Sunday, November 8, 2009

Year Two silliness...

It's bicycle time of the year. Yup, third grade is drawing bicycles again. This year, I wised up and scheduled the unit to overlap with fourth grade's figure drawing. Both drawing units require the same classroom configuration---two tables in the middle, the rest of the tables facing in. Amazingly, third and fourth grade are the only classes I teach on Tuesday and Thursday!

I did some quick calculations and realized I moved my room into this configuration, then back to normal 18 or more times last year. 36 times moving the tables...

This year, it should be only 8 round trips for the tables---8 set-ups and 8 returns to normal. (Being a 2nd year teacher is awesome. Planning in advance, I love it!)

The drawings are turning out well. I'd post some pictures, but my camera died :o(
This post isn't about their drawings anyway. It's about the silly things they say...

Remember my buddy Fred? He made Christmas Tree Korea. His brother, Jerry, spelled his name Favd and drew a yellow ocean...

Well Fred is making me laugh again.

To help them draw the bicycle, I need to get very close to them and see their eye-line to the bike. Mind you, third grade is mesmerized by this task of drawing the bicycle. They work silently, and not at my request. As I was up close and personal with Fred on Thursday, he loudly announced "you smell good." Nervous about my kimchi breath from lunch (Korean fermented spicy cabbage, pretty rough on the breath...), I said "maybe it's my Korean lunch." I'd only finished eating about 15 minutes before they came to class. "No, it's your skin! You smell like...chocolate!"

Seriously? Too funny. And the whole class heard. I tried to hold back the laughter! On top of all that, I was being observed by my department head. She was cracking up in the corner! At least smelling like chocolate is a compliment, I think...

Another funny comment came at the end of class. As third grade was lining up in the hallway, my department head (and good friend---she teaches elementary music) was walking through their class line to cross the hallway into our fine arts office. Tommy stopped her and said "you and Miss M, you're like best friends, right?" So cute! And she is one of my best friends in China...

Monday, August 3, 2009

A note from an ESL student...

Dear Miss M....

Thank you for teaching
me, you are bestest
artist, (I think ^U^)
Next year, I want
to be more good
student of you.
When I think you,
I think about M&M.
See Ya later!
P.S. tell your E-mail

I'm not sure exactly what this letter means. Who is my e-mail buddy and what I'm supposed to tell him or her? Perhaps typing this up fulfills the student's request...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

One year down!

There are so many things I did not blog about this year. If I get a chance this summer, I might write up some projects, though posting is becoming increasingly difficult from this part of the globe. (Thanks to my dad for finding a way for me to access blogspot!)

If I don't write up some projects, you'll have to hope I repeat it next year and take the time to blog about it on the second go-around.

During the last week of school, my efforts were focused on grading, returning artwork, and goodbyes. Some art classes were cancelled due to special activities. For the other classes, 3rd-5th grade, I had students fill out an exit-survey/year-in-review worksheet.

          The best part of art class is...
          My favorite project this year was...
          The most important thing in art is...
          When I think about next year, I hope we...
          In art class next year, I want to get better at...

I had a professor in college offer some wise words during an informal talk about his teaching experiences. I don't remember the exact quote, but he mentioned that you can't get your identity from your students, your self-worth from their opinion of you. I try to keep everything in perspective as the adult in the relationship, but I still desire to be a burst of light, source of love in their lives.

Reading these worksheets was encouraging, if not tear-worthy. Here are some exerts:

The best part of art class is...

when we are working on a projects (3rd grade)
drawing and making (3rd grade)
teacher is very kind (3rd grade)
painting (3rd grade)
Miss M (3rd grade)
i-pod and self portrait and all of the because I learned from Miss M. (3rd grade)
the teacher is king (3rd grade, ESL student---did she mean kind? she also filled out the talent show audition form saying she would be sining as her talent...)
talking (4th grade)
being with you! (4th grade)
it's fun (4th grade)
free drawing (5th grade)
we get to make lots of sculptures and projects (5th grade)
FUN!! (spending time with friends) (5th grade)
talking and concentrating on the picture (5th grade)
that I can finish quicker (5th grade)
that we don't have to fill out worksheets, we can make something (5th grade)

My favorite project this year was...

