Art Teacher Tales
My favorite lessons, tricks and professional developments.
I spent two weeks dressed up like a made scientist and not one adult questioned me. I mean, I had a lab coat and goggles! You would think that someone would have thought it was strange but I guess it's expected form me.
So why was I dressed like a mad scientist? (Thanks for asking.) Well coloring mixing is very scientific. I start my lesson with some explicit teaching of the primary colors. To help students remember these primary colors I want to connect them with something they know. I chose superheros because superheros generally wear primary colors. I let them name some of those superheros and we connect them to those primary colors. Superman is a great example because he wears all three primary colors, and the primary colors are pretty super!
Next I share that primary colors are super because they make other color when we mix them. This is when I break out my test tubes and food coloring. I put on my goggles since we are doing science and we start to mix out primaries. Like good scientist we also make predictions about what colors they will make. This is also great for an informal pre-test.
After our class experiment student go to their tables to do their own experiment. At the table they have black paper, all three primary colors in cups, and fat paint brushes in each color. Students choose only two colors to mix. One color gets put on one side of the line and the second on the opposite side. To make sure they mix and don't just cover each other I have students sing their ABC's while they rub the paper. Then the Big Reveal!
This is the day that I teach drying rack procedures so we practice putting our work away and sit in a large circle on the carpet. Depending on the class some of them have some time left at the end so we either read Mix It Up by Herve Tullet or listen to OK Go's "Three Primary Colors". This all takes place in a 40 minute session.
The following class we start by reviewing the primary and secondary colors. Then we talk about how we can turn our mushes into monsters. To make the concept relatable we look at an image of a cloud. Most of us have looked at clouds and imagined that they look like other familiar objects. Students and I add details to our cloud on the SMART Board to help others see what we see. Once that idea is cemented for them we read Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems to give us some idea's for our monster. In the past I have used construction paper crayons and they do work nicely but I did order metallic markers for next year. I'll have to update to tell you how it goes!
I generally do this lesson around Halloween so my Kinders are still new to school. A lot of them are still in the scribbling stage of drawing. This is expected and welcomed in this lesson. Most of the students are not able to draw forms yet but since they have a form to add on to there is a much higher success rate in this lesson compared to other drawing focused lessons. There are still a few students who scribble over the whole paper. Keep in mind I see 600-700 kinders a week and I maybe get four scribbled papers.
Have you guys tried metallic markers? Do you like them, love them, hate them?
My inspiration for 99% of my lessons comes from other art teachers. No matter how creative and original I think I am my idea's generally come from manipulating others ideas to fit my interests or purpose. This idea came from Nic Hahn who is an awesome blogger. Check out her blog if you have not yet! http://minimatisse.blogspot.com/
Nic did an awesome presentation for The Art of Education's Winter Conference doing collagraphs with charcoal. She was inspired by the artists Isabelle Arsenault. For my kinders I decided to use these technique with crayons and have my littles make some robots!
Working with Kinders there is always a lot of prep. Luckily, I see 26 kindergarten classes so all the prep is worth while! I spent hours cutting hundreds of shapes for their robots. I used only blue paper so students can easily follow my directions when I talk about the blue shapes. I also had to prepare the "naked crayons". Soaking doesn't really do the trick for wax crayons. Instead, I used an Exacto to slice the paper and peel it off. Before the students came into the art room I set up their "Work Station" and laid out all of their materials on the table. Their work station was simply a light purple piece of construction paper. I wanted to make sure they built their robots with in a space that was the same as their paper. This also allowed me to teach them about registration before we got into Gelli printing.
I made a video for this lesson because I knew I would be out for a day. I love being able to give the sub a video. I originally made a video with sound but I muted the video and spoke as they watched I found my students listened so much better. That video is up on my YouTube now! There are a lot of steps for this lesson but I found my student worked really well together to remember all these steps. First, I explained that printmaking is how artists, like us, make copies. When student got to their tables they built their robot with the blue pre-cut shapes on their purple work stations. I reiterated that this is not your final work, but instead what you will be coping. Next they placed their white paper over their robot and rubbed their naked crayons over top lightly. This fine motor skill is had for some students so I did make sure to circulate and model for the students who needed it. The light covering allows the student to see where everything is so they can choose colors for certain parts of their robot. Once the robot is copied students used a texture plates to fill in the background. I used the Roylco texture plates. Last students added some details with crayon to finish up their beautiful robots!
In 40 minutes most students were able to make more then one robot. I do feel that making multiples reenforced the idea that printmaking is how artists make copies but I could have added another step. I was debating having students add watercolor but I think these robots are just awesome they way they are! I (of course) had one student decide to go her own way and after her robot she made this adorable little fox.
What are your thoughts? To watercolor or not to watercolor?
