Thursday, October 27, 2011

2nd Grade Kalahari Animal Silhouettes

 This is the lesson my 2nd graders completed for the African Art themed project the Art teachers in my district were doing K-12.  I found another artist whose work I really enjoy and the students respond to on the Art of Africa.  The painting (image from Pinterest below) is called "Crocodile and Elephant" and was created by Andry Kashivi, an artist from Southern Africa.

This lesson ended up taking three 40-minute class periods.
Day 1: Introduction.  View and discuss the artwork with lots of emphasis on description and breaking the painting down to elements.  After the students identified the animals, they learned the word silhouette (ok, some learned it) and identified the shapes in the background as organic.  I told them that they would be creating artwork inspired by Kashivi's paintings with brightly colored organic shapes in the background and the silhouette of Kalahari Desert animals on top.  After the first class, I realized that I would need to guide the students through drawing their organic shapes or they would never, ever finish painting. I asked them to draw two lines from side to side and one line from top to bottom that were a "medium amount of curvy".  I had to get kind of specific or some went crazy with lots of loops and I knew it would take too long to paint.  I did tell the students that their shapes did not have to look exactly like mine, they just needed to use the right kind of lines to get a good amount of shapes.  Most classes had enough time to begin painting at the end of the first class.

Day 2: Finish painting! I put trays of tempera paint in bright yellow, orange, magenta, and green at each table.  Students who painted fast added a second coat of paint.  We all really enjoyed the bright colors.

Day 3: I showed the students images of Kalahari Desert animals and put black and white copies at their tables.  The students were given a half sheet of black construction paper on which to draw their animals.  Originally I was going to have the students paint the silhouettes but they acted freaked out and said they would rather cut.  I'm undecided on if this was a good move or not.  In my demonstration I showed the students how to just draw the outline of the animals, not all the details on the body.  I spent a few minutes modeling cutting the shapes and showed them my tricks for tricky areas.  I also asked them to flip the animals over when they glued so that no pencil marks would show.  Some remembered, some didn't. In the last few minutes of work time, I showed the students how they could use the end of their paintbrushes to make dots for eyes with white and red paint.  You can see in the picture below that some went a little crazy with the dots!

The next picture is a comparison of 2nd grade cutting skills. The student on the left was really careful and didn't chop off any limbs. (I did show students who accidentally cut off legs how to glue both pieces on their paintings so that they touched "like puzzle pieces".) The student on the right... well, I'm not sure what kind of animal it was supposed to be.  Even though some students struggled with cutting, most were trying hard.  Some just cut out blobs of shapes and didn't cut in between legs, for example, until I asked them about it.  Then they acted confused!

I think if I were to teach this lesson again, it would be with older students.  These examples are probably the best results from the grade.  I think it was just a bit too tricky for most of my 2nd graders to translate the shape of animals, and not so familiar animals at that, into silhouettes.  I think the silhouettes would have been easier to see if they were painted instead of cut out but then the drawing would have been a problem.  But, we reviewed shapes, learned about some new animals, and had fun making some colorful artwork so in that way, it was a success. You can see the rest of the student artwork in our Artsonia gallery.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How can I not do this lesson again?

Not a very good quality photo but you get the idea!
Every once in a while I like to read through the comments left on artwork in my school's Artsonia gallery.  I just noticed a comment that a little brother left on his sister's clay turtle from last year.

