International Women’s Day

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Women’s History, Jobs/Careers

Science – (Insect Life Cycle, Spiders)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Frida Kahlo, Lina Bo Bardi, Adelaide Labille Guiard, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rosa Bonhheur, Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, Sibylla Merian, Louise Bourgeois

Painters, Art Careers (Architect, Commercial Artist, Portrait Painter, Teacher, Scientific Illustrator, Animator)

Sibylla Merian          Louise Bourgeois          Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun

Yesterday for International Women’s Day Google Doodle  artist, Olivia Huynh, highlighted thirteen international women who’ve made a difference in the world. I was delighted to see two artists featured among the thirteen. The doodle highlighted Mexican painter,  Frida Kahlo and Italian/ Brazilian architect, Lina Bo Bard. It was also Huynh’s wish that people might become curious about these women and possibly share women who have influenced them.

I’d like to talk about some international women artists who have influenced and inspired me. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s family guide entitled, “Six Women, Six Stories”, three international artists are highlighted. Adelaide Labille Guiard was a French portrait painter. Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian painter who even created paintings for the king of Spain. French artist, Rosa Bonhheur, is one of the best animal painters of all time.  This National Gallery of Art Inside Scoop article talks about Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun. She was France’s most famous portrait painter of her time who also painted Marie Antionette. Maria Sibylla Merian was a German naturalist and scientific illustrator who discovered the life cycle of butterflies and other insects. Another famous German artist is Lotte Reiniger, an early animator who used silhouettes. She created the very first feature length animated film. Yes, it was not Walt Disney. I talk about her in more depth in this post. Last but not least, French/ American sculptor, Louise Bourgeois who is famous for her spider sculptures of all sizes. I talk about her in this post.

In the spirit of sharing, I hope during March, Women’s History Month, you’ll share one or more of these amazing women with your class.

Who are your women inspirations and how have you shared them with your classes? I would love to hear. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. Also, if you like what you’ve seen here, please consider following me.

Hope to see you again soon!

Hatch Time!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – History of Communication (Written), Inventions (Printing Press), Colonial Times

Language Arts – Literature, Onomatopoeia

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Leonardo da Vinci, Roy Lichtenstein

Commercial Art (Poster Art), Medium (Printmaking)


 Spring is fast approaching. The title, “Hatch Time!”, probably brings to mind warmer weather and baby birds, but in actuality I’m thinking Hatch Show Print.  Being an ex-printmaker on a trip to Nashville, I just had to check out this letterpress printing establishment. The Hatch family started printing in Nashville in 1879. Their first posters were created to advertise local events (the circus, vaudeville shows, etc) and were plastered on buildings and barns all over town. The first wanted posters were also created using this printing method. The original movable type printing press was invented way back in 1454 Germany by Johannes Gutenberg. Hatch printers use many different wooden letter fonts and hand carved images in a modernized version of Gutenberg’s press. To understand this printing process better, check out this  Sawtooth Printing Shop Field Trip video  recently produced by my favorite blogger, Cassie Stephens. Thanks Cassie, perfect timing! With less demand for flyer type posters in this modern age, Hatch Show Print has adapted and done things like produce posters for each Ryman Theater (“Home of the Grand Ole Opry”) performance. These posters are now bought as works of art and end up framed in people’s homes. If you happen to be studying Colonial times, you might use this video about colonial printing presses.

For literature time, you may like to read Achoo! Bang! Crash!: The Noisy Alphabet  by Ross McDonald to your class. All the letters for the book are printed on a press like Hatch Show Print uses. All the illustrations are set back in the late 1800s. Plus, all the words are onomatopoeia. Lots of “Bang!” for your buck. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.  A side note: Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein, used onomatopoeia words in some of his paintings. He was emulating offset printing, which replaced letterpress printing. Jamestown Elementary Art Blog has a Lichtenstein powerpoint slide show and onomatopoeia lesson plan that can be found here

