Monday, May 30, 2011

The Mud Pies are Painted!

The mud pies came out of the kiln just in time for the Elementary Fine Arts Gala. I only displayed the 2nd grade trivets, not the 1st grade texture coasters or the kindergarten necklaces. Unless you count my teacher-sample, coral-red necklace that I wore with my turquoise dress, yellow polka dot sweater, and eggplant purple ruffly shoes. On this one day of the year, I said "bring on the color" and I left all my black and white at home!

In general, I am very pleased with the trivets. The glazes did not run very much, if at all. I only had matte transparent to coat the pieces, though I think I would have preferred glossy. The clear is a little cloudy in some spots.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

RE(used) Weavings

I like weaving. I expose the students to different types of weaving every year except 4th grade. Two years ago, 5th grade made weavings out of watercolor experiments with warm and cool colors. Last year, I opted for a different weaving experience. We made cardboard looms, then wove with plastic bags---a great way to reuse disposable grocery bags! While I have some bags available in common colors (black, white, and red---the color most often used by vegetable vendors), the fun is seeing what students are able to find in their own homes! Baby blue, orange, pink, yellow, green, even metallic silver! Thin plastic works best, though we take whatever we can get. After they've warped their loom with translucent bags, they weave back and forth with strips cut from their colorful collections. Rare colors become extra valuable, with students trading and sharing their treasures. I emphasize a limited color palette (4-5 colors) and suggest patterning, but neither consideration is a requirement.

To finish off the project, students tie two warp strings together, then use extra strips of bags to create fringe.

This year, we had a little extra fun and donned appropriate headgear while weaving.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We're a Colorful Bunch

Months ago, I stumbled upon this project at Art Lessons for Kids and tucked it away in my brain. With the Elementary Fine Arts Gala approaching, I decided it was time to create this (elementary) school-wide mural of portraits. Since my classes are already color-coded like the rainbow, monochromatic self-portraits were a natural fit.

For PreKindergarten and Kindergarten, this was their first exposure to facial proportions and self-portraits. For the other grades, it was a review of previously taught concepts. I emphasized value as a way to differentiate among one hue, along with layering colors with black, grey, or brown, and using multiple versions of the same color (my colored pencils have a variety of every color except orange). Younger students used marker outlines to help define the faces. Yellow and orange portraits had the addition of cut paper in two values to create more variety. In 5th grade, we tackled the word "monochromatic." Students were able to break the word apart and guess its meaning. They were recently exposed to the prefix mono- in a choir song for the gala (do you think she can tell I'm a monotone?) so it was very exciting to see their brains make connections about the words.

Every student (except one absent kindergartner) is represented on the murals outside the cafeteria. I also roped in some teachers to create their own 16cm x 16cm self-portrait to fill in a few empty spaces on the bulletin boards. It was great that every student at the Gala had TWO of their own pieces on display (a piece I chose and their monochromatic self-portrait).

I love everything about this project and am already brainstorming ways to do something similar for next year's Gala.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gala, Take Two

Last year, the music teacher and I paired together to create a night celebrating the arts for our elementary students.
This year, we continued the tradition of the Elementary Fine Arts Gala with a gallery in the cafeteria that opened at 6pm, a concert in the auditorium at 7pm, and after-concert refreshments and ice cream in the gallery.

The concert was fabulous, with performances by the Beginning and Advanced Band, 4th Graders on the recorder, Afterschool Chimes Choir, 3rd Grade Choir, and the 4th-5th Grade Choir.

A parent of one third grader directs the band and keeps us sane with her friendly, mothering presence. A cup of tea, someone to chat with, and even purchasing tickets to Korea for me in the fall, Joyce is a great addition to our office. Her training is in music composition, and she custom arranges each song for our students based on their abilities and instruments. This year, she even prepared a "surprise" piece for the elementary music teacher---Here Comes the Bride. The students were so excited to perform this tribute since they will not be able to go to their music teacher's wedding this summer. And the bobblehead image of her head on a wedding dress that appeared on the screen during the song, that was priceless!

