May 24, 2012

Posted by | 15 Comments

Accept the Clay Challenge

I must admit, a flaw of mine is waiting until the last couple weeks of the quarter to have my students start their clay projects.  For some reason I have this mentality that my students should “earn” the right to make their clay project.  Clay projects are messy, they take longer than most projects, and there are lots of directions to follow regarding set up and clean up.  Therefore, I try to wait and see how well my students follow directions on a couple of projects before they start clay.  Our quarters are nine weeks long, and most of the time I start clay in week six.  Each quarter I tell myself I’m going to start clay sooner, and it never fails, I always wait until the end and then my students and I feel rushed.  This quarter it was particularly late because the end of the year is quickly approaching and for some reason, time seems to go by faster.

My eighth graders just finished making their clay mugs.  There are nine days left of school.  How did I let that happen?  Not to mention, the nine days don’t really count as nine days, because the last day they don’t have art class and the second to last day they go on a field trip to Adventure Land (an amusement park.)  So this means they have seven days left of art class.  SEVEN DAYS!

So in those seven days I plan to speed up the drying time, fire their mugs, and hopefully they will be able to glaze or paint them.  Phew, just in time.  Again, WHY do I do this to myself?  More importantly, why do I do this to my students?  No one wants to feel rushed to finish an art project, especially clay.  So, instead of dwelling on the fact that I kind of blew it this quarter, I am choosing to look at this as a learning opportunity and accept the challenge.  Next year I challenge myself to be more organized when it comes to my clay projects.

Here a few of the changes I’m going to make.

  1.  Introduce clay projects sooner in the quarter.  (In weeks two through four depending on the quarter.)
  2. Make sure all three grades start clay on the same day.  (To minimize the amount of time the clay supplies and clay dust fill my classroom.)
  3. Make a flip chart discussing the history of clay and the process of firing.  (A flipchart is similar to a power point but used with interactive whiteboards.)
  4. Show the kiln to the students.  Allow all students to peek inside the kiln.  They’re fascinated by it, allow them to touch it.

What changes are you going to make next year regarding a process you want to revamp?  

 Do you find yourself in my shoes, rushed at the end of the quarter?

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  • Jen

    I teach elementary. So I do have my kids for a whole year instead of just a quarter. But still, I am in the same mindset as you. I wait until the Spring semester before I let them touch clay. I agree that I like them to be “settled” in the room before starting.

    This year I was a little rushed too. We had to be done before Fine Art Night and I pushed it pretty close with 5th grade. Next year I want to try two things: 1) Do some of the clay projects in the fall. 2) Let 5th grade do two clay project.

    Here’s hoping!

    • Cassidy Reinken

      I love the idea of letting 5th graders do two clay projects! 

  • Sienna Parfitt

    Would you be willing to share your flip chart with us?

    • Cassidy Reinken

      Sienna, I would love to share my flipchart once I make it.  I will post it on this thread next fall. 

  • The Wendy Lady

    I just got a kiln so I will be able to do clay next year! I plan to intersperse clay in between other projects so that there is time for drying and firing.

    next year my kids will have iPads so I’m working on different ways to incorate it into my classroom.

    • Jessica Balsley

      One of our other writers, Chelsie, has a 1:1 iPad school so stay tuned for ideas from her in the future, too!

  • Erica Stinziani

    I have all my classes do 2 clay projects but only glaze one. Jen, I think that is such an important point! We let them practice everything else but when it comes to clay it’s a one time deal. It’s a little intimidating. At least if they get another opportunity they can relax in the project a little more. Besides, even though we barely have a budget, clay is inexpensive. I can get 50 lbs for 12.50 I think and it’s beautiful quality. It is a lesser known company called Sheffield Pottery. How can you beat that?

    • Cassidy Reinken

      Thanks for sharing where you purchase your clay.  I will check out that company.  Sometimes I’m so set on glaze that I forget all my other options.  There are so many other ways to add color to clay such as watercolor and tempera paint.  My 7th graders are the only ones who get to glaze because it costs so much. 6th grade uses acrylic and 8th grade uses tempera. In the past I have made homemade play dough and let students practice using that.  Even though it’s not the same as clay, it helps them get practice making a pinch pot, or rolling coils.

  • Jennifer Funnell

    I’m just about to finish my 3rd year teaching 3D art to middle school students (our other art teacher teaches 2D),  so clay is strictly in my curriculum.  This was the first year I let my students do two clay projects, it just worked out that way because I had so much extra clay left over (probably due to the fact that I’m getting better at managing it every year!).  I loved doing two clay projects with them and I think I’m going to continue that from year to year!

    Also, at the end of our clay projects I do a studio cleaning day with my students.  We talk about how it’s important to take care of our space as artists and help clean it up.  Each table has a ticket with a job such as organizing and washing the clay tools, rolling pins, etc.  My students LOVE it. They get so into cleaning!  The next day I bring them popsicles as a treat for doing such a great job.

    Also – I love the idea of a flip chart!  Very cool.

  • Bhaagen

    Oh I so am in the same boat – I will have to get my kids to come in before and after school to get it done!   I am copying your list of chages for next year!

    • Cassidy Reinken

      Glad I’m not alone! 
      Luckily we have an RTI period that I can use to have students get caught up, or else my students would also be coming in before and after school!

  • Kathie O’

    A clay lesson just before Winter Break does wonders lowering behavior issues – you know how wiggly they can be. But they just love clay!

    We need to wait til air conditioning weather is over in my school district. The air conditioner, hot ovens on for hot lunch AND the kiln create high electrical usage. The electric company charges for peak usage everyvday. If we turn on the kiln in the fall and AFTER lunch, we’re saving the district big bucks.

    Final thought: I sure wish I could do all clay at one time. Unfortunately I just don’t have the space to dry everything. I’m jealous!

    • Jessica Balsley

      I have to do all the clay in one month, because our curriculum map requires it. However I have found ways to manage.. It wasn’t easy at first, but I got used to it fast.

  • gaartist

    I was going strong with clay my first 4 years in the middle school. I even got the county to give us a new kiln. My husband and I painstakenly put a donated metal fence around the kiln in my open class room. ( it is in the corner with a vent). But, like you, the 9 weeks which whittle down to 8.5.. is not enough time to really do quality clay projects. The funding is gone and so is the clay.

  • Pingback: Teaching Clay Without a Kiln: An Art Teacher’s Resource | The Art of Ed

  • MissWetzel

    I also teach 8th grade art on a quarter system. I got all the clay supplies this year, but I’m so afraid of burning the school down. Thanks for your blog. I think this will be one of the first projects I do with kids.