Architect Visits 5th Grade Art

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On Thursday, March 20th, fifth grade Art classes got a visit from Mr. Craig Thompson, an area architect affiliated with AIA. He was able to share what he does, the education required, and the cool projects he is currently working … Continue reading

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February/March News

Third grade artists completed a unit using recyclable cardboard (mostly cereal and cracker boxes), constructing cardboard owls and fish. Then, they were painted with acrylic paint, and we made looms with them! Being able to do a little bit of free form weaving builds dexterity and refines small motor skills. Currently, students are designing “two environments” with two animals in each, which will be turned into watercolor paintings. So far, the sketches have turned out great, and students are very excited to be using real watercolor paper for the project.
Fourth grade students completed their clay tiles, based on the theme of “Community”. These are going to be part of a school installation, a tile mural (hopefully put together as soon as summer break begins). There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work needed to pull this together, including getting the materials needed for installing tile, thanks to a grant I wrote from the Aurora Schools Foundation. We are hoping to get some parent volunteers to help out on this very exciting project! Next up, fourth graders are working on their second cartoon unit, designing themselves as a regular cartoon and also as a creative character. We are starting the watercolor portion of this project by gradually building up values, from light to dark, which takes patience and practice! There are wonderful watercolor tips here.
Fifth grade students finished a unit integrating Common Core Language Arts Standards, designing and analyzing graphic novels. All the students worked in teams of three or more, and drew the same story, “Pandora’s Box” (a Greek myth), but utilizing different tones. So some have “futuristic” aspects like Pandora going through a wormhole, others have “fantastical” elements (think Zeus as a wizard), and even “funny” ones featuring Pandora as a panda! We started the process with storyboards, then moved to layout designing, and then the cartooning began. Moving into March, fifth grade artists are so excited to be working with clay! They are using either slab or pinch pot construction methods to make either a “big mouth creature”, “garden gnome”, or a vase.

The year is really flying by! In other news, artwork was shown at the annual Aurora Fish Fry, and coming up in a little over a month, the huge District Art Show, up at Aurora High School during the spring musical. Selected student pieces are also being displayed at local business, “The Latest Scoop”.

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December/January News

Third grade artists completed the first part of their cartooning unit, “Art Dogs” We talked about building our pictures by using the “simple shapes” (square, rectangle circle, oval, triangle), which is a great tool to build confidence and accuracy! Our second cartooning exploration is “Zonkey” cartooning, which still uses simple shapes, but adds a fun spin based on the artwork of teacher/illustrator, Ian Sands. You can watch a video of Ian narrating a Zonkey cartoon creation below.

3rd-Art Dogs
3rd-Art Dogs

Fourth grade artists completed a big integration with Common Core Writing Standards, creating completed comic books in the Manga/Anime Style. Once again, we built upon our knowledge base of drawing with simple shapes, plus added the concept of drawing using proportions. In general, Anime characters in the “cute” or “Chibi” style are approximately “4 heads high”. I created a reference resource for my students on Pinterest–> https://www.pinterest.com/lgirbino/manga/

Fifth grade artists had a blast creating mobiles using some of the supplies so generously donated by the Aurora division of GE: watercolor paper, watercolors, new paint brushes, oil pastels and armature wire. We learned about the patterned art of Hundertwasser and applied watercolor patterns to the 6 organic shapes that students drew and cut-out as the start of their mobile. Then, students did oil pastel designs on the other side of their shapes. In the final studio class, we used armature wire to do three sets of balanced pairs (working from large to small) and stringing them together with yarn. Our inspiration for the mobiles was Alexander Calder (of course), an engineer who became an artist. Here is a beautiful website about his life and work–> http://www.calder.org/ This beautiful art was all sent home right before break. We are now working on observational drawing skills in our sketchbooks and beginning another CCSS integration for Language Arts–graphic novels!

