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: 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.

New Room Update

I know I haven’t been posting much lately- my online presence has dwindled dramatically- I have been focused on work and family, and since preschool started our family has been struggling with a hectic schedule and frequent illnesses.

I am currently juggling many projects at work, but the most exciting is still the progress of my new art classroom. I hope to document the whole process of packing and moving to my new classroom, and all of the excitement that comes with that, but right now I am still sorting out the logistics of the big move. I am still scheduled to move over the winter break, which means I have finally begun planning and starting to sort and pack. Over the next month and a half I will be packing my room one media at a time until only the essentials are left the last week. I have every grade level using the same media at the same time right now to limit the amount of different types of materials that need to be out. Right now all grade levels are working on landscape painting- once that is finished I will post some examples of my students work and descriptions of the different lessons. Next will be ceramics or K-3rd grade, and collage for 4th-6th. Until then, here are some art room-under-construction photos to tide you over.

Here is my room at the beginning of October.

And here it is as of yesterday morning.

They just installed my cabinets. I don’t know if you can tell from the photo- the holes left in the cabinets are for the sinks (x4). The empty wall with the long horizontal hanging light is where my smart board is being installed with the smart document camera and laptop plugged directly into the wall.