1st Grade


"I Am Wearing an Enchanted Hat" by Jack Prelutsky

The first graders are then given the challenge - and let me emphasize "challenge" to make themselves wearing an enchanted hat, using only cut paper.
We learn how to get started, brainstorm lots of possibilities and let them loose with lots of color paper. They are doing a really good job and as always, the projects are quite charming.

Here are some in progress:

Shhh....as a last step I will let them use a marker or crayon to add final detail, but up until now they have been limited to layering scraps of paper and thinking about how to make their ideas specific and recognizable.


Seeing the students make their family portraits is one of the highlights of my year.
We begin by looking at the painting by Bronzino that is almost 500 years old.

Then we look at families from different cultures and other times!

Students have to "compose" their picture to fit in all family members that live in their house. They is wiggle room on that part as well, as families have different ways of being a family together.
No matter what, the drawings are a delight to see.


Self-Portraits are often our first project of the year. You can find these fantastic drawings displayed outside your student's classroom.

They are always delightful to look at.

Now we are progressing to our study of Freidenreich Hundertwasser - an Austrian artist, architect and philosopher.
To prepare for that we did an open-ended exercise using cut shapes and concentric lines. They are now on display in the main hall and are mesmerizingly beautiful.
Please know they are a skill builder for our next unit.


WE are finishing up our Family Portraits inspired by Bronzino.
I am going to hold them for display at the CH art show in early April.
Until then...


We talked about Concentric Shapes in our last project inspired by Kandinsky's painting:
 No doubt you saw the student work on display in their classrooms.

Our next project began with a simple premise - to reinforce the idea of concentric circles-
Students began with colored paper and cut and glued 3x 3 concentric circles. They then were challenged to invent shapes in patterns for the petals of a flower. They were encouraged to get fancy and add color.
I think they are some of the most beautiful drawings I have seen made by 1st graders. I bet you agree.


Drawing Skeletons came next, as a way to capture the enthusiasm for Halloween and all that work went home to help everyone get in the mood for that special night.


Students are beginning with a simple self portrait and are off to a strong start.
You will be able to view them in the halls during our Back-to-School night.


Tarbeach by Faith Ringgold.
This is the storyquilt painting by Faith Ringgold with the story of "Tarbeach" written on the quilt. The storyquilt was Ringgold's invention as her most authentic way to tell her story. She is an African American feminist artist still living in NYC.


We talked about the story of Cassie Louise Lightfoot and how life was tough for her family as mixed race people of color. She worried about her parents and her father's struggle to find work, even though he had been a builder working on the George Washington bridge in NYC.
On tarbeach- the roof of their apartment building, where her family had picnics on hot summer nights, Cassie would fall asleep and dream of a better world, a world where she could give her parents what they wanted and needed.

1st grade students brainstormed and discussed how they too could make the world a better place, and they drew themselves flying in a dream.


1st grade students were introduced to a painting by Joan Miro.

"Figur Vor Rotor Sonne" (Figure in front of red sun)


 Students learned that artists use the word "figure" to mean a human or creature with legs.
They heard that Miro was Spanish and lived in France and later in his life he liked to paint simply - like a child - using simple shapes and simple colors.
Students learned or were reminded about the primary colors and how they are the beginning ingredients for all the other colors.

Their creative challenge was to invent their own creature and use primary colors to paint their "figure" with a planet/sun/celestial body.

To invent their creature they were shown how artists sometimes have to experiment to come up with new ideas. (I frequently teach this process, but it is now part of the new National Arts Standards)

Students were given a demonstration about how to combine any shapes to make a figure - body, neck, head, tail, legs.... and were asked to experiment 4 times. They were then asked to choose their favorite to draw for their painting.

Here are some in process:

 They did a very! good job.
The goal is also to get them painting and learning about color mixing is next.

 Recently students have been working to compose a Family Portrait. They took the inspiration from the portrait of the Medici mother and son painted by Bronzino in 1545!


Students had to learn to fit all their family members into the picture plane. 
Here are some of the delightful results.

Some students completed their Hundertwasser paintings of their imaginary neighborhood. I think they turned out just great with many showing layers and referring to Hundertwasser's love of spirals, and organic/not straight lines.
Enjoy a few here!

Students have been busy, which might explain my lag here. You will see on your visit to school during conference days their wonderful self-portraits.

Recently we began looking deeper into the work of Freiedreich Hundertwasser - an Austrian artist, architect who was a devoted environmentalist and lover of nature and somewhat anti-establishment (explained by his childhood in WW2 Austria).

He "hated the straight line" and thought buildings should evolve and grow organically. He was the modern inventor of the eco or green roof, though this practice certainly predates modern times in many cultures.
He believed in "window rights," that is that anyone who lives in an apartment should have the right to paint outside their window so that visitors can spot where they live.

