1st Grade - Pointillism Lesson 2

I was so impressed by my 1st graders work on their first pointillism project that I upped the rigor and gave them more colors for the second lesson.

We started out class by looking at this picture of pointillism I found on the internet - it's not the best picture of pointillism but it is a fantastic one to look at to really understand that pointillism is done with small dot like shapes using multiple tints/shades of one color.

The students and I looked at the one above and compared it do the ones they did - they noticed that the blue had lots of blues instead of just one and the trees had more than just one kind of green.  I asked them if the blues were all mixed up or if they made a pattern - they said all mixed up!  After this I did a quick demonstration of using more than one color in each spot and explained they needed two colors in each part!

The students drew a new simple picture, put on their paint shirts, got a Q-tip and started -- they are pretty amazing!  I can't wait to see the projects finished!

Close up of the tree.


1st Grade - Pointillism

Pointillism is something that really fascinates me and I've always wanted to do a project with it - but the school year always seems to run out before I can get to it.  Somehow, this year I've gotten through the majority of my curriculum and still have school days left - fantastic!

I started out by finding examples of pointillism on the internet and putting them into iphoto - I played these pictures in a slide show for the students with the specific question of 'How where these painted?' "What is special with how these are painted?"  I let the slide show play through a couple of times asking the students to raise their hand when they think they know.  I do this for a couple of minutes making sure there is enough 'think time' for everyone.  When most of the class has an idea I ask for students to share what they have observed.  I've never had a class not notice the dots.  I explain to them what pointillism is and who started it.  I continue to ask them questions about the dots - 'Are they far apart?' 'Do they touch?' 'Is there one color?'.  Before we get started I restate that we will be painting our pictures today using pointillism and ask the students how are we painting today - and they respond 'pointillism'.

I then do a demonstration around a table.  I gather the students, a pencil, a piece of paper (6x12 inches), a q-tip, and two colors of paint.  Once they are ready I begin by showing them their size of paper and explaining they need to draw a very simple picture - a hill with a tree, a simple rocket ship, a large flower....... since we are doing pointillism and painting with dots we need to have large open spaces!  After my picture is done I pick up my q-tip, dip one end into a color of paint and start making dots on my paper.  I ask the students if I dipped my q-tip back into my paint each time - they respond 'no'.  I show them what dots close together, overlapping, and what dots far apart look like.  I also show them what it looks like to paint with the q-tip by dragging it instead of dots.  I ask them if they can see the difference and ask if they know who else can see the difference - they respond that I can see it too.  To change colors I show them how to flip over their q-tip and dip the clean end into the new color of paint!  We talk about how pointillism takes longer to paint a picture rather than painting with a paint brush or dragging their q-tip - but that our goal is to not paint fast, but to use dots!

I answer any questions and then send them back to their seats.  I have students pass out paper and pencils while I pass out paint and q-tips.  Each students receives 2 q-tips since I give them 4 colors.  When students are done with their simple pictures, they put on paint shirts and start filling in their pictures with dots!

This actually went a lot better than I expected and plan to up the difficulty next class period and have them use two colors in each section rather than one!


Creativity Challenge - 1st Grade

One of my students with Autism - loves animals
I posted doing a 'Creativity Challenge' with my 3rd graders before spring break - well, that went so well I used it for first grade today.

It is spring picture day today, and all my first graders were dressed up in their best school clothes and the original lesson for today was to explore pointillism with paint.... I was afraid that even with paint shirts the students would get paint on their nice outfits - so we had a change of plans and did the creativity challenge instead.

Student who claimed he couldn't do it!
My first graders did a fantastic job!  I even had one student who proclaimed he couldn't draw, he couldn't think of anything, he was terrible at drawing  -- all before I passed out the papers.  Sure enough once we got started his was one of the most creative drawings!  He was so proud of his drawing.

This is a great lesson to keep for emergencies - picture day, sickness, day before break.  It seems most ages are able to complete a picture from a line without much of a struggle.


Kindergarten and 2nd Grade - Coral Reef Mural

I have been really wanting to do a mural for a long time, but never really settled on a topic I felt had enough diversity to allow students at all levels to be successful.  Somewhere along my drive to work about 3 weeks ago the idea came to me - so simple, so easy -- under the sea... better yet a coral reef!  There are all sizes, shapes, and colors of plants and animals!

