Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ghost-Eye Tree

Since this year I am meeting with each grade level for only 4 sessions total and then it's on to the next grade level, I am trying to focus on art skills (rather than craftier art).  So I am pretty much avoiding "holiday" themes.  However, I love Halloween and couldn't resist sneaking in a bit of eeriness when I was dually inspired by an Artsonia site taught by teacher, Jean Louie at Genevieve Didion K-8 School in Sacramento, CA (link:, and a post at Mary Making blog with Halloween silhouettes (link:  I have one group of third graders that could benefit with an extra dose of tints and shades, and that night sky at the Artsonia site reminded me of one of my favorite Bill Martin books, Ghost Eye Tree.  We are also working on rhythm in art and the lyrical text and repetition in this book is a perfect illustration of rhythm in literature.

black construction paper (6" X 9")
white paper (9" X 12")

Our Process:
1.  I'll start by telling the story, Ghost Eye Tree, using the pictures as I go.  Kids can join in for the chorus during this story. (I don't have enough time in my art period to actually read the whole book.)
2.  Students will paint a sky using concentric circles radiating out from white to darker tints and shades.
3.  In a second session, inspired by the book's illustrations and images from Getty Images, children will cut trees as silhouettes.  They will have to plan their tree so that the moon peeks through the limbs.
4.  For the tree, I have them measure at least 3 fingers width for the base of the trunk:

Then they will cut 2 curvy lines to each upper corner of the black paper (like a Y):
The next step is to cut out a V shape from the top of the trunk:

The scraps of black that students have cut off are used to cut the rest of the branches:

I'll have children use white glue for this project.  I have a small amount of glue in a plastic cup (from Smart & Final) and they use flat toothpicks to apply it to the branches and trunk.  I find this less messy and more efficient than squeezing glue out of bottles.  I have heard that "Tap & Glue" caps work well on 4 oz. glue bottles, but I haven't splurged and bought any yet.
5.  Children can decide whether to cut off tree limbs that hang over the edge of their paper or leave them on.  I love watching kids plan trees made in this way and I can hardly wait to display the finished results!


  1. Very nice; I like the monochromatic skies. I posted a while ago a cityscape lesson with warm and cool colors, and concentric circle skies:

    I can't fathom that you only see the kids 4X a year, but you are a volunteer, correct? Do the kids also have a regularly employed art teacher, or are you "it", their only art program.?

  2. Hi Phyl
    Our district is still able to support the arts in elementary music (vocal and instrumental), but visual arts (one period a week) is up to the regular classroom teachers, supplemented by PTA funds for supplies. PTA also funds limited classes (10 weeks or so) for each grade level in a different area of the arts (ceramics, dance, performing arts, etc.) My 2 days of volunteer time is just a little extra for each grade level. I can also be a resource to pass ideas and websites on for classroom teachers to use in their rooms.

    Until this year we had no room available (or even a closet to store supplies!) for extra classes. The days I am not using "my" room it is being used for a pull-out reading intervention class. As you can guess, our budget is VERY tight, with furloughs and lay-offs last year and higher class sizes this year, we have very little in the way of extras (except what our diligent PTA is able to provide)!! We do have after school enrichment classes available to students in a variety of subjects, including arts. Sounds a bit grim in print, but that is our reality in Calif. education these days.

  3. Wow. It kills me to think that the regular educatin teachers are expected to provide art education. It's nto fair to the teachers, as they are NOT art teachers, but it's also not fair to the kids to not have a teacher trained in art education, and finally it's not fair to those certified art teachers who can't find a job! Is this what it's like throughout California, I wonder?

  4. We did these, and they turned out beautifully! Thank you!