• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Friday, October 23, 2009

fall leaf overlay with watercolor

This simple first grade lesson can be used to introduce students to the use of watercolor with a little wax resist. It also can introduce the concept of overlapping and the use of visual movement through the placement of shapes on a page. Students choose from a variety of precut leaf-shaped templates in different sizes for their composition, trace them with a dark colored crayon, and then paint in the resulting spaces with their choice of colors.

I introduce the lesson by talking about how artists get ideas from looking around and also from looking at other peoples' art work. I then show pictures of leaf overlay watercolors by Caroline Duffield, having students look closely at the way the artist has leaf shapes overlapping each other, and how she has painted different areas different colors. I then model tracing leaf shapes with a dark colored crayon, overlapping the shapes and extending at least once beyond the edge of the paper. During the modeling, I talk about different ways to arrange the leaf shapes on the paper, and "think aloud" while I choose where to trace my shapes. I quickly demonstrate painting one or two individual resulting shapes with watercolors, showing how to hold the paintbrush -- like a pencil -- and giving directions for cleanup.

As students are working, I give help where help is needed, especially on the amount of water to use to help the paint flow easily without making a puddle on the paper, and giving advice about not painting over paint, because we are using regular white construction paper, not watercolor paper, and it has a tendency to break up with too much work. As students finish, I have them use crayons to draw and color a variety of leaves on a separate paper, using the templates for reference but not tracing this time. When everyone is finished painting, students do a gallery walk to look at everyone’s work and we talk about what they have observed about other peoples' art work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

leaf observation drawing with watercolor

When doing art lessons, especially drawing lessons, I like to emphasize that artists do four things: look.... think.... choose.... do. This lesson is a great introduction to that four step process because close observation is vital to its success. This drawing lesson begins with a whole-group "picture walk" of about five or six close up photographs of fall leaves,  followed by students observing and discussing the characteristics of a variety of real leaves. If I have time, I chart their observations.

A quick demonstration of drawing a leaf includes "thinking out loud" as I model giving attention to the shape, the direction of the contour, angles and curves, etc. A quick introduction or review of how to care for and use the watercolors completes the introduction.

Before students begin their drawings, they are asked to look carefully at several leaves and think about which leaf they want to draw, how they will place it on the paper, and other aspects of putting together their composition. This reinforces the "look...think...choose....do" process.

While they draw, I might give some tips about placement and/or layering. There is usually a great variety of finished work. Some students may have four or more leaves in their work, while others may have only one. As they paint, I give watercolor technique tips as needed.

When all work is finished and all watercolors and brushes are cleaned up, I like to have students do a "gallery walk" around the room to look carefully at everyone's finished work. I ask them to look for interesting shapes and colors and then we come together and share the observations.

This lesson is a true favorite. It integrates science and art in several ways, not only with the leaves as subject matter but also the act of doing an observation. Adding a related writing component extends it even further!

This lesson is included with another wax-resist autumn leaf art lesson in Art Lessons With Autumn Leaves, one of the art lessons in my TeachersPayTeachers.store. The lesson bundle includes detailed instructions, some leaf templates for tracing (for younger students), drawing tips, a few writing extension ideas, and more.


fall leaf tissue paper collage

This Kindergarten lesson can be adapted to any time of year, any season, any subject matter. Last year, I had my students do a tissue paper collage in the shape of a heart during February. The real purpose of the lesson, rather than the finished product, is to help students learn to use a paintbrush. I teach them to hold it vertically like a pencil, use just a little glue-water, and to brush in one direction.

I start the lesson with a little song that I learned from a colleague when I was teaching Kindergarten:

Fall is here! Fall is here!
How do you think I know?
The leaves are turning
..... orange and brown....
.... yellow and red....
And so it must be so!

I have the words written out on a chart with the color words written in those colors and everything else written in dark green. It is posted on the wall surrounded by several pictures of fall leaves and trees. We talk about how we know it is fall, and look carefully at the colors of the leaves.

I use a variety of pre-printed leaf shapes so that no two leaves will be alike at any one work table. I create these on the copy machine on white construction paper. In the future, I might try these on light green, light blue, and yellow.

I use regular white glue, watered down to about a 50/50 proportion. The tissue paper I have is the "bleeding" kind so it can get pretty messy, but most students do understand not to paint glue all over the shape, just in the space they want to lay the small piece of tissue. I demonstrate for the students how to hold the brush, how much glue to use, how to tear the tissue paper, and how to paint over the color to make it stick to the paper, then I send them off to the tables to choose a leaf they like and to get started. As they work, I work with individual students who need help holding the brush, calculating how much glue to use, and/or how to tear the paper into smaller pieces.

When everyone is finished, we take some time to share all the work so that all students can see what everyone else did. I don't have space to hang them all so I choose a few that are different colors and shapes to hang on the wall along with the song chart.

Friday, October 2, 2009

first day exploration

A new school year has finally started for me, and I've completed my first round of Art lessons (at three different schools) for Kindergarten, First, and Second graders. To start the year, I decided to do rotations at which students could just explore different common media and art tools. The lesson part varied, obviously, according to grade level, with very explicit directions about scissors and glue sticks for the Kindergartners, simple reminders for the same tools for first graders, and a demonstration on how to use watercolors for second graders. I also used read alouds for all three grade levels, to spark discussion about certain elements of design and ways of thinking.

Kindergarten students did two rotations using one sheet of 12x18 drawing paper:

-- construction paper cutting and gluing
-- stencil shape tracing with crayons

I started by reading The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. We talked about the concepts of same and different, and I asked them to make sure that their art work was not the same as anyone else at their table. We gathered into a circle to practice holding scissors and opening and closing glue sticks, then they then chose a table to start at. Students had about ten minutes at the first table, then they took their papers to the other table to add to their art work.

First grade students had three rotations using one sheet of 9x12 construction paper:

-- crayon drawing
-- construction paper collage
-- eyedropper painting

I started this group by reading The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. After the story, I demonstrated how to create large and small dots by using circular strokes. I showed them how to use the eyedropper to make small dots of paint and how to blow on the paint drips to make interesting shapes and lines. I also reviewed the use of construction paper scraps, asking them to cut new shapes rather than just use whatever they found in the basket. I asked them to make at least some dots at each rotation. Students had about seven minutes at each table.

Second grade students had four rotations using two sheets of 9x12 construction paper:

-- crayon drawing
-- construction paper collage
-- stencil tracing with colored pencils
-- watercolor painting

I started by reading Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds, and we talked about how it isn't important to draw things perfectly, and that we should think -ishly. After a quick reminder of how to use small dots of white glue and how to distinguish between "trash" and "usable scraps" they chose a table at which to start. Each rotation only lasted about five minutes and students got a second sheet of paper after the first two rotations, so each art work was composed of two different media/techniques. Depending on where they started, their papers had watercolor plus collage, collage plus stencils, stencils plus coloring, or crayon plus watercolor.


With all three grade levels, I purposely gave no suggestions about content; instead, I focused on proper and careful use of the tools. At the end of each lesson I gave students a little time to walk around and look at everyone else's creations, emphasizing that the number one big rule in art class is to not touch anyone else's work without their permission.

And of course, several pieces went immediately up on the wall for display. Since I have almost 200 students at each school, I can't display everything, so I explain to the students that I just choose a few from each class that are different from each other, to remind us about the lesson.