All of them (3rd grade)
weavings (3rd grade)
drawing cakes (3rd grade)
painting (3rd grade)
making sculpture (3rd grade)
paper mache bowl (4th grade)
all (4th grade)
painting the peaceful land (4th grade)
making lamps (4th grade)
umm...maybe the wire sculptures (5th grade)
the series thingny (5th grade)
our powerpoint posters (5th grade)
gridding (5th grade)
makign the wire person or the last project in the series with colored pencils (5th grade)

The most important thing I learned in art is...

to have self-control and work quietly (3rd grade)
how to blend color (3rd grade)
don't rush (3rd grade)
draw neatly (3rd grade)
to do your best job and be dilegent (3rd grade)
be neat and be awesom artist (3rd grade)
follow the teacher's directions (3rd grade)
paying attention to the projects (4th grade)
painting (4th grade)
about lights and decorating with lights (4th grade)
how to be an artist and painter (4th grade)
try (4th grade)
to draw some pictures creatively (4th grade)
ghost lines (4th grade)
designing (4th grade)
that we should love art (4th grade)
we can tell our thoughts by pictures (4th grade)
negative and positive space (5th grade)
that there are many things that you can do with art and they're all fun (to me sorta) (5th grade)
drawing or like the art history or maybe something like that or... (5th grade)
that there are even more types of art than I had thought (5th grade)
draw best as I can, express myself in the drawings (5th grade)
I don't know (5th grade)
how to design with computer (5th grade)
I learned how to draw contour lines (5th grade)
how to make a series (5th grade)

I could continue with the last two sentence stems, but most of those are "do more projects, get better at art, get better at drawing, paint, make sculptures, etc." Instead, I'll leave you with some portraits of yours truly. My students often decide to draw me, so here's a collection from 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders.

These kids are awesome! If you know my wardrobe, you'll notice some distinctive pieces, such as my peacock blue mary jane style crocs...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


One of my passions in teaching is integration. In 7th grade, my reading teacher told the class "you can read about anything, so I can teach you anything." Well he did, and since then, I've never forgotten the words mausoleum and gubernatorial.

My little sister is in his class this year. (We're ten years apart.) He's still up to his old reading tricks, and gave the same "I can teach anything" speech. My mom told me on Skype one day that it's the same for me. It's true! We can make art about ANYTHING! So how do I pick subject matter? I try to make it relevant to their lives, and often tie it to their classroom curriculum.

This takes a lot of planning. Unfortunately, it also takes effort on the part of the classroom teachers. If they don't talk to me about their units, I can't make connections. This year, I've sent a few e-mail pleas to the teachers---please tell me! I know it takes a few minutes of their time, but the reinforcement the students get in my class is DEFINITELY worth the effort!

One of those e-mails resulted in this project!

Fourth grade has a unit on electricity. Their teacher asked me "would you want to work with me to make lamps?"


I cannot claim to have taken any classes with Lyn Godley, but I did teach her son during my first student teaching placement. She came in and gave a presentation to the class about her lighting designs and the work of various KU students. The juniors then started a hanging light project, using IKEA pre-fab cords and making their own lampshades.

After a little brainstorming about the possibilities at our school with our students, Mrs. Early and I decided on a design. The fourth graders would discuss design and lighting in my class. Mr. Early (her husband and our facilities manager) would have his staff create wooden bases. The kids would wire the lamps in Mrs. Early's class. In my class, we'd make the paper shades and glue them to the wooden structure.

To introduce the art component, we discussed the difference between decoration and function. I pulled together a slide show of various lighting projects (compliments of Miss Emily and Miss Amanda: those are some beautiful lights you've made!). I even showed the movarian bell lights made by Miss Emily's elementary students during student teaching! When I got to Godley's crinkle lamp, I jumped over to a video on youtube about the lighting design by Godley and KU students for the outside of the Goggleworks. We ended the discussion by looking at various paper lanterns, including some rectangular lamps from
                                                                                              IKEA that looked quite similar to our basic design.

In the remaining classtime and the following week, the students created three possible designs for the lampshade. Our little mock-ups were quite simple---a half sheet of A4 copy paper (hotdog style) folded into four sections.

