Here are a few things that really help me out when I'm preparing and finishing our clay unit in elementary school.
1. ALWAYS MAKE EXTRA.
I usually have students who are absent during the week that classes are working with clay so I try to prepare 10-15 extra pieces per grade level while the kids are working. It makes things easier when pieces get broken, lost. or you have a new student.
2. HAVE A SYSTEM OF LABELING OR ORGANIZATION.
In my room this is key because of my limited counter/shelf space. I usually have plastic bins or box tops from the boxes of paper our school orders with labels on the outside so I know which class that particular set of clay belongs to. I also have the students write their initials on the bottom and a label for their class in case any get mixed in. Beware of students with the same initials, or twins with the same initials. I have currently five sets of twins, but lucky me only one pair have the same initials so I just wrote their name out for them. (Note: with Kinder and 1st I allow some extra time at the end so I can write the initials for them, just makes it easier for everyone.)
3. MAKE TIME FOR CLAY TO DRY.
In the past I've found myself rushing to get the clay in the kiln and that has ended with explosive results! This year I allotted two weeks for drying and two weeks for firing. This worked so much better and I had only one or two pieces break because of air pockets but they were salvageable. (I use hot glue to reattach things but if you've used other adhesives with clay let me know.) Of course those pieces were not glazed, but painted with acrylic, you can't glaze a piece if it has glue on it.
4. KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR KILN.
I have the directions for using the kiln up on the wall in our kiln room and in a plastic bag so I can make sure I'm following all the steps.
|My little kiln room in a closet :)|
|The inside with a full load.|
|The sometimes touchy control panel.|
|The directions hung on my wall in a plastic bag. Easy and accessible.|
5. EXPECT THAT THINGS WILL BREAK IN THE KILN AND ACCEPT THAT YOU HAVE NO CONTROL.
I used to worry myself silly and feel bad if a students clay piece came out of the kiln broken, but not anymore. IT WILL HAPPEN AND IT WILL BE OKAY. Don't stress so much it is art after all and sometimes "mistakes" turn into beautiful things. BE BRAVE YOU CAN DO IT!
6. HAVE FUN!
Clay is some of the hardest work weeks I put in a year, but also one of the best and most enjoyable for the students. Revel in the fact that this is something that your students may never experience again, make it fun for them and yourself, if you find lessons that you'll enjoy as much as the students it will be that much easier.
If you have any questions ask and I'll try my best to answer them. I hope this helped encourage you to not be afraid of clay or the kiln! Enjoy!