Wednesday, December 31, 2014

We've Been Working on These FOREVER

This is a lesson I literally started the students' first day of art class.  I got the idea from Nikki (she and I student taught with the same teacher several years apart, and she presented this sketchbook lesson at a conference.  She does hers with 7th and 8th graders).  Nikki got the technique from our mutual friend Beth, who teaches high school art.  I made a few changes: namely, Nikki used store-bought printed duct tape and pre-printed scrapbook paper, while I had students design paper to cover and used the wet-n-stick tape by Pacon.  The tape really helps in my never-ending quest for more organization.

/This is one class of sketchbooks.  The tape on the binding
corresponds with the color hanging over their tables.
The basics are this: you send out a call for family-sized cereal boxes (be prepared, because you'll get a lot).  I cut mine to 12 x 19/20, depending on the size of the box.  Because I gave students 12 x 18 paper, and the cereal boxes are the book covers, it has to fold to at least 12 x 9, but I like a bit of extra.

Each student gets one cereal box and the color of tape that corresponds to the color of their table.  Their responsibility was to fold the box and then wet and stick their tape.  This had to be done and allowed to dry before the next step.

I don't have a brown table, and there's only one class where
anyone sits at the black table, so I've got plenty of those colors
leftover for another project.

Wetting tape.  When students got enough water on it the glue really
activated making their binding area much stronger.

Here is another area where Nikki and I differed.  She had students measure, mark and cut the slots for their binding.  I had students measure and mark, and then took them in groups and drilled them.  While all that was going on, students were Zentangle-ing on 12 x 18 white paper with pencils/extra-fine black Sharpies.  Next they got groups of paper: 3 groups of 4 pieces 12 x 18 white and 2 stacks of 12 x 18 manilla.We use the manilla paper for ideas and thumbnail sketches and the white paper for notes, and "serious" drawings.  These were folded and marked (matching the drilled holes).  Then I gave them some stiff cording to bind their books.  I demo'd this several times and then they helped each other.

You can see the diamond cuts for the binding here, but not
the stitching.  Trust me when I say it's an easy in/out, and all students
were successful with this step.
We added our Zentangle page to one side (over the cereal box) for a cover, being sure to keep our tape showing:

No one actually finished their Zentangle, which was fine,
because they can add to it during any "down time" or
"what-do-I-do-now-that-I'm-finished" time.
After all our super-fun-and-not-at-all-stressful faux Gelli printing sessions we had papers to choose from to be the other cover.

There is only one photo of the actual "finished" sketchbooks
due to being locked out of my classroom with my four year old
one Sunday over winter break.  Fun times.
As with all new projects, there are a few things I'll tweak in future years, but I love that they're totally student made, and we've been using and creating them all school year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why Didn't I Think Of This Sooner?

Sometimes the smallest little tweak to something can make everything easier, you know?  And here's my tweak for paper weaving:

Amazing, isn't it?  I know, I know, it looks like I just wrote their names on their papers before they got there in the corner.  And that's what I did.  It's just that, next I have them use two crayons: a red (or reddish) and a green (or greenish).

See the beauty of it?  They use the red crayon to draw a line under their name (after folding their papers in half) . . . 

-and the green crayon to draw their lines!  Now it's just like driving a car, cutting (driving) on green, stopping on red! No more checking every single paper before they cut, replacing papers when they cut the edge rather than the middle!  It totally works!!! Why didn't I think of this years ago?!
After Christmas break we'll finish this adorable little project that I got from the ladies at St. Paul's Episcopal Day School (thanks Cheryl for letting me tour) and I'll post some pictures.  The whole writing-their-names-and-using-red-and-green-crayons part just made the weaving part go so much smoother.  And a smoother lesson does make for a happier art teacher.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On the Walls in these Halls

Are you ever in an unfamiliar area and drive by a school and wish you could go in and talk to the art teacher?  I think of it almost every time I'm passing a school.  At LEAST I'd like to see what's hanging up in there, see what sort of projects the students are working on.  
Since most of you will never drive by my school, I photographed what's hanging in the halls right now for you to see (you are most welcome!).

Fifth grade presidential portraits and third grade paper people
hanging right across from my classroom.

Sixth grade African masks and more third grade paper people
right outside my room.

New kindergarten Kandinsky-inspired trees hanging in the hallway
from the cafeteria.  Haven't gotten the objectives for this project
posted yet, but I will.

First grade paintings (self portraits) and some kindergarten color
mixing paintings that are being taken down to make room
for more first grade work.
I also have two bulletin boards, which is great but never seem quite big enough:

Sixth grade Adinkra prints (just cut out of sticky-back foam
and printed with marker).

