• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Sunday, January 25, 2009

patterned circles

This first grade observation lesson is almost identical to the Kindergarten "playing with patterns" activity, but in this version, the crayon-drawn patterns are confined inside connected, free-drawn circles. Students use the same rolled-paper viewfinders to observe the details and patterns in a variety of photographs.

Students are first asked to think about what it means to be an artist, and also to name some things that artists do. This is followed by a short discussion about the importance of observing carefully, the making of paper tube viewfinders, and some initial observations of two or three photographs. Students are asked to focus on the details and patterns rather than the contours or subject matter. After these initial observations, students draw one circle about the size of their fist, placing it somewhere away from the center of the paper but not touching an edge. I model this on an actual sheet of paper to show them an approximate size. Circles that are too small will not show the patterns well, and circles that are too big might cause the student to run out of space, so I do like to suggest a size.

The first photograph is held up and students are asked to look carefully at the colors, shapes, spots, lines, and directions, then to fill the first circle with the pattern they see. When most are finished, directions are given to draw another circle, about the same size, touching the first circle. The next pattern is observed, discussed, and drawn in that circle. Subsequent circles are drawn one at a time, making sure each one touches only one previous circle. Students are reminded to completely fill each new circle with patterns they observe in the photographs, and to pay close attention to lines, dots, colors, shapes, and directions.

I especially like that this lesson requires students to really observe what they see, and places more emphasis on the observation than the content. By directing the lesson one circle at a time, I am able to get the students to slow down and pay closer attention to what they are putting on their paper. When they draw a new circle, I remind them that they can attach the new circle anywhere, but they should look to see where the bigger spaces are, and go in that direction. We keep adding new circles until we run out of time, leaving about ten minutes for discussion.

During the sharing/discussion time, I hold photographs next to students' versions of the patterns. I also have students compare and talk about different treatments of the same pattern. Students are able to see that there is more than one way to draw something, that people see things differently, and that close observation is important for an artist. As simple as this lesson is, the results can be very striking and quite varied. While the samples shown here were done with crayon on white construction paper, but I can see them being done on dark construction paper using construction paper crayons or pastels, or even painted or done with markers or colored pencils.
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playing with patterns

The purpose of this Kindergarten lesson was facilitate students' observations of details in everyday and/or natural objects, and to have them draw patterns they observed in these objects. The original plan was to have them go for a walk outdoors, looking for patterns in and on the buildings, fences, and landscape at the school. To be safe, though, I brought in a couple of dozen pictures of animals, flowers, buildings, fences, etc. that showed a variety of patterns created with dots, lines, and shapes. As it turned out, time and weather directed the use of the pictures rather than the outdoor walk. In the end, I think that was a good thing.

To begin, I had students name things that artists do. Along with the standard "paint" and "draw" there were a few students who named things like "work hard" and "think about what they want to do" and "look." One student won my heart when she said that artists "look back at their work and do it again." But it was the word "look" that I was after. I explained that artists do a lot of looking, and that we'd be doing more looking than anything else with this lesson.

I wanted students to focus their observations on details and patterns rather than contours and objects, so we made viewfinders, but not the traditional "square hole in a piece of cardboard" kind. These viewfinders were simply 9x12 sheets of construction paper rolled into a tube and taped together.

Then we looked. I held up about half a dozen pictures one at a time, had them look at the patterns through their viewfinders, and asked what they could see. I asked about colors, lines, dots, and shapes. I asked how they could draw each one, and demonstrated a few possibilities on the board. Then I sent them off to work. Their job was to draw patterns on a white piece of paper, taking their inspiration from the pictures I had posted all along the white board tray. They could bring pictures to their tables for a closer look, but I encouraged them to sit on the floor and look through their viewfinders to help them look very closely and decide what colors they should use, and to think about how to draw the patterns.

When art-making time was over, we looked at each student's work, comparing the original photographs with the students' treatments of the patterns.