After all the designs were finished, we taped the open side together. Each student put their designs above three columns on another sheet of copy paper. The two rows were + compliments and - suggestions or concerns. I asked the students to think of at least one + and one - for each design.

Before the students read their sheets, I reminded them that these were not intended to hurt feelings. They should read all the ideas, think about them, but remember, they are just someone's opinion. They make the decision about which design should be implemented. (I didn't say implemented, but sometimes I miss using big words!)

If I'd been more careful in my planning, I would have designed the lamp size to correspond with the paper. Instead, I arbitrarily picked a size for the base. It was loosely based on the scrap of A4 paper I was sketching on and took into consideration the distance between the lightbulb and the paper. Unfortunately, when all was said and done, the long side of the paper was 1 or 2 cms too short to wrap around all four sides! Though it was frustrating, we made do by making three sides connected and a fourth separate panel.

Craftsmanship was very important in this project. I didn't have lots of extra paper for the shade. I told them the time to experiment was over. They made three designs already. Pick the best and make it carefully and neatly!

No starting again!

I also emphasized that this was THEIR light, for THEIR room. If they did a horrible job, it wasn't just their grade that would be affected. They wouldn't have an awesome project in their room, something in which they could take pride!

After the first day of coloring, we did a few tests. The shades looked best when the pencil side was facing out. Also, soft colored pencil was washed out by the compact fluorescent bulb.

As students finished, I worked one-on-one with them to glue the paper shades to the wooden dowels. The finished lamps looked fabulous!

While they wanted to take them home right away, there were a few things to happen first. One of Mr. Early's staff is an electrician by trade. He checked over their wiring before the projects made it to the artroom. He did a second check after the shades were finished. Also, Mrs. Early and I wanted the lamps to be in her classroom for Parent/Teacher conferences.

After a few days, the students finally got to take the lamps home. You should have seen the smiles as the students carried their projects to the bus that afternoon!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Inspired has taken on a new meaning in my family. Copied, a fake version, knock-off, etc. On my last post, I showed some "inspired" work by my kinders. It is certainly a crisis with my students---many youngsters have lost their creativity, their imagination!

When they are given the option of "free-draw" (usually at the end of a class or end of a lesson, should the students finish early), some of my students cannot figure out what to draw. I remember being impressed the first time I saw a student take one of my art books and sketch a famous piece of art into their sketchbook. Now I've realized these poor youngsters just can't come up with an original idea!

As an art teacher, though, my lessons are far from original. I'm often "inspired" by the lessons of other art teachers. Recently, I've discovered the pletora of art teacher blogs---wow! What's more fun is catching up with Miss Emily and hearing about her lessons. During Christmas break, she shared with me some successful lessons.

Her first grade lesson on Ugly Dolls was a hit, in both countries!

Have you heard of Ugly Dolls?

I hadn't. What started as a little sketch on love letters turned into a successful toy line!

I started the lesson by reading a classic, Where the Wild Things Are. We talked about monsters and how we visual identify them. This led to talks about beauty and ugliness. Would they want a toy that was ugly? Introduce Ugly Dolls! My kids loved that the letters started because the lady went back to Korea for a period of time. We looked at various Ugly Dolls and talked about what made them ugly (one eye, long arms, etc.). Overall, we found most of them to be kind of cute! There's definitely a charm to these creatures...

The kids then proceeded to draw their own Ugly Doll using crayons on bright colored paper--orange, turquoise, lime green, and purple. Miss Emily used construction paper crayons, so her crayon markings are more vibrant.

(Construction paper crayons are on the list for next year!)

Next, the student cut out their creation. Turning it over, they tore up small pieces of paper towel, crumpled it, and glued it to the back of their guy. When the back was covered, we glued it to another sheet of paper and they cut around the edge. (I found it's best to insist that the students stop the paper towel one centimeter from the edge. This makes the gluing process much easier and neater.)

As my first graders finished their dolls, I gave them a small sheet of paper with stem sentences (the first part of a sentence). They named their Ugly Doll and explain why they loved it.

We finished class (the second day) by reading You Are Special by Max Lucado. Like many of his books, it is an allegory. Punchinello, a wooden Wemmick, eventually discovers that the man on the hill loves him because he made him, and that's why Punchinello is special. The man made him just the way he is! Punchinello does not need to worry about what the other Wemmicks think of him...when they think he's awkward and clumsy. It doesn't matter.

