The Little House

It has been a while since I have posted anything.  My apologies for that.  After my course was finished, my family and I went to Turkey and Denmark over the winter vacation. Great places to visit in the winter time.  No crowds, great people, fantastic food and wonderful sites to see.  My only complaint is that I wish we had had more time as you never get to do all that you want to do.

For my first posting of the new year I have gone away form tech a little to post one of my favorite projects that I like to do with grade 1.  It is based on the book The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.  It is a great book that I read as a child.  Read over the lesson plan and see what you think.  The example that is shown is done by my assistant.  I will post some of the student work as soon as we get something done.  If you decide to try it out let me know and maybe we could do a share and critique using Voice Thread or Skype.

Essential Questions:

What kinds of shapes do artists use in their artwork?

How do we as artists see shapes in the world around us?

How do we as artists decide what shapes to use in our artwork?


  • Detail in the natural and constructed environments.
  • ​Shape.
  • ​How to organize their ideas into visual expressions, using the processes and materials of visual art.


  • ​Many objects, lines, colors, shapes, textures, forms and patterns are in the environment.
  • ​Many different shapes.
  • ​How to make basic decisions about their artwork.

  • Drawing from memory.
  • Using scissors for cutting out shapes.
  • Creating images using cut out shapes.
  • Making basic decisions about their image.
Strategies / Activities1) Read the story THE LITTLE HOUSE by Virginia Lee Burton to the students.  When finished, discuss the book asking them to explain what it was about.  Then ask the students to talk about their favorite aspects of the book.  Pass out a sheet of paper and have the students simply draw their favorite part of the story.

2) Next, show some illustrations from the book.  Ask the students to tell me what shapes they see within some of the buildings.  Make a list with the class.  Then with the class construct the little house using only shapes.  Have the class practice drawing the little house and other buildings by using simple shapes.

3) Pass out sheets of 12*18 Bond paper to each of the students.  Using big brushes, have the students paint the entire sheet of paper in one color.  Use primary and secondary colors.  Make sure many sheets of each color are painted.  To simplify things it might be easier to assign each table a color and have them paint that.

4) Explain to the class that they are gong to create there own image of a building using cut out shapes glued to a piece of paper.  Their images can be based on one of the drawings they have already created.  Pass out a sheet of 12*18 black paper for them to use as a background.  Ask them to cut out all of their shapes first and lay them on their paper to see what it will look like.  Once all the shapes have been cut and laid out, they may glue their final image to the paper.

5) Display and critique (if there is time) when the paintings are finished.

EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS:Pencil, eraser, scissors, glue, Bond paper, brushes, water buckets, and tempera paint


Book The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton and various works of art depicting buildings.



Course 5 Final Project: Stick Figures in Motion

The final project for course 5 has been a difficult one to get through.  Trying anything new in the first year of a new one to one iPad program was going bring up some unforeseen problems. I should have known better, but instead of just dove head first into the deep end.  However, I was excited by the possibilities that the iPads offered to my art program and I wanted to take advantage of them

The first problem I encountered was that it was very difficult to do an animation project if you do not have iPads.  Despite the tech departments best efforts, the classroom teachers in grade 4 did not get their class sets of iPads until the late in the first week of October.  The problem seemed to be that Apple would not allow our school to bulk buy all the apps that they wanted to put on each grade levels iPads.  It took weeks to work this out and more time to install all the apps.

The second problem that I ran into was how would the students send me their work.  Our school has a policy where students in grade 4 or lower are not allowed to have a separate school based email account.  First they gave each student in a class the same email address. However, this resulted in Gmail viewing these emails as spam and they were not sent to me.  Next, the school divided each classes into 2 groups and then gave each group an email address.  Again this did not work as Gmail read these as spam.  Yesterday, they tried sending the attached images from the same email addresses, but to an address in the same domain (I think I understood this correctly)  Anyways, it worked and I can now get all of my students work off the iPads and sent to me.

The last problem was that we had to use art time to try and work out the emailing issues.  This led to the kids missing art studio time and as a result we have run out of time to finish everything I wanted to do on this project.  I am going to have to leave out the sharing of their animations using Voice Thread and having the students posting their animations on to the school YouTube account.  I may do that by myself.

