Friday, February 18, 2011

matisse meets middle school

home sick today, with the first case of strep throat this year! not excited about being sick, especially since its the beginning of vacation and we have lots of fun things planned, but I've made it to February without getting really sick.

middle school Matisse
sixth and seventh grade recently learned about Henri Matisse, the king of color, as my little ones call him. For sixth grade, who have difficulty focusing and not constantly socializing, I introduced Matisse by reading "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists: Matisse" by Mike Venezia. As I read, they had focus questions to answer. The exercise worked pretty well, as they could tell my lots about Matisse, even after a week! With both grades, we also looked at a power point of various Matisse works and talked about lines, pattern, complementary colors and composition.

grade six
After learning about Matisse, we looked at a still life set up in the room. Students did not have to draw it exactly as they saw it. Instead they were encouraged to take their inspiration from the still life and what they knew about Matisse. We completed 3 thumbnail sketches and took a day to make our own color wheel and introduce or review tints, tones, and shades. Students were only given red, yellow, blue, turquoise, green, black, brown and white. I think they did a great job, and I know they had a blast being allowed to mix their own colors!

grade seven
after spending about a month drawing in one point perspective, I wanted my seventh graders to explore other ways to create a space. Students were asked to come up with about five different patterns that they could possibly use in an interior. I have a TON of fabric samples, donated from a local design firm, so we had fun go through those. We also came up with 3 thumbnail sketches of rooms. The last activity was a bedroom, so I encouraged them to think of other rooms. There is an Ikea store near us, so I had students think about what its like when walking through the show rooms! Again, we talked about tints, tones and shades, and made a practice color wheel. We are still in the process of finishing, but these are some action shots.

you can see, in this shot in particular, how we work too. Recycled cup holders and yogurt cups and stryofoam trays for mixing pallets. clean up takes a little less than 10 minutes, depending on the speed of the middle schooler, but I can't really think of anything easier. one table washes while another puts paintings away. while waiting for the sink, all tables are sprayed and washed.
I'm just thankful we have a sink! And I know the kids really enjoy being able to mix their own paints. They feel like "real artists." Plus, the clean up teaches responsibility on some level. So, if it takes ten minutes, it takes ten minutes.


Monday, February 14, 2011


I just have to share...
I have now been observed double the amount of times I was ever observed, both years I was at my "old" school. So twice, and we are only in our second term. AND both times I have received positive feedback! Today was not one of the more exciting lessons, although I am very proud of the drawings being done; its more of a stepping stone to a larger work.

Of course, I charged my camera and forgot to bring it to school. So no Matisse pictures to post. Sorry.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

adventures in positive and negative space

teaching Thursday was amazing.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are middle school days and I typically do not look forward to them. I love teaching, but I do not enjoy the noise and "badititudes" (as a veteran co-worker puts it) the sixth and eighth grades bring to my room.

I do try to squash it. In fact with one sixth grade class we follow the "7 Minute Rule." I have a timer, and for seven minutes there is no talking. If you raise your hand to ask a question, I will answer, but its seven, solid minutes of getting work done. Then, there are three minutes to quietly talk, at your table, while working. This continues until clean up... so far its worked and even been requested to follow in the fourth and second grades!

back on track: I especially do not look forward to Thursdays, as I end my day at the after school program, making my day span from 6:30am to 6:30pm. ew.

every, single class I had Thursday was enveloped in their work. its Saturday and I am still in awe that this happened! I know there were a few tests being taken that day, so some kids were nervous and quiet. And I'm sure the cold weather makes a preteen want to sleep forever, but even the chatty kids were at acceptable volumes and work was being done. AND, I even had great conversations about their works.... from compositions, to color selections, to brushstrokes. amazing.

8th Grade- Positive and Negative Animal DesignsAbout three weeks ago, I put out books featuring different animals and insects. I asked for students to draw three, stylized (simplified) animals.
  • Students picked one of their sketches and made an outline drawing on a 6"x6" white paper. I then showed them two techniques to transfer their image multiple times onto a 12"x18" paper. One was simply tracing, but as I don't have a light table, and couldn't have twenty kids in the five windows, I showed them how to put pencil on the back of their outline, then tracing the lines on the front, with pressure, on top of the larger paper, would push the lead and transfer the image. Like a carbon copy, but they had no idea what that was... 
  • The next step was to have a geometric shape overlap the pencil outlined animals. Students were given a 6"x6" piece of poster board and after cutting out the shape, traced it in another "popcorn" pattern, making sure to overlap at least one animal each time.
  • Students then went back to their outline and colored in some shapes black while leaving others white. This became their "positive" animal and would be used as a reference. At first they thought I was crazy since they felt this step unnecessary, but soon they saw my logic.
  • Finally, using their "positive" animal as a guide, students used sharpie to color and outline their pencil drawn animals. But there was a catch: everything outside the geometric shape was "positive" while everything inside was "negative" or the opposite. 

this student used a circle as her geometric shape, to represent bubbles!

