Arachnophobia: Grade 4 Art Happening

What a wonderful group of grade fours!  They were very intense about their art…from the very beginning until the very end.

I began the class by asking the students what makes people scared of spiders.  We thought about why they have become a symbol and decoration for creepy times like Halloween.  We shared all of the types of spiders we know about from library books, movies, stories and experience.  We talked for a while about Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

In their visual journals, the students designated a BEFORE page and an AFTER page.  I asked them to draw a spider, with their own knowledge and understanding and idea of what a spider looks like.  It could be entirely imaginary or be based on something they’ve seen before.  They were asked to add as much detail as possible.

The variety of interpretations was amazing.  I love love love their BEFORE images.

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Next, I showed the students a YouTube video…great guy…easy going and enjoyable script, “How to Draw a Red Back Spider.”  I have never been a big fan of HOW TO DRAW books, but honestly, when a class is swelling to 29 to 32 students…the YouTube Video is a way for the teacher to filter around the classroom, assist and support students.  If you are doing a demonstration/explanation at the front of the room, with your back to the students, really you are less engaged with them and more being a ‘bit of a show off’. I’m laughing as I type this.  Do what you want!  It’s just that, very late in the game, I’ve discovered that these little videos are superb for the Depiction part of a lesson.

This guy is great.

The very same students who had created the BEFORE drawings posted above, drew the following AFTER depictions.

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I didn’t have a lot of time for prep…was busy eating up a bowl of homemade leek and potato soup, so I grabbed black and white paint and orange paper and so began the expressive portion of the lesson.

Using chalk for drawing, the students were asked to use their sketches in order to create a Red Back Spider on a web.  The red spot could be coloured after both the spider and web were painted…using a red Mr. Sketch marker.

The resulting BLOW OUT session was remarkable!  A great time seeing students show their own spin on the subject.  I only wish that I had my Canon with me.  But, this will give my readers some ideas.

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Festive Art

As much as the elementary art curriculum focuses on giving the students a wide variety of art making experiences…reflection, depiction, composition and expression, it is natural to be drawn toward the reasons for the seasons and to create images based on selected thematic happenings.  Of course, Advent, Christmas and winter provide for some of these opportunities.

I’ve seen variations of this Division II lesson, taught throughout the school district.  Its success lies in the contrast between cool and warm colours.

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The subject matter (trees/hands/cars/ornaments) can also vary.  The activity below demonstrates the most expressive qualities.  There is evidence that, although the teacher provided some limits regarding subject matter, the students were really in the drivers’ seats.

P1090419 P1090415 P1090413 These are a few examples of the warm/cool thing I found displayed in different schools.  In the example below, the selected media was coloured marker…one could also use oil pastel or paint pucks paint pucks.  These require skill where painting/drawing up against clean edges is involved.  Required materials; white bond paper for pencil crayon/marker, ruler and pencil.  Draw a triangular tree shape first, with emphasis on it filling a large space.  Do not cave to the temptation to template the trees for the students because the variety of height, width and size will create some excitement in your overall display.  Where possible, encourage the students’ unique interpretation.  Draw intersecting lines from one edge of the paper to another.  Don’t create shapes that are unrealistically small, depending on the media you’ve chosen.  I’m always into big and bold.

DSC_1496 DSC_1497Recently, while guest teaching, a class at St. Isabella School was in the midst of creating these pieces for an Advent celebration and will later bring them home to parents as Christmas gifts.

I enjoyed this approach because it offered experimentation with a variety of media.  Before I arrived on the scene, the students had coloured regular photocopy paper with Mr. Sketch markers in patterns and designs, either cool or warm colours. Whether this media is applied to coffee filters or regular paper, the colours will melt into one another with the addition of water.  They are also easy to clean off of desks with a regular wipe if you haven’t already created laminated place mats for this purpose.

Mr. SketchHoles were punched into the top of a water bottle, and when the pieces were completely coloured, they were sprinkled with water. Once dried, these were transformed into three coniferous trees

DSC_1633DSC_1638A teacher can release a bit of control, as she or he feels comfortable.  For example, for predictable tree size and shape results, you can draw this cut template on the back of standard white print paper before. An option would be to have the students flip the paper over and draw out their own tree designs before cutting.  Guaranteed, more funky and less pretty!

I had the students tape their heavy weight paper to their desk tops with masking tape.  For this activity, a paper with no tooth is preferred.  When paper accepts water, it bubbles or expands.  As it dries, if attached to a surface with tape, it will shrink again and flatten.

DSC_1636I showed the grade four students a Youtube video that demonstrates how artists use wet-on-wet technique in their watercolour paintings.