Oh, and we added "stitching" with black Sharpies.
Fourth grade Kahlo-inspired self portraits.  These are great,
but I haven't gotten them all up yet.
Wouldn't it be great if you really could just "drop by" an art teacher some time?  It would probably never work out, there'd be too much going on or something, but it'd be awesome if we could all share more and show off our students' work more. Until the 'open door' policy in my mind comes to pass, I guess I'll keep on reading blogs!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Newest (January 2015) Arts & Activities

Have you got your latest copy of Arts & Activities?  Mine just arrived in my mailbox yesterday, and there's a little article in there from yours truly.  I'm soooo excited about it.  It's "Safety Shields inspired by the Plains Indians" and I wrote it 2 1/2 years ago, so the students are all in middle school now.    
We have ugly sweater day here for the staff, and one of my good friends said, "Hey, the prize should be a signed copy of your article!" I thought it was a great idea, but nobody really went for it. 

It's the second time I got an article in, and next time I'd really like to get the sweet cover spot.  Goals, we've all got 'em.  I'm sure I'm driving people in my life crazy with my excitement, but it's a big deal to me.

Art on, friends, only a few more days of Christmas-is-coming-craziness and we can all relax for a bit.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pattern Kandinsky Trees

I've seen many lessons using Kandinsky's work as a starting point, and I was having one of those don't-want-to-do-what-I-have-planned-for-kindergarten days and came  up with "I'll fold their papers into eight sections and then have them make a pattern--"

I really didn't know where it was going when it began, I just had them draw a pattern with marker and then color the background/white space with crayon.  Some were more elaborate than others:

We then made circles with crayon on 9 x 12 paper.  It gave me an excuse to drag out the ole' document camera (the one I've got from our library is really, really basic).  We drew/colored seven circles:

The next art period, we talked about Wassily Kandinsky, and I made a super basic Smart notebook lesson, that you can get here (it's just labeled "Kandinsky").  The first two times we spent too long talking and making a tree on the smart board so we didn't have enough time.  The final class I realized that if the students worked on their paper while someone was on the smart board, we got lots more done (once we got to the build-a-tree-with-lines part).  I do really like how they turned out:

It really turned out to be a great lesson for reinforcing patterns (that they're covering in their regular classroom), cutting/gluing (almost every kindergartner needs more practice on these skills) and using and manipulating parts to make a whole (ie using lines to "build" a tree).  Hooray for last minute lesson when I'm bored with the same old same old!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Glad Mad Sad First Graders

I really thought I'd blogged about this lesson before, so I didn't take many photos because my plan was to link it to the previous post . . . which doesn't exist.  I know the original idea was not my own, and when I find my inspiration, I'll link it, but for now, just go with it, will you? [edited because I found it here on Artsonia]

First grade, talking about self portraits.  I use acrylic stand up mirrors, kind of like these.  They are a bit pricey, but we use them all the time in my room.  They draw three self portraits on three separate 9 x 12 papers, first with pencil and then trace with black permanent marker.  I give them time to make faces in the mirror (just because it's fun).  We look at ourselves with a variety of expressions.  I tell them they need to draw themselves sad.  The next one is a mad face.  I usually write "Feeling Blue" on their sad one and "Hot Headed" on their mad one, but after this year I'll probably drop that bit.

You've probably figured the next part out: we talk about warm and cool colors, and they paint their self portraits.  Cool=sad, warm=mad, free choice/any/all colors=happy.  I only added the happy one this year because students kept asking 'when do we draw ourselves happy?'  I also used to have them glue their sad and mad self portraits to large (18 x 24) paper, but this year I stapled their three self portraits on 2 x 24 strips and I like it so much better.

I also made a quick "The many faces of ____________" paper for them to fill in and glue to a larger piece of construction paper.  Adorable!

I do love the way they all look hanging in the hall, it has a real gallery feel.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"That" Art Teacher

