Favourite Lessons

These are some of my favourite lessons because either I really enjoyed teaching the theme OR the students’ enthusiasm made it an extremely memorable and worthwhile teaching experience for me. I very rarely repeat a topic but these ones were so successful that I would not mind teaching them again one day.

9/10 Sculptural Chairs

The 9/10 sculpture students were given their own chair to turn into a chair sculpture. They are used the elements of sculpture (line, mass, plane, texture, colour, space, movement and scale) to make an interesting three dimensional sculpture based on a theme of their choice. At least 4 of the elements had to be incorporated into their designs.

DSC_0963The students had to learn about the difference between a “decorated” (painted two dimensional) chair versus a sculptural chair. They also were required to work with the chair so that it remained a chair sculpture and not a sculpture hiding or engulfing the chair. Using the space within and around the chair was crucial. The chair had to look interesting from all angles. You will never see a group of students more engaged. Have a look at this video and you will see why it has made it to the top of my favourite lessons.

9/10 Surreal “Handscapes”


I loved this unit because it required observational skills and imagination. The creativity grabs the students’ interest as anything is possible.

I began the unit with contour, contour with line variation and tonal drawings of hands. An introduction to Surrealism was given by showing a Prezzi/Powerpoint and playing Surreal games such as automatic drawing. The students researched the movement and created a presentation using their choice of technology. They were required to link their understanding of Surrealism to today’s media.

The creative process was then followed to complete the final task (research, idea generation, media trials, refine, produce and evaluate) .


Umbrella Collaboration (with a Grade 4 Teacher)

DSC_0038This was the first time I have ever painted onto umbrellas. I was asked by Dyan, the grade 4 teacher at HIS to illustrate their stories onto umbrellas. The stories were written in class and the design was created in the art room. We discussed radial design, balance, focal point, movement and how to illustrate an appropriate scene from their story. The art room was pretty crowded with open umbrellas but the project was a huge success because the students really responded to having a different painting surface and they looked incredible hanging up in the cafeteria.

G8 Mandalas

I loved this project because of the HUGE variety of methods of instruction and media available.

We began by introducing/studying mandalas from around the world. The students created a video comparing mandalas from three cultures they then looked at a couple of different techniques online such as: http://www.art-is-fun.com/how-to-draw-a-mandala.html

The first task was a one lesson mandala CD. They followed the guide from the link above to do so and coloured with sharpies. Then they used Photoshop to create their own personal mandala from a photo. This took one to two classes and was very popular. An extension project could be to enhance the design with the special effects and colour schemes.

The final piece began with an observational drawing of nature from outside. The sketches were then turned into a pie design. Many trials and colour plans were completed before they were ready to start their final.

10The students could choose their own media for their final piece. I really like the strength of oil pastels but for detailed work these were not suitable.

G9/10 and G7 Animal Eyes

This project was so popular with my grade 7s in China that I decided to repeat it with my 9/10s in Ghana. The results were sensational.

Katherine 7I loved this task because encouraging students to look “extremely close” makes them pay attention to patterns, tones, textures and tiny details. Chalk is a fabulous media for this however I did originally have my grade 7 class practise with chalk and then paint their eye with acrylic. There is something very captivating about eyes so I didn’t have to ever worry about a student not wanting to do the task.

G 4/5 Optical Art

I particularly enjoyed this task because I hadn’t taught Optical Art ever before. I was very surprised by the effort that my students put into colouring all those small shapes. We had discussed why artists created art and why Optical art exists. The students also viewed some online galleries. The final task took a few weeks but I think the results were very effective. It generated some great discussions about “What is art?”.  It also gave them a great understanding of perspective.

Eve Grade5

G10/11 The Big Issue

I “accidentally” stumbled upon a very good Voicethread where two classes from different countries created group sculptures about “The Big Issue”. I particularly liked this theme because it encouraged the students to research global issues and choose one that was important to them. They then had to use any art medium to communicate the theme. My students in China chose HIV and this is what they created:

G8 Georgia O’Keeffe

The students LOVED learning about Georgia O’Keeffe. They appreciated her style, use of colour, tone and really admired her strength to live in the desert.

They watched a video about Georgia O’Keeffe then sketched three sections of one painting in colour pencils. To prepare them for oil pastel blending their first task was to create an abstract oil pastel blending piece (pictured above) then they were ready to copy their favourite artwork and capture it in oil pastels. If I had more time I would have followed this up with the students taking their own macro flower photo and have them turn it into a painting in the style of Georgia O’Keeffe.


Grade 7 Animals

Both of these tasks were extremely popular. I taught the two different approaches to the same class. The first task was an observational chalk drawing from a photo reference of a favourite animal. I often collect and laminate animal calendars as I can then give the students a choice from appropriate images to work from. I would have checked the tone, texture, patterns and size of the animals were suitable for the task I wanted the students to complete. They then drew the animal five different ways: blind contour, modified contour, negative space, black pen scribble and then a  final detailed sketch. The next step was to practise blending and layering chalks whilst focusing on high-lights, texture and tone.

At home the students studied the history of animals in art and created a visual timeline which was assembled around the room. Animals in art is a fascinating topic because they existed in pre-historic art in caves which was quite a contrast to the emotional use of colour by Franz Marc. Students find this fascinating. There is some really good information on www.artyfactory.com

The second task was connected to Abstract and Semi-Abstract art. The students discussed the differences between realism and abstraction. They then simplified their detailed sketches into geometric shapes. A colour plan was created following the 2/3 warm and 1/3 cool (or vice versa) colour scheme.

