Clay is one of my favorite mediums. If it were up to me, I would spend a whole quarter on clay alone. I know that clay intimidates some art teachers because it’s a whole different world of classroom and supply management. Here are some tips about clay management with the youngest students and some notes about the Pinch Pot project. The first thing I do with every class is an Experience Clay Day. With Kinders, we use modeling clay. I use Whole Brain Teaching to go over the clay rules.
Our rules: 1. Clay is for our hands or tables. We never toss, throw, or roll clay off the table. We don’t leave clay on the floor. 2. Clay hands don’t touch. When students have clay on their hands, they don’t touch friends or clap. We talk about clay dust in the air will go in our lungs. 3. We never touch each other’s clay. Friends clay is not to be hurt or stolen. 4. We don’t walk with clay. No one wants to drop their beautiful project or drop clay on the floor, since dirt will stick to it. 5. Clean Up means STOP and clean up. Since clay has extra clean up steps, we need to make sure we have enough time and everyone is doing the same thing.
When we finish the rules we begin learning the four core clay techniques. Roll a sphere, roll a coil, make a slab, basic pinch pot, but with Kinder-friendly language. We first press our clay, wave “hi” to Ms. Cosier in a circle and then “wave hi” to our clay on the table. They roll a perfect ball. Then we raise and lower our hands to Ms. Cosier and to our clay to make a log. We keep going up and down and make a long snake. We spin it into a snail coil. We squish it together and make a pancake. When it’s time to make a pinch pot, we give Ms. Cosier a thumbs up, thumbs down, then press into the clay ball. We bring our thumb and two fingers together like a bird and go “Tweet Tweet”, then we give our clay a “tweet tweet” all the way around.
When it’s time to clean up, students put their modeling clay back into a plastic bag. When the budget allows, I send the clay home with a slip that says “Ask me how to make a ball, coil, pancake, and pinch pot.” Students use baby wipes on their hands then tables. I have sponges for any leftovers. When they make their pinch pots in the next class, we use Kinder-friendly tools: Paperclips, old pencils, popsicle sticks. We add pattern and decoration to our pots interior and exterior. Some teachers prefer one color of glaze to prevent running and mixing, but I think it’s worth it for students to try an inside color and outside. We look at examples of one coat vs three, missing spots, and color bleeding. Students carefully carry their pots to glaze stations in my room. On the cart, there is a brush for each glaze and students may use at their table and bring back to the designated space when their ready to change colors.