While there wasn't a "right" answer for the stem sentences, one student's response fit perfectly with the book! He wrote "I love my Ugly Doll because I made I love you and cute you are so good." All the students loved their Ugly Dolls because the dolls were their creation!

I was quite cruel to Tuesday's class and insisted they leave their Ugly Doll in my classroom. (Honestly, they never take artwork home on the day they make it!) I took pictures of the dolls with the stem sentences. On Thursday, I couldn't say no to the kids, so I just took a group picture before they took them home!

I'd love to tell stories about each doll. They are all so unique!

In the group photo, the middle boy in the front row actually had enough time on the first day to draw two Ugly Dolls. When it came time to glue the first doll to a new sheet of paper, he decided to use his second doll as the back! He has a double-sided doll! So creative!

Other dolls remind me of their creator! This one, in particular, just makes me think of the little boy that made it. He's the artist of The Pilgrim Snowmen from December!

(Click on the pictures to see them larger.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Drawings by PreK and Kindergarten

Back in August and September, my third graders drew portraits of their classmates. These were quick drawings, done using a template for facial placement, and modifying the template for the individual features. They drew in pencil first, and then colored it in with crayons. Over a few class periods, each student made about 5 drawings, and we stapled them together into a book. Two slices, above the eyes and below the nose, allowed three parts of the page to turn independently. We made some interesting combinations by only turning some of the parts...

So why am I mentioning this now? Well, the standard crayons created a problem when it came to skin color. The kids dug through all the old crayons to find three peach crayons. Other students used orange, yellow, brown . . . I decided I needed to get the Crayola Multicultural Crayons for next year.

I was able to order the crayons at the end of December. They arrived in early February. It was only a matter of time before I decided to use them. I broke them out one morning for the PreK class. We talked about the word family and what people we might draw in a picture of our family. One little girl really wanted to draw Kim Marie, the teacher's baby girl, but refused to draw her baby brother.

The part I was most curious about was skin choice. Each table had the standard eight colors intermixed with the 8 multicultural colors (six shades of brown, plus a white and black).

Some kids completely disregarded the skin colors and made their family purple, green, blue, etc.

Other kids carefully picked a shade of brown, usually on the lighter end.

Tony was funny. He drew his family members naked first, coloring them in completely with a skin color. When that was finished, he drew clothes on top of them with the standard eight colors.

Another girl cracked me up! Jessica's dad is Caucasian and her mom is Chinese. She and her sister both have black hair, but a lighter skin color than their mother(without the yellow undertones). She used black for hair and peach for skin when drawing herself, her mom, and her sister. When it came to her dad, she drew him using all yellow. Yellow skin, yellow hair. (He does have dirty blonde hair.)

Here are some of the drawings from PreK. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of Jessica's drawing.

The top right picture is Tony's, with clothing added afterwards. Underneath that picture, everyone in Isabel's family has VERY long legs! If you notice the names on those pictures, you might be confused. Rony? Rsabel? The class was learning about the letter R and practicing what their name would sound like if it started with the letter R.

This week, I did the same activity with my kindergarteners. The families are great, but it was the drawings after the families that ended up being the most interesting!

I think Jerry's drawing of his family became the inspiration for the later drawings by the boys at his table.

I asked him about koa. What does this say? Korea. That was a duh moment for me. Of course. About 2/3 of our students are Korean.

The mention of Korea seemed to inspire Ted, another Korean boy.

World geography might not be the best subject for our kinders. Not surprisingly, Korea is huge! Even our middle schoolers have been known to let out a gasp when they see the actual size of Korea on a map.

I'm not sure about all the countries, but the first three on Ted's map were Korea, China (the C as the top) and India (the i at the top). Japan was added, along with more Korean islands and USA.

The Indian boy sitting between the two Korean boys decided to draw a globe as well. You can see that India grew in size a little in Swayam's map. It's also daytime in this world.

Jerry also joined the globe action for his free draw. Now each table had two sets of the standard eight colors and two packs of the multicultural colors. While the other boys were coloring their oceans (and using the only two blue crayons at the table), Jerry said "I need blue! Is there blue? Oh I have yellow!" and proceeded to color his ocean yellow.

