• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

sky, land, and the horizon line

You know how it is when kids draw; first a line of grass at the bottom of the paper, then a line of blue sky at the top, with everything floating around in the white space in between. It's normal, and just about every child does it, but oh, all that wasted middle ground! This drawing lesson is all about the horizon line ... that place where the sky meets the land.

It's simple, it's essentially foolproof, and the directed drawing element gives kids enough choices for types of lines and shapes that each child's composition maintains a personal feel.

It's a great art lesson for a spring or summer day... any day when there are some puffy clouds in the sky. I taught it on a sunny, spring day in a Kindergarten class. I knew I would be back another day that week, so I took photos, printed them later at home on card stock, and brought them back to finish off the art work another day.

First, I read a book about clouds and we spent some time looking at the illustrations. We talked about the shapes of the clouds; using descriptive words like puffy, stretchy, misty, etc. Then we went outside and actually looked at the clouds. On the grass.

This lesson uses a directed drawing strategy.... I call it "my turn / your turn".... and starts with the horizon line, which can be straight, curved, or a little wiggly to suggest some rolling hills. Clouds on top, flowers on the bottom, and the drawing part is pretty much done except for the shading. In my lesson I gave lots of options for clouds, using those descriptive words again, and demonstrated different shapes before having students draw. Flower shapes varied from very simple to more detailed and again, I demonstrated several ideas first, then had students draw theirs. Then I showed how to shade all the foreground and all the sky, leaving no white space. While they worked on theirs, I got the bright idea to take the photos. Thank you, iPhone in my pocket!

It's the addition of the photo that makes the composition come alive and really emphasizes the concept of foreground and background. I had to do some experimenting at home to get the size correct, because I wanted the people to be too tall to fit only in the grass or fit on top of the grass.

Cutting out their photos gave these Kindergartners some serious, careful cutting practice. I encouraged them to try their picture in different places before gluing it down.

We did this lesson just for fun, but it would fit beautifully as part of a unit on seasons, or weather, or clouds.... there are so many possibilities! It's a simple lesson that introduces art concepts in a natural way, guides students toward learning to use the whole paper by drawing full backgrounds.

This lesson is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store. It includes step-by-step directions, sample drawings of horizon lines, clouds, and flowers, and two 'art reflection' worksheets to add a little personal art analysis and a writing component. Look for it here..... and enjoy!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

march into green art

Simple paper sculptures are a perfect introduction to 3D art for Kindergarters and first grade students. I have done these in a variety of colors, but during March when students are learning about leprechauns, I have them use only green paper.
With these green "Leprechaun Playgrounds" I encourage students to create as many three-dimensional elements as possible. Of course I demonstrate twisting and folding techniques, but it's amazing what they can come up with on their own.
Prep is easy; simply cut tons of paper strips from the 9" end of 9x12 construction paper, roughly an inch wide. No measuring is necessary so don't worry about the width. In fact, variation in widths of the paper is even better. In fact, if students are fairly practiced with scissors, it's even better to have them cut their own strips.
I like to also provide a few 4x4 inch squares on each table for kids to make cylinders, or to cut out shapes to use along with spirals, accordion fold, circles, or whatever else they might come up with. Some students may decide to make paper chain loops that hang loose. Once I even had two little girls attach several strips to end to end, creating long, long tails that hung down to the floor.
This simple art lesson that delivers a lot of learning for little ones: lots of scissor practice, lots of use of those fine motor skills, lots of experimenting with paper folding, and lots of just plain fun... all in the context of an authentic art lesson that introduces children to sculpture as an art form! 
Check out this lesson .... and two more 'green art' lessons for St. Patrick's Day, here in my TeachersPayTeachers store! Enjoy!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

on coloring

Coloring is big right now. Real big. Everywhere you look, you see coloring books. Adults are coloring big time. So it's not just for kids anymore.

So what's the deal?

Coloring is relaxing.
Coloring is meditative.
Coloring is great for fine motor practice.

But let's be honest. Coloring other peoples' drawings is not the same as making art.

As an art teacher who works hard to make sure that my art lessons are a combination of instruction in specific techniques or subject matter and a focus on kids' own creativity, the proliferation of coloring books and the focus and attention on coloring is something I look at with a dubious eye, because I know that a drawing of a family created by a child is so much more interesting than a coloring page of a family.

Coloring is fine, but it should not be used replace real art instruction, especially in today's standards-based, test-heavy classrooms where students creative opportunities are already cut to the bone.

Don't get me wrong. I am not anti-coloring. But I am pro-art education, and I know the value of allowing students to create their own masterpieces. That can never be done with a coloring page, because all the student is doing is filling in somebody else's idea. A student who draws herself inside a tent on a rainy day with the sun shining and flowers growing is learning a whole lot more than a child coloring in a traditional picture drawn by an adult.

In classrooms, coloring pages are often used as filler, handy for when a student finishes an assignment, or easy for a rainy day recess. And there's nothing wrong with this, as long as we recognize what it is: a relaxing activity that might help develop concentration, eye-hand coordination, and small motor skills.

But please, please, let's not call it art.

If teachers must use coloring pages in the classroom, I would at least like to see them add a bit of a challenging twist by giving students some parameters:
• use only analogous colors
• use only two contrasting colors, and do some shading
• use only one color, with different values
• draw and color a linear pattern in the background
• use only primary, secondary, or tertiary colors

Or better yet.... give kids some blank paper and a marker and let them create their own coloring pages! Or give them scissors, paper and glue and see what they come up with!

But most importantly, don't tell kids they get to do art and then hand out a coloring page.....

.... because coloring is not the same as making art.

Check out my TeachersPayTeachers store for teacher-friendly, authentic art lessons that rely on student creativity and which easily integrate across the curriculum. Enjoy!

Need some ideas? Start with this free resource: Making Time for Art.