Here are a few windows:

We did a simple drawing project inspired by this idea. Students drew a window and decorated around it. Most of these drawings were brought home so I assume you have seen them.

Here are some of his buildings: pretty amazing


Students are also looking at his paintings, noticing his love of layers, recognizing his reference to snail shells - which he thought was the perfect house.



Students were asked to make a drawing of their own imaginary house and to surround their house with everything that they like. pets, candy store, lazy river, playground, garden, friends houses...
they are off to a great start!

Wassily Kandinsky

Kandinsky had a long career and his painting style evolved over time.

We look at this painting as a great skill warm up for the year.

 We review the words for different shapes and talk about controlling the lines of the concentric rows ...I say "leave a road that a toy car can drive on."
We get to remember how to color to fill the space and students get to do a watercolor step. I think the results are especially pretty this year and I hope you do too.


“I’m Wearing an Enchanted Hat”  by Shel Silverstein
I’m wearing an enchanted hat upon my lovely locks.
I made it from a pillowcase, bandannas, rags, and socks.
I painted it more colors than I’ve even learned to name.
The size and shape keep changing, though the colors stay the same.
No sooner did I wear it that it was apparent that
my remarkable creation was no ordinary hat.
I happened to be thinking of my missing teddy bear,
when suddenly atop my head, I felt it sitting there.
When I have got my hat on, all I need to do is wish.
If I wish for chocolate pudding, it appears upon a dish.
I have wished for giant crayons and a dancing kangaroo,
a miniature unicorn, and each of them came true.
No matter what I wish for, it is granted instantly.
If it can fit inside my hat, It simply comes to be.
I’m learning what to never ever wish for anymore
I get tired of escaping from my tiny dinosaur. 
Students are challenged with making their own enchanted hat, using only cut paper. It is really difficult but they did an amazing job this year.
Here are some examples of their work:

Since students have been learning about penguins in their classroom, it is a good time for them to feature them in an art project along with the southern lights.  They are also called the Aurora Australis, and are as beautiful as the northern lights.

Students are learning how to draw a penguin realistically and how to color them to show which species of penguin it is. They do this with oil pastel, coloring the snowy, ice-y or rocky ground thickly as well. Then we get out the liquid watercolor and the students can add the streaky, bright colors of the Aurora Australis and call the art complete.
The project is simple, but satisfying as the students already love penguins!


We have completed Tar Beach and have moved on to a nice project that teaches some important art skills and taps into the students imagination.

I call it the "Magic Jar."
We begin by reading Anno's Mysterious Magic Multiplying Jar, just to get into the mood of thinking creatively and with a jar as the subject. We then brainstorm all the things that are real or imaginary that could go in a jar. This generates a long list and lots of excitement.

Students learn how to draw a jar or any shape.
They test their ideas and then off they go, to design a jar and fill it with at least 4 different things, imaginary or real.

The next step is where the art skills come in. When the jars are drawn and colored, students will cut them out and glue them on a larger paper. THEN they will learn to create a "space" with a foreground and background, using the big trick of a "stop and start line."

Tarbeach- by Faith Ringgold

We began by reading Tarbeach, a book by the artist Faith Ringgold, who tells a dream like story, her story of her father's discrimination and how she would like to make the world a better place for him.

We brainstormed how we could make the world a better place, with food for hungry people, hospitals and churches- as whatever faith you have, all faiths believe it is good to help people.
Students drew their scenes in the style used in Tarbeach.
There are many good and kind ideas and the students are doing a good job.

Here are some pictures of their progress.

Family Portraits

We looked to Bronzino as an inspiration for our family portraits. This painting was painted 470 years ago.
Students were taught to compose their picture by beginning with the ovals of the face. "Fit all the ovals into the picture then go to the front row and add the shoulders and neck of each of those people. Then do the same on the back row."

They have done a great job and I look forward to displaying them in the hall later next week when they are complete.

We did a fun project inspired by Eric Carle's "Busy Spider." You can see many of the hanging in the classroom.

As the holiday season approaches, I just feel the desire to do a wintery scene. I confess to having found the simple idea on Pinerest, but if you know me, I cannot follow their directions. I have to change the lesson according to my needs and goals.
So I have never done this one before and the first graders did a GREAT job. I am so happy with the results and the variety of their results.
I can bet you will be delighted as well.
Here are a few examples:

I wanted students to have an opportunity to paint more and mix colors.
We read a Leo Lionni book - "Matthew's Dream" about a mouse who wants to grow up to be a painter. Matthew wants to paint abstract paintings of shape and color, so it is a perfect segue into another painting time.
Students were asked to prepare two pieces of paper with a swirly drawing of intersecting lines. Next they painted, mixing colors at will as they were given only the primary colors. Also this was a time to continue practicing controlling the brush.

