American Girl Art Gallery

american girl art gallery

Mr. Star Wars gave Miss Priss a new American Girl craft book for Christmas. We own practically all of them, so I was impressed he located one we did not already have. The Doll Art Studio Activity Kit gives all kinds of tips for designing an art gallery for your American Girl doll. Working on these projects requires all of my concentration, so we were not able to begin construction until the MLK holiday when I had a day off from teaching and minimal interruptions. Miss Priss and I took over the kitchen and dining room tables and dug in.

art gallery artist table

It would not be an official AG craft project if we did not make a trip to Hobby Lobby to get started. I had Miss Priss bring the kit’s idea book in the car with us and skim the pictures and explanations to make sure we would not miss anything critical. Miss Priss’ reading skills add tremendous value to project work– especially now that I have to wear the “over 40″ glasses and need her to read all of the fine print on the material packages.

art gallery samantha paintingPaint Brushes and Artist Palette Materials

  • matchsticks
  • duct tape (shiny silver and a few other colors)
  • 3/16″ glue dots
  • old paintbrushes
  • brown cardboard
  • acrylic paint (5-6 colors)

art gallery brush and pallette


  • The AG book came with a paper artist palette that I traced on brown cardboard. If you do not have a template for the artist palette, draw a kidney shape that is roughly 3″ x 2″. Using scissors, cut out the palette shape. Using an X-Acto knife, stab/cut a thumb hole. Carefully drop small blobs of acrylic paint evenly around the edge of the palette and let dry overnight.

art gallery paint pallette template

art gallery paint pallette paint dabs

  • To make a paintbrush, cut a 1-inch piece of colored duct tape or a piece of tape that matches the length of your matchstick and carefully roll the piece of tape around the matchstick until you come to the end of the tape piece.

art gallery wrap brush handle

  • The glue dots are stretchy, and you pull a glue dot around one end of the covered matchstick.
  • Carefully cut the bristles from an old paintbrush and make a pile with the cut bristles. Roll the sticky end of the matchstick through the bristles. If you want thicker bristles on the paintbrush, add another glue dot around the first layer of bristles and roll through the cut bristles again.

art gallery brush bristles

  • Cut a thin strip of silver duct tape less than 1/4″ wide and wrap the silver strip at the base of the bristles. Trim bristles to even up if needed.

art gallery brush silver tape

art gallery brushes and pencilsStudio Table Materials

  • 2 wooden A letters ~9″ tall
  • wood plank for tabletop (mine is 1/4″ thick and is ~5″ x 12″)
  • 5/16″ diameter wooden dowel
  • acrylic paint (any color)
  • paint brush
  • hot glue gun

art gallery work table suppliesDirections

  • Paint your table materials and let dry. If you like the natural wood color, you can skip the painting step.
  • Measure the length of your tabletop against your wooden dowel and make sure the dowel is 2″ to 4″ shorter than the tabletop. I sawed ~2″ from the end of my dowel to make the dowel ~10″ in length.
  • Hot glue the dowel into the nail hanging slots on the wooden letters, so the dowel connects the two letters. Put the tabletop on your working surface and hot glue the the top of the letter A’s to the tabletop.

art gallery work table assembly


art gallery work table finished

  • We also made a display table by painting a wooden plaque and resting it on a metal candle holder. The candle holder is only about 6″ in height.

art gallery art display

Original Artwork Materials

  • mini canvases (available at Hobby Lobby)
  • variety of stickers
  • colored Sharpie markers
  • acrylic paint
  • sequins
  • foam shapes
  • magazines
  • Elmer’s glue
  • mini easels (available at Hobby Lobby)

art gallery art sample


  • The sky is the limit with the mini canvases. You can paint original artwork, draw with the Sharpie pens, paint backgrounds and put stickers on top, cut out pictures from magazines and create collages, glue foam shapes together for modern art… anything works.
  • I also scoured around my house for little clay projects Miss Priss had made and any other mini craft projects and added those to the displays in the art gallery.

art gallery canvases

Studio Design

  • We had a science fair backboard we used for the American Girl Dress Boutique. We took down a few of the decorations from the dress shop and put up the art work using Tacky.

art gallery art display with tags

  • The AG doll book came with a few easels as well as the new ones I purchased. We used the easels to display the art on the tables. I also moved some clear acrylic boxes stuffed with colored tissue paper from the dress shop into the art gallery and set small clay projects on those (notice the tiny little otter in the background of the picture below).

