Ceramics Lessons and Management Tips

This week was a Ceramic-stravaganza! Check out my favorite ceramics lessons and management tips posts in the links below:

Ceramics Lessons

IMG_5576 Ceramic Zoo Animals & Paper Habitats

IMG_4310 Cultural Animal Vessels

IMG_4389 Abstract Personal Interest Figures

IMG_3433 Imaginative Model Homes & Architectural Facade Tiles

Ceramics Management Tips

IMG_5232 Firing Multiple Stages of Clay at the Same Time

IMG_5221 Kiln Cart Shelf Tags

IMG_3172 Ceramics Toolboxes

IMG_3212 Ceramics on the Art Cart

IMG_5227 Glaze Trays

Ceramics Management Tip: Glaze Storage & Distribution

IN our county many elementary art teachers use paint stations at each table to manage tempera paint. I thought the idea of a station where students have access to multiple colors of glaze would be useful, so I created these small glaze trays for each of the tables in my classroom. We use Mayco Stroke & Coat glazes which can be mixed to create a wide variety of tints and shades.  IMG_5223 IMG_5224Each table receives one glaze tray that contains the twelve most requested colors and a water dish for rinsing their brushes. The tray has a lid that students can use as a palette for mixing. I purchased the trays/storage boxes at the dollar store. The cups inside that hold each color of glaze were also purchased at the dollar store and were originally designed for salad dressing.


On the center table in my room where I usually distribute materials I have a variety of paintbrush sizes available as well as a box that contains one bottle of each color of glaze, in case I need to do refills during class. If I were teaching from a cart I would set these materials up not he top shelf with the empty water dishes, and the bottom shelf would contain the bisqueware that is ready to be glazed in one large tray or copy box lid.IMG_5226All of these small glaze trays fit inside one of my art room cabinets. We just snap the lids on and stack them inside the cabinet for the next use. Over the summer they get dried out a little, but we just refresh them with more glaze and a little water if necessary. Occasionally someone will forget to rinse their brush before switching to a new color. If it isn’t a big glob the kids just stir it into the rest of the glaze. If it is a big difference in color (like a blob of black mixed into the white glaze) then I rinse out that cup and refill it, but that only happens once or twice a year. Overall we waste much less glaze using this method instead of paper plates or palettes, and I am able to afford to buy the stroke & coat glaze instead of the budget glaze that is stocked in our county’s supply warehouse.

I hope these ceramics tips were useful. If you missed any of the other ceramics posts you can check out the links below:

Ceramics Management Tips:

Firing Multiple Stages Together

Kiln Cart Shelf Tags

Clay Toolboxes

Clay on an Art Cart

Ceramics Lessons:

Ceramic Zoo Animals

Cultural Animal Vessels

Personal Interest Figures

Ceramic Gargoyles

Imaginative Model Houses & Architectural Facades

Ceramics Management Tip: Clay on an Art Cart

I know that many elementary art teachers teach from a cart, so I thought it might be helpful to see how I managed teaching ceramics from a cart in a general education classroom. I used to share an art room with the other full-time art teacher at my first school, and while I avoided it as much as possible, I did have to figure out how to manage teaching ceramics on the cart. I actually came up with the ceramics toolboxes idea when I taught on the cart because I wanted a way to quickly pack up all the tools and have them ready to roll. Each of our classrooms has a small sink, so I could still use my small water dishes when I arrived in the classroom. Each group of student desks would receive a toolbox, just like one table in my classrooms. Students would work with clay right on top of their desk, and at the end of class I would collect their finished sculpture in the clay tray (or copy paper box lids if that was what I had.) I stuck with one-day-only sculptures since there was no way for me to store anything over a week, but at least the students still got to use real clay even though they were not in the art room. Now I have more storage space, so I would have students bag up their sculpture inside a ziplock bag, store it in the clay tray, and wrap the tray in a garbage bag to save any escaping moisture before the next week.  At the end of class each student used a baby wipe to clean up- one for their desk and a second one for their hands.


In this photo you can see how I would prep the cart for clay. On the top shelf there is a basket that includes grade level planning sheets/sketches as well as any instructional photo handouts (laminated to protect from clay). You can also see a spray bottle-for misting inside the ziplock bags before storing, water dishes, and at least one or two paper towels per student. students can build their sculpture on top of the paper towel to cut down on muddy clay sticking to the desk. The second shelf holds six clay toolboxes. The bottom shelf is empty- that is where the tray of finished sculptures would go when it is time to wheel everything back to the art room.


Ceramics Management Tip: Ceramics Toolbox

I thought it might be useful for you to see how I organize ceramics tools for my classroom. I have nine tables in my classroom and each table receives a ceramics toolbox and a small water dish. Each tool box is a Rubbermaid storage box (shoebox sized) that includes a variety of tools that are only used with clay.