If you wish to print some phrases or sayings, I love this lesson on Thomas Elementary Art, The Blog! The only drawback for a classroom teacher is access to brayers and ink. If you really want to do this project and have some large stamp pads, you could tap the stamp pads over and over onto the block. Then, simply place a sheet of paper on top and gently massage the back of the paper. You can construct the letters out of oaktag paper using this letter cutting chart. For the backwards and reverse problem, simply arrange the letters normally. When you have them the way you want them, place dots of glue all over the surface of each letter. Then, gently place your piece of chip board on top, and massage the the back. When you lift the chip board, the letters will be backwards and reverse, or a mirror image. Speaking of mirror images, did you know that Leonardo da Vinci wrote all his journal entries in mirror image? He was a genius and knew a lot of things that people of the time did not. In one entry he wrote, “The sun does not move.”  The people of that time believed the sun and moon circled the earth. He knew otherwise. So, for his own protection, he wrote all his journal entries backward and reversed.

If the above lesson is just too much, you could also simply print phrases and sayings using letter and picture stamps you have around your house and classroom.  I know that I have quite a variety. You probably do also. Students could create a poster portrait or animal report with letters and images put together jigsaw style like Hatch Show Print does. Like this:


I’m so pleased that some traditional printmaking is alive and  well in our world. I hope you can find a way to share this rich history with your class. What do you think?  I’d love to hear from you. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section at the bottom.

Hope to see you again real soon!

Feudal Times

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – History ( Middle Ages), Cultures Around The World (European, Asian)

Language Arts – Literature, Reading For Information, Symbols, Poetry (Haiku)

Science – Animals

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Albrecht Durer, John  James Audubon,  Paolo Ucello, The Bayeux Tapestry

Symbols, Craftsmen, Chinese Brush Painting, Stitchery

I knew, from my teaching days, that Eastern and Western cultures viewed dragons very differently. I’ve  talked about it here. However, in a recent visit to the Frist Center for the Arts’ “Samurai, The Way of the Warrior” exhibit, I discovered that Eastern and Western  cultures also had very different ways of organizing feudalism. I’m sure middle school  social studies teachers already know this because I’ve seen many units on just this subject online.  For those newcomers like me, a feudal community is made up of peasants, warriors and a lord. Eastern and Western cultures are set up pretty similarly in this respect. You can read more about their setups here.  The differences come with the kinds of weapons used by the warriors and the armor they wore as a result. Due to large heavy swords and lances, the Western armor was made of heavy clunky metal. The Eastern Culture’s weapons changed over the years. The samurai were horsemen and first used long spears, then bows and arrows and finally the two swords they are famous for today. To aid mobility on the horse, the Eastern weapons were not as heavy and bulky. Also, the armor was made of lighter material and was very flexible. This occurred well before the industrial revolution, so the weapons and armor were made by craftsmen. The higher the rank of the soldier the more elaborate the weapons and armor. What I found most interesting about the armor was the symbolism used to decorate these uniforms. In Western culture the symbolism was on the armor itself while the samurai had symbolism on their helmets. You could use the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Fierce or Fancy?, Discover the Art of Arms and Armor” Family Guide  for an I Spy symbols activity. This activity could be used to extend a literature lesson or be part of a social studies lesson about different cultures. For a closer look at the I Spy items look here and here .

                        Albrecht Durer’s “Rhinoceros”            John James Audubon’s “Armadillo”

The Met also provides a lesson plan which combines symbolism and science (armored animals) found here. A great side story, Durer had never seen a real rhinoceros, only drawings by another artist, when he created the above block print.

Think about the mass produced uniforms of today. Our soldiers basically wear symbols on their dress uniforms, not so much on battle uniforms. Symbols on dress uniforms show their rank, accomplishments and their branch of service . Sports uniforms and helmets/hats contain symbols representing mascots and company logos.