art gallery artist table with canvas

  • We dropped the paint brushes in a mini pail and a small glass jar for an authentic art studio look. We borrowed the colored pencils and cup from our AG School Supply stash and set up the artist table with an art canvas in progress, paint palette, brushes, pencils and a mini LED clip reading light I found at the checkout at Hobby Lobby.

art gallery brushes with lampThe activity book has many other ideas and paper accessories. The small tags to label the art came from the book as well as the template to make the art smock Samantha is wearing. Miss Priss was tired of waiting to play with the art gallery, so I had to stop adding to it and let her actually play. *sigh*

art gallery supplies

Study Help

study tools

Because I always have parents ask me for study suggestions, I am sharing a list of different ideas to help students prep for a test at home. Students who are just beginning to take tests that involve more than memorized facts need a study buddy (that’s you, parent) to monitor and prod. As much as students would like it to be so, staring at a textbook and notes for 45 minutes without actively doing something with the information on the page does not count as studying.

Around 4th grade, tests are more involved; the thinking to complete the test is more involved, so the prep ahead of time has to be more involved. Learning how to study effectively is a skill that has to be supervised and practiced just like learning a new math skill, mastering a new science concept, or grasping themes in literature.

Locate a Good Study Area

  • Quiet places are preferable, but they should be in proximity of an adult, babysitter, or person who can monitor occasionally. If you have been telling your child “to go study” and sending him off to his room for extended periods of time, I guarantee very little is happening. TV, music, and other electronics should definitely be off and out of view.

electricity flashcards

Start with Memorizing Definitions

  • If an upcoming assessment has multiple vocabulary words that are critical to the key concepts on the test, begin by learning the definitions. There is a memorization component here, so make old fashioned flashcards or use online resources like or to create word banks to practice definitions. Once students know basic definitions, they can use the words to explain important concepts. A student might learn a variety of words related to electricity before studying how charges, atoms, and circuits work.

T chart

Set Small, Specific Tasks

  • Telling a student to study without a specific task will not produce results. Know what the student needs to study and give a small, doable task with a time limit. For example, if a student has a test over the Mayans and Aztecs, create a T-chart and write the names of the two groups at the top of the paper. Tell the child to make a list of every fact, detail, idea, they can remember about each culture and bring the list to you after 10 minutes.
  • Give the eager scholar a new job to do after each small increment of time. After a T-chart activity like above, have your student spend another 10 minutes grouping the completed chart by common topics (food, shelter, religion, art, etc.). This is also a good time to identify any big concepts that might be obvious based on grouping facts from the list. Spend a final 10-15 minutes comparing the list to any review sheets from the teacher, reading in the textbook, or other resources from school. After 2-3 specific tasks, rest. Plan to spend shorter amounts of time over several days rather than one massive study session the night before a test.

teacher notes

Think Aloud

  • At the dinner table, in the car, while you make dinner, ask the little learner to explain a process s/he needs to know for the assessment. If you are reviewing for a spelling test, for instance, ask students to explain out loud why a word like hop gets two letter Ps when a suffix is added, and the word becomes hopping. This will be a good litmus test to see if they are only memorizing a process, or if they really know how and why letters work the way they do in words.

spelling study help

Think about the Information in More than One Way

  • When my students are getting ready for vocabulary tests, I always suggest that they use the words in a variety of ways. Yes, they should know the definition and be able to use the word in a sentence, but they should also be able to generate synonyms and antonyms. They should think about situations in real life where the word would appear. They need to be able to recognize the word “in context.” The recall will be much greater if students are developing personal links to the information in different forms. Whenever possible, link the new material to something the student already knows.

vocabulary study help

Create Sample Questions

  • Using any notes or review sheets from class, make up sample problems and practice answering the questions. This works really well for math and grammar tests. As the student answers the practice questions, add in the “think aloud” study suggestion.

prefixes and roots flashcards

Favorite 2014 Kid Books and Giveaway Winner


Thank you to all who entered to win the Amazon gift card and participated in the recent blog hop. Congratulations to Callie W. who is my big winner! (Please look for an e-mail from me with details about your prize.)

In case Callie (or other readers) need help shopping for books, below is my favorite juvenile literature from 2014. These books were not necessarily published in 2014. They are just the books I enjoyed reading the most this past year.

meaning of maggie

  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (5th grade +)
  • The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern (4th+)
  • Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes by Charise Mericle Harper (2nd+)
  • Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (3rd+)
  • Magic in the Mix by Annie Barrows (4th+)
  • The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (5th+)
  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (8th/9th+)
  • 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass (4th+)
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (7th+)
  • A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean (5th+)
  • Holes by Louis Sachar (4th+)
  • The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (7th+)

counting by 7s

Paraphrase It (with a giveaway)

paraphrasing student samples

There are many reasons paraphrasing is important for school aged children. It enhances vocabulary. It forces students to change ideas into their own words, which confirms understanding. It builds a stronger memory when words have been changed into your own personal version. My students practiced paraphrasing this fall, so we would have a foundation for notetaking when we start the big research project in January.