When I got to school I covered a large bulletin board in my room with blue paper and started to plan the unit.  I decided it was important to not only learn about murals, but the coral reef as well -- the plants and animals that live there.  I  felt it was important that their mural was as dynamic as a real coral reef - so we couldn't use plain old construction paper for our creation, the beginning of the unit began to take shape......

The first day I talked with them about murals - but I didn't tell them the theme until the very end of class .  The activity for the day was to decorate papers and I was a afraid if they knew the topic then they would be bias with their color choices!  I handed out white paper and had the students use crayons and texture plates to color the papers.  When one WHOLE side of that paper was colored they got waters colors and painted over top.  The 2nd graders had 12x18 paper and used one color for their crayons -- all shades of blue for example.  The kindergarten students had 8.5x11 paper and could use any colors they wanted.  These papers were gorgeous!

At the end of the first class I cleaned them up a little bit early and explained that our mural would be about the coral reef - and to learn more about the types and shapes of plants and animals that lived there I had a video to show them.  I told them that many of them, if not all of them, had seen this video before and they needed to look past the movie and really look at the plants that they saw -- the shapes, colors, textures.

I played them about 7 minutes of Finding Nemo by Pixar.  I started the film at about 00:06:10 and ended about 7-10 minutes later.  This section is toward the beginning of the movie when Nemo first goes to school.  Pixar did a fabulous job of showing off coral reefs - the students 'oooo-ed' and 'awwww-ed'.  I occasionally paused the video to have them take a good look at everything,

At the beginning of the next class we reviewed what happened last time in class.  I explained that I cut up all their papers (I explained that this would happen during the previous class) so that they could pick the size, texture, and colors they needed for their coral reef piece.  I gathered all the students around one table to do a 'think aloud'.  I had a book about coral reefs, which I thumbed through talking out loud about my thoughts - what I was thinking, how I was going to choose which plant to draw.  Once I decided, I then thought out loud about my paper choice.  I then drew my plant on the back of the decorated piece of paper.  Next, I decided if I wanted to use fancy scissors (the scissors what cut different lines) or normal scissors -- I talked out loud about if my plant was smooth, sharp, or bumpy.  I cut out my plant and last, but least, took a Sharpie to add details to my plant.

I asked that the students do two plants and bring them to me when they were done.  Some classes I let them pick where their plants went on the mural, and other classes I had them place them in a pile and I put them on our mural after class.  When students were done with their plants they could create anything, school appropriate, out of their scraps!

At first our mural was confusing and not very interesting - but as more and more plants were added the students got more and more excited.

The students didn't learn as much about a coral reef as I was hoping - but they learned a lot about murals, problem solving, shapes, textures, and sharing.


I'd be lost without the arts.....

A few days ago I mentioned to a friend that I would be lost without the arts and ever since then I've really been stuck on this idea - not only do I have no idea what I would be doing, but I'm pretty sure I'd be very unhappy.  This idea led me to the thought of what is it about the arts that has me so captured?  I struggle with words to explain feelings that are so complex that they can't fit into categories like 'happy' or 'joy' or 'vocation'.  The arts for me are all these things, but yet it doesn't seem to even come close to explaining the arts. Maybe I should clarify when I say 'the arts' I mean all arts - performing arts like band, choir, theatre and more traditional arts like drawing and painting.  I feel that all art is important and we would be lost as a society without it - art is such an integrated part of our everyday lives that we often miss it's beauty and power.  Is that what makes are so appealing and has captured me so?  Art has the ability to be so softly powerful? - perhaps, but again it does not feel like enough.

Picture from Luther College Photo Bureau
I had the most amazing teacher in high school.  He taught early bird humanities and even though he never wrote a single thing on the board and I never took a single note - I remember so many things from his class.  I didn't realize it at the time but he was building me a foundation for everything art - word, picture, sound.  Over the years that foundation has been used to build monuments to painters, weavers, poets, architects, musicians, sculptors, designers....  He somehow guided me past understanding each word in a poem and each arc of color on a painting to the feeling or the concept the writer and painter was communicating -- and when I got to that moment I really began to see.....

I think the arts have captured my life not only due to their soft power, but  their ability to communicate not only through centuries, but cultures and ages, and that all humans can and do participate.

