Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BOO! 3rd grade does positive and negative

Positive and negative space is a new concept for my 3rd graders. Inspired by a local cut paper artist, I thought this project would be a simple 1-2 class project. We first reviewed line quality and "Stole a line" from a series of images in a powerpoint (kids drew on whiteboards building a composition with lines they saw in the images). We practiced ruler skills and measured out 2 inch marks at the top and bottom of our papers, then connected the dots across the page with various types of line. So far so good.
But whoah! Was I not prepared for the low scissor skills of this group of 3rd graders. Did we never pick up a pair of scissors in 2nd grade???? Students had a real challenge following the lines they drew with the scissors to cut them out. Of course, some had drawn amazingly detailed, fussy lines that any adult might find a challenge to cut out. I even had some kids break down and nearly give up because they felt they weren't good with scissors. Magic art teacher to the rescue! There was a box of special scissors (loop scissors that all you have to do is squeeze ad they spring back open) that I NEVER pulled out last year, but they are wonderful for some of my special needs kids with OT issues. Of course, everyone wants special scissors...
 Once the strips were cut apart they were arranged on contrasting colored paper (kids chose their color), leaving some negative space in between the strips to make new shape lines. Gluing is another challenge...
It was perhaps not the most exciting project ever, but it brought to light some interesting skills issues. The challenge level was huge for some of my students- but maybe that's why this was a good lesson for them. It took some ids 3 entire 50 minute class periods to finish! Others did an amazing job of careful cutting, arranging, and gluing and finished in one and a half classes! Go figure.
With the odd rate of completion on this project I had a bunch of kids who needed a new activity. This being Halloween week, I let them have a "freebie"- a project I would not grade and that was just for fun that they could take home immediately. It was not REALLY just for fun though- it was a super extension of positive and negative space by creating stencils!
Kids cut out a "spooky shape" from scrap paper, placed it on black paper and brushed white or orange color stick from the center outwards. I have no chalk- it would have been easier I think.  After stenciling they went back in and added details as well as a "spooky message".
 Kids were encouraged to share stencils, and some discovered that both pieces of cut paper (positive and negative) could be used to shade either the exterior or the interior of the cut shape.
 This was an excellent, quick, high-engagement lesson... mostly due to my kids thorough obsession with all things Halloween. I'm not a big fan of Holiday art in art class- the classroom teachers do holiday crafts with them, so I don't feel it's necessary. But it does get kids engaged.
 Happy Halloween everybody!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kinder Pezzettino drawings

My Kindergartners have been learning about shapes and how they can go together to make pictures. We started off by reading "Pezzettino" by Leo Lionni about a small square who thinks he must be a missing piece of someone else. He goes to all his friends who do daring and wonderful things, but they are all complete. Finally Pezzettino trips and breaks into many tiny pieces and he realizes that he is complete too.
We introduced shapes using the mosaic blocks, and I gave kids a challenge to try to make a sun, a flower, a cat, and finally their own creature out of the shapes. I showed kids how to trace their shapes onto paper to keep their creature since they're not allowed to keep my blocks (oh the silence of 24 kinders tracing blocks!)
The next week we practiced coloring carefully by outlining each shape and coloring it in solid. I went around to each child to ask what their creature could do, and wrote their title on the page in sharpie using the naming style of Lionni. It's not a bunny, it's "One who hops". It's not a snake but "One who slithers".
 Finally for some color and interest in the background we laid squares of bleeding tissue paper over the blank white areas, and I walked around with a spray bottle to make it "rain" on their picture and make magic paint.The kids loved seeing the paint instantly appear on their pages. However, I'm not 100% sold on this technique. It's very messy, and I had some overenthusiastic helpers crumple up a LOT of extra tissue paper into the trash instead of saving it. Luckily I have my intern on Thursdays and a high school helper on Fridays to assist in managing the drying rack traffic.
The students who had clearly made creatures and colored well had more successful results with the tissue. For those who had more random shapes the background color addition jut seemed distracting. Oh well, it was an experiment I'd never tried before, and it was mostly a success.

We have lots more shape things happening in other grades. Our quarter is almost finished and I've got to get kids to finish projects this week!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Happy Philly Photo day!!

Today was Philly Photo day, sponsored by the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. Anyone who shoots a pic in Philadelphia today can upload it to their website to participate in a HUGE group show. They print out every submission as an 8x10 and display them all at a local exhibition space. I took a ton of photos today in honor of the event. Here are the ones that I took while at school this morning:
 My classroom window overlooks South Philly, and I feel like Chim-Chiminy charoo looking out over the rooftops.
 The music teacher's room overlooks our school yard where kids begin to gather around 8 am. I opened the door onto her fire escape to get a shot, and all the kids out there saw me and waved and shouted "Ms.Elcin!!!" Seriously, people, does every art teacher get treated like a celebrity in the schoolyard?
 We say the pledge and sing "My country tis of thee" in the yard before coming in. I scooted upstairs to catch the flood of students coming up the stairs.
 I'm on the top floor, and I loved the geometric spiral and blur of the kids as they raced up the stairs to class.
I wish I had more digital cameras. I would LOVE to make Philly photo day a school project next year.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Elements of Art according to 4th grade

