Thursday, September 19, 2013

Free Choice

This week in Art class nearly all my classes needed some extra time to finish individual elements for our big school collaborative artwork. As kids finished up they were allowed to move onto free choice until I had all of the artworks complete. Last year all I had was paper for free draw and 2 boxes of mosaic blocks at the free choice station (snore). It frustrated me that kids would get paper and just draw hearts or fold fans, and others would fight over who could use the blocks. This year I've stepped up my game, and it has been magical seeing kids focused in their free time. Here's why:
1.There is now a box of pre-cut squares and directions for making small zentangles.
 2. There are now 4 tubs of playdough (although I thought I ordered 5.....) and kids from 1st-4th have been captivated by the creative possibilities of a lump of clay. I LOVE what I'm seeing in clay- making sphere "meatballs" which led into a bowl of ravioli and meatballs...
 ...cubes and other geometric forms and kids asking each other, "how did you do that?....
... lots of patting, pressing, rolling, and texturizing, as well as snake coiling.  Every art room needs some playdough. I love how kids seem unattached to their creations and willing to start over or remold when things aren't what they want.
I have a new etch-a-sketch fascinating my boys especially. And there are also 3 more boxes of shape blocks so everyone has plenty for building. The mosaic shapes are brilliant- I have pattern pages for 2D exploration and then there are those who like to build towers and enclosures 3 dimensionally.
 There is still paper for free draw, but now I have a creativity prompt for kids called "silly sketches"
 There are 3 boxes with color-coded words and they have to pick one word from each box to combine in a phrase. First and adjective, then a character, and finally an action. For example, the drawing above was a "Red Bigfoot Flew a Kite" and the one below was a "Yellow basketball player threw a giant ball".
These silly sketch prompts have TOTALLY changed how my kids approach "free draw". I'm not ready to switch totally over to a TAB-style classroom of centers, but I do value what students show me when they have free-choice options. My Vice-principal came in to observe while we were in the middle of class with half finishing the project and half working with free choice- we had a great conversation and she really "got it". I'm all smiles today!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Welcome Back!

I'm a bit belated with back-to-school room setup pictures, but better late than never. I headed back to my room around August 20th to start setting up. Then we had a whole week of professional development at the end of August. Kids started back to school on the Tuesday after labor day, but we only had 2 half days and then 2 off for Jewish holidays. I didn't get to see students on those first half days. So FINALLY this week my blue art room was filled with little creative bodies and minds.
 Our class sizes went up slightly this year. Instead of 21-23 per class there's now 22-25. It doesn't seem like much except that my room is so small, it's hard to fit any more. Last year my tables were arranged to fit a maximum of 23. Now I have a regular set up for 24, and have to pull a table out to fit one more kid on an end to fit 25. All my tool set ups are sorted for 23, so I had to get additional white boards, scissors, etc. Above you can see a sampling of Kindergarten self-portraits. I offered no exemplar, and just instructions that their picture had to have their name and a drawing of yourself. We also sang "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" as a reminder to draw ALL of our body parts. The pictures at left reveal more advanced Kinders who already know to use shapes and realistic color as well as a ground plane in a drawing. The two center ones show stick figures and the start of shape figures, but with little color choice. The majority of the Kinders are at this stage. The two at right are my low level Kinders who are still in the tadpole figure stage with arms and legs coming out of the head, and another who did not make a figure at all, but is still in scribble and bangdot stage. It's so revealing! I have a girl who just turned 6 today and many who I'm sure just turned 5 in August.
The rest of my kids are doing a letter design collaborative project that will spell out an "ART IS.." quote. I gathered tons of them and printed them out as posters for my bulletin board. Each kid will make a block or bubble letter with contrasting warm and cool colors, and I will assemble them when they are done to hang in the hallways. After this each class 1st-5th will move onto another text-based design. It's a great way to ease them into making art. They know their letters- they don't realize they are drawing when they design letter artworks. And they have a chance to get used to various materials before they have to make something remotely representational.

 Not too much has changed in my room- except for a few classroom management and instructional aids. I bought a coqui scraper instrument to use as an attention-getter when kids are getting noisy. I told them not to "Wake up the frog!" or they'd lose their stars:
 Lost stars result in silent time. But if they keep their stars they earn a sticker on the chart for the day:
When they reach a color bar their class gets a prize- to be negotiated. I'm exhausted from the first full week on my feet, and from repeating the rules 22 times. I've only had 3 kids whose behavior was truly difficult. Out of 500, that's not too shabby. The distribution of students among the classes feels really good- splitting up some problem relationships. And since I know the kids better this year, I can start the year off so much more easily. Like I know not to put THAT KID next to that OTHER KID, and I know most kids names already.

I'm hoping and praying to have a good year. If the first week is any sign, it will be.