11.30.2012

My Mind is Blown!

I have to be honest - I feel like my head might explode, in a good way.

So yesterday I read the book "The Artistic Edge" which is aimed at talking about 7 skills kids can learn through the arts to be successful in life.  While this book isn't exactly what I thought it was going to be - it brought me to "Artful Thinking" which then took me to "Visual Thinking" - something my Principal has introduced to my Elementary School of the Arts.

I feel like singing "it's a small world after all".  I have decided that no only have I not given enough effort into understanding 'Visual Thinking' - but that I may have found something that will truly impact my teaching and hopefully my students.

I am personally sick of having the word 'assessment' shoved in my face.  I agree that we need to always assess things:  How is this lesson going? Are the kids understanding? Are they making connections? Did I give them too much information/not enough? Did a create a lesson that has higher level thinking?  Who is confused?  Who has it?  -- These are all assessments that happen while I am teaching a lesson and conferencing with kids as I walk around.  I really despise having to write stuff like this down or create less open assignments so that they can fit into an 'assessment' to show growth.  Kids don't 'show' growth in a concrete way in art -- which is EXACTLY what Visual Thinking, Artful Thinking, and The Artistic Edge talk about in kind of a round about fashion.

These programs/studies/books all STRESS that kids learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think when they are involved in the Arts.  I have been saying for years on this site and to anyone that will listen that my job is not just finger painting and paper gluing -- kids actually learn VALUABLE skills when they come to my room. They learn how to problem solve, critically think, reflect, ask for help, preserver - and so much more.

I am super excited about these programs/books, because I had no idea they were even out there.  Where have these been all my years of teaching?  I wrote a post a few months back how I felt stuck in my own learning - that any type of conference was too expensive and out of my budget -- but this, this I can do.   My building is learning it on a smaller scale and I am so excited to learn more about it that I can barely decide where to start!  I am overwhelmed with the information and studies and such that are out there!  WHO KNEW?!

It is also nice to see actual studies, papers, programs that are aimed at what I have always believed to be true - that yes, academics (math, reading, writing) are super important but it is also valuable to know HOW to think - just not WHAT to think.  Most kids in math learn what to think in math (a few who really get it and love it ask "how") - they learn the equations and plug in numbers.  In good art programs kids are given parameters and told to create something original. 

In The Artistic Edge - there is a section devoted to kids that have low self-esteem when it comes to academics.  It is easier to refuse to do math, than to try and ALWAYS be wrong - because there is a right and wrong answer.  I tried to be that kid, my mom and tutor wouldn't let me off the hook -- bless them.  In art the only 'right' and 'wrong' are if you followed the parameters -- otherwise every answer is correct.  It is easier and 'safer' for kids with low academic-esteem to try in art classes because there is a HUGE grey area where they can succeed and grow with their confidence.

AH!  I have so many more things running through my brain - like how arts help kids communicate (talked about in The Artistic Edge) how the arts can save kids (a stories in The Element, The Artistic Edge - and seen in a few of my own students) how the arts can teach life lessons - like asking for help.

So much information!  So much to learn!  My brain is going to get stretched here soon and it may not always feel great, but soon enough I will have some new ways to help my students grow as THINKERS!

Check out this List of Project Zero's Research Projects.
Making Thinking Visual - The Book


** I should state that it is the COMBINATION of these things that make me super excited.  The book "The Artistic Edge" is interesting, but I found nothing ground breaking it in.  I had hoped for more examples of how the arts help students learn the skills she talks about, but instead there is a lot of talk and then just - kids learn this in the arts, with little examples and of the examples given are mostly Theatre based.  I agree with her points and her message, but I was hoping for more of a book I could hand skeptics and say, "read this" - but it doesn't have that kind of 'aha' factor -- at least it didn't for me.



11.28.2012

5th Grade - Sphere Sculptures (Decorative Paper)

Pinterest strikes again!  I saw these:
http://myplumpudding.blogspot.com/2009/04/cereal-box-globes-for-earth-day.html


I wasn't exactly sure how these were going to get woven into my curriculum this year - but I was sure they would fit somewhere.  I decided these would fit with 3D, values, hues, personal choices, recycling/upcycling - and so much more!