In a room without a sink, this is all you need to have. Before the water was used, I quickly walked around the desk pods and pulled a sponge filled with water across each of the compositions.  The students had already placed their palettes of paint pucks on a paper towel in the center of one of the desks.  If the student used warm colours for their trees, then they chose cool colours for their background palette.  If the student used cool colours for their trees, then they chose warm colours for their backgrounds.  As well, each desk pod had a single container with a small amount of water to dip into as they pulled the pigment into their composition.  It was suggested that using the lightest colour first would be a good plan so that the dark colour would not impact all of the other areas too quickly.

DSC_1645I talked to the students about how, at the horizon…where the sky meets the mountains/land, you typically see the lightest colours of blue.  As you look up into the deep sky, that is where you see the darkest blues.

Have the students choose their colours for their palettes (paper towel sheet) and ask them to put a wee drip of water on each puck to soften the pigment.  Included in their clean up, have the students dump their containers of water into the bucket and place their brushes bristle down in the water at the same time.

DSC_1637 After the activity, ask students to use a dry paper towel to wipe off their puck and place them side by side in order to dry separately. Art students need to participate in studio clean up from the very beginning of their education.

DSC_1643Recess!  And the backgrounds dry.  Don’t remove the tape from the desks until they are completely dry.  Have something planned for after recess that takes the students away from their desks and in their gathering space.

DSC_1642 DSC_1641Once the backgrounds are completely dry, the students cut out their trees, draw embellishments with silver and gold metallic sharpies, and arrange on their backgrounds, with glue sticks.

DSC_1649DSC_1654 DSC_1657DSC_1653One or two early finishers can prepare some papers in brown green and black, to be used for the trunks of the trees.

DSC_1650DSC_1646This is where I left the scene of the art extravaganza.  Next day…some printmaking as students used the butt end of their pencils, dipped into white acrylic paint, to create a peaceful snow flake thing.  This is a very step by step explanation, but I thought some of you might wish to try these out, if not this year, then next.  Thank you to the grade four teachers of St. Isabella, for letting me participate in this festive adventure.

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Have you ever seen a red bird?

That’s a question I asked Grade Two this morning and there were only three students who had seen Cardinals and they were delighted to tell their stories; two of the three had seen Cardinals on television.  The most interesting story was the one told by a wee boy about going on a trip to see Grampa and in the wilderness (his word) they saw four red birds.  I told the story of seeing Cardinals in Belleville, Ontario when I went there to visit my father.  Someone talked about those kind of birds having Mohawks on the top of their heads.  And then this guy came up.

Angry BirdsI’m going to tell you the truth…I found today’s idea on Pinterest.  YIPPEE!  Inspired by illustrator, Charlie Harper, many variations of this same activity can be found and managed, with, I hope, a focus on unique interpretations of the theme.  Here in Calgary, these children would not be as familiar with Cardinals as they would be with Northern Flickers and Magpies.  I think these activities could be suited for local birds as well. But today, I was into the red.

I wanted to manipulate the compositions to teach EMPHASIS and so the red was a pop of colour in an otherwise muted background.

Materials: Blue 18 x 24 construction paper with tooth.  White chalk for foggy fuzzy edges of background trees, White tempera, large bristle brushes, flat, two sheets of red poster board cut into small squares….two sheets enough for 23 students.

First, the students had depiction time.  I talked to them about how the Cardinals that we created were going to be like cartoons of birds.  Every single bird would look different depending on a lot of factors.  To begin with, we would practice drawing shapes…the body being a raindrop shape with the Cardinal’s Mohawk feathers on the top.  “Try big wide raindrop shapes and thin ones.  Try big and small.”  This little sketch was borrowed from one variation of this art lesson, found at Art On My Hand.

Angry Bird DepictionsThe eyes will be oogie boogie eyes that pop out past the bird’s body.  The legs…”Try long, short and bent. How can you make the bird look like it’s flying? How can we show wings? The beak is like a diamond shape and then just draw a line through the middle.”

Our drawing practice looked like this.

DSC_1459 DSC_1458 DSC_1457After sketching for a while and exploring all sorts of possibilities, out came the large blue paper.  I demonstrated how to press chalk and make dark lines and then showed how to move it and press on it to create light marks.  I touched the top of my paper and the bottom, on a vertical, to show how large the background trees needed to be.  I asked if any of the students had been outdoors recently when we had wind and snow and fog.  Lots of stories there! :0)  “What did the trees look like?”

“Our foreground tree…the one the closest to us…is more detailed.  We see more when something is close to us.  I can see your noses right now, but….when you are out on the playground, I can’t. We will paint the tree that’s close to us. What do we call a tree’s body? (trunk) What about its arms? Where are its legs? (limbs, branches? and their legs are underground) What about its fingers? toes? (It’s fingers are twigs. branches?) Expression and Composition time…with one short pause to remind the class not to SCRUB, but to STROKE. Here is what their trees looked like.  Off you go!  Recess!  PUT ON YOUR SNOW PANTS!