I have done this Sunglass Selfie lesson at the end of the year with my kinders for the past three years. This lesson is a mash up of a bunch of Pinterest finds with some of my own input. I save this lesson for the end of the year because creating accurate proportions of the face are difficult for kinders but also because this lesson only requires crayons. This frees me up to put away all the rest of my supplies for our summer break.
There are two main objectives in this lesson. I want students to consider proper proportions of the face and I want them to choose skin color for their projects that they think matches them best. Notice that I do not expect each students to have perfect proportions or to have accurate skin tone. I introduce proportions because some students are ready for that concept and they can create more realistic work but not every artist follows those rules and it is the same for my students. I don't stress skin color because some students identify themselves as darker or lighter for an array of reasons and who am I to take that away from them. For instance, I had a student who was adopted. His skin tone was notably darker then his families but he self-identified as having lighter skin. I let it slide because he really searched for the skin color he though was right.
The best tool I have found to teach proportions of the face is my SMART Board. I pull up the shape of the head and students and I draw a face the way we think it should be drawn, then I keep our drawing up and I turn to the next slide which has a face drawn with guidelines. Without fail we always end up with eyes on the forehead. Then we analyze the face with guidelines and we try again. Students love to see me make mistakes and I also get to model how I erase and try again. Students use a stencil to create the shape of the head because we need big heads for our oversized sunglasses. I have also noticed that they love using those guidelines and they really think about drawing lightly so they can erase them after. I also talk in length that hair does not sit on top of your head and that drawing your ears first will help you get the right shape for your hair line.
My favorite art room book for discussing skin color is The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. The book is a little silly and really shows a range of skin colors. I have used this book in classes that were predominately one color or another and it worked great for both. It also sparked great conversation about how none of us are actually black or white but instead we are all different shades of brown. I walk my student through the process of trying to find the right skin tone for me and they are generally very happy to tell me that my cheeks are more red then the rest of my face. Thanks guys... I also show how to blend multiple colors together. We use Crayola Multi-Cultural Crayons and I added some colored tape so those crayons don't get mixed with the others.
Drawing and coloring the face usually takes a little more then one 40 minute class period so I introduce the sunglasses at the beginning of the second class. As a class we brainstorm about things we wear in the summer and sunglasses always come up. I then take out my sunglasses, put them on and we talk about the two pats of sunglasses, the frames and lenses. I am a sunglass hoarder so I have all kinds of fun sunglasses. When we look at the frames of my sunglasses I ask the students to tell me what they see. They mentioned that sometimes they can see my eyes but someone always notices that they can se their reflection. We then talk about how there is always a reflection in my sunglasses of what I am seeing. We talk about things we will see this summer and, for this lesson, I always show them an example. Again, I gave students tracers because these sunglasses need to be really big to add drawings in the lenses. My fashion designers get to work making their frames first and then adding the drawing of what they will see.
The sunglasses also take a little longer then the 40 minute session so during the third class students finish up coloring their work, cut out their sunglasses, and they come to me to attach their sunglasses. Because the portraits are soooo cute I don't want to permanently cover their beautiful faces so we use double sided tape and the glasses can come on and off. This last week is very easy for me which in ideal for the last week of school. I also found that some teachers also use these at their kindergarten graduations.
Since I was a child I have always loved Eric Carl books. The visuals are so unique and interesting and I find that my students love them too. When I start my Eric Carl lesson I always start with an Eric Carl book. This year I started with The Very Hungry Caterpillar because we just finished making paper mache bugs and because I found a great video of Eric Carl reading this story. My students loved seeing the actual artist and it helped them connect the art they saw to the person who made it. Find that video here.
After we watched the book I quickly explained his process of creating texture paintings, cutting shapes, and collaging those papers together. In every class students asked what texture was. I love when I get them to ask the question instead of me telling them what they should know. To explore texture we rub the carpet, our clothes, and our hair and we come up with texture words or words that describe texture. Next I show a video of Eric Carl preparing paper for his large murals. I like this video because he is working large so the texture is easy to see and he is also using a broom to make texture. This leads to great discussions and helps spring board into what we will be doing during class two. Find Eric Carl at work here.
Day two is where is gets real messy! We reviewed our lesson from the class before but we really focused on why Eric Carl used a broom to paint. The answer: to create texture! Then students get to work. At their tables students get colored 12x 18 construction paper each, one tray with a few different colors of tempera paint, and everyday objects to paint with. This is a great lesson to use up old construction paper and the last of your paint. The objects I used were loofas, scrub brushes, marbles, rubber pastry brushes and toy trucks. I got all of these materials from the dollar store. My only instruction to the students was to cover their entire paper with texture. I do suggest doing this project towards the end of the year because they need to know your routine for washing at the sink.
I do not have student put their name on the painting because all the finished work get sorted into colors so students can use any colors for their finial piece. This year, I had one of my schools make any kind of animal that they wanted. The other school was asked to create an animal that could fly. I found that the flying animals were more developed then the open ended animals because the students were sharing ideas and looking at each others work for inspiration. I did not talk too much about how to cut and glue to make a collage since we have been working on those skills through out the whole year.