The turtle is colorful, I am sorry for it breaking! I will make you one when I make mine in 1st Grade!!! love-- Jason
How sweet is that?  How can I not repeat the lesson now? :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Enjoy some golden mums...
I just wanted to write a quick post to tell those of you whose blogs I follow- I'm reading even if I'm not commenting!  I usually check for new posts while I'm eating lunch (and doing other multitasking) at school and for some reason, I am never able to comment from there.  I can read all my blogs and I've even written posts (usually hoping someone reading somewhere can help me find a quick answer to a problem) but when I try to comment, Google makes me log in multiple times and tells me I don't have permission or access or something like that.  Sometimes I have enough mental fortitude left to remember to pull up the post at home before bed and comment, but by then I've probably forgotten what I was going to say.  I know I'm not the only one with problems like this.  Anyway, just wanted to tell all of you wonderful bloggers that I AM reading!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mixed Media Paper Weaving

This project was done with 4th-6th grade students in my ED class.  It started off as being loosely inspired by Kente cloth.  We noticed that the warp and weft strips of Kente cloth often has contrasting patterns.  I gave the students two long strips of paper, markers, and a handout with what the colors traditionally symbolize in Kente cloth.  I didn't tell them they had to use colors based on the symbolism, I think they all just used colors they liked to make their lines and patterns.  We used Mr.Sketch markers and I love the bright colors.  It was taking a REALLY long time (it ended up taking 4 class periods) so I eventually gave them tempera paint to use for their second strip or to fill in gaps on their first.  Some didn't finish filling in all the white space and that's ok, too.  The last class was for actually weaving the paper.  I showed them how to fold one piece in half and cut vertical slits to make the warp and cut the other piece of paper into horizontal strips for the weft.  They all did a really good job with the over, under pattern.  We added tiny dots of glue for extra security and the weavings are now being displayed in the hallway.

Working with this class is kind of unique.  I really enjoy the smaller class size (never more than 10 students) so we can try some things that I wouldn't attempt with a full class.  These students, who span 3 grades, are mostly in a self-contained class but sometimes miss for special activities with their individual grades.  So, it can be kind of tricky to get projects finished when some miss and others are there.  3 of the students missed half the class periods we spent on this project.  2 of those 3 were gone on the day we wove and one was there but only had 1 paper finished, hence the piece kind of in the middle with construction paper weft.  I just let him pick the colors he wanted and create his pattern.  Sometimes it can be stressful to figure out how to quickly adapt lessons for students who have missed and sometimes it's kind of a fun challenge.  The worst is when a younger student was gone, doesn't tell you they were gone, and just sits there while everyone else works until you notice 10 minutes into class because you've been so busy passing out materials and helping other students!  But, that's an issue for another day.

I had a really short week!  I ended up staying home with my sick son on Monday and Wednesday though I did go in for conferences Wednesday night and 12 hours yesterday.  I know I really worked my hours for today but it was nice  to have a scheduled day "off."  Hope you all have a great weekend!

Steve Jobs Quote

‎"We do not teach the arts to create great artists anymore than we teach math to create the next generation of mathematicians or language arts to create the next generation of writers. We teach the arts in our schools to create great people so they are empowered with skills and knowledge to be successful in life… to do great things regardless of the vocational pathway they choose." Steve Jobs

Enough said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sub Plans- Lesson Learned

Sooo.... I used to have a folder with sub plans in it.  Then I decided to re-do the whole thing and ditched it.  I had it on my to-do list but turns out it should have been a lot closer to the top!  Today is the second day this week that my son has been sick with some sort of stomach virus.  It was also the second morning that I found myself trying to quickly type sub plans and email to our school secretary!  I had plenty of ideas, I just wanted to be able to present them better so I put it off.  Lesson learned!

Conferences start tonight after school and go 12 hours tomorrow.  I'm hoping that he'll be feeling better by this afternoon so I can go in (and just because I feel bad when he's sick.)  Not that I'll probably have any parents stop to see me, I just would rather only use 8 sick hours than 12 since I had to use all my days last year for maternity leave.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What Inspires You? Inspiration Avenue

I recently started following the Inspiration Avenue blog.  They feature a weekly themed challenge for your artwork.  This week was the first time that I read the challenge on time and it worked out for me to make an entry!  Even on the weeks that I don't get to the challenge, I still enjoy thinking about how I could interpret it and seeing what other people come up with.  The theme for this week is "On the Wings of Inspiration"- what inspires you?  When I think about what inspires my artwork I come up with color, texture, and nature.  I think that's why I really enjoy night photography and keep adding to my series.  Color and texture are definitely my favorite Elements of Art and I emphasize them when I make my own artwork

