Monday, March 29, 2010

The good outweighs the bad...

Things that make me smile at school:
  • "Do you want to be an artist when you grow up?" asked by a Kindergarten student
  • "I'm doing way better than I though I could!"
  • A teacher thanking me for "making art fun"- her daughter was so excited to show her how to paint with dried up markers and water after her art class last Friday!
  • Students who have heard me say "If you make a mistake, make it great" enough times that they repeat it to other students!
  • Appreciative/Supportive colleagues.
Things that get under my skin:
  • Student saying to my face, "This is boooor-ing," during a demonstration that would have already been over if I didn't have to stop and ask him to watch like the rest of the class
I had to make a list of good things to help me forget about the bad thing!

Bonus!  Things that make you go "hmmm"
  • Why does "listen up please" translate to "talk louder"? :)
  • Asked by one of my cooperating teachers during student teaching, Why do students put paper towels in the sink when there is a trash can right next to it?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fish Tank Background

This was one of my projects on the staff workday before Spring Break.  One of my schools has a fish tank in the hallway near the office.  It had a generic underwater background and I just didn't think that would do.  I asked if I could paint a new background and I let some of the students vote on the theme.  "Outer Space" was the winner!
The measurements were about 2 feet by 4 feet.  I had to cut and tape paper to get the right size and then painted mostly with acrylic paint.  I learned how to use the laminator and we secured it to the back.  Now we just need to paint the base!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Doodle 4 Google

I think that Doodle 4 Google is a really fun project.  I decided to do the project after reading about it on Eric Carle's blog.  The project was good design practice and a lot of fun.  Here is the official informative link:
Welcome to Doodle 4 Google, a competition where we invite K-12 students to work their artistic will upon our homepage logo. At Google we believe in thinking big and dreaming big, so this year we're inviting U.S. kids to exercise their creative imaginations around the theme, "If I Could Do Anything, I Would …"
Here are 3 of my 6 final entries along with the statement the students wrote explaining how their drawing fits the theme.  (Each school can enter 6 designs.)

If I could do anything I would make the world a more charitable place. I will try to set examples in helping someone in need. I will raise money to help out people and animals in need.
If I could do anything I would… Game it up with Google. By playing video games, you gain knowledge and become smarter. There are lots of games- educational games, sporting games, and games that teach you patience, at least that is what Mom says. Games are great for learning!
If I could do anything I would learn about my state. I’ve just moved from Arizona this year. Since I’ll be living in Kansas I wanted to learn more about the state facts.
G= Barred Tiger Salamander
O= Sunflower
O= Ornate Box(ing) Turtle
G= Cowboy
L= Cottonwood Tree
E= Wheat

Sunday, March 21, 2010

3rd Grade Exquisite Corpse Drawings

I was trying to get all my classes back on the same schedule before Spring Break.  That meant coming up with a 1 day project for my 3rd grade students to do, 2 days for my Tuesday classes that were ahead of schedule due to snow days.  I did a quick, modified exquisite corpse to kind of help students brainstorm imaginary animals when I was student teaching and had always wanted to do a regular exquisite corpse project.  I decided it was the perfect time!

I gave the students a VERY quick introduction to Surrealism.  I showed them Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" because I figured if they were familiar with any Surrealist art, it would be that painting.  Next, I showed them the Exquisite Corpse website that has a great picture of the artists involved, artwork, and interesting information about the drawing style.  I never knew, or forgot if I did know at one point, that Exquisite Corpse started out as writing!  Here is an excerpt from the website.
Among Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystique of accident was a kind of collective collage of words or images called the cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse). Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.
 I told the class that we were going to make exquisite corpse drawings working with the group of students at their table.  To make it easier, I made sure that each table had the same number of students.  In a couple classes, I participated to make things even.  I passed out 9x12 inch drawing paper and we folded it to achieve one section for each person at the table.  I found out that it is very hard for 3rd grade students to fold a paper into 5 sections.  I kept trying a different approach with the next class to make it easier but at the end of my 5th class, I still had students who went a little crazy and ended up with about 10 sections.  I told the students that the sections did not need to be exactly the same size we just wanted to have the right number.  I modeled measuring with my fingers to get about the right size and then counting as I folded, 4 creases = 5 sections.  I made sure they knew to count as they folded and the students who listened carefully didn't have any trouble.  I asked the students who got confused or carried away with their folding to combine smaller sections into one and draw dividing lines.  As long as you have one section for each student, it will work!