So, the students haven't actually made these yet - today I had them decorate cardboard that has about the same thickness as cereal boxes.  The wonderful ladies in the lunch room collect the cardboard for me from boxes of fruit!  I have HUGE stacks of the stuff and I always get excited when I have a way to use large quantities of it.  I love that it is easy to cut, but yet holds up pretty well to copious amounts of tempra paint.



Today, I had students decorate the cardboard in an Eric Carle type style.  They started with a base color, chose another color to add a design, then add another color and yet another design - then students could leave it or use a decorative comb to add designs by scraping paint around in a pattern.  I told students that I would pick the colors for their tables - but not to worry they will get to pick papers from ALL the tables when it comes time to make their spheres.  I explained that I pick their colors because it gives us more usable colors - if I just let them go, we would get a BUNCH of brown and blue.  I generally give each table their table color in paint - so blue table got blue paint, red table got red paint (keeps down the arguing and whining).  Each table got a variety of tints/shades of their color to make these stand out, for example green table got:  green, bright green (green + yellow), mixed green (yellow + blue), and a thing of white (ends up being light green).

At first students were being very careful and clean about this process - which I some what appreciated, but we needed papers that were free, open, full of motion and color - students needed to be a little more - organized chaos.  I told many of them they were being too nice and needed to give a little more 'umpf' to it.  Soon it was a controlled whirl wind!  Paint, cardboard, brushes, students were everywhere - in a good way.  I was busy filling paint as it ran out while keeping the cardboard stack well supplied.  It was awesome.

I had MANY students today exclaim, "This is the best day of art EVER!"  There is something beautiful, freeing even of letting loose - not 'making' anything in particular.  We weren't making dogs, cats, perspective drawings -- students got to just create.  It was BEAUTIFUL.

It is going to take me some time to cut all these papers for students to make their spheres - but they will be amazing - I am SUPER excited.



















11.27.2012

5th Grade -- Layered Pumpkin Compositions

So, while 5th graders at one building were preparing for their 5th Grade Production of Treasure Island, my 5th graders at my other school were having art class as normal.

I LOVE doing pumpkin projects.  I do believe it has to do with the fact that my grandparents grew pumpkins for years and I spent my early childhood in the Pumpkin Hut during pumpkin season.  I don't remember much of harvest time, being so young I was mostly entertained and kept out of the way.  I do remember kitties, community, LOTS of pumpkins and AWESOME decorations on the farm.  Most of the city I grew up in bought their pumpkins at the Novak Pumpkin Patch.  In fact, people still stop by from time to time and knock on my Grandma's door asking about the pumpkin patch.  Being so far from family, pumpkins always make me feel close to them - so I try and do pumpkin projects with all my grade levels.  (A plus with doing pumpkins and NOT Halloween is that ALL students can participate!)

http://insightsandbellylaughs.com/
Back to the project.  So this started out as a piece of artwork that I saw on Pinterest (love that site).  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, but I knew at some point it would be inspiration for a great project.  (I also love this artist's site - lots of great, bold, colorful papers: http://insightsandbellylaughs.com/)

I was trying to figure out a project for my 5th graders that would be engaging and more than just drawing a pumpkin.  Then BAM it hit me.  We will do a colorful background, then draw a pumpkin from a zoomed-in, unique angle on a piece of transparency!!!  PERFECT!

Off I went designing a lesson and guiding my students.  So, first we started with the background.  I didn't tell them what they were going to be used for because I didn't want them to try and plan an orange pumpkin section.  I wanted them to be free and full of color.  I really wanted to use tempra paint, but my order wasn't in yet - so we used oil pastels, chalk pastels, and water color.

I had the students divide their paper with different types of lines using oil pastel.  Then they colored in sections of their paper with chalk pastel.  Last, but not least, students used either plain water or water color and 'painted' over their chalk.  Students that used watercolor over their chalk had beautiful BOLD, BRIGHT colors.  Students that used plain water were still beautiful, but less bright.

