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!

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