Folding the paper was the hardest part of the project. I calculated how much time we had to work after folding the paper and divided that by the number of students at each table.  I said when to start and when to rotate so that every section would be filled and the original student would get their drawing back.  It averaged about 2-3 minutes for drawing on each section.  Some students drew something in about 30 seconds and thought they were done so I encouraged them to keep adding details.  This is how the drawing process worked:

  1. Each student writes their name on the back of the paper they folded.
  2. Time starts and each student draws something, anything school appropriate, the more random the better, in the top section of their paper.  They make a tiny part of the drawing overlap the crease.
  3. When time is up, the first section is folded backwards so only blank paper and the tiny overlapping part is visible.*  Rotate.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the next section, moving down the paper.  No peaking at what the previous student drew! Students can use the tiny visible part of the drawing to influence their drawings.
  5. When the paper returns to the original artist, unfold and admire the artwork!
*Tip: I tried to get the students to kind of open the paper when they folded each section back so there were only 2 layers of paper to draw on.  If you don't suggest this, you'll likely end up with papers folded like an accordion and not so easy to draw on.

When the students unfolded their papers, it was like opening a present on Christmas morning!  They really enjoyed seeing how the artwork came together and finding "their" section on the other students' drawings.  Most of the students really enjoyed the process of the project but I had one or two perfectionists that didn't really buy into the collaborative process.  I guess other students just don't live up to their standards! :)  I told the students that even though we worked together, the paper with their name on the back would be their artwork.  My Tuesday class had an extra period to work on the papers so they added color.  I really like the colorful artwork, the pencil line drawings don't photograph very well.  I would definitely do this project again.

Another project I started was a whole class Exquisite Corpse drawing.  I put out a long roll of paper on the floor and called one student at a time to add to it.  I decided to use the number order in place in their classroom for organization.  We'll work on the drawing a little at a time (if we have extra class time) until the paper is filled.

Check out the artwork below and feel free to visit my students' Exquisite Corpse drawings in our Artsonia exhibit!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

1st Grade Recycled Bird Nests

I have a thing for bird nests.  My photo of a bluebird nest (above) was recently published in KANSAS! magazine.  Besides making photographs of bird nests, I have collected a couple nests.  I have three or four nests that have fallen out of trees.  The best example I have is a robin's nest that blew down in my back yard during a storm last summer.

The top rim of the nest is just perfectly woven and lined with mud.  I think the nests are so beautiful and show that not only are the birds master builders, they are also quite resourceful.  I showed my first grade students the nest and how if you look at the bottom, you can see bits of string, something unidentified and fuzzy, and part of a plastic bag.  I really wanted to do a mixed media project with the first grade students so we made a drawing for the base, cut and glued paper eggs, and used newspaper for the nest.

This project took two 40-minute class periods to complete.

The background of the project is a drawing of a tree branch.  Or a whole tree, depending on how small your students draw!  I demonstrated drawing branches like we were zoomed in, instead of drawing the whole tree.  I showed the students how the branch is thicker closer to the trunk of the tree.  I stressed that we didn't want floating branches, so either at least one side of the branch needed to go all the way off the edge of the paper  or they could draw the branch connecting to the tree trunk which would go off the edge of the paper.  The students drew their branches in pencil first then used construction paper crayons to add color.  I let the students choose between light blue construction paper or some pale green card stock that was in the Art room.  To make the project faster, the drawing could be eliminated to just focus on the nest.  