5th mobiles

5th mobiles


5th mobiles

5th mobiles

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November Art News

Third grade students are wrapping up their Warhol-inspired soup can pop-outs. These three dimensional pieces started with brainstorming creative ideas for “What’s in Your Can?”, then moved onto label designing, before construction using colored construction paper and paper engineering techniques. Our next projects involve cartooning with “simple shapes” (square, rectangle, cycle, oval, and triangle), which is what artists use to build up their observational drawing skills. We will start with “Art Dogs”, drawing “pups with personality” (and lots of color and pattern), then move onto “Zonkey style” cartooning in January.

Fourth grade students are working on their big Language Arts integration in their Manga cartooning unit. Manga is a Japanese style of cartooning that is very popular and widespread on channels like Cartoon Network and Nicklelodeon. We started with descriptive character writing, which was the template for their comic book cover and layout pages. I worked with the students on their punctuation, grammar, and descriptive writing skills before we transitioned to some serious cartooning! We look to wrap up this unit soon, then will be moving onto a “Zentangle” 3D paper cube. After break, we have a very exciting project coming up, a collaborative tile mural (much more on that to follow). For those of you interested in learning more on how to cartoon in the Manga style, I have a special board on Pinterest with kid-friendly instructions:https://www.pinterest.com/lgirbino/manga/
Fifth grade students completed their very detailed “Architectural Patterns”, looking at famous architecture examples before using a viewfinder to help them pick out an interesting pattern to repeat and color in with colored pencils. This took a lot of patience and attention to detail, but as the students discovered, “repetition” is a powerful design tool.


Our next project, running into holiday break and beyond is a Calder mobile, using some of the amazing supplies generously donated to our art program from the Aurora division of GE (see our school newsletter HERE).

We are using watercolor paper painting watercolor patterns on one side, then oil pastels designs on the other. Eventually, we will assemble our kinetic sculptures (sculptures that move) using armature wire and yarn. My sample project is below.

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A Little Scratch Programming Test

Thanks Mrs. Gagel for this news: “One week from today is Computer Science Education Week. No, computer programming skills are not on the test, but kids who use computer programming skills are using problem solving skills…By teaching some of the … Continue reading

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October Newsletter

Our third grade students created Artists’ Trading Cards (A.T.C.’s for short), making five of them (2 to trade, 3 to keep) based on one of eight themes. They used tagboard, crayons with texture rubbing plates, colored construction paper, and markers.These cards are made by artists all over the world, and is a form of collaboration as well as having real-world connections.

3rd ATC


3rd ATC


3rd ATC


Our fourth grade artists completed their “Design Thinking: The Wallet Project” unit, based on the design school methodology taught at Stanford. Design Thinking is a real-world form of developing new products using the brainstorm/rapid prototype/revise/prototype again cycle. Students were challenged to make their wallets from atypical materials such as cereal box cardboard, fabric scraps, and duct tape. Additionally, students completed a peer assessment using an “art sandwich” (writing two things they like about their peer’s wallet, and one suggestion for improvement).

Fifth grade students completed their geometry integrative art unit on radial design, crafting 4 “slot cards” in a radial pattern, using colored pencil to make their art “pop”. Being able to use rulers and math to divide their cards into eight equal segments around a center point was the key to this project. “Slot cards” are most often used for architectural prototyping, as an easy way to see how a building looks with simple materials.


In November through early December, third grade is working on “Pop Art Cans”, fourth grade is integrating descriptive writing as the basis for their “Anime/Manga Cartoons”, and fifth grade is wrapping up “Architectural Patterns” before starting a kinetic sculpture unit.
In other news, our Artsonia gallery is gradually taking shape for 2013.14, selected fourth grade artists are having their radial linoleum block prints displayed at Aurora business, “The Latest Scoop”, and our fifth grade Art Club’s “circle paintings” are displayed in the halls near LES Media Center!

