Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inspiration, Experimentation, & Networking

Last weekend I attended a 2 day art conference held every fall in our state.  This was my 5th conference I have attended (I attended 3 as a student and this was my 2nd as a teacher) and although this one was a little bit more chaotic, disorganized, and dysfunctional than I can usually handle, I survived.  And despite the chaos, I learned a lot from our great presenters!

I attended many great workshops over the 2 days and got a wide range of lesson plan ideas, tips/tricks, and was totally inspired to try some new things!  I love attending this conference because all of the attendees are art teachers.  Some teach in big districts with multiple art teachers and others, like me, are the only art teacher in their district(like me!).  Some teach one or two subjects within art, others teach it all.  Some teach elementary, some teach junior high, some teach high school, and a few (like me!) teach it all!  I enjoy seeing us all come together and to create a great network of communication through sharing various ideas.

One workshop I attended was entitled CD Printmaking.  I was intrigued from the beginning.  Our presenter had an old CD for each of us to try it out.  She had these fancy tools she made herself using the plastic part of an old pen and added a darning needle to the end...quite dangerous as she showed us her hands!  I was immediately worried because I know some of my students would use these tools to "shank" (my students' word) each other, no doubt about it.  They worked so well though.  On the back of the CD, you scratch your design after drawing in sharpie.  The best way is to use hatching and crosshatching.  The parts you leave alone will become white.  This process is similar to an etching and took me back to the days of printmaking with my undergrad professor.  Surprisingly, the CD surface scratched easily and was very exciting! 

The presenter also had materials for us to print our CDs, however I wanted to attend another workshop so I left early and experimented at school a few days later.  It could use some more work, but as a first time attempt I think it looks fun!  Here is a photo of my experiment:

I will definitely be doing some more experimenting and will be using this in my classroom either with JH or HS some time this year.  I need to brainstorm a little though to see what kind of tools will scratch like those needles without being so scary/dangerous looking.  I'm considering trying paperclips, push pins, and a few clay tools that I have laying around.  When my students do this project sometime in the future, I will post some results.

Monday, October 24, 2011

HS Clay Animals

So I realize that some of you may think this project might be a little juvenile for HS students.  However, if you have a little background you may understand...and they turned out great anyway! 
I am the 5th art teacher in 6 school years in my school district.  And this is my 2nd year here.  On the high school level, my classes are all the same and I teach a little bit of everything.  We draw, paint, do clay projects, etc.  It's hard to fit in a little of everything and build on skills...I've discovered this recently.  I did 2 or 3 clay projects last year, so even if I have those students again this year, they haven't done a whole lot with clay.

*Sidenote: I'm thinking of approaching my projects in terms of units in the future for JH and HS.  Like 5 weeks of drawing basics, 5 weeks of painting, 3 weeks of clay, etc.  Right now I just do random things and there doesn't seem to be much cohesion and it bothers me a little.  I want to see that my students are learning and building on skills and it is hard to see sometimes when we jump around a lot.  Do you do this?  Is it successful? 

Anyway back to clay, we created 2 pinchpots and put them together and used that as an animal body.  Students then chose an animal and added on animal features.  They had SO much fun with this project!  And to me that is what counts.  Yes, they probably do not have the skills they should when it comes to clay. But I'm doing the best I can and my kids can't wait to do clay again!
I did have a few that exploded in the kiln and I feel so bad when this happens!  One of them I thought was going to break and it did.  The other 2, I'm not sure why they broke.  Sometimes clay is so unpredictable.  I didn't make my students re-do them and just gave them points based on their construction prior to firing.  What do you do about pieces that break beyond repair?  Any suggestions?  

Here are some results some before firing and some with glaze:

Whale with top hat, bow tie, and eye glass

Duck with Baseball Cap

Bull Dog

I started creating one as well but ended up spending more time helping the students than I thought so by the time I got back to mine it was drier than I wanted.  But I finished it anyway.  I left it out to start drying and the next morning as I was taking a shower I remembered I didn't poke a hole in my pinchpots!  Funny timing to remember, but never the less I attempted to poke holes in it later but it exploded in the kiln anyway.  Wish I had taken a picture before I put it in!  I find it somewhat ironic that I forgot but STRESSED so much to my kids to make sure they had a hole in the hollow parts...when things like that happen you just have to laugh!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1st Grade Has Gone Batty!

My 1st graders have been learning about bats in science and reading and I LOVE doing cross-curricular projects with them :)

The classroom teachers have done a few art projects within the regular classroom but I wanted to do something in my room as well.
Because it is close to Halloween as well, I thought of a bat mask.  I referenced my good old friend GOOGLE to find a mask template to help me get started.  What a wonderful thing, this thing called the Internet and GOOGLE...I don't know what I'd do without them!

I had my students trace, cut, and glue together their masks while I stapled on some string.  Once they had everything all together, we added google eyes(what 1st grader doesn't love google eyes?!)  and I got out my special fancy shimmery watercolor paints that show up quite well on black paper!  Oh what fun we had!!!
This was quite the task to accomplish in just 30 minutes, but somehow we did it!

A goal of mine since I began teaching last year was to take a TON of photos to document my trials and errors and to help digital-ize my memory for future references and to capture memories along the way.  I have done a lot of this through photos of final projects, but haven't done a lot with my actual students.  For me the photos help to capture a personal journey where I can cherish the memories I have created with my students. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

JH Fall Landscapes

I did a project similar to this with my 2nd graders last year on a more basic level and was inspired to step it up a little bit by a post I saw on the A Faithful Attempt blog. 
My JH students did resist trees using painters tape or masking tape.  Then they used watercolor paint to create a fall outdoor environment.  After their paper was filled and dry, they peeled the tape off and added shadowing to create trees. 
I was impressed with the results even from my usually lower end students.  Although the results are good, here are a few things I would change:
-Use only painters tape...I used a combo of painters tape and masking tape to get different widths.  The masking tape tore the paper in some areas which added a little texture but was a bit of a headache
-Have my students practice some before going head on into the project with watercolor.  Some did not understand the use of water and creating some transparency through the color.  I stressed it and all of my students have done watercolor before so I don't know why they didn't quite "get it".  Some of the paintings look like they were done with acrylic, but they weren't.
-Perhaps use a different size of paper?  I'm not sure if I would change this or not.  I used 18X24 inch paper which for my JH students has been the largest project we have done.  I think they enjoyed it, but for me it took a little longer than I had planned on which was ok.

Here are some results :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Holy October?!

This may make me sound old, like beyond my 23 years of age, but I'm going to say it anyway.  Is it really already the middle of October?!?!  Where has time gone?  Friday is the end of the 1st 9 weeks!  Time is flying by.  Project after project is being completed and new ones started.
Currently my 3rd and 5th graders are working on some skull/skeleton inspired projects paying tribute to the Day of the Dead and fitting into my theme of Around the World.
My 1st graders are doing a bat unit this month in reading and science and so I wanted to join in on the fun!  They have done a few art activities within their classrooms but next week we will be attempting bat masks.

My JH students have done fall landscapes which I will take pictures of tomorrow and post soon because they look GOOD!  Tomorrow we will be doing a digital "photo-hunt" looking for certain elements of art/principles of design outside and around our school.  These will be cropped and edited early next week and become a collage. I'm hoping they find the great colors and textures of fall to include!  Next week we will also begin paying homage to the Day of the Dead by creating balloon pinatas and papel picados to decorate the JH hallway.

I have other fall inspired ideas coming up too for my other classes that will probably involve leaves and pumpkins, etc.

My Kindergarteners will do more fall/Halloween projects but here are 2 we have already completed to help celebrate the beginning of fall :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Anyone Can Draw

I have a great resource I have to share.  I believe my elementary principal shared this with me last year through a website he saw or something.  (**He is really good about sharing things he finds on blogs and twitter, etc.)  The books/resources are entitled Anyone Can Draw by Stephan Baker.

Here is the link to the main page of the website where you can watch a video and purchase the materials:

The books are like most how-to books, but break down most items into squares, circles, triangles, and lines.  There are a variety of subjects within the book, but a few of my personal favorites are the castle/prince/knight/dragon section and the pirate ship/under the sea section. 

I use this in my classroom by doing a follow the leader drawing when I need to fill in some time or for my early finishers.  I love it because most students feel confident in drawing simple shapes and this book takes it one step further by putting these shapes together.  I believe that it is a great beginning step for young drawers and those who just "see things differently". 
I purchased this books in the middle of last year and every time I have used them, I have seen success from all of my students, even those who lack confidence in their drawing skills.  I purchased both the primary and intermediate books and although both are somewhat similar, the intermediate book starts throwing in dimensions/perspective. 

A few weeks ago one of my 1st grade classes missed art, so to keep both of them in the same place with projects I used this as a filler for the class who was ahead.  I usually draw for the majority of the time left and then allow a little bit of time to color with colored pencils.  I like the drawings without color, but the students love to color them.  Plus, I rarely use colored pencils with my 1st graders so this was an added bonus :)
I was pretty pleased with the results.  Below are pictures from some of my 1st graders:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lesson Plan Flops

As a 2nd year teacher, I've had my share of project lessons that have ultimately failed.  Each one has a different reason for failing, whether instructions aren't clear enough, students don't understand, students don't listen, it just wasn't a good idea to begin with, etc. but nevertheless it is an idea that either needs some major overhaul or a trip to the garbage!
When you're in the middle of a project and you see it start falling apart, do you keep going and try to work through the issues/problems or do you scrap it all together and move on to something else?  I have yet to figure out the right thing to do.  My thought process leads me to want to believe that something can be learned from anything, even if it is learning what not to do.  However, is it worth the headache of trying to hold something together when it is just determined to fall apart?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Symmetry Designs

My high school students did this project on symmetry about a month ago.  We discussed different kinds of symmetry and asymmetry as well.  Students were to create a design using one type of symmetry (vertical, horizontal, or radial) and then they were to color them using asymmetry by doing opposites or adding patterns.  I made the students choose one color plus white for this project.  We used sharpies because my students love sharpies way better than regular markers.  Overall I think this was a great lesson using some basic ideas on a higher level that was good for the beginning of the year.  I enjoyed the variety that it created in terms of design and color which also reflected the students and their personalities.