After the thank you's were said, we enjoyed our ice cream with the artwork and said good-bye for the night.

Just as magically as it came together, the gallery needed to transform back into a cafeteria for Monday's lunch. My partner-in-crime bobblehead friend came back to school with me on Saturday to take down the show. Peanut and Plain M&M's. We make a great team! I'll miss her next year as she starts the next part of her life around the globe from us.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Glimpse of the Gala

The Gala was a great celebration!
Artwork, musical selections, two all-elementary art installations, and a lot of ice cream to finish off the night. Stay tuned for pictures of the art, the performances, and the group art projects.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fine Arts Festival---No Clams Included

Preparations are well underway for the second annual Elementary Fine Arts Gala. (Not to be confused with gala 蛤蜊, the local clam dish.) Artwork is matted for 1st grade. Invitations are distributed. (Each student gets 3 printed postcards to give to friends and family.) And our hallway is filled with the sounds of the practicing musicians!

It was a great time last year, with performances by 3rd-5th grade and one piece of artwork displayed for every student, PreK-5th grade. The excitement is building among the students, though I did hear that one 5th grade boy is disappointed because he has to come back to school on a Friday for an Arts event on his birthday!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

That Mud Stuff?

Before I moved to China, I was told by the former art teacher that there was a ceramics studio. Then I found out it was more of a space, not so much a functioning studio. And then I found out the kiln had never been fired.

After the previous art teacher left and before I showed up, the kiln had been enclosed by walls. This summer renovation wasn't exactly supervised, and there weren't very detailed plans. Logically, the workers wanted to waste as little classroom space as possible in the mini-kiln room, so they made the walls less than 6 inches away from the kiln. On the kiln itself, the instructions said the kiln needed to be at least 18 inches away from any wall! Oops. Maybe if it was written in Chinese...Also, they failed to remove open cabinets on the walls of the classroom, just cut a hole in the wall to accommodate the shelves. Not exactly sealed off. Free-flowing air was not the point. Why build walls and then leave an opening larger than an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper?

The space was so small, I could barely get in the room closet to get out all the junk that was stored on top of the kiln! Why are we piling random trash on top of the kiln?

Fast forward one year---I gave very detailed plans (literally drawing lines on the floor with our maintenance men) for the new brick wall (the first walls were not exactly flame-resistant) that would be at least 18 inches away and allow for someone to enter the room and load a kiln comfortably. And we took the shelves off the wall, as the first plan had said, so the room could be properly sealed.

Halfway through my second year of teaching, I found a VHS that came with the kiln. (The kiln was purchased about 3 years before I arrived.) I tracked down a VCR, hooked it up to my TV, and marveled at the invention of the DVD. Literally, the lines across the screen were horrible and the table of contents told you what time you needed to fast-forward to if you wanted to rewatch a certain part. Crazy.

Spring 2010, we ran an empty test fire, per the VHS instructions.

This year, the new secondary art teacher has fired the kiln a few times. She had a similar kiln at her old school and was quite familiar with the process. In March, I decided it was time for me to make the jump into ceramics. Ironic how hesitant I was, since taking a high school ceramics class was my first step into a career as an art teacher, but I was very intimidated by being responsible for student projects.

More than a month has passed and the students' pieces have been bisque-fired (my first actual firing!). One second grade class glazed their pieces today. We made trivets (similar to a cloth potholder for hot dishes) that focused on radial balance. I gave the students pre-cut squares with a slight impression of a + and an x. After smoothing the edges, they used various tools to press shapes and textures into their piece. Lastly, I flipped their tile and they scored and slipped four little pre-cut circles onto the corners to create feet.

To glaze the pieces, they were only allowed to choose one color. Glaze or no glaze. Only two options. Positive and negative space. I reminded the students that if they painted one object on the +, they needed to paint the other 3 corresponding pieces.

