on creating a proportionate person using ovals.  We would begin by reviewing drawing people, discuss the basic shapes involved in drawing a bridge, and then discuss point of view. Look here, here, here, and here to find Ringgold and other artists who made the Brooklyn bridge from different points of view.  You can find some simplified bridge drawings in this post.    Students would then illustrate their own real or imaginary bridge experience including the bridge and at least one proportionate person. I would have the students watercolor over the entire drawing in sky and water colors and then paint in the details with tempera paint. For classroom purposes, this may take too long. If so, simply have students color in with crayons, colored pencils or markers. If you wish to take this in a storytelling quilt direction, students could write their experience across the bottom or top of the drawing. Students could then glue squares of wallpaper or patterned scrapbooking paper around their drawing/painting to create a boarder. See my example below.



All the quilt blocks could be displayed together on a bulletin board or blank wall to create a class quilt.

A cool extension to this literature lesson would be to read Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty with your students and see the cool suspension bridge he comes up with in a pinch. Also, see some extensions for this book here at Carrots are Orange.

All the bridge paintings highlighted in this post were suspension bridges. So, if you simply want to stick to science objectives, you could display them as examples of suspension bridges.

So, whether you’d like to investigate bridges through Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, or all of the above, enjoy. How do you teach bridges in your classroom. I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!


A New Way to Look At Color

Classroom Concepts: Science – Color

Language Arts – Vocabulary, Literature, Social Studies – Famous Women

Art Concepts: Art History – Mary Blaire

Elements of Art – Color, Art Careers – Commercial Art (Illustration)


I recently discovered a new book about Mary Blair entitled, Pocket Full Of Colors by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville. I have talked about Mary Blair before here and here. If you don’t know who Mary Blair is, she was one of the first women illustrators for Walt Disney.

I love Blair’s work. So naturally, I bought the book to give as a Christmas gift. I was not disappointed. It was even more than I expected. It’s not just a biography. It’s so much more. The book is centered around color. Young Mary collects and saves colors to be used later on in life. It is also marvelous that the colors mentioned are not your plain ole red, yellow, blue, etc. They are russet, azure, veridian, etc. I also love how the illustrations by Brigette Barrager echo Mary Blair’s work in both color and style.

I can see this book used to reinforce a color unit, a women’s history unit, to help students beef up their vocabulary or all of the above. So check it out. I’m sure glad I did.

If you love the Mary Blair’s work, you might enjoy the recently rereleased books by Disney illustrated by her, Cinderella by Cynthia Rylant and Alice in Wonderland by Jon Scieszka.

I’d love to hear how you teach color in your classroom. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

Back to Basics

Possible Classroom Concepts: Mathematics – Number Recognition, Number Sets

Language Arts – Poetry, Storytelling, Writing, Fairy Tales

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Charles Demuth, Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana, Paul Gauguin, Horace Pippin, Paul Cezanne

Portrait, Media – Paintings, Sculpture

Principles of Art – Repetition, Perspective, Rhythm

With everyone going back to school, I thought it might be nice to go back to basics, specifically math basics. I’ve discussed some basic geometry skills in the past here, here, here, and here. However, artists also use numbers in their artwork.


Charles Demuth’s “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold”

Some artists will use the number itself in their work. Probably the most recognized number painting is Charles Demuth’s “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold”. For primary teachers, this painting could be used to find and count all the fives in the painting, but this painting is so much more. This painting is actually a portrait of William Carlos Williams and his poem about a passing firetruck entitled “The Great Figure”.  Intermediate level teachers could use this painting in a poetry unit. Find some lessons including this painting here, here and here. Jasper Johns and Robert Indiana have also created artworks which include numbers. I love how Robert Indiana talks about numbers here. In an introduction or review of numbers, you might ask your students where they use numbers every day and then share Indiana’s thoughts. Indiana, like Demuth, uses symbolism in his number masterpieces.  Find Indiana’s  symbolism explained  here . Also, find a video explanation here.  Students could then hand draw or trace a number between 0 and 9 which has meaning for them. I love the way that the numbers are made (emulating the textures Johns would use) and science is incorporated in The Nurture Store’s   STEAM number lesson. After your students have completed their number creations, check out the extentions portion of Robin Ward’s lesson found here to see how to use them.  Jasper Johns also overlaps numbers in his work entitled 0 Through 9. I love how Art With Jenny K. incorporates a short bio of Jasper Johns and Robert Indiana, and incorporates overlapped numbers in this lesson.

