Friday, October 25, 2013
We started with a picture walk through the book Look! Look! Look! by Tana Hoban, then I taught them how to make a small viewfinder. I had them look at my face, move the viewfinder closer and further away, look at their own hand, and look around the room in general. This was to give them an opportunity to look at the environment the way an artist does, blocking out unneeded parts and just experimenting with placement in the viewing window.
Next, they made a cropping window and placed it over their drawing to help them choose how to crop their composition. This was kind of like using a giant viewfinder. They drew a pencil line for the cropping lines, then sponge painted inside that square with orange watercolor.
By now it was about one hour before the end of the day. There was just enough time left to cut on the pencil lines to trim the excess off their drawings and mount their "close up" compositions on black paper. And to show off.
This turned out to be a pretty successful lesson with a lot going for it. The students were intrigued by the viewfinders, and I was thrilled to see that hardly anyone drew tiny pictures. I think making the preliminary sketches (and modeling that process) helped a lot. If I had wanted to stretch this lesson out even further, I could have had the students do all the measuring for their cropping window mats; I would definitely do that if I were teaching this to an older group. And just to show how great this class is, they put all the painting sponges back into color-coded baggies with no mistakes!
Saturday, September 28, 2013
The actual art-making part of this activity was very simple: Trace some shapes onto white paper (I had brought my collection of cardboard and plastic shapes with me) and then color in the resulting spaces.
I introduced the words overlap and intersect and modeled tracing a few shapes to demonstrate the meanings of the words. I made sure students understood that each shape needed to overlap at least one other shape, so that all the lines would intersect. I then explained that each resulting shape/section would need to be filled with a pattern, and that no pattern could be repeated. And just to throw in another math concept, I asked them to trace an odd number of shapes, more than two and less than ten. They traced the shapes with a pencil first, then colored the spaces in, and then went back and outlined each original shape with a black crayon.
This was an easy, easy lesson that needed no prep at all. It would be great for a substitute (well, I was substituting!). I happened to have shapes with me, but I would bet that in most primary classrooms one would be able to find some shapes to trace. If not, students could make their own, with each student making one shape and then all students at that table sharing each others'. And there's no rule that says they have to use geometric shapes, but I do think the resulting shapes from overlapping are very interesting and it would be a great math extension to have them name all the resulting shapes, or some additional art concepts could be included by having students use all warm or all cool colors, or some other defined color combination.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Choose a color.
Cut into strips.
Glue onto black paper.
I can't begin to count the number of second and third grade students I've seen in the past few years who could not efficiently use a pair of scissors. So when working as a support helper for the first three days of school in Kindergarten, I manned a center where the kids only needed to cut. Not on lines, not on shapes, just cut. I showed them how to use the scissors -- thumb in the small hole, fingers in the big hole -- and how to hold the paper -- vertically, with the scissors pointing to the sky -- and asked them to cut their paper into strips.
Each student was able to choose a color, and in a group of six, everyone had a different color (there were about nine bright colors to choose from) so nobody's strips got mixed up on the table. Everyone also got a sheet of black paper to glue their strips on, and to make things easy, I brushed watered-down white glue all over the black paper and they just needed to lay their cuttings down onto the wet glue. This job was all about cutting and nothing else.
When they were all finished, we had a beautiful assortment of line art, all ready to go on the wall. Even though each child had the same directions, no two of these were alike. I think they made a perfect first art activity!
Thursday, August 1, 2013
When I taught art in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades for two years, I had the luxury of a generous budget and was able to buy all the art materials I needed for a basic art curriculum. I didn't wander off into anything fancy; I stuck to the basics and the process of creative art-making. These days, I am retired and subbing in other peoples' classrooms, and I am intrigued (and sorry to say, not in a very good way) about the lack of quality art materials out there for kids to use. When it comes to buying art materials, my philosophy is to always buy the best quality possible. The cost may be initially higher, but the returns are greater: they generally last longer, work better, and produce much better results. I stick pretty much to the basics and stay away from most "specialty" items like glittery watercolor or tapping glue bottles. I follow this philosophy both for classroom art materials and for my own art-making process, because I want kids to feel like artists when they are making art, not to struggle with the materials they are using.
