• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Sunday, April 26, 2015

flowers, shading, and the creative process

It's a common art lesson: close-up, enlarged flowers inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings. In this case, instead of paint, we used oil pastels. And because this particular second grade class had not used them before, I did do some modeling before turning them loose to work, showing them how to put down a bit of color and then spread it out with their fingertips to create the shading. They came up with the word smear during the demonstration.

First we did look at several examples of O'Keeffe's flower paintings. I chose ones that showed the centers, and made sure I had at least a few that went "off the page" because that was what I was going to ask them to do. They noticed that her paintings used bright colors, that the centers of the flowers had extra petals or other interesting parts, and one student noticed that there was a lot of shading. Yes! So on the chart I was creating, I set that word aside and gave it some prominence. I also wrote the word close-up off to the side, and reiterated that they would draw a flower in close-up, then shade it.

To demonstrate how to draw the flower itself, I showed them how to position a loosely drawn circle near the center of the paper, but not directly in the center, they to draw petals that went totally off the paper. I made a dramatic display of completing the petal shapes -- in the air, but not drawn -- going beyond the paper's edges. After demonstrating how to use the pastels, I posted several large, close-up photographs of flowers and had them take a look at color, shape, and some of the details in the centers of the flowers. I had intended to get into a discussion about radial symmetry, but decided to leave that for another time.

So I sent them off to create their own.

And we ended up with some beautiful results.

But before we got to this end point, some interesting things happened. Like one student doing the shading with the side of her fist. Like another student pressing some of the oil pastels so hard that the color was thick on the paper, with tactile texture, and the black lines from the Sharpies were missing. Like a few of the students deciding to color their flowers with each petal a different color.

I don't know if it's right or wrong, but I redirected these multi colorings in a direction that was more scientifically accurate, such as petals that were the same all the way around, whether they were one color or several colors.

So I learned some things, too, and had some things to consider. Like, how much modeling is enough? How much is too much, and how much is too little? Like, how much explanation is necessary? Like, at what point should a teacher just let the students mess with the colors, and at what point does the teacher step in and suggest something that is liable to produce a result that is more likely to follow the initial directions?

I want them to be creative, but I also want them to learn art technique that works, how materials are used to their best advantage, and to end up with a successful piece of art work that still shows their personality, and not mine. And most of all, I want them to think about what they are doing in the process, to take care with it, care about what they are doing, and like and be proud of it when they are finished.

I think these pretty much fit that bill:

Friday, April 3, 2015

haiku for all seasons

Second Grade Work
Haiku is one of my personal favorite poetry genres, rich with images, spare of words. Teaching children to write Haiku is not difficult, and it gives them a little practice with syllabication. It's a great supplement with units on seasons, animals, habitats, or other science topics!

For this lesson, the Haiku writing is only the first part; to me, they are incomplete until illustrated. I have done this lesson with second graders, at-risk students, English language learners of all elementary grades, and with fourth and fifth graders. The basic format of the lesson is identical for each of these groups; differentiations are made for specific needs. For example, a little more work on syllabication with second graders and English-language learners, and a push for more rich and detailed vocabulary with older students.

Second Grade Work
It's important to help students understand that Haiku does not tell a story, but simply presents an image for the reader to visualize. And I always tell students that it's more important to get a clear, beautiful image than to have the exact syllabication, so a little fudging is allowed. 
I always do a shared writing activity first, writing a Haiku with students. I model making a word bank, trying out different words, testing the syllables, and trying substitute words if the syllabication is not correct. But that 5-7-5 pattern can be tricky, especially for little ones, so I do make sure they know it's ok to leave a syllable out or add an extra, if they can't make their image work with the words they want to use.

Fourth Grade Work
Children can write a Haiku pretty quickly if they have an abundant word bank, so I do like to have them try two or three and then choose their favorite for publishing with illustration. Most often, I have students do a torn paper collage for the illustration, but cut paper collage, drawings, and even just a colorful tissue paper collage are just as beautiful.

Illustrated Haiku is a wonderful way to integrate Art with Language Arts, and it also can easily connect to Science as well. Any nature-oriented subject matter is appropriate, and the results make a beautiful, colorful, and maybe even informative bulletin board display.

This lesson, Illustrated Haiku for All Seasons, is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store for those who would like step-by-step directions.