Author Archives: oribe

Structure and Expectations

A lot of times I hear that kids don’t want to really learn.  That given the chance, they will twitter away and have no desire to ‘get’ anything from class.  I don’t believe this to be true.  Last week I was hired to teach 7-10th grade art.  There are three classes; 7th grade, 8th grade, and High School.  The school year is already a quarter in, and for the last two months there was a long-term substitute teacher in the classroom.  While I was very pleased about the relevancy of his lessons (hitting on value, proportion, color, and art history!), his classroom management was less stellar.  I do not fault him for this, as we learn how to manage a classroom not only through experience, but through training during teacher preparation programs.  All in all, he was fabulous and I couldn’t have asked for a better long-term sub to take the reigns from.

Classroom management is hard, though.  It’s a battle trying to find the right balance between being strict and yet still approachable to students.  While staying true to the rules of your classroom and school is important, it’s equally important for your students to feel as if they can ask questions, make mistakes, and express themselves not only creatively, but as young adults figuring out their place in the world.  From observing other classrooms, I think that this is where a lot of teachers struggle… and if you are struggling with your classroom management you cannot be giving students the best education possible.

I feel like it’s a child’s place and right to challenge the rules.  To see how far they can push.  It is the teachers place to let them know where that boundary is, and hold fast.  If you are unable to hold that line, students will not only continue to push, but your role as a reliable authority is diminished in their eyes.  Why should they listen if they don’t have to?  You cannot just will them to follow the rules, you have to show them how.  Once you show them how it’s much easier to do things like give directions, introduce new information, have students follow through on projects, and clean up after themselves (every art teacher’s nightmare, the destroyed room littered with your supplies).

Along those lines it’s so important to outline clear expectations… and high ones at that.  I was having a conversation with another elective teacher about my 7th graders.  The substitute had warned me that they were too immature for projects longer than 1 class period.  Having worked with 7th graders, I was doubtful.  After spending time with them I realized it to be untrue.  What had happened was the substitute lacked the training he needed to give them the discipline they needed, and the high expectations to strive for.  I told my colleague that “if I give them high expectations they will strive to meet them”, to which he responded “and if you give them low expectations they will meet those, too.”

How absolutely true.

The Grid Project

This is a drawing/painting project that I took from my host teacher and altered to make ‘my own’.

Each student will create a self-portrait using the techniques of drawing with a grid, pen, and watercolor.  Students will utilize value and pattern into their artwork.

Grid Project – Value, Pattern, Watercolor, and Pen Drawing

Part 1: Introduction


  • PowerPoint on value, pattern, and grid
  • Handout on value and pattern – two worksheets to complete before beginning
  • Scratch paper for students to do a rough draft self-portrait
  • Mirrors
  • 18×12 drawing paper
  • Sharpie Pens
  • Watercolors
  • Erasers
  • Pencils
  • Rulers and a Long Straight Edge
  • Camera and Printer


  • Have an understanding of the concept of value and pattern
  • Have an understanding of how to use the grid to draw realistically
  • Create a self-portrait that uses value and pattern


  • Show students PowerPoint(s) on value and pattern
  • Have students work on the worksheet and their self-portrait.  This took 2-3 class periods.
  • While students are working on their worksheets, this is a good time to take their pictures.  I then uploaded them onto a computer and printed them out 6”x4” in black and white.
  • Show students PowerPoint on the grid project
  • Explain to students how to use the grid, and how it is a useful tool to create drawings that are in the correct prop
    ortion without getting hung-up on the subject they are drawing

Part 2: Setting it all up


  • Picture (6×4”)
  • Ruler and Long Straight Edge
  • Pencil
  • 18×12” Sheet of drawing paper


  • Show students how to map out their grid
      • At this point they will need to be given their picture.  They need to mark a border around it.  Starting at one corner of the picture, mark every ½” around the entire picture.  Then, connect the marks across the picture, creating a grid
      • Then, on the 18×12” sheet of paper, starting at the corner, mark every 1.5” around the entire sheet.  Connect all the marks across the picture to create a grid
      • Troubleshooting: Depending on your students, you may need to check their work before they connect their grid lines.  Many students struggled with lining things up straight, or measuring correctly.