When I was a student in school - school sucked. It was hard and I spent much of my time feeling stupid.  The more classes I took in art the more I felt I was breathing fresh air.  As an art teacher in an elementary school I can tell you that my classroom is probably one of the few places that learning disabilities have no hold.  In my room it does not matter if you can read, if you understand math, if your letters and numbers move around when you try and read them.  In my room you get to be you and nothing is in the way.  Art is a breath of fresh air.

I think perhaps for me - arts have captured my life not only because the unique communication if provides - but it gave me a home.  I made all A's and B's (okay a couple of C's) in school, but it wasn't without tears of anger and frustration -- but the arts make sense to me.  It was the first time I understood without having to climb through mental swamps and mountains.

I enjoy the unique beauty of art though I may not like the subject or how it's presented - but appreciating is different than liking.  For example, most rap songs I don't enjoy - but I respect how and where they came from and there are a few that have a beat that pulls me in.  I do not like all abstract art, but there are pieces I could stand and stare at all day.

I walk into my classroom filled with bright colors, piles of projects and paper, the smell of paint and know that there will be students that come to my room and this is the only place they will feel success - the only place they will feel confident - the only place they will raise their hand - the only place they will take chances - something unique to art.  I hope to have a fraction of the passion my high school humanities teacher showed to me - and pass that onto the students in my room.

The arts are needed.  They are needed in every child and adult life.  The problem solving, critical thinking - being apart of a community where thinking is encouraged and new ideas are grown.


One Day Art Exercises - 3rd Grade

Original line makes up the top of the jet - a zigzag line.

It was the day before spring break, my last class of the day and I didn't have the heart to pop in a movie, so instead I challenged my students to a creativity battle.  Okay, so it wasn't so much a battle - but I was using dramatic flair from both "Iron Chef" and "Chopped".  I explained that the students would be getting a piece of paper with ONE line on it and they were to make it into the most creative picture they could - adding lots of detail.  They only had 30 minutes to do this - time starts now.

The kids took off.  All the lines where different so it made it difficult for students to judge their own work against a neighbors.  I had only one student struggle to start - but after a few suggestions from me, the table started to fire out their own ideas and that sparked an idea for the student and they too were in the game.

I was honestly quite surprised by the creativity.  I thought I'd have a lot more students resorting to easy pictures of people and snowmen.... boy was I wrong.

A mouth with a peanut.
A rhino.
This turned out to not only get a great exercise in creativity, but problem solving and composition.  When students were done drawing they colored with crayons and took them home!

I will keep this project to do again - maybe I'll even make it into a full lesson/unit!


Kindergarten Snowmen (Clay)

So now that it is spring break I am finally sending home the Kindergarten clay snowmen!  We started these back before winter break, but between snow days, sick days, bisque fires, and glaze fires it took a while.

To start this project I talk with the students about clay expectations - if they throw their clay or poke anyone with the needle tool they are done for the day - safety comes first!

Next I do a demonstration on how to roll, pull, poke, and smush clay while I make a snowman.  To keep the pieces together I teach the students how to score and slip their clay.  I explain this step by step and have the students mimic with their hands.  I first show them how when you stick to pieces to clay together they might stick for a little while and then they fall apart.  I ask them to take their hands and put them together flat, like they are clapping, and ask them to take them apart.  They often comment on how easy it was to take them apart!  Next I show how to make score marks -- tic tac toe boards on top of each other or "X"s.  Then I show them how to add just a little bit of slip - not too much.  I then squish these pieces together and show how hard it is to pull them apart.  The students then take their hands, wiggling their fingers and interlace their fingers together - then I ask them, without unfolding their fingers, to take their hands apart - they agree it is much harder. (there is always one kid that unfolds their fingers and exclaims how easy it was).  All in all, I have found this a great way to help them understand the need and importance of scoring and slipping their clay.

As the students build their snowmen I travel around writing their name and teacher on the bottom and making sure there are holes for their arms! 

When we clean up the tools go back on the cart, the snowman goes to a designated "done"spot and hands are washed.

When all the kindergarten students were done making their snowmen and they were all dried to a nice greenware state I put them in the kiln to be fired.

To glaze these I placed small containers of white, orange, and black on the tables.  The students and I talked about the importance of being safe since their snowmen would break if dropped.  They asked lots of questions and when they were all answered they were off painting.  I had to remind them many times that the glaze would be light colored now, but BRIGHT and shiny next time.

