Saturday, April 28, 2012

Marker Fish - Grade 3

So again, I will say that the regular teacher must love ocean life! The third grade class was working on these rather large fish. They had used tracers to trace the fish onto 12 x 18 paper. Then they used those ocean life packets to add lots of details. Next they outlined it all in Sharpie. And finally they used brand new -- still very juicy -- Crayola markers to color them in. I have no idea what these will end up being used for. The example that was left was two-sided and cut out, but the instructions that I was given said not to do that, so not sure what the final project will look like. I kinda like the idea of having them be two-sided and maybe hung on fishing line so that they move with the air currents. They would be great as part of an all out coral reef installation in the school because they would look like they were swimming. Anyway, some of the color schemes and patterns look so awesome; I just had to share them!

Sneaker Contour Drawings - Grade 4

My example -- I borrowed one of  the students' sneakers to do the demonstration.

I love to teach observational drawing lessons and was excited when the regular art teacher asked me to start this lesson with the fourth grade students.

The students were asked to remove one sneaker and place it in front of them. After getting over the initial gross factor of the boys trying to sniff their sneakers to freak out the girls the drawing could begin.

At first the students thought it was too difficult to draw a sneaker. They were asked to begin on a draft paper so that they could work through the learning process before making marks on the final paper. Many wanted to just trace their sneakers and did not like when I said they had to observe and draw what they saw, not trace. They also got frustrated when they had to go back and re-evaluate what they had drawn because they weren't getting life-size sketches. I jokingly said that the shoes could not look like they fit them when they were babies. They had to be big enough to fit now, which for some students was pretty big. This lightened things up a bit and gave them the courage to try again.

I made no misrepresentations during the demo and cautioned students that this was a challenging assignment that would require concentration and focus and less talking then I would normally allow in the art room. After about ten minutes of drawing they appreciated my candid approach and really focused their efforts, making multiple attempts, calling me over to help when they got stuck on certain parts, etc. Some students created such detailed drafts that they were worried they could not reproduce the result on the final paper, so I allowed them to use the windows to trace their sketches onto the final drafts. They had no idea that this was even possible.

Now, I have no clue how these drawings will end up or what the final project will look like when it is completed. I like the idea of keeping the contour drawings with little or no color, maybe just going over them in maker. I would also like to see them finished with a border design that incorporates the crazy cool patterns that are on the bottoms of the sneakers. I'll have to keep an eye out for these in the halls the next time I am at this school so I can see what will have become of them.

Here are some of the drawings. They were all really great and I'd love to share all of them, but I'll settle for just these for now.

Watercolor Resist Fish - Kindergarten

My example (I tried to encourage the students to use white crayon so it would magically appear when painted over)

The art teacher I was subbing for must really like ocean scenes. She had the kindergarten doing one that was very similar to the fourth grade project. The nicest part was that if compared you could see how a kindergarten student draws the same subject using the same packet of ocean life images for inspiration. All of the students made great drawings, but some did not quite do as tidy a job when they began painting and some painted the fish and the water blue, so it was hard to see what they had drawn. As much as I emphasized the importance of drawing heavily with crayon so the wax/water technique would work, such young students did not always apply enough crayon to get the resist effect. I think it would have worked better with larger drawings (like the middle example), but the drawings were already done the week before and many of them had made lots and lots of tiny fish instead of larger ones.

These are some in progress student examples (look for the white crayon bubbles):

Glue & Watercolor Ocean Scenes - Grade 4

 A few weeks ago I was in for the same art teacher as I was this past week and I got to see this project started. I was happy to be able to see it finished last week. Most of the students were close to done, but about half the class was still finishing up the painting part.
The students started by drawing their ocean scenes using packets of sea life pictures for inspiration (no tracers!). Then they had to go over all the pencil lines with glue that had been mixed with black tempera. Honestly, this part was a huge hassle. The glue bottles kept getting clogged with the paint or the mix would be greyish instead of black. And if too much pressure was used trying to squeeze it out blobs occurred. There has to be a better way than using the glue bottle as applicators -- maybe those hair color applicators would work better.
Once the gluing was done and dry they started watercolor (that part was what I missed). Then they finished them last week. In this post are some of my favorites from the bunch. I just had to share them. Despite the initial frustration with the glue they look great.
 I don't know where the regular teacher got this idea. I've seen plenty of glue outline paintings online in blogs and such. I'm sure many have done something like this.

Mr. Seahorse: Grade 2 Painted Paper Collage

So, one of the lessons I was asked to teach last week while subbing in the art room was this painted paper collage inspired by Eric Carle's Mr. Seahorse. I think the regular teacher found the idea online (probably on Pinterest) because she gets lots of her ideas that way. She had yet to make a sample or start this project, so I only had our phone conversation to go by.

Anyway, to make this project I had the students trace a seahorse tracer onto 12 x 18 paper keeping the tracer close to the top of the page and leaving about 8" on the bottom. Then they painted a rainbow or sorts over the traced seahorse, purposely painting outside the edges. Next, they painted the bottom empty space with blue and green watercolor to create a mixed color effect. This was set aside to dry now. On a second sheet of paper (11 x 17) the students painted the wavy lines and splattered dots as well. The splatter was their favorite part. It does get a little messy though, which is why I have them do this with the paper on the floor in a designated part of the room.