I keep thinking my garden is done for the year and then I get a nice surprise!  I have some beautiful cosmos blooming right now.  We are supposed to get a hard freeze this week so I'm glad I made myself go out in the cold night to make some photos.  You can see some of my other night photography on my Flickr account!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cardboard Construction and Water Painting

I'm sure we've all read a lot about using stations or centers in the Art room.  I don't use them regularly, but I do utilize them at least a few times a year.  I used stations last week with some of my 3rd grade students.  I wanted the students to type artist statements for their first projects into Artsonia so while one student at a time was doing that, the others were rotating to different stations.  I wanted to come up with stations that did not involve drawing, just for something different.  One, geometric shape tile pictures, I had used before but I tried a couple new things.  I had 4 stations total and the groups rotated to each during the class period.  They ended up with about 6-7 minutes at each station.

1. Water painting on the chalkboard!  I read about letting Kinders paint with water on sidewalks at the beginning of the school year and that idea stuck with me. (I first read about it on B Art Z but I think the original idea came from Hands Head n Heart)  One day I was trying to explain to some students how to turn their brush to cover a wider area and it popped into my head to show them with water on the chalkboard.  I guess this is one time I prefer it to a whiteboard.  For this rotation, I just put styrofoam cups with a little bit of water in them and big brushes on the chalkboard tray and let the students paint lines with water.  I didn't tell them what to paint, just let them explore and be amazed at their temporary paintings.  It worked pretty well besides when a couple students decided to use the brushes to fling water instead of "painting" with it.  We just wiped with paper towels to speed dry time for the next group.

2. Building with recycled materials.  This was so obvious that I can't believe I never did it before!  I save all my paper towel tubes.  I like to use recycled materials for projects, I just have to have over 100 of anything before I have enough for each student to do a lesson.  I pulled out some paper towel tubes, cardboard pieces, plastic trays that someone gave me, and the little "ladders" I saved from old watercolor trays.  I told the students when they were at that table, they just had to build something from the materials working together with their group.  I did not set a specific challenge.  Some used it to create architectural designs, some decided to see how tall of a tower they could build.  I did put a stop to the tall tower thing temporarily when students started to climb on top of the tables to reach higher.  Honestly, they were being careful and I think it would have been pretty safe (my brother and I were always doing stuff like that when we were younger) but I figured since we were at school and I don't want to get in trouble, they could only build towers as tall as they could reach from the floor.  It was cool to see them learn about balance and figure out how to make the structures more sturdy.  The students asked when they could do it again!  There was definitely lots of critical thinking and problem solving happening!

I found a big tub of blocks so one other station was individual building.  This student wanted me to take a picture of her tower, too.

I have plans for other non-drawing (not that I don't love drawing) stations but I have yet to test them out.  I promise to share the results after I do test them with students.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

3rd Grade Kalahari Animal Prints

Africa is a focus for my district's K-12 Art team this year to coincide with our high school's Cultural Heritage Week.  Every student is learning about Africa and creating an African-inspired artwork.  3rd grade students were inspired by the artwork of Katunga Carimbwe, whose prints I discovered here while searching for Art from Southern Africa.  The Art of Africa website specializes in Arts and Crafts of San/Bushmen people.  There is a lot of cool artwork there so I encourage you to check it out!  (An upcoming post will show you a 2nd grade project inspired by another artist found on that website.) 

I really enjoyed Carimbwe's printmaking and thought the students would respond well to the stylized animal imagery.  The assignment was to draw an animal from the Kalahari Desert (which I've read is not a "true" desert due to the amount of precipitation but let me get back to the point,) and turn it into a print.  I ordered some 4x6 inch plates made out of the same kind of foam as meat trays... and I can't remember what it's called!  