Since this lesson ended around mother's day I allowed my early finishers to make flowers for mom from the excess texture paper. I was so impressed with the compositions that they came up with! Next year, when I do this lesson with my new kinders I plan on having them make flowers instead of animals and here is why. The shapes of the flower are easier for students to visualize because they are shapes that they can name; circles, ovals, etc. Students were getting to complex with their animal shapes and they began to get very tiny. This made it hard to add details. Second, my kinders had just finished learning about the parts of the flower in their classroom. Because of this they were able to add more details to their flowers. Now next year I can have early finished challenges themselves by making animals.
I first was introduced to the Cray-Pen at my state's annual conference. The Cray-Pen is essentially a soldering iron meant for crayons. Since I teach primarily Kinder I dismissed the tool as something that would be unsafe for my little ones but probably cool for older students. Then, at a SCALA (Suffolk County Art Leaders Association) workshop I had the chance to play with one. I was instantly hooked and purchased one online before the class ended. They are pretty cheap (under 15 dollars) and really easy to use. The first thing I noticed was that it made great dots. We talked about how this tool would great for teaching pointillism or to add a twist to Aboriginal dot painting.
When I got the Cray-Pen home the first thing I made was a self-portrait, my number one go to. I did a sketch on the paper fist and then started laying down dots. I added dots closer together in some spots and layered colors in others. Eventually I started blending the dots together and was extremely happy with the result. The melted dots created a whole new array of textures and started to give a similar look to my oil paintings.
I made two pieces with the Cray-Pen during the school year but really... who has time to really investigate a new material during the last few months of school? So I brought my Cray-Pen with me to Moore College's Teacher Summer Institute. Read more about TSI HERE. I went to Blick and loaded up on some bristol board, wood panels and a heat gun. The first thing I did was take my heat gun to my self-portrait to see what it did. The crayon soaked into the paper giving a completely different texture.
Next I tried some portraits and a landscape just to see what I could get my new tool to do. I was enjoyed the process but I was not crazy with the result. Representational work is within my comfort zone but I really wanted to branch out from my go tos. That is when I started to make some more abstract pieces with the Cray-Pen and I started cranking out pieces. From investigating what this new tool could do to finding a new voice through abstract visuals, I am very satisfied with the work I was able to create with a tool meant from kids and Crayola crayons.
I also want to note that all these pieces are coated with Golden's self leveling gel. I did the following piece on a canvas and it immediately wanted to flake off so I had to seal in the wax some how. I loved the result and have used the gel on all the crayon pieces. It protects them and adds a great luster.
Have you ever had a professional development feel like a vacation? How about a PD that gives you the time and space to develop yourself as an artist? Yeah.... me neither, until I came to Moore College for their Teacher Summer Institute.
The Teacher summer was a really amazing experience for so many reason. I am going to tell you everything I loved about the program and some tips I learned my first year here. I say "first" because I definitely plan to come back! I was initially attracted to the program for two reasons. First off, it was an opportunity to spend one week to do nothing else but work on my own art. When does that ever happen? Like many other art teachers I squeeze in art making time where I can but it is so hard when I spend so much time and energy focused on my students. It was an absolute joy to have the space and time to make art for myself. Second, I earned three graduate credits for my time here and I can keep earning graduate credits each time I come. These were the cheapest and most enjoyable three credits I have ever earned.
The best thing about this program is that you literally have nothing better to do then to make art all week. The food is included (and delicious, like really, really delicious), I stayed in the dorms and I had hours upon hours of scheduled art making time. On the first day we meet up in the studios with other participants and our studio guide. Jerry was great at giving advice when people wanted it and great at leaving us alone when we didn't. During lunch they had their professors come in to speak about their area of expertise. Then before dinner we all meet up to talk about our experiences in the studio, Philadelphia and teaching art in general. This time was facilitated by a retired art teacher and was beneficial because it gave you some time to reflect on the day. After dinner we had the option to be done for the night, go back to the studio or go to a separate where they provided a model for figure drawing. If you go to this program, take advantage of this opportunity! I have not had the experience to work with a model since I graduated with my bachelors. It was a great exercise for me but it also helped me get into that student mindset that fades as you become a teacher.
My week at Moore was rejuvenating, inspiring, and much needed after a year of focusing on 700+ kinders! The program is amazing but the best part about it was the other art teachers there. The whole group was broken into two studios so when I was stuck of struggling I could turn to anyone of them for help. They had amazing suggestions and were always willing to lead a supply or two when needed. My roommate and studio buddy spent the week quilting. As I worked on investigating melted crayon I noticed I was gravitating toward geometric patterns. I was certainly inspired by her and it really elevated my work. Bottom line... if you want a great, week long, art centered professional development then sign up for Moore College of Art and Designs Teacher Summer Institute!