When both papers dry (next week when they finish with the regular teacher), the students will 1.) cut out the seahorse/collage it to the background, 2.) cut out the little fridges from the parts where they went outside the lines and collage that on, and 3.) free-style cut out the seaweed shapes and collage those (stalks first then leaves).

Above is my completed example.

Just what I needed!

I have been substitute teaching for what feels like a long time now – two and a half years -- to still not have my own classroom. Every once in a while I get to fill in for an art teacher, sometimes even teach my own lessons. Usually it is for just a day. Most often I fill in for classroom teachers in other subjects or in general education. And I find myself having to teach (convincingly) curriculum that I have no actual training for, having to adjust to differing classroom norms, having to remember names of students I’ve only just met, and having to do all this in front of an audience of students who know I’m “just a substitute.” It is hard to win their respect when they know this, let alone get them to behave as they would if their regular teacher were there instead of me.

Honestly, it gets discouraging. Looking for a full time art position for so long and applying for jobs where I don’t even get an acknowledgement that I applied wears on me, makes me question if it is worth it to keep trying. But then something happens to remind me why I keep doing it – waiting and hoping for my own art room and my own students.

Due to unfortunate circumstances on the part of the regular teacher, I am called upon to substitute for an entire week in an elementary art room, even filling in for the after school art club. I get to teach every lesson (granted they are not my own) to every student in every grade. I get to go in every day with a plan of what I want the students to take from the lessons and how I want them to feel about being in the art room. And though there are some students who don’t know that I am actually an art teacher and doubt my ability to make or teach art, those naysayers are quickly surprised to see what I can do with a pencil, paintbrush or piece of clay, and I win them over.

In just one short hour, students who said “I can’t” at the start of a challenging art assignment are saying “Wow, I did it!” when I’ve helped them discover that with a few “tricks” they have the ability to draw an accurate representation or mix a color. I give them the tools they need to develop their own artistic skills. I show them how I make the magic happen so they can make their own magic. I present them with a new way of seeing that changes how everything looks even outside the art room door.

And the students give things to me, too. Intagible things. Things they did not know they had to give. They remind me of why I need to be a teacher. I have just as much – if not more – pride in their successes as they do. I scrutinize their failures as if they were my own and take them to mean I need to show them another way to succeed. The students give me hope and strength and faith. Hope that I will have my own classroom. Strength to wait it out. And faith that teaching is the gift I was given and am meant to use to help students find the gifts within themselves.

And so after this week in the art room, I am renewed. I am reminded that I did not make sacrifices, did not give up certain securities, and did not accrue massive loan debt because I wanted to become an art teacher. It was because I need to be an art teacher. It is so much a part of who I am and what I know I am meant to do. I am not a gambler. I am not a risk taker. But I gambled my future. I risked my financial security. And I know that someday – hopefully sooner rather than later – my reward will be my own art classroom, my own students, and my own chance to share my gift. 

p.s. Upcoming posts will show some art projects that I made with the students during this week of renewal.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day: An Up-Cycled Art Project Idea -- Upper Elementary & Middle School

This was a tough project to create, so I recommend it for very patient upper elementary students or middle school students. It requires only four things to complete, old magazines, Elmer's glue, a dowel of some sort and patience!

Magazine Basket Weaving
To begin tear out the pages of an old magazine. One with colorful images would work best. One magazine should provide enough material to complete at least one project, maybe two.

Then follow these steps:
1. Using a thin dowel (I actually used a knitting needle) roll one page the long until they are completely wrapped around and glue the last edge down to make a tube. Slide off and set aside to dry. *Hint: It may be helpful to make a lip when you start rolling and glue that down securely so that the tube is less likely to unravel as you continue rolling. Also, do not use too much glue or the magazine pages can fall apart.
2. Repeat until you have a stack of tubes (about 20 or so will be enough).
3. Flatten the tubes.
4. Begin creating a weft and warp weave using the flattened tubes. You may need to tape down those going in one direction while you are working. Also keep the weaving only in the center because the ends will be folded up to make the walls of the basket. You will have more in one direction (i.e. either the warp or the weft will have more flattened tubes).
5. Fold every other tube end back over and through the weaving. You will have a one in one out pattern all around. This will secure the base weaving in place nice and tightly. Folding back in takes practice and patience because if you are not careful all your work will come undone.
6. Now the really hard part begins -- the sides. Fold up the remaining ends. Begin with one side and weave through another tube. Fold ends back and through. One tube will go about half way around the basket. Start on the other side and repeat with another tube to meet the first one. Continue up the sides about three more times.
7. With the ends that remain sticking up at the top, fold down and through the weaving to secure. The basket is now complete.

