Upper Elementary Guided Sketchbooks

So, earlier this year I mentioned that I was going to do guided sketchbooks with my upper elementary students (3-5).  So far I LOVE it!  The goal of the sketchbooks was to review skills, introduce skills, and even have some fun.  I wanted the sketchbooks to be an activity we did to warm up the creative sides of their brains - much like warming up your voice in music, warming up your body in dance or P.E.  I am not sure if it actually warms up the creative side of their brain - but I have noticed it totally focuses the kids.

For the first 4 minutes of every art class the students sit at their seats with low lighting, a sketchbook page and no talking.  I decided to have this silent to help their brain switch over, but also to help them focus on doing one task for only a few moments.

When the time is up students attached their newest page to their sketchbook and prepare for instructions.

While some kids love it and some tolerate it - I have found that these simple four minutes do A LOT for the kids and for me that I never intended.  For many students that four minutes helps to reset their day/mood.  On more than one occasion I have had a student come in hot-to-trot or in tears - whether from a rough day or moment -- those four minutes in low light without talking and doing something creative will often calm them down.  It also seems to focus the class as a whole when it is time to work on the current project - they are still themselves, but not quite as revved.

These small four minutes at the beginning of class also provides me with some time to breathe.  My classes are back to back - no 5 minutes between classes here, so when one class leaves, another is at my door.  While I do my best to prep for the day - sometimes it just doesn't get done, or it can't sit out all day.... blah blah blah.  So these few minutes provide me with a second to finish prepping paint, switch out the board with class objectives, or simply take a deep breath.

The sketchbooks have also been great on limiting the amount of free draw paper my students consume!  They may freedraw on the backs of the sketchbook pages, or work on old pages.

OH! Also, having this 4 minutes at the beginning of class is great for kids who NEVER finish their projects.  Instead of having them do a sketchbook page, they work on their project for those 4 minutes without talking! It is amazing how much they accomplish.

So, how does this all work?  Well I started gathering ideas on Pinterest this summer.  Then the tough part - how I am going to have time to do all of this?!?! I went back and forth on a few ideas that ranged from pre-done books to index cards -- nothing was going to be fast and cheep.  Then from somewhere in the universe the idea came to me.  Use normal paper and cut it in half!  I wanted to make sure the students had enough room to draw on the same side as the instructions so I cut each paper in half the long way.  In word I turned my paper landscape, copy and pasted images from my sketchbook idea page, turned them sideways, and put two on each page.  This way I could easily print them from either school.  I print what I need for the week, use the automatic 3 hole paper puncher in the lounge (that way the holes always line up), cut in half -DONE.  I did have to spend a few dollars at each school buying enough one inch binder rings to hold the whole thing together -- but it seems to work fine.


Mrs. C said...

What a great idea! I have toyed with the idea of sketch books but like you said the cost , etc always put me off! This may be something I can develop for next year! Thanks for sharing! :)

Ackart said...

Love this sketchbook idea. I wondered how or where you store these ringed books? Do you have a pic?
I do sketchbooks with 6th grade but like this as a transition for the younger kids.

Mrs. Anderson said...

I too love this idea! I have done printer paper with 12x18 tag folded as a cover for sketch books with 3rd-5th. I stopped doing this 2 years ago because it always took time to get them out and sorted. Even when having them stored by table in cubbies some kids would go through their paper and need more, not put them away in the right spot etc. This is great that they get it and and can go get started right away then add it in. I toyed with the idea of using folders with the three ring holes but the cost is still there and folding the prongs in and out wouldn't last. The rings you use could be reused if you staple the work at the end of the year.

Would you be willing to share some of the sketchbook pages that you made so far? My email is aanders3 at hpseagles. net

My classes are also back to back. I have the kids come in and put their head down like a resting Mona. Then I greet them and they greet me back. This works well. There is a table assigned to get the table folders out and it gives me a second to breath the students are more calm too. I too do 5 min of silence while they work to shift their brains so they are being more art smart. This is after demo/intro to project Still I think this might be nice to add for the slower workers and students who were gone the class time before. THis would give time to catch them up a little on their project. Bravo! Very nicely done! :)

Suzanne said...

I am looking for an alternative to traditional sketchbooks because of the number of students I see, over 1,000. Have you done any tweaking to your system since you started this system? I would also appreciate any storage tips for these you may have.

How did you set up the expectation for this ritual? I have tried to have a silent 5 minutes beginning to class but it seemed to take forever to get students to adhere to it.

Ms Novak said...

It went really well. I had some students embrace them more than others - but that is to be expected.

1) To store these I put them in plastic bins I got at the dollar store - the 'shoe' size ones that stack. Each class had their own bin. I would do my best to collect them by tables at the end of class so they were easier to pass out the next time.

2)The expectation was set up by first explaining how the sides of the brain work - I talked with them about how they warm up their bodies in gym/dance, they warm up their voices in music and in drama they warm up both! So, we need to warm up the creative side of the brain - but to do that, you can't talk because that uses the OTHER side of the brain.

3) When students didn't adhere to the no talking rule - I would simply relocate them. No reminders, no second chances, no drama. I would simply say "Ethan please work on the floor" or "Jessica move to the break table". After a couple of moves they find the self control to keep quite. I also found that having the sketchbooks for 4 minutes worked better than 5.

4) Post sketchbook I give the students 1 minute to transition into our lesson for the day - I often will let them choose between their assigned seat and the floor up front in front of the board.

Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.