Paul Gauguin’s “Still Life withThreePuppies”,  Horace Pippin’s “Interior, 1944”

Artists also incorporate sets of numbers in their works of art. Paul Gauguin and Horace Pippin seem to like to work in sets of three in the above paintings. You could ask the students to find the sets of three found in these paintings. I found three puppies, three goblets with three apples and three sections of the painting (the puppies, the goblets and the still life). Can you find any others? Pippin includes three people, three rugs, and three holes in the wall in his “Interior” painting. Find an NGA Language Arts and Math lesson about this painting here. I love how the lesson talks about magic numbers. There are also magic numbers in fairy tales. Paul Cezanne’s ” Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses”  can also be used in a number sets unit. Cezanne has arranged the apples in varied numbered clusters on the table. How many number sets of apples can the students identify? Which set is used the most? Could the students make a graph of the different number sets? I found four sets of one, two sets of two, two sets of three, one set of four and one set of five. Find an interactive site about Paul Cezanne and his apples here. In the story, “An Apple a Day” found on the site, how many days did it take for Cezanne to complete the “Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses” ?

So, if you are tired of using worksheets to teach numbers and number sets, why not turn to some paintings for help? I’d love to hear how you teach number recognition and number sets. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

“The Eclipse Is Coming! The Eclipse Is Coming!”

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Astronomy, Anatomy (The Eye), Ecology (Recycling,Repurposing)

Social Studies – Inventions

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Raphael, Cosmas Damian Asam, Roy Lichtenstein, Alma Thomas, Rufino Tamayo, George Grosz, El Anatsui

Art Medium – Photography, Painting, Printmaking (Engraving, Silk Screen), Metal Art

Art Movements – Pop Art, Futurism

Principles Of Art – Pattern/Repetition

isaac-and-rebecca-spied-upon-by-abimelech-1519-1.jpg!LargeRaphael and his workshop’s “Isaac and Rebecca Spied upon by Abimelech”

With all the excitement about the solar eclipse, which will cross the USA on Monday, I was reminded of my first experience with a solar eclipse as a young child. I distinctly remember not being able to look directly at the sun and using some sort of box to view the event. This got me thinking. I remember that event ever so clearly even today. If a nearly 65 year old woman has such vivid memories of a solar eclipse so might today’s students. Let’s face it, we’re in the remembering business, so why not capitalize on this event? Find a video on how to make a solar eclipse viewer box here. So, once students view the eclipse, here are some extension activities. This viewer box the students just used is essentially a pinhole camera known as a camera obscura and the basis for all photography?  Look here for a slide show with a concise history of the camera. Look here for a video on camera history. Students can convert their eclipse viewer into a pinhole camera using the directions in  this video. (An Interesting side story, a man named, Tim Jenison, believes the artist, Johannes Vermeer, painted his very detailed paintings using a camera obscura. Tim spent five years going about proving his theory. There is a documentary called “Tim’s Vermeer” which chronicles his journey. It is a must see.) could also point out that the way the pinhole camera works is also the way the human eye works.

Artists often record experiences through their art, so, I went searching for solar eclipse masterpieces. I wasn’t disappointed. The Princeton University Art Museum had a whole collection of  eclipse works on their site. What did surprise me was when these works were produced. I fully expected to see lots of paintings from long ago, such as Cosmas Damian Asam’s “Vision of St. Benedict”. Surprisingly, there were more works from the modern age and from other countries. I love this engraving of people watching an eclipse in 1865.  So many were abstract (you can tell what they are but they are not photographically real looking). My first surprise came with  the work entitled, Eclipse of the Sun, by Roy Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein is a Pop artist, famous for his comic book theme. His eclipse print is in his graphic style, but looks more like a futurist work (where artists repeated a shape over and over again to simulate motion). Can you see the eclipse happening? I had seen Alma Thomas’ Eclipse painting before, but had never scene the title. Wow, so GREAT! Now let’s travel to some other countries. Mexican artist, Rufino Tamayo painted “Total Eclipse”. German artist, George Grosz painted Eclipse of the Sun foreshadowing WWII. Ghanian artist, El Anatsui, created his Solar Eclipse from recycled metal pieces. Notice the repetition of circles in this one also. So, students can view these artist’s interpretations of a solar eclipse before or after they create a drawing or painting of their own eclipse experience.