To make the eggs, I gave each student a small piece of white paper.  I quartered 9x12 inch drawing paper and could probably have used smaller pieces.  We quickly reviewed using lines and shapes to make a pattern.  (I had to say "design" because if I only say pattern, the students think they can only make AB patterns from math class!)  The students used construction paper crayons to fill one side of their small piece of paper with a design.  We flipped the paper over and after demonstrating, I asked the students to draw 2 or 3 eggs on the back of their design paper.  If I had not told the students a number, I am sure I would have ended up with 13 and a half miniscule eggs!  I tried different measurements but I found most of the students drew little bitty eggs anyway.  I passed out scissors and the students cut out their eggs.  I picked up the scissors as soon as the eggs were cut out.  I have already found that if scissors are left at the tables these two things ALWAYS happen:
  1. Students continue cutting scrap paper into smaller and smaller pieces that end up on the floor.
  2. Students cut the corners off of their papers.  I don't know why that bugs me so much! 
As the students finished cutting out their eggs, I asked them to place the eggs on their drawing where they would be glued in place.  I asked the students to put their eggs a little bit above the branch so when the nest was added, it would look safe for the eggs and not like it would fall out of the tree.  The eggs were glued down and then I demonstrated making the nest.  The nest was made from newspaper.  I only used one section of the paper and after my 100+ students made their projects, I probably still have enough left for 4 or 5 more years!  To prepare the newspaper, I watered down brown tempera paint in a spray bottle.  I sprayed the newspaper to tint it brown, let it dry, then took it home and put it through my paper shredder!  The shredded paper went into a shopping bag and traveled to school.

When I made my sample, I very carefully glued a couple strips of newspaper at a time to make the nest.  The students had a different approach... I tried to get them to use thin layers of bottled glue but most made a big blob, took a pinch of newspaper, and plopped it down on the glue.  The students' method actually worked pretty good and it was a lot faster than my original plan!  The very best results were still achieved by using thin layers of glue.  You'll need to put down the first layer of newspaper and then add another layer of glue to avoid holes in the nest.  It is also helpful to lightly press the newspaper down to make sure it sticks.  If there is too much glue in one spot, the paper buckles when it dries on the rack.  

The gluing portion of this project can obviously get a little messy.  I called one table at a time to wash their hands.  Students who weren't washing were picking up the newspaper pieces from the floor.  I found that the nest pictures needed at least a whole day to dry on the rack before being stacked.  The students seemed to enjoy the project and the chance to help others if they finished early.  Even one of the students who wasn't super excited at first said:
Wow, this is way 'funner' than I thought it would be!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St.Patrick's Day!

I'm on spring break this week so I got to wear my green shirt and lime green, intended-for-Halloween, socks with spiders on them (even though I have a totally irrational fear of spiders) in the comfort of my own home.  Last Tuesday was my last day with my K-3 students before Spring Break.  A lot of them were already geared up for St.Patrick's Day so I came up with a really simple lesson for the students, basically free draw but in a green monochromatic color scheme.  We talked briefly about St.Patrick's Day and discussed that green is a symbol of the holiday.  Two of the classes were given green, white, and black gouache paint (ahead of schedule) and students in the other classes used green, black, and white crayons to make a drawing when they finished the regular assignment early.  

We were told at a staff meeting that students need at least 6-15 exposures to a new vocabulary word before the word becomes part of their vocabulary.  I had "monochromatic" written on the chalkboard with "one" written under mono and "color" written under chrome.  I'm a big fan of etymology, I think it's really interesting and has definitely helped me to expand my vocabulary and have a better understanding of new words.  I broke the word apart and had the students repeat it (even my Kindergarten students could do it!) and randomly stopped the students while they were working to ask "what was that big word again?" or "what does monochromatic mean?"  I also threw in tints and shades but I didn't spend quite as much time on those words as "monochromatic."

I told the students that they could make a picture of whatever they wanted (as long as it was school appropriate, of course) as long as they stuck to the color scheme we discussed!

Friday, March 12, 2010

2nd Grade Story Quilts

"I want to fly over the Statue of Liberty.  It is very, very cool."

I read Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach to my 2nd grade students.  Tar Beach was a story quilt before it was made into a book.  In the story, Cassie Louise Lightfoot (only eight years old and in the third grade) dreams that she can fly over things to claim them as hers forever.  First, she flies over the George Washington Bridge.  Next, she decides to fly over the Union Building to give it to her father so he won't have to look for work.  Finally, she flies over the ice cream factory to make sure her family can have ice cream every night for dessert.

