Monday, March 28, 2011

camouflage critters

I feel no shame saying, that like many of you I love this book:

I have used a lot of lessons straight from this book. The kids like the lessons and are willing to work hard on them. A few lessons use materials that are hard to get, hard to work with or not practical but overall I think it's a great book.

So one of my favorite lessons is the camouflage critters. I've done this lesson in the past with sharpies and tooling foil but this year we just used construction paper, tempra paint and oil pastel.

After having the kids divided the paper with white paint (use the smallest paint brush you have) the paint dried fast and I hit each kids paper with the hair dryer for 15 seconds and sent them back to their table to use 3 colors per section to make an interesting background. Some kids used only 3 colors for the entire background and others used all sorts of colors. This part takes about a class and half.

We spent some time practicing the animals in the book and going through the step by step drawing directions. The kids really liked learning to draw the chameleon (although they are not the easiest animal to cut out later and many kids opted for a turtle for their final drawing)

When the background is done we drew our animal on a second sheet of black paper and repeated the painting and coloring process. Some kids understood to match the pattern on their background and others were not that careful.

finally I had the kids cut out their animal and bring it and the background to me where i used cut up pieces of foam glued to the animal to make the animals pop off the page. 3rd grade results were ehhh but 4th and 5th grade results looked awesome.

YET when I sent these back to the classroom their homeroom teacher had to fish most of them out of the trash because once again the kids refused to take their art home saying it would just get thrown away there! Good lord why do I even bother!!???

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Paul Klee cities

I hear a lot of ....but I can't draw (whinny voice) so during the last few months we looked at art that used things that the kids DO feel confident "drawing"; shapes, numbers and letters.
3rd-5th graders looked long and hard at Paul Keel's Castle and Sun....although we decided to take more of a city approach than a castle approach. I challenged students to find all the math shapes they could in the painting and had long talks about what makes a parallelogram and geometric vs. organic shapes.

After scanning the art work students were given ruler, pencils and scrap paper to practice making shapes with intersecting lines. No tracers were allowed for this lesson. When students felt good about their ability to use the rulers to create a variety of shapes they could come get card stock from me and draw a city or castle using ruler lines only.

Then I made the students go over EVERY pencil line with a crayon and they could start painting their city with watercolor. I encouraged students to paint a little in one place and then move somewhere else on the paper so they were never putting to wet areas next to each other. Knowing that hint, along with the crayon "walls" their was a lot less color bleeding. I also allowed the kids to use the dreaded black watercolor paint to do night sky's.

This lesson ended up taking about 4 classes and keep the attention of the 4th and 5th graders but the 3rd graders started pooping out at the end. In the future I'll pull out the liquid watercolors for the younger ones to speed up the process.


At the end of the winter trimester I ask my 6-8th students to choose their favorite project and have me photograph it. This term most students choose between three projects.
1. the chalk pastel stuffed animals I blogged about before
2. Our large pop art sweet treats
and this project
3. collections
(their always has to be a Sponge Bob project...eye roll)
All thee of these projects required the kids to use grids with their art. In this lesson a grid helped the kids create a interesting composition. We got to talk about those two fun concepts of unity and variety.

Each student was told to divided a sheet of card stock down the middle and from their they needed to divided the paper into 9 rectangles and or squares of different shapes and sizes. Then they choose a theme for their collection. We brainstormed everything from sports to cartoons to sushi!

I allowed the students to use how to draw books, bring in photos and use images from the Internet to get ideas. I encouraged the students to shrink, enlarge and crop images to make interesting compositions within each space. I'm sure some kids were sneaky and traced a bit but when they are really interested in a lesson I get a little looser with my rules.

We used this lesson as something to work on when you were done early with your other projects or waiting for a turn at the printmaking station.

The kids got really into this lesson and spent way more time than usual drawing their pictures and working on the coloring. I even had some take them home to work on them! I think this would be fun for kids 4th grade all the way up to high school.

and of course their is always the student that comes up with their own twist on the lesson. My only rule to him....absolutely no tracing and he had to enlarge the image. He did a great job!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

the thrid trimester slump

Time to start the 3rd trimester and for a variety of reasons I'm feeling a bit lack luster. I'm back to seeing kinders only once a week for 30 min and will now see each 1st grade class a second time each week for 5 weeks at a time. I only teach 10 weeks this trimester and one of those weeks has to focus on some type of Mother's Day lesson (like it or not). Despite my begging and searching for supplies we still are pretty low on materials and I need to find lessons that don't require anything more than copy paper, the secondary colors of tempera paint, crayon and what's left of our oil pastels and watercolor paints and some cheap cheap construction paper. We will really embracing recycled art come earth day! When looking back on my lesson plans I've noticed the only time we really focus on artist studies is during spring trimester. We already got a jump start last trimester though we were looking for numbers letters and shapes in art not looking at specific artists per say.