In the first class, I showed the students images of Carimbwe's artwork and asked them if they could identify a theme (animals/nature).  I read them part of the artist's biography and showed them where Southern Africa is on a world map.  Next, I showed them where the Kalahar Desert is. I wanted to avoid lumping everything into "African" so my strategy was to pick a specific place and research animals that live there.  I printed reference photos for several of the animals from that habitat and put them in folders at each table for easy access.* I gave a quick introduction to printmaking and passed out some cheap drawing paper cut to 4x6 inches to match the plate size.  The students had the rest of the class to choose and draw a Kalahari Desert animal.  I did point out how the artist used patterns and borders in his prints and encouraged the students to do the same.

*And now I remember why I don't use folders at the tables very often.  It drives me BATTY when the students don't put the papers back in the folders neatly, which is the case about 98.3% of the time.  If the papers are just thrown in there they get all bent and torn which defeats the purpose of the folder!

In the second class, the students placed their drawings on top of the foam plates and traced with pencil. If you use this method, it is really important to have students trace back over their lines on the plate after removing the drawings to make the lines deep enough.  By the time they finished that step, there wasn't a ton of class time left!  I demonstrated inking a plate and pulling a print and the students had time to make one print.  It was at this point in my first class that I realized I was going to have to add one more class period.  I haven't been able to order supplies yet (and actually haven't gotten an answer to what my budget's going to be yet) so I had to use black tempera paint instead of printing ink.  It worked ok, but printing ink definitely works better.

In the third class, I had the students use watercolors to hand-color their prints from day 2 while I worked with individuals.  I had one printmaking station set up and called one student at a time over to me.  I gave them a private demo and helped them get one nice black and white print.  Even though I hadn't planned on 3 class periods, it was cool to see the original drawing, a more traditional black and white print, and a very colorful print!


I had to narrow down my 105(ish) students' work to the top 4 that will be displayed in an Art show at the high school and it was HARD!  I can't wait to see what the students write for their artist statements!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vincent Van Scarecrow

This is the scarecrow that I put together for a contest in my hometown.  I am involved with Jackson County Arts and this is the idea I came up with for our entry this year.  The body was already made from last year and while I doubt that Van Gogh was over 6 feet tall like our scarecrow, it worked.  I made a paper mache head starting with a brown paper bag stuffed with newspaper.  I added more newspaper and lots of masking tape to finish the base.   I used liquid starch (that's all I had at school) to make the shell.  I looked at several different self portraits of Van Gogh as a guide.  I figured since it was a scarecrow and kind of a caricature I didn't need to put pressure on myself to make it totally realistic.  I tried to leave brush strokes and not over-blend the paint.  I found three colors of yarn that I combined to  make his hair.  After thinking it was going to take FOREVER to cut the yarn into little pieces, I finally realized that I could wrap all three strands around my hand to form a loop and cut lots of pieces at once.  I added a gauze bandage around his head after I checked to make sure I was covering the correct ear.  It bugs me a tiny bit that the "parts" don't match but I was just pulling the most recognizable parts from different paintings as inspiration.  I even made a quick painting for the occasion- Starry Night over the Pumpkin Patch.  After I stuck his head on my dog decided he was bad news and started growling and barking at the scarecrow.

We set up the scarecrow last night but had to take the accessories down so they wouldn't blow away.  He looked really creepy without the supplies- like he was going to get you!  It was pretty cool to see people stopping to pose by Vincent and I'm happy to say that we won 1st place!  I'm already trying to think of ideas for next year.  I have lots, I just need to figure out which are easy enough for people who are not art history buffs to figure out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reading Makes "Ewe" Smart

We are working REALLY hard at school to encourage students to be "joyful readers".  We use the AR program and while it motivates some students, well, not so much for others.  I have always loved to read.  I was the kid who never got in trouble except for staying up way past my bedtime reading with a flashlight under the covers so I'll admit that it can be hard for me to understand why kids wouldn't like reading!  I try to talk to students about books I've read, ask them what they are reading, and model being a  joyful reader during the 45 minutes weekly that one of my 5th grade classes comes to my room to AR read.  I don't think I probably need to convince any Art teachers that it's important for kids to read- it should be important to everyone!  But, if someone happens to be reading this that needs some convincing consider the following:
The 2 most common reasons that kids drop out of school are
Not feeling connected to their school and

