Happy 160th Birthday Vincent van Gogh!


The Gift of Art

Something that comes with teaching K – 3 Art is the instant, simple love students have for you as a teacher or anyone who cares enough to say “HI”, listen to that silly story or share a smile. One thing I was not prepared for was the Gifts of Art that would fill up my desk! Sometimes students bring them to class from home, sometimes they are drawings they made in the Free Activity Time and sometimes they are just quick scribbles because their friend gave me something and they felt bad!

What my desk showcased during the last class on Thursday...I specially love when there is a picture of the student and myself! How great is that?!

What my desk showcased during the last class on Thursday…I specially love when there is a picture of the student and myself! How great is that?!

Either way…I LOVE them all! I wish I had the time to showcase the brilliance that goes into some of these works of art. Every year I stick a few to the white board as they came in or as seasons changed.

A few "Just Because" works of art.

A few “Just Because” works of art.

While shopping for some art supplies for my son, I stumbled across these genius papers by Melissa & Doug that have a mock picture frame around the edges. I tore out a few and had them laminated so I could tape artwork up on my (not so attractive) cupboards and display art from students all year long. I was worried it would create a competitive environment and thankfully it has not been an issue at all! They love it and the students artwork appears to be in a fancy frame.

I love all the color and talent behind these pieces.

I love all the color and talent behind these pieces.

A mixture of grade levels really makes this stand out!

A mixture of grade levels really makes this stand out!

It’s a win-win! I have colorful cupboards that remind me of the great students that I teach and my students get to see their artwork (almost) framed.


The Clay Senses…Kindergarten Style

The sensory fun that meets the joy and excitement of Kindergarteners (and most all students for that matter). While the set up involved is more than the average work day and the dryness my hands experience the following days is grueling, it is 100% worth it!

Here are a few responses from our conversation about clay:


“It looks like a road (cement)”

“It looks squishy”

“It looks hard”

“It looks messy” (one of my favorite responses)


What does clay smell like?

What does clay smell like?

“It smells like dirt” (yep…it does!)

“It smells like raw eggs” (what?)

“It smells like dirty socks” (now we are just talking about things that stink, aren’t we?!)


What does clay sound like?

What does clay sound like?

“It sounds like the ocean” (seriously? let me hear that!)

“I don’t hear anything” (me either)



JUST KIDDING…we did NOT taste it!


What does clay feel like?

What does clay feel like?

“It feels wet”

“It feels COLD”

“It feels bumpy, like a road” (texture left from the slab roller)

“It feels like FUN!” (yes, it IS fun!)

Speaking of touch, we then found several fun textures to work with and apply textures to our slabs of clay! Enjoy the fun through just a few glimpses into the art room fun we had today!

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Post-texurizing our clay slabs, I poked a few holes in the top of each clay piece to add string and beads to after these works of art are fired in the kiln! I hope you enjoyed observing our senses through clay, too!


Van Gogh’s Sunflowers {bring spring soon}

According to the calendar, it’s Spring! But…there is still some snow on the ground and the temperatures don’t show it. We just want that “No Coats” sign posted in the halls! In the art room, we are trying to paint, build, draw, dream up as many flowers as we can so that spring may get the message and come visit us.

Not much can beat Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”! 1st Graders were able to experience using their own palette of paint which I rarely do because of the waste it usually ends up being. However, they were so into adding thick layers of paint like Van Gogh did, they used about every last drop I gave them!

Enjoying the individual palettes and starting with thick layers of yellow!

Enjoying the individual palettes and starting with thick layers of yellow!

By using the four colors we found in Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and NO water, we were blending strokes and experiencing a new technique in painting.

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We have painted the way, now Spring can come visit us any day now!


Better Together

The traditional classroom is scattered with individual desks, some in a grid pattern and some in a circle or square formation. The art room awaits a table for 4 (occasionally 2 or 3, depending on the class size). We could have individual desks for each student, sure it would create more work for me as the teacher delivering individual palettes of supplies. I would do it if I felt it made a students time more productive, artwork more creative and deep in knowledge. Students feed off of each other and while this could (does) result in arguments and struggle, the lessons learned are greater. Even more important, the realm of creativity for each student is challenged to grow deeper. At it’s peak, students are modeling for one another how to create, suggesting ideas for one another and pushing one another to try something they never thought possible of themselves.

