April 21


When we return to school after Easter my grade 4 students will be almost ready to create their celestial bodies in clay. They will have one more practice session and then in week 2 they will make their final piece.

Clay, as for most things with my students, is never a one off session. You cannot get skill development or clayworks like these without exploring the materials and tools and experimenting with ideas. Yes, it is hard work, yes, it is messy, and yes, it can be loud, especially at pack up time on my awfully thin laminated art room table tops but the students are smiling, eager and learning – what more could you want!

Whenever we are working with clay I frequently remind the students that we only have one rule for clay. I say it and the students all chant it back to me, whether they are in Preps or Grade 6. “YOU MUST BE SENSIBLE WITH THE CLAY! With the Prep students I usually take it a bit further.

“Can you stick it in your ear?’                                    “NO!”

Can you stick it in somebody else’s ear?”              “NO!”

Can you stick it in Mrs Menhennet’s ear?             “NO!”

And on it goes until they are all falling about laughing.

However, the students know this is quite serious as we then discuss the consequence of not being sensible with the clay (and the tools and the slip, etc). And the consequence is that the clay is removed from the student. They then wash their hands and sit on the floor while everyone else is working at the tables. A direct consequence like this makes sense to the students and is much more effective than a detention that would not even be on the same day!

And now back to the process………In the first session I bombard the students with images of artworks incorporating the sun, the moon, planets, stars, etc, etc.

These images include all sorts of artworks – jewellery, clayworks, paintings, drawings, sculptures, metalwork, embroideries, photography, and the list goes on.  You can find lots of images of celestial bodies on my Pinterest board.

And then I let them loose on the clay – and then we pack up and when it is pack up time NOBODY wants to, as they are all so into what they are doing.

In the second session I show them examples from grade 4 students previously. We discuss them and any interesting stuff they have looked at in their independent research and then they get stuck into their own creations/experiments again. I also put slip on the tables and remind them how to use correct joining technique – the four s words –  score, slip, stick, smooth! And they chant them after me!

Depending on the school calendar and the crazy timetable that changes constantly, the students will have one or two more sessions to practice/refine their ideas.  The students choose whether to make a flat 2D or a 3D clay piece. There are usually groans at pack up time at the end of these sessions but I do photograph any experiments the students are keen to keep in mind and then they all pack up their clay.

The students are encouraged to do their own research for inspirational images in their own time as they all have IPads and/or computer access.

By the time the final session comes around the students know that they need to complete their clay piece in one session. Most students manage this as they have been working on an idea for several sessions and get faster at creating and refining their clay piece each week.

I scratch the students initials and grade into the base of their finished piece with a sharp skewer before I put it on a rack to dry. This seems to eliminate any arguments about which piece belongs to whom which I used to have when they all did it themselves, as it is in my neat lettering. It doesn’t take long, gives me a chance for a brief chat with the artist about their work and check that it is joined together properly and perhaps send some students back to the table to fix an issue.

Once the works have been fired the students paint them. I encourage the students to think about the painting process before they start and have a plan in their head for what they want to do. Just a simple statement like this is enough to stop most rushing and slapping paint on willy nilly!

Thanks for looking. Leave a comment!


March 17


I  updated my art room expectations at the start of 2019.

I used to have a set of art room rules which I had worked on so they were positive statements rather than negative and I was happy with them for a long time but I realised I only referred to them at the start of each term and that was it.

In my quest to make the students more responsible for themselves and their actions I thought that a shorter rules list would be better and I found this one which I used in 2018. I got it from Miss JeMa on TPT. I used it although for me, I thought there were things missing , like RESPECT, which is one of our Cambridge Primary School Values.

art room expectations miss JeMa

So I created my own, as although there were things that I thought were missing from the expectations list I used in 2018, I didn’t want to end up with another looooooooong list. I wanted it to be short, easy to remember, and easy to refer to, so the expectations would become a living part of the Visual Arts room in every session. This is what I came up with.

art room expectations 2019 poster

Now I know, ideally, these sorts of expectations should be negotiated with the students BUT as my Visual Arts sessions for all year levels Prep to 6 were cut down to 1 semester only per year, effectively cutting Visual Arts time at my school in half, I need to take short cuts wherever I can. I figured that as the students would be busy negotiating expectations in their own class rooms that I would just present the Art Room Expectations and discuss them to ensure every student’s understanding of them and then we moved on. They were accepted readily and the changes from last year noted.

job done tick

I then copied an A5 sized version for each student, without the coloured background. The students then had to glue it into their Visual Arts Journal and bring it to me and we signed and dated it together as their ‘official’ agreement to the Art Room Expectations. This was such a simple idea but has reinforced their importance to the students. 

