Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer Plans

School's been out for a few weeks now and my family is settling into a summer routine. The end of the school year was extra chaotic as I had to pack up all of my belongings and resources from both of my schools and haul it home until I can move into the art room at my new school. My garage is at capacity with all the "stuff" from two classrooms and everything that was in my art room at home while we wait for the necessary furniture to finish the remodel.
I don't know how typical this is for other people, but sometimes it's hard for me to relax as soon as something is over. I think it's just part of me being a Highly Sensitive Person. So for me, it's not like walking out of school singing along with Alice Cooper and leaving it all behind. This year was a little harder to transition into summer with leaving behind two schools I've loved and lots of work friends whom I will miss, but I'm glad Facebook will help me keep in touch with them and their families. I came home after the last day of school and started painting that night. It was my little art therapy session and after I worked maniacally to finish it, I felt a lot better! I only wish I'd been able to get to my watercolors in the garage. I really enjoy watercolors, acrylic, and oils, but I would have preferred watercolors for the translucent poppy petals.

So now, my summer plans...

Curriculum- I decided not to take a graduate course this summer so that I can focus on preparing for my new gig. I've spent the last 6 years teaching about 800 K-6th grade students a year and will be moving to a much smaller school district where I will have PreK-12th grade, but less than half the students. Most of my day will be spent with high school- 5 high school classes a day, 1 middle school (7th grade one semester and 8th grade the other), and 1 elementary class a day. I took notes on what the previous art teacher covered so I'm kind of working on a transition with what she's covered, what I want to cover, and what the new Core Arts Standards include as my state is working on adopting those.
Be an artist- I also plan to keep working on my own art and doing some small photography and design jobs. My husband works nights so on the nights he works, after I get my kids to bed I spend a couple hours working on something. Sometimes I go paint, sometimes I put something on Netflix and work on my computer. I've also designed a mural which will be painted on the practice board at the tennis courts in my hometown in the next few weeks. That will be done in the mornings before it get too hot and humid!
READ!- I love to read. In the school year I don't usually allow myself to read a physical book because I get kind of obsessed and want to read instead of doing things I really need to be doing. I've listened to a few audio books while working and read a few hardbacks so far. I have a couple of academic books I want to try to read and take notes on to start working on research I may use for my final semester of graduate school including Classroom (Jaquith & Hathaway, 2012) and Engaging Learners through Artmaking (Douglas & Jaquith, 2009).
Garden- I'm excited to watch the progress of my butterfly garden and the vegetables in my raised beds. This is just the second year I've grown food and though the excessive rain fall has made this not a typical year, I still keep learning things I should do differently next year. The trick will be to remember it...
Family time- Most importantly, spend time with my awesome family. They are one of the biggest reasons I applied for my new job. I will end up with almost 2 extra hours at home during the school year. Though nobody ever said that taking care of 2 kids was easy, it's pretty great to have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom 2 months out of the year.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kindergarten Portrait Assessment

Last fall the K-6 art PLC was given a morning to come up with a common assessment. We decided to start with Kindergarten and chose portraits as a focus. We thought it would be best to do a portrait at the beginning and end of the school year and use a rubric to assess them. I wanted to be able to display them side by side as a keepsake so that became the plan.
 At first, I gave students a sheet of computer paper, had them fold it in half hamburger style, and tried to get them to write their name and draw a self-portrait on one half, while I added "September". Next year, I will just give the students a half sheet because many drew over the crease or switched sides of the paper after I'd written the month. For the May drawing, I gave the students a half sheet and later glued it onto the "empty" half of the paper from September. Of course, in between the pre and post assessments, there were multiple opportunities to talk about portraits and observation. I know that observation is a difficult task for young students, but we meant it more as awareness- all body parts and facial features present- than photorealism. 
I would like to revamp the rubric. The items we looked for were if body parts were present, if body parts were in the right place (ex: legs connected to the torso instead of the head), if facial features were present, and if colors were selected thoughtfully. Other than the color item, there was no consideration given to aesthetics, emotive qualities, etc. I know those are harder to measure, but they're important enough to try. I would also like to add an "advanced" category instead of just going to "proficient".

Here's what we used this year. I have not yet revised the rubric.
Beginning of Year
Description of Assessment/Key Traits
Body Parts Present
Missing several parts
Head, torso, arms, legs, hands, feet
Head, neck, torso, arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers
Body Parts Positioning
Many body parts in wrong position
Ex: Legs attach to head
Some body parts in correct position
All body parts in correct position
Facial Features Present
Only eyes and mouth
Most facial features present
All features: eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc.
Color Choices
Only uses one color
Little thought given to color choices
Student thoughtfully selected colors

 I will also do my post-assessment in April next year instead of May. Some of the students' drawings scored lower on the post-assessment because they were wound up and just didn't want to work on their drawings more than a couple minutes. It was a rough May around here!
Despite a little backsliding, the majority of students showed a lot of growth. Some showed huge improvements! Now, I know that kids would naturally develop their drawing skills and awareness of self as they grow but I see growth beyond that and beyond what these rubrics show. I'm glad to have a starting point for next year's assessment anyway.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