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September Art News

It is hard to believe that we are already done with the first month of school! Third grade artists have been working hard on their “Vejigantes” style papier mache masks and are finishing them up this first week of October (using acrylic paint to add pattern and color). This style of mask-making originated in Puerto Rico and is known for creative shapes and even more creative use of color! You can check out my Pinterest resource for this project at http://www.pinterest.com/lgirbino/vejigantes/
Fourth graders learned about balancing “positive & negative space” as they carved and printed linoleum blocks. They printed their blocks radially, which means rotating around a center point; this is a math concept integration. Additionally, students are wrapping up 2 positive/negative concept extension projects: negative space “Zentangle” and negative space tree branches.


Fifth grade also explored radial design with their “slot card” designs, using rulers to divide each card into radial segments, then adding design with colored pencil. Moving into October, the fifth grade will collaboratively build structures with their cards after an investigation of “pattern” within famous architecture. A tremendous resource about radial design, building with slot cards, and cultural examples of radial design is HERE.
The next units coming up as we move through October are: 3rd grade–Artists’ Trading Cards (ATC’s); 4th grade–”The Wallet Project/Design Thinking”; and 5th grade–Architectural Patterns.

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Amazing 2013/14 ART Start!

The first week of the new year was so much fun in LES Art! Meeting so many new third grade students and their parents at Meet & Greet, plus seeing so many familiar fourth and fifth grade families was a true joy. Your students have already chosen their seats for the year, Wednesday classes finished drawing activities, and we are ready to jump into some very engaging projects starting next week. Each table number has a name this year: #1 is Pencil Ninjas, #2 is Color Coders, #3 is Shape Shifters, #4 is Paint Planet, #5 is Build Guild, #6 is Crafty Clan, and #7 is Idea Island. The names correspond to special art tasks to keep the art room running smoothly and to support student responsibility and engagement. Additionally, students will be on a rotation schedule this year. I am very excited about this four day rotation as it will minimize missing art days due to holidays and absences. Generally, everyone will still have Art once a week, and after the four days, the rotation starts anew. Most of our media is washable, but if there is a concern, your students can keep an art shirt in their locker. We are also implementing a sketchbook assessment that will follow the students from third grade through seventh grade Art. This vertically aligned assessment will provide a wonderful snapshot of your student’s creative growth longitudinally. I am looking forward to the most exciting year yet in LES Art and will post each Month’s information and images here, so bookmark my website or start following us for automatic updates.

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April & May Wrap-Up

Third grade learned about Surrealism and discussed the artwork of Salvador Dali (“Persistence of Memory”) & Marc Chagall (“I & the Village”). Students thought about their own dreams, and used that as the inspiration for making rubbing templates out of tagboard. We then focused on the fine art of “frottage”, which is making rubbings, but using color layers, offsetting, and moving the plate around to improve the composition. This method (from French frotter, “to rub”) is a surrealist and “automatic” method of creative production developed by Max Ernst in 1925. Students wrote about their Surrealistic Dreams as their artists’ statements.
Fourth Grade used pattern in clay tiles decorated with engobe and finished off with a layer of acrylic “glitter glaze”, made paisley patterns with construction paper and colored pencils in addition to using Adobe Photoshop on the computers, and ended the year with one point perspective street scenes watercolored on Yupo. You can see many paisley patterns of both media types at our digital gallery on Artsonia.
5th grade made 2 point perspective treehouses using tempera paint and watercolor in April, continued their rotations to computers to design bus shelters using “Trimble Sketch-Up”, and spent well over a month creating art from discarded books for our “Altered Books” project. Great resources for making Altered Books is HERE. We ended our fifth grade art year (and I will miss all my students as the move on to middle school!!), with “Notan” (balancing light/dark, positive/negative) in a composition. Notan examples and a wonderful video we watched to get the students started is on Pinterest.


If you want to keep busy creating over the summer, here is my “Summer Symbaloo”, chock full of elementary age appropriate activities and websites that are free and do not require downloads (see screenshot below).

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April/May Art Gallery Samples

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