  • Show students how to use the grid to draw their design.
    • Black out one square on the picture, and the corresponding square on the large sheet of paper.  Show the student that you are not drawing a ‘nose’ or ‘eye’ or ‘mouth’, but instead just the shape in that particular square.
      • Some students may need extra help with this, or paper to help them block out their squares.
      • Some students may need to divide their squares further, into quarters
        .  This can be especially true for areas such as the eye.
  • Continue to do this until you have an outline of the body, and the face/clothes.  Leave the background empty.
  • After students have drawn their outline, have them go over it with sharpie.  From there, students will start filling in every box with a different pattern using the sharpies (some may be repeated, as long as they are not next to each other, and are ‘changed’ somehow.
    • Remind students to keep ‘value’ in mind.  Some patterns will be darker then others.  The more sharpie/lines in their pattern, the darker it will be.
    • Remind students that they are not filling in the background yet, only the figure.
    • When students believe they are done hold the picture back for them, and have them look at the photograph and tell you where they might need to give it a darker value.  If they are struggling, point out areas that you find.
    • After students have finished filling in the figure, have them draw a motif.  This motif will be repeated in the background to create a single pattern.  The students can use the grid in the background to help them place their motifs.
      • Once they have a motif, have them draw it in the background in pencil, and then outline in sharpie.
      • After students are finished, they may begin filling in the figure and background with watercolor.
        • Note: At this point it is an option to go over ‘color’ with students.  I decided to save that (long) lesson for another project, and talk to them informally about how they would want to use contrasting colors to make the figure ‘pop’.
        • Depending on your students, do a quick demo on watercolor.
          • Remind students that they can use color to help them ‘deepen’ the value they already created with sharpie.  If they are making their face yellow, then they can use orange in the areas around the nose where there is shadow, etc.
  • Check to make sure that students don’t need to ‘touch up’ any areas of their drawing with watercolor.  Let it dry.  Marvel at how awesome they look.


  • Have students answer the following questions on a half sheet of paper to turn in for credit (full sentences!):
    • What grade to you deserve?
    • Why?
    • What are the techniques you used to finish this assignment?
    • Are you proud of the finished artwork?
    • Why?



  • Using the reflection as a guide, assess the students artwork based on your own classroom’s criteria.
  • I grade on the following:
      • Effort-how hard you work
      • Craftsmanship-how good/neat it looks (did you do your best to make it look awesome?)
      • Techniques
      • Creativity

Another Change

 Things just keep changing.  My time at the Canvas was short lived, only 9 months.  After a pretty difficult and cold summer, my boyfriend and I made the decision to move back down South.  I loved my time with the clients, and I learned more that I could have hoped for-not only about managing a studio and beginning to create a program, but about ceramics.  It was a fantastic experience, and I will miss all the clients and community members that I worked with.  Life has to go on though, and when you find yourself unhappy something must be done to remedy the situation.  Sunshine was what we needed, so we decided to head towards the Southwest.

Originally I was going to go back to school part time and work on a portfolio to get into graduate school for art, but on a whim I applied for a part time art teaching job.  I ended up being offered a position at a high school-which quickly turned into a full time teaching job!  It was a crazy process, and I ended up pushing up my plans and moving 2 weeks earlier then I had planned.  Everything is give and take, right?  So I got my almost-dream job, but I had to move without my car and only 2 bags of my belongings (plus the little bit my boyfriend had room for in his car).

I now teach 2 sections of “Art 1” and “Sculpture/Ceramics”.  We are at the end of our third week and I am finding myself challenged in ways I hadn’t quite realized I would.  Management is a huge issue right now.  Most of my classes are great, but I have one section that is giving me a lot of grief.  There are just too many kids, and there is a table of hyper boys that are putting me in a foul mood.  I’ll figure it out as time goes on, and it might result in a seating chart and privileges  taken away… but hopefully it won’t have to go that far.  The seating chart I think will be inevidable… but I hope I don’t have to turn this into a notes-heavy art-history class.  That’s the last thing I want to do.

Besides the issues I’m having with controlling that one class, things are great.  I’ll start putting up lesson plans pretty soon, as my students complete projects.  Right now my sculpture students are wrapping up a tile project, and beginning a writing assignment.  My art 1 students are working on a grid project (that I shamelessly took from my host teacher from FALA) after having completed their portfolio.