IMG_3171I include needle tools, wooden clay tools, a variety of found objects that can be used for stamping patterns or textures, and forks. Plastic forks. These are by far the most useful tools I have found, and they were completely free. Whenever they get broken I get new ones from the cafeteria. When students sit down to work at their table I ask them to pull all of the forks out of their tool box and leave them in the water dish (which only contains about half an inch of water). The forks are used for scoring clay before joining. We don’t use slip at all. Students just score both pieces where they will be joined, press the two pieces together, then weld to join the pieces securely. IMG_3172The picture above is misleading, as I have since taken out the sponges. I think it encourages students to dip the sponge in the water and use it to try to smooth the clay, which nearly always results in a mud pie situation, which I prefer to avoid. Second most valuable tools in the box are the math pattern blocks which were donated to me by the occupational therapist in our school. They were going to be thrown away but they make the best texture stamps.  I include tongue depressors- also donated, which I like to use for welding in tiny places too big for fingers, and empty thread spools, donated by my mom, which we use for pattern stamping. Even my water dishes were donated margarine tubs. Please note that all of these were FREE. The storage boxes cost 94 cents at Walmart.

IMG_3170All of the storage boxes are kept in on cabinet in my classroom, along with the water dishes that I use for clay. I do not have to set them up for each use, I just open the cabinet and set up the tables, and have a student volunteer return them to the cabinet when we are finished.

Organization: Art Room Tour 2013: General Displays

As promised ever so long ago, I am posting an update to my art room tour from the past. I thought I would break this tour up into different areas, starting with displays. I photographed my most basic art room and art displays before dismantling everything at the end of the school year so that I could share them here.

front board displayHere is a view of the front of my classroom. Each day as students arrive at the art room I greet them at my doorway and when they are quiet they are invited to enter the art room and join me on the carpet at the front of the room. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to receive this big world map rug a few months before I moved into my new classroom. It is large enough to hold an entire class of K-4th graders, but just a little small for 5th and 6th graders. rules consequences and white board display

Here you can see a better view of the information displayed on or near the whiteboard. I always have my art room rules and consequences on display- we review them as necessary. I also always have my ART noise control system on display. This seems to be a pretty commonly used system for noise control in the art room. If student noise is out of hand they lose the T- a warning to control their volume. If noise continues to be a problem, They lose the R, which means a silent all class timeout. Students are asked to put their heads down and take a silent break. Loosing the A means the class is done talking for the rest of their art time. I also keep other general info such as my weekly schedule ad Think Sheets handy on the board, as well as artwork given to me by students, and examples of collaborative art projects I am working on with various classes or work done in my after school art class.white board display

In the photo above you can see how I display the most important information related to the lesson. On the whiteboard to the left I post the daily challenge- what we are trying to accomplish with our art lesson. This information is broken down into the individual standards we address as stated on our elementary progress reports. Students are assessed in five different areas: the art making process, skills in media techniques and craftsmanship, personally meaningful content, and understanding of art history, aesthetics, and vocabulary, as well as effort. As I introduce our work for the day I review the specific items on which students will be assessed. I also include a teacher or student example of completed artwork so the students have an example of what they are expected to complete, including the quality of craftsmanship I intend to see.stitchery techniques chart

In the first photo you can also see that I have a chart rack where I display the media techniques my students are expected to learn. I like to keep the techniques related to the current media on display at all times so that my students can refer to it as needed while they work. Above you can see an example of my stitchery techniques chart.

I also have three bulletin boards in my classroom that are always on display. The one I refer to the most is my color bulletin board. I need to update my color wheel so that I can fit more of the color families on this bulletin board. It would be nice to have room for tints, shades, and maybe analogous color family examples too.principles and color bulletin board display

You can also see in this photo that I have the elements and principles on display at all times as well. In the following photo you will see my elements display. I love the elements and principles display cards from Crystal Productions- they are small enough that you can have them on display at all times, but large enough that there is a clear visual example of the element or principle that I can refer to when discussing something new. The Elements and Principles headings were printed and decorated by my student teacher last year. We laminated them and I am saving them to use again next year.

elements and big idea bulletin board displayHere you can see my second bulletin board- What’s the Big Ideas? Each of our grade level program of studies is focused on a big idea. Students explore the big idea for their grade level in every art work they create. At the beginning of the year my big idea bulletin board displayed an example and big idea label for each grade level. Second quarter I switched to just examples, and my students discussed how the examples might relate to the big idea for their grade level.

finished early and ipad station bulletin board displayLast you can see the bulletin board near the back of my room where my iPad station is located. This year I was lucky enough to purchase four iPads with money I raised through our Square 1 Art fundraiser and after school art class over the past two years. The iPad station is used when students have the option of creating an alternate assignment to the one we are currently working on. the iPads are located on a half circle/horseshoe table at the back of my room, and the bulletin board displays the icons for various apps we have installed on our iPads, as well as the iPad rules for student use.