Wednesday, December 26, 2012


 The last week of school was a fourth grade frenzy of fiber art. All the kids wanted to finish their embroidery work to bring home as presents. I gave them options to use a backing piece of felt as a frame, or to make a pocket or a pillow. Most of them chose a pillow.
 I'm really proud of them. They worked really hard to have good craftsmanship. Embroidery is a great medium for developing fine motor skills, patience, and perseverance. There were moments of frustration and some poked fingers of course, but there was also a wonderful buzz of stitching and the joy of handwork.
 Kids need opportunities to make things. Not just pictures, but things that can be used or have purpose. They need to know about craftspeople as well as about artists. Not everybody is destined to become an artist, but everyone should know how to make things.
By the way, contrary to popular belief, boys enjoy sewing. In fact 2 of these pictures were made by boys- can you guess which ones?  One more reason I'm proud of my 4th graders- we got through 3 weeks of stitching with 4 classes and didn't lose a single needle! Whoohoo!

I'm enjoying my holiday break, but I also am looking forward to getting back to school...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Wonderland

I love the last week of school before the Winter break. The joy of the approaching holidays and the kids' enthusiasm is soothing the soul.
 My after school art club made gingerbread houses and these snow globes. I picked up some tiny snowman figurines and a frond of fake pine needles. One of my kids brought in a bunch of glass baby food jars and lids thanks to a baby cousin. We pressed a small ball of white model magic into the lid, added the figurines, then painted the inside of the jar with glitter paint and finally twisted the lid onto the jar. My luck with liquid-filled snow-globes in the past  has been messy and unsatisfactory, but the glitter paint makes it look like there's always a flurry going on inside. They're surprisingly enchanting.
 My Kinders and First Graders are working on wintry landscapes. We looked at snowy pictures like Harry Callahan's lakeside trees in snow to find value and horizon lines. The first graders drew 3 different horizon lines across a page, then painted each of the four sections a different value of blue. I gave them cups of white, then came around with a "squirt" of blue to change the value for each step.
The following week I reminded them that far away things looked teeny-tiny, and close-up things looked really big. We talked about all the things we might see in a winter landscape and they drew in oil pastel. Of course, some kids are super excited for Christmas and there were Christmas trees and Santa's sleigh flying through some pictures. Mostly there were bare-branched trees, snowflakes, cardinals, and snowmen. They are really adorable pictures, and I can't wait to hang them in the halls. We have a holiday luncheon on Friday, but part of me would like to skip it and just totally refresh all my hallway displays! Oh well, one more full day and a half day till break!

Friday, December 14, 2012

All is Calm

This week has been overwhelming with great highs and deep lows. On Tuesday I pulled together final details for the holiday concert decorations, and on Wednesday we put them all up and had an amazing concert. My artclub made all the elements for our backdrop panels and made origami stars to hang about.
  I know teachers are all proud of their students, but as a specialist teacher I get to know the entire student body. At first I thought having to go to the concert might be a bit of a drag (It's a school night and I taught all day, put up the decorations all afternoon, and helped manage the kiddos as they lined up for the concert), but then seeing all of "my kids" up there made my heart swell up with joy and pride.
It's also been a week of finishing projects. My 2nd, 3rd, and 5th graders have been working for weeks on paintings, mosaics, and sculptures. We FINALLY got them finished! It's simultaneously satisfying and frustrating to call "Time's UP" on a project. Not everybody works at the same pace. Some are done on time and do well, others could really use another week to make it even better, and still others think they're done when really they could push further.
My 5th graders completed their letter sculptures and worked in groups to plan displays. Some were able to create words to display together, others made acrostic poems. Here's a word I pulled together from a variety of 5th graders:

I offer this word because of the deepest low of this week. After teaching all day and staying after late to hang artwork etc, I got in the car and heard the news on NPR about the shooting in the elementary school in Connecticut. When such tragedies occurred in the past, I felt sympathy as a parent for those who lost their children. But now as a teacher, I imagine what it must be like to be in the shoes of the teachers who had to respond to such an emergency, trying to stay calm and strong for their students while feeling panic and fear. They are heroic. I pray for the children and teachers and parents of Sandy Hook. I hope they find calm and comfort again soon.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Love Letters

 I wonder if any other teachers get these kinds of presents? I love when a student shyly sidles up before the start of class to hand me a picture present. It always makes my day.
 It's funny to see how they spell my name. Miss Elchin, Ms. Elcin (the correct way!), and my favorite Ms. Lchin. Often they draw something related to the project we're working on, which tells me that they are making connections and remembering what they're learning about.
I keep these presents up on my board near my desk. They make me smile when I'm having a frustrating class of talk-too-muchers or direction-ignorers or messy painters.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kinder Still-life Drawing

I owe this one to Jessica at "The Art of Education" blog. She posted a year ago about a way to do observational drawing with Kindergartners, which stuck in my memory. She focused on architecture with this lesson, but I wanted to apply it to a different genre. I'm working through units on Genre in art with my K-3rd grades, and introduced my Kinders to still-life this week. I have a bulletin board up right now with various pictures showing different genres, so we did a kinesthetic learning activity where the students showed me with a hand gesture whether a picture showed a person (portrait), place (landscape), or thing (still-life). This made a literacy connection to nouns as well. For the portraits they pointed to their faces, for landscapes they folded hands, and for still-life they pointed to an open hand. I really like these gesture activities as it allows the entire class to show me what they know, instead of just the few who like to raise their hands.
I pulled out the boxes of pattern blocks which usually sit in my free-activity area. I noticed before how many students enjoy tracing the shapes to make a picture, and thought they would be familiar enough with the shapes in order to draw them from observation. I showed them how to build a little still-life out of blocks, then draw what they saw shape by shape.Afterwards we added a "table" line and a "wallpaper" pattern to complete the pictures. Some students really got it. The most advanced one is above, where the child even mirrored the shapes in the shadow!!
 They were not allowed to trace the shapes, so it was a challenge for some. But not tracing meant that there were some kids who drew really big, and some who drew really small. So the pictures look really different, and none look exactly like my exemplar (yay!).
 Lots of my Kinders are just emerging from the scribble stage, and it's hard to get them to color carefully. However, I made this a one day project only, which didn't leave much time for coloring.
 I'm amazed at what Kindergartners can do with a little instruction. These drawings are very different from their everyday free-draw styles. It's also interesting to see in this project which students find drawing more engaging and which ones just want to build with blocks!
Next up we'll try out landscape painting with a little "snowy" inspiration. One class already started, and I CANNOT BELIEVE how quiet a class of Kindergartners can get while painting!!
I have a lot of classes finishing projects this week, so I'll have more to share soon. The Kinders get shorter projects, so I feel like I'm writing more about them than the other grades!