Tuesday, November 29, 2011

3rd Grade Polar Bear in a Snowstorm

I thought I'd give you all a break from my African Art lessons and show you something different that we just finished last week.

I remember when I was in grade school, somebody would hold up a blank piece of paper and exclaim that it was a "polar bear in a snowstorm".  I always thought it would be fun to really make a picture of a polar bear in a snowstorm.

This was a two class period project. First, we talked a little about idioms and the polar bear in a snowstorm saying. Then I used a paint chip to introduce "value" to the students as an Element of Art. I demonstrated painting blue at the top of their paper, white at the bottom, and gradually blending the two to make a tint of blue in the middle. This was really good practice for the students and something they had never really tried before. Most were able to get a pretty smooth transition and while some ended up with stripes, they still created new values. I used blue construction paper for the background so we could use up some of my not-so-high-quality tempera paint and not have to use 5 coats. At the end of the first class, I passed out 9x6 inch white drawing paper and the students started drawing polar bears. I printed off some photos for them to reference and offered to demonstrate drawing a polar bear so the students could follow along if they wanted. Usually when students draw along with me, they are more confident because they can see how I approach drawing. This time it backfired! The students kind of freaked out about it (for lack of a better term). Needless to say, after the first day I didn't demo and just told students to do their best looking at the pictures.

In the second class period, the students finished drawing the outline of their polar bears then I demonstrated using blue construction paper crayons to add some shadows to the bear's body. The students cut and glued their polar bears to the background then added shadows on top of the snow. The last step was to add flecks of white paint to make the snow storm. In the first class we tried using toothbrushes to flick the paint and that didn't work very well. Tuesday rolled around and my new plan was to water down the paint and put it in a spray bottle. As long as the students didn't go crazy squirting a bunch of times without looking, it worked well. I also think it could be fun to use the spray bottle for some Abstract Expressionistic paintings some day. 

I hope you'll check out some more examples below. It was pretty entertaining to hear the students make up stories about their artwork and see the different bears.

This was created in one class since the student was sick on the first day. Just gave the blue paper and a white crayon to create value in the background then everything else was the same.

Some students drew quickly and used their scraps to create large polar bear families...
Some got in a hurry to make lots of polar bears and just cut out bubbles...

 Some polar bears were feeling a little blue...
 Some made bears that were really looooooong...
 Some polar bears were leaping so fast that their shadows could not keep up...
 And some had really tall shadows!

We all enjoyed this project (especially making the storm) and as I was hanging the paintings this afternoon, I was already hearing positive comments! The end.

Paper Towel Problem Solved

I had a problem.  In my classroom bathroom (my room used to be a preschool classroom), I would find tons of paper towel trash all over the floor whenever students washed their hands after a messy project. I tried just remind them to get their paper towel in the trash can and telling them we shouldn't make our awesome custodians' jobs harder and none of it worked.

One day I was thinking about Emotionally Intelligent Signage like I've seen on Daniel Pink's blog. I came up with an idea that is not exactly emotionally intelligent but catches the students' attention with something they can relate to. 

I printed a really simple sign (shown above) that says:
Paper Towel in the Trash Can 100 POINTS!!!
Paper Towel on the floor... GAME OVER

Added some smiley faces and sad faces and some burst shapes behind the points, laminated it, and taped it to the paper towel dispenser.  At first I didn't think the students noticed it. Then a couple weeks ago, some started asking me why it was there, and now I have students who come out all excited because they "Scored 100 points!" Now there is rarely a stray paper towel on the floor, even on days when almost every class is painting. Now I just need to get my older students to stop using the paper recycling box as a trash can...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

4th Grade Ndebele-Inspired Plaster Paintings

In my last post I told you a little bit about traditional houses of the Ndebele tribe in Southern Africa. My 5th graders made paintings inspired by the outside of their houses while 4th grade students made artwork inspired by the inside. From Evergreen.edu,
"The second form of early designs were made by dragging the fingers through wet plaster, usually cow dung, to leave a variety of markings, from squiggles and zigzags to straight lines. In this form of painting, the entire wall was divided into sections, and each section was filled in with contrasting finger paint patterns..."

When I read the part about dragging fingers through wet plaster, I just could NOT get that idea out of my head! I knew that there were several small boxes of plaster left from who knows how many art teachers before me and I had never had a use for it before. I decided to do some experimenting and find a way to use it for this project.  I do not have very much any real experience working with plaster so I learned on the fly. My first experiment was just a regular plaster/water mixture on cardboard which obviously flaked right off when it dried. Next, I tried mixing in glue and mod podge and that seemed to do the trick. It was kind of hard to get the right consistency every time so it worked really well in some classes and not that well in others. I finally figured out that part of my problem was the container I mixed it in. The first class of the day went really well. When I tried to mix more plaster in the same container, I hadn't had time to clean out the first batch of plaster so it reincorporated and ended up really lumpy. Just wish I would have realized it sooner! Modeling Paste would be a MUCH better choice than plaster for this project but I didn't have any on hand and couldn't order any supplies yet.

