Monday, May 28, 2012

K- The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Fruit

 These Eric Carle inspired fruit collages were one of the last assignments my Kindergarteners completed this school year. We spent 3 class periods on the project but covered a lot of concepts!

Concepts covered
Color- Complementary, Analogous
Painting- Wax Resist, Tempera
Collage- Cutting, Gluing
Space- Positive and Negative

In the first class period, I showed an animated video of The Very Hungry Caterpillar that I found on YouTube. I wish I had noticed that it is the story this month on Barnes & Noble's Online Storytime so we could have had Eric Carle read it to us! After the video, we talked about how the illustrations were made and watched a video clip of Eric Carle painting papers in his studio. I gave each student a 6x9 inch piece of paper on which they used crayons to create texture. I explained that the students would be making fruit collages and we talked about the colors of different kinds of fruit. The students chose the appropriate color of watercolor paint and used it to create a wax-resist painting.

In the second class period, I introduced the concept of complementary colors since the background would be the complement to the fruit's color. I explained that complementary colors are like best friends- they are opposite on the color wheel but make each other look brighter when they are side by side. I quizzed the students to make sure they got it. (If you painted a red apple, what color will your background be? If you painted a yellow banana, what color will you use?) Next, I demonstrated painting with tempera and adding texture using a texture comb or the wrong end of the paintbrush. For the first class I taught this lesson to, I gave every student a piece of gray construction paper since I figured it would be covered up anyway. These ended up being a little dull. In the next classes, I gave the students a piece of construction paper analogous to the color of paint they would be using on their background. (Ex: If their background would be painted purple, I either gave them blue or red paper to paint on top of.) This made things a lot more colorful and interesting when hints of it show through. This did add considerably more time to set up but I think it was worth it.

On the third day, I asked the students to draw the outline of their fruit on the BACK of their wax-resist paper. I checked each one to make sure it was big enough (touching at least 2 sides of the paper) before  cutting. After the students cut, I came around and punched a 1 inch hole in their fruit somewhere to show where the caterpillar munched through like in the book. This allowed us to talk about positive and negative space. The students glued their shapes down and we shared scraps to make stems and leaves if needed.

*I bought a Martha Stewart 1 inch punch at Michaels for this project and I really like it! It was on sale so the price was reasonable and it seems really sturdy. I saved the painted paper circles that were punched out and used them on my hallway signs. I may get really ambitious next year and use the circles to make a bulletin board border.

Students who missed one of the painting days were given a regular piece of construction paper and crayons to create texture. For fruit that needed more than one color, like watermelon, they used solid colored construction paper for the accent.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

2nd grade Charlie the Ranch Dog Illustrations

 This is another lesson I taught prior to Diane deGroat's visit.  (See Dogs Don't here.) My goals for this lesson, besides building excitement for the author/illustrator visit, were to draw attention to careers in Art, teach about perseverance, and introduce wet on wet watercolor technique.

I started by playing Barnes and Noble's video of Charlie the Ranch Dog (scroll through the older books at the bottom to get to Charlie) so the students could see the artwork projected REALLY BIG. I think the students were already familiar with the story but I asked them to pay special attention to the role of the illustrations- how the artwork helps tell the story. After the story, I showed them parts of a blog post by Ree Drummond/the Pioneer Woman about the process of writing and publishing Charlie. The post had good information about the collaborative process and how the publisher, author, and illustrator all worked together until the book was perfect. This is where the perseverance part comes in- the post touched on how Diane deGroat made lots of preparatory sketches and plans and had to revise her work. I think this is good for students to hear about when they can be quick to complain about the simplest revisions. In addition to text, the post was a wonderful resource to find lots of photos of the illustrative process. In particular, I liked this photo showing sketches of Charlie in different poses.
We talked about how deGroat referenced photos of Charlie as she created her artwork since the book is based on a real dog. The students' job was to pretend they were illustrators and reference photos of Charlie and deGroat's sketches to make their drawings. I tried to get the students to draw big and fill the space- this continues to be one of my biggest challenges. In the second class period, the students traced their pencil drawings with black crayon before I demonstrated the wet on wet watercolor technique I wanted the students to try out. I showed how to load the brush with really wet brown paint, apply it, then load with black and let it run together and blend. Some students had a hard time getting the right consistency for the paint but most eventually figured out how to work fast enough to let the colors blend. At first, I just wanted the students to trace with black crayon to make their drawings bolder, but it ended up working as a barrier and mostly keeping the wet paint inside the lines.

