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

Directions

  • 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

Directions

  • 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 SpellingCity.com or Memrise.com 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

Cookie Decorating Party

cookie party pipe and flow

Last summer, we visited a newly opened cookie and cake decorating shop in St. Louis while visiting Sewing Sister. Sweetology had a wall of sprinkle choices, an entire counter for mixing icing colors, and shelves full of tools and cutters for creating shapes to decorate pre-baked cookies, cupcakes, and cakes. It was dessert decorating heaven.

Sweetology Cookies and Cupcakes

Sweetology Cookies and Cupcakes

Miss Priss wanted a cooking birthday party of some kind– preferably a party with lots of icing and sprinkles. I briefly toyed with the idea of hosting at home but then began scouting cupcake and cooking locations. I started by calling our local cupcake shops who offer party packages, but I learned that the party’s primary activity is mixing the batter and baking cupcakes. We wanted to spend more time actually decorating.

I finally called the Southern Season cooking school near our home, and they worked with me to organize a party with pre-baked cookies and lots of decorating. The staff at our party showed us a pipe and flow technique, so everyone got to use piping bags (so fun) and they offered a variety of decorating materials to top the icing too.

cookie party invitation

The Invitation: I like paper invitations. I am about the only mom who still sends invitations via USPS, but choosing an invitation is one of my favorite parts of planning a party. I found lots of cute invitation options with a cooking or cupcake theme, but it was harder to find an invite with a cookie design. I finally found This Invitation on ArtFire.com. The owner e-mails a proof and then prints the paper invitations and mails them the day after the sample is approved. It is a home business, and it took over a week (8 days) to receive the proof (her store site states she will send a proof in 3 business days). The owner replied to my e-mail inquiries, but the turnaround was too long for my OCD tastes.

cookie party icing supplies

The Cookies: The cooking school had a long table covered in white paper. They had various bright colored icing in piping bags and “looser” icing in plastic containers. They provided small plastic spoons and toothpicks to help with the icing distribution. There were 5 pre-baked sugar cookies in fun fall shapes at each place. The girls received a short demo about how to pipe a design using the piping bags and “tighter” icing.

cookie party icing cookies

They needed to wait a few minutes for the piped icing to set. Then, the guests spooned small amounts of the loose icing into the open spaces on the cookie and spread it gently into the nooks and crannies. As a final touch, the kids could add sprinkles. I forgot to ask what type of icing we used, but I think it was probably royal icing since it hardened pretty quickly.

cookie party thank you favor

The Party Favors: The cookie school had clear plastic boxes to transport any uneaten cookies home. I printed business card sized Cookie Party Favor Card Inserts on card stock and put them in small reclosable bead storage bags (3″ x 5″) I purchased at Michael’s Crafts. Miss Priss added 1 t. of jimmie sprinkles and 1 t. of nonpareil sprinkles to the baggies. It looked like edible confetti! We added one little baggie of sprinkles to each box of cookies. The cooking school distributed a copy of the sugar cookie recipe too.

cookie party thank you favor finished

The Time: We booked the party for 2 hours, but 90 minutes would have been perfect. The girls decorated every cookie Southern Season had, and we still had 30 minutes left before parents arrived. I ended up siting on the floor with our group and playing games like Telephone and the Grocery Store Memory game because a dozen 2nd grade girls who have just eaten boatloads of sugar and have nothing to do is a deadly combination. I actually had to tell several of them to stop licking the table.

cookie party cookie box

The best part of the party was the clean-up. None for me! If you plan a cooking party of some kind, do not try this at home. Outsourcing this party was the best decision I made. If your child would like a cooking birthday, start with the cupcake stores in your area. Almost all of the cupcake shops near me had private event options. Have you hosted (or attended) a cooking party of some kind? What worked well and what did not?

cookie party finished cookies

Foldable Fortune Teller Study Tools

If you tell an elementary student to study for a test, he stares at a page of notes for a few minutes and then declares that he is finished. In my 4th grade classroom, if I want my students to do more than passively glance over a review sheet and regurgitate a few definitions without really seeing a bigger picture, I have to strategically provide study options for them. Foldable study tools are always a good idea because students love to work on anything that is a distant relative of a paper airplane, and many foldables provide a study option that is interactive.

foldable fortune teller study tool for students

This year, I have been using fortune tellers as one way to prepare for tests and quizzes. The original fortune tellers I made as a child had numbers on the different flaps and after flipping the sides back and forth a few times, you would lift a flap to reveal a fortune. I adapted that idea into a study tool.

I give students pieces of copy paper cut into 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ squares, and we fold. The students write different related concepts on the flaps, so they will be reminded to review the information in a variety of ways. The fortune tellers have the added benefit of a student being able to quiz himself or use it with a friend, parent, babysitter, or other study partner.

