Sunday, August 18, 2013

Doesn't This Look Like Fun!!!

Earlier in the summer I was approached by Prang and Dixon Ticonderoga to field test some of their products and write about what I thought and in return they would pass along a coupon offer for Prang Watercolors to all of us. Now I don't usually even respond to letters like this, but Prang and Dixon are two of my favorite brands for certain items so I agreed. Instead of just testing the products, I decided to use them to try out a few projects that I am thinking about for the classroom.
First, this is what they sent me:
OH, BOY!!!!! Don't you just want to dive right in?!!!
They not only sent their own products, but comparison products to test them against.

Well, I am starting with my favorite all time pencils, Dixon Ticonderoga. They sent the regular size, which are great, but I actually favor their "Laddie" and "Beginner" styles for the thickness. I LOVE this product!! The beginner pencil below is probably 3 or 4 years old. These pencils are a lot like using regular art drawing pencils. Yes, the eraser is gone by now, but the pencil is still going strong. We use Magic Rub erasers anyway, the the eraser on the pencil is not a big issue for me.
My first project for 4th graders is going to be a shading lesson on cubes. I haven't decided yet whether to use pencils or oil pastels, but I am trying out both. Today I'm using the Dixon Laddie pencil (middle size above -- it is just a bit skinnier than the Beginner).

I am planning a directed lesson on how to draw a cube, starting with a square for the front side, then 3 parallel lines drawn diagonally towards the "B" side (that is why I'll have the kids write "A" and "B" on their papers -- so they don't get confused about directions. Then they'll connect the diagonal lines drawing lines parallel to the original top and right side lines of the square. I'll circulate and check angles and parallels as the kids work. There are always a few who have spatial issues.

Next the shading begins. I have students draw an arrow indicating the source of the light. Actually, I usually do a quick demonstration with a box and a flashlight, proving that light doesn't bend around corners.
After shading the 3 sides with the regular lead pencil, (VERY light on top, medium value in front and darkest on the right side) kids will go over the regular lead with the color of their choice of Prang Triangular colored pencils. I had never used these before and after one session, I am sold and I am ordering some next week!!! The color is soft and easy to get even coverage, they are thick like the Dixon Laddies and they are really easy to grip with the triangular shape. I didn't find any down-side to this product. 

The next step is to make 2 more cubes, one medium size and one smaller, all shaded with a different color and using the same light source. When that is done it's time to cut them out. I usually review with students how to old and use scissors (I'm always surprised at the variety of ways kids can do this!!) See tips here. Notice that this right handed cutter is cutting on the right side of the cutting line -- much easier to see this way. A left handed cutter would start on the left side of the cube with the scissors on the left side of the cutting line.
You can see where I am heading with this lesson in the photo below. Students will create a "still life" type background for the cubes to be glued upon. I like the idea of having one of the smaller cubes look like it is falling or flying through the air!!

Notice that little red pencil sharpener?? It came with the Prang colored pencils AND they thoughtfully made it with 2 sized holes, one for regular pencils and one larger for their larger sized pencil -- love it. Now, at school, I have an electric pencil sharpener (I think it's a Boston X-acto School Pro) and it is another of my favorite things -- as a matter of fact I need to order another one, as mine is showing signs of giving up soon (it has GOT to be 10 or 12 years old -- time for a new one)!! Anyway, I take care of the pencil sharpening in the classroom, but this little red one is going to be great for at home because I don't have a larger sized one here.

I think I will follow up with part 2 of this lesson (the background and frame) later -- this post is getting to be WAY too long.

And, as promised, here is the link Dixon Ticonderoga gave me for our exclusive coupon for a set of their Prang Watercolors. I'll be doing a comparison test with them and the Crayola brand they sent me soon.
Coupon Link click HERE

To all of you who starting classes this week, hope you get off to a GREAT start!!


  1. So, I'm beginning to feel left out! I've been reading reviews of these materials on about 1/2 dozen blogs! But honestly, what's been fun is that everyone's approach to the reviews have been individual and unique, just like we are. And I already know that Ticonderoga pencils are the best anyhow, and frankly, I LOVE the Prang semi-moist water colors (though I don't like ANY washable water colors, which I think I saw on your pile of goodies). Never tried the markers, though.

    1. I hadn't noticed (until you mentioned it) that the Crayola watercolors they sent for comparison were the washable kind. I don't care for washable either. I do use the regular Crayola pan watercolors and Prang semi-moist at school. I'll do a real comparison with these three pan types later.

  2. Another inspiration for the new school year. You always have such high quality projects. Have a great year!

  3. Love your posts! Do you have any suggestions as to what use or how to use pan water colors that are very weak in hue? Last year I stocked up on the Prang pan watercolors, and they serve school purposes well. That's what we use now. Then a classroom teacher handed me about 30 sets of non-Prang (3 different brands) watercolors and once tested, they proved to dramatically lack color density. Sitting dry in the pans, they look wonderful. Would love suggestions on how to best use these. Keep wondering if I can grind them up and do something with the color powder....

    1. That's a tough one. Occasionally we do projects where I like the background to be soft or subtle (like in the photo above with the cubes). I have the kids REALLY water down the pigment in a palette. I suppose if you have pale watercolors it would eliminate the need to use so much water with the colors for projects like that. I have never tried grinding the color --it could work, although sounds a bit labor intensive!!