The photo above is of my current bulletin board.  It was up in time for Family Reading Night (happy accident with the timing) and has gotten a good response.  I saw a poster with the saying last spring and took a picture with my iPhone (love that thing) so I would be sure to remember it.  I saw a cool sheep painting on Pinterest that had lots of spirals and since I'm a sucker for them, I decided to use that idea.  I usually take more time to make my lettering but I was in a hurry so I just painted the words on some paper.  I'm getting ready for my next display so the sheep is probably going to go live outside the library with a sign that says something like "flock to the library for a good book." I think it's time to paint a new bulletin board background...

I'm re-reading the series!

I also made a little sign to hang on the wall where the students line up at the end of class that displays what book I'm reading, what page I'm on, and how many pages I've read at school this year, at least when I remember to update it.  I just printed the words on copy paper then drew the book shape and laminated.  I wish I had read that you can erase sharpie from laminated things with an eraser earlier.  It really does work!  It works SOOO much better than using a dry erase marker.  

On my next sign I'll probably still print the words but I want to paint the paper to make it a little more interesting before laminating.  Even though my sign is a little sloppy with dry erase smudges, the kids don't care!  They look at the sign when they are in line and ask me about the books.

Do you do anything to encourage students to read?  Not just your school's program but you?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Setting Goals and Turning 25

In just over a month, I will turn 25.  I have been trying to think of some sort of goal for the year.  I tried a PROJECT 365 in 2010 but abandoned it about halfway through because I was sick and worn out from my pregnancy.  I want to set a goal that is challenging but achievable and focused on making Art.  I really think it is important for Art teachers to make our own Art.  Now I just have to do it in stolen moments after my little guy is sleeping.  I thought about doing another Project 365 but I want this to be enjoyable not stressful.  While I take photos almost everyday, I don't do things half way and can just picture myself scrambling trying to find something to make a good photograph of when I should be in bed at night.  I'm thinking my goal might be to make 25 pieces of Art over the 52 weeks.  That is about one piece every 2 weeks.  It could be a photo that I'm particularly proud of, painting, collage, anything.  As long as it's Art that I'm making for my own purposes, not for a lesson plan!  It seems doable at this point.

Do any of you set goals for your Art making?

Monday, October 3, 2011

1st Grade Colorful Fish

This is my last beginning of the year fish project!  1st grade students drew a fish- I gave no instruction here except to fill the space by drawing a fish at least as big as their hand- then traced their lines with glue and sprinkled with sand.  I told the students we were adding sand to give our fish more texture.  In the second class, we reviewed color mixing and I gave each student primary and black colored tempera paint.  The students could paint their fish and backgrounds however they wanted.  I did not say that their fish had to be swimming in blue water though that is what most students chose.  After the first day, I started giving the student black paint but said it should only be used to paint over the raised sand surface and help us see the outline and details of the fish.  I've found that giving students black paint to mix colors tends to yield monochromatic paintings- usually all a nice mud color.  (By the way, if you want to see some awesome high school mud paintings, look here!)

Classes who only had one session and students who missed the first day of the project painted then added sand if there was time at the end.  My main goal for the project was to review painting and mixing colors- texture was my secondary goal.

Do your students love mixing colors as much as mine?  Green, pink, and "sky blue" seem to be their favorite colors to mix.  I love to listen to the students talk when they are mixing colors.  Even though they've done it before, it still seems like magic to them when they make a new color whether they are in 1st grade or 6th grade.  I love their excitement when they are allowed to just try new combinations and see what happens.

I think this looks like a Mondrian fish!
Check out the rest of the artwork in our Artsonia exhibit!