However, overall the project has been very well received by the students and they have been fully engaged during class time when they are working on their animations.  I fully plan on doing this again next year and hopefully, now that I have some of the bugs worked out things should go smoother.

Lastly, if anyone out there has tried this project as well please let me know how it went.

*The American in School In Japan utilizes Curriculum Mapping with Rubicon ATLAS.   The following unit is written in the ATLAS form.
* The Art program at ASIJ has limited contact with the elementary school students.  Due to this limited contact, Art only gives an effort grade.

Anchor Poses

Things have been going very smoothly with the Stick Figures in Motion project the last couple of weeks.  My students in Grade 4 have been working on creating anchor poses for their animations the last 2 classes.

As I said in my last post, the students spent a class photographing 3 poses that related to a specific action with their iPads.  Once the photos were taken, the students opened them up using the app Drawing Pad.  They then selected a drawing tool and drew a stick figure directly on top of their photos.  They each had to do this with 3 different actions and 9 poses in total.  An interesting thing that the students discovered taking their photographs was that that if they took a picture with the iPad in a horizontal position, then when the picture was opened up in in Drawing Pad it made them all look like dwarves.

The reason I had the students draw stick figures on the photos of themselves was that I wanted them to see how a stick figure looked when it was properly proportioned and positioned.  Often they make their figures a little distorted because they forget certain body parts or how something should look.  This is a great way of showing the students how things should look.

The next class the students had to take the 3 poses they had drawn on the pictures and put them together on a digital page in drawing pad.  I had them do this to see the relationship between each of the figures in each of their poses.  Often the students would have a figure posed bending over and the next figure beside it standing up but being smaller the the first figure.  If the students are to create a successful animation the figures have to relate to each other in size, position, and proportion.

The students had difficulty doing this.  I would check their work often and have them go back and work out the problems in their poses.  At times they needed a lot of perseverance, but in the end they were able to do it and understood the importance of this lesson.

The next class we start learning the app Flipboom and learning how to create a simple animation.  Next time on my blog, I will be posting my finished unit plan and resources.  Please feel free to use them and PLEASE modify things to your own needs.  Let me know how things go as I am very interested on how it works for you.


Well, fourth grade finally got their iPads last week.  After weeks of waiting and a little wondering if they would ever get here, the iPads made it and I got through an abbreviated first lesson with each class.  I had to take some things out of the lesson because I just felt that I am too far behind and I would’t be able to catch up in time to get my final project done for my course.

For the most part the first lesson went off without a hitch.  All the things that I planned worked with the only a small hiccup coming from the kids getting really excited about the project.  The students were able to figure out the Drawing Pad app in groups quickly as planned and then they were able to draw the stick figure poses without any difficulty.

During one of the classes the admissions office brought by some parents to look at the ES program and they dropped by my room.  When I explained the project of how we were going to create movement through the use of digital animation they seemed genuinely amazed.  I think what was even more impressive to them was how engaged the kids were in their learning.  The kids were focused, on task, excited about what they were doing and ultimately, they were having fun.  That was kind of nice to see.

Next class we will start the next lesson in this project.  The students are to choose an action that they can break down into 3 anchor poses as I call them.  Anchor poses are the major poses that hold a movement together.  The students will then pose in their 3 anchor poses while a neighbor uses their iPad to photograph them.  The students will then use the Drawing Pad app to upload the photographs.  They will then draw stick figures over top of their photograph of themselves.  The idea is to get the right positioning and proportion of each pose.  They may have to take more than 3 photographs to get their overlying drawing absolutely correct.  Once the have got the drawings for the 3 anchor poses done, they will then start out drawing all the incremental poses in between the anchor poses.

Once they have got these done, they will have got all the reference material they need ready to create their animation.  Stay tuned for the next update to see how things went.

Changing the Name of My Blog


For those of you who follow my blog I just want to let you know that I have changed the name for EsArtGuy’s Blog to just ArtGuy’s Blog.  I changed the name of the blog because my wife and I are recruiting for new jobs this year.  In the past I have taught art to students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 as well as to special education and adult students.  I want my blog to reflect my versatility in teaching art to all grades and not just limit myself to one level.

