Sunday, November 18, 2012

What's that smell?

While I can't manage to post regularly on this blog, I am a recently published writer! (Not my first published work--there was that amazing poem I wrote in 3rd grade that was published in an anthology of kids' poetry...) A local language club asked our school to contribute an article on art education for their Nov/Dec issue. I wrote the following article and had a fellow staff member and friend Judy Guo translate it into Chinese. She was my faithful translator during the summer of 2011 when I taught a week long course about Western approaches to art education for local Chinese educators so I knew she could translate the content-specific vocabulary.

If you want to see the article in the e-zine, you can try clicking on the online version here. I can't get it to work but maybe it will load on your computer. Oh and my article made the cover--it's that random explosion of pink, orange, blue and green letters across those kids. No, I did not pick the colors...

BTW, if you're my mom or grandma, I have an actual print copy of the magazine for you.


The Aroma of Art Education—by Stephanie Melachrinos 麦世宁, Translation by Judy Guo 郭凤杰

成年人只要一走进我的教室就会立即注意到里面的气味并对之加以评论。我却没注意到有什么气味。很明显,这气味就是颜料、画纸、蜡笔和黏土的味道,因为这是艺术教室。但是在这充满魔力的空间会发生什么事情呢?因为大部分人 都不会跨过门槛进教室来,所以他们就无法发现艺术课不仅仅是编篮子和用夏令营的剩料做挂链了。艺术课也并非模仿哪位大家,它的内涵远非这些。Adults walk into my classroom and immediately comment on the smell.  I don’t even notice it.  Apparently it smells like paint, paper, crayons, and clay.  It is the art room.  But what happens in this magical space?  Most will never cross the threshold to discover that art class is more than basket weaving and lanyards from summer camp.  It is also not defined by copying from a master.  It is much more. 

艺术课是学生参与创作、探索世界之美的地方。艺术创作是人的本质。它使我们与动物区分开来;也使我们与机器区分开来。借着艺术,我们才能与灵魂相连,我们的心灵才能得到滋养,我们才能创造更多的美。Art class is a place where students participate in the act of creation and explore beauty in the world.  To make art is to be human.  It separates us from animals; it separates us from machines.  Through art, we connect with our soul.  We nurture our spirit.  We add to the beauty.    

在艺术课上,学生的交流技能---就是视觉读写能力,可以得到锻炼和提高。除创作艺术之外,我们还对艺术作品进行鉴赏、思考和讨论(其中包括口头形式和书面形式)。大部分成年人不会就他们每天看到、想到或谈到的一切而坐下来画幅风景画或构画个肖像图,而艺术课却是一个有目的地对以上这些过程进行思考的时间。你看到了什么?作者想传达什么信息?这意味着什么?你如何把它解释给他人?在我们现今的文化中,即使不出家门,只要坐在电脑前就会有各种图画和广告充斥着我们的视线。你对这些是被动地去接受呢还是主动地去观察呢?来艺术课上锻炼这些技能吧。Within the art room, students develop communication skills—visual literacy.  In addition to creating art, we look at art, think about art, and speak about art (orally and in writing).  While most adults do not sit down to paint a landscape or sketch a portrait, they are looking, thinking, and speaking every day of their life.  Art class is a time to be thoughtful and intentional about these processes.  What do you see?  What is being communicated?  What does it mean?  How do you explain that to another person?  We live in a culture where we are bombarded by images and advertisements, even from our own computer screen before we’ve left the comfort of our apartment.  Are you a passive receiver or an engaged viewer?  Hone these skills in the art room.

在艺术课上,人的批判性思维能力和创造力也会得到提高。我喜欢给学生布置要求较少的作业。只要学生作品符合这些要求,他们想怎么创作就怎么创作。例如,去年我教的每个小学生都做了一个作业,他们的设计只需要符合以下要求:Critical thinking skills and creativity also grow in the art room.  I love to give assignments with a small set of criteria.  As long as the students do not break these rules, they are free to do as they want.  For example, each elementary student made a design last year with the following parameters:

作品要有对称性The design must be symmetrical.
作品要有边界The design must have a border.
作品中要有你的名字The design must include your name.
作品必须要用老师指定的某种颜色的铅笔做成The design must be made in colored pencil using one assigned color.