 I am super proud of the eagle design. Its pretty simplified for an 8th grader, but for this particular student, to have a neat, clean and complete work of art, that took time, effort and pride, is huge. Huge victory.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ready, set, draw!

*sigh* our first full week. I'm pooped!
I've gotten myself together however, but the kids seem... unsettled.

Every group goes through phases. And I feel collectively we are at the "storming" phase, to borrow a term from someone, I can't remember who, in college. In the beginning of the school year everyone was happy-go-lucky, getting to know one another and "forming," friendships and different relationships. We made our way to Christmas vacation all happy and cheery. Now, we haven't had a chance to settle back in after the break, and those friendships and "formings" are starting to "storm!" The nudges know exactly how to get under your skin and even the littlest of kids talk with ear shattering attitudes and disrespect.
I can't wait for the snow to melt so they can go run in circles outside and blow some of the steam off!

Today went surprisingly well though... I think middle schoolers would prefer to hibernate in times like these rather than annoy to no end. 
As I believe I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to start a drawing unit with grades 4 and 5. I was planning on starting by reading Art & Max by David Weisner and then teaching a step by step drawing of different lizards in order to complete an assignment similar to "Leapin' Lizards from Deep Space Sparkle. Of course, we just painted and I relied heavily on oil pastels in the beginning of the year, and really need to switch it up... so I searched high and low for some cheap chalk pastels in local stores. nothin'. I caved and ordered a classroom set of Crayola drawing chalk and have had to buy my time waiting for them to come in... cue today:
I was going to follow up lizards with people. (the music teacher had asked if we could do illustrations to go along with John Denver's/ Mary from Peter, Paul and Mary's song, "For Baby" and I wanted to make sure the kids have confidence in drawing people beforehand.... the thought is to have a powerpoint of their illustrations rolling as they sing.) So we started people today. I had mixed expectations.... actually, I honestly thought this was a very bad idea, but was going to try anyway.

I introduced fifth grade to gesture drawing. I didn't show them these, but did explain that gesture drawings very quickly, under two minutes, get down the pose of a figure.
Their models were action figures. I had tried gesture drawings earlier in the year with sixth grade and it was nothing but giggles. So this time I borrowed some Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles from the preschool and challenged the kids to use the side of their crayon, without picking it up off the paper, and to constantly move around their page and until the figure appeared to be standing. We did this for almost a half hour! Some talking in between poses, but they built up to a nicely done five minute drawing with enough time left in class to briefly go over how to use ovals and circles as an "under drawing" or plan for a drawing of a person.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

ANOTHER snow day!?

seriously folks, I have not taught a full week of school since before Christmas vacation.
front yard in December

front yard this morning

we have had a snow day, two hour delay AND early release due to all this snow. my New Year's resolution was to get myself in shape and all this shoveling is most definitely keeping me on track!

since returning to school in January, I feel as though I have been playing catch up. I threw a few lessons out there to get us back into the swing of things, and now those lessons are taking weeks to finish with all the upsets to our schedule. I remain hopeful for the end of the year however. Here are my thoughts:
  • grades 2 and 3: reading books by Laurence Anholt, and creating art inspired by the new artist. grade 2 has already learned about "The King of Color" and made scrap paper collages, fauve portraits and goldfish mixed media works.
  • grades 4 and 5: a drawing unit... we started this past week with an optical illusion using line and shading I found on Art with Mr. E's blog. the kids are really stoked about it! I took the opportunity to introduce color schemes along with it, and even though the assignment will not be finished this week, its nice to have as a go to when I hear "I'm done, now what?" ... next week we are going to read Art & Max by David Weisner and learn how to draw a lizard; much like Max who wants to be an artist and through his misadventures, makes Art colorful... later, we will learn how to draw people and portraits. And take the portrait idea to learn about Modigliani and Picasso.
  • middle school: I know I have a million ideas written down, but not too much is coming to mind right now... grade eight will be working on a value drawing in the hopefully near future... grade seven and six are working on Matisse inspired paintings and will be moving on to Keith Haring and (possibly) architecture, respectively. 
sadly, I have no photos of the awesome work we have been doing... I need to get better at that. and a new, improved, camera is on my birthday list! and recommendations?