Some may ask if I have a preference as to what level I prefer, but I truly don’t. Each level has it own joys and successes along with some challenges.  I think that is why I don’t have a preference.  I really like how different each level is.  I like working with kids and I like change.  Changing levels keeps me fresh and excited about teaching art.

Stick Figures and Drawing Pad

Well I have run into a little problem in regards to my final project. Unfortunately and despite their efforts, the tech department at our school has run into some difficulties and as a result the iPads are not ready for my grade 4 classes.   I am hoping to get them soon, but at this point I don’t know if I can get them in time to complete my project.   Instead of dwelling on the negative, I am going to push forward and complete my project as best I can.  Once I have examples of student work I will post them as soon as I can.

Now moving forward.  To start my project on Stick Figures in Motion I have the students come in to the art room and I show the some examples of figure drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.  This usually unnerves them a bit, but then I explain that anybody can easily draw the figure.  I then proceed to draw an example of a stick figure on the whiteboard.  I then go through the proportions of one and have them just try to draw a couple of examples.   Next, I have them take out their iPads and open an app called Drawing Pad.  I give them a quick overview of how it works.

I then break them into groups of three and assign each person to “discover” a section of the app.  After about 10 minutes they are to get back into their groups and share what they have learned.  Once each person has shared their area I have them play with the app drawing stick figures for about 10 more minutes. The app is very simple to learn and very intuitive.

Once they get the idea of how to use Drawing Pad, I have them sit around a table and draw their friends in different poses.  The poses range from pretending to hit a baseball, to posing as a model, going for a walk, to falling asleep or doing the splits.   After a few poses the kids are clamoring to pose in front of their friends.  They have a great time doing and often will come up with their own great poses.

Each of these poses they draw is designed in a way that it can be put into a series of 3 poses related to the original pose.  For example, the first pose could be a person standing up and holding a shoe.  The next they are sitting down and putting on their shoes.  The last pose will see the figure standing and walking away.

Now I realize that using Drawing Pad just replaces a pencil and paper with tech, but the idea is for the students to start getting comfortable with an iPad and Pen.  Later on in the project technology will enhance the students learning as oppose with just replacing the old with the new.

For the next step of this project the students are to choose a pose that they can turn into 3 core poses.  They can either use a pose they drew in class or choose one on their own.  They just need to be ready to go by the next class.

I will go over the next section of the project in my next posting.  Hopefully I will have the iPads by then so I can move forward.  If you have any ideas or comments so far on this project just let me know.


Stick figures in Motion – What They Used to Look Like

Moving forward can be a very good thing.  Often we can get stuck with what we are comfortable in doing.  It can take a concerted effort to move forward, modify or totally change a unit of instruction.  The images above are examples of how my Stick Figures in Motion project used to look like before I moved that unit forward to have more of a tech emphasis to it.

Parts of the unit has remain unchanged and other parts have moved forward in the hopes of improving this project.  What has stayed the same is the focus on the human figure, its proportions, the use of line and drawing from different points of view.  What has changed is the use of technology to allow a clearer idea of how the body works in motion through digital animation and the ability to share one’s work with a wider audience.

By using the digital animation, the students can fill in all of the little movements between their 3 major poses without having to do a myriad of drawings.  That in itself could be very interesting, but that takes time and space; both of which I do not have a lot of right now.  Also, the simple fact that the students can share their work beyond the walls of their classroom is huge.  Sharing, getting new ideas, and seeing different perspectives allows for a lot of new learning opportunities.  With new learning comes growth and new opportunities.

My hope is that by taking an existing unit I can move it forward so that the learning that happens has a better impact on the students and that they have a clearer understanding of how line, figures, proportion and movement can be expressed art.  It will be very interesting to get their feedback on this when we are all finished this project.

Lastly, don’t forget if you would like to contribute in anyway to making this project even better, just send me your ideas.  Remember two heads are better than one.

Final Project for Coetail – Need Your Help

For my final Coetail project, I want to present a project where my students illustrate movement using digital animation.  The idea is to create a digital animation using a simple app on the iPad and then have the students share it with their peers in grade 4 and then a little farther away with students in our high school.  The ultimate goal would to find an art class outside of Japan to share with.

