Monday, March 28, 2011

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

I really enjoy reading to my younger students and taking our inspiration from books. Last week we read Simms Taback's There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. Then, following one of the lessons I found in 25 Terrific Art Projects Based on Favorite Picture Books, we drew our own illustrations. We talked about exaggeration and expression too.

  • First we followed some step by step instructions to draw the "old lady" on a 12x18 white piece of paper. We kept it simple, using "U" shapes, and we discussed different options for hats, shoes, and clothing, and how to draw them.
  • Next, we traced our lines with black crayon... I know it tends to flatten an image, but its a really appealing look for small kid's work. It also helps the artist, and the viewer, really see all the patterns and shapes she or he creates.
  • We then used crayon to color.
  • The next class, we started with a simple line drawing of a fly in the middle of an 8x8 inch white paper. Keeping in mind that the "old lady" swallowed the next animal to catch the first, we drew the spider around the fly, so the fly looked to be in the spider's belly. I drew on the white board and talked about the simple shapes and how many legs etc. Students drew all the animals, in order, around the one before, until there was no space left on the 8x8.
  • We started coloring again with crayons.
  • Finally, during the last class, we assembled our pictures, even if we were not done coloring. First, we cut out the animals, then the "old lady's" arms. (the horror!) We then pasted the armless "old lady" to a colorful piece of construction paper and pasted the animals over her belly. Lastly, we put her arms back! And they rested nicely on her full belly. At that point, I know we had all our arms and legs and animals, and we could all get back to coloring.

The lesson may have taken a few classes, and we only used crayon (the original lessons does a watercolor resist), but I feel like everyone was successful and proud of their work. AND, we had fun being silly! Its a nice lesson to drive home the fact that taking your time will result in good work. We also practiced cutting skills and following directions.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

happy Museum day!

this is bad.
I haven't even been accepted into a Master's program yet and I'm back to my old, college way of leaving writing assignments (which take me forever as it is) until the last minute. my 1,500 word statement, demonstrating writing proficiency and including information about my specific goals, teaching philosophy and thoughts on contemporary schools and current movements in education, is due Friday.
I took some notes and decided it was time to blog instead!

Friday I got to sleep in (whoowho, 7:15!) and after a leisurely morning, we took the train in town to the Museum of Fine Arts. I wanted to check out the new American wing for myself.
overall, not bad!
I have never been one to be able to retain too much information. I had to use flashcards to pass art history in college and nine years later, I don't think I could tell you much. when I teach about art history, I do the research again and take notes, that I now know to keep for the next year. and hopefully, after using the information, I will remember. 
so, the museum: most of the portraits from the 18 and 1900s were new to me. I had never seen the people, well except for George Washington... and Paul Revere's face is on the label of my favorite beer.... so I had seen some of the people before, but for the most part, did not know the people OR the artists. and after a few rooms of portraits, I got bored. I did enjoy the inclusion of furniture and housewares and the period decorated rooms and the look of textiles behind the paintings. and, when you go to the next floor up, you go through time, getting closer to today.
after this museum trip, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer more modern art and folk art. I greatly appreciate the skill it takes to paint portraits, but only so many really capture my attention.
Alexander Calder
Louise Nevelson (Frank Stella)

oh yea! we stopped in the gift shop on the way out, and I got an Art of the Americas calendar for $1.58! so now I can share George Washington and Paul Revere (and Sargent and Hopper and Cassatt) with my students!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


*sigh* its just me, my blog, and the record player. yes, record player. we're both closer to thirty than twenty, and enjoy the sound of vinyl and buy more records than cds or mp3s. its interesting how the bands we listen to are releasing new music on vinyl more often. i am also learning to listen to more music as we are canceling our cable contract. its just too much money that can be spent more wisely. and so, the channels we get on the antenna are the basics, and countless pbs/ public stations. even as an art teacher, i can only take so many "happy, little trees."

grade three, for the most part, finished their Mona Lisa portraits. I have been dragging my feet with grading this week. I want to transition the third graders into using rubrics. and I know next week I will have countless hours in the morning to get work done, with standardized testing going on. needless to say, the rubrics are made and I will finish grading by the end of next week. here are a few interpretations:

Phantom of the Opera Mona

Mona in the Hat

Mona Mom

Mona Ms. Cameron (our Principal)

(unfinished) Mona in Space

Bruins Mona

(unfinished) Sleepy Mona

the Moooona Lisa

we talked about what makes the Mona Lisa, the Mona Lisa and what to add to our portraits to tell the viewer that we looked at the original. We also looked at a powerpoint of other artist's interpretations and discussed why this was such a monumental portrait and why it is famous. We tried to include things similar to the original horizon line, the river or mountains, her clothing and the position of her hands. I think they did a fantastic job and wish I could say the same for my camera! (I really want to get a new one. not necessarily an SLR, but maybe one a step down. still, $300, gotta save up!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

quick few things

here's the Visual Music display I put up last week. I was lucky to be able to display it outside the music room. just this afternoon, a teacher told me that she loves seeing the display on her way up to her classroom in the morning; that she feels happy and cheerful when she sees it.

third grade is still finishing up their "My Mona Lisa"s, and will hopefully be done tomorrow. I plan to take a break from our getting to know artists series and do some "old school" spring themed scratch art drawings. if they finish tomorrow, I will ask them to draw with crayon on a manila paper, heavy and dark, and not tell them why yet :)

second grade also learned about Leonardo da Vinci, but we focused on his sketchbooks of inventions and desire to draw everything he saw- how he observed and learned from his drawings. we learned how to draw a horse. then used markers, q-tips and water to create a sepia tone drawing.

we started this week a drawing of the old lady who swallowed a fly. the kids got a kick out of me reading the book! we will use a crayon and watercolor resist to complete these drawings and I will post some pictures too.

