Artfully Speaking by Laurie Bellet

Starting with a Clean Slates

A New Year, a fresh start, it is time to begin with a ‘clean slate,’ literally. You can purchase individual student slates, approximately 6”x9, at local craft stores. The slate’s wood frame gives space for any sort of decorating you wish. Write the alef-bet or a blessing around the outside. Add symbols for the New Year or ones. Ask students to embellish the frame with pictures or stickers that reflect their personalities and interests. The wood frame takes acrylic paints and paint pens without spreading like marker will. Seal pictures or stickers with Mod Podge for a decoupage finish. Use tacky glue to insure that your collaged pieces will not fall off. (The individual chalkboards from Oriental Trading Company have plastic frames. You can write on these with permanent markers.) Then, save those slates for student use throughout the year. Practice your Hebrew lettering on the slate instead of using paper. Have students write down their answers to your questions and hold them high for you to see. At the end of the year, reflect on all you have experienced on those once ‘clean’ slates!

Setting the Table for Rosh ha-Shanah

A table set in white for the New Year always amazes me with its sparkle. You can create the same glow for your students buy setting your classroom tables in white. Drape them (or even just one) in white covers, borrow a set of candlesticks for each table and make them shine. Acquire a Kiddush cup for each table but keep that hidden. When students enter, ask them to enjoy the table and come to you to tell you what is missing. Then, place the Kiddush cups on the tables and plan to make the rest (or at least one piece of it) of what is missing – the hallah plate and cover, an apple plate, the honey dish. (Detailed directions for all these pieces are in The Reluctant Artist from Torah Aura Productions.)

Hallah Plates and Hallah Covers

3rd grade student Oakland Hebrew Day School

Older students (grade 4 and up) take great pride in creating a hallah plate, an apple plate or a simanim (symbols) plate from glass. Working on the back of the plate, the student places pictures, either cut from magazines or drawn with crayons, on the plate to get a sense of preferred placement. Take the pictures off the plate and use either a foam brush or fingers to smooth a light coating of Mod Podge on the bottom of the plate.. Place the pictures face down and secure them with another coat of Mod Podge. (Alternatively, students can place their pictures and stickers on a round doily, as big as the plate’s center. Lay the doily face down on the plate following the previous directions.) Complete the plate by Mod Podging pieces of non-bleeding tissue carefully covering the bottom of the plate. Give the plate 3 layers of tissue. Finish with a light coat of Mod Podge. If it remains sticky, sponge it lightly with gold or silver metallic acrylic paint. Younger students can use the same process with acrylic plates but this can get pricey.

Corrugated cake circles are a fun ‘plate’ making alternative for young learners. Students can decorate the circles with drawings, pictures, stickers and a blessing. When the student artist is finished (student name and the year should appear on the front), you can very carefully cover the cake circle with clear contac paper or laminating film. Large white lace doilies can be similarly decorated for the hallah cover. When the artist is done, laminate the cover for protection.

Cutting and hemming fabric for a class’ worth of round hallah covers is awfully labor intense. Instead, you can purchase 19”x17½” finished hallah covers from Mahir Judaica or you can buy 21.5”x21.5” silk scarves from Dharma Trading and instruct students to make their designs ‘in the round.’ Student artists should trace a large circle on white paper and either draw or stencil their designs and blessing around the circle on the paper. When pleased, the student tapes the silk to the table on top of the white paper and uses Crayola fabric markers to trace their artwork onto the silk. (Have an extra piece of silk available for practice.)

Honey Dishes

Even the littlest artists can create an heirloom honey dish using either a clay flower pot or a glass votive (both are frequently available for sale prices). Working with the piece upside down on wax paper gives the student more stability and keeps the piece from sticking to the table. Children can apply Mod Podge and add a layer of non-bleeding tissue paper, followed by Mod Podge, followed by catalog pictures and/or stickers (remember the child is working upside down so these pieces must be applied upside down!) and a final smooth coat of Mod Podge. Insert a plastic cup into each honey dish to actually contain the honey for years of sweetness. (You can print blessings onto a sheet of blank address label stickers. Give each child a blessing sticker for their art work.)

Rosh ha-Shanah Cards

At this time of year, cards are a must, and there are many card making options available. One of my favorites is a ‘flip-flap’ card. Fold a piece of 12”x18” white (sulphite) construction paper in half lengthwise (a” hot dog” fold). With the paper folded lengthwise in front of you use a ruler to section it into 3 or 4 parts (they needn’t be even). On the front of the folded paper, cut up to the fold, on the lines you have made. Now the card has flaps. Students can surprise the card recipient with a message under each flap and a picture on the front. Older students who are cutting their own flaps can have fun making their cards truly original by cutting their flaps with wavy or zig-zag lines.

Extending a hand at this time of year is perfect for issuing a greeting or offering an apology. To extend a hand as a card, fold a piece of construction paper in half width wise (a “hamburger” fold). Working with a partner (especially good with a brand new friend) the student lays one hand onto the folded paper, with the wrist/arm extending to the fold. A friend traces around the hand all the way to the fold. With the paper still folded, cut out the hand only to the fold. Now the students have cards that are uniquely their own to write messages and decorate.

Not all Jews can be with family or friends or even leave their homes to worship. Ask your local social service agency, that delivers meals, if your students can make cards and/or placemats to brighten up some meals. For especially beautiful placemats, buy large round or rectangular doilies for the children to decorate. Laminate the finished placemats twice for added durability. Commit to making meal decorations or cards for all the holidays so you can gift your students with the warmth of giving throughout this New Year. L’Shanah Tovah!