**This was my first woven basket. Even with a lot of patience it took me about two hours. With more practice it may go easier. I had no instructions to follow and pretty much winged it to figure out how to make one. If you have a woven basket lesson using magazines/paper, please share it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Trees - Elementary

Now is the time of year when the trees are blossoming. These beautiful signs of spring provide perfect inspiration for some spring art lessons that can be equally inspired by great works of art.

For second and third grade students I have developed two lessons that are inspired by some great paintings that link two completely different approaches to a very similar subject. This creates an opportunity to compare and contrast two works of art, while using ideas from them to create interesting works of our own. A good visual/organizational strategy could be to use a Venn Diagram to point out similarities and differences.

A Young Shepherd by the Chinese School, 1989

The second grade lesson, Folk Art Collage Trees, takes its cue from A Young Shepherd by the Chinese School, 1989. To start the project, paint the grass and sky with watercolor, let dry. Flowers can be added to the ground as well. Then, cut out somewhat oval shapes from spring-colored tissue paper, such as pink, yellow-green, yellow, white, etc. Collage these along the horizon line or slightly overlapping the grass. I used a glittery collage product to seal them down. When these are dry, possibly the next class, finish up with Sharpie in colors to suit the papers to create the tree trunks and branches.

William Biscombe Gardner's (1847 - 1919) Appleblossoms

The third grade lesson, Spring Blossoms Outside My Window, takes its cue from William Biscombe Gardner's (1847 - 1919) Appleblossoms. To start the project tape off the window frame (similar to those birch tree lessons that are abundant in the fall). If using masking tape it helps to remove some of the tackiness by sticking the tape to clothing first -- that way when it is removed later it is less likely to damage the paper. Then paint the entire paper with blue sky tempera (have students mix their own tints from blue and white). This will take a while to dry, so it might be a good step to do the week before at the end of another lesson.
When the blue paint has dried, paint on branches (again mix the brown using the three primaries). The branches should dry somewhat quickly. Mix tints again in spring colors -- such as pink, light yellow, light green, lavender, etc.Get out those brushes that are terrible for most painting lessons -- the ones with splayed bristles. They will work perfectly for the next step. Dip the splayed bristles gently in the mixed paint and equally gently tap them on the paper to create brush marks that resemble blossoms. Repeat with touches of a darker color and touches of white to give dimension. Let this dry completely. Peel off the tape. Use colored pencil to shade the window frame to create a three-dimensional molding effect.

And finally for kindergarten: Paper Bag Trees. This is a lesson that appears often on many art teacher blogs and in many art classrooms. It is simple enough for younger students. Simply cut off the bottom of a paper lunch bag, twist it tightly in the middle, snip the ends and twist those to create branches and roots. Hot glue to construction paper covered cardboard, use white glue to attached crumpled spring-colored tissue paper blossoms.

A possible inspiration painting could be Claude Monet's Woman In A Garden from 1867.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Are You A Snail? Kindergarten

 My sample snail.

So, while subbing for an art teacher who was busy getting ready for family art night I was asked to make some snails with the kindergarten class. As it turned out they were the only class who did not have snails yet for the art show. Anyway, the other classes had all used kiln-fired clay, but since the show was that night there just would not be time for that -- air dry clay would have to do.

The students listened to a snail-themed book first -- at the end are facts about snails.

 Are You A Snail? by  Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries

Then, they got right to making their own snails. This group used white model magic to make their coiled shell and foot. Then while the model magic was still really soft, they painted their snails with watercolors. Not recommended unless in a pinch like this one. Any way here are some adorable snails and one that is a little squished, but still rather cute.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Celebrating National Poetry Month in the Art Room

April is National Poetry Month. And, having minored in creative writing, I love poetry and really enjoy integrating this creative medium into art lessons. There are several poetry books that I've come across that I think are great additions to the art room. Many of these I would never have known about if it were not for fabulous classroom teachers and librarians. That being said, if you want to integrate language arts, or any subject really, the absolute best resources are those classroom teachers and librarians!

This time of year, many art teachers start to teach warmer weather lessons. This is a great book of poems to use when teaching any nautical themed art lesson. Poems are accompanied by full-color photographs of ocean life.
Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems by Avis Harley

Cats are one of my favorite animals to go to when teaching art to young students, especially around Halloween. Who doesn't love black cat art? Anyway, this book of cat poems is illustrated with velvety chalk drawings of cats in all shapes, sizes and poses. It would make an excellent spring board for creating chalk drawings with students.

Cats Are Cats by Nancy Larrick

Narratives are present in art and literature. This book of poems compiles classics like " The Jabberwocky" -- great for monster drawings, as well as a unique take on the Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale.
Once Upon A Poem by Kevin Crossleu-Holland

I love finding collections of work made by young artists and writers. These two books contain poetry and illustrations by students.

River of Words: Images and Poetry In Praise of Water compiled by Pamela Michael

and Haiku Hike by 4th graders at St. Mary's School 

Japanese Watercolor Scroll Books: Integrated Language Arts Lesson
This lesson for second grade used Haiku Hike. The students found great success exploring Japanese poetry and scroll painting while making their own handcrafted books.

View/Download the complete lesson here: