4th Grade: Silhouettes and Oil Pastel

I have no idea what to call this project - but it is really amazing and cool.  I got the majority of this lesson from smART Class, and then tweaked parts.  The high contrast, and visually dynamic product was perfect for my fourth graders.

The first day students and I reviewed what they know about colors - which colors mix to make others, which ones work well together, which ones make brown... etc.  Then we passed out liquid watercolors (honestly, never going back to cake watercolors), and two coffee filters per student.  Students were in charge of folding their coffee filters in half, twice, getting a paint brush and painting them.  This seems easy and perhaps 'boring' but the kiddos LOVED it.  The coffee filters absorb and bleed the colors around and into each other - something paper normally won't do.  It was fascinating.  The first class I introduced this to, I also planned to have them cut out their black paper - but only two kids got that far, so for rest of the classes we just enjoyed the painting.

Pumpkin patch and skeletons coming out of graves!
The second day I introduced what we were going to do with these filters.  (I purposefully did not tell them when they were painting, because I didn't want them to over plan).  I stressed to them that they did not have to do Fall or Halloween - but anything: a normal day, Christmas, Easter, a pretend place.  Our goal, rather, was to use shapes and size to help communicate to our audience what was happening not to do just Halloween.

Knee-high by the Fourth of July
Next, students used a tracer to trace and cut out a hole on their paper.  Next, students unfolded their dry coffee filters and picked which one to use for their project.  (I had students make two so that if they hated one they had another choice, and if they made a mistake on their coffee filter that we couldn't solve they had a back up).  They taped their coffee filters on the back of their paper, flipped it over and went to work drawing with a Sharpie in silhouette style. Some students really struggled with the idea of silhouette and others nailed it.  I think, in the future, I will try and introduce silhouette more purposefully and see if that helps.

The simple added detail of a house number.
The third week we busted out the oil pastels and grew our picture out into the black.  I encouraged students to take what they had already draw and continue that into the black space.  We did part of one on the board together - they brainstormed a bunch of ideas for me and then I did a 'think aloud' where I said everything I was thinking, including mistakes and changing my mind about things.  I reminded and encouraged students to use their knowledge about perspective - things far away appear smaller and things closer appear larger.  I also showed them how wonderfully oil pastels layer and blend.  I encouraged them to use more than one color for each part of their picture - if you have pumpkins, do more than just one color of orange.  I would show them and they would all 'ooooh'  'ahhh - that looks so real'.  I then, turned them loose.  Many remembered about perspective and applied it, some still are struggling with the idea that sidewalks should appear larger at one end.

On the fourth and final day students finished up and we did a whole class review/critique.  I post all finished work on the board.  I then set a timer for 10-15 minutes, depending on how much work is complete.  I explain to the class that if they need all class to finish they can use all class - however in 15 minutes I will clean up everyone who is done and we will do a class review.  They may join us as soon as they are complete.  So, after fifteen minutes I ask everyone who is done to clean up, anyone who is not done should ignore clean up and continue to work.  I pull everyone to the carpet and I lead them through a series of open ended questions.  Sometimes I ask them to point, sometimes to raise their hand, sometimes to pair share, sometimes share to the whole class.  My goal is to get them to look more critically at their own work and be inspired by each other.  Some questions I tend to ask:
"Find yours on the board.  When you have found it, please point at it so I know you found it."
And the field goal is good!
"Put your hands down and look at your own work.  Find something you feel you did a good job on.  When you have something, raise your hand. (wait for all hands).  Please share quietly with someone next to you".
"Look at the projects and find one, that isn't yours, that captures your attention.  For some reason out of all of them you keep coming back to this particular one.  Raise your hand when you have one. (wait for hands).  Now look at it more closely, maybe compare it to others around it - what about it captures your attention?  Notice I didn't ask which one you liked - I asked which one captured your attention and why.  When you share please use your artist words to describe what captured your attention for example: Ava's really captured my attention because the texture of her grass makes it look like its blowing in the wind.  NOT: I like Ava's because it is pretty.  Share with your neighbor about which one captures your attention and why."
Snow angles and the Aurora Borealis.
"Anyone want to share out to the class about which one captures their attention and why?" -- As kids do this I do not agree or disagree with their picks - simply  "okay" and call on another.  This review is not about what I think.
"Point at one that you feel used color really effectively -- find another"
"Point at one that you feel is very unique."
"Point at one that you feel has strong craftsmanship"
"Find yours again.  Look for something that you would change or add.  Maybe you were inspired by another student's idea or use of material.  Tell your neighbor.  Does anyone want to share out what they would change?"

