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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"How to Build a Monster", by 2nd grade

It is really wonderful when a grade level team wants to collaborate with me.  Ms. Herman, one of our amazing 2nd grade teachers, was talking with me at lunch one day about how she noticed her students really struggle with writing out operational math sequences.  I shared with her how I teach the kids to think in steps when creating an artwork, and it inspired a collaboration! The team consists of Ms. Stokke, Ms. Drorbaugh, Ms. Attaway, and Ms. Herman. Rock Stars, I tell ya.

The 2nd grade team emailed me asking if I could create a project their kids could use in a sequence writing exercise. Since we've been studying the big idea of "fear" in October I thought of asking the students to collage a mixed media monster.

 These projects had to be finished in time for parent conferences in a couple weeks. Since I only see them once a week and they needed to complete the writing exercise,  they created these monsters in one class. I gotta tell ya, the 2nd graders sure did deliver.

2nd graders are no strangers to collage, they practiced this medium a lot in 1st grade. They were, however, new to the idea of mixed media materials. I explained they needed to show a variety of implied and actual textures in their collages. They were shown different materials such as raffia, yarn, twist ties, metallic wrapping paper, fabric, felt, photos of animals from magazines, and painted paper.

To reinforce the sequencing of steps, I listed for them an order of operations.
1. Imagine your monster in your mind
2. Collect your materials
3. Begin with the head
4. Add the body and details (tail, tongue, teeth, claws, tentacles, horns, etc.)

My room was in full workshop mode, I've never seen these kids work so hard! It was a incredible sight to behold. I shared some images of these kids at work in my last post about wips. Mixed media collage is a great medium for 2nd grade because it requires envisioning AND exploring. Two very important artistic behaviors they are ready to develop.

Here are some photographs of their results as well as the 2nd grade displays for conferences.

Great contrasts in texture!

I love the use of spike tail found photo.

They are all so unique and expressive.

I like how some students chose to orient their monsters horizontally.

She really nailed the process sequence in her writing.

This one has really nice purple tentacles.

Check out that Alligator head monster on the far right!

Monsters have taken over the halls! It just so happens that the Book Fair that is going on during conferences this week has a Monster theme! Yay for happy coincidences!

I look forward to more grade level collaborations and more ways to demonstrate how art is a subject that lends itself to all types of learning.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monster "wips"

The primary students at North Star have been exploring all things Monster these past couple of weeks.  Kindergarten through 2nd grade are learning about texture and mixed media collage. I've read several books to jump start their imaginations. Such as "I need my Monster", by North Star tech teacher Amanda Noll,  and "Even Monsters Need Haircuts", by Matthew McElligott.

I've decided to devote this post to Monster "wips"...what is a "wip", you ask? A wip is a work in progress. I am trying to teach the students that the process of art making is just as important as the end result. Therefore, why not post some "wips"?

As the projects become completed in time for conference week, I'll post their results.

"The Man Who Tricked a Ghost", by Laurence Yep

Student uses painted paper to create a monster collage in response to Yep's story.

1st Grade Monster to be used in a collage.

2nd grade table with their supplies.

This student carefully applies this cloth texture.

Don't mind the mess, she is hard at work.

1st grader Monster playing basketball with zombies, imaginative!

I find it important to teach our children to celebrate our processes as well as our final works.  There are discoveries to be had and lessons to learn along the way.  Stay tuned for more spooky art!

Monday, October 12, 2015

"The Dot"

The North Star staff attended a retreat before school began in September. During this retreat I had prompted each teacher and administrator to create a dot that expressed a positive message for the students to read. These dots hang from the "dot tree" outside of our library where passing students can get a positive affirmation. The tree was left over from last year's teacher appreciation installation, I'm happy it could be re-purposed.

This whole idea was inspired by the book "The Dot", by Peter H. Reynolds.  If you haven't read it, it is a sweet book about a young student artist who finds the courage to make her mark. She overcomes negativity and fear as her teacher champions even her smallest step towards growth. What a great message to send to our kids...

My goal was to spread this message about being brave, expressing oneself, and dreaming big all over the building through visual displays.


North Star's "Dot Tree"

Staff created dots with positive messages for the students.
Installed above the doorway near the lunchroom.

Installed in the primary wing as a motif throughout the building.

I've since read this book to all of the students at North Star and have taught lessons based on the idea of creating artworks with just a dot.  I drew most of my inspiration from my favorite art ed blogger from Nashville, Tennessee, Cassie Stephens. She celebrated National Dot Day in her school last year and displayed school wide collaborative artworks. I'm so thankful to her and her school's example.

Our dot projects were as follows:
Kinders made circle dot tracings, first graders created painted dot murals, 2nd graders created community dot quilts (I'll post about that separately as Veteran's Day approaches), 3rd graders created metal foil relief dots, 4th graders created abstract expressionism dots, and 5th graders created string art dots.

5th grade stitched dot

5th grade stitched art with textured paint background.

Stitched dot's displayed in the 5th grade wing.

Metal foil relief dots on display near the 3rd grade classrooms.

Blurry camera photo of abstract expressionism dots...I have to bring my Nikon to school!

These artworks will remain on display in our school for as long as the kids allow it. A lot of students really want to take them home but I know it gives them pride to see them hanging up in the hallways for all to see and appreciate.

This is my first time creating a school wide collaborative art display. I think it has turned out rather well.  I really like how it ties the building together visually. Each student and staff played a part in the making of it all and I'm so pleased with the results.

I look forward to doing something like this again in the future!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sketchbooks in Action

These sketchbooks are worth their weight in educational gold! I've had the 3rd graders take notes in them as they learn new techniques and vocabulary. I've been teaching them to to take visual notes during a lesson too; this was and still is a useful strategy for me when I take classes. I've shown them that drawing pictures along with writing text enhances note-making and note-taking and better serve their learning objectives.

I've noticed in the previous year of teaching, intermediate students often would ask me to repeat instructions, re-define vocabulary we've practiced, and were confused if processes were more than two steps. Even if I had it all written on a power point slide or on the board, they often wouldn't retain the information. These sketchbooks have given these children a way to absorb the lesson more deeply.

Today, when I had used our new vocabulary word in a direction, a student raised their hand to ask me what that vocabulary word meant. Even before I could start to ask them to check their notes, they whipped open their sketchbook and said, "Oh, wait! I have it here! I got it!" This was rewarding to me. This kid took ownership over learning that word. My heart jumped for joy!

This photo shows a 3rd grade student using their notes to guide their art making process. I really love seeing those picture notes.

This photo shows 4th grade students working on a painting project. The student in the bottom left had her sketch book open to remind herself to include a variety of lines and shapes in her painting.

These sketchbooks are proving to be a powerful tool in the art room. I know these kids love them and take great care of them. I hope they are inspired to make and take them to their regular classrooms!