The biggest surprise for me with this lesson, was the level of stress it created for students. They love dogs, they love the story, they love painting. BUT, a good chunk of students, sort of freaked out when drawing. I don't think I've ever had so many students try to get me to draw something for them before. It was my 2nd graders during this project that prompted me to create and hang a "No I Can't Allowed" sign on my door. I had to stop classes and so we could chant "We can do hard things!" It was slightly ridiculous. You'd think that I'm a perfection-demanding slave driver from some of their reactions. I thought maybe they were intimidated by looking at deGroat's illustrations but we even talked about how we weren't trying to copy her, just work like her, and how even my painting was not as good as hers because she's been working at illustrating books since well before the students or I were born! Some had to start from scratch in the 2nd class since they spent most of the 1st trying to convince themselves and me that they couldn't do it. The atmosphere was much more positive in the 2nd class period with the promise of fresh paint!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Super Smart Ideas from a Colleague

I wanted to share two ideas from another elementary Art teacher in my district, Ms.Stesman. I saw these during visits to her room for early release PLC meetings and asked if I could take a couple pictures.
First, the paintbrushes. How smart is this? A simple visual but very effective. My students talk about "Mr.Brush"all the time so I know they will be excited when I make my version next year. I told her they also make me think of Young Sloppy Brush!

Next, Ms.Stessman tied in watercolor painting techniques with the water cycle, which is part of I think the 4th grade's science curriculum. Super smart!

We don't get to meet as a PLC very often since there are 4 elementary Art teachers covering 7 schools, but I always learn something when we are able to get together.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sports Spheres

 I've been trying to teach my students the difference between shapes and forms. I knew I wanted to do a lesson with 5th grade focused on the illusion of form through creating value and when I found out that our Family Fun Night (an event that bring several hundred students and their families to the building) theme would be "Sportacular", I decided to use the spheres found in sports as inspiration. Really, it makes sense. Balls are something tangible that the students are very familiar with, and sports are very motivating. (*By the way, try not to say the word "balls" if you can avoid it. It often leads to wild giggles.) I did tell the students if they didn't want to paint a ball, they could think of another spherical object to paint.

I borrowed a variety of balls from our PE teacher so the students would have a real object to look at. To introduce the assignment, I grabbed the real basketball, a painting I made of a basketball, and I made a quick line contour drawing of a basketball on the whiteboard. The students discussed how they were alike and different then I showed how 3D objects, objects with FORM, have highlights and shadows, and that adding highlights and shadows (VALUE) to paintings can create the illusion of form. I finally remembered to bring a flashlight to school which helped illustrate the concept of highlights. Regular fluorescent lighting is not directional so it can be hard for students to see. 

I demonstrated painting a sphere. I recommended that the students paint a base color first, followed by adding the highlight, then add the shadow last and blend, blend, blend. The students used a compass to draw a circle on a 9x12 inch piece of paper then chose their paint colors. The balls did not have to be painted in traditional colors. For white spheres, I suggested choosing a color instead of black for the shadow. After the base of the sphere was painted, the students added the identifying lines. 

In the second class period, the students added the remaining details then cut out their balls. Because I knew I would be asked a hundred times how to draw the lines and I didn't have enough balls for everyone, I made up some reference pages that showed the steps for drawing a basketball, baseball/softball, volleyball, and how a tennis ball would look from different views. Only a few students attempted soccer balls and I showed them the "how to draw a soccer ball" page here because I honestly wasn't sure how the pentagons and hexagons fit together before. If I teach this same lesson again, I will not recommend golfballs. A couple students attempted, but there were too darn many dimples and it just didn't work out well. Most students drew in pencil first then used a thin brush to paint the lines and a few used sharpies. I hoped that all would have time to use the thin paintbrush because I thought it would be good to practice brush control.

Some of the artwork went on my bulletin board and the rest of the balls were taped along the hallway walls to look like they were bouncing. After this project I found out that some of my 5th graders need more practice with their cutting skills! Or maybe it was an issue of patience. Either way, some students did a really nice job painting then cut it out so sloppily that it didn't even look like a circle anymore.

 I definitely wanted to use the bulletin board to drive home the main points with students and show everyone that we didn't just make decorations.
 My favorite part is below. I labeled 2D examples with "this is a shape"and "this is the illusion of form" then painted a styrofoam ball the same color to hang from the ceiling with a label that says "this is an actual form".