As one of the other teacher's mentioned, we do live on the Yellow Sea (but it's not yellow).

Let's look at the countries on this world. Of course, there's large Korea and many Korean islands. We also have a J for Japan. As he was drawing, he said "oh, Merica!" and labeled an island with an M. Later, he added a U on another island for United States. At the top, there's this u/C thing. Maybe that's China. I forgot to ask about that.

What happened to India? Just check out the moon on the left, and you'll find two circles labelled I. I think the rocket may be in flight to India.

At another table, a European boy, William, drew an airplane for the hundredth time in art class. Whether drawing, painting, or making collages, he makes an airplane once or twice a month. He's quite good at drawing them. You can see all the people inside the plane as it lands. Our kids, being expats in China, are frequent travelers.

Other students began drawing ships, particularly pirate ships. Perhaps this is because the local expat group put on the pantomime Robinson Crusoe just a few weekends ago. Joseph asked me how to spell Robinson Crusoe. I honestly didn't know. I have to look it up every time!

(Side note: Having recently devoted a lot of time to learning pinyin, the Chinese phonetic system, I have a terrible time sounding out long words when I'm trying to remember how to spell them! I was actually trying to spell Crusoe a few weeks ago and couldn't for the life of me figure out the last two letters! The long O sound in Chinese is spelled "ou" always, no exceptions. And the oe combination doesn't exist in pinyin, which might be one reason why I didn't think of it. Just now, I had to google it again and get the correct spelling from "did you mean robinson crusoe?")

Here are some more pirates!

I love that the two boats on the right are waving the Korean flag! It shows up a lot in my students' artwork. Remember Christmas Tree Korea--made by Jerry's older brother, Fred.

(Did anyone notice Fred's name in Jerry's picture? I let Jerry sound out his brother's name. f is clearly spelled fa. Then an r, which looks more like a v, and a d. Missing the e and the awkward r makes his brother's name look more like Favd, not Fred!)

Back to the pirate ships, I can't figure out what happened with the two on the left. I don't think they were made by the same student. Why would one student redraw the same picture? They don't have names on them, but here's my guess. I think one girl was "inspired" by the pirate ship of the boy on her right, which is how they both ended up with nearly identical pictures.

Inspiration, a topic for a later post!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wonderful World of Weaving

Weaving has taken over my least in the elementary department. Back in November, my third graders started weaving. The project was based on something I saw during my Early Field placement. We began with some basic information about weaving. My beautiful, hand-woven scarf from Megan made an excellent visual! Looms, woven metal, woven plastic netting, and even traditional fiber weaves. Then the students received a rectangle of burlap. We talk about patterning, which is very important in weaving. The kids came up with a pattern for which rows they would remove from the burlap.

Keep 9, remove 2, keep 4, remove 2, keep 9, remove 2, etc...

The next week, we learned about
six different color schemes:

     Light and Dark (monochromatic)
     Warm Colors
     Cool Colors
     Opposites (complimentary)
     Neighbors (analogous)

We looked at some art images, identified the colors in them, and named the color scheme. Then the students chose which scheme they wanted for their weaving. Afterwards, the magic began!

Many students were able to thread the large, blunt needles on their own. Others needed help from me or Mrs. Yang (my TA). A few art classes later, most students had completed the whole weaving! For the students that didn't finish for one reason or another (worked slowly, missed classes, etc.), I simply cut the burlap into a shorter rectangle. Then Mrs. Yang sewed all their names onto the weaving for easy display on bulletin boards.

The next weaving project was with fifth grade. We had just a few class periods before our Christmas break and the end of the semester. I decided to use that time to review three things the students should already know...warm and cool colors, the basics of using watercolors, and weaving.

It's especially hard in an international school to know what the students have learned already. About 2/3 of my fifth graders are new this year. For the rest, they've had four different art teachers from 2nd grade until now!

I showed the students some watercolor basics and asked them to explore, creating one page of warm colors and one page of cool colors. After the pages were dry, they were allowed to cut them into strips (1-3cm wide) and weave them in any way they saw fit. I encouraged experimentation during the whole process.