如果限制学生只用一种颜色,他们怎么能创作出有趣的作品呢?对初学者来说,我们为他们提供四、五种不同的“蓝色”铅笔。对每只铅笔,他们都可以用力不同(轻按、力度适中或力度较大)而创造出不同的明暗。另外,他们还可以使用层次来增加作品的多样性。With the limitation of one color, how were they to create an interesting design?  For starters, we had four or five different “blue” colored pencils.  With each pencil, they could press lightly, medium strength, or hard to create different values.  Additionally, they could layer the blues to create more variety. 

名字也是比较难的要求。名字怎么写成对称的?学生必须有创意地思考才能符合这个要求。学生的最终作品会在小学艺术盛会(Elementary Fine Arts Gala)中展出。The name was also a struggle.  How could it be symmetrical?  Students had to think creatively to meet this requirement.  The finished pieces were hung together in a display for the Elementary Fine Arts Gala.    

在创作这种或其他艺术品的过程中,我们会探索使用不同的材料,锻炼肢体精细动作的协调能力并运用其他学科的一些概念。我们会对艺术品进行测量,用尺子画边框,画格子把几个作品隔开,用名词、动词和形容词来描述艺术作品,画非洲大草原上的动物风景画,发现有关艺术家的事实并发表个人观点,画自己最喜欢的艺术材料或者学习画圆柱、立方体等的三维物体。艺术课的时间可以帮助学生强化以上这些和其他的跨学科概念和技能。这是一个其他学科老师播下的知识之种发出的艺术之花,这是一个全面学习的环境。In the process of making this and other art, we explore different materials, develop fine motor skills, and apply concepts from other disciplines.  We measure our artwork, use a ruler to draw a border, divide the composition with a grid, describe artwork using nouns, verbs, and adjectives, paint a landscape with animals from the African Savannah, identify facts about artists and express opinions, graph favorite art materials, or learn to draw 3D solids such as cylinders and cubes.  Time in the art room reinforces these and many other concepts and skills from across the subjects.  It is a holistic learning environment where the seeds of knowledge planted by other teachers sprout into works of art.

下次路过艺术教室时,停下来,去闻一闻里面的气息,去看一看诞生美的摇篮吧!Next time you walk by the art room, pause, take in the smell, and watch the beauty grow.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Twist on the Bottlecap Art

Though I intended to do a second bottlecap panel last year, I never got around to it.
This year, I'm committed to it--I am the advisor to the high school art club and will use their energy to make it happen!

     In the meantime, this happened.

I was there when it first occurred. The PE teacher took his empty bottle and that of the IT guy, walked up to the wall, and screwed them in. I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was even funnier how it shocked people.

     How have we never thought of this before?

Well, we have. When I first started the project, the head principal suggested I make a reverse mural wherein I cut off the screw threads from the top of bottles, attach them to a board, then have an reuseable bottlecap mosaic base. We could move the colors around, screwing and unscrewing bottlecaps to make different pictures. I've never figured out how to do it, but I think a small board would be a great extra time art center in my classroom.

The bottle installation has grown to five bottles. I would be more inclined to leave the bottles up except you can see the remaining liquid in this unclean trash. The bottlecaps were all washed before being used to remove dirt, sugar,and other germs. I'm afraid fresh liquid will turn the inside of those caps nasty.

For now, the bottles have brought a smile to many and freshness to the collaborative art.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

That which by any other name...

Are you familiar with marshmallow?

No, I don't mean the puffy sugar treat that is excellent when paired with hot chocolate, rice krispies, or graham crackers and chocolate. Especially with graham crackers and chocolate.

I mean the color. Marshmallow.

