• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Saturday, January 21, 2012


One of my pet peeves in children's art work is the use of cliches like hearts, rainbows, and suns in the corner, which have a bad habit of appearing in drawings willy-nilly, just because the student is falling back on known shapes rather than exploring new ones. Some will disagree with me, but that's where my thinking is. Anyway, that doesn't mean I dislike hearts, rainbows, or suns... I just want them to be necessary in the art work.

In this activity, the heart is the only subject matter. It is an easy, easy, easy activity that is practically foolproof. It requires no prep; all that's needed is white construction paper (we used 9x12, but a bit smaller would work, too) and crayons. To introduce the activity, I showed an example of a piece of art work by Jim Dines, who has done tons of art with hearts. I had students tell what they noticed and wrote their responses on the board next to the photograph (see photo at the end of this post). After this introduction, we reviewed warm and cool colors and I explained that students would need to draw a very large heart (I demonstrated) and that they would fill the heart with warm or cool colors (their choice) and the background with the opposite palette. I gave a short little demonstration to show how to color to make it look "markerish" .... that was one of the students' observations.... and then sent them off to go to work. I did wander around and show some of the students individually how to put color in smallish patches, but otherwise they were pretty much on their own.

When the color was done, most students outlined the heart with black crayon, then chose a mounting color that was from the same palette as the colors used in the heart. This took most students about an hour to complete, and some of them worked during lunch time. It turned out to the a perfect activity for a rainy, rainy Friday in a second grade classroom!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

be an artist

One of the first things I do with students is introduce what I call "artist behaviors" -- Look, Think, Choose, Do. When I had my own art classroom, I had reference pictures on the wall:

Now that I'm doing art lessons in other teachers' classrooms, I almost always write the four words on the board before starting an art lesson, no matter what grade level I am working with. If I'm with students I've worked with before, I have them tell me what "the four artist behaviors" are while I write them; if I am with students who are new to me, I quickly introduce them and then refer to them during the lesson. I explain first that artists look everywhere, at everything, to get ideas, and that once they have an idea they look more, very carefully. While they are looking, they start to think about what they want to do. They need to choose materials and tools, and also, if they are painting or drawing, where something is going to go on the paper, how big it will be, what colors they will use, whether it will be realistic or abstract, etc. I emphasize that an artist will always look, think, and choose before they begin to do their art work, and that this helps them to be creative.

Making a big deal about looking and thinking has helped me teach children to slow down, take care with their art work, and make personal choices that may be different from the person sitting next to them or across from them. If I am reading a picture book to introduce the art activity, I make sure they have ample time to look at the illustrations, and I will point out details if they don't find them. If we are using a visual reference, such as photographs or a famous art work, we spend time really looking at the elements of art and think about the artists' choices of color, line, shape, and texture, and the use of space, When they are ready to begin an activity, even if everyone is working on the same thing, I make sure they have choices of color, or materials, or sizes, or background colors, or something that will be theirs, not mine. I always ask them to think first about what they are going to do, picture in their mind where they will start and what they will be using before they start.

And I usually point out that "look, think, choose, do" are good behaviors for ALL school work... and even out of school.... not just for art work!