DSC_1447 DSC_1448Ti DSC_1449After recess, not much had to be said…a factory of Cardinal makers nested at their desks and the room was an industrious hush.  Absolutely amazing stuff as they created, invented, problem solved.  We all agreed that the tools we needed from the bins were scissors, glue sticks and thin black markers.  The fat ones were just too tricky.

This is what they created.

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?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_1479 ?????????? DSC_1481 ?????????? ??????????Thank you, Grade Two, for an amazing day at Our Lady Of the Evergreens School

 

Self by Yann Martel

The movie, The Life of Pi, is coming out soon…at least the television reminds us that it is.  The Life of Pi truly impacted me…its images, syntax and reflection on all that motivates the human spirit.  To journey on a small boat with a young boy endlessly…to contemplate survival…to be blown away by acute realization in the end…the book is powerful, engaging and has a forever-sort-of-impact.

It was for these reasons and more that I picked up the book, Self.  I was thinking that Martel wrote it after the Life of Pi, but nah… it was published in 1993 and this, according to Wikipedia.

Critical reception

Self was Martel’s first novel, and followed the publication in 1993 of The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, his first collection of short stories. The novel, in Martel’s own words, initially “vanished quickly and quietly”,[6] though it was shortlisted for the 21st Chapters/Books In Canada First Novel Award, then Canada’s most valuable first-novel award with a prize of 5,000 Canadian dollars.[7]

More critical attention fell upon the book when Martel’s second novel, The Life of Pi, won the 2002 Man Booker Prize.[8] A reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald, noting that Martel himself had called the novel “terrible” and expressed a wish that it “disappear”, agreed that the work suffered from a “serious crisis of identity”, and lacked the power of Life of Pi.[8] The Montreal Mirror went further, calling Self “lame… A pastiche of autobiography and post-modern plot twists, it was haunted by an off-putting tone of smug precociousness.”[9] The Toronto Star reviewer objected to Self‘s protagonist’s “self-satisfied air”, but praised the work for its deft touch and compelling narrative.[10] A writer in The Independent described the book’s handling of gender change as “crude confusion”,[11] while The Hindu described the book as “interesting ideas juxtaposed against not-so-inspiring writing”.[12]

I have struggled with this book and wonder, especially, why Martel’s male character becomes female (sublimates?).  As a female reader, I feel insulted by the supposition of what it means to be ‘female’.  I find myself thinking, “How does he imagine that this is how a female might experience this situation?”  This…unlike Wally Lamb’s book She’s Come Undone…a novel that successfully creates an authentic female character.  I feel as though Martel is trying to create far too many scenarios in a relatively short book…the reader is guarded, confused and left pretty ‘put off’…at least this reader has been.

I won’t be recommending this one although I know that the book is investigating the notion of identity…the self of the self.  I’d be interested in hearing from others who have ‘hung in’ through this book.  Some of the images feel too personal and too descriptive.  I think that the act of reading includes the reader as co-creator.  The reader needs to explore the themes from the place of prior knowledge.  The reader does not wish for the writer to put everything ‘out there’.

I suppose that I’m curious about his recent book, What is Stephen Harper Reading?

 “I know you’re very busy, Mr. Harper. We’re all busy. But every person has a space next to where they sleep, whether a patch of pavement or a fine bedside table. In that space, at night, a book can glow. And in those moments of docile wakefulness, when we begin to let go of the day, then is the perfect time to pick up a book and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few minutes, a few pages, before we fall asleep.” From the author of Life of Pi comes a literary correspondence — recommendations to Canada’s Prime Minister of great short books that will inspire and delight book lovers and book club readers across our nation. Every two weeks since April 16th, 2007, Yann Martel has mailed Stephen Harper a book along with a letter. These insightful, provocative letters detailing what he hopes the Prime Minister may take from the books — by such writers as Jane Austen, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Stephen Galloway — are collected here together. The one-sided correspondence (Mr. Harper’s office has only replied once) becomes a meditation on reading and writing and the necessity to allow ourselves to expand stillness in our lives, even if we’re not head of government.”  Quote taken from here.

Hmmm…causes me to think about that feeling every artist must have…whether that be a writer, poet, film writer, thespian, actor, visual artist, musician…when they create that MONSTER of a piece…that EPIC piece that every one will remember and then they are left with that foreboding feeling of what to do next.  I’m wondering how that particular peek moment impacts the rest of the creative journey.

Sound of Collective Consciousness…the World’s Heart…this Santana interview causes me to think again about the creative process.