Friday, October 24, 2014

Life has been busy!

I've been absent way too long but it's not because things haven't been happening in the art room.  This month the focus was on shape, line and color across the grades.  Some of the projects are repeat project and a few were some old tried and true that I hadn't gotten to in the last several years.
Multiple projects from across the grades.

Above is the bulletin board in one of the schools where I tried to display a few projects
from each grade. You will notice spider webs done with a watercolor wash from
 Kindergarten where the focus was on line names and directions identification.  
Both third and fourth were creating observational drawings.  Fourth
 created the harvest still life and third were drawing skeletons.  For both 
grades the focus was "seeing like a scientist" and drawing only things as 
they are seen rather than what we know to be true. This proved to be a bit 
challenging for both groups so a two drafts were created for each project with
 personal and group critiques to help students to raise the bar with their drawings.
Second grade students created line/pattern leaves with scratch art paper.  This is a project from several  years ago.  I had used the die cut machine to cut out maple leaves and the left overs were filed away.  Since there were enough for my two classes, I decided to pull it back out again.  Since 2nd grade had never used scratch art paper before, I had them practice drawing lines and patterns on a small scrap of the paper first.  After mastering the technique, the stem was extended onto the leaf and veins added to created sections.  Each section was filled with a different line pattern.

Finally, a few photos of the value webs from 5th grade.  This project is a twist on one from Art with Mr. E that was popular a few years ago and you still find on pinterest.  Instead of plotting along a line and then creating the value curves, I had students draw a spider web and add value around the web.  Most students opted to add a spider using oil crayons once they were finished.  These were especially striking.  
So that will catch you up a little with the going ons.  I'll try to post a little more regularly in the future.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


One of my biggest pet peeves is getting corrected by an entire classroom of Kindergarten students for mispronunciation of names.  Now mind you, it doesn't bother me if the child whose name I am saying corrects me, in fact I appreciate their help in getting it correct.  What does bother me is when you have an entire class begin to shout at you.  First, I can't understand the chaos of all those voices and secondly, it just seems a little disrespectful.  I grew up in the Southern states and we were taught to always show respect to our teachers.  I would have never spoken up and corrected my teacher for anything even if it was saying my name incorrectly.  Kids today are different.  I've lived in the Northeast for over 30 years but my southern upbringing still creeps into my enunciation especially when it comes to some vowels.  Anyone who grew up in the south knows that pen and pin are pronounced the same.   Correct me if I am wrong Mr. E. or Cassie Stephens!!!  So sometimes these "different" names up north are a real challenge for me.  There is the student whose name I thought was pronounce like the thing a beauty queen wears on her head, a Tiara, you know?  It's not spelled that way but I thought that was what she said on the first day and now all the kids are correcting me.  I'm not sure how it is really pronounced.   And, then there is the cute little girl name Sawyer.  I think Tom Sawyer and pronounce it the same way but apparently that is not correct.  Still can't get that one right either.  That's just the beginning of the long list of names I continue to botch and repeatedly get corrected for.  So what is your take on all this?  How would you handle this in your classroom?  Feedback me!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rethinking the entire process!

Back in August, Nic Hahn from Mini Matisse posted a video on critique and feedback from Ron Berger at Presumpscot Elementary in Portsmouth, Maine.  The video was the story of Austin's Butterfly.  She encouraged her followers to both watch the video as well as share it with their students.  I have share it with all my students grades 1 - 5 with terrific results.  Here it is if you haven't yet viewed it for yourself.

This is how this video has restructure most of my teaching for this year.  To begin with, all my students are regularly reminded to "see like a scientist".  They draw what they see not what they know.  This week we began observational drawings in 3rd and 4th grade and students immediately began to assist one another with positive critiques and to talk about changes they would make with their next drafts.  I love the impact one short video has had on the way my students are thinking about their art making.   I am challenged to expect more from my students and recognize that I can encourage them to grow this year as artist as they also challenge themselves to improve on their skills and to cast aside the "I can't" mentalities of the one time lesson.
One of our first attempts have been observational drawings of a harvest still life and a skeleton.
4th grade Harvest Still life
4th grade student Harvest Still Life

3rd grade Skeleton Drawing

3rd grade Skeleton Drawing

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kindergarten Formative Assessments

Student Project
How do you determine baseline levels for your new incoming students?  For years I have been using this project as my initial assessment of student skills.  I tell my students it is a "follow the leader draw".  As educators we call it a directed lesson.  As I begin the lesson I determine student understanding of line names such as horizontal, vertical and diagonal.  Some usually are familiar but not necessarily comfortable with the words.  I have students draw with their "magic pencils" (index fingers) in the air in front of them as I say the word for the line and then they repeat it back.  We do this for several repeats as they draw first horizontal lines from edge to edge of the paper, followed by vertical lines and finally a few diagonal lines.  Next we embark on the primary colors and shapes.  The lesson might go: color a rectangle red.  I would ask someone to tell me what a rectangle might look like before they color.  A square could be blue or yellow and the final color would be a triangle.  Each time someone shares what the shape should look like so that all students are able to identify the shape they should be coloring.  Secondary colors are introduced by combining the primary colors.  "What will happen when we mix red and yellow?"  This happens for all three secondary colors as more shapes are colored and circles are drawn and colored.  The entire lesson involves active student participation in the discovery with much repetition of words and concepts.  As they work I am constantly taking in the process and looking for struggling students and competent students.  As we all know, there is a huge discrepancy in skills with incoming Kindergartens some years.  This lesson really gives me an overview of what I need to focus on and whether students have already mastered basic skills due to PreK exposure or home involvement.

Student Project

Friday, September 12, 2014

September 15th -ish!!!

My students are completing their dots for International Dot Day this week.  I was able to pull a few out and hang a bulletin board outside the classroom for Monday.  As I mentioned in a previous post, every grade approached their dot project in a different way.  We have Dots based on the Elements of Art,  Dots showing the Element of Space, Dots that reflect things that are shaped like dots from real life experiences, Cut dots showing symmetry and positive and negative space and lastly, Dots that are color wheels.  It's always interesting to throw out an open-ended assignment and see where the kids will take it.  From the vast number of dot ideas present on this bulletin board, you can tell I had some great creative thinking happening in the art room over the past few weeks.  My big focus this year with students is to have them really thinking and writing about their art.  All students from 2nd grade through 5th are writing artist statements on the reverse side of all their completed work.  I really love reading some of their thoughts.  I gain so much understanding of their learning and creative thought process.  Click into one of our Artsonia accounts and check out some of the artist statements, too. And with that.....  Happy International Dot Day Celebrations to you all!!!