Finally, first grade got their turn. Again, I based this lesson on something I saw in Early Field. We started by making our paper loom. I decided it was important for the children to make it themselves. I stepped them through the process, emphasizing that they needed their "listening ears" that day in class, and they MUST follow directions!

We started by folding our paper in half, hamburger-style.

Next, we put the bottom of our ruler along the fold and drew a line across the top of the rulers. What a coincidence, the students were learning about rulers in math class! One function of a ruler, to draw a straight line!

Then we used our ruler to measure--another ruler function. We put the left end of the ruler at the edge of the paper. I wanted the students to make every 4 cm along their line. I started explaining this by saying "Put a mark at 4cm. Now we need to add 4. What is 4 plus 4? 8, so put a mark at 8cm." As I was stepping the students through the process, it just came to me. Our ruler was simply a NUMBER LINE! The first graders spend a lot of time using a number line. I was able to draw the hopping arrow to show the kids how to count up four numbers on the line, and in the process, add 4!

Once they'd marked every four centimeters, they switched to the fold side. This time, they placed the top part of the ruler touching the fold. Again, they used their number line and marked every four centimeters.

Next, we turned the page so the fold was on the left. I identified the drawn line on the right as the STOP line. This was very important! They used the ruler to connect the dots from the fold to the STOP line, drawing with their pencil from the fold to the STOP line, at which point in time, they STOPPED! If you haven't taught first graders, you wouldn't understand how important it was to say this, say it again, and make them say it over and over!

Once their lines were correct, they were able to get scissors. They started with the fold close to their body and cut along the line. What happens when they get to the STOP line? You STOP! Really, you'd think I was crazy if you saw me actually explaining this to the kids...over and over, loud and dramatic!

Amazingly, they were all successful!

The following week, I demonstrated the UP and DOWN motion of weaving. We looked at the checkerboard effect, talking a lot about doing the opposite thing as the previous row. The students were given a selection of neutral strips--white, light grey, dark grey, and black. They were to create a pattern in their strip choice. Some stuck to the tried and true ABABAB pattern. Others attempted something more complicated.

The final class period was spent using oil pastels to draw patterns on the checkerboard. The kids really liked using their name in the pattern.

In February, I attacked our school with all three weaving projects. In addition to the two bulletin boards outside my room, I convinced classroom teachers to lend me their hallway boards for a few weeks. I intermixed the projects, trying to put the work of one child next to their brother or sister's classroom. Usually, they're really proud of their sibling's work!

My attack was purposeful--in February, we offered Weaving as an afterschool activity for the students. Many of the 4th and 5th graders had seen the burlap project and asked about weaving. I think my media campaign was successful! There are about 10 students in the activity on Monday (lower elementary) and about 5 on Wednesday (upper elementary). Since I'm teaching Computer Art at the same time, Mrs. Yang came up with the weaving projects and teaches them to the students. So far, lower elementary has done many smaller weavings. Upper elementary is still working on a cardboard loom. Both sets of kids seem to love it!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Figure Drawing with Fourth Grade

Back during my glory days at Kutztown, NAEA invited Sandy (retired teacher from Boyertown and Crayola Rep) to come and do a Crayola demonstration. She also spoke to my Early Field class. In all her projects and comments, one thing that stood out to me was doing figure drawing with elementary students! It seemed crazy--very ambitious! I didn't do figure drawings until Art III in 12th grade!

Her results were beautiful. I was convinced.

My drawing curriculum involves a lot of drawing from life. My 3rd graders drew the bicycle for four weeks. That's also a project I did in high school. But these kids can handle it! It challenges them, but if you give them the tools (three types of lines: straight, angled, curved, and some ENCOURAGEMENT and CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM), they can see it and learn to put that down on paper!

One thing Sandy said about doing this project: She always put the kids in costumes.

There are lots of benefits to costumes. Costumes lighten the mood. They can create a social studies tie-in, with the appropriate dress and props. Most importantly, they deflect the attention from the child, and their body, to the inanimate clothing, and its folds, bumps, lumps, seaming, etc.

I find this to be very important to my children. In Asian cultures, standing out from the group is not viewed as a good thing. It is a collectivist society, and you want to fit in. There may be pressure to fit in in the states, but we still put extreme value on being an individual. You're a star. Here's your chance to shine!

My students can be very shy when singled out. The costume puts a barrier between them and the group, and makes it about the clothing.