The first class was a quick introduction and demonstration. Each student got a piece of cardboard (I chopped cereal boxes into pieces) and wrote their name on the back. I went around and dumped some of the plaster mixture on each piece. The students spread the plaster quickly then used their fingers to divide it into sections and draw lines to make patterns in each. Some designs were pretty complicated and some were very simple based on how the students figured out to manipulate the plaster. When it didn't work out, it was more my fault than the students'. I told them that we were just trying something new to see how it would work and reminded them that we can learn even from "failures". I don't have any pictures from the first day because I was covered with plaster and didn't want my camera to be too!

In the second class, we reviewed different color schemes (warm, cool, complementary, monochromatic, neutral, primary secondary, etc.) and the students were supposed to pick one color scheme to use on their paintings. Some stuck with their scheme and some got confused and used different colors but that's ok, too.  I did suggest using one color to paint the grooves from their fingers to make it easier to see the pattern. Prior to the painting session, I did quite a bit of work. The cardboard was bowed and I saw some really cool designs just starting to chip off. I was too stubborn to give up on the project, so I sort of glued as much of the plaster back to the cardboard as I could using bottled glue and mod podge. I also found that mod podge worked really well to seal everything back together after the projects were painted.
Bowed cardboard...
I'm filing this project in my "maybe try it again someday with better materials" category.
Complementary color scheme
Primary colors
Warm colors
Neutral colors- this one reminds me of a rib cage
Intricate design with cool colors

Sunday, November 20, 2011

5th Grade Ndebele-Inspired Paintings

My 5th grade African-inspired Art lesson was based on painted houses in South Africa created by the Ndebele tribe. (I had to look up how to pronounce it!) The designs on the houses are so cool- definitely the most inspiring thing I came across when researching Art from Southern Africa. The houses are painted by women in the tribe and usually feature geometric shapes, bright colors, and symmetrical designs.

I decided that the project would be creating a painting that was inspired by the house paintings. The students were to make a symmetrical design with geometric shapes and then to tie in color theory, they had to mix each secondary color and at least one tint.

THIS was the best resource I found to explain the significance and process of the traditional Ndebele house paintings. The first step in creating the designs is to divide the wall into sections by creating diagonal lines. I let the students use the straight edge of a ruler to make diagonal lines (a big "X") from corner to corner and the rest of their designs were created with black tempera paint directly on the paper. Some acted nervous about not using pencils first but once they got started, everybody just relaxed into the process.

I originally planned for this to take 2 classes (I'm always optimistic) but I had to add a 3rd. The first day was for the introduction and using black tempera paint to plan out the symmetrical geometric design. In the 2nd class, the students were given tempera paint in the primary colors and white. In the 3rd class, the students finished painting with color and then did touchups with more black tempera paint. Several finished early and had time to write artist statements about their projects:

Cole1264 says this about his/her art...
I made a painting related to the Ndeble tribe with many colors. I used regular paints and geometric shapes. my art teacher told us to make them and make them imaginative. I learned how to say the name and I learned that mostly women do the painting. I think my painting is colorful and artistic. but, I think I could have used a bit more designs. I think the best part of my painting was the colors and the shapes.

Destiny2778 says this about his/her art...
I made a painting that is inspired by the people of the Ndebele tribe. my painting is a mixture of shapes, colors, and crazy designs, but I wish I didn't make so many shapes, that ws really confusing! Well... thanks for choosing my art to look at! :)

Kaelan34 says this about his/her art...
This is a painting that uses primary colors, secondary colors, and a tint color. People in the Ndebele tribe draw designs on their houses. Then they paint in the designs. Then they have a colorful house. it's pretty much what I did except on paper. This was a fun project.

I really loved this project and I think the students enjoyed it just as much as me! I'm calling it a keeper! I think it worked because the inspiration caught their attention and they were able to make personal choices within a structure. You can see more in our Artsonia exhibit.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When did "Craft" Become a Dirty Word? +Mandala Class

This is something I think about from time to time... The definition of "craft" from dictionary.com is


  [kraft, krahft]  Show IPA noun, plural crafts or,for 5, 8, craft, verb
an arttrade, or occupation requiring special skill,especially manual skill: the craft of a mason.
skill; dexterity: The silversmith worked with great craft.
skill or ability used for bad purposes; cunning; deceit; guile.
the members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild.
a ship or other vessel.