"I would like to fly over the San Francisco Bridge.  I see a lot of cars and I think it is really cool.  I would like to live there."

After reading and discussing the story and story and story quilts, the students thought of either something they wanted to fly over to claim as their own or something they wanted to see.  I told the students they would be drawing themselves flying over something, the drawing would be colored in with markers and crayons, and 1 inch patterned paper squares would be glued around the edges to create the look of a quilt.  I gave the students 9x12 inch paper and told them to draw in the middle of their paper because if anything important was too close to the edge, it would get covered up with paper in the end.  I tried putting some of the 1 inch squares on the tables for students to check the distance from the edge but this confused a lot of the 2nd graders.  For a couple classes, I found time to measure and mark 1 inch from each side and that worked a lot better.  While the students worked on their drawings, I had them come to my desk one at a time and tell me a sentence describing what they were flying over.  It was good practice  for answering in a complete sentence.  To make the sentences more interesting, I asked them why they wanted to fly over the thing or what they could see.  I typed the sentences with the students' names above, printed and cut into strips.  I got the idea to type the sentences from an Artsonia exhibit.  They were so easy to read and it saved me the time of writing the student' names in sharpie.

"I would fly over the pet shop so it could be mine and I could have some pets."

When I did this project with students during student teaching, I focused more on the pattern.  I had the students come up with several different designs and draw them to create a pattern around the border.  I decided to try collage this time so I ordered a classroom pack of patterned paper and cut the pieces down to 1 inch squares.  I could have purchased paper already cut into 1 inch squares but it was cheaper to cut it myself and didn't take as long as I thought it would.  I found some little foil cups, maybe for large muffins, and used those to hold the small pieces of paper at each table.  After the drawings were finished, the students glued the paper squares around the border and affixed their sentence strips to complete the story quilts.  My rule was that the tip of the glue bottle should not leave the paper.  I tried to get the students to put a zig-zag line of glue one one side at a time instead of gluing one piece at a time.

"I am flying over a whole city.  There are a bunch of lights on."

Check out our Artsonia exhibit!  Feel free to leave encouraging comments for the students!

"I am flying over Heather because I want her to be my sister." (This student already has at least two sisters that I know of and another on the way!)

"I am flying over a motel, a house, and the bank."

"I a flying over the lighthouse.  I see the light on top."

"I want to fly over the candy store so I could eat a lot of candy."

"I wish I could fly over the sun because I want to see how it goes up and down every day." :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Night Drawings

In my smallest class of about 10 students, mostly Kindergarten, we looked at Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night and talked about the colors he used to make it look like nighttime.  That was about all their little attention spans could handle so I gave them black construction paper and construction paper crayons and told them to draw something at night.  I only have permission to photograph a few of their drawings (I just use the same policies as for Artsonia on my blog) so here they are!

This little guy's drawings are PERFECT for this kind of drawing!

Artsonia Idol

Artsonia Idol is a new contest this year for high school students.  This is what Artsonia says about it:
Hundreds of high school students from around the country submitted five pieces of artwork based on different themes. Our distinguished judges rigorously evaluated and pared this list to the best Top 50 artists. Now, you can take part in this contest by placing your vote each week for your favorite artwork.
I have been voting the last couple of weeks and I love seeing all the different interpretations of the theme.  You can use the link above to vote on your favorite.  It's down to the top 12 and the theme this week is "Nature".  Voting is open to the public, take a minute to check it out and help out some young artists! 

The prizes are listed below if you are interested
  • Winner receives $1000 Blick Art Materials giftcard (the teacher also receives a $500 Blick Art Materials giftcard too!)
  • Top 3 each receive large canvas prints of each of their five artwork ($300 value)
  • Top 6 each receive an Artsonia Gift Package - 10 chosen items from the Artsonia Gift Shop ($150 value)
  • Top 12 each receive a personalized magnet showing each of their five artwork ($30 value)
  • Top 25 each receive Artsonia Idol Commemorative Certificate

When Pigasso Met Mootisse

If you haven't already, you REALLY need to check out When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden.  
The very clever and very funny book is kind of a parody of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse's friendship.  My students and I really enjoyed it.  You can view my lesson plan on Artsonia (or just keep reading!)