It also makes it so much easier for me to offer constructive criticism. Excuse me, you didn't make her butt big enough... Instead, I can say, look at the way the costume bumps out in the back. Make sure you draw that line. None of the costumes are fitted (check out how long most of the sleeves are!), so it always provides that option to comment on the thickness created by the costume.

I am also very careful to redirect any comments that might hurt the model's feelings. When a student is bold enough to hold up their drawing and say "look at how crazy you look," I am quick to add that it's not because the model is weird-looking, but because the drawing is crazy.

All of the students blew me away with the results! Here's an album of some of the highlights. Click on the link below the slideshow to look through the images slowly and read my captions...

I rearrange the classroom before the students come in the room. I put two small tables together in the center, making a square. The longer tables are then arranged, all six, around the perimeter of the room. I randomly place the students at the six tables, looking into the center. Any student that wants a chance to model writes their name on a small piece of paper. All the names are put in a bowl and I pick out two models for that class period. The first model comes with me to get a costume from my office, which is directly across the hall (remember, I have a TA, so she is still in the room with the kids). We come back, everyone giggles, and the model hops up onto the table. Each model does three poses. Usually one standing, one sitting on a chair, and one sitting directly on the table. These poses only last 5-7 minutes. Being still for that long is VERY challenging for the models! I remind the students not to worry about drawing eyes, noses,'s about the clothing! After all three poses, the model takes off the costume (just worn over his or her clothes) and the new model comes to get a new costume. Lather, rinse, and repeat!

Interestingly, most of the kids can finish a decent drawing in those few minutes. I remember wanting at least 15 minutes, maybe more, when we did figure drawing in high school.

One of my students is incredibly talented! I've seen her gifting in other projects, but the drawings make it very apparent.

I was showing her drawings from our second class to Mrs. Greene (the secondary art teacher). I told her that I couldn't take any credit for her skill level. Looking back at her first drawing, I do see improvement based on my suggestions. Her first drawing is "perfect" in a bad way. It's more like a fashion drawing and less like an actual person. I talked to her about not drawing a straight line if the belt actually is at a slight angle. We talked about the specific folds, seaming, and all the details of the pose.

The drawing on the left is her first drawing. The drawing on the right is from the second class.

The shirt had puffing at the shoulders, and the LONG skirt with a stretchy, gathered waist, was actually inside out, so the unfinished fabric edges were visible down the back of the skirt.

I made an album with some of her drawings.

You can see two of her drawings from the first week, and five from the second week, after I talked to her about drawing the specific folds, seams, draping, etc.

I'm not sure I can draw this well, and certainly not in five minutes!

By the way, I didn't say ANYTHING to the class or invidual students about line quality or using value, yet some of the students used both very effectively!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Turning into my "mother"

I don't actually mean that I'm turning into Momma Mel. (Well, that might be true too...)

I was thinking about that perennial story, that one where new parents realize they are literally turning into their parents--the things they do, the things they say.

It's not that I'm intentionally replicating the art teachers I've's just the main experience I have to go from when deciding how to do things.

About a month ago, I was overwhelmed by a bunch of pieces of scrap paper. It was all A4 copy paper, some white, some colored, and all used on one side. I didn't want to put it in the recycling bin. I also didn't have a jelly jar cabinet with that teal tray where we collected scrap paper in my kitchen in Pennsylvania.

I don't know where the idea came from, but I went to my paper cutter and chopped the paper into quarters. I think that means the paper is now A6.

I took the stack and put it on my desk. Now I use it to write quick notes, to do lists, etc. I wish I had a little beige metal tray to contain the stack. Then I would truly be copying one of my high school art teachers, Cathy Kammler!

In another such moment, I found myself singing (in my head) about the primary colors:

Red, yellow and blue
Red, yellow and blue
I see you, I see you
You are the primary colors
You make all other colors
I wish I were a color like
Red, yellow and blue

My elementary art teacher, Mrs. Blahut, used to sing this song to us. It wasn't until I was thinking about writing about this experience, "turning into my art teachers," that I realized the song is actually Three Blind Mice.

This week, I also did one of those things I thought I'd never do: I had my third grade students paint a value scale.

