Diagramming & Dry Erase

As my son (age 13) starts Latin this year (with The Lukeion Project), I am out of the grammar business with him, and starting anew with my two youngest.  I’ll post about our grammar progression at a later date, but I really enjoyed these “art” projects they created today. The assignment was to take the sentence, “The bird eats the worm,” and add modifiers.

The red bird gorily eats the poisonous worm. (boy, age 10)

The rainbow bird majestically eats the sparkly worm. (girl, age 12)

Watercolor Water Cycle

A combination project of art and science.  After studying the water cycle, we painted watercolor pictures of landscapes that included rivers, mountains, sky, and plants.  Clouds and precipitation were added with white and gray acrylic paint after the watercolors were dry.  Labels were written with Sharpie pens.

Tiki Scratch Art


  • Scratch art paper*
  • Scratch art tools of various styles
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Tape
  • Colored paper for mounting

*Scratchboards are the most durable but expensive.  You can also find scratch art paper with white backing, rainbow backing, or clear backing.  All available on Amazon. We used clear backing.

Directions (Original idea at Inside the Lines.)

  1. Google “tiki line drawings” on a computer.  Choose one and print, or draw your own.
  2. Lay the printout/drawing on top of the scratch art paper. Tape both down.  Using the ballpoint pen, trace the drawing.  The lines should transfer through to the scratch art paper.
  3. Remove the printout.  Use scratch art tools “carve out” space of white/color.  Scratch wood texture into some spaces.
  4. Mount on a piece of colored paper when finished.


Nature Mural

Summer art project. Size is 3 feet across by 4 feet long.

Project time was approximately 6 weeks, working 10-15 minutes per day.

Mural 1

Nature Mural, ages 9-12


  • Bulletin board paper
  • Wax paper
  • Pencils
  • Paintbrushes
  • Acrylic paints (red, yellow, blue, black, white)
  • Watercolor paints (standard palette)
  • Painting tarps, t-shirts, towels, tape, water


  • Tape wax paper to wall with painters tape.
  • Tape bulletin board paper over wax paper.

(The wax paper prevents any paint from seeping through.  If you have a large roll of butchers paper / freezer paper with the waxed backing, that can be used as well).

  • Choose a scene and animals.
    • Print out images from the internet to find poses and colorations.
    • Sketch a background.  (In this case, Mom sketched the dock and the horizon line).
    • Have kids take turns sketching animals, plants, etc.

Mural 2

I suggest only one child working at a time, unless they are feeling particularly chummy!

  • After all sketching is done, paint animals using acrylic paint.
    • Have the kids mix all their own colors using only primary colors (blue/red/yellow) with black and white for dark/light tones.
  • Paint background objects using acrylic paint.

Mural 3

  • Let dry thoroughly..
  • Paint water using watered-down watercolors. The watercolor can be washed over everything, so neatness is not needed.
    • Waves were added in with acrylics later.
    • Small details can be added with paint or even sharpies if needed (we sharpied in the herons’ orange eyes).

Mural 4

Dictation & Dry Erase

Early Elementary Dictation

What does early dictation look like? Here is a current snapshot of dictation with my two youngest students.

We practice dictation 3 days a week, usually M/W/F. I work with each child to choose a sentence from a book they are reading.  They have a moment to study it, then we dictate.  The kids love using dry erase for this. I don’t know why, but it works!

Step 1:  Dictate the sentence.  After they complete their best work, I give them the book to proofread the sentence.  We talk about errors.  In the picture below (8 year old boy), we discussed the use of capital letters.


Step 2: Quick grammar lesson.  We start with “circle the nouns” and move through the parts of speech slowly, over a year or two, depending on aptitude.  The picture below is my 10 year old daughter.  She can identify all 8 parts of speech, with the exception of some tricky adverbs.  However, her handwriting skills have been slow to develop, so she is still doing very short sentences.

I keep Grammar Concept checklists for each child to remind me which concepts they might need to learn next.  I will often guide them to a sentence that suits the checklist.


If you don’t like the idea of choosing sentences from a book, I have some links to sentences on my main Dictation page.

Area & Perimeter Animals

Learning about area and/or perimeter is a lot more fun with these little guys:

The original animals are here: Животни от хартия в квадратчета  (Google Translate tells me this says, “Animals of Paper Into Squares).  It’s in Bulgarian, but the images are great and easy to use.

After doing this project on plain flimsy graph paper, I would recommend printing large-square graph paper on cardstock, like this centimeter graph paper.

For younger ones (under 7), have an adult draw the animals.  Let the kids color them, then cut out.  Exposure to the concept of a gridded drawing is ample until they are older. If they are ready, ask leading questions like, “How many squares are in the body?  How many are in the legs?”