How are you planning to experience or teach the eclipse? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!






Looking At Clouds From Both Sides Now!


Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Cloud Formations

Language Arts – Literature, Reading For Information

Possible Art Concepts: Art History –  Rene Magritte, John Constable, Armando Pollini, Samantha Fields

Drawing (Observational Drawing, Illustration), Art Careers (Illustrator)

Well, it’s happening again. What you ask? Frequency Illusion! I’ve talked about this concept in the past.  Frequency Illusion is when you see something and then you start seeing it everywhere. This time I keep seeing Clouds.


So, it all started when Armando Pollini’s Pump (a walk in the clouds) made an appearance on my Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Masterpiece a Day Calendar. Then a friend sent me an email with all kinds of fantastic cloud photos. To top it off  my new blog obsession, The Jealous Curator, posted some paintings of clouds by Samantha Fields that look just like photographs.  So, I think the universe is trying to tell me that I should talk about clouds.

A funny thing about the sky and clouds. I’ve always loved them and considered them an ever changing canvas. I once mentioned this to my husband. Now it’s a running joke with us. Every time I point out a beautiful sky or cloud formation, he pipes up, ” The sky is an ever changing canvas!” Now everyone thinks he’s so clever! LOL! Well, I’m not the only one who loves clouds. Keith Christiansen, Chairman of European Paintings at the Met, NYC, talks about clouds and art here. So, if you are looking for a different way to introduce or review the different kinds of clouds, you could always visit the art world. Some science teachers seem to agree with me. Check out this interactive post that shows  paintings featuring clouds and cloud photos as reference.

Pollini’s Pump reminds me of the many cumulus cloud paintings of Surrealist artist, Rene Magritte. Look here for some excellent examples of Magritte’s cloud paintings. As part of a literature unit that includes Rene’s clouds try Dinner at Magritte’s  by Michael Garland  or Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson.

Before the invention of the camera and all the electronic devices we have today, scientists,  like artists, observed and drew objects to show the structure of the natural world. Your students could create these small sketchbooks. Then each day for a week, they could go out and do some observational drawings of clouds, figure out what kind of clouds they are and label them. This would be a GREAT activity for your visual learners to help recognize and identify cloud formations. Students could also use their imaginations to see objects in the clouds, like we used to do as kids or those found in Eric Carle’s picture book,  Little Cloud. John Constable, mentioned in the interactive post above, did a number of observational paintings of clouds. Find a lesson on Constable’s Cloud studies here. Find a science lesson on scientific sketching here.

For an intermediate level Language Arts lesson on reading for information, try out Tomie de Paolo’s The Cloud Book. Find a video of the book here.

Also, when teaching any of the picture books mentioned in this post, remind students that illustrations are works of commercial art and that illustration is an art career.

So if your students are having problems understanding clouds like Joni Mitchell, why not use artworks or illustrations in picture books to help out? How do you teach clouds? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!


Another Day, Another Stage

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Countries Around The World (Japan)

Language Arts – Literature, Story Telling, Retelling, Mathematics – Measurement

Possible Art Concepts – Art History



In my last post, I talked about toy stages popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Europe and the USA. It just so happens that Japan had their own version of miniature stage in the 1900s called Kamishibai.  Toy stages were performed by the children. Kamishibai stages were performed by storytellers who travelled from town to town. The storyteller carried their stage on the back of a bicycle. Upon entering a town, the storyteller would bang together two sticks, called clackers, to announce his presence. Sort  of like the jingle of the ice cream trucks of today. Children would gather around and, using illustrated cards housed inside the stage, the storyteller would share two or three stories. The stories would often contain cliff hangers to insure the return of children upon his next visit. At the end of the story the Kamishibai man would sell candy. You can find an informative video that explains Kamishibai here. To see a Kamishibai story performed look here. Kamishibai became even more popular when silent films started because in Japan silent films were narrated just like Kamishibai. Some people in Japan call a television an electric Kamishibai because it is an animated version of the storytelling stages of the past.  Kamishibai illustrators started drawing  for manga and anime when the story telling tradition lost its popularity in the 1950s.