Speaking of sports, Western culture knights participated in tournaments/jousting during peacetime. In a samurai’s free time, he/she (Yes, there were women samurai!) was expected to engage in educational and art related pursuits. Some of these being haiku, rock gardens, flower arranging, Chinese brush painting, calligraphy and tea ceremonies. Most samurai were well educated in a time when most Europeans could not read.

There aren’t too many books about knights and samurai for elementary aged students. If you’d like some for storytime, I did find a few that looked interesting. In my teaching days, I used Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges. I love the illustrations. Another one for knights that looked interesting was The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke. For Samurai, you might look into these two folk tales, Three Samurai Cats by Eric A. Kimmel and The Smallest Samurai by Fiona French. Look here to see the story of the smallest samurai told by a storyteller. The book that I found the most intriguing was  a book entitled, Picture That — Knights and Castles by Alex Martin. What makes this so great is that feudal times facts are pointed out in artworks that were created in that time period. Important areas of these works are magnified with notations of important facts. Two great works featured in this book show knights.  The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Ucello shows the knights and horses of the time. Although it shows a battle, no blood is shown. The Bayeux Tapestry is also featured. It should be noted that this is not a tapestry at all but a stitchery, a very long stitchery. It illustrates the the story of the Battle of Hastings and is thought by some to be the very first comic strip. Find an animated version of stitchery here. (Violence Alert! I would stop it right as the battle begins, if you wish to avoid the violence.) The tapestry shows how people dressed and their way of life. To commemorate the 950th anniversary of the Bayeux Tapestry, illustrator Liz Pichon created a British history sequel . Your class could create a comic strip style mural of their own illustrating the Revolutionary War, the history of your state or any other time in history you happen to be studying.

Students could also create their own armor, helmets, or shields embellished with symbols to signify family traits. Some sample art lessons can be found here and here.

While teaching  fairy tale illustration or making Japanese figure sculptures, there were always those few boys who wanted to add a sword to their work. These boys may be the future soldiers who serve so we can be free. If you wish to spark their interest in your subject area, interject a few of the facts from this post. They will love you for it.

Have you taught knights or samurai? If you have, I’d love to hear about it. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

Hope to see you again real soon!

Cock-A-Doodle-Doo, Year of the Rooster!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Countries Around The World (China, Portugal, Poland), Geography, City/Country (Animals)

Science – Animals (Birds), Language Arts – Legends (Oral History), Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso , Joan Miro, Katharina Fritsch, Joana Vasconcelos

Chinese Brush Painting, Cubism, Wycinanki, Galo de Barcelos, Color (Red, Blue), Sculpture, Art Medium


By Ren Yi

The Chinese New Year will be celebrated from January 27 to February 2 this year. I was thrilled to see it is the “Year of the Rooster” because I’ve been wanting to do a post on roosters for a while now. Chinese artists have immortalized roosters in Chinese brush paintings and Chinese paper cutting.   However, China is not the only place/person who think roosters are special. Check out this video to see just how popular they are/have been. I think the only roosters the video left out are two humongous contemporary rooster sculptures. Katharina Fritsch’s “Hahn Cock” is a 15 foot blue rooster currently on display on the roof garden of the newly renovated National Gallery’s East Wing. Then there is the amazing Pop Galo by Joana Vasconcelos. At first glance, it appears to be just a pop art version of  the Galo de Barcelos or Roosters of Barcelos, Portugal. Read more about these ceramic birds and their history here.  However, upon closer scrutiny, you see that it is made up of traditional ceramic tiles, called Azulejo. That’s not all. The dot embellishments are actually LED lights programmed to sync with music, so at night, the sculpture performs a light show. The sculpture is traditional during the day and innovative at night. AMAZING!  View the sculpture at night here.