For older kids you can do a guided drawing:

  • Draw a face that has an area of 9 cm (or that includes 9 squares, if the concept of area isn’t firm)
  • Draw ears that have a perimeter of 10 cm.
  • Draw a tail that is 1 cm by 5 cm long.

Cut out and play!

Math Art & The Right Side of Normal

I’m currently purging the schoolroom, starting to prepare for our move this summer. While cleaning out, I found these pictures I created long ago with my oldest daughter.


Ten years ago she was almost 7 years old.  To say she was struggling with math is an understatement; no matter how much we worked on math, especially facts, the next day all would be forgotten.  Zero retention.  I began doubting my ability to teach her, especially since she was also struggling with reading.

Fortunately for both of us, around this time I also stumbled upon a yahoo group run by Cindy Gaddis at The Right Side of Normal.  I learned so much from her and the other moms on the group.  (The yahoo group has pretty much died out, but the Facebook page is still active, and her book and website contain wonderful information.)  My child was absolutely a “resistant learner,” and thanks to Cindy this was the beginning of learning to work with my daughter, rather than against her.


We dropped all formal math curriculum and began to play.  These pictures are the very first thing we created, a treasure for me as they mark the beginning of my journey as a teacher of (and learner with) my children, not just an instructor.

Math Art Week 4 – Division Facts

This “division tree” is similar to the multiplication leaves from last week. The first step in this project is to cut circles of different sizes from varying types of paper.  If the student struggles to cut circles, circle punches can be used, or they can be cut ahead of time by the instructor.  (Some of my students wanted to make their shapes more like leaves than circles.) Next, arrange the circles in stacks; use the term “divide” as much as possible: “Divide your circles into 3 stacks?  What about 4?  How many circles are in each stack? Can you divide them evenly without any leftover?”  Once the student grasps the concept of dividing, proceed with the project.



  • various colors and types of paper*
  • scissors and/or circle punches
  • glue or mod podge

*We used scrapbook paper for the background, colored paper for the tree and circles, and some origami paper for the decorative bits. In the picture above, origami paper is used for the top 2 layers, which makes it difficult to distinguish that there are 2 layers!


  1. Cut and divide circles as describe above.
  2. Decide on a permanent arrangement / number of stacks.
  3. Cut a tree to match the number of stacks.
  4. Glue all parts to a heavy piece of paper.
  5. Create a label to show which division fact is being illustrated.

Math Art Week 3 – Multiplication Facts

This week in Math Art we created an art panel to illustrate a multiplication fact. Our plants had leaves broken into 2 sections; each section was doodled differently.  The students multiplied the 2 sections by the number of leaves they created to figure out their math fact.



  • cardboard pieces from boxes
  • gesso
  • various paintbrushes
  • acrylic paint
  • plain colored paper for leaves and stem
  • decorative paper
  • mod podge
  • fine tip permanent ink art marker, such as a Sharpie Fine Point Pen*

*It is important to use a permanent ink pen, or the doodles will smear when mod podge is applied.


  1. Paint cardboard with gesso to prime it.  Let dry.  (Use hairdryer to speed up drying time).
  2. Paint a background color on cardboard with acrylic paint.  Let dry.
  3. On colored paper, draw leaf shapes.
    • Divide each leaf shape into sections.  You may choose 2, 3, 4 or more sections.  Each section will be doodled differently.
    • If you are working on a specific math fact, instruct the students to divide their leaves into that number of sections. For example, if you are creating, 6×4, you may have 6 leaves each with 4 sections, or 4 leaves each with 6 sections.
  4. Decorate the leaves by doodling each section with zentangles.
  5. Cut out a slightly larger leaf from the decorative paper to mount under the doodled leaf.
  6. Cut out a stem shape.
  7. Use mod podge to apply all shapes to the dried cardboard.
  8. Write out the math fact and mod podge it on the cardboard.


Math Art Week 2 – Fractions

Our project this week was based on the book “Picture Pie” by Ed Emberley.  Picture Pie helps the reader create simple pieces of art based on the fractions of a circle.   While these look simple, the execution can be quite tedious.  Below are the details for a simple bookmark.


“Fraction Fish Bookmark”



  • black construction paper, cut in 2″ strips for bookmarks
  • colored or patterned paper for circles
  • 1″ circle punch
  • scissors
  • glue
  • laminator (optional)


Teach a short lesson on the fractions of a circle.  Have kids use the circle punch and scissors to cut up and sort fractions.


Choose pieces for the Fraction Fish bookmark. This project requires 12 quarters and 2 eighths.


Arrange pieces in desired configuration.  Glue onto bookmark.


Let dry.  Laminate if desired.  (If you choose not to laminate, press the dried bookmark until all pieces are nicely flattened).

Other Projects