I don't know about you, but I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what sort of art teacher I'm being right now.  Maybe it's the Pat Quinn workshop I attended earlier in the month when he said "don't get frustrated when kids don't know.  Don't sigh, don't roll your eyes.  Be excited, be happy, be like WHEEEEEE!!!! You don't know? Great, let me teach you again, because that's what I'm here to do!"  I really reflected on my own behavior and what it's like to be the student.  It's part of the reason I go to so many conferences and workshops: I'm the student.  And have you ever been in that class or workshop and the teacher makes you feel stupid?  Seared in my memory: a conference workshop all about origami folds.  The presenter says "Just follow the handout, and you'll be fine."  Totally thought I was, but when he asked for volunteers and I raised my hand, he came over and said something like "Well, these are all wrong.  Nothing I can do with this! Who did it correctly?!"  I wanted to crawl under the table and dig a nice deep hole.  
Early in my career co-workers and parents would say, "Oh, you must've had an amazing elementary art teacher!"  Nope.  I do not remember that woman smiling ONCE.  All of my memories of her are her sitting behind her desk.  My mom has three identical everything from our elementary careers: a pre-cut pumpkin with triangle eyes from me, my brother, my sister.  A paper scarecrow on a stick from me, my brother, my sister.  The only project I remember enjoying was a day where she literally shoved a black paper at us and said "Make something out of the scrap box!"  As an adult, I can think about and wonder what sort of unhappiness was going on in her life, but as a kid, I just didn't enjoy art at school.  Flash forward to upper elementary, I enjoyed my teacher and art. . . .and then the allegations of sexual misconduct/abuse came out.  Uuuuuggghhhhhh.  I called my high school art teacher when it all surfaced (I was in college) and said "Please tell me this isn't true!" to which she replied "I'd love to tell you it isn't true, because we as art teachers don't need this, but I think it is."  My high school art teacher was (and is) amazing.  She even took me to college when my mom couldn't, so my first few days of art school were spent with Mary.  More than 20 years later, I still call her, and she picks up right away, joy in her voice.
I want to be remembered by my students as someone who loved art, loved them, loved being there everyday.  But I'm human, and I have a cold and a toddler and a preschooler and two young adults and a grandchild for gosh sakes!  So what does that mean?  It means I have to keep it in the forefront of my mind: what kind of art teacher am I being today?  A rockin' one? Or "that" one???  Time will tell, of course, and I've come to realize that perception is more important than reality many times.  I just hope their perception is a good one.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Not Repeating Last Year

Last May, I was firing the kiln until the next-to-last week of school.  All because I didn't work in a clay project with third grade.  So, this year I decided to get 'er done early.  
My third graders learn about art history, who the first artists were, dig like archaeologists, learn about Egypt and sometimes the Greeks and Romans (depending on how quickly the year goes).  Right now we're learning about Sumeria and the Tell Asmar Figures. They always make paper people to decorate the halls, and I contemplated not doing that lesson to do a clay one, but I'm so dependent on that lesson later (for the paper folding and attaching techniques) that I kept that lesson AND we made small clay figures too.  
I was too busy to remember to take photos of our wet/in process clay figures, but here's a shot of them, fired and still in the kiln:

I cut a hunk of clay off for each student, had them cut part way up to be legs, gave them more to mold a head, arms and details and then used block tempera + gloss medium to paint them:

I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. I did have a few who didn't score and slip well enough so their heads didn't stay attached, but I also had a few who went wild with details:

I often feel like I rush them too much with clay (40 minutes is NOT long enough), but I just don't have the space to store them for them to work on them for multiple class periods.
Clay project in third grade, DONE.  If I'm firing that kiln through the end of May, it won't be due to third grade this year!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Art + Writing

Zach Stoller over at Thomas Elementary Art wrote this post about writing in the art room, and it got me thinking about how I've incorporated more and more writing this year.  I keep some "When I did this project I learned" sheets ready to go in a box in my room, and we'll often add then to the bottom of our projects because I really do think it's super valuable to see what students learned written out in their own handwriting.  Sometimes we use a mad libs sort of prompt on the smartboard, like the writing we did here for our Animals on our Heads:

Or this sort of prompt writing from fifth grade, who's finally finishing up themselves-as-president portraits:

Hard to read,  but it says: "President Smith was president from 2046-2054.  During his
presidency he went to the moon, Helped 7036 poor familys get food,
invented the first solar computer car and a lot more!"

"President Rumsey was president from 2046-2054.  During his presidency
he gave world peace, stoped world hunger and stoped all wars."
And some more fifth grade work because it's so very good:

In a nutshell: she stopped world hunger and was a famous, well-liked president.

He helped people who needed help.  He gave money to people that
needed it to buy stuff.

She was very busy! She saved pandas from extinction,ended poverty,
ended world hunger, sent all males to Jupiter (!), gave scholarships
to girls and "was the best prsident America ever had."

She improved school food (making it "better, not as gressy"),
made homeless shelters bigger, and made "maturtie leave longer than 6 weeks."
(I used the maternity leave example in my explanation to them about what I would do.)

I love portions of this one:
". . .she ended wars very mean.  She also made world peace.
She became the best president in the hole intiver univers."

A portion reads: "She found a cure for cancer, ended poorness, and made it a law to bully.
She was a fantastic president."
As for spelling, it never bothers me if it's "inventive."  Spelling is hard! And so not my job to be the spelling police. Don't you remember how tricky spelling was in elementary school?  I found it impossible.
Writing and art go so well together, I don't do it with every project, but I do it with many of them.
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