Last year I had 4th grade do a hidden name project with lines, colors, and patterns. It took way too long due to using colored pencils and 12x18 paper. So I decided to revamp the project. It's still a hidden word (possibly a name) but this time with an emphasis on the elements of art.
 Students studies the elements through examples on my bulletin board and also through videos on "The Artist's Toolkit". They wrote a short word (name, favorite activity, or some onomatopoeia), then divided the space into 6 sections. Each section was supposed to illustrate or emphasize a different element of art (Line, color, shape, value,pattern, shape).
 We used marker, crayon, or colored pencil on 9x12 paper. Was the project any shorter? NO!!! ARGHH!! I think it's just 4th grade. They're either too chatty and distracted, or on the flip side they're too detailed and slow. I need balance!
For the most part, they finally got it and the resulting abstract works are visually exciting. We've moved on to OP ART, and the kids are loving it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rainbows and Dots

I'm trying some new projects this year with Kinder and First grade, and my whole first quarter is devoted to abstract art because it offers so much room for exploration. My Kinders have been learning their colors, so I decided to do a rainbow project. First we read "The Mixed up Chameleon" by Eric Carle, where a chameleon goes to the zoo and wishes to have qualities of each animal. We focused on the rainbow of colors the animals showed us and learned how primary colors mix to make secondaries. On the first painting day I had them ONLY paint a wide yellow arc in the center of their paper, because we needed to learn painting procedure. Limiting color really helped. On the second day we painted red and blue stripes over the yellow for orange and green, extended the red and blue to the edges of the pages, and then added a little more red at the bottom for purple. For the most part the kids did a great job following directions. Although it's interesting to see how some kids did not use the whole page or just mixed all their colors to brown!
 I sent a paper bag and a note home to parents for "homework" asking them to help their children do a color scavenger hunt to find 2 things of each color that could be used in a collage. I suggested bottle caps and magazine pages, but got back a whole lot more!! On the third day of our project, students pulled out their objects and tried to match them to their rainbows and glue them down. I have jars of glue and brushes for them to paint the glue. In the picture above I was totally blown away when the child finished her collage and proceeded to TURN ON LED LIGHTS ON THE CARS!!!! Whoah!
 For kids who didn't bring back their bags or who didn't want to sacrifice their objects for art, I had boxes of construction paper scraps leftover from my 3rd grade mask collages for students to collage onto their rainbows. I actually love the mosaic effect some students achieved as they collaged the scraps. If I do this project again next year I might just stick with art room materials. The bags and homework were a bit of a hassle for the kindergarten teachers to deal with, and some objects that came in were not ideal for the project (hello tennis ball). I had to go back and hot glue some items back onto the collages because elmers wasn't strong enough for all the plastic stuff kids brought in. Live and learn.
 With my first grade, I wanted them to have a more careful painting and color mixing day. so I jumped on the bandwagon and read "The Dot" by Peter Reynolds. the kids loved the story, and went right to work filling up their pages with beautiful dots. Then,like the boy at the end of the story we experimented with different kinds of lines on top of and around the dots.
 I've hung these all together, and they are just so beautiful- bright, expressive, joyful, exuberant. I find it amazing how young children have a natural sense of composition. What happens to that when they get to second grade?
 This lesson is definitely a keeper. I'm in love with this painting:
"Make a mark and see where it takes you!"

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Art is...

I finally got all of the "ART IS" posters assembled and hung around school. Every kid from first through fifth grade made a letter with warm colors inside and cool colors outside. It was a way to have kids jump right into making some art after going over rules the first day. I have a few extra "K's" and "A's" from kids who just copied my example  on the board instead of  doing their assigned letter.... but overall this was a great, quick project with a big result.
Art is self expression

Art is literacy of the heart

Art changes people and people change the world

art is the language of the soul

A work of art is an adventure of the mind

art is exercise for the imagination

Art is finding beauty in unexpected places

Art is not what you see but what you make others see

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fancy letters

Although I have a ton of super creative students, there are also those who doubt their creative abilities. I like using name and text-based art as a way to start the year for 2 reasons. First- I need to remember names!! Second- EVERYONE should be able to write their name, and if they can't yet, they need practice. Using letters to make art makes it easy for those who feel like they can't draw, and the beautiful results of seeing their gorgeously colorful names up on the walls makes them feel like they can be good at art too.
 My first graders were given 6x18 inch paper, and after reviewing primary colors and watching the OK!GO! primary color video, they wrote their names across the paper in red, yellow, and blue crayon and then made the letters 'FAT" Kids with long names had a big challenge! Then we painted 2 areas with yellow watercolor, overlapped one with red to get orange, and painted a third area red. Finally a red and a yellow area were overlapped with blue to make purple and green. The final product shows a whole rainbow! The kids love painting- but it stresses me out!! Getting 24 first graders set up, working, and cleaned up for painting makes my hair turn gray.
 My second graders also made name art, partially inspired by zentangles and partially inspired by Jean Dubuffet's abstract shape jumbles. Dubuffet only used stripes to enliven his shapes, but I challenged the second grade to make theirs even more patterned.
 We started by sketching the letters of our name- big at the bottom for a strong foundation for our towers- and smaller as they stacked up to the top of the page. I did a similar project with last year's class, except changed it from random placement of letters to a more vertical stack. Since they are used to a linear arrangement of letters, the vertical stack was far more successful than the random ones. After practicing many patterns on whiteboards, we started filling each letter with a different pattern. They are so vibrant!!
It's nice to get some projects finished up. 2nd graders who finished early got to make a zentangle on a square of paper- some kids made a ton of squares and decided to mount them together on a piece of construction paper. It was very exciting to see them determine their creative process that way!