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!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sustainability Posters

The Grade 5's recently completed a Unit of Inquiry on Sustainability which was a great link for an inquiry into the art of Chris Jordan.  If you've never seen his work, particularly his "Running the Numbers" series, you've got to check it out.  The children were gobsmacked by some of the statistics that he portrays in his pieces.  We started with the Zoom In Visible Thinking Routine using Jordan's "Wave III."  We started looking at a very close part of the piece and as each slide of the Power Point got further and further away to reveal the completed piece, the children had to explain how their thinking changed with each slide.

Next, the children came up with a plan to create their own Chris Jordan style piece using PowerPoint.  Everyone started with a statistic that they wanted to convey artistically.  This worksheet helped them plan: 

The easiest way after trial and error was to start with a "coloring page" (line drawing) and fill it in with repeated images that somehow related to their statistic.  The goal at the end was to make the completed poster large, so they also needed to understand how to use Google Search tools to look for large size photos.  The last step was adding their statistic to the work in a way that was visually pleasing and then popping the jpeg into to make it bigger using our A4 printer.  

The children have yet to decide where in our community the posters will be hung, but sharing them outside of school is a great example of taking action!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chuck Close Style Self Portraits

Holy cow, I can't believe these are finally done.  These took my Grade 5's ten 45 minute sessions to complete!  I started in August with an introduction to portraits and  I used Chuck Close's "Emma" as part of a See Think Wonder activity.  The kids were entranced with Chuck Close's life story and all of the obstacles that he had to overcome during his life. 

I photographed each child and had them make a sketch using an online photo editor.  (The photos had a  lot more spunk and personality when I took them instead of the kids taking their own photos in PhotoBooth).They printed their sketches in A3 size and traced them onto large grid paper.  They colored one section at a time (hair, skin, clothes, background) and planned their colors carefully in their sketchbooks.  

They evaluated themselves based on the criteria on the rubric below:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Identity Boxes

This was a Grade 4 Who We Are Unit with the central idea: "We can create self portraits to communicate who we are and how we view the world."

We started with a See Think Wonder activity-- I put 8 different portraits on the wall in the hallway and the students chose two portraits to investigate.  Each child was given six address labels on which to write their ideas (I see... I think...I wonder...) and they could stick them under the corresponding portrait.

Next came a few classes of front loading skills for drawing self portraits.  I found this fantastic little gem on the Cassie Stephens blog, it was very helpful for explaining proportion.

Once the kids finished up and painted their final self portrait, they started on their boxes.  The first step involved covering the interior with funky paper (I had them pre-cut and saved a lot of drama!) and then attaching their self portrait.  The next step was adding momentos that represented who they are.  

Ideas for things to bring in from home included:

-photos (no more than 3)
-small inexpensive toys
-picture of your favorite book
-something that represents your favorite sport
-a clipping/poem/song in your native language
-flag from your country or a country you love

I am looking forward to teaching the kids to photograph each box using an iPad and doing a reflection with the Explain Everything app.  Then we can attach a QR code to each box before displaying them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New year, new school, new ideas!

How sweet it is.  After two wonderful years in a Kinder-Grade 2 art room, I took a new position in the school next door, which is Grades 3-5.  I absolutely love it.  Here are some signs and posters I made for my new classroom, mostly "borrowed" and reconfigured from the fabulous ideas on Pinterest.
Each table has a laminated famous painting taped to it.  For the time being, I labeled them but as the kids grow accustomed to things like sitting at the Persistence Of Memory table, I'll take the labels off and leave the picture.  The paintings on this chart are laminated and attached with velcro so they can change weekly.  

Love this idea so the kids can know what it is they're doing  in class, why and how they can demonstrate understanding. 

If you're not going to let them say "I can't" it's only fair to let the kids have other options.  I see this as an important life skill.

Another gem-- many times a new piece of paper isn't the answer!

These are very effective.  Stop sign is a non verbal, emotion free warning and a ticket to the Chill Out Zone is to a chair alone where the child needs to write and explain what agreement they broke and how their behavior will change next time.  

The kids use this as a reference all the time.  My motto is: "I want your best work, not your fastest work."