No I’m Not Crazy- Teaching Ceramics in Every Class for 8 Weeks!


This quarter, the entire school is working with clay.  I know some of you reading this may think I’m crazy, but to me it seems easier if I teach clay all day and deal with the mess all at once.  The alternative is potentially ruining beautiful watercolor paintings because students are working on dusty tables.

For many years of my teaching career, I never did a whole lot with clay.  I taught in a tiny art closet room and storage was always an issue.  The first few years, I had 4th grade make little tiles with building facades on them.  Then a few years later I began having students build pinch pots and coil built pots in 1st in 2nd grade.

Finally, I had a student teacher who team taught a lesson on Face Jugs with 1st and 2nd grade.  I almost went crazy, because that was the year the district took the kiln out of my building to put in a geothermal unit.  I took all the pots to the high school and fired them there.  The results were fantastic and the project was a lot of fun.

A ceramic rattle made by a 3rd grade student under the guidance of Susan Livingston

When I moved to my current school, there was already a tradition of 5th Grade students making Face Jugs.  There was also an Artist in Residence program, so I brought in Dr. Susan Livingston to team teach Face Jugs and clay rattles for 3rd and 4th grade classes.  This helped me realize that it was feasible to take on teaching ceramics to the entire school at one time.

Each year, I add one or two new projects to my bag of tricks with the goal of each grade having their own signature project in a few years.  I think I’ll try to add in some kind of double pinch pot project next year.

Here’s a little preview of what we’ve been up to.  I’ll post some more in depth articles on each project as the weeks go by.


Pinch Pot Owls


This is a good introduction to clay.  I show students how to wedge and check for air bubbles.  Then we make a little pinch pot and wrap it up.  During the second class, we add details with tools.  I bisque fire the work and then the students add white underglaze and clear glaze.

Pinch Pot Fish


After students have glazed their owls, we make another pinch pot.  On the second day I talk a lot about slip and score so students can add little fins and tails to their fish.  Once they are fired, students use watercolor paints to decorate their work and I use a clear acrylic spray to fix the paint.

Once both pieces are completed, the class has a compare and contrast discussion with a Venn diagram.  Then we wrap up the work and take it home.


1st – 3rd Grade

Turtle Island Turtles

Modified Pinch Pot Turtle

This is a new project I added this year.  The class learned about the Lenape creation story about the world resting on the back of a turtle.  Then students drew maps of meaningful places on a turtle shell worksheet.  The next few sessions were spent creating clay turtles with decorative shells.  Some put maps on the backs of their turtles, and some simply made patterns.


4th Grade

Coil Built Animal Pots

coil built pot - owl

This is another new project for me this year.  It grew out of students requesting to make an animal of their choice.  I know I wanted to teach coil building techniques, so that they would be ready for making Face Jugs in 5th grade.  I’m really happy with how this project is going and its a great reminder of what kind of projects you get when you allow student input in your planning.

5th Grade

Face Jugs


This project comes from the mysterious African American Face Jugs.  The kids make such funky pieces with this prompt and each one is so unique.

Be sure to watch the PBS video about this fascinating tradition. 


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