This is how it looked.


Last week we began looking at the painting by Joan Miro.
"Figur Vor Rotor Sonne " (figure with red sun)

Students noticed how Miro made a creature using simple shapes and limited himself to painting with the primary colors. "Even really good artists sometimes like to make simple art."

Students were given the task of experimenting with shapes, combining them to create a creature. They were to do 6 little experiments, 6 drawings and just see what they invent. They did a great job making all kinds of interesting looking figures.

Next they were asked to chose their favorite, and draw it larger for painting.
They used only primary colors to paint today, but will have another chance to paint next class and enjoy to beauty of mixing colors.

Here are some of their first paintings.


Here are a few results


Last week students painted their Kandinsky circles.
This year I had them use regular watercolor paint sets instead of a few choices of liquid watercolor . The results are more complex and brighter and I think the students had more fun.


We have moved on to a look at Wassily Kandinsky. He had a long and diverse painting career so he is fun to revisit at different stages of his work.

His concentric circles painting is an inspiration that meets several goals for the students.
  • expand vocabulary
  • review shapes and how to draw them
  • practice the fine motor control of drawing concentrically - ("leave a road for a little car to drive around")
  • color completely
  • paint
They are off to a good start. I'll post the results soon.

Students are doing a great job with their self-portraits and I believe they will be completed by the back to school picnic.
Here are a few of the completed ones:


The first graders are beginning the year with a simple self-portrait. We are starting with a practice version to refresh their skills and warm up their attention for process and procedures.

Students were reminded about how to draw a face and asked to do that and cut it out, head and shoulders. They did a very good job with the drawing, following directions and controlling their scissors. Really, very well.

I have prepared a background paper, like a word cloud, but with information that will be true for the student. There is a different one for each class, and a variety of colors to choose from.
Here is the background.


Next week students will be given higher quality paper and be asked to draw, color and cut out their self-portrait. We will then glue them to the background with the goal of having a memorable portrait, documenting the start of this school year.

I look forward to sharing their work next week.

"I'm wearing an Enchanted Hat" by Shel Silverstein
Students were limited to communicating with cut paper only. Boy that was hard, but they did it.
Yay (now on to an easier project).


“I’m Wearing an Enchanted Hat”  by Shel Silverstein
I’m wearing an enchanted hat upon my lovely locks.
I made it from a pillowcase, bandannas, rags, and socks.
I painted it more colors than I’ve even learned to name.
The size and shape keep changing, though the colors stay the same.
No sooner did I wear it that it was apparent that
my remarkable creation was no ordinary hat.
I happened to be thinking of my missing teddy bear,
when suddenly atop my head, I felt it sitting there.
When I have got my hat on, all I need to do is wish.
If I wish for chocolate pudding, it appears upon a dish.
I have wished for giant crayons and a dancing kangaroo,
a miniature unicorn, and each of them came true.
No matter what I wish for, it is granted instantly.
If it can fit inside my hat, It simply comes to be.
I’m learning what to never ever wish for anymore
I get tired of escaping from my tiny dinosaur. 
Students are challenged with making their own enchanted hat, using only cut paper. It is really difficult but they are growing in their ability.
Here are their starts:


As the 1st graders are studying Penguins through their math lesson, we decided to do an art project to support their natural enthusiasm.

Here and in their classroom they have learned about the penguins and practiced drawing them. The element added in the art room, is the scene including the "southern lights." (same as the northern lights, just in the southern hemisphere).

The project is fairly straightforward and the students are doing a fine job with them.

We have just completed a project I call "The Magic Jar." It is a multi-step drawing project in which the students are taught to create a sense of spatial illusion (one of my favorite things to teach and one I expect them to use often).

We began by reading "Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar, "just something to get our minds into the idea of imaginary things within a jar.  Students brainstormed the possibilities and after learning some new ways to design their own jar, they got to work.

They drew a large Jar and then filled it with real and/or imaginary objects. As you might expect, coming up with imaginary ideas for the jar was very easy for the kids.
They drew well and colored clearly.
The next step was to cut out the jar and mount it on a larger piece of paper.
Illusion of space, and an explanation of horizon line was introduced.  I like to use the phrase "stop and start line" for drawing a horizon line behind an existing object.
Students learned some of these tricks and we brainstormed some possible scenes, then they got to work.
They did a very good job. Many of these will be in the Art Show on 4/4.
Here are a few to give you an idea of what we did.

Next - a project about PENGUINS!  

Making progress on the family portraits and they are looking good.