However, I want to change things up a bit for myself.  One of the hardest things for me is not always having feedback for the projects I design.  I want to continue to grow as an educator and to continue to improve the quality of of the assignments that I give to my classes.  So for this last project I want of open up things to everyone.  Give me some ideas or feedback and if I get it early enough I will try to incorporate it into my project as i go along.  I will also keep people posted by trying to make regular updates as to how things are going so far in this unit.

Below you will find the basic unit plan.  Read it over and let me know what you think.  The old adage of “2 heads are better than one” will hopefully help me out.

Stick Figures in Motion

Essential Questions

How can movement or a sequence of events be shown in an image?
In what ways can line be used to show movement in an image?
How can other subject areas affect the creation of my art images?
How does technology affect movement in an image?
How can I learn from sharing my work?


  • Skills which will help them, in later years, to depict people and objects accurately
  • Parallels between art and other subjects can be made in order to enhance all of their arts experiences (PE and Drama)
  • How to demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology
  • Digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others


  • People are unique in their features
  • Visual images can be used to show a sequence of events
  • Begin to make connections among their experiences in other subject areas (PE or drama)
  • Original works are a means of personal or group expression
  • Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
  • Vocabulary: line, movement, sequence, frame, frames per second, onion skinning


  • Create a series of “human” images using stick figures
  • Create the digital animation of movement on iPads using Flipboom
  • Collaborate with others to share work digitally
  • Reflect and learn from shared ideas about artwork


  • Formative: Visual representation
  • Teacher observation of students’ ability to create an digital video showing  movement.  Observation of students then sharing and commenting on their work and the work of others


  • Brainstorm the concept of movement in art. Show examples of artwork that suggest movement.
  • Demonstration on drawing stick figures
  • Have students take turns creating poses for their peers to draw in the middle of the room and have the other students sketch it on their iPads
  • Have students choose one of those poses to continue by moving it through its natural course.  In all, 3 poses will be drawn
  • Have students create a simple animation based on the 3 “anchor” poses
  • Simple introduction and discovery of the app Flipboom
  • Share finished work with their peers using Voice Thread
  • Digital display of animation and critique.


Equipment and Materials:

  • Ipads, Flipboom


  • Artwork and videos of stick figure animation
  • Examples of Voice Thread

Disguising a Ceramic Slab Box

The more reading I do about flipped/reverse classrooms the more I think it is applicable to some of the things I do in my elementary art classes.  As I have said before in some of my postings is that I just don’t have a lot of time with my students.  Finding more time is always a challenge.  However, using the ideas of a flipped classroom can actually gain more classroom time for the students and I.  With this ceramics unit I am trying to incorporate it and see how things go.

Having the students go home and watch videos on different art techniques saves me a lot of time.  Depending on the technique I need to show how to do in class, I could be spending anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes demonstrating.  That is a lot of time taken away from the students in a 1 hour class.  If the students watch the videos at home, they can come to their next art class and get to work almost right away.  This gives them more time to practise and learn the technique needed for the project and allows me to give each students more individualized time.  If they have more time, then the quality of work should go up as well.

In the past the finished boxes have always gotten a terrific response from other students, faculty and parents.  However, the students really have not heard this feedback.  In a response to this I have already talked to one of our great high school art teachers to see if she would like to do the exact same project as me with her ceramics students.  My idea is to create a flattened classroom where my 4th graders would share their finished work with the high school students and they would do the same with my 4th graders.  We would use VoiceThread to facilitate the communication between the 2 groups.

The more opportunities that students have to share their work will only make them stronger talking about their art and listening to what others have to say about it.  In the end this only helps them become stronger and more confident artists.

If this is successful I would like to go further a field.  If anybody reading this blog posting would like to join us in this exercise or knows of anybody who may be interested just email at and we can try to get this up.  I would love to have you and your students join me in this project.  Reaching out to others and seeing the answers they come up with will be a great inspiration to my students.  It will also help me by having another person take look at the project and see what kind of perspective they may have.

Dragon                       Microwave Oven                 Boom Box

Course 4 Final Project – Disguising Ceramic Slab Boxes