Many students come to the classroom with hobbies and favorite animals, so if I get to know my students well enough (usually before 2nd Semester I can see patterns of subject matter) I can strategically put varying hobbies together to increase a variety of subject matter in artwork.

While the classroom chatter can surpass the “noise-meter” or a typical classrooms expectation, I try to be accepting of the chatter as students are almost always learning through it. If the students are creating and doing so in a positive conversation, I allow them to continue unless it distracts from another students learning.

Below is the modified Voice Level Chart I have created for my classroom. The numbers are consistent with the rest of the building, creating common language.

Voice Levels - Art Room


Watercolor Palettes vs. Liquid Watercolors

Watercolor Palette

Watercolor Palette

Liquid Watercolors

Liquid Watercolors







We go back and forth between the traditional watercolor palettes and liquid watercolors. I love them all and what they do, but when do you use which one and why? The difference for students in K-3 is this:

Watercolor Chart

Ideally, I would like to eliminate one of the mediums of watercolor paint, but in reality, they are both vital to the students learning of how to use watercolors. It is a fundamental skill for students to know how to manage water control through the use of palettes. However, there are times where it is nice to just simply paint with bright, vivid watercolors and have instant results!

If you are looking for something new for your students to try out, consider what you want them to get out of it. Understanding watercolors and how to modify the use of water to achieve different opacities of color? Or is it more about creating bright, vivid artwork to admire and share?

What does Mrs. Van Roekel use?

For the palettes, I rarely use anything but Prang or Crayola. However, if you are looking for bright colors and saving money or a trip to a specialty art store, just make sure you aren’t using the washable versions (yes, that can be scary, but it makes a huge difference)!

For the liquid watercolors, I use Golden Liquid Acrylics on my own artwork. The pigment is rich, vibrant and easily diluted. They carry a large amazing palette of colors to choose from, I always walk out of the store with more than I intended to buy! In my classroom, I prefer Sax. They have a variety of packs to choose from, even including glitter, neon and metallics! They are on the cheaper end of liquid watercolors and depending on the pigment, they don’t need to be diluted (yellow).

If you have more questions about watercolors, how they work in my classroom or where to get them, feel free to ask!


5 Favorites in the Free Activity Area

As projects come to an end after each unit, students are always working at different paces! There are students who rush to complete each task and there are students who use every spare minute (and a few recess minutes) to get their hands on the supplies and cover each blank piece of their artwork. The “Free Activity Area” comes into play as an Art Teachers Best Friend and helps me balance out those who work at different paces! These games, books, materials are specifically chosen to enhance and challenge students visually.

This is the designated Free Activity Area.

This is the designated Free Activity Area.

Top 5 Favorites at Lincoln Elementary:

5. SHAPE by SHAPE – a favorite among the 2nd and 3rd Grade Students. This game contains 16 shapes and 60 suggested patterns to puzzle students minds as to how to put them together.

Shape by Shape Made by ThinkFun

Shape by Shape
Made by ThinkFun

4. BLANK PAPER or ANTI-COLORING BOOK SHEETS – Nothing beats time to free draw. What I have learned is to limit each student to ONE paper per class period. This eliminates scribbling and note writing, challenging each student to really elaborate on his or her sketch or design.

3. BOOKS! – From Eric Carle classics to unique books like “Pattern Fish” by Judy Harris and “Giraffes Can’t Dance” by Giles Andreae, students are engaged in books finding inspiration from the illustrators and story tellers.

2. MOSAICA – This metal tin full of 64 designed magnets offers suggestions for creating designs, but more recently students have loved creating their own designs on the classroom white board. This also enables collaboration among students. It is always great to see students problem solve together! Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grade Students are always digging into this activity.

Mosaica has 64 colorful magnets that students enjoy using each day at all grade levels.


1. MODELING CLAY – Students can never get enough of sculptural elements, so to have modeling clay available in their free time is like gold! We just have to make sure to wash our hands before we leave as it can leave a sticky residue.

Many of these games, activities and books are available in stores around us. If you are looking for something to challenge your student in a more hands on way and creative way, these are proven to have worked in my classroom! While these all access the right side of the brain and challenge its depth, they aren’t over looking the left side of the brain.