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Modeling Clay: An Ideal Teaching Tool!

Share A new book makes working with modeling clay as easy as 1-2-3. Easy to follow, step-by-step instructions will have kids (and teachers) creating the coolest creatures, people, buildings, furniture, vehicles, and more! The key: A few simple ideas, shared here by clay-illustrator Barbara Reid. A great resource for an art lesson, or for extending literature or history curricula!

Modeling Clay Book Cover You've probably seen Barbara Reid's work before. Her modeling clay illustrations, which have appeared in many children's books, have won her all kinds of attention. Now Reid shares her secrets in a new book, Fun With Modeling Clay (Kids Can Press) -- a veritable how-to of clay fun!

Reid opens the book with a little background about modeling clay. She introduces some basic concepts (from color mixing to cleaning up) and tools of the trade (from pencils, combs, and toothbrushes to garlic presses). Reid also shares some secrets of the art... Ever wonder how a clay artist gets that long branch on a tree to stay still? Reid uses toothpicks as the "skeleton" for long skinny clay forms such as tree branches and dog tails!

The second spread in Fun With Modeling Clay introduces the most important shapes in clay modeling -- the simple ball, pancake, cone, snake, cylinder, box, and ribbon shapes. It is from those basic shapes that almost anything can be created from clay! That concept will become crystal-clear to even the youngest students as they follow the directions to create an elephant:

  1. Start with a fat egg for a body and four thick cylinders for legs. For the head and trunk, roll a ball and pinch a small part of it between your fingers.
  2. Roll and pull this trunk until it's the right length. Use a pencil point to dot nostrils at the end. Attach the head.
  3. Add two big pancake ears, two small tusks and a tiny tail.

Simple photographs and illustrations accompany the step-by-step instructions for creating a zooful of animals. Make about twenty different animals by following simple instructions and illustrations; make snakes and bugs, turtles and crocodiles, ducks and swans, cats and mice, pigs and seals, a fox or a raccoon. Then learn to make the human body, clothing, furniture, vehicles, buildings and more!

Special sections address details; for example, "Face It!" offers handfuls of techniques for creating facial expressions on people.

Kids can practice their clay-making skills by imitating the creatures and settings that Reid illustrates, or they can experiment with the skills introduced. Throughout the book, Reid offers ideas and challenges kids to take what they've learned and apply it to creating their own, unique clay animals, characters, and figures. And once kids have worked on those basics, they're ready for the best part of Fun With Modeling Clay. They can take those skills and use them to create clay illustrations just like the ones that appear in Reid's children's books. The last two spreads celebrate clay dioramas and 3D illustrations.

Fun With Modeling Clay (paperback, $5.95) is a perfect addition to any classroom library. Kids will love it for its simplicity. Even the youngest kids will be able to pick up the book and, using the simple and clear illustrations, teach themselves the basics of clay modeling.

Teachers will love the book too! It's a perfect resource for a great art mini-lesson. Teach your students some of the basic skills. (Don't be afraid. Reid's clear directions make it that easy! Your students will be amazed at your skills. They'll think you're an expert!) Then let them go... Soon your students will be using their newfound clay skills to bring their studies of history alive! And wouldn't a display of clay dioramas of your students' favorite stories be a winner?

Everything a teacher needs is in Fun With Modeling Clay... Give it a shot. What have you to lose? After all, if you don't like what you've created, just "squash it up and try again!"

Fun With Modeling Clay, written and illustrated by Barbara Reid, is published by Kids Can Press. If you can't locate a copy of the book, ask your bookseller to order one for you or contact Kids Can Press, 85 River Rock Drive, Suite 202, Buffalo, NY 14207. In Canada, contact Kids Can Press at 29 Birch Avenue, Toronto, ON M4V 1E2.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World

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