What do I consider basic? And are some brands better than others? Does it really matter what brand you buy? You bet! My favorites...
CRAYONS. Good quality crayons have better color, probably due to the ratio of pigment to wax (I'm not a crayon scientist, so I'm guessing here). Poor quality crayons have more wax and the colors are not as bright, no matter how hard you press. I won't buy anything but Crayola. The reds are bright. The yellows are strong. Many teachers buy cheaper brands and my experience is that the colors are just very bland. And by the way, I want the colors to be named what they are. I came across some crayons in a friend's classroom that had color names like Blueberry Swirl or Grape Soda (I am making those up, but you get the gist), which are very cute and all, but were not even that accurate. Colors have names and don't need to be cutified. I like that Crayola names their blues Indigo, Blue, Cerulean. These are real names that artists use.
CONSTRUCTION PAPER CRAYONS are great to have on hand. They are made for drawing on dark colored construction paper. They have some kind of reflective material in them. Kids love using them! They are made by Crayola, and are wrapped with black paper so they are easily distinguished if they get mixed with regular crayons. For general storage, I like to keep crayons in zip baggies instead of in their boxes. It's easy for kids to find the color they need, and a whole class set will fit in one shoebox-sized plastic tub.
MARKERS: I like Crayola markers for kids' use. They seem to last a pretty long time and the colors are pretty bright. I always store them with the tips facing down. This way, the ink is always saturating the tip and they stay nice and "juicy" instead of drying out. Laying them down in a tub works, also. For my own use, on charts and for art lessons where I do demonstrations, I use Mr. Sketch. The colors are very vibrant and the chisel point lets me make bolder lines so that the charts are easy to read. I like the smelly ones.
COLORED PENCILS: Crayola again, although there are other brands that are pretty good, too. I like having a good supply of multiple, basic colors. I generally buy boxes of 12 colors and then dump them all in a plastic tub. They are great for still-life and other observation drawing.
GLUE STICKS: I only buy UHU. It's firmer than cheaper glue sticks, doesn't clump or squish into a mess, and lasts a lot longer than any other brand I've used. I once put in an order for UHU glue sticks when I was teaching art, and the school secretary substituted a cheaper brand. I was working in three schools at the time, and guess at which school the glue sticks got used up first? These are definitely noticeably more expensive than other brands, but very well worth it in the long run. They have a "screw" top which I like. For some reason, kids seem to smoosh them less. Maybe because they are less smooshable.
WHITE GLUE: Elmers. The regular kind. Not the washable kind, the school glue kind, the clear gel kind (oh, that's the worst). Just the regular "Glue-All" kind. What I really really hate is those tapping bottles that drive me crazy when kids are doing collages. I think teachers buy them because they are tired of kids wasting glue, but it's not that hard to teach kids how to use small dots of glue. As for longevity, I always made sure to remind kids to close the stopper and wipe the glue off the tip, and then store the bottles standing up. It's that easy. The bottles will last practically forever.
SCISSORS: I like "pointy" scissors, even for Kindergartners. They just seem to cut better. They seem more serious. Fiskars makes a pretty nice pair of scissors for little hands, and they seem to work fine for either hand, so you don't need any special left-handed ones.
PENCILS: Dixon Ticonderoga. Nothing else will do. They are great for drawing. They have good, soft erasers. They sharpen well without breaking. They are worth the extra few cents per dozen. They last longer, write smoother, sharpen easier, and erase without smudging. I could write a whole blog post just about pencils. Another time. When the erasers go, as they will, I offer Pink Pearl erasers, not one for each student, but several stored near the pencil sharpener. (Which is a whole other post, but I swear by a good pencil sharpener.)
And last, but definitely not least ..... PAPER!