DSCN7712The final pieces were completed with sharpies. Spontaneously, we decided to extend this project by adding Jackson Pollok inspired backgrounds. The students had to consider their use of colour, style of splattering and the direction of their lines. They found it to be harder work than any previous splatter art they had done because of the required layers. As you can imagine they had a lot of fun whilst creating these pieces.

Grade 8 Art With Heart

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This unit was inspired by The Memory Project. http://www.memoryproject.org/ 

I really love this concept because students are learning valuable artistic skills yet are using their art to make a difference. Basically, students receive photos of orphans and create portraits of them then the portraits are hand delivered by Ben. I contacted Ben about joining this project but he suggested since we are already in Ghana why don’t we have the students visit, take photos of the kids and personally deliver their portraits?

BRILLIANT idea! So this is exactly what we did.

My students hadn’t drawn portraits before so this was quite a nerve racking experience for them because they knew whatever they produced was going to be given as a gift. They were naturally scared that the child would be upset with their art work or just not like it. This was the tough part.

DSCN5736I tried to take the pressure off by having them create 3 pieces one drawing, one painting and one digital piece. They could choose their favourite to give their child. We also brainstormed and researched various circumstances that would put a child into an orphanage so that the students had a greater understanding and empathy.

Michael KwesiThey also wrote a letter on the back of their art work. The children at Beacon House LOVED their art and particularly loved their letters. My students were very nervous giving their pieces to the children because you can’t predict what they will do but they relaxed when they could go outside and play football with them. Overall, it was an amazing experience one I am sure my students will remember forever.

Grade 7 Printmaking- MY FEAR

Alex 7This was a unit I made up as I went. At first it was just going to be a self-portrait wood block print based on The Scream by Edvard Munch. As the portraits progressed I decided  to incorporate the prints with the student’s greatest fear or something that made them very, very angry.

I was thrilled with this idea because it suddenly became a very personal project. We had fear/anger over war, spiders, snakes,  and the future but one of the most interesting topics which stunned me was the image above. This student is representing his anger of missing his dad’s death. Apparently he was on the way to the hospital to see his dad but he passed away just before he arrived. The green line is the heart beat and I am sure you can guess the rest of the image. WOW I certainly wasn’t expecting anything that deep or emotional but it made this task so much more than “just a unit on Edvard Munch”.In fact it is linked even more to Munch’s pain and the way he captured his emotions through chalks and paint.

Mackinley 9

Grade 8 My Hero Stencils

My students from last year are STILL talking about this unit. The first thing which really appealed to them was being able to choose their hero. We began with the grid drawing technique which meant all results were positive so this built up the student’s confidence.

Then I showed examples of stencil designs and discussed the importance of line variation, positive and negative shapes and the use of bridges so that pieces of the stencil didn’t fall out. At first the students really struggled with this but were really excited when they achieved the task successfully. The ability to create a variety of prints using paints, inks, sponges, splattering and spray paints really appealed to the students. It was a treat after the hard work was done and of course the results were outstanding. I don’t often create stencils but due to some very valuable skills and techniques related to design I think I will try to incorporate it somehow in the future.

Grade 11 Figure Drawing

Nina G12This unit was very successful BUT it did take a long time and a lot of patience for it to work well. The students were introduced to figure drawing. They began with the basics such as the measurements of figure drawing and then continued to sketching each other. Once they had 5 good contour drawings of their friends in the class they then had to push their composition to incorporate overlapping shapes.

The students used the film clip “Yellow Submarine” to help them generate ideas for patterns. They explored colours and how they related to each other. The students discussed methods for creating contrast, illusion and harmony. They could choose their own media which they felt suited their design. I was very happy with their results especially the ones who used coloured pencils.

Grade 6 Learning From Where We Live

DSCN8471This was a fantastic unit because the students are very keen to learn about what surrounds them. Adinkra symbols surround us daily as they can be found on buildings, in fabrics on logos and many other places here in Ghana. The students are very enthusiastic when learning the meanings behind the symbols and discussing their favourites. I have a local come in and explain how Adinkras are used throughout celebrations in the community. Then we watched a Powerpoint about the making and printing of the symbols.

With one class I had them design their own symbols and the other class used existing ones to combine with their figure painting. The paint knife figures were a huge success too as they are very easy to do and really capture the students’ understanding of contemporary Ghanaian art. With one class we painted sunset backgrounds and the other class used tissue paper backgrounds. I really like the bright colours of the tissue papers. They actually looked amazing even without the figures and Adinkra. Some students chose to extend their skills by incorporating a piece of embossed metal.

This year we will be studying and copying the techniques of Ablade Glover who will be visiting the school in Dec which is very exciting.


Grade 2 Kimonos

This task took a little preparation but it was so worth it. I pre-cut the Kimonos and sliced them with a knife ready for weaving. The students chose the colour they wanted and carefully wove a variety of pre-cut papers through the slots. This is a fabulous exercise for fine motor skills. The more advanced students can cut and tear their own strips.

Once the weaving was complete we then looked at a variety of designs which were used on Kimonos. The common ones being birds and the Koi fish. The students drew, coloured and cut their designs out and attached them onto their woven Kimonos. What a perfect finishing touch.

Seeing a whole class hanging up looks just like a colourful washing line. I loved it as much as the students did.

Lisa 2In the future I would love to do a similar activity with grade 9 and 10 students where they create advanced designs on their Kimonos inspired by landscapes.

Just like this example which I found on Pinterest.

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