Monday, December 26, 2011

Kindergarten Butterflies

Back in the end of September/beginning of October I did a butterfly lesson with my Kindergarten students. I had recently seen two different butterfly projects that inspired me and the timing was great since the monarch butterflies were really moving through Kansas. I even took a chrysalis to school and though we missed the butterfly actually emerging, the students were really excited to see a REAL butterfly! They named her Dotty. Now back to the lesson... My project was inspired by the following lessons. One from Artsonia, and one from There's a Dragon in my Art Room and her original inspiration was from Art Project Girl.
Source: via Katie on Pinterest

This was a 3 class period project and while we managed, it was a bit stressful at times. If I do this project again, (as-is, anyway) I would probably save it for 1st grade. It had a lot of good things to introduce- mixing colors, horizontal and vertical, cutting and gluing, etc., but it was a little too much for a lot of my Kindergarteners still fairly early in the year.
Class 1- Introduction to landscape, drawing a horizon line, painting blue sky and green grass. 
I projected some photos of landscapes to show the students and focused on pointing out the horizon line. I told them that the horizon line is where the sky comes alllll the way down to touch the ground. I knew that this would be a knew concept for most of them since I still have 5th graders occasionally draw the big empty space between the sky and the ground but something happened that I didn't expect. A little boy raised his hand and when I called on him he said "I don't believe you." It took me by surprise because usually younger students just eat up everything you say! As soon as he said that other students saying they didn't believe. Luckily I have some big windows in my classroom so I pulled up the blinds and had one table at a time come look outside so I could PROVE that the sky comes down to touch the ground. The rest of the first class was painting the grass and the sky.
We had to put papers on the floor to dry. I have since purchased an additional drying rack and some cheap closet shelves.
Class 2- Mixing yellow and blue paint to make green, painting phonebook pages and adding texture, mixing red and yellow to make orange, turning "B"s into butterflies.
I gave each student a half piece of yellow construction paper folded in half. I wanted to have them paint a "B" on one side that would be painted and folded to print on the other side ensuring a symmetrical butterfly. To get all the students to put their B on the correct side, I had them fold their paper "like a book". I demonstrated how to write a capital letter B and the students wrote their letter on their paper in pencil. I checked each one to make sure it was on the fold not the open side then had them open their "books." Next I showed how to paint mixed orange tempera paint inside the B, fold, and press to transfer paint to the other side. Next we mixed green paint and used texture combs that would later be turned into grass. I had painted on newspaper before but decided to try phonebooks because I always see people trying to get rid of them. It worked OK but the paper was flimsier than newspaper and curled a bit when dried. 

Class 3- Review horizontal and vertical, cutting phonebook pages into strips, gluing "grass" to background, cutting and gluing butterflies on top of grass, turning butterflies into Monarchs with black and white oil pastels, adding purple flowers with oil pastels.
 I was amazed at how many kids cut their butterflies in half (and at how many different ways they discovered to cut the butterflies in half) but I just tried to show them how to make the pieces touch when they glued them in place. I reminded the students how monarch butterflies are orange with black and white designs and if there was time, the students used oil pastels to add details to their butterflies. Then if there was STILL time, I reviewed secondary colors and the students used purple oil pastels to add flowers.

Student who missed the 1st class used solid blue for the background.
Stray ladybug hanging out with the butterflies.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you! I am definitely enjoying catching up with family and just having a chance to relax and catch my breath before heading back to school to teach the spring semester and starting my second graduate course. I hope you all enjoy your little break and get to spend it with family and friends.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Military Assembly and Artwork

My schools are close to a military base so we have lots of military families. Just at my K-3rd school, we have 29 students and 7 staff members with immediate families in the military. Last week we had a big assembly to thank those families for their sacrifices. Families, our superintendent, board members, and the Adjutant General of Kansas were in attendance. The students came into the gym silently then sang patriotic songs and wove flags as the families entered. My principal and the Adjutant General spoke, the families were introduced and applauded, we showed a slideshow with pictures of the servicemen and women and their families, there was more singing, and then the highlight of the morning was one of my Kindergarteners getting the best surprise Christmas present ever when his dad got home from a deployment in Kuwait.