I like good quality CONSTRUCTION PAPER, like Tru-Ray, because the paper is smoother and the colors are nice and bright. And by all means.... save all the scraps for collage-making! It's a good idea to invest in some white DRAWING PAPER. It comes in reams and is not too expensive. I like having both 9x12 and 12x18 on hand. It can be used when construction paper is not really needed but copy paper or newsprint is too thin. Regular, ordinary COPY PAPER is great for pencil drawing. It's nice and white, relatively inexpensive, and looks great on the wall in a gallery. Under no circumstances would I ever use any kind of newsprint for art lessons. Ever. Not even for sketching. It's just too ugly.
***FOR BEST RESULTS, TREAT STUDENTS LIKE ARTISTS
Treat students like artists, and maybe they will make great art!
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
OK.... so about a week ago or so in the space of two days three different TeachersPayTeachers bloggers nominated Creating Art With Kids for a Lieber Award. A what? Hmmm. I had no clue what this was, so I started googling and found very little information. One thing I discovered is that "lieber" is a kind of endearment word in German, so basically the award goes to a blog you like. :-) The best information I found on the origins of this award is at two blogs called Sopphey Says and Smooth ReEntry. Apparently it is an award designed to sort of pay forward some attention to blogs that are maybe just starting out, or sort of plugging along without a lot of notice. The directions I received and read from my nominators are that awardees need to do the following:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated me
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Answer the questions posted for me by my nominator
4. Share 11 random facts about myself
5. Create 11 questions for my nominees
6. Contact my nominees and let them know I nominated them!
.... sort of like a chain letter :-) It's an award for which you get to do stuff! YAY! Kind of like when my daughter's soccer team made the finals in a weekend soccer tournament, the reward for which was to play more soccer. But I digress.....
Interestingly, I did find that the requirements have changed over time. At one time, you had to nominate a blog with less than 3000 followers. How it got to 200 I do not know. Also, originally it was 11 face, 11 questions, and 11 blogs to nominate. I'm glad that part changed to 5-11 because I am sticking with five. More on that later.
So, since I got three nominations in two days I decided that I would deal with all three nominations in the same blog. My nominators were:
So I have 33 questions to answer:
From Mrs. Mathis:
How long have you been teaching? I taught for 20 years and am now retired.
Why do you teach? I loved the creativity part, the making of my own stuff, and watching kids be creative.
If you weren't a teacher, what would you be? Hmm. Maybe a veterinarian.
What are your favourite hobbies? Reading. Writing. Making Art.
What's the last book you read? Quiet, by Susan Cain.
What was your favourite book as a child? Charlotte's Web
Who is your favourite band, singer and why? I have many favorites, but currently I find myself grabbing the Queen CD more often than not when in the car. Why? I dunno.
Do you believe in soul mates? Absolutely.
Do you believe in love at first sight? Absolutely.
Who (or what) inspires you? Trees. The wind. Water.
Who was your favourite teacher when you were in school and why? Mrs. Amori, my Kindergarten teacher, let me teach myself to read in the days way back when Kindergartners were supposed to only play.
From Tiny Toes:
Are you married? How long? Children? I was married 18 years. Been divorced quite a while now. I have two children in their 30s. My daughter works for the city of Campbell, CA and my son is a professional musician.
Do you prefer a snowy winter or a hot summer? Winter, definitely.
How early do you do your Christmas shopping? Um.... Around Dec. 20 if I'm lucky.
What is the one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't been able to? See the Grand Canyon. Live on the beach.
Which gift certificate would you most want to recieve? DickBlick Art Materials.
What drink (alcoholic or not) do you most order when you eat out?
Diet Coke or water, or, if I'm at Sierra Nevada Brewery, then beer. Crystal Wheat.
Have you ever wanted to learn to sew, crochet, or knit? Can you?
I can sew and knit, but not crochet.
What does you ideal date night look like? At home, alone, with the phone turned off.
If you could bring your act to X-Factor... what would you bring? I don't know what X-Factor is.