3 Rules for Paraphrasing:

  1. Paraphrased words must be correct and make sense.
  2. Paraphrased words must be your own version (in your voice).
  3. Paraphrased words must say the same thing as the original phrase.

If your child is having trouble with paraphrasing and notetaking, start by paraphrasing single words. Look at key words in a paragraph or reading passage and replace the “important” word with a synonym or group of words that will mean the same thing as the original. This activity has the added bonus of building a student’s vocabulary bank.

Next, try replacing chunks of words. Work with short phrases. Instead of “under the sofa,” you could say, “beneath the couch.”

Finally, break a paragraph into the main idea and 3-4 key details. Make a list of the main idea and details (this will look similar to an outline). Now, ask the student to convert the list into sentences using their own words.

Other Tips:

  • Not every word can be changed. Proper names will stay the same when you paraphrase. Susan can stay Susan. Empire State Building can stay Empire State Building.
  • Little words like a, an, and the might not change either.
  • You will not always replace one word with one word. Paraphrasing larger groups of words and sentences do not require that you have a new sentence with the exact same amount of words as the original, nor do the ideas have to be in the same order. Susan’s backpack was crammed with books and weighed a lot can become Susan’s heavy school bag held many books.

paraphrasing sample 2

After my class went through the steps of paraphrasing words, phrases, and whole paragraphs, we reviewed by playing a written version of the telephone game. I pre-wrote detailed sentences in the first row of about 8 Paraphrasing Sentences Charts and made enough copies for a class set. I gave each student this Paraphrasing Sentences Chart with the starter sentence. The student paraphrased the sentence that appeared in the first row of the chart and then folded the paper, so only the newly written sentence appeared (row 2). The students traded papers and repeated the procedure. We traded papers 4 times, and at the end, unfolded the papers to read each version of the sentence to see if the message from the first sentence stayed the same as the words written in the final sentence.

paraphrasing gameSometimes the message from the original sentence stayed the same; sometimes it didn’t– just like the real telephone game. We had fun reviewing the changes in the sentences from one line to the next, and handwriting played a big factor in whether the sentence stayed on track!

Jumpstart January Blog Hop Promo

I am working with some other educator bloggers on a blog hop and giveaway to get the year kicked off with some fresh ideas and new teaching materials. CLICK HERE to enter to win a $20 gift card to courtesy of TheRoomMom.

Jumpstart January Next Stop

Click the Next Stop button above to get more fresh teaching ideas for January from Teaching Ideas 4 U. If you keep hopping through the blogs there are chances for many individual prizes as well as a $50 Target gift card from our giveaway host, The Lesson Deli.

Instead of Junie B. Jones

just graceMiss Priss is a good little independent reader, but she is still at a stage where she needs 8-year old content, shorter chapter books, and simple plot lines. An obvious choice is Junie B. Jones, but the character bothers me. I want Miss Priss wants spunky book characters that are in the same vein as Junie B., but she also wants I want the character to use decent grammar.

Here are a few book suggestions that meet the decent grammar and spunky girl character criteria. Miss Priss reads them on her own, but we also spend time reading together several nights a week. I read a page aloud, and then my daughter takes a turn. It helps build her reading fluency without slowing the reading down so much that she loses momentum. It is also just a fun activity for the two of us.

no dogs allowed

1st grade+

  • No Dogs Allowed by Stephanie Calmenson and Joanna Cole
  • Just Grace series by Cherise Mericle Harper
  • Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler
  • Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven
  • Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary
  • The Never Girls series by Kiki Thorpe
  • Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows
  • Gooney Bird Greene series by Lois Lowry
  • My America: Meg’s Prairie Diary series by Kate McMullan
  • Hailey Twitch series by Lauren Barnholdt


4th grade+

  • Wide Awake Princess series by E.D. Baker
  • Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin
  • Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
  • The Magic Half by Annie Barrows
  • Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume
  • The Tail of Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern
  • Maggie Malone and the Mostly Magical Boots by Jenna McCarthy and Carolyn Evans
  • The Bread Winner by Arvella Whitmore
  • The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett