• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Monday, March 30, 2009

pop art hearts

These Pop Art heart paintings by first and second grade students, painted in mid-February in honor of Valentine's Day, were inspired by the art of Jim Dine and Wayne Thiebaud. I introduced the lesson by showing students copies of several works by these two artists. I asked them to describe what they saw and to make any comments they wanted about their observations. I pointed out how the repeated shapes in these works were painted with slightly different colors or patterns and explained that they were going to do a Pop Art painting of hearts. It seemed appropriate to do something with hearts since it was February, and this activity took the hearts out of the cliche realm.

>To lay out their designs, students were able to cut and trace their own hearts or to trace hearts that I provided. First grade students used larger hearts and were asked to trace four on the page; second grade students were asked to trace six. I initially wanted all the students to cut out their own hearts so they would be really different, but I discovered that this was more problematic than I expected with some of the students and turned out taking more time than I thought it would. Since my classes are only an hour, I was glad that I had thought to cut some of my own hearts "just in case." After a couple of classes, I offered the hearts for tracing as a first choice, and anyone who wanted to cut their own was invited to do so.

Because I wanted students to focus on subtle differences in color and patterns or brush treatments, and because this was the first painting they had done this year, I had them use just two primary colors and white to create as many different variations in color as possible. I modeled for them how to outline each heart first with a narrow brush, and then challenged them to paint each of their hearts a different way or with a different color or pattern. I teach at three schools, for a total of six first grade classes and eight second grade classes with approximately twenty students each, so after two weeks of heart painting, I was pretty much on heart overload, but I am pleased to report that collectively we ended up with approximately 1200 differently-painted hearts!

stamp, stamp, stamp

There's nothing new or particularly innovative about using found objects dipped in paint to stamp designs on paper. The trick is in getting students to actually think about what they are doing rather than just stamping paint willy-nilly all over the paper. I'd like to think I'm successful in leading them toward more planning and less chaos, but that would be a lie. All I can do is gather up objects with different shapes, model the procedure, and let them have a go at it. The objects I used for stamping in this activity were cut up sponges, pieces of corrugated cardboard, several wine bottle corks, clothespins, and some assorted bottle and other tops, including several tops to glue sticks that I had saved when we trashed the used up glue sticks themselves.

My Kindergarten students did enjoy this, and some of them got very into it, to the extent that I had to be right there with a wet cloth to wipe hands before the table, their faces, and their neighbor's clothes were paint-spotted. Amazingly, the faucet in my art room doesn't work.... well, it works but it makes a huge grinding noise that sounds like the pipes are going to explode... so I have to be innovative in the hand-washing department. But I digress....

What I tried to do with the stamping activity was encourage students to create patterns. At three of each tables, there were different combinations of two primary colors, and students used white paper at first, but then I got the idea to have the paper be the third primary color (red & yellow paint on blue paper, etc.). Some students really did work on patterns of some type, others worked on stamping out shapes of actual objects (cars, boats, houses, etc.), but for the most part, students basically explored stamping with different objects without really worrying about trying to create some kind of identifiable design. And that's ok...... it just tells me that they need to do more of it, not less. :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

symmetrical cityscapes

I regularly cruise the Internet looking for new ideas to use with my students. On one of my surfing trips, I found a cityscape idea on the Art Projects for Kids blog (link is in the "on the web" list on the right side of this page). It was done on dark paper with oil pastels. The California 2nd Grade Art Standards say that students should create an artwork with bilateral symmetry, so I decided to have my second grade students draw a symmetrical cityscape. And since I didn't have any oil pastels, and since there had recently been a freeze on ordering new materials, I decided to have them use construction paper crayons on black paper. To prepare, I found several pictures of cityscapes, some photographs and some art work by various artists (thank you, Google image search), which I printed out.

First I had students look at the pictures to identify what they saw and how they were all the same. Then I introduced the term "bilateral symmetry" to them. They had already been doing some work with symmetry in math, but I found that they had a hard time describing what it means to have symmetry. Most who responded referred to a "line down the middle" but were unable to go far beyond that in their definitions so I drew a butterfly and talked about it being the same on both sides. Then we looked at the prefix "bi" which they eventually realized meant "two" when I had them compare the number of wheels on tricycles and bicycles. l didn't spend too much time on this introduction, but I wanted them to understand that they were going to start this drawing in the center and then build out symmetrically on both sides of the center, making sure that each subsequent pair of buildings would be exactly alike. I drew a very quick example, stressing the importance of making them the same size, shape, color, etc. I also showed them one that I had done, and explained that they should not color in the windows, as we wanted them to be created using negative space, which I defined as "the parts you don't color" -- leaving a more detailed explanation for another time.

Before I sent them off to begin their drawings, I pointed out the line along the bottom of the groups of buildings in the pictures. Some of these lines were very clear, like sidewalks in the photographs, or a prominent line in some of the art work, while others were more virtual, like the place where grass meets the bottom of the building in a photograph or where the bottom of the building in a painting or collage simply creates a line. Their instructions were to draw the line first, then draw their first building right in the center, on the line. As they began, I wandered around, giving tips on coloring in one direction, suggesting larger windows next time, and reminding them now and then to be using bilateral symmetry.

I made sure students knew that it was ok for their buildings not to extend across the entire length of the paper, and to take their time. During the last ten minutes of class, I had them do a "turn and talk" activity with a partner, in which they told their partner which part of their drawing they especially liked, which part they might change if they were doing it again, and how they knew they had used bilateral symmetry. Finally, I had them tell their partners what they liked about their partners' drawings.

Because I teach several hundred students each week at three different schools, I can't display everyone's art work, but these were so awesome that I created a "strip" of them in each of my three classrooms, using the work of about fifteen or so students. I love the way they create the look of one long, nighttime cityscape.

This activity was very successful on many levels. Every piece of work produced was original and had its own personality, and the students were very engaged with their drawings. And the best thing of all is that when they finished this art work, most of the students were more clear on the concept of symmetry, and that it's not the line, but what's on each side of the line that counts, and could explain the concept to me or to a partner.

green paper sculptures

My Kindergarten students had great fun making simple construction paper sculptures. In honor of March and St. Patrick's Day in the near future, I decided to have them use only green paper for these. Prep was easy; I simply cut tons of paper strips from the 9" end of 9x12 construction paper, roughly an inch wide, but truthfully I didn't measure and didn't worry about the width, so there was a lot of variation. I also provided a few 4x4 inch squares on each table for kids to make cylinders or to cut out shapes to use along with spirals, accordion folds, circles, etc. A few students made "paper chain" loops that hung loose, and two little girls attached several strips end to end, creating long, long tails.

My favorite moment was when a student found a little "googly eye" on the floor, apparently left from a project from the previous day's after school program. He squealed ecstatically that he had "found an eye!" and glued it on the top of a loop of paper. He then looked around on the floor and found a tiny piece of green yarn, maybe about a half inch long, which he glued next to the eye and announced that "now I have a mouth!" Later, when we decided to name the sculptures, he decided that his would be named "Mr. Sculpture!"

It was very interesting to watch different students' approach to this activity. One student kept walking over to a table off to the side, on which were sitting a couple of unfinished models that I had used to show different ways to fold and curl the paper strips, and to remind students how much glue to use. He would stand there with his head on his crossed arms, gazing at them for a minute or two, then come over to ask me to show him again how to do a certain thing. In the end, it was lots of fun, there was lots of success, and most students managed not to use way too much glue!