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Dotty Wotty Houses with Tyree Guyton

This is one of my all time favorite 1st grade lessons. I first found this project many years ago while student teaching. This project originally came from an Arts and Activities article. I cannot for the life of me remember the issue or the amazing art teacher that it originally came from. If anyone out there knows please share. I would love to thank them.

On the first day of this project we read the amazing book Iggy Peck Architect. We then talked about the different shapes houses are made of; square for the bottom, and a triangle for the roof. We looked at some old Victorian houses and found the simple geometric shapes in them. We talked about how the facade of the house is the front of the building that is facing the street.

Students then get to work drawing their own house on a piece of 9X12'' burlap. I love using burlap because it is so easy for them to sew through. I also think that Smart-Fab would work swell but have not yet tried it. Maybe next year...

On day two we begin the fun stuff! I officially thought I was going crazy as an art teacher when I decided to start sewing with kids right before winter break. But, knock on wood, it went as smooth as ever. I might have to make this a new tradition (knowing in the back of my head that it will never go this smoothly again). 1st graders were so focused and loved every minute of it.

For the very first day of sewing I have all the kids sit on the rug with me and we do each stitch together helping our neighbors as needed. I have found that this is the least eye twitchy way to teach kids this very difficult task. I have kids start by pulling their needle through the back to the front in the bottom left corner of their house. We then take our pointer finger and place it over the bottom of our house line right next to the yarn. We take the needle over our finger and find the line on the other side. This has been the easiest way I have found to keep each stitch a consistent size. On the first day I try to get each student to complete three stitches.

For the next three days we work on sewing. I show them how to go around the corners and over the roof. The more advanced sewers might get a a chance to go around windows and doors. This year was super exciting because I have a very first. I have been teaching this lesson for eight years and this year I had a student actually sew into their shirt. It has been one of the most epic moments in my entire teaching career. Don't worry though we were able to free the student without them taking of their shirt.

On the fourth day kids are usually finishing up sewing so I start class by reading Magic Trash. This is a great story about the life and art of Tyree Guyton and is a great way to lead into adding details around and to the front of the houses.

When students finish up sewing they get to add dots to their houses using tempera paints and marker caps. Students use a 12X18" piece of construction paper and add a border to their houses with 1'' squares of paper. When they finish their border they either glue or staple their burlap to the paper.

On the last day of the project I show students a video of Heidlberg street so they get a better idea of what it would be like to walk down such a colorful street. Students get to use scrapbooking paper, felt scraps, pom poms, and buttons to add details around and on their houses. This is by far my favorite day because they get to really explore and play with the materials. We also talk about the art of collage and how we are collaging today because we are cutting and gluing items down to make our images.

I love sharing Tyree Guyton's story with the students because they get to see an artist that has taken what most would consider trash and made it into something beautiful. Guy ton is a great reminder to the kids that one of the great things about being an artist is that we get to make the world a more beautiful place and who doesn't want to do that. A lot of times with this project kids will bring in art that they have made at home from scraps and trash.

I love looking at all the tiny original details that the kids add to their artwork. I also love seeing all the variety in the houses.

For the full lesson click HERE

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