I wanted some 1 day lesson plans for the week of Thanksgiving and I wanted to contribute to the military assembly somehow, so I came up with some patriotic Art projects to do with 1st-3rd grade.  2nd and 3rd grade students made abstract drawings on 4 inch square paper using red and blue markers. We talked about color symbolism and how we could use elements from the American flag but change them to make new designs. I used the drawings as a border for the giant bulletin board outside my room (that I apparently didn't photograph). They frame a sign painted on butcher paper that says "Thank You, Military Families!"

My 1st grade students made artwork to "Give our troops a hand". While the students wrote names on their light blue construction paper, I called one group at a time over to my table. I let the students choose either red, white, or blue paint. I rolled the paint on one of their hands, gave them a paper towel to squeeze with the painted hand, and sent them straight to the classroom bathroom to wash up. When their hands were clean, red, white, and blue oil pastels were used to add lines and shapes.

Christmas Cheer

I know a lot of people use this time of year to talk about commercialism and greed...

But I have been overwhelmed with all the love, compassion, and giving I have seen in the last couple of weeks.

Teachers from across my school district came together to help a family in need. A Kindergarten teacher posted an ad in the district to see if anybody had a spare twin bed to donate. When her students were writing letters to Santa, this student asked for a Transformer and a bed. The student had to sleep on the floor, along with other siblings, because there were already too many people sharing one bed. Another teacher saw the post and emailed it out to everyone in the district. I read the email and was totally caught off guard by it. I never stopped to think about kids in my district not having a place to sleep. I didn't have a bed to give but I kept thinking about and praying for that family and all my students who are facing difficulties. I was so happy to read a letter that the student's teacher put in the district newsletter saying that not only had beds been donated for ALL the kids, they had new bedding, gifts for the other siblings, giftcards for the mother to buy other things they needed, and of course a brand new Transformer toy. One of the teachers and her husband drove all over picking up the donations and others helped get everything set up in the family's home. Awesome.

I work in two Title 1 buildings so a lot of my students are very low income. We are lucky enough to have the BackSnack program in my buildings that send food home with children for the weekend when school breakfasts and lunches are not available. In addition to the food sent home with those students (throughout the whole school year,) we have had winter accessories like hats, gloves, and scarves donated, a certificate for a free meal and a candy cane for EVERY student donated by a local church, brand new pairs of shoes donated (don't quote me on this but I believe by Payless Shoes) for students in need, and I'm sure the list goes on. We also had a really nice assembly to recognize and thank all the military families where one little boy got the best Christmas present ever when his dad got to come home from Kuwait and surprise him. But, I will post more about that (and the accompanying Art projects) after I find a link to the news story.

And finally, Christmas cheer brought to you by my 98 year old Great Grandma, or, Old Grandma as my brother and I have always called her. I live in a small town where our local newspaper still publishes all the kids' letters to Santa. This year Old Grandma sent her own letter in.

Dear Santa,
I’ve never written to you before so I guess it’s high time I did, so here goes. Maybe that’s why I never got the doll buggy I wanted years ago.
Now about this year - I don’t need a thing. I have everything I need or have room for but sure hope you can bring all the little kids what they ask for. Hope you and Mrs. Claus are both well. Thanks for everything.
Dorothy, Age 98

I heard from one of Santa's helpers that Old Grandma might be getting a doll buggy of her own this year. I'm sure he won't forget to bring Old Grandpa a surprise, too.

And, yes, in case you were wondering, I DO know how incredibly lucky I am to still have 2 great grandparents living, in addition to all of my grandparents. Christmas blessings all around!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Organic Shape Monsters

The inspiration for this lesson came from Joanna Davis at We Heart Art- Organic Shape Monsters. I love (LOVE!) her idea of using yarn tied in a not to teach organic shape.

I pinned the idea for the yarn, intending to do something different with it, but my 1st graders and I were kind of on a monster/wild thing kick so it stuck in my head! I do try not to look at many photos when I'm planning that way it's easier to kind of put my own spin on it. Not that there is anything wrong with not spinning, or that I really spun this one all that much.  Each student got a piece of yarn that I had already tied in a knot and moved it on their paper until they got an organic shape that they liked. They traced with pencil then added details. I told them that their monsters had to have a mouth and at least one eye, some sort of pattern, and a way to get around (does it walk, fly, swim?) After planning in pencil, the students used markers to add details. I always have to remind the students to use the right size tool for the job. I put out regular size markers for coloring in big areas and skinny markers just for tracing lines and adding little details. Of course you'll always have a few students trying to color in their whole monsters body with a teeny tiny marker. I like to just hand those students a marker of the right size and walk away.