After their background was done we talked about using view finders (two "L" shaped papers to make a frame that is adjustable).  I had about six pictures of pumpkins from different angles - I had students use their view finders to find a unique composition on one of the pumpkins.  Now, I realize that using REAL pumpkins would have been better - but pumpkins are expensive and I would have needed at least 8 - wasn't in the budget.  Any how, so students drew their compositions on a piece of printer paper.  I showed them how to draw as simple line drawing - looking on their pumpkin and where it starts in the frames, find that spot on the paper, then crawl along the line like an ant and draw as you go.  I told them their eyes should be always moving - it will look weird to start.  I showed them to occasionally stop and make sure they are in the right spot on their paper as they are in their frame.  Next, add the stem - I tried to stress to draw what they see NOT what they know.  Many students came to me with beautiful drawings and these really odd stems in strange places.  Quite often these students would look at me and say, "I don't like it.  It looks weird."  I would take them to their picture and show them that their brain knows the stem is at the top of the pumpkin but in your picture the stem actually is in the middle of your pumpkin and just the tip of the stem pokes out off the top.  Most of the kids you could hear the light bulb go on and they totally understood, a few still had trouble seeing instead of 'knowing'.

When students were happy with their pencil drawing I handed them a clear transparency and a sharpie. Students traced their work - dark lines are thick and light lines are thin.  Some students chose to add simple lines in the background to help their pumpkin stand out.

My Example
These are really remarkable - the pictures don't do these justice as it flattens them out way too much - also it was hard to get a picture without a terrible glare.  So, you might have to do a little of imagining what they truly look like.







Kindergarten - 3D lines

So, in the beginning of the year kinders and I spend A LOT of time on lines and shapes.  I do this because it helps the students learn routines and expectations without overwhelming me or them with complex projects.  Simple but meaty projects like these also show me simple things like - problem solving skills, skills they already have, ability to follow directions, fine motor skills - etc.  I learn a lot in the beginning of the year about where my kinders are at developmentally.


After a few projects that consist mostly of different flat lines and shapes - I take the kids 3D.  We briefly talk about what 3-D and 2-D means, some kids get it, some don't.I show students a variety of ways to make a flap stip of paper stick up in space.  We bend, we fold, we twirl around our fingers, we add pieces to other pieces and build build build!  I also stress as much as I can that glue sticks when it DRIES - if you use A LOT of glue then it takes a LONG time to DRY - a little bit of glue - stick faster!  The students get really excited by the time I am done with my demonstration.

I turn the kiddos loose and tell them they have to build till it is time to clean up!!!  I walk around help students that struggle with concepts they want to try, offer positive feedback to students.  After about half way through class I will walk around with my iPad and record students that struggle with building 3D and using an appropriate amount of glue.

I like to let these rest/dry for a few hours and hang in the hall.

They are impressive when all posted together on a board!


2nd Grade - Mock Batik

This is the project I did at the very beginning of the school year, with second grade.  As I have posted before I like to do name projects as our first projects, because it refreshes my memory and they can all write their own names - thus everyone succeeds!! Hooray!

First day we practice bubble letters - both normal bubble letters then FUNKY bubble letters.  Funky bubble letters are the same as normal bubble letters, only you use fun lines like zig-zag, castle top, curly, etc.

The next class students got a final paper in which they wrote their name - normal, funky, or a combination.  Then they traced their name with a black oil pastel and added 5 lines that started on one edge and went off a different edge.  (A few students needed to add a few more lines to break up the space).

Next, I explained what a batik was (I tried to find a good video, but found nothing - if you have one let me know!).  I told them that other countries mainly used batik to decorate fabric.  The artist/worker would take hot wax and draw pictures onto a piece of fabric, then dye the fabric a color -- wherever there was the wax no dye would stain.  This process would continue till everything was dyed as desired.  In the end the wax was washed off with hot water and a beautiful piece of fabric was ready to be used.  I showed students some batik cloth.

I explained that we wouldn't be adding hot wax to fabric, but instead we would use colored wax to color our pictures.  I asked students if they knew what crayons were made out of - WAX!  I instructed them to color their pictures by pressing SUPER HARD and coloring each section a different color.  (They could repeat colors, just not next to each other.)