This year, my classpack of Crayola markers got a few new friends due to an ordering mistake at the early childhood center. The 10 pack of assorted colors added some variety to our marker sets. Laser Lemon is a favorite, as is Marshmallow. At least that is what the second graders call it. No, it is not white, off-white, or cream. To me, I would call it light purple. But apparently the name is Marshmallow. They have said it so many times that yesterday, when I reached for a marker and debated which color I wanted, I vocalized to myself "Marshmallow." It was then I decided to enlighten the (blog) world about such a tint of purple. Until I looked at the barrel of the marker. Tropical Purple.

What!?! This color is called Marshmallow!
Don't the people at Crayola know that?

I still have no idea why my students insist on calling it marshmallow. While pink marshmallows are nearly as common as white (outside the US), I have never seen a purple marshmallow.

Until I began drawing with it...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Artist's Achilles Heel

Interesting thing about being an art teacher---you might not excel in every area of art. I recently described photography and handwriting as my left and right Achilles heels as an art teacher. I have, not one, but two colleagues who put me to shame in both categories. And I just got back from a trip to Mongolia with both of them...

I understand the theory of good photography. I know some of the technical stuff like f-stop and shutter speed. Had to learn that stuff for Praxis. I even co-taught photography with the tech teacher during my first student teaching. Plus I understand composition, value, texture---all those elements and principles of art. I just can't manage to make it work when I'm behind the lens of a camera! These days, I don't even own a camera. It died during my second year in China and I haven't bother to replaced it. I did buy a Nikon DSLR for the art department at the end of that year, and have been known to borrow it on occasion, but I live most of my life abroad without a camera. I was thankful to my photography-talented friends for documenting our adventures in the steppe of Mongolia.

And then it happened.

We were in a ger of a local family. My friend was sitting on the floor, learning a game similar to jacks from the wife. He passed the camera over so someone could document the game. While I had the camera, the daughter made her way to the door. I snapped this shot. And then I clicked a few more times. Just in case the first one didn't turn out.

It might be the only good photo I've ever taken. And my friends---they each have 400 amazing shots from the week---but I'm especially enamored with my sweet picture of this little girl, looking out into the world from the safety of her humble home.

After I referred to handwriting and photography as my left and right Achilles heels, I realized I am also embarrassed by my inability to draw from my imagination. Drawing from observation, no problem--but drawing from my head, drawing anything in a cartoon-style, no way! I guess I am a three-legged artist, or at least a three-heeled one...

Do you have an area of art where you struggle? Are you embarrassed by it? Have you found ways to work around your weakness?

I will print a poster
rather than make it by hand because I prefer fonts to anything I can handwrite, or could. Just this week, I decided to view handwriting as an exercise in observational drawing---mimic the letters of favorite fonts when writing by hand.

Maybe this will be a turning point in my relationship with my handwriting.

Photo processing credits to Warren.
Not sure how much he tweaked it. I know I didn't shot in black and white, but I love it as a black and white image.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mona Lisa and Other Management Techniques

I recently read about the Mona Lisa call/response technique and being Mona Lisa ready. How perfect! My students were already hearing me say "Mona Lisa quiet" because of the noise level display but these directions were so clear, specific, and fun!

     Looks like a new poster is in order!

I didn't send this poster to the printer. Instead, I used our on-site A3 color printers. (For those of you unfamiliar with A3, it's twice the size of A4. A4 is very similar to 8 1/2 by 11.)

While I was designing, printing, and laminating, I decided to illustrate my "first grade rules."

Last year, first grade was rather large with an especially high concentration of rowdy boys. While I usually prefer rules that are broad guidelines and general principles, I found I needed some explicit instructions.

     Stay in your seat.
     Raise your hand.
     Only talk to people at your table.

I wrote these rules on the board and reviewed them at the beginning of class each week. When students violated a rule, I directed their attention back to the board before going any further. While my normal teaching style is more relaxed, this system worked to restore some order to the chaotic class.

These students are now second graders. The class has been split and a few additions were made, but I've found some of them still need the structure of those three simple rules.

I rewrote the rules on my white board during the first week of school but now I have these spiffy signs!

Each rule is a separate full-color A3 print, laminated and displayed via magnet tape on the whiteboard. I like that the rules are individual print-outs so I can separate them to focus on a specific rule or move them to another part of the board. I can even take them down entirely for an upper level class that is permitted to get out of their seats to get supplies.