Sometimes the kids surprise me and it turns out that my kids really like seeing "famous" works of art and then doing something along the same theme. I think it gives them a clear idea of what they are trying to do and makes them feel a bit fancy. They really like it when I can tell them how much a work of art is "worth". Money talks when you are on welfare. I want to run with any success we have so we will focus on artist study till the end of the school year.
So far we have looked at:
Paul Klee
Jasper John's numbers and letters
Mondrian and Kandinsky circles.

I like this approach of looking at a work of art because almost all the grade levels can work off the same artwork and scan for different elements and principals depending on grade level.

But if all the kids study the same artist at the same time what will they do next year when spring rolls around?! You know that is the great thing about art, their are so many different artists that I feel pretty confident that I can find 5 different artists to study each spring.

Teaching 9 grade levels a week I find if I am trying to teach too many different artists or lessons each week that I get confused and don't teach the material as well as I hope. Working on the same basic lesson across grade levels allows me to work out the kinks and help the majority of kids get a end product they like. If I'm teaching a lesson to only one grade level it usually takes a few years to work out the kinks. Working across grade level also lets me try the same basic concept in a variety of media and materials. So even if the inspration is the same and even the basic lesson plan the same I'm finding the end results to be district to each grade.

We also get some pretty cool displays when I can put up a kinder's interpretation of a artwork next to a 5th graders. I have noticed the kinder parents (I'm in the kinder hall) have been really looking at, and reading, the artist info I put up with each display. I feel safe guessing that this is the first time many of the parents are seeing these works of art. I hope by not just educating the kids, but also the parents I can take their idea of "art" beyond stick figures and smiley face suns.

I hope we can make some art based on:
Matisse goldfish fish
Picasso, guitars, faces and monochromatics
Cezanne fruit still lifes
Monet studies...waterliles, bridges, trees and such
Van gogh ....bedrooms, stary night, sunflowers
Kandinsky lines and organic, geometric shapes in black glue then painted with watercolor
Okeefe large flowers, insects or other everyday objects like keys and...

If the little kids need to fill time we have lots of small small scraps of scratch foam that would work for super simple printmaking.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To Seattle and back again

Wow my first NAEA conference, I feel like I have experienced an art teacher right of passage. My experience was a bit of a roller coaster of ups and downs, but over all great.

I left my school at lunch on Thursday and took the train up to Seattle. Everything was smooth going till someone in another train car had a medial emergency and we had to stop for the paramedics to show up. We got into Seattle late and I started the walk to the hotel... Seattle is a hilly place...I hadn't realized the entire walk would be uphill. After doing a Little Engine Who Could walk I arrived at the convention center to discover registration had closed before I got there! There would be no party at the EMP for me that night! The #1 thing I was looking forward to!!! Degected I went to the hotel to check in and stupidly I went out looking for food alone, at 8:30pm, downtown...with all these drunk people yelling at me...whhhaaa? oh duh it's St. Patty's Day! So let's just say my first "day" of the conference was a bust.

From then on things got better. The hotel was great, the convention center was a nice location, a lot of the session I attended were informative, I meet interesting people from all over the country and I brought a LOT of free materials back home with me.

At the same time I found the conference overwhelming at many times. The number of sessions going on each hour was amazing but a lot of the descriptions were trying to sound really cerebral and impressive and my brain went to mush trying to sort through them. I attended a few session that were not what I thought they would be. But a few made the whole conference worth it. If I could sum up the top five lessons I learned from going to the conference they would be....

1. Go with someone else. Be able to divided and conquer the sessions, have someone to eat with and meet up with at the end of the day. I defiantly started having more fun when I started hanging out with the other teachers from my district.

2. Look at the session booklet before you go and choose a few you want to do ahead of time! Don't wait till 5 min before the next session is going to start.