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dogs Don't Make Art!

Last month, Diane deGroat visited the elementary schools in my district. You may not recognize her name, but there's a pretty good chance you recognize her work. Diane has illustrated numerous books for other authors and also writes and illustrates her own. She is responsible for the Annie Pitts books and the Gilbert series. My favorite of her books is a joint project with Shelly Rotner, Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth.
Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth!The art in the book is totally digital, and shows what dogs "do" and "don't". You can preview a few pages on Amazon and learn how the illustrations were made at My students were already familiar with deGroat's books but I used the Amazon preview and Silly Dog Books on my projector to focus on how the artwork was made.
For the students' projects, they were to think of something a dog wouldn't normally do (something not in the book) and figure out how to illustrate it. To make our version, I asked for help collecting dog magazines and calendars. I cut or tore out pictures to save time and the students had a huge stack of dogs to choose from. I asked the students to carefully cut out their dog(s) and either draw the rest of the body or piece it together like deGroat and Rotner did with their photos. After the dog's body was taken care of, they drew the rest of the scene to help tell their "dogs don't" story. In the 2nd class period, the students used watercolors to paint and, if they wanted to, wrote a "dogs don't" sentence. I used the exact same lesson with my 3rd and 4th grade students. Overall, the 4th grade students had a much better handle on it. The next 3 photos are my favorite 3rd grade examples. The rest are from 4th grade.
*I totally forgot to mention that we looked at William Wegman's dog artwork since I saw a connection. Try these videos here and here.
 I didn't want to break it to her- my dog sleeps in my bed every night!
I was really amazed at some of the details students thought to add. For example, this student made "Dogs Don't Graduate" and included a picture of a puppy like a nostalgic graduation slideshow.

And of course I put up bulletin boards. I made poster size examples of dogs making Art. On my smaller bulletin board I changed it from the school name to the school mascot "... but panthers do!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

6th Grade (Bubble Wrap) Dot Painting

If you want a sure way to motivate 6th graders, try using bubble wrap! This project started as an attempt to speed up the Aboriginal-inspired Art lesson I'd taught to my 6th graders the last 2 years. After learning about (Australian) Aboriginal artwork and culture, I'd always had the students draw a favorite animal in a sort of x-ray style and fill in the negative space with symbols and dots. The animals would turn out great, but the students would lose interest during the dot phase and we'd get some half-hearted attempts. This year, we tried using bubble wrap to create the dots! There's something funny about using a material as plastic as bubble wrap to learn about such an old Art form.
I've always been a fan of bubble wrap- it's super fun to print it for texture in mixed media artwork. I made myself a note after last year's lesson to try printing bubble wrap to create the dots in the background. I found some of the most beautiful dot paintings I'd ever seen on this website (seriously, go look NOW!) I think the students were just as impressed by the artwork as I am! With the addition of the new reference images, the rest of the lesson introduction was the same. My original plan was to spend one class printing bubble wrap backgrounds, and the next two adding animals and/or symbols. You'll see if you read on that the lesson evolved as the students' needs and interests came into play.

I have no trouble painting and printing the bubble wrap fast enough. The average student, however, does. We discovered that using a damp sponge to moisten the paper prior to printing yielded better results. Most students were much more intrigued by the dots than by the animals so in the second class period, I gave them a choice. The students could either try the dot painting again, or they could go ahead and add an animal and symbols to their first painting. I had intended for the students to draw, cut, and glue their animals and symbols, but after one student tried painting them directly on top of the dots, everybody really liked that technique!
 I stressed that there was to be ABSOLUTELY NO POPPING OF THE BUBBLE WRAP! And we really didn't have a problem with it. I had purchased a roll of bubble wrap that could be torn into sheets. Recycled would have been great, but this way I was sure to have sheets big enough. The same bubble wrap sheets were washed and reused in each class. By the end of the 2nd class period, after being used about 10 times, the bubble wrap is still in good enough shape to use.
 Here's a 6th grade student showing how to wash the bubble wrap. We gently rubbed the sheet together then laid it bubble side down on sections of newspaper to dry. If there were a way to hang the sheets, they would probably dry faster.
White Rabbit
This student is a cancer survivor and wanted to make a ribbon
This student traced her hand with paint after we learned that Aboriginal artists sometimes used their arms and hands as stencils.
This was made by a student who finished early.