Again, once all the kindergarten students were done glazing (which took the longest because a lot of kids were out sick) I fired them one last time.

Before the snowmen could go home we had to give them arms!  I called them up one at a time to get their snowmen and let them pick out some pipe cleaners (chenille sticks) to put in their arm holes.  The students had a good time not only picking their colored arms but bending them into all sorts of silly things.  One student made their snowman linking arms with another snowmen at their table, another student had their snowman picking it's nose, and even another student had both arms above it's head like a ballerina. 

These were a huge hit - even the snowmen that were glazed all black or didn't look like snowmen in the beginning had a lot of character in the end!


3rd and 4th Grade - Guest Artist - Kevin "BF" Burt

 I felt that our 3rd and 4th grade students were struggling with understanding jazz and blues music - that it goes deeper than their show music.  I was trying to figure out a way to expose the students to the soul of the blues/jazz music - there is something lost in recordings.  Then, I remembered that there was a blues artist I had seen a couple of times - he came with his band to my high school and then when I was doing a long term sub position he came to play and talk with those kids.  On a whim I tracked him down through the internet and asked if he would be willing to come to my school.  He was excited to come!

I'm not exactly sure how, but Kevin "BF" Burt is very captivating.  He started playing as the students came in and from the first notes they heard they were hooked.  There is power in live blues music - which is exactly what I wanted the kids to feel.  He spoke with the kids about how blues was born out of slavery - something they already knew from both their show and what they were studying in the classroom.  He has a perfect balance to talking with the kids and playing.  The students started to bombard him with questions after the first 10 minutes.  We had planned his visit to be about an hour at an hour and a half we had to wrap it up.

I think the kids got a real sense of the blues - the soul of improv.  One student asked him how long it took to write a song.  He responded with, "Let's find out - we'll write one right now together."  So Mr. BF Burt wrote a song on the spot with these suggestions from the students: Soulja Boy, a monkey, ice cream, sugar, and an annoying little sister.  It was a great song about how he was hanging out with his friend Soulja boy, they went to get ice cream with their annoying little sister, then to the zoo after they were hyped up on sugar, where a monkey threw a booger at them.  The kids LOVED it.

Not only did the kids love it - but staff showed up to listen for a few moments - jealous they couldn't stay.

If there is ever a chance to pull in someone live to talk and play for students - do it.  This was a great experience for my students.  Explaining blues music with words or recordings just doesn't work - it has to be live.

Here is a link to another elementary school he went to - this is NOT my elementary school but it gives you a good idea of his sound and some of the songs he sang for the kids.

*Pictures found on the internet*


3rd Grade - Esref Armagan

Picture of Mr. Armagan - found on the internet
After my lesson on "The Black Book of Colors" I introduced my students to Esref Armagan - a blind painter.  The youtube video talks about Mr. Armagan's genetic mutation that caused him to be born without eyes - yet he can paint with perspective - something he shouldn't be able to do according to science. (More on Esref Armagan)

I had the students watch the above video - in which they were in complete awe.  After the video I explained that they are going to try and paint like Esref Armagan - blindfolded with only their fingers.  I did a quick demonstration on how to use their fingers to try and keep track of where they have painted.

I paired the students up - one got a blind fold and the other is their spotter.  The student who is blind folded is to try their best to draw a simple picture.  The spotter's job is to make sure they don't paint someone else and to guide them to the color they want.  After the student who is blindfolded is done - they switch spots.

The students were eager to try.  Many students found it much harder than they thought it would be.

(I just learned of another blind painter, John Bramblitt, from another Art Teacher blog.)

3rd Grade - "Black Book Of Colors"

I was wandering around a bookstore in Brooklyn with my sister one summer and ran across a very neat book called, "The Black Book of Colors" by  Menena Cottin.  This book's pictures are meant to be felt instead of seen - they are black on black, but raised.  I bought this book knowing that someday I would do a lesson inspired by it.

Two years later I had a group of 3rd graders that were calm, thoughtful, and a little adventurous - the perfect combination for a unit about being blind and an artist.

The first lessons started out with a questions, "Can people who are blind understand colors?"  This question provided lots of good discussions - if you have never seen colors how would you know what orange was?!