The kids did a great job. I asked them to coat each spot 3 times, giving them a practice drawing page to work on as they waited for the paint glaze to dry.

I am not sure if they really believe the colors of the glaze will change with the second firing. They noticed that the first firing changed the color of the clay from grey to terracotta, but the glazing process is more dramatic.

I am nervous to see how much the glazes will run. The kids will be sad if their meticulously painted designs become a runny mess. Maybe I need to get underglazes for next year. For now, we used Dark Blue, Purple, and Turquoise, with a coat of clear on top by me. I can't wait for the students reactions when they see their glazed pieces!

First grade and Kindergarten have also completed ceramics projects---a texture tile (coaster) and texture pendant (necklace). Next year, we'll move beyond slabs of texture and start exploring pinch pots and coiling.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Melt In Your Mouth Memories

My name is long.
And difficult to pronounce.

                 Just ask any of the telemarketers that called right in the middle of dinner when I was growing up.

I know some other elementary teachers with long names. One such friend could symbolize her syllables with a hand waving "Bye," a cow, and skis. Bykowski. Mel-a-oh blast it! It doesn't work for my syllables.

Another friend's name, Budensiek, rhymes with Hide-n-Seek. (If you know something that rhymes with Melachrinos, let me know.)

So I've settled for Miss M. It's short and sweet.

My first year, in the famous 4th grade figure drawings of your teacher class period, I noticed that a new student labeled her drawing of me as "Miss M&M." Precious! Apparently I'd never properly introduced myself to her.

At the end of that year, an ESL student wrote me a sweet note that said "When I think of you, I think about M&M."

And so, in my second year of teaching, I added a second name sign, this one utilizing brown M&M's for the M's in Miss M.

This year, the M&M insanity began with annotating steps in a process that needed teacher approval with hand-drawn M&M's. I decided it would be much cooler if I made custom magnets to use instead, so I printed off some pictures of circles and the animated characters. Red and Yellow. The house colors of me and my buddy, the elementary music teacher! I labeled one printout and posted it above her desk as some office-lovin'. Another printout was posted in my classroom and always makes the students laugh.

Just this week, I found the image on the right in an old magazine, donated to the art department. I had to tear it out and share! The kids LOVE it and asked if they can enter to win the million dollars. Unfortunately, the magazine is at least 5 years old. I actually have a red teeshirt with an M on it, just like Yellow's Trick-or-Treat outfit! My mom bought it for me. I really wish I had more opportunities to wear it to school.

Continuing the candy-theme, I give a bag of M&M to each student featured in the Student Masterpieces section of our school's online newsletter. I staple a note of congrats and the url for the site on each package.

Then earlier this semester, I was at my whit's end about noise in the hallway. Some classes come so quietly, they can sneak up and surprise me. Others announce their presence long before they reach my door. While I think the teachers and TAs are the biggest factor in this behavior, I wanted to find a way to motivate the students to come quietly (and not disturb other music and art classes in-progress).

I decided to make an M&M chart. Classes could earn up to two M&Ms per class period---one for arriving quietly and one for leaving quietly. When a class reached 10 M&M's, they would get an M&M treat for the class.

As you can see, it has not been completely effective. Just a week after I started the chart, we had a fire in the music storage room which displaced my class for quite a few days. And despite the candy motivation, 5th grade can't seem to come quietly. Kindergarten has recently earned a few more M&M's, but I have given up with PreKindergarten; they are just too young.

Only a few weeks after I started this chart, elementary switched to a (almost) no-candy reward system. The principal gave me permission to follow through with this chart and the promised candy treat, but strongly suggested I find a non-candy alternative. How about M&M stickers, or even better, a stamp! Kids would love an M&M sticker or a stamp on the hand for a job well done.

                Lastly, I have decided, until we are no longer in the 21st century,
                I will sign and date my elementary art samples as such.

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