It's not that I intentionally made a pact against the task. It's just so traditional. It's a meaningless,* skill-based, production task.

Especially at the elementary level, students can learn about value and color mixing without making value scales and color wheels! At a basic level, my PreK kids understand tints. Color plus White makes it LIGHT! Adding black makes a color darker. (I wish I could figure out a rhyme for this.)

My kids learn color theory and value through experience. PreK, Kindergarten, and First Grade don't know I have bottles of orange, purple, green, brown, pink paint! I've only given them the primaries, white, and black. They've had to "find" all the other colors!

I haven't painted with second grade yet, but I don't think I'll let them use anything but the primaries, black, and white. I let fourth grade choose from the whole array, but encouraged them to mix A LOT. We were looking at The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks. As a class, we established that he didn't use any color directly from the bottle (we don't have bottles of yellow ochre, otherwise that might not have been true...). They were intentional about creating just the right blue for their sky (or blue-gray, gray, blue-green, pink-purple sunset, etc.), the right greens for the vegetation, and the right natural colors for their animals.

In third grade, we're painting cakes, Wayne Thiebaud style! I did a lesson with 6th graders in England, so I was very excited when Miss Emily told me about a lesson she did with her third grade students in Pennsylvania. I decided it sounded like fun, plus it didn't require me to make enough cake for the whole class! (In England, I made two layer cakes. Each student got one slice and drew it, using contour lines, in their sketchbook. We then used tracing paper to repeat the image three more times so we had four slices of cake to paint. Of course, at the end of the class, if they had behaved, they got to eat their slice! Drawing from life, classroom management, and a tasty treat all in one!)

For Miss Emily's lesson, we spent the first class period looking at Wayne Thiebaud's paintings and learning to draw 3D solids. Cylinders for the cakes, triangular prisms for just one slice! We also used cones to draw none other than an ice cream cone! A sphere of ice cream, or a rectangular prism brownie! I'm getting hungry...

Between the first class and the second class, I started paging through some old Art Ed magazines in our office. Low and behold, a School Arts from 5 or 6 years ago includes this EXACT lesson! Drawing 3D solids, painting with tints, all while looking at the work of Wayne Thiebaud! I know there's nothing new under the sun, but really! Coming across this exact issue, in China, in the middle of my project!!! I don't know where Miss Emily got her idea, but I doubt she was reading a copy of School Arts from when we were still in high school!

This article talked about having the students do a value scale with different colors, noticing how colors respond when mixed with white or black. I read the paragraph a few times and eventually decided the author had a point. Some colors react funny when mixed with white or black. Who would think that yellow plus black would look greenish?

About 15 minutes before my kids showed up, I made the decision. We would do a simple value scale of the primary and secondary colors. My PreK kids may know what happens when you mix white with a color, but I didn't teach my third graders when they were in PreK. I have no idea what they have learned and how they've learned it! Before they waste a lot of paint and slop some crazy tints on their final piece, they should have a basic understanding of color mixing.

This class period also served as a chance for students to practice mixing on a palette, cleaning their brush, and painting neatly (in the box).

I went around and discussed some of the scenarios with the students. You need a lot of white to really change the color, but only a little bit of black. White is weak, but black is very strong.

One of my students got sick of washing out his brush between colors. He wised up and counted how many more tints he had to make...four. He made four small dabs of white paint on his palette, one on each side of the square palette, and washed out his brush. Then he counted how many more shades...five (he must have stopped in the middle of second color). He made five small dabs of black on his palette, one in each corner and one in the center. He had a little 9 square checkerboard on his palette! He then went color by color, mixing his primaries and secondaries with the white and black dots on his palette.

Surprisingly, the kids weren't bored with the task. They got quite excited about the results, especially the shades. Orange and black looked like chocolate!

This week, we'll revisit Thiebaud's paintings, comparing his colors to the colors on our chart. Hopefully, the kids will decide they need to use lots of tints in their final painting. Then we'll be ready to start painting...

*Not that the task has no value, or that there isn't a place to refine skill to this level, but there is no greater meaning, enduring understanding, big idea to reproducing a color wheel or value scale. I think this type of skill development is a better fit for secondary/post-secondary. Skill development in elementary goes hand in hand with exploration, creativity, and tasks with broader meanings.

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