3. Take a good camera. Almost all the presentations I went to had powerpoint presentations but no handouts and no blog or place to post their presentation afterward. If you wanted examples of the lesson being presented you needed to take photos of the photos in the powerpoint. My crummy point and shoot could not zoom close enough and the flash was to weak to get good photos during presentations. Very frustrating.

4. If you don't have to fly, and can take unlimited liquids in the trunk of your friend's car, then go work that vendor floor right as they are breaking down for the conference. I got a lot of acrylic paint from vendors who did not want to ship it back and those around me could not fly with the liquids. I haulled home about 5 huge bags of free stuff;)

5. Take time to have some fun. Go try the sample projects at the vendor tables (even if you never will do them in your classroom) chat with someone new, hang out with the other teachers from your district and see a whole new side of them. If you have the time and energy go see the city a bit...they were offering amazing discounts at the art hot spots around town.

Will I go to the conference next year....I'm not sure. The cost of flying to New York and paying for a hotel their seems overwhelming from Oregon. I would want to stay an extra week to see New York as a tourist and therefore would want my husband to join me at some point. I think the cost of the conference itself is totally reasonable and worthwhile!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Who's going to the convention!

I'm so excited! By this time next week I'll be in Seattle at the NAEA national convention. This is the first, and it looks like the only time for a long time, that it will be close enough for me to attend. One 3 and half hour train ride from Portland and Seattle and lots of ideas, and hopefully free goodies, await me! I'm going up Thursday night so I can go to the opening night event at the EMP (Experience music project) which I have been waiting to go to for 10 years but could not afford but now will be free for the night!
The only part I'm not looking forward to is that my best art teacher buddy, roommate for the event, and collage friend for 11 years can't make it up till Friday night so I'm on my own that first night which will be a little lonely.
Whatever, I'll just have fun on my own!
So is anyone else going to the conference? and dare I suggest it, would anyone like to have a blogger meet up!
Hope to see a few of you there:)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Relax a little 5th grade!

I really like teaching 5th graders. As some drunk man told me said this weekend, "They are old enough to know better but young enough to want your love." How true drunk dude, how true.

My current 5th graders are intense little perfectionists. They always have been. It used to be when something did not turn out perfect, this was the first group to tear up the paper and break down in tears. They don't do that anymore (thank goodness!) but they still want everything just so. They constantly are asking, "Is this right? Is this line right, is this shape right, is this the right color, is this the right placement....on and on?" They burn through paper and erasers and have a strange fixation on using rulers for everything. They do beautiful work but it takes forever and I fear their fixation on the technicalities is keeping them from feeling the joy of creating art.

So this year I have been working hard to break them of this need for perfection so they can simply ENJOY creating art. I want them to like what they are doing, not just care if it is "right" or not. We have talked a lot about there not being a "right," answer in art. I spent most of October, November and December yelling...."whatever you have, it's ok!! stop asking." and happily they are getting much better. I feel so confident in their progress that I have decided to push my luck on our next two lessons. I just let them spend 5 classes on very technical Paul Klee geometric cities with tiny tinny shapes and tiny tinny brushes and all the rulers and protractors they wanted.

But now it is time to loosen up. We are going to look at Matisse (that good old wild beast) and the master of wonky art himself, Picasso.

Today we started doing a version of Matisse's goldfish. I gave them LARGE paper, I took away the pencils, confiscated the erasers and forced them to draw with big chunky oil pastels. There were no do overs and I went fast so their was not time to analyze every line. Then before they could think or complain we added our goldfish and I pulled the oil pastels from their clammy hands, replaced them with large brushes, a swirl of green paints and yelled, "5 min to make leaves and vines...GO!" One girl lamented..."mine looks like a kindergartner did it!" "Excellent," I cackled as I trotted around the room rubbing my hands. I heard the word loco being muttered a lot. But wouldn't you know it, when I collected their work it looked great! They are not the most sophisticated artworks ever, but for once I feel like their work has movement and life and JOY it it. We are going to keep working fast, and with lots of colors and at one point I am taking away the brushes and make them finger paint! Even if this lesson ends up being more process then product I'm excited to see the kids break out of their box and give into the simple act of creating art. I realized my goal IS to have them work as Kindergartners. Not judging, not analyzing, not perfecting, but simply experiencing and enjoying!!!