Thursday, September 18, 2014

PYP Visual Arts Central Ideas II

PYP Art teachers-- do you ever wish you had a crystal ball to come up with a central idea that you can use in a stand alone planner, or one that's broad enough that you can integrate?  Solid central ideas are no easy task!  Here is another version of a previous post, with some new central ideas and organized by related concept.


Celebrations and traditions are an important part of our cultural identity.
Architecture often reflects culture.
Lives are changed through encounters with people of different beliefs and cultures.

Celebrations are important to people all around the world.

Cultural traditions can be preserved in artwork, and can help people express their identities.
Beliefs, values, and ideas are represented and communicated through symbols.

Expression of belief is all around us.

Traditional art help us make sense of our world and to understand aspects of culture.

Rituals, traditions and artifacts of different cultures are expressions of their beliefs and values.

Images communicate ideas and information.

We are able to choose what we think and how we express ourselves.

People can create emotive messages to influence an audience.

Humans express their ideas and use persuasion to influence others.

People use a variety of languages to communicate their ideas and feelings.

Stories can be constructed, told and interpreted in different ways.

Through the arts people use different forms of expression to convey their uniqueness as human beings.

Visual art is a language through which people explore ways to communicate personal ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Creative expression provides many ways to communicate ideas and emotions.

Artistic expression can be a reflection of the social consciousness of the time.
Through the Arts people express, explore and interpret ideas and feelings.

Personal perspectives influence how people communicate through the arts. 

Everyone belongs to an ethnic group, each having its own forms of expression.

Visual arts is a language through which people explore ways to communicate personal ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Images and ideas from our imagination can be expressed in many ways.

Visual expression is an art form.

There is more than one way to tell a story.

Effective communication takes many forms.

Ideas and feelings are expressed and interpreted through the visual arts.

Images and ideas from our imagination can be expressed in many ways.

We choose and use different forms of digital media for specific purposes and specific audiences.

People communicate through the arts to express their beliefs and feelings.

Art forms can represent various messages and contexts in the past and present.

A portrait reflects the emotions and characteristics of the person depicted.

Images and ideas from our surroundings can be expressed in many ways.

The fine arts provide us with the opportunity to reflect on, extend, and enjoy creativity.
People use different materials and resources to express feelings, ideas and understanding.

The natural world inspires and challenges artistic development.

Art can be used to communicate ideas and experiences creatively.

We have unique ways to express our point of view.

Colors are used and interpreted in a variety of ways around us.

People can express themselves in many ways.

Architecture inspires and challenges artistic development.


Personal experiences provide the sparks for artistic creation.

Personal histories allow us to reflect on who we are and where we’ve come from.

In life and in art, people use their bodies to express who they are and how they feel.

Culture may be expressed in a variety of ways.


Visual representations facilitate our understanding of the world around us.

Art is an expression of human feelings and ideas and is open to interpretation.

Noticing and analyzing patterns helps us interpret, explain and respond to our environment.

Our cultural heritage allows us to celebrate who we are, and shapes our vision of the future.

Media can influence thinking and behavior.


We can use a variety of artistic techniques and materials to represent nature.

Rocks and sand are in our natural environment and we use, value and interact with them in a variety of ways. 

The natural world provides inspiration to artists.

People can establish practices to maintain and sustain the earth’s resources.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Art Room Organizational Superstar!

Ok, I am pretty far from an organizational superstar (as anyone might peeked at the detritus in my school bag has discovered) but I have once again moved art rooms and in the spirit of new beginnings, I'll share a few new things I've put in place.

#1: Three tables instead of six I've got the Keith Haring Table (yellow), the Yayoi Kusama table (red) and the Rene Margritte table (blue.)  Each "table" is actually three tables pushed together.  Much easier than a million different table names.  I also like the way having both a color and artist differentiate for my very mixed bag of kiddos-- the higher level kids latch on to the artist name and the sample work they see, the ELL/SEN kids tend to just rely on remembering the color.

#2 Each class shelf is divided up by table AND class.  A small piece of colored tape on their class shelf shows the red table sketchbook collector where their stuff goes.  I can choose one person from the red table to hand out sketchbooks for their little group-- it's a lot faster to hand out 6 sketchbooks to people sitting together than 20  people scattered all around the room.  Not sure why I didn't do this 10 years ago!

#3 Seating chart on clip board sticky back velcroed right next to the class shelf.  I just discovered sticky backed velcro last year, it's amazing stuff.  Each table is has 3 pieces of work by an artist taped to the top. So little Johnny (or Mohammed in my case) can immediately see that he not only sits at the big blue Renee Margritte table, but at the painting taped to his individual table top has a large green apple on it.  This is also reflected on my seating chart, with the names written in pencil so I can move kids around as necessary.  A sub can find the seating chart and class shelves easily.

#4 Tags for the drying rack Last year I started marking off territory on the drying rack with colored masking tape and asking kids to do things like, "put your painting above the blue line."  This year I am finding my 3rd graders have problems with even that....  So, I laminated a paper with each class code on it and stuck it to a few popsicle sticks.  The idea is that I'll remember to label real estate for each class when it's their time to hit the drying rack and I can pop then in and out as needed.

That's all for now, kids are hard at work on Haring Style sketchbook covers which I will share shortly!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Middle Eastern Doors

Central Idea: Expression of belief is all around us.
Lines of Inquiry: Middle eastern architecture, the roles of pattern in Islamic art

These lovely ceramic and glass  pieces would have been a great culmination of a unit focusing on Islamic Art but it being the end of the year and given the time it takes to "do clay", we worked backwards.  The doors were the first thing we did and then we backtracked and explore patterns and their role in Islamic art.