How to Make a Fortune Teller

  • Fold the paper in half diagonally matching one corner of the paper to the opposite corner. Press the fold to make a sharp crease. Open the paper and repeat the other direction. Place the unfolded paper on a flat surface, and you will have a page that looks a little like a kite with two creases.

fortune teller fold 1

  • Fold each corner carefully into the center, which will result in a smaller sized square.

fortune teller fold 2

  • Turn the paper over, so the flaps are facing down. Then, fold each corner into the center of the paper again resulting in an even smaller square.

fortune teller fold 3

  • Fold the paper in half making a rectangle.

fortune teller fold 4

  • At this point, gently place your fingers under the loose flaps and wiggle the fortune teller open, so you have diamond shaped flaps and a foldable that kind of resembles an umbrella shape.

fortune teller fold 5

How to Make a Spelling Fortune Teller

  • On the top of the fortune teller, you have space for 8 spelling words. Use words that relate to one central spelling rule or pattern.
  • On the related triangle in the center of the fortune teller, write a variation of the original spelling word. For example, add a suffix to the original spelling word (play on the top and plays on the interior).

fortune teller spelling

  • On the underside of the interior flap, write an explanation of the rule you used when adding a suffix to the original spelling word. In my example, students were practicing the drop the Y rule. The underside of the flap listed what was happening with the letter Y when a suffix was added. In the case of the word play, it ends with the vowel, A, followed by the letter Y. When a word ends with a vowel then the letter Y, the Y stays when adding a suffix. When a word ends with a consonant followed by a Y, the Y goes away and is replaced with an I (cry to cries) When you add ING to a word that ends with Y, the Y remains no matter how a word is spelled at the end (say to saying or dry to drying).

fortune teller spelling rules

  • Students say aloud all of the different pieces of information on the fortune teller. They may look at the flaps to confirm if they are remembering the words and information correctly.

How to Make a Vocabulary Fortune Teller

  • On the top of the fortune teller, you have space for 8 vocabulary words. Write words that relate to 1 or 2 roots or prefixes or another central topic you might be reviewing (electricity, geography terms…).
  • On the related triangle in the center of the fortune teller, write the definition of the vocabulary word, the definition of the root or prefix, or the explanation of the key ideas from your unit of study. For example, if you are reviewing the root, numer, write the definition number on the interior triangle.

fortune teller vocab definition

  • On the underside of the interior flap, write a situation or example where the word might be used. With a word like numerical, an example could be numerical order in a book series.
  • On my flaps that listed the root by itself, I wrote additional words that use the root. On the flap for mot, which means to move or to do, I have words like motor, motion, and motel on the underside space.

fortune teller vocab samples

The goal of the study tool is to have students think about information in more than one way. Rather than memorizing a word and its definition, we want children thinking of ways to apply the word. Unless students have knowledge of topics from several different angles, they may not fully grasp a concept. These fortune tellers are a great way for students to review material, but it should not be the only way they study. What are additional study tool ideas? I would love to hear about your favorite review method.

Brownie Cups

brownie cup mint chip sundae single

I hate it when my ideas don’t work. Mr. Star Wars had his 10th birthday yesterday, and he wanted brownies with ice cream on top for his birthday dessert. This was just going to be a family dinner and celebration since we celebrated his birthday with a few friends before school started, but I still did not think that a plain old pan brownie was birthday-y enough, so I hunted down an alternative.

I had seen an idea on Pinterest for brownie cups. They seemed easy enough and upon closer inspection, they even used a boxed brownie mix, which I thought would translate into minimal time and effort.

Here is what Dreyer’s Ice Cream told me I could make:

dryers ice cream brownie bowl

 Here is what I actually made:

brownie cup separating the pans

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix
  • 2 cupcake tins
  • Pam spray or Crisco
  • a little luck

brownie cup materials

Directions

  • Make the brownie mix according to the box directions. I think a fudgier brownie mix would work better than the one I used.
  • Spray with Pam or grease with Crisco the insides of a cupcake tin and across the top of the pan where the brownies will rise over the edge of the cup VERY WELL.
  • Fill the cupcake tins about 2/3 full with brownie mix.

brownie cup pans

  • Spray or grease the bottom of the second cupcake tin VERY WELL and gently rest the second cupcake tin on top of the filled cupcake tin.

IMG_5540

  • Bake brownies according to the box directions. I baked my brownies about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Remove from the oven and remove the top cupcake tin. I thought it was best to remove while the brownies were still warm, but my brownies stuck to the pans, so I am not sure what to advise on this. I let them cool before lifting the cup out of the bottom cupcake tin after seeing the disaster with the top pan, but the base of the brownies completely stuck to the pan, so I ended up with brownie crumbles and broken brownie cups.

brownie cups sticking in pans

  • Take whatever brownie pieces you can salvage and put them in the bottom of a bowl.

brownie cup coffee sundae

  • Top with ice cream. Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss wanted mint chip. TheRoomDad and I had coffee ice cream. Drizzle chocolate syrup over the ice cream.

Thankfully, broken brownie cups taste just as good as perfect brownie cups. Anyone else want to give this one a try and report back? Is it my cupcake tins that are the problem?

brownie cup mint chip sundae