Saturday, June 20, 2015

Kindergarten Color Mixing and Life Cycle Observation! RES

There are a few more RES projects I want to make sure to share.  
These color-mixing masterpieces are one of those.

Kindergarteners have been working all year to learn how to mix colors from just the primaries.  It's a skill that I support by trying as often as possible to give only those colors to students. In this project they had access to the primary colors plus white.
Look at that sweet little table upon which the artist perched the vase, and that little window!

There was a lot going on in this deceptively simple still-life. We looked Van Gogh's paintings of sunflowers, and at a basket of sunflowers in the classroom as well to identify basic parts of the plant.  We also talk about the roles of the different plant parts- the leaves gather sun, the stem acts like a straw, etc.  We refer to the plant parts as we paint to identify the colors we see and talk about how to mix them.

This project began with tracing. Yup, tracing. I discovered a couple of years ago that an astonishing number of my older students in grade two actually couldn't  trace a shape, and it alarmed me that as much as we devalue tracing as a culture, it is an important skill.  Essentially, using the edge of a ruler is tracing.  If you are only near the edge of it, and not tracing  it, the line will not come out straight, thus defeating the point of the ruler itself.  So, I created a couple of projects that integrate tracing as a skill, and begin teaching it in Kindergarten.

What they have traced here is the vase shape.  I made several different shapes and sizes of vases, and the students begin by selecting and trying to trace all the way around the shape, rotating their paper halfway and keeping their pencil on the edge of the shape.

Students add flowers, beginning with the seed centers, which students noticed were circles. Depending on where the flower was in its life cycle, some of the flowers were upright, arching, or altogether droopy.  When students added stems, petals, and leaves, we discussed ways to use those plant parts to give more information about each flower's point in its life cycle.  We also branched out from sunflowers, experimenting with the shapes of the petals.

Our last step in pencil was to add a surface on which the vase was sitting.  We observed the sunflower basket in the room and talked at length about how to make the vase appear to be fully sitting on a surface. We noticed that when an object sits on a surface, that you cannot see the full back edge of the surface, because the object is visually overlapping it.  So, we tried to make our vases overlap the tables upon which they sat.

When we got to color mixing, we identified colors and plant parts we observed. Students used the color wheel to mix green first for their stems and leaves, then, using leftover green, added red to make brown for the seed centers. 

The petals were painted the artist's choice of colors, as were the background, vase, and table.  Some students added patterns of dots or stripes to the vases and tables as well.

The focus was on allowing students to experiment with their color mixing for those elements. We varied the size of brush we used as well for the different parts of the painting.

The last step was outlining the elements with black marker to help the colors and shapes stand out and "pop" visually. Whew!  These hardworking artists ended up with incredibly beautiful and well-earned results. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Goodbye RES! My Own Love Note.

 Dear RES,

       What a lovely family of students, colleagues, and families with whom to spend five years.  I am so lucky. This morning when getting ready for work, I decided to skip the eye makeup.  After work I was attending a friend's retirement party, and I didn't want to show up with raccoon eyes from crying about leaving all of you lovelies.
      Good thing, too, because right at the end of the day, when everything was high and dry on my face, this happened- a love note from the whole darn school!

 What are all those little dots on that board?  Thumbprints.  Here they are closer:

If it hard been a card that they all signed, that would be lovely, and I'd have been fine, but no. Thumbprints. It was too much. I got through the last class, had lots of hugs, and cried my pathetic sobby way home.

Because I know all of those thumbprints. They have been all over my classroom, my artwork, and my clothes all year. Little thumbs covered in paint left printed on my tables. Pressed onto my cabinets while leaning and waiting in line.  Washed from the soap dispensers.  Smudging the mirrors.  Pressed on my skirts from eager hands tugging.  Stamped onto my own artwork, examples passed about and clutched tightly.

I know those thumbprints, and I will miss them all.

Thank you for welcoming me into your community, into your school, and for letting all of those little thumbs print right on my heart.

Love, sparkles, and delightful mess,

Mrs. Elliott

P.S. Please excuse me for being a mush.
P.P.S. Thanks for indulging it today.

This. This is why I am an art teacher.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

UseItUp! Masks- RES

What does an art teacher do at the end of the year when you have a little of this, a little of that, and tub of construction paper scraps?  Make some zany masks, of course.

These are nothing groundbreaking, nothing revolutionary, but if you ask a second grader at RES they will likely say it was the most awesome project ever!

Step 1: Give the kids a some background info on mask-making traditions around the world. I took a pretty wide brush with this, as there are so very many cultures with vastly differing mask traditions.

 Step 2: Use a large, vertically oriented piece of construction paper, fold it in half, and cut out an interesting shape for the head.

Step 3:  Focus on a feeling you want the mask to give: Fierce? Sad? Silly? Angry?

Step 4:  Give kids access to everything but the kitchen sink, so to speak. Glitter? Sure! Pom poms, yarn, pipe cleaners, feathers, markers, paper curling machine, hole punches, paper scraps? Yes.

This lesson spanned only two classes here at the end of the year.  The second graders just felt so free in this activity, it felt so open, creative, and experimental for them. They are super proud of their work, because each mask is quite different and generated from their own imaginations.

 The part they seemed to enjoy best was walking around the room to see the choices other artists were making.
I love that tongue!  
How did you make those teeth?
It's neat how the nose is 3D!

I loved how happy this little lesson made them. It's frankly the type that I avoid- I fear inappropriate cultural appropriation and misunderstanding of traditions. But I think I need to work to acknowledge that this is also a lesson that makes students feel so imaginative and satisfied!

It's portfolio week, so all of these, along with their other artwork, is coming home soon! 
Enjoy their zany creations!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Perspective Taking- Post #100! RES

As I have come to this 100th post, I have had a lot of time to reflect this past year on my teaching. That's been the best part of blogging.