I can’t wait to see how this year goes, and hope to have some great projects to show for it.

Starting Anew

Since that last time that I wrote, a lot has changed.  I don’t work for a middle/high school anymore, but instead I teach community classes and day rehabilitation classes in pottery.  This job is proving to be challenging, and also rewarding.  I am slowly starting to get the hang of teaching older students, as well as students who experience disabilities.  Both are very different from each other, and worlds apart from what I was doing during my teaching internship last year.

I am very excited, though.

This website will begin to include not only old lesson plans I may revisit, but my journey teaching pottery.  Lesson plans, ideas, and what I am finding works… or doesn’t work.  The space that I am working in is very small, so my classes are limited to 6 people.  I think that this will be a great number to really start to build relationships and learn about myself as an educator.

Wish me luck!

Simulated Texture & Unity Printmaking-Middle School

The high school students were working on printmaking projects and it seemed like a lot of middle school students were very impressed with the work they were doing.  We had enough materials for the middle school students to do a project, so I came up with a printmaking project that incorporated both simulated texture and unity.

I thought it would be interesting to try and teach students about diptychs and also incorporate an artist for the students to learn about.  After taking a look at a variety of modern printmaking artists, I found one artist who looked particularly interesting: Lisa Brawn.

For the project I introduced the concept of unity and the artist Lisa Brawn.  We refreshed our memories about texture.  During the unity powerpoint I included a variety of diptychs, and we talked about how you  need to use unity in order for diptychs to work.

The students were required to create a diptych using 2, 5×3 print blocks.  They needed to use one of the techniques discussed to create unity between the 2 blocks, and were required to also create a work in the style of Lisa Brawn.  To create a work in the style of Lisa Brawn they used the same visual techniques as her in their backgrounds-repeating patterns and textures around their main image(s).

Besides the requirements of the project, we talked about safety using the block cutters, and cleanliness while printing.  I emphasized using newspapers when they printed, because many of them would forget to put some down before beginning the printing process.  ASome other (minor) issues I ran into were reminding the students that the cutters should not be used to cut anything except for their blocks, making sure that they cut deep enough,being aware of the amount of ink they poured out for printing, and the amount of pressure they used when rubbing the block onto their final paper.

All in all the project was a success.  Most of the students  made gorgeous prints.  Several of the students (the usual suspects) did not do the best job, but I think that they understand the concepts pretty well.  There were 4 projects that stood out more then the others, and I was able to put them into a school art show at a local bakery.  I was very impressed with their work, and they were extremely pleased to not only be in the show, but to have their art included in the poster (I made it, what can I say?  I love my students!).

Simulated Texture-Middle School

While I was rummaging around the internet I found a lesson that seemed like it would be really fun.  We were about to start a unit on texture, so I was looking around for ideas and found this lesson.  I decided to give it a shot, because the finished projects looked really interesting.

After giving the students a presentation on what texture was, I showed them an example of the artwork.  I told them that they could use any medium they wanted to create 20 different types of simulated texture total for the circles.  After several students were finished I demonstrated how to put the pieces together and gave handouts with written and visual directions for assemblage.

This project was okay.  I don’t know that I would do it again.  While several of the end projects were really great, most of them were just so-so, and I feel like we could have done a more exciting project that demonstrated simulated texture.  In the end, the majority felt like there wasn’t a point to the project, and didn’t learn as much as I had hoped.  As a result we did another project that incorporated simulated texture that they could actually get behind.

Color and Value Self Portraits-Middle School

To wrap up the color unit I had the middle schoolers make self portraits.  We used pointillism, a technique used to create value, to create the self-portrait pictures.  The portraits they created of themselves were made using a monochromatic color scheme.  The mixed media portion of the self-portrait needed to contain a variety of elements (pictures, found objects, beads, etc) that represented the student.  All of the elements (unless the students asked for another method and there was no other way to attach the element) were sewn on using a needle and thread/yarn.

The sewing aspect of the project was to teach them both a new technique in creating art, as well as patience and taking care with their work.  Sewing is a difficult task that requires the students to pay attention to their work-or else the work will fall apart.

