Rectangular Prisms (3-D Buildings) and Making Thinking Visible

Okay - so I have been thinking about updating this blog for weeks now - but I have been SO busy, that by the time I get home, I just don't have any energy to write a coherent blog message.  Which is kind of hilarious because it is currently 9:30 pm.  I was at school at 7:50 this morning and left tonight at 9:00...... one word:  conferences.

Anyhow, something amazing happened today in my room and I just need to share!

I have posted on here about my exploration into Making Thinking Visible - my struggles and ideas of how awesome it is.  Today I didn't do a thinking routine, but the thinking routines gave me the foundations for a discussion we had today in third grade.

Lets back up a minute:

Last week we reviewed 3-D shapes: sphere, pyramid, triangular prism, cone, cylinder, rectangular prism, and cube.  After we reviewed shapes I told them we were going to draw rectangular prisms - but from the corner and we were going to pretend that they were VERY tall so we couldn't see the top.  This means we would see the front corner, two flat sides, two far corners and the top edges but not the top itself.  (I got this idea for this project here).

I had the kids draw a bunch of arrows - varying in height and size.  Next we drew straight lines down from the tips of the arrows - if the line touched another arrow then it stopped.  Low and behold tall rectangular prisms.  We then decided to add windows and doors to our shapes to make them into buildings!

Back to the present:

So this week we are painting their buildings.  I first thought about making them use certain colors to help them with their color theory - but at the last minute I just let them paint.  We talked briefly about colors that work better together and having a high contrast between the buildings and the sky.  As students worked it seemed more that they just painted with colors they liked and didn't really plan ahead.

This was a little frustrating, but I also had told them to paint however they felt moved to paint, so I couldn't be too upset.  (The only rule I really put on them was that they needed to paint IN their picture and not over.)

So, TODAY is where it got really interesting!  Instead of telling the kids about contrast and how different colors work together - I wanted them to find it on their own.  This is where my new foundation in Making ThinkingVisible helped out!

I took three paintings from yesterday's class (a different class) and hung them on the board before my new group came in, making sure to cover the names. (I also waited till the class left to take them down).  I wanted to make sure students could participate without fear or worry about someone critiquing their work.

I started by asking the kids to pick their favorite one.  No voices, no comments - just look and decide which one they liked best.  Then I asked them 'What made you pick that one?".  This time when they had an answer I wanted them to raise their hand.  When most hands were in the air I asked them to share with an elbow partner.

Next I asked them "Which is your least favorite?" then "What makes you like it the least?"  - I had them share.

Then we went through each picture and students raised their hand if it was their favorite - I then called on a few kids to share why.  For the same picture I asked who liked that one the least.  I, again, asked for students to share what made them decide that.  It was great to hear that some students like number one because of all the colors, but others didn't like it because they found the colors to be too much.  We repeated this for the next two.

While we were doing this I learned A LOT!  Turns out third graders enjoy lots of color - almost the whole class picked the first one as their favorite.  Interesting enough students didn't like three as much because the sky was green and not 'real' (which is also why it was the favorite for some kids).  I then pointed out that number one doesn't have a real sky either.  Hmmmm.....

So as we were doing this I realize that the whole reason I was asking these questions was to see if they could notice which buildings were easier to see - but no one was headed that way.  Most of the kids liked the pictures based on colors or craftsmanship.  This in itself was interesting.  Sometimes I forget that kids are kids and have a different aesthetic on art than I do.  I look at the pictures and find the contrast to be more pleasing, even though I love lots of bright colors.  It was helpful for me to learn this information about my students to see that their color choices were indeed choices and not as haphazard as I originally thought.

I then asked them two more questions:

1) Which one has the best craftsmanship? What makes you say that?

2) Which one is it easiest to see the buildings on?  What makes you say that?

This got even MORE interesting.  Students were all over the place for craftsmanship.  Some decided having white spots made it have poor craftsmanship, while others based it on how much the paint bled into other colors.  Ahh the lens of a 3rd grader.

I was expecting students to pick their favorite cities for the one you could see the buildings best in - being that those they already had a bias to.  Interestingly enough almost every kid in the class picked number two as being able to see the buildings the easiest.

We then spent some time exploring why number two was easier to see -- they all had buildings, all windows, all had doors, and all had the same kind of sky.  Number two had less colors and was most like number three - but number three was still kind of hard to see the buildings.  Students started to talk about light colors and dark colors and how the orange was a lighter color and blue more medium or dark.... this is where I jumped in and we talked about having high CONTRAST.  Colors opposite on the color wheel have a higher contrast and stand out against each other.  Colors on the color wheel that are close to each other have a lower contrast, meaning the colors are more similar.  So the third picture has yellow buildings and a green sky -- yellow and green are close to each other and have a low contrast.  Blue and orange in number two have a high contrast because they are across from each other on the wheel.  The first one uses the same colors on the building as in the sky so it all blends together.

At this point we talked about actively choosing the colors they wanted for their desired outcome.  Did they want LOTS of colors all over, but see the buildings less?  Did they want to be able to see the buildings easier?  I even had a kid pipe up and say that you could use cold colors on the sky and hot on their buildings because they are different.  Totally!

The class today I think had a better idea of what contrast means and what it looks like - I have no idea what their papers will look like... they didn't have a tone of time to paint today.  It will be interesting to see if there are more high contrasted pictures or more color everywhere.


Phyl said...

Sounds like you had a great discussion! My only question/concern would be my concern for the kids whose paintings you chose to critique. As a third grader, if kids are all saying they like your painting the least, and you think you worked REALLY hard on it, how does that make you feel? Or did you critique paintings from a different class so that the students doing the critique were not the ones whose work was on the wall. What do you think?

Ms Novak said...

Ahh! I am so sorry I didn't make that clear. I was very careful about it. I used work from a different class and had them posted, names covered before the class came in and waited for the class to leave before I took them down. The kids were not talking about artwork a classmate did, and they didn't know which class it came from.

Thanks for asking and I will make sure to edit my post to make that more clear.

Phyl said...

No problem! I didn't mean to be critical! I love the way you let the kids figure out what works best and why. Kids' perspective is always so interesting.

Anyhow, thanks for the shout-out; glad the project worked for you. I just had another idea about this project that your version made me think of. Wouldn't it be fun to do a Superman 'fortress of solitude'? Then Superman could be added flying over!

Ms Novak said...

I didn't take it critically at all! I have changed that paragraph around a little bit, so hopefully it is more clear.

I LOVE the super man idea! I might have to throw out that idea next time I do the project.

dmasse said...


Nat Ma said...

Truly beautiful observations for everyone.....THANK YOU