Craft would include things like weaving and pottery, which most of us would probably argue falls in the realm of Art. When did "craft" become a dirty word (at least to Art teachers...)? When did the definition change?

Probably when people started referring to trace this, cut this, glue it here, follow the directions at summer camp kind of stuff as craft.

And while I'm thinking out loud in writing, who says you can't make Art out of "crafty" materials? I can't remember the name of the artist, but this lady visited and gave a talk at ESU when I was in college and I remember her saying "I should be able to make Art, anytime, anywhere, and out of anything." That's why I don't turn down many donated materials. (That and my fear that Art budgets will continue to decrease each year.) I have a bunch of little furry pom-pons that someone gave me last week, I plan to use them to help my younger students explore texture and then let my older students use them to construct relief sculptures like the ones my 6th grade students completed last spring. I'm not trying to insult teachers who don't take supply donations- they may not have room to store them or may not have the need. But my point, I guess, is that I think Art can be made out of just about anything. And now I need to end this post and head to bed because this is starting to get really ramble-y.

One more thing, though! If you are interested in learning more about mandalas, Willowing.ning is hosting a FREE Mandala class taught by Guadalupe Brizuela Cabal. It started on Monday and will last two more weeks but it's not too late to join! I created 4 designs today- 2 starting with the template she provided and 2 all by myself with a compass and a ruler. I'm really enjoying it so far.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pinned ImageMy 6h grade African-inspired Art lesson was based on kangas, a garment popular in part of Eastern Africa. I read something that compared kangas to t-shirts because they can express lots of different ideas. The kanga information website that seemed the most authentic is Swahili Language and Culture. From my research, I found that the basics to a kanga design are a wide, even border (1), a central design (2), and some sort of saying (3). I showed the students images of kangas from SLC and my favorite is below. Some of the sayings would probably be easier to get the true meaning of if we were part of that culture, though I've read that they can have many different interpretations.

After discussing some of the kangas we saw, the students brainstormed idioms that they were familiar with. I was really impressed with how many different idioms they thought of! -I love idioms, so many possibilities for Art and Writing connections! The idea was basically to start with some sort of idiom or other saying, think of a simple illustration that could be drawn to illustrate the saying, and then design a pattern in the border. 

My example at completion of the pencil/Sharpie step.
I planned for the first class to be introduction and drawing and the second class to be painting. Almost all of the students could have used another class period to work on these. Several came in during recess or finished at home using other media. My planning problem? I forgot about the ruler quandary that makes simple tasks take twice as long as you think they should. Even though I showed the students how to just line the edge of the ruler up with the edge of the paper then use the straight edge, there were still major problems! I have written about this before and I still just can't understand what the problem is. It took some students most of the first class just to get the border lines drawn on their paper. But, I was being stubborn and didn't add any time because these are the students I only see for 40 minutes (more like 30 when there is no pass time built into the schedule and we have to clean up at the end) every other week) and the students who said they would rather do more projects and work quicker than fewer projects with more work time. I sent any artwork that was not finished home and I maybe ended up with half of the projects for the grade finished. I'm not sure how successful the visual was, but I think this lesson has potential. If I teach it again, I will probably use different media. I could probably have given the students a template to work on but really, if they don't already know how to use a ruler to make a straight line, someone's gotta make them learn! Anyway, here are some of the finished paintings so take a look!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paint Chip Game

Paint chips are all over Pinterest! I've seen all sorts of projects using them and while I would feel guilty taking enough from the store for 100+ students to use, I didn't feel too bad taking just one of each primary, secondary, and neutral color.  (I also took an extra black to help illustrate value.) I laminated the samples, cut each strip apart, and put them in a pencil case with the following directions to be used during an 8 minute rotation.

1. Sort the rectangles by color (al the reds together, all the blues together, etc.)
2. Put the colors in order of the color wheel (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple)
3. By yourself, pick a pile of one color, like all the oranges. Put the rectangles in order from dark to light.
4. With extra time, invent your own game to play with them!

In the photo above, the directions are just taped to the bottom. I have since laminated the directions and added another piece of laminated paper with some vocabulary on it. Since I just had groups working on this for about 8 minutes, it was a good activity. The students were proud when they accomplished 1-3 and got pretty creative inventing their own games with #4. One group invented a game that was kind of like Go Fish but with colors and I'm sure there were several other good ideas. 

This was a good way for students to work together to play with color and value and use their imagination and creativity to invent a game.