Look here to find a like minded teacher who created a lesson combining roosters, Picasso and for literature, Eric Carle’s “Rooster’s Off to See the World”.  This teacher brings in a live rooster to observe. One can accomplish this by looking at rooster photos and artworks. Discuss with students a rooster’s body parts. As seen in the first video mentioned above, the class could create their roosters in many different medium ( drawingcollagesculpture,  painting, etc.) I would suggest these flat roosters because they remind me of Flat Stanley. If you’ve read Eric Carle’s rooster book , you know the bird never leaves town. How about a nice Geography lesson where the Flat Rooster actually travels to visit his art cousins in different parts of the world? The teacher can print out small reproductions of each rooster cousin and tape them to a world map. The students can begin by traveling to China to celebrate the New Year with brush painted roosters and a  paper cutting rooster. Next he could travel off to Egypt to visit with a  stone sculpture rooster. Then off you go to Greece to visit with a rooster embellished   urn. It’s just a hop, skip and jump to Italy to see a  rooster Roman mosaic.  Now for a journey to Portugal to see  Pop Galo. Travel next door to Spain to see Miro’s Le Coq. Next let’s travel up to Paris, France and visit with several of Picasso’s roosters. Now, it’s off to Poland to visit with some more paper cutting called Wycinanki. It’s time to travel “over the Pond” to London, England to see the big blue rooster named “Hahn/Cock”, only to discover he has flown the coup to Washington, D.C. Not to be deterred, it’s off across the Atlantic to the National Gallery’s East Wing’s roof garden. After such a long journey, what better thing to do than to retire to Key West, the southern most point in the U.S.A., to hang out with all the roosters who wander the streets there.  Happy traveling!

How about throwing a little Math into the mix. The teacher could create a chart of different art mediums (drawing, painting, mosaics, paper cutting, sculptures, pottery, printmaking). Together view the first video found above with all the ways roosters have been portrayed. As a class, figure out the medium of each artwork and place a tally mark next to the appropriate medium on the chart.  Afterward, the students can create a bar graph using their collected data. You could also practice a little measurement conversion by comparing the 15 foot tall Hahn/Cock and the 10 meter tall Pop Galo. Which sculpture is taller?

I certainly enjoyed my trek through Rooster Land and learned a lot. It always amazes me. I start out these posts thinking it will be one thing and they turn out to be so much more. I hope you gleaned something from it also.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this. Simply click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and leave a message in the comment box.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

Dragons And Unicorns And Trolls, Oh My!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Folktales And Fairy Tales (Mythical Creatures), Literature

Social Studies – Countries Around The World (Mythical Creatures), Geography

Mathematics – Geometry, Numbers (Nine)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Raphael’s “Saint George And The Dragon“,  “The Unicorn in Captivity” (From The Unicorn Tapestries), “The Nine Dragons Scroll

Paintings, Tapestries, Scrolls, Illustrations

Mythical creatures seem to be popping up all around. There are the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Trolls and A Monster Calls movies. Soon there will be dragons dancing through the streets celebrating the Chinese New Year. I even saw a beasties scavenger hunt for kids at a recent visit to the Samurai Exhibit, at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville TN. (Samurai helmets and swords are embellished with fantastic creatures to inspire the warrior and invoke fear in the enemy.) Incorporating these mythical creatures into your lessons could just spark the interest of some otherwise ambivalent students. Different mythical creatures have been a part of folklore worldwide since ancient times. You can find lists of different mythical creatures here and here. For a Social Studies Map unit, students could use a mythical creatures interactive map found  here. Find more examples of mythical creatures on my Pinterest page.

 Raphael’s “Saint George and the Dragon”           Unicorn in Captivity” (from the  Unicorn                                                                                                Tapestries)                                                                                                             

In my teaching days, I often incorporated mythical creatures from the above two artworks and the “Nine Dragons”scroll found here. I always kept visuals of Saint George and the unicorn around while helping my third graders illustrate their original fairy tales. Raphael’s dragon was in the fourth graders Language Arts textbook and they studied Japan in Social Studies. So, for a few years I’d introduce Western and Eastern dragons. The two cultures view the creatures in very different ways. The Western culture sees dragons as evil, but the Eastern culture reveres the dragon. The two kinds of dragons also look very different.  Read more about them here. I would then have students invent their own dragons. I also included the study of mythical creature gargoyle sculptures when talking about an  “Extreme”  city wildlife theme. Check out more about this lesson here.