The first class was for drawing and starting to add color. I didn't want to keep these as plain drawing since the students had already made Wild Thing drawings and I was trying to decide what exactly to do when I saw a photo my Art Teacher friend, Miss Ihrig, posted on Facebook of her students monsters cut out and glued onto bright colored construction paper- perfect! It was also good since I hadn't cut or glued much with 1st grade yet this year. I took the opportunity to talk to the students about contrast before I let them choose their construction paper. I have a bunch of little girls who LOOOVE pink and would make everything with pink markers and pink crayons on pink paper if I let them. The problem is that monochromatic artwork when everything is the same color is a little hard to see. (They can't quite pull off the subtlety of Rothko's black on black paintings...) I encouraged them to try holding their monster up to different colored backgrounds to see what looked best. Most just pretended to consider other colors then picked their favorite anyway. :)

After carefully cutting and gluing, I asked the students to write a story about their monster. If they needed more prompting, I asked them to tell me their monster's name and something they like to do. I printed off a half sheet writing paper template so they would have the lines they are used to writing on. When the writing was finished, I taped it from the back so their story is visible below their artwork. Students who were super speedy added details to their background with construction paper crayons. Or markers if I didn't notice in time! I think the story was the most interesting part of some. I have some leftover writing paper that I held onto for future lessons because it made their writing so much easier to read.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

4th Grade Jazz Paintings

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

I discovered Ray Berman's paintings when I was researching art from southern Africa. Ray Berman grew up in South Africa but moved to Swaziland during Apartheid. He makes colorful abstract paintings that show the influence of the urban jazz music he grew up listening to. My 4th grade students  viewed images of Berman's paintings, like the picture above and compared them to Wassily Kandinsky's Composition VII below.

My district's Art curriculum focuses mostly on the Elements of Art but with this project I wanted the students to think more about the Principles with this lesson and what they have in common with music. The students were able to identify rhythm and harmony as being music and art words. It was pretty easy for them to figure out that "rhythm" in Art is  like a visual beat but it took a little more prompting for them to get the definition of harmony. I'm about to tell you a little story of embarrassing myself for the sake of education. I asked the students what it means if people are singing in harmony. One answered "singing the same song". I knew that wasn't quite going deep enough so I asked the student to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and to keep singing no matter what I did. I let him get about half a verse out before I started singing from the beginning in my very best horrible opera voice. The students laughed and then understood when I pointed out that they would have to be singing together, not just the same thing. So "harmony" in Art is the elements working together and looking good together.

And in the next part of the lesson, technology failed me, and later the music teacher saved me. I had found some videos of South African Jazz on YouTube as well as another website that would play South African Jazz music. I tested the link the week before and when I went to play the music for my first class, my district's internet filters had changed and YouTube was blocked. Then the music on my backup website would not play. So instead of listening to jazz while creating abstract paintings, my students painted to REM. Good music, but not quite the same. I talked to our music teacher and she hooked me up for my classes the next week. She brought a bunch of jazz music VHS tapes and showed me how to run the audio from the VCR through the speakers in my classroom. I just had to fast forward through a few speaking parts to get to the music. I can't remember the titles of some of the songs but let's just saw there was some laughter. I had enough paint out at each table* that I didn't need to refill any and was able to paint along with the students (when I wasn't fast forwarding) and we all enjoyed it. It's not uncommon for me to play music while the students paint, but this was one of the first times I had asked the students to paint the music.

*I've found that my students get better results with abstract painting when they are given only the primary colors and white. They can mix any color they want without you having to refill or waste supplies and it keeps everything unified.

The schedule ended up being uneven again so only one class finished the project how I had originally planned. I played music again in the second class period and the students were to draw, cut, and glue an instrument then add lines with oil pastels that showed the beat of the music. I'm kind of glad that the other classes' projects remained abstract paintings because in most of the pieces, I felt the instruments actually took away from the project. I invite you to check out some of the other results below or see more in our Artsonia gallery.
Camryn363 says this about his/her art...
This is a saxaphone. We listened to music while makeing this. The lines are to the beat to the music.
Peighton14 says this about his/her art...
In this picture I made an instrument to go on top of my design. The notes are coming out of the instrument.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

1st Grade Wild Self Portraits and Wild Thing Costume

 This is a project that had a few nice results, but was overall very frustrating for me as well as the students. First, we looked at some Abstract Expressionist paintings and talked about how the style looks wild. I started by projecting Lavender Mist by Jackson Pollock and asking the students to just look and think before they said anything else. Then I asked them to share observations or opinions. Some said it was pretty while some said it was "nothing" or definitely not Art. If they said it wasn't Art, I asked them why. I told them it's ok to have different opinions but they should think about the why.