I love teaching art. It might make me sound like a loon, but rarely, even in childhood, did I ever imagine doing anything else. Some days are hard- it's a messy, fast-paced job that is full of endless surprises and twists, both good and bad.  I go to bed pretty dang early to keep up with it.

But many, many days I drive home thinking to myself thoughts such as, "Well, that was a really great day. The kids had fun, the new lessons I tried are working, and I have tricked them into integrating math without knowing it."

Lots of my students tell me that they "hate math." It seems to be, by far, the most vastly disliked subject in the informal polls of one another that children do when they have a moment to chat (e.g. "Raise your hand if you like..."). To me, this is a terrible shame- it's my next favorite school subject after art.

In my eternal effort to engage learners in subjects they "hate," I try to integrate content areas into art- both to bring art-doubters an in-road to using their visual strengths, and also to use the arts as an avenue for growth and exploration in other subject areas.

To be honest, I know what I want my classroom to look like, what I want my learners to love, so when I fall short it is especially frustrating, so I try to take their perspective and understand what didn't work and why. 

Perspective drawing.  Seeing things from a single view point.  Not your own. You and I cannot stand side by side and see exactly the same thing. Say we are looking at a small wooden block. You'll see one side of it, but I might see a different face of it. We have to literally stand in one another's shoes to see things exactly the same way as the other person.

It's also what we hope to teach our students to do- think about someone else's thinking, and adjust and modify behavior, words, and choices accordingly. 

So, maybe I love math, and all these angles and lines come naturally. Maybe that child doesn't.  Or he's tired. Or she's hungry. Or someone sitting next to him is making it look "easy" and he is afraid his won't be as "good."

So we adults- teachers, parents- push, then hug, then push again. We raise the bar, then listen and compromise when it is out of reach. Then we adjust it for the next person in line. Or we readjust it again for the same child to a different spot, because it is a new day, or a different moment.  That's parenting. That's teaching.

This lesson.  Make 5-7 geometric, straight edge shapes that disappear to a single vanishing point.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott.  Maybe so. Don't forget to use your ruler.

What else, Mrs. Elliott? Try curving shapes, they are much trickier.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott, curved shapes don't have corners. I know. Keep trying.

What else, Mrs. Elliott? Try stacking them inside of each other, like they are hollow.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott. Don't forget that all the lines that aren't faces connect to your vanishing point.

What else, Mrs. Elliott? Try creating a light source, let shadows and values add dimension and volumes.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott. Use a scrap paper, you won't smear your pencil as easily.

What else, Mrs. Elliott? Cut off your shapes into prisms, so that they look like they are bursting out from the center.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott.  No joke. I didn't draw like that until the end of high school.

Your students knock my socks off. 
They bring out the best in me, and it has been a pleasure to teach here at RES. 

I will miss all of your children, and look forward to visiting next year.
Thank you, thank you, for letting me be a part of your school community. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Grade 2 Self-Portraits- RES

Second graders at RES have completed these lovely self-potraits.  These artists worked hard to show emotions on their face while trying for an accurate reflection of their appearance.

Self-portraits are a great way for students to explore the concept of a sense of self, and allows them to choose how to present that self to the world through art.

Spending time looking at themselves in a mirror and drawing what they see lets them focus on what makes them special or unique both inside and out.

This allows students to see not only how they are different from others, but all of the ways that we are all alike.

This is particularly true as we explore the math of the human face. Students are using basic bath skills of proportion and fractions to place the features on their faces, and are discovering universal commonalities of human facial structure.

These artists have excellent shape recognition and can use that skill to help them accurately draw the shapes they see in their own faces.

They have done lots of color mixing to create the correct tones for their skin, hair, and eyes.  The background colors that they have chosen often contribute to the mood of the piece or tell you something about the artist, like a favorite color.

These artists have been able to sequence multistep directions to create these portraits.  We began in pencil to draw the initial work, traced those lines with permanent markers, and added color with oil pastels and watercolor paints.

Self-portraiture is a mainstay in art rooms for many excellent reasons. In addition to students finding these to be of very high interest to create, they function as a marker in time and artistic development, which is why my students all create one each year (Kindergarteners 2014-15) (Fourth graders 2014-15).  The styles, materials, and lesson goals change and become more challenging over time, but the essence is of considering one's concept of self: ever-changing and always growing!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

First Grade Fleurs- RES

Here in northern Vermont, it has been raining for days and days.  
In case you are starting to feel a little grumpy about it, perhaps this will cheer you up.

RES first graders can remind you that all this rain will bring some stellar summer flowers!

These deceptively simple looking fleurs were made just this week.  What is tricky about them?  The big concepts on which we focused this lesson were color temperatures (warm versus cool) and discerning positive and negative space (or in this case, object versus background).

After using tempera cake to paint big beautiful flowers in bold black lines, artists were asked to choose to paint the object warm and the background cool, or vice-versa, their choice. This was harder than you might think, because it leads to the colors, in some areas, not being at all intuitive. For example, if the artist painted a blue and purple flower with green leaves, then the ground and background sky might be red or yellow.

Alternately, like this one above, if you have a cool background (green grass, blue sky), then your entire flower was warm (pink blossom, orange leaves).

Whew!  Hopefully, not too confusing. It helped to have separate trays of warm and cool colors at separate tables.  I think the physical traveling from one table to another, one paint palette to another, helped these young artists transfer focus and color from one area of the work to the other.

The big idea here is to get students to paint not just what the colors are "supposed" to be, but to instead keep focus on distinguishing between warm and cool in separate areas, leading to unexpected and fun visual results.

 Happy rainy week!  May there be lots of blossoms in your future.