1. The students will listen to and participate in a discussion about Nina Laden’s “When Pigasso Met Mootisse.” 
2. The students will define friendship and brainstorm a list of attributes of a good friend. 
3. The students will create a portrait of a friend they would want to have (not a specific person) in a style that combines Cubism and Fauvism. 
4. The students will write at least five words/phrases that describe a friend they would want to have. 
5. The students will apply knowledge of warm and cool colors in the creation of their drawings.

Day 1: 9x12 inch white paper, pencils and erasers
Day 2: Pencils, erasers, sharpies or other black marker/felt tip pen
Day 3: Crayons or oil pastels

Day 1: The teacher will introduce the project by reading “When Pigasso Met Mootisse” to the class. After the story, the class will discuss the big idea of the book: Friendship. The teacher will call on students to answer the questions:
What is friendship?
How do you know if someone is your friend?
Next, the teacher will ask the class to brainstorm qualities of a good friend. As the qualities are listed, the teacher will record them on the board. The teacher will explain to the students that for their assignment, they need to think of what qualities they want in a friend. The teacher will tell the students that they will be drawing a portrait of a friend they would want to have (a generic friend, not a specific person). The teacher will remind the students that Pigasso and Mootisse were based on real artists from history, Pablo Picasso and Henri Mattisse. The teacher will tell the students that Picasso was one of the founders of Cubism (more than one side of something is shown at the same time) and that Matisse was a Fauve (Fauve means wild beast, called that because of the bright, wild colors they used.) Both styles will be reflected in the portraits.
The teacher will lead the students through the drawing of a Cubist portrait.
1. Ask the students to place their hand in the middle of their paper. Since your face is about the size of your hand, it is a good guide. The students will use their pencils to put a dot right above the middle finger and right below their palm.
2. Draw the outside shape of a face. An oval or egg shape will work fine since the portraits will be abstract. The dots are a guide to get the head big enough. The top and bottom of the oval should touch the dots. If students need a guid for how wide to make the shape, the width of their hand will work.
3. Draw a side view of a face (in profile) in the middle of the paper. Students can start at the top dot and end at the bottom. (Before drawing, I turned sideways and traced my profile with my finger pointing out forehead, brow ridge, nose, bottom of the nose, lip 1, lip 2, chin. While drawing, I modeled my thought process so students knew I wasn't just making a squiggly line.)
4. Add features to face in profile: side of nose, lips, eye brow, eye looking sideways, ear.
5. Add features to the other half of the face, looking straight forward. Simplified shapes are good (football shape for eye, etc.)
6. With any remaining time, show the students how to draw shapes for hair. Stress to the students not to shade in the hair or make individual strands, just the outline. This is where the students can make their "friend" a boy or a girl.

Day 2: The teacher will quickly review the material covered on day 1. The students will choose at least 5 words of phrases that describe the kind of friend they would want to have (nice, honest, fun, etc.) and use a pencil to write them around their drawing. The students will use sharpies or black markers to trace over all of the lines they have drawn and the words that they wrote. When everyone is done tracing, pick up the markers and tell students to get their pencil again. Next, use the pencil to lightly draw lines dividing the head and background into more shapes. I suggest using a line on the paper as a starting point and drawing a straight line to the edge of another line for the face or to the edge of the paper for the background. Tell the students that every shape will be carefully colored in so they should not overdo it! If everyone finishes early, start the process described for Day 3.

Day 3: The teacher will remind the students that the first part of the drawing was inspired by Cubism and the colors will be inspired by Fauvism. The teacher will review warm and cool colors with the students and tell them that they will use warm colors for the face and hair and cool colors for the background. The teacher will demonstrate applying color with crayon to a drawing. The teacher will also remind the students that the colors don’t have to make sense. A color can be used more than once but two shapes of the same color should not touch.

Here are some of the results!  You can view the whole exhibit in our Artsonia gallery!