I then gathered them in a group on the floor at the front of the room and asked for a volunteer that would be willing to be blind folded, then handed an object in which they needed to tell us the color.  I told the group they could not even whisper what the object was or it would give it away - our goal was to see if someone who can't see can figure out what color something is.  I was kind of surprised when I had a bunch of volunteers - so I picked a student, blind folded them and reminded the class to stay quiet.  I handed the blind student an orange (the fruit) and asked them to tell me the color.  They held it, touched it - I suggested maybe using their other senses.  Sure enough as soon as the student smelled it they knew the color!

We repeated this process with things like - grapes, carrots, a cup of dirt....  The students could tell the color each time.

Now, yes I picked obvious things - but the whole idea was to get them thinking about using their other sense to understand colors.  I then read "The Black Book Of Colors" to them.

After reading the book I passed out black sheets of paper and had the students draw something that a certain color - grass for green, red for cherries -- ect.  They then outlined their pencil with glue - creating a raised line.  When these were dry the students made their own black book of colors which they tried out on each other.


1st Grade - Self Portrait Books

Part of the curriculum in my district is to have the students do a self-portrait each year.  I love the idea of this, but struggle with making the self portraits different enough each year to make them interesting while having the portraits resemble the students.

For first grade I really wanted them to focus on the details of their faces – the shape of their eyes, nose, lips – where their hair falls on their head.  Does their hair touch their eyebrows, or cover their ears, is it really short, long, curly… etc.

This student was proud of how they did their teeth!
To really emphasis that our learning target was to add lots of details to their self portraits I introduced the lesson by drawing three pictures on the board:  1) A really fast drawing with circle eyes, a “L” for a nose, and one curved smile line for my lips.  2) A more detailed picture but WAY too small.  3) An oval head, with oval eyes, glasses, eyebrows, more nose like nose, lips…..  I labeled these with the corresponding number.  I asked the students to show me be holding up 1, 2, or 3 fingers which picture they felt had the best quality.  After a few moments I ask them to put their hands down and then ask them which one has the most detail.  Again, I ask them to put their hands down and ask them one last question, “Which one looks the most like Ms. Novak”.  The majority of students pick number 3 for all three questions.  I then ask the students to tell me what they think about that – they picked the same picture for quality, details, and that it looked most like me.  Students connect that their picture should have lots of details to look the most like them and to have the best quality.
I show the students that the paper I have chosen is much smaller than normal, because most first graders struggle to draw large pictures with detail.  I explain that it is folded in half because one side is for their normal portrait and the other half is for a silly face portrait.  (The kids get really excited about their silly face pictures).  We discuss quickly that just because it is a silly face doesn’t mean that their quality can be silly – it has to have just as much quality! 

Last thing before I pass out materials I also talk with them briefly about why and how to use their mirrors.  I show them how to set it up and how to use it to look at their eyes, nose, mouth, hair and other parts of their face.  The students give me examples of what NOT to do – shine light in other peoples faces, spy on people around them, break them, draw on them….

I have my helping table pass out materials and students get started.  This introduction sounds long but really only takes about 10 minutes at MAX. 

As students work I walk around asking questions and encouraging.  Once students finish their portraits they add backgrounds to their people – giving them a place to be: outside, inside, at the zoo, in the ocean, on the beach, out in space, or whatever else their brains come up with.  When the students are done drawing with pencil they take a sharpie and outline their creations.

Next class the students count out 5 pieces of paper, that have been pre-paper punched and pick out one piece of string (about 2 feet).  The students then have to thread the string through the first paper hole and then the second.  Once the papers are threaded the students use a square knot to tie it all together.  I show the students how to do a square knot – most students can do a square knot since most of them can do the first part of tying their shoes.  I demonstrate how to ask someone to put their finger on the first part of square knot, like perhaps parents do when wrapping presents – this normally helps those students who have not mastered tying their shoes. 
Sewing their books can be very frustrating for some students – so we review that it’s okay to be frustrated, but not to give up.  I encourage the students to help each other, but not to do it for anyone.

Once the books are sewn together the students may color their self portraits and/or start drawing in the inside!


3rd and 4th Grade Musical - We Haz Jazz (silk screening)

The silk screening has begun!!!  The 3rd and 4th graders have started to silk screen their "Jazz" t-shirts for their show!  I could be wrong, but I think they are excited......