In the same vein as the Art Room Noise Levels, I found examples from art history to illustrate the instructions. I searched through my AP Art History images to find appropriate works. I like that the three images I settled on are ancient, Renaissance, and non-western. I might change the image for only talking to kids at your table. I'm not thrilled with using a 3D example. In addition, I wouldn't mind something more modern or a non-western that is less influenced by colonization. If you have suggestions, comment below! For now, I'm just excited to have moved beyond Expo markers on the whiteboard.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Graphing with Grade 4

I like things to be pretty.
                                            Aesthetically pleasing.

But sometimes, the function is the main thing.

Today, I made a rudimentary graph. Then I snapped a picture of it. And now I'm posting it. See, just this weekend, I read Mr. E's post about graphing favorite shapes. I've done similar things before, but with that post fresh in my mind and five extra minutes at the end of 4th grade art, I decided to do an informal poll of the students. They had just spent the period doing a continuous line drawing of their shoe followed by another (not necessarily continuous) line drawing of their shoe. Afterwards, they selected their favorite and mounted it on a piece of colored paper.

      So which was their favorite?

As much as the kids complain about the challenge of a continuous line drawing, I knew from last year that many students select that as the better of their drawings. How many today? I asked each student, just placing a dot in the rectangle to signify each response. The class was almost evenly split.

It was quick. It was ugly. I'm glad I did it. We practiced math skills while recognizing diverse opinions and reflecting on our own art.

Now I want to create a more permanent unlabeled graph for future activities. The question is where and how...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

For the love of art...

I, like many people, have been reading old posts.

For the record: While I am gratefully overwhelmed by the massive amount of pageviews this past month (something I mainly attribute to art teachers using pinterest to prepare for a school year), I am slightly sad to see the emphasis on posts that are two and three years old! I hope it doesn't break your heart, pinterest art teachers, but I don't even have the art class jobs anymore. Eeek! So while I still stand by my "stool inspector," I'm not using that system anymore. What excites me is my new systems, new displays, and even my consortium's new standards for visual arts!

As I was perusing posts with pictures of my room (and boy was it UGLY my first year--the wall color, the TV shelf, the dangling lights--a fresh paint job, new TV, CORK WALLS, and colorful displays make such a difference!),
I stumbled upon the sweetest story:

Yesterday, I painted with 9 first grade students during the last period of the day. We had about 15 minutes between classes. It was just enough time for me and Mrs. Yang to set up 9 painting stations, fully equipped with water, paper towels, two paintbrushes, a 15x20 sheet of paper, and a palette with red, yellow, blue, and white paint.

Side note: My students were so excited to paint this week that one student brought paintbrushes from home! Waiting to come into the room in the hallway outside the classroom, another student commented "but she only has 7 paintbrushes!" I assured him that I had paintbrushes too, and every student would get a paintbrush, even if she didn't have enough for everyone in class...

Jumping forward to year five, yesterday was the first day of the second art classes of the year. I had one class of first grade, one class of third grade, and one class of fifth grade. The fifth graders--those students were first graders during my first year. First graders who were so excited to paint that they brought their own paint brushes! As for this year's first grade, amazingly it was another class of 9 and I was painting with them. It's really a beautiful thing!

     The magic of mixing paint with six year olds.

And the third graders. They were the first class of the morning. I was lazy this year and didn't communicate to the classroom teachers about art smocks but these third graders brought them anyway. As they lined up at my door, a few students mentioned the new boy's art smock. "Yeah, it's nice!" I told them, glancing quickly at the plastic apron. It had pictures of art supplies in the pockets. Cute. It wasn't for another three or four minutes that I realized what they were talking about. It didn't have pictures of art supplies; he brought his own supplies to class! Pockets full of markers, scissors, and glue. His own artistic toolbelt!

It's been five years.
Some of the excitement is gone.

But for him, our relationship is just beginning.

It was our first real day of art-making, together. He is precious. He enthusiasm is inspiring. He's one of the reasons I love my job.