Art room expectations in journal 2019

Grade 4 student Kim, has glued Art Room Expectations into journal and then drawn a decorative border after we looked a the work of MC Escher.

I now refer to the expectations frequently during all art sessions and have done simple reflections at the end of sessions such as – 

“Which Art room Expectation/s do you think you always do?” 

“Which Art Room Expectations do you still need to work on?”

As the 2019 Art Room Expectations  have been such a success I am now considering if, and how, they will need to be modified for my Prep – 2 students in semester 2.

thinking emoji

August 4


I got some of these fabulous signs for my Art room from


This website is full of fantastic stuff!

Once I had printed the signs I wanted and enlarged them to A3 size I wanted to add something to them to make them look a little different from the originals -BLING!

Everyone loves a bit of bling and my Grade 4A helpers had a great time sticking it on with only a little bit of assistance from me.

Thank you Technology Rocks Seriously!

Thank you Grade 4A helpers who gave up some of their lunchtime to help me out!



July 22


I created this display with the hands made by the Grade 1’s to get the year started off with a lovely activity and a lovely display!

Hands up for art

Hands up for art 2

The children traced their hands and arms, or asked a classmate to do it for them and then decorated them with patterns using the zoom crayons.

The following week they painted their hand using watercolour cakes(or blocks, whatever you like to call them).  The grade 1’s had not used these before so needed to be taught to wash their brush when they were changing colours so the cake of watercolour did not become muddy.

I also insist that they look after the water pots themselves and if the water is too dirty they just go and empty it and refill the water pots themselves without asking me. This always results in a few water spills at the beginning (big deal, it is just water!) so we then discuss why the spill has occurred (rushing, too much water in the container) and what we do when they occur (put newspaper down immediately to help soak up the water and make the spillage more visible for others in the room and then clean it up as quickly as possible) and the spillages soon stop. It is all worth it in the end as I strive to make the children clean up after themselves. I am always stupefied by the number of children at Grade 1 level that have NO IDEA how to turn on a tap! This is all part of the learning process of being responsible artists!

I did not tell them that the crayon would resist the watercolour but waited until someone noticed it before we discussed it. “What’s happening here? Why isn’t the paint covering that crayon pattern?”

When they were dry cutting them out was the next challenge so I demonstrate how you can turn the paper while you are cutting slowly, a revelation for most grade 1’s, so you don’t just chop off all the fingers!

I ummed and aahed about how to display them and then settled on a circle. I layered them on the display board and tried NOT to staple the hands and fingers so they would move in any breeze that wafted past. I was going to put the sign in the top left corner in the middle but then found the bit of gold corrugated cardboard  in the scrap box, added some cupcake wrappers for eyes (we used to call them patty pans when I was a kid) and it turned into a beaming sun, so appropriate as the start of the year was so very hot!

Thank you for the inspiration from this picture on Pinterest. I absolutely adore Pinterest!

I also saw this one on Pinterest too which has obviously been created by much older children.Thanks for looking and I would love it if you left a comment!


March 11

Art Room Rules

This is a photo of the store room door where the Art room rules are listed for  everyone to see. This list of rules was created after much discussion with the grade 4’s last year and on reflection I thought it was such a good list that I’ve used them again for this year.


The last one listed says “In the Art Room we – LET MAGIC HAPPEN!

I often talk to the children about how making art is a sort of partnership between you and the materials. You might be drawing a turtle but when you really look at it , it looks more like an elephant. Well you can fight that, and keep trying for a turtle and you might just end up with an ordinary turtle. But if you go with what the materials are trying to tell you, and you change your drawing into an elephant, you might just end up with the most magnificent elephant you have ever drawn!!! And that is , of course, when the magic happens!

I think this idea helps the children to allow themselves to change and adapt their ideas as they are working and the children love to tell me that magic happened today and explain the development of their ideas into their final product.

I used a thick metallic thread to create these words using a line design alphabet that I devised to use with the Grade 5’s last year when we did a unit on line design. The grade 5’s went from doing simple line designs on paper following a step by step procedure to stitching their own name onto a piece of coloured card using my line design alphabet.It was a very popular unit of work.


And so you don’t think that all we do in the Art room is talk about rules and we don’t have any fun, here is a red monster that Prep C created a week or so ago.

I look forward to reading your comments.