Family Portrait inspired by Bronzino, painted in Florence Italy in 1544. 
Yes, by looking at this painting, students can determine that it is of a mother and child and that they are wealthy and it was painted long ago, not in the United States.  They are observant and discerning even in 1st grade.


Students will be drawing and painting a family portrait of their own. Should be wonderful.

Sketching has begun:

Yes the Tar Beach story was a great way to talk about making a better world. Students had many good ideas to help people who need food, help animals, nature, and sick children (and more).
Here are some examples of their work.

This week we will be starting a mixed media project inspired by Faith Ringgold's book Tar BeachThe story is a little girl's dream of a more equitable world, and provides a nice introduction to the concepts embodied in MLK day.


Students painted and painted several Miro style paintings. First they were required to use the same colors as Miro, the primary colors.  They did quite well.
Then they were shown how to mix colors to get whatever they wanted. And as I have always seen, they had so much fun with that opportunity.
Here are some of the results:

For the past week and a half students have been learning a little about Joan Miro and how he/artists (and scientists) sometimes experiment to find new ideas.  Miro appreciated simplicity and tapped into his intuitive art wisdom.

Students looked at Miro's "Figure against a red sun" to better understand the motivation behind the assignment. Then they were taught how to combine shapes to create "creatures" with the goal of experimenting with shapes...putting shapes together and then see what they happen to make.
Most students did 8 or more experiments and were wonderfully open to the experiments.

The next step was to draw their favorite two creature creations on a heavier paper and they were give the direction to use the primary colors to paint their picture.
This is the first time these students have painted with me, so I was happy to teach them how I wanted them to handle the materials.  Many did a very good job.

My plan is for them to do several more paintings on this theme.  As this was the first time painting, some students had the control they wanted, while others did not.  This is one of the many instances where practice does make a positive difference.
So we will do another painting and a third one, in which I can introduce color mixing....which is a whole other can of worms and an exciting one at that.

Painting is so much fun!


The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle is the inspiration for our current project.  I just love introducing a project using a picture book as it is an efficient way to have a story instigating a project (and humans think in stories) plus it honors the concept of valuing reading and appreciating illustration.

For a nice change, this is a collage project with painted and decorated papers manufactured by the students.  Kids get to practice their scissors skills, they learn how to use elmer's glue (the BEST for paper, but only use "tear drops") and get to build/assemble their project.  Also "spiders" connect to the classroom math lessons in their "bridges" program and spiders are kind of spooky, as all children are now anticipating Halloween.  Gosh, this project covers all the bases.

The final step is a web made with glue and glitter! Glitter, can you believe it? but lets face it, glitter is really magical and pretty (even in the mind of the art teacher).


As Vincent Van Gogh was on my mind with the work with the 2nd graders and these 1st graders are now the experts of contour and concentric, I thought a quick "Starry Night," was in order.
Starry Night is one of the most famous, recognizable works of art in the world.

Students were given a brief background on Van Gogh, described as a man who had some problems with his mind, but was quite brilliant in art.  That is about all I am ever interested in saying about him, but I did want to mention his thinking troubles to the students.  As they too have school friends who have special needs and don't understand the world in the same way, I think it is a positive reminder that these people can sometimes have brilliant talents or ways of seeing the world.

I gave the students simple step-by-step drawing directions to get a framework for the picture.  they were then given a brand-new-complete set of oil pastels with 24 colors, to use to fill the space with contour lines of color.

They "got it" and this is how the work has begun.

The tree and leaves have come together!



Students  have been busy making leaves in the style of Hundertwasser, with contour lines.
We are in the process of noticing texture on the bark of trees and giving it an artistic interpretation.

Here is the progress we have made on Mrs. J's tree. I gave it a starting structure, students made the bark texture.  Next week, I want students to add more branches, twigs and the leaves.

The goal is to construct and assemble them all throughout next week.
(the new "grove" will be in the hall by the 2nd week in October)

We began the project late last week.
Student work: Hundertwasser "leaves," with contour lines

Next we are going on a tangent from our understanding of “concentric” and do a project with parallel contour lines.  This project is a little bit of a medley of Hundertwasser contour lines + a little science of leaves + awareness of variety of texture in bark. Check it out in a few weeks (we will hang it in the hall), we are making a collaborative tree with colorful contour leaves...at least that is the plan:)
Friedensreiche Hundertwasser

1st grade-The shape paintings of Wassily Kandinsky are a great way to begin.

Student work here:


  1. Thanks for sharing with the parents! It is wonderful to hear about their projects and your goals! What a great addition to their curriculum!

  2. Love seeing the updates about what you're doing in art. Though I must say, our daughter loves it so much that it's one of the only things we DO hear about from her day.