Are you a night-owl? Not really. I'm up before 6am even in the summer.
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest ability...where do you put your technical abilities at school? Well... gosh... I'd have to let my former students answer that.....
Where are you from? I am a California native, through and through. NORTHERN California, I might add. :-)
How many languages do you speak fluently? This one.
If you could learn a new language, what would it be? Español
What is your favourite thing to do when you need to relax? Draw or watercolor. Or read. Or wander in the garden.
Name 3 people that had a huge impact on your life and tell us why. My mom.... because she's my mom. My kids... because they made me be real. My Kindergarten teacher... because she bucked the system for me.
What is the dream you most wish to have come true? I am happy the way I am.
Favorite animal and why. Cats. I have six. Because they are cats.
Coffee, tea or neither? Both, at different times. Coffee in the morning. Tea when I'm sick or feeling like I should be more healthy.
Where do you usually go when on holidays? Beach, camping, cruise….? What's a holiday?
Something or someone that makes you get up in the morning with a smile. My cats. They are very entertaining.
If you could describe yourself in one word, what word would that be?
Whew! That was a lot of thinking!
OK.... so.... here are 11 random facts about me....
1. I have six cats.
2. I love snow.
3. I have read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance five times.
4. I would rather watch than participate.
5. I miss teaching.
6. I am half Sicilian, half Portuguese.
7. I know how to pronounce "biscotti" the right way.
8. I know how long it takes a family to make 3000 homemade raviolis.
8. I know how long it takes a family to make 3000 homemade raviolis.
9. I love pizza.
10. One of my former students ran for governor of California.
10. One of my former students ran for governor of California.
11. In my next life, I plan to be water.
Now.... here are my five nominees, followed by the questions I have for them:
And here are my questions for them:
1. Why did you become a teacher and how long have you been teaching?
2. What subject do you most enjoy teaching?
3. What is your favorite "teaching" book?
4. What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you in the classroom?
5. Do you teach art in your classroom? If not, why not?
6. What is your best-selling product in your TpT store? Why do you think it is a best seller?
7. How long have you been a seller on TeachersPayTeachers?
8. What do you do when you are not teaching?
9. Who or what inspires you?
10. Do you have pets? How many?
11. Rock, paper, or scissors?
And with that.... this blog post is finished.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Near the end of the school year I asked four different classrooms of students, a second, a third, a fourth, and a fifth grade, what it meant to be creative. At right is what the second grade class came up with. I think these are pretty good responses from second graders. And I also need to say that I had done lots of art with these students, as I had substituted in this classroom many times and was given free reign for art lessons every time I substituted. They did have many more responses in their discussion, but generally they fit into something already on the chart so we didn't duplicate.
And here are the fourth and fifth grade response charts, from classes where most had attended art classes with me when they were in first or second grade, or both:
Good responses all, but I do have to say that while the second graders were falling all over themselves to get their ideas added to the chart, and the fourth graders were pretty easy with their responses, the fifth graders had to be coaxed and prodded to finally come up with these. Who knows what happened to these students between the time they were creatively making art in second grade and the time they landed in fifth grade. (Well, I do have a theory about that, mostly about too much attention paid to testing data, test prep, test administration, and not enough attention paid to teaching kids to take risks.....)
Unfortunately, I find students, in general, are becoming less and less creative and more and more wanting one right answer, one (easy) strategy, someone to tell them what to do, when and how to start, whether they are right. When I am doing art lessons, I find more and more students having trouble getting ideas and getting started.
So how do we help kids be more creative?
I always tell students it's okay to look around to see what other people are doing to help get ideas, as long as you don't copy. Use the same color but in a different shape. Use the same shape but a different texture. Use the same shapes but put them in a different arrangement. Create a similar pattern by changing just one thing... a squiggly line instead of a zig-zag line. If you want to try a drawing like the one someone else did, use a different drawing tool. Or a different size paper. Or a different viewpoint.
Change just one thing and go from there.
Just be different!