In my investigations for this post, I found some excellent lessons correlating with Language Arts and Mathematics. Eastern dragons are made up of many different animal parts. Look here and here to find lessons where mythical creatures can be made from an amalgamation of different animals. I read in the popup book, LEONARDO DA VINCI, by A.& M. Provensen that da Vinci actually built a creature out of the parts of lizards, toads, bats and other animals. He then used the creature as a model for a painted shield. Talk about an amalgamation creature! The excellent website, EDSITEment, has a comprehensive mythical beast lesson found here.  This teacher actually combines a mythology lesson with a math lesson. Love it!

Whether studying different cultures around the world or not, mythical creatures can also be shared at Literature time. Jan Brett, one of my all time favorite author/illustrators,  writes books set in different countries. The Trouble With Trolls was written after a trip to Norway. You can learn more about trolls and Norwegian architecture in Brett’s letter to her readers here. Even Eric Carl has written a book entitled Dragons, Dragons and Other Creatures That Never Were. The illustrations are perfect for primary students, but the text is more suitable for intermediate students. The EDSITEment lesson mentioned above also includes a nice list of mystical creature Literature books to share with your students.

So, whether in a Social Studies, Language Arts and/or Mathematics unit, I hope you will include these wonderful creatures somewhere in your teaching. A good time will be had by all!

Have you taught lessons including mystical/ mythical creatures? If so, I’d love to hear how. Simply click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and leave a message.

Hope to see you all again soon!

Only A Hippopotamus Will Do!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Animals, Animals’ Habitats

Language Arts: Literature, Storytelling

Social Studies – World Cultures (Egypt)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Egyptian Art

Sculpture, Forms, Color Theory, Illustration

During this holiday season, I’ve heard the song, “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” multiple times. I first heard it on my favorite country singer, Kacey Musgraves’, “A Very Kacey Christmas” album. Then, I heard it sung by other artists on the radio and even on a commercial. I took this as a sign to introduce you to William the Hippo, the unofficial mascot for the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.


This figurine is modeled from a quartz substance called faience. The sculpture was found in an Egyptian tomb with three missing legs. Vandals, one might think, but, in actuality, the legs were broken off on purpose. The hippopotamus was a dangerous animal in this time period. You see, the hippo could come up out of the water at any time and capsize the Egyptian’s fishing boats. Evidently, it was also believed that this creature could impede a person’s journey to the after life. Thus, the inclusion of a hippo with three broken off legs in a tomb. You can read more about William and play some interactive games here. The patterns found on this sculpture represent plant life found along the Nile River where the hippopotami live.

William and his story could be introduced in correlation with a science animal unit. In my teaching days, I remember second grade studied animals and their habitats. One can as easily introduce animals to students through art as with photos or textbooks.William could be an inspiration for a variation on an animal report. Students could create an outline of their chosen animal, then add patterns of plant life or objects found in the animal’s habitat onto the body of the animal. Lastly, they could watercolor paint the animal’s body in a color of the student’s choosing. Find some other animal inspired art here.

William could also be introduced in a Social Studies unit on Countries Around the World.

Why not totally immerse your students in the study of William the Hippo by also including him in Storytime/Literature in your classroom.  I was first introduced to William the Hippo in a picture book entitled A Tale of Two Williams by Diana Goldin. It is a story about a lost young boy named William who is shown around the Met by William the Hippo. Recently, I’ve learned of two other books including the faience hippo. They are The Little Blue Hippo by Géraldine Elschner and the folk tale, The Blue Faience Hippopotamus by Joan Grant. The story of the blue faience hippo is also told here and by a wonderful story teller here

I hope you are as excited about William the Hippo as I am and will use him to enrich some part of your curriculum. I’d love to hear your thoughts on William and ways you might use his story in your classroom. Simply highlight the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

Hope to see you all again very soon!

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!