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beautiful (OOPS) Bulletin Board!

It's a week into school. 9 days to be exact, but today was the start of the 2nd art classes of the year. With each class finished the introduction and oops, I spent the afternoon stapling all 115 projects onto the two bulletin boards.

I know there are differing views on exposed cork, borders, and asymmetrical displays, but I think the chaotic-overlapping-and-hanging-over-the-edge aesthetic works well for this project.

The kids were already peeking on their way to music class, searching for their oops on the board!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What's that you're reading?

Teachers have lots of different ideas about what students should do when they finish early.

In addition to free draw and other art-making activities, I have a reading corner. Students can elect to free read instead of free draw. It's always good to encourage reading!

Our bookshelf is color-coded and organized into three categories. The colored dot on the spine of the book coordinates with the shelf label so students know the correct shelf for returning books. It works, most of the time...

So what are we reading? Here are some books I've collected these five years...

Stories about Art: These are your classic storybooks with an art-related theme. Many of these are well-known and loved by elementary art teachers around the world.

          The Dot
          The Art Lesson
          A Day with No Crayons
          I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!
          Mouse Paint
          White Rabbit's Color Book
          Lines that Wiggle
          When a Line Bends...a Shape Begins
          Iggy Peck, Architect
          Beautiful Oops!
          Hands: Growing up to be an Artist
          Harold and the Purple Crayon
          Pantone: Colors

Famous Artwork: The books on this shelf vary greatly but are held together because they contain many works from art history. Some have descriptive texts; others are I SPY or alphabet books. Museum ABC's is a particular favorite. I was given a copy at my high school graduation party with the sweetest inscription. For my students, I love how it shows them how the same idea can be depicted in different ways at different times and in different cultures.

          Museum ABC
          Museum Shapes
          Museum 123
          Art is...
          Name That Style
          No One Saw
          3-D ABC
          The Art Book for Children
          The Art Book for Children, Book Two
          I Spy: An Alphabet in Art

Artist Biographies: I don't spend much time emphasizing specific artists with my students. These biographies allow them to focus on artists that pique their interests. In addition, 3rd-5th graders are required to fill out one artist worksheet per quarter to go in their art class portfolio. I give class time to allow for this activity.

Artist Biographies come in a few categories...for another time!

Do you have books you love?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Back from the printer

I have an addiction. Or three, maybe four.

     1 kuai colored paper
     double-sided tape
     custom printing (with unique fonts)

When I first got into my classroom in 2008,
I started to make posters with class expectations, character traits of the month, flavorful folds, and my name. By the time second semester rolled around, I'd realized my TA had much nicer handwriting. She became my go-to sign maker, creating character trait signs for successive years, job charts, bookshelf labels, and a bilingual color wheel.

Last year, my TA switched departments. With her handwriting out of the picture, I decided to try a new avenue for classroom displays--custom printing. It seemed only natural to enlist the local printer for art classroom needs; my graphic design projects had already made it on t-shirts, banners, posters, and mugs for the school.

Throughout the process, I loved the freedom and possibilities of creating my new class expectations digitally, and the finished product looks amazing in my classroom!

This year, I took on a few new printing projects. I decided the color wheel could use an upgrade. The laminated pieces had a few minor errors and were starting to look a little worse for wear. These posters were printed as rectangles, then I cut the edges to look like paint blobs.

I was also inspired by posters on pinterest. I loved content, but like timelines, I just wasn't quite satisfied with the designs as is. I'm quite picky. I needed them to fit in specific spots around my whiteboard and I preferred a different color scheme. Combine some new fonts (Equestria and GeoSansLight), my rainbow class colors, and a taupe-y/grey background. Ta da! New posters for my art room.

Look really carefully, to the left of the bulletin board. You can see the very narrow space that necessitated custom posters. While I was at it, I printed an extra noise level chart for the secondary art teacher and about 14 extra THINK posters for teachers at school.

I absolutely love the way the posters turned out! Thanks to pinterest for linking me up with the originals and to Theresa Gillespie and Shannon P Long for sharing their ideas.

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