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!

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