I would say that this project was both successful and unsuccessful.  The students did a great job on their projects for the most part.  They looked good, and the students who spent time on their piece were proud of their work.  The students seemed to understand monochromatic color schemes better, and it forced many students who rush through work to slow down.  I would say that the most unsuccessful part of this project was the general feeling about it.  The students at this age hate sewing.  They hate having so many stipulations on their work.  They just want to get things done.

As a result I’m not sure if I would do the project again.  I think in the future I might still assign a variation of this project, but plan it better to make it more enjoyable.  I might have them make something that is more pillow or quilt-like, sewing together squares to paint afterwards.  Who knows though… I will have to continue to reflect on more color themed projects for next year.

Color Mixing-Middle School

After students have made a color wheel its helpful to design a project that has them actually mix primary colors to make their secondary colors.  I used watercolor for this assignment, as watercolor is not only easy to mix, but requires a degree of patience and skill to use.

I am very glad that I did this assignment.  Some of the students still had a hard time grasping mixing colors, even though we went over time and time again which primary colors made secondary colors.  It seems that the pressure of actually producing the new colors made of a lot of them forget the discussions we’d had while making their color wheels.

The lesson is to give students the three primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and have them mix three secondary colors (green, purple, orange).  They then use the colors they made to paint on small sheet of watercolor paper.  Their painting is to include 6 repeating images from their imagination-all pre-approved by me to make sure that the images are not cliche.  The repeating images can vary on the page, as long as they are still recognizable as the same subject.

Students really enjoyed this project.  Many of them had fun during the brainstorming phase, where I approved their drawings.  Some of the students had difficulty with the watercolor, and we talked about not “loading” their brushes.  I think that next time I will do more preparation with the students on water-color technique before starting their project.

I adapted my lesson from one of the other teachers in the department.

Color Wheel 1-Middle School

I think that making color wheels arevery important.  They can be used as a very helpful took for students to use throughout the semester as they are playing with color.  It also helps with the visual learners to be able to SEE how colors changewhen they are placed next to each other.

For this color wheel students will make their color wheel using old magazines and markers.  Their color wheel will have two wheels, whichwill be secured but a pin in the middle.  This will allow the wheel to spin.  After students make the color wheel and there are many (many, many) discussions about how primary colors make secondary colors, and what complimentary colorsare, students will use their color wheels to help them mix colors and create a painting of their own.

Here is a PDF of the Lesson Plan: Color Wheel 1-Middle School

Lesson Planning pt 2

There is more to planning a lesson than just planning an activity. Often people think that art teachers have it easy because we just need to keep the students entertained. This is not true. There are many elements and principles of art and design that students need to learn to be successful artists.

The template that I use to create my lessons is based off of my host teacher’s. This template outlines in detail what the students will learn and accomplish, as well as what the teacher will be doing and accomplish. I find that this template for lesson planning helps me organize my thoughts, and decide whether or not a project will actually work. The only thing that this outline does not have is a timeline. While my nature would prefer to have a specific timeline, in practice I find it is difficult to put a deadline on a project before the students have begun. Every class dynamic is different from the last, and it is hard to tell a student who is working very thoughtfully on their art that they need to stop because 1/2 of their peers have rushed through their project. Instead, I just try to ‘go with the flow’ and make sure that students are on task throughout the project. Here is the outline that I use:


Part 1: What is the first part of the lesson?

  • Materials needed for project
  • Objectives (what will the students learn… perceive, identify, discuss, create…)

Scope and Sequence:

  • Introduction (notes, PowerPoint, discussion)
  • Engage (begin project)
    • Example
    • Demonstration
    • Creation
  • Assess (methods of assessment)

If there is a second part to the lesson I would put it here. Again, this is a great aid in lesson planning. I find the materials list very helpful, and it is easy to revise. Sometimes as a lesson is happening I will need to change the steps or criteria. Putting the document in my computer helps me make alterations for future use.

Attached is an example of a lesson plan for Color and Value, and demonstrates multi-step projects that have sub-categories as well.  Not all lessons are this long, many lesson plans end up being only 1 page long.

Color and Value Lesson Plan (PDF Format)