• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Thursday, May 24, 2012

the great 3-hour book cover project

I have a friend who teaches third grade, in whose class I have done several art lessons this year. A week or so before our last art session, he asked me if I would teach his students how to make better covers for the books they wrote because the ones they had done were very boring. He asked for a lesson that addressed design, lettering, etc. So here's the result, from yesterday. This was one 3-hour session:


These are the book covers they started with:


This is "roughly" the lesson I gave, with the books I used for samples of exciting, interesting covers. I talked about the layout of each one of these, pointing out how the lettering was done, and how the illustrations and title were placed on the cover:


As they worked, I made some design suggestions. Some of the students had a very hard time with arrangement, with titles smooshed against the top of the page and illustrations along the bottom, so I referred to the books I had brought with me, showing how the titles and illustrations seemed to "go together" rather than be separate from each other. I suggested simplicity, leaving out drawings of complete people (too small on the page) and trying to hone in on something important. Mostly, they were to try to make their book cover interesting so that it would invite someone to want to read their book.

They worked on folded white construction paper, so that when their work was done, we could just slip the whole thing over their book, turning their old book cover into a title page. When everyone was finished, I had them do a little writing about the activity; I asked them to tell what a book cover needs, what they did to make theirs interesting, and then to look up at the "new" wall and tell whose book they might like to read.

I think they did a great job, considering they had only three hours! Their teacher was happy, and so were they!
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

patriotic colors collage

These "patriotic color" collages are fun and easy to do with Kindergarten through fourth grade students. The ones pictured here were done by a second grade class.

 If I have time, I begin the activity with a "looking at art" session where students tell what they notice in Alexander Calder's lithograph, Stars and Stripes Students are generally quick to notice that Calder used only red and blue, and that it reminds them of the American flag, or the 4th of July. They often notice that the piece has more red than blue, and that one of the stars has a dot in the middle of it.

The "looking at art" session is followed by the art activity itself, in which there are very few rules other than to be creative, use shapes and strips or stripes to create an interesting design, and to NOT make a flag. Some students have a hard time getting beyond the flag itself, but the addition of yellow stars helps. Each student gets a 9x12 white background, a 6x9 piece of red, and a 4x6 piece of blue, plus the yellow for the stars.

 As part of the lesson, I teach 2nd grade and older students how to make a "quirky star" by drawing a circle in the center of a yellow square, drawing five dots around the circle, then connecting the dots to the circle, in sequence (it's easier than it sounds). First graders just draw and cut out a yellow star, and Kindergartners get a pre=printed yellow star which they are asked to tear out. I never give the students pre-cut stars because I want the stars to be quirky, asymmetrical, and fanciful.

 This lesson is pretty much fool-proof; anything students come up with looks great!

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

kindergarten line collages

Take a classroom of kindergartners, hand them some scissors and construction paper, and then some glue sticks. Show them how to cut strips. Pile all the strips in the middle of the table, and set them free. That's what I did in a kindergarten class last week at a school where I used to run an art program. The teacher told me, while reviewing the day, that if I wanted to do "an art thing" to feel free. So, with her permission I set aside what she had planned for my center and instead I had the students just cut strips from many different colors of construction paper.

 It's always interesting to watch kindergartners using scissors. In fact, it takes more than watching. Sometimes I have to rearrange the scissors in their hands so that the right fingers are in the right holes. And I like to teach kids to hold the paper upright and cut with the scissors pointing to the ceiling. I tell them this is how artists do it. Well, it's how I do it, and I'm an artist, so I guess that's ok.

After the cutting station and a recess break, everyone got a sheet of black construction paper and a glue stick. My directions to them were to use the strips to make a picture or a design, and to be creative. I showed them how to use a piece of scratch paper on which to lay the strips when applying the glue so the tables wouldn't get all sticky. Some worked in complete concentration, meticulously arranging the strips to create houses or other "name-able" objects. Others glued the lines/strips in random order, while still others clearly had something in mind, even if the result was clearly non-representational... at least to the casual observer.

 For sharing, each finished composition was held up for admiring. I had the students tell what they could see, or what it looked like. It was fun and interesting to hear how they interpreted each others' art work. This was SO easy and the kids got a whole lot of practice cutting and gluing, like Kindergartners should!
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