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

I showed the first class a video of Pollock painting but they were super bored so I just showed a photo to the rest of the classes.

We also looked at a de Kooning painting so I could show them an abstract style where you can still pick out some recognizable features.

Up to that point, everything was going ok. My plan was for the students to make Abstract Expressionistic paintings the first day that would serve as the background for cut paper self portraits. The painting was pretty messy, and there was a clothing casualty when a para's white sweater got paint squirted all over it, but not too bad considering what they were up to! I put out tempera paint in the primary and neutral colors. I got smarter after the first class and took away the black paint.

Naked person with 3 toes...
In the second class, I demonstrated cutting and gluing construction paper shapes. I showed the students how they didn't need to cut out the part of the body that would be covered by clothes since it wouldn't show. I think only a few actually did it how I showed them and just made the arms and legs stick out from behind the clothes. Even after tons of reminders that it wouldn't show and things like "you only have 5 minutes left to work so make sure your self portrait has a face and clothes", I ended up with LOTS of little naked people, thankfully not anatomically correct! I think I can usually figure kids out but I just could not get inside a 1st graders' brain and understand why they couldn't let go of having to make the whole body then put clothes on it. I guess because they know their bellies are under their shirts in real life so they have to be under the shirts of their artwork. I dont' know. But none of us were enjoying it enough to add another class so we called it good practice with cutting and gluing and moved on to something else.

I also just realized that I never posted the Halloween costume I made for my son. Now do you understand the Where the Wild Things Are kick I was on? I thought about making a Charlie Brown costume but decided that would be too easy. :) 
I eventually decided to make my son be a wild thing. I painted bleach stripes onto a brown zip-up hooded sweatshirt then sewed some cheap brown furry fabric onto the hood. I cut slits in the fur so it would fit around the felt horns I made. I really just cut two layers of the horn shape, sewed it, then flipped it so the seam was on the inside. I kind of popped it open with my finger before pinning it down and they really stayed standing up great. They are actually still standing even after being washed since it's a fun jacket now. The pants were a little trickier. I started with a base of brown sweatpants and covered them with layers of a cream colored fabric cut to resemble the texture of the wild thing's legs from the book. I used fabric glue to help hold it in place while I sewed. I had to sew it by hand and I'm glad I checked it before sewing all the way down because there was a problem: I forgot about the elastic in the pants! When I sewed on the fabric it made the pants way to tight to pull up. So, not willing to give up, I pulled off the layers I had sewn on, sewed them together separately, and added velcro so I could just wrap it around after we got the pants on. I also added a furry looking feather boa from Hobby Lobby (my happy place) to make the tail. So in summary, it took a lot of time and problem solving, and probably didn't cost less than a store bought costume, but I'm pretty proud of it. My mom always made our costumes and I've always wanted to be that kind of mom.

I am Wild When I...

Before the movie Where the Wild Things Are came out a couple years ago, there was a really awesome blog for it (We Love You So). They posted things about the movie, Maurice Sendak's book, and just cool artwork. One thing I remember seeing, though there is too much information for me to locate the exact link now, was a kids' activity where they were asked to finish the sentence "I am wild when I ______." I wanted to do some WTWTA art projects back in October and didn't want to stick with just drawing wild things (though we did that too, in 1st grade). I printed off sheets with the beginning of the sentence and space for the students to dictate their writing to me. I read the book to them and we talked about the story, especially the parts where Max was acting wild. I asked them to think of when they are wild like having fun, not wild like going to hurt someone. The students drew an illustration for their sentence and I wrote it for them in sharpie. If I were doing this with older kids, I would have asked them to write their own sentence. Since some of the Kinders are still learning to recognize letters, I figured there was nothing wrong with me printing it for them. This project was easily done in one class period. I loved the different answers the students came up with. Some tried to tell me exactly the same thing as a student they were sitting by but it didn't take too much prompting for them to think of something else to say.

"I am a triangle"- what a silly little boy, he is a Pre-K student that comes to Art with a Kindergarten class.

This little guy was definitely inspired by the book!