I am really looking forward to the middle school finishing up their current activities. 6th grade is working on emphasis and distortion self portraits. 7th grade has learned about pop art and roy litchentstein and making food designs using ben-day dots. 8th grade is finishing up drawings using a grid.

in honor of Youth Art Month, I had all my classes today write a quick response to "what does art mean to you?" hopefully I will have some good quotes for the blog... but also to make some posters to hang as advertisements for the upcoming, day yet to be determined, art show.

Friday, March 11, 2011

visual music

with the hopes of a spring art show, I have been going back to some old activities... haha I only started teaching at a school in 2008. haha, old.

when I started though, I didn't have much in the way of tested, structured, thoughtful lessons, so I bought this book, Making Amazing Art: 40 Activities Using the 7 Elements of Art Design with the focus that year on getting down to basics (as the six classes I had that year, NEVER had art with a "real teacher.")

one of the most successful lessons I did that year was "Visual Music."
the element of art we talked about was line. how not only does it help us make a contour line drawing, but also shows emotion, movement, and even sound. that year, as I did this year, I asked students, if they had permission, to bring in their instruments. it worked out to be a band day this year! I also brought in an electric guitar and finally grabbed the attention of some of those 6th grade boys! we spent a day talking about line and sound and music, and sketching out our ideas, observing what we brought in. I even played a compilation of "abstract" music so we could "hear" many different lines.
the next class, students were allowed to choose whether their final would be watercolor painting or oil pastel drawing. we just spent about a month on a tempera painting and I know some kids needed a break from paint. those who watercolored drew with sharpie first. those who oil pasteled, outlined with black crayon first. these are the results:

after this lesson, I decided that I really like the look of the liquid watercolor and sharpie line. its nice and graphic. I hope to recreate that feel with the "For Baby" illustrations with 4th and 5th grade. I also have to apologize for the quality of pictures... I don't know what I took them by the window. it washed out some of the color. I will have to take a picture of the display I put up yesterday outside the music room. 

people and faces

I don't want to jinx myself, but I recently took down this winter display of our art. it is time for some positive thinking!

It has been replaced with a new display, showing off what 4th and 5th grade have learned about drawing people and faces.
year after year, its a huge request to learn how to draw people. i insist its all about practice, practice, practice, but teach students anyway how to use circles and ovals. kinda like this guy:

we then spent just a couple of classes talking about the proportions of the face. i feel like it was lost of some of the 4th graders, and even a few 5th, but you can't win them all, all the time. and drawing is something we will keep using, and practicing every year. those who did take the information and use it came out with some great drawings.

these are 4th grade's before and afters. I did NOT do this to show them what they do "wrong." the last thing I want to do is put students down. first we drew the one on the left. then folded it under while we followed some directions of the board. we even used our fingers to find the tops of our ears in relation to our eyes and things like that. when were done, we opened the page and observed the difference. I really wanted students to realize that your eyes are not on your forehead and your hair does not start growing at the top of your head. 

the next class, we took out mirrors and drew ourselves:

gotta love the Justin Beiber face paint! and not bad for a 45 minute class!
here's what 5th grade impressively managed after two classes:
these lessons are all in preparation for our "For Baby" painting, drawing, collage, illustrations. we started planning this week and God willing, I will have them done, scanned, and digitized by the April 28th Spring concert.

catching up with Grade 5

I have gotten to the point where I am going to need an external hard drive for all my photos, lessons plans, and power points. last weekend, while sick with my second case of strep throat(!), I had to completely rebuild my iphoto library after attempting to clean off my hard drive. it was not fun, and once the fatigue set in and I accepted that I was sick, it was the only productive thing I did for three days!
we have been super busy in room 15!
I am aiming to have an "Arts" day at the end of April. The Spring concert will be in the afternoon and I thought it would be great to open the school halls afterward, for parents and families to view all our hard work. --- there are many things we still need to get done! And I am feeling the crunch. (there is an entire week coming up when I will not see ANY of my morning classes due to standardized testing - I'm trying not to panic)

catching up with Grade 5
Fifth grade is my largest class... I can't complain about 26 students when I know public school teachers who deal will class sizes in the 30s. (I read someone on an email list had 40 kinders in one class!) However, when you do not have a budget and literally need to use folding chairs to fit all the kids at a table space, some days with 26 kids can feel like there was a herd of elephants in your room.

before we started the figure drawing lesson I posted about a few weeks ago, we spent a few weeks painting in the style of Canadian folk artist, Maud Lewis. we had spent about 6 weeks completing different Latin American themed folk art, so I thought I would wrap up the "unit" talking about another folk artist. much of the work we viewed when I introduced the lesson, were scenes of coast line and snow covered hills.... similar to how our neck of the woods can look like!

example of Maud Lewis
I first learned about Maud Lewis from a post on and since did some research on my own. Maud's story is pretty great. Once she started painting, later in life after receiving a gift of oil paints from her husband, she would go door to door with her husband, who would sell fish, and try selling her work. after being featured on a local tv station's show  (I told the kids that it would be something similar to our Chronicle) Maud became a more popular artist and had people asking her for paintings, up until she pasted away. one of the points I attempted to make with the students was how Maud overcame physical difficulties, having deformities after suffering polio as a child, to do something she really enjoyed. she enjoyed painting so much that she painted anything she could find in her 12'x 12' home!

student work

I feel like folk art is really approachable for upper elementary students. Grade five in particular starts to feel like whatever they create has to be "perfect" and get caught up in things needing to look "real." and its a natural progression. so introducing folk art -art made by people who have been taught by passing down a skill, or who are self taught with little or no "formal training"- lets students loosen up a bit and have fun painting.