For a literature lesson about the Kamishibai, you could read the story, Kamishibai Man by Allen. You can also find a video of the story here.

You can give your students a Kamishibai experience of their own, as simple or involved as you’d like to get. Each student could illustrate a section of a story you are studying in class and then take turns retelling the story. OR You could go all out and check out these lessons that include correlations with social studies, math and language arts.

So, if you are looking for a new retelling activity, or something to spice up a unit on Japan, Kamishibai may be right up your alley.

I would love to hear what you think. What kinds of lessons do you use to teach retelling or Japan in your classroom? Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!


Family Game Night


Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Families (Pastimes), Careers

Language Arts – Story Telling, Retelling, Fairy Tales, Science – Recycling, Light

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Es Devlin

Art Careers – Illustration, Set (Stage) Designer, Art Media – Printmaking, Drawing


In an effort to get the family’s faces out of their electronic devices and be more present, many parents are initiating “Family Game Nights.” I even saw a family game night event organized at our local mall. A game night is usually comprised of playing board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Pictionary, etc., but what of families from long ago?  I recently discovered toy theaters. In the 1800s, children played with these miniature reproductions of famous theater plays.

Theater, ballet and opera were popular forms of entertainment in this time period, like our blockbuster movies are today. It follows that some Impressionist painters, who painted images of everyday life, created works of the ballet and opera. Examples by Degas and Cassatt can be seen below.

Edgar Degas, “Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers”       Mary Cassatt, “The Loge, 1882″

The emerging print trade hopped on the bandwagon and would also send several artists to the opening night of each show. One artist would draw the actors gesturing, another drew the sets, and yet another drew the stage itself. Still another person would write a short synopsis of the performance.  All the different sketches and a script would be printed out on sheets of paper. Customers could buy the sheets plain for a penny or hand colored for two pence. Colored sheets were then glued onto cardboard and cut out. The pieces of the stage were then assembled onto a wooden base and the characters could then be slid in and out by the children. Youngsters would practice and then put on shows for the family on their version of “Family Fun Night”. To learn more about these toy gems, whose popularity lasted about 150 years, check out this post from Jane Austen’s World Blog, here or at Craftsmanship Quarterly here.

So, if you’re looking for a new method for retelling a story for a book report or a creative evaluation tool, building a toy theater might just do the trick. Students could build a stage from a cereal box as shown on Kidspot here. Students could also create stage-like tunnel books like those found  here and  here. Do you study fairy tales? If you do, you can find a printable toy theater version of the Pollock Company’s Cinderella here.  Students could get the true experience of building a toy theater just like the children of the 1800s. For easier cutting and to eliminate the step of glueing the images on cardboard, print the sheets onto card stock. Make this a class project and divide the sheets among students to color and cut out.  Assemble the theater and students can take turns retelling the story.

Earlier in the post I was talking about seeing toy theaters in different places recently. One of the places I saw one was on Netflix’s Abstract Series’ episode on contemporary set designer, Es Devlin. (If you have not seen this series, it is a must see. The shows are as creative as the people they highlight.) Devlin built a toy theater with her children in the show. Before this , I had not heard of Es. Since then, as so often happens lately, I’ve discovered Devlin everywhere. I found out she designed the sets for the opening ceremony of Great Britain’s Olympics and Katy Perry’s recent performance on the Grammys.  She designs sets for plays, operas and even rock shows.  Structures, light and projected images are important elements of her work. If you don’t have Netflix and want to know a little more about her look here or here. For a mind blowing  example of Es’ work which can be shared with students look here. Devlin could be discussed in class for a career unit or when talking about story tellers of today.

I would love to hear what you think. How do you teach retelling in your classroom?Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!