• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Friday, December 9, 2011

what can you do with a dot?

Here's a lesson/activity I did the other day with a second grade class in which I had the luxury of plenty of time. Including the introduction, it probably took a couple of hours for those who worked the longest.

We started out by brainstorming a list of things that have or are circles. The brainstorming session, which took maybe ten minutes, was followed by a read-aloud of the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds. Then we looked at photos of two Kandinsky paintings which are composed almost entirely with dots: Farbstudie and Several Circles. I asked students to comment on these two paintings; they noticed that he had used many colors, that some dots or circles were inside others, and that some were overlapped.

While giving directions, I introduced the term mixed-media, which in this case included any combination of crayons, markers, colored pencils, and collage, and also the terms representational and non-representational. They were given very simple directions: to use mixed-media, and to see what they could do with a dot, either representationally or non-representationally. Then they went to work and I observed.

Some students started large, while others started very small. Some partitioned their papers, and some started with borders. Once they were started and getting involved with their compositions, I invited the students to get up and walk around to take a look at what other people were doing with their dots. I reminded them that getting ideas is ok, but copying is not. Watching the students work on these was a real treat. They loved the activity and everyone was completely concentrating on their own work, including the wiggliest of students. One of the best moments was watching one little boy with a marker in each hand, drawing circles with both hands simultaneously.

This lesson would be great anytime kids need a creative break. It was all successful. Here's what the white board looked like after the introduction:


Sunday, April 3, 2011

positive-negative designs

These designs are great for introducing positive/negative space. I have done them with second graders and fifth graders, and by far they were much, much easier for the fifth graders, but the second graders held their own with them, too. The hard part for the younger ones was creating the "mirror image" and to be honest, it was a little hard for some fifth graders as well. Of course, a lot of it depended on how careful the students were being.

All that's needed for this activity is 12x12 white construction paper, 6x6 black construction paper, scissors and glue. I like glue sticks better than white glue for this because some pieces are small, but either will work.

Directions are pretty simple. I explain them while modeling the process, making sure to point out to students the importance of making clean cuts, not trimming anything, staying away from the corners, and lining up the edges of the square.

Place the black square in the center of the white paper and mark the corners with a small pencil dot. Pick up the black square and cut a shape into one side. Lay the black square back onto the white paper, lining up the corners with the pencil dots. Take the cut out shape, lay it into its "hole" and then turn it out, like opening a door. Glue it down to create a mirror image, being careful to line up the straight edges to keep the square contour line straight and true. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.... as many times as possible, until there is no cutting space left. Big important rule: Don't cut off any corners! Finally, glue down the black square (which is not longer square), lining up all the pieces. Done!

The samples here were done by fifth graders, one of whom accidently cut into one of his cut out shapes. He asked what to do and I told him to find a creative solution, and he did. :-)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

torn paper face collages

This lesson focuses on shape, color, and space, and deals with proportion and facial features without the stress of attempting to create a realistic face. Because the shapes are torn, not cut or drawn, the lesson automatically lends itself to what I call "ish-ness" (named after Ish, the wonderful little book by Peter Reynolds). The "rules" for the activity are simple: start with two predominant colors, include all face parts, don't overlap the shapes, and use no scissors or pencils. After listing these on the board, I ask students what they think "predominant" means. If no one gets close, I define it for them as main, as in "two main colors" ... and stress that it doesn't mean that they can't use other colors as well. Just before they start, I ask them to think about whether they want their piece to be symmetrical or asymmetrical, reviewing the meaning of the terms.

Students use a 12x12 sheet of black construction paper for their background, and each table has an assortment of colored construction paper to choose from. As they work, I encourage creatively-used shapes for different facial features, and remind them of the ongoing collage rule of putting glue on the back of the colored pieces, not on the background. I also remind them to tear any straight edges that may have made their way to the piece. Generally with collage work, I don't even get the glue out until after students have torn several shapes and started arranging them on the background. I encourage them to get all their shapes defined first before gluing anything down.

After a walk-around, where students can take their time looking at everyone's art work, I go through the pieces one by one and we identify as a whole group what the two predominant colors are, and whether the piece is symmetrical or asymmetrical. I also point out how lines have been created between the applied shapes, in the negative space.