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: Kiln Cart Shelf Tags

Since I always have multiple grade levels and multiple stages of clay at ceramics time, I had to find a way to keep different classes work organized. When I moved into my fancy schmancy new art room, I was able to order a ceramics cart like this one which has made transporting and storing clay sculptures in progress much more manageable.


Even still, I usually have every single shelf of this cart full, plus the storage shelves in my kiln room, plus multiple trays or copy paper box lids of sculptures to be glazed or returned. In order to easily see which class of sculptures is which without picking sculptures up and flipping them over to find a class code, I made a set of class code tags that can be easily clipped to any shelf, box, or tray using a binder clip. I laminated a set that includes one tag for every class we have in our school, color coded by grade level of course, and I keep them in a bag clipped onto the side of the cart.


Inside the bag with the tags I also keep binder clips that are exactly the right size for the shelves. When it is time to store work on the rolling cart I clip the class code tag to the shelf and students know on exactly which shelf to store their unfinished sculptures.


After bisque firing I move the sculptures and tag to a tray that I can carry into my room, which leaves more room on the rolling cart for greenware. When sculptures have been glaze fired and are waiting to be returned to students I move the tag and sculptures onto a shelf in my kiln room until it is time for them to go home. IMG_3178 IMG_3168This system keeps things organized and helps my art teacher colleague find her things if I have fired them while she was at her other school. Even if I had a sub and wanted to leave glazing for the day, all I would have to do is let them know which class code to look for.


Year in Review-Most Popular Posts in 2012

I received my annual report stats from WordPress in my email yesterday and was a little disappointed in myself for dropping the blogging ball this year. I was barely able to keep up with posting before, during, and after the big move to my new art room, and I think that lull left me less than enthusiastic about returning to the art ed social networking and blogging world. I have been extra involved in my school systems professional learning community for elementary art teachers, as well as leading professional development opportunities, and mentoring new teachers, which has taken away from the amount of time I have spent interacting with other art teachers online.

Rather than dwelling on what I did wrong in blogging this year, I thought this might be a good time to focus on what went right, so I reviewed my most popular posts during the past year and thought I would share them again here. Since I plan on posting more frequently and focusing on my areas of strength, I thought a review of my most popular posts of the past before rolling out new posts this year.

Top 5 Most Popular Posts in 2012

1. Organization: Lesson Planbook

weekly plans

Thanks to Pinterest this post has become quite popular. This year I also posted about making the transition from paper lesson planning to digital. 

2. Organization: Art Room Tour 2010


Also my made popular by Pinterest, this is also my most popular post of all time. The popularity of this post has inspired me to start doing an art room tour at the beginning of every school year. I know I missed the beginning of this 2012-13 school year, but stay tuned for an updated art room tour coming soon!

3. Lesson Inspiration: Sixth Grade Yearbook Cover Designs 2011

lc yearbook cover 2010

The popularity of this post displaying some of the finalists for our 2011 yearbook cover contest made me think that I don’t post examples of student artwork frequently enough. I know that what I appreciate most in other art teacher blogs is images of completed student work. I plan to post more images of my students’ work this year.

4. Organization: Storage Room 2010

storage room

Another tour post that was extremely popular, thanks to The Teaching Palette’s Art Room Showcase 2010: Space Organizing invitational. You can check out the Flickr feed including all entries here. Like the Art Room Tour post, I plan on posting an updated Storage Room tour soon- stay tuned!

5. Lesson Inspiration: Metal Repousse


I was shocked when I discovered that the images from this impromptu post had reached the front page of the Google image search- a proud moment in my digital footprint history.