Art Teacher Tales
My favorite lessons, tricks and professional developments.
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.