I got the idea for this project over here, but I adapted it a bit.  The children were given pre-cut slabs and I had examples of middle eastern archway shapes for them to take a look at.  They decided on their shapes for the whole piece and the interior door.  In retrospect, this would have been a good design lesson for them to play with in their sketchbooks-- but again,  it was May and we just didn't have enough time.

The children were given scrap paper that was cut to the same size as their slabs-- they had to fold it in half and draw half an arch, then once they cut the folded paper it was perfectly symmetrical.  They used the paper as a tracer for their clay and then used that same piece to draw, cut and trace their interior door.

Here was the success criteria for the patterns which were imprinted with screws:
The most challenging part was using a subtractive technique to carve out the interior doors.  This is where the glass shards were going to go so they needed to be level and deep enough to hold liquid (hot molten glass that is!).  Many kids made them too shallow or poked holes in the bottom, it wasn't easy.

After the bisque firing, the kids used three coats of Crystaltex glaze and then the fun of picking glass for the doors began!  I had a ton of glass for fusing left by the previous art teacher but glass marbles or broken bottles would work just as well. I look forward to next year when this unit and project can get given the time and attention it really deserves. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pinch Pots with a Twist

One of my favorite ways to get kids to think creatively is to get them to look at a familiar object in a new way.  My fourth graders this year took on the age old elementary art staple, the Pinch Pot.  Once they knew the basic method to create the pot, they had to make theirs unique but still functional.

Here are some of the results:

I have been away from my blog for a while (the last post was January) I was busy creating a little pinch pot of my own, our little miss Maya, born 11 Feb 2014.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Australian Aboriginal Story Paintings

Transdisciplinary Theme: Who We Are
Central Idea: Stories are shared in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes
Lines of Inquiry: Why we share stories, How stories enrich culture

I always find this unit tricky to integrate with not because of the content (usually authors and illustrators) but because typically the students write their own stories in their classrooms and then illustrate or make a book cover in art class.  Sounds logical, but what happens every. single. time is that by the time the kids are done with the editing process, the unit is almost over and there is never enough time to make the covers or illustrations in time for their Open Houses or however they want to share their summative assessment with their parents.

This year, I tried something different.  I used this unit to introduce the Grade 3's to heavily symbolic Australian Aboriginal Art and the concept of Dreamtime.  We began with a See Think Wonder using this photo:

The children were very curious and made some great observations.  Many classes were convinced that she couldn't possibly be a "real" artist because she is sitting on the ground and "looks poor".  Lots of, "interesting observation, what makes you say that?" on my part!  Food for thought about what makes a "real" artist and how our personal perspective influences the way we interpret art.

The next step was to introduce the children to some symbols that are typically found in Aboriginal art and talking about why those symbols might be important in their culture.  The children were provided with some aboriginal art prints and they looked to see if they could find some symbols they recognized.  Some examples can be found here: 

I found a bunch of other examples online and made a few symbol reference sheets.  The children worked in their sketch books and wrote their own stories using only symbols.

The last step was creating their own Australian Aboriginal paintings using an australian animal of their choosing as the main character.  Each child drew a large outline of an animal on their paper and painted both the animal and the background.  When the paint was dry, they added the second layer-- large lines or shapes but no small details but no dots or symbols quite yet!  It is very helpful to have a sample of each stage visible so they can see the process.

Last class the kids were given black and white paint markers and a tutorial on how to use them properly.  I find these work so much better than Q-tips or the end of paint brush handles to make nice round dots.  The did a lovely job with the details and yes, everything was done in time for the Open House. :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Georgia O'Keeffe Macro Flowers

The Grade 3's just finished a Georgia O'Keeffe artist study and even the boys who balked at drawing flowers were really engaged.  We started with a book from a favorite children's art series, Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists.

It was especially poignant that Georgia went to art school and was working as a professional artist at a time when it was not considered appropriate for women to do so.  The children were horrified at the thought, despite the fact that we live in the only country in the world where women do not have the right to drive.

We started the art creation part of the unit by looking at the difference between cartoony "symbolic" flowers and the real deal.  What makes a 2D image look "real"? What's the difference between drawing what we see and drawing what we know?

I drew a few flowers from photographs using the document camera and the children then chose five flower images from a huge pile and drew them in their sketchbooks.  This was simply to get experience drawing what they see (getting away from the cartoons/symbols).

The next step was choosing another flower and drawing it HUGE on a black piece of paper.  We talked about cropping and zooming in-- making the flower feel powerful.  Again, I demonstrated on the document camera first and then they chose their own flowers from the pile and tried it.  Tracing over the lines with white glue was the next step.  The dried glue lines really do make a difference for emphasis in the finished piece, and they help young children consolidate their efforts into one small space at a time.

When the glue was dry, the children had a lesson in shading/blending oil pastels before they attempted it on their final pieces.  I gave them the handout below and demonstrated coloring in one direction, following contour lines and blending colors with the document camera.  They got to practice on their own using whatever colors they wanted, and when they were done they graduated onto shading our final pieces.

The last step was a quick reflection on what they've learned, these were displayed under their artwork:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monochromatic Cultural Landscapes

What does a landscape tell us about the culture of the people who live there?  How do climate and geography affect how people look and what they might wear?  How do religious beliefs influence architecture?

The Grade 4's did more than just look at the tricks artists use to make objects look close and far away.  They explored various landscape paintings from around the globe and discovered distinguishing characteristics that give clues about the people who inhabit those landscapes.

We talked about our location (Saudi Arabia) and what symbols we might use to make our landscapes distinctly Saudi.  The children learned how to mix tints of a color and to paint each layer carefully.  The last step of the project was the most fun bit for most-- adding the details in with paint markers.  The children are immensely proud of their first paintings on canvas!