Those shadows and highlights!

::Happy Sigh::

My last post was about how burned out I felt and how I was terrified that I wouldn't love my job anymore.

Well, we are seven-ish weeks into the school year and it's amazing!  I really do love my job.  I am a little weary that we are still in the beginning of things, but so far so good.  I have really ENJOYED my students so far this year.  Whenever I get stressed out, I try and remember to put it aside and be present at the moment with my kids.  Am I perfect about it - heck no, but things are WAY better.  My students seem happier too - they seem more willing to run with ideas and go for things - which could totally not be true.

I have a lot of posts and projects to update about - lots of neat ideas I have gathered and then introduced to my kiddos.  I will try and get some posted today, but first I have some bulletin boards I need to finish.

For more timely updates and pictures of what is going on in my classroom - follow Organized Chaos on Facebook



Okay. Let's be honest for a moment - the last handful of years have been tough for me in the teaching world. There have been lots of changes, and shifts in my professional realm that haven't all been easy to understand, accept, or adapt to.   During these changes, I tried to give the benefit of the doubt, I tried to be positive, I tried to express my thoughts and ideas.... But I kept feeling mad, disappointed, and the worst - frustrated. I felt like everything was a fight. I felt like giving up. 

I felt so burned out. 

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out
why I was so emotionally exhausted and fried.  Did I feel frustrated and burned out because of all the changes and shifts, or because every year my job has to survive the chopping block in April when the budget has to be balanced, or from constantly having to defend and advocate for the arts, or perhaps the "honeymoon" period was finally over after 8 years.  My conclusion - all of it. All of it was a contribution to my burnout. 

So, when the school year ended last spring and I packed up my classrooms, I decided to take the summer off - like off, off. No planning lessons in July, no planning the years units in August, no workshops, no school related books, no school email, no blog posts, no going in early (which I did break for a day). I decided to take a real break from it all to try and adjust my attitude - to let the burn out wash away.

Did it work?  I don't know. 

Teachers report back next week. I am anxious, as always, but also afraid that my burnout hasn't gone away. To be honest, I am terrified that I won't love my job like I use to. I use to be so sure that my vocation, or calling, was teaching art. I am afraid that I may have fallen into that young professional teaching statistic of burnout.  I hold onto the hope that I am just in a rut - that, like everything in life, there is a fluidity to it and if I hold on long enough, it will circle back.

My plan this year is to let go of everything I don't have control over, which I know is way easier said then done. I lost a lot of energy and a lot of momentum the last couple of years fighting and stressing over things I had absolutely no control over and I can't do it again.  It's not good for me, it's not good for my students and it's not good for my program. So, a new year, a new plan - it's all about my kids in my classroom, it's all about making art and thinking like artists - it's about celebrating mistakes and learning to preservere, it's about providing kids with a different way to think and succeed. I can't control if the district decides to tank the arts, or a slew of other things - so let's live in the moment we have and not worry about the future. I have this year to make a difference in the lives of my students - one day, one art class at a time. A friend of mine, who has provided lots of inspiration over the years, has coined the #everydaymatters and I think I will follow him in this journey. I need to reconnect, refocus, and be present with my kids this year, because everyday does matter. 

So, here is to a new school year. A new vision, a new attitude, and hopefully a renewing year. 

(I typed this post on my phone - please forgive any mistakes.)