• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Monday, April 27, 2009

crayon faces with watercolor overlay

To introduce this lesson to second grade students, I first showed students two art works: Head of Dora Maar by Pablo Picasso and Senecio by Paul Klee. I wanted them to see these two very different treatments of the human face, and used them as references for contour drawing and use of shape and color. I then had them identify the qualities of portraits and self-portraits, then I modeled contour drawing using a black crayon on white paper, starting with an oval for the face shape. I pointed out to the students how hair grows down, not up, and emphasized that i was drawing the hair using only lines, and that nothing would be colored in with the crayons, since they would watercolor over the whole drawing.

Then I did something which really caught the students' attention: I drew the same exact face using a white crayon on white paper, pretending to ignore comments such as, "I can't see it!" and "Oh! I can see it just a little!"

I painted over the white face with watercolors using large blocks of color rather than following any of the contour lines. The students were surprised and excited about the way the white crayon resisted the watercolor paints, allowing the drawing of the face to show through. I explained to students that they would use only lines to draw their own face and then paint over their drawing with watercolor. I invited them to choose whether they would like to use black or white crayon, and talked about the use of the paints, explaining that they would need to use lots of water and avoid painting over painted areas. Since we were only using construction paper, rather than good watercolor paper, I knew it would be very easy for the paints to get muddy.

Most students chose to use black crayon, but a few brave souls opted for the white. The hardest part for many students was using large blocks of color rather than trying to "paint in" the face features or following the contour lines. I did encourage them to paint the background as well as the face itself, and in a few cases showed students how to paint across the lines rather than with the lines of their drawings.

Students enjoyed this activity very much, and they were very successful... and very, very quick! My classes are only an hour, but many students had time to do two self-portraits. I had those students try the second one using black if they had used white on the first, or vice-versa. I gave them time at the end of the hour to walk around to look at everyone else's self-portraits and to talk about other students' work... in positive ways, of course!

self-portraits with landscape backgrounds

This first grade lesson began with group observations of the Mona Lisa. I asked students to look carefully and talk among their group about things they could see in the painting. After a couple of minutes of "talk time" I had students tell me what they could see. I did this with seven different first grade classes over three different days and the lists were pretty much the same, which I expected, although specific language was a little different, such as "it looks like sunset" and "there's light in the sky" and "the sky looks yellow." I charted students' responses and one class's example is shown here. I particularly wanted students to notice all the detail in the landscapes in the background, and was not disappointed. In fact, most groups paid more attention to the background than they did to the portrait itself.

After the discussion and chart-making, we talked about the difference between a portrait and a self-portrait, and I explained that they were going to use construction paper crayons on black paper to draw a self-portrait with a landscape in the background. I did point out to them that they could make these pretty fanciful by using interesting colors for their faces.

The first day I taught this lesson, I found that students were drawing the faces pretty small, so the next two days I provided the rest of the classes with oval templates which they could trace for the face shape if they chose. Most students chose this option and, although I really prefer not to have students trace things they could draw themselves, I also wanted them to have faces large enough to work with and proportionally right for the size of paper. I did whisk away all the pencils as soon as the ovals were traced so that they had to use the crayons for the drawing.

When all students were finished with their drawings, I had them walk around the room to look at everyone's work. We then finished up with a short "analysis" of individual work in which students were asked to tell what they particularly liked about their self-portraits, and then what they particularly liked about others' work.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

marshmallow sculptures

I cannot claim any part of this activity; in fact, I found it on the Internet somewhere, and unfortunately don't remember where, or I'd give credit where credit is due. Basically, I had students "build something" using mini-marshmallows and toothpicks, then draw their construction using circles for the marshmallows and lines for the toothpicks. The drawings were done with pencil, and then traced with colored markers. Very easy directions for what turned out to be not so easy of a task.

I quickly modeled the whole process, not only the building part but especially the drawing part. I did a lot of "thinking aloud" to give students an idea how I decided to draw my structure. I talked about the toothpicks going in different directions, for example; "hmm... this one sticks out on this side, and this one over here goes the opposite direction and kind of down, making kind of a triangle shape...." so they would take the time to try to replicate their structures as best as they could.

I had each student count out twenty marshmallows and provided a paper plate full of toothpicks for each table. I asked them to use as many of their marshmallows as they could, because I didn't want the sculptures to be too small. As they worked, I made some interesting observations. The building with marshmallows and toothpicks part was pretty easy for most, although there was some problem-solving for students whose structures were getting a little tall. Some students finally just laid their sculptures down sideways on the table because they had a hard time getting them to stand up. But what was really interesting was watching students translate their three-dimensional sculptures to two-dimensional drawings. Getting the depth was very, very tricky.

After they drew and traced their structures, students were allowed to eat their marshmallows, including the ones that made up their sculptures. Lucky for me, one little girl did not like marshmallows so I put her sculpture, a very complicated, organic-looking thing, on a table off to the side. In the following class an hour later, her twin sister built a very similar sculpture; her drawing looked remarkable like her twin's sculpture. Interesting.....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

kindergarten face collages

Kindergartners can never have enough cutting practice. This activity gives them lots of that, and more, plus it is a great way to use up some construction paper scraps. For these face collages, I purposely took all the pink construction paper out of my scrap bin, because I wanted students to use wild colors that have nothing to do with real faces. I'm sure the one little girl who asked for pink thought I was just being ornery when I told her we weren't using any pink this time. All we needed was an assortment of colors of 9x12 construction paper for the background, 6x9 pieces for the faces, and a lot of construction paper scraps. I did provide tagboard ovals for students to trace for the head shape, but other than that they were on their own.

I gave students simple directions, emphasizing that they needed to choose two different colors for the face and background. I spread the construction paper scraps across the floor and invited them to take any colors they needed.

As students finished tracing their head shapes, I took pencils away so that they would have to "free cut" the shapes for their faces without drawing them first. Most students got right into it and started immediately cutting shapes. For those who insisted that they didn't know how to cut something, I had them look at my face while I traced the contour of the part they were trying to make and then asked them what shape they might use and to give it a try. If they were still hesitant, I would model cutting a shape for them, and then have them cut their own. For the most part, students were happy to have unorthodox shapes for their facial features.

As students finished their faces, we lined them up on the white board tray and I had them look at their own work and then look to see if they could see anyone else's that had something the same as theirs. Then we compared two at a time, looking for similarities. Most students found same colors or shapes, but an occasional student notice that "they both have wiggly hair" or another quality that was more sophisticated than color or shape.