After their WHOLE pictured was colored, and I was pretty picky about having very little white space.  I had students crumple their papers into really SMALL balls 3 times - flattening it out each time.

Next, students took their wrinkled, but flattened paper to the sink where there was a cup with watered down temp paint (I did some classes with black - some with blue).  Students painted over their whole papers with the paint - then rinsed off the paint with a gentle stream of water.

What was left was nothing short of magic - their papers had beautiful colored wax, and the paint stuck to all the creases they made when they crumpled it.

Students oooo-ed and ahhhh-ed and showed their friends!

 I even had a student bring in a batik stamp from a trip they went on!







11.05.2012

5th Grade Production is a PRODUCTION

Wow - where to start?  I didn't mean to take a break from this blog - it just kind of happened.  October was full of teaching my normal classes, 5th Grade production (it is a production in every sense of the word), collecting and organizing 5th grade production T-shirts (this included a crash course in Adobe Illustrator), finalizing and organizing a Spirit Wear order for the school, contacted a really awesome artist for a future visit, class collaboration art masterpieces for a district auction, grades, and I tried to squeeze in another fundraiser - Young Masters - this ended up having to be postponed...

So, I guess what I am trying to say - is that it has been, well, a bit busy!

Wool Pirate Hair
Let's start with 5th Grade Production.  I love 5th grade production in every single sense of the whole event - well maybe not the extra talking from students during rehearsals or loosing prep time on Tuesdays - okay... so I love mostly everything about production.  Production is hard to describe in words - production is a PRODUCTION.  Organizing 4 teacher visions for a show, with 84 5th graders --- it couldn't be anything less than a production.

Pirate Costume Party
I really enjoy that the students have a voice in our show, they share ideas and we try to incorporate as much of it as we can.  I had four students arrange one of their songs into a rap - we recorded it (thanks iPad).  I think it is super special that the students apply/try out for what they want to do: actor, musician, dancer, set design/chorus.  We are lucky to have a drama and dance teacher at this Elementary school - and they rock.

So, normally production starts in 4th grade with a gathering of ideas and characters.  Then the ARTs (dance, music, drama and myself) and 5th grade teachers mull over the student ideas to try and make a story/plot.  Last year our drama teacher wrote the script - it was AMAZING.  This year there was not time - so we bought a script based on the interest of our students.

Luckily the script stated we could alter the story, add songs, take things out - it was perfect.  We added some songs, took out others, let the musicians re-create some.  Students drew out ideas for backdrops in my room -- I took ideas from multiple papers to create the 3 backdrops for this show, which the students mostly painted.  Dancers created original movements and dances for songs.  Musicians composed original songs and sound effects for the show.  Actors memorized lines and blocking!


Our show this year was Treasure Island - so most of the kids would need some kind of pirate outfit.  I wasn't sure how to get kids to make a pirate-ish shirt, how to collect objects, how to deal them out.... Then, our Dance teacher had a brilliant idea - a costume party.  So, one day instead of having normal 'specials' during our 5th grade time - students went into a creative, surprisingly controlled costume making frenzy.  Students added paint, sparkle glue, buttons, leaves - they cut, sewed, and added bits and pieces to make their costumes all their own.  My favorite part was this awesome wool I happened upon on a donation to the high school - it looked just like dreads.  I cut and glued chunks together for 'pirate hair' - it was wickedly cool.

For the next 8 weeks, once a week for about 30 minutes students split up into their assigned jobs and we created a show.  We had 3 after school rehearsals to mesh all the acting, dancing, musicians and such together.  Then we had a full day TECH rehearsal so my kids could learn when to change the set, spots knew who to follow - what lines were sound cues for music.

Front of their T-shirt - 100% kid designed
Now, while production was happening on Tuesday mornings - during normal 5th grade art time students became Graphic Designers and designed their Production T-shirt.  In the end, the students voted it down to 3.  I combined those 3 ideas because the votes were so close.

It is a SHORT LONG 8 weeks.  In many ways the 8 weeks drags on, but then it never feels like enough time.

Somehow, no matter how far behind we feel, or how crunched for time - it all pulls together for an amazing show.

I am SUPER proud of my 5th graders for all their hard work.