1st Grade Collagraphs

Collagraph is a type of printmaking that involves preparing the plate by gluing textured materials into a composition before inking the surface and printing. There's a good little summary HERE
In all of my printmaking experience, I'd never tried collagraphs before. While planning lessons utilizing recycled materials at the end of the school year, I couldn't resist the urge anymore and gave it a go. I picked 1st grade to try the technique, mainly because I hadn't decided on anything else yet! In the future, I will probably reserve collagraph for a higher grade because of the difficulty in inking a plate that is not flat.
I had many of the same materials from the Recycled Art Challenge 2nd and 3rd grade students participated in available for 1st graders. Pretty much any flat-ish material that you can cut and glue will work. Here are some materials we used:
  • paper scraps
  • yarn
  • paperboard saved from cereal boxes
  • burlap
  • bubble wrap
  • corrugated paper (I found a whole roll from an old bulletin board kit)
Other necessary materials are scissors, bottled glue, printing paper, block printing ink, brayers, and trays for ink.

We cut the materials into shapes, arranged onto a board (we used a dense fiberboard but you could use cardboard instead), and glued in place. This is not a time to skimp on glue! Elmer's glue held most things in place just fine, but the bubble wrap sometimes peeled off when the brayer went over it. I'm not sure, but it's possible another kind of glue may have worked better.

In the 2nd class when the glue was dry, we inked the plates and pulled 2 prints. I don't have enough brayers for each student so I put one tray (we use cookie sheets) of ink and one brayer in the middle of each table. Students at each table took turns printing and helped remind each other of the steps.

The first print was done on 50# drawing paper and the second print was on copy paper. I ordered a case of brightly colored copy paper just for printmaking.

I've found the easiest way to glue yarn onto a surface is to draw the design with bottled glue before tapping the yarn into place.
I don't know about you, but I'm always scanning recycling bins. Sometimes I grab the negatives from die cut shapes and letters. The scraps yielded some of the sharpest images in the prints.
I think I will try to spend some more time playing with collagraph printing this summer.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Primary Weaving- Collaborative & Choice

I introduced a weaving concept to each grade at my primary school.
Kindergarten- Basic idea of weaving- over-under/ collaboration
1st Grade- Paper Weaving options
2nd Grade- Embellishing options for paper weaving
3rd Grade- Yarn weaving

Instead of asking each Kindergarten student to complete their own weaving project, I really just wanted them to understand what weaving is and to practice the over-under pattern. My first idea was to have each Kindergartener take a short break from their choice project to come to my table and practice weaving one strip in one of the large paper looms (12x18 inches) I'd cut for each class. After each student finished his/her strip, they wrote their name on one of the squares they'd created.

That proved to be a time consuming venture. After two days, a better idea came to me. After the introduction in my last Kindergarten classes, I sent students back to their tables where they worked with their groups to weave strips through 9x12 inch paper looms I'd precut. Not only was it faster, there was teamwork and problem solving. Only one student wove at a time, but they helped each other remember the pattern.

Other than in Kindergarten and 1st grade, weaving projects were optional for the students. Not all of the 2nd graders chose to weave paper, but I think all but a few 3rd graders did because they were SO excited about using yarn. I've found that the easiest looms for students to use are made from foam trays. The space between the suspended yarn and the bottom of the tray makes it easier for students than weaving on a flat surface. We displayed the yarn weaving projects by stapling the piece to a 6x9 inch piece of paper labeled with the student's  name.

Many students tried cutting different designs in the planning of their paper looms. The students who wanted a more traditional grid-like weaving used a precut 1 inch strip to trace the lines they would soon cut.
 Some 1st graders used their paper weavings as an interesting background for something else.
 Here are some 2nd grade projects exploring more ideas for embellishing weavings. From left to right, there is a weaving project with a handprint, weaving through painted paper, weaving through a marker drawing of tie-dye, and circles collaged on top with the letters of the student's name on top.
 Weaving projects with stamped paint on top.
More students want to do extra work outside of class on yarn weaving than on any other project. This student stuck to the rainbow pattern for the entire project. She worked on it in art class for a few weeks before taking scraps to finish it during recess.

Weaving has proven to be a very engaging project for my students over the last few years. Weaving is also one of the lowest cost projects. The looms were made either from meat trays I saved and sanitized at home or from recycled cardboard or mat board. I've also picked up 2 trash bags full of yarn at garage sales for under $5 total. It lasts a long time! I did buy some plastic weaving needles and though they were also very affordable, they are not necessary. Students can weave just using their fingers.

Over the summer I hope to try weaving a pouch. I've seem some lessons online but haven't yet had time to give it a go.

Do your students love weaving as much as mine?