As we moved through Advent at what seemed to be warp speed, I had the opportunity to be with Ashley’s class of Grade fours for a day. The students were bright-eyed and receptive…an awesome little group. Woven through the day seemed to be a theme of gift. So, the story book that I had packed into my bag at home, seemed like it would work just perfectly.
In the afternoon, I pulled out my book and read it aloud to the students. No matter the age, students, for the most part, fall silent at the reading of a picture book. It was no different on that day. While I’m not crazy about this particular delivery, I did find the story on Youtube.
I would consider the painting activity to be an Expression lesson. I did not focus too much on skills related to depiction or composition, but focused on how to hold a brush and the idea of stroking paint instead of scrubbing paint. I guess the interesting thing about asking the students to paint two mittens is the idea that the patterns would match…so they were exploring two things in duplicate. At some point, I adjusted my own system of sharing buckets of coloured tempera, but quickly fell back to my fail safe routine when I observed the chaos in trading that can ensue. I had intentionally limited the number of buckets I prepared on this day for the simple reason that I didn’t want a big clean up at end of day, so I prepared 14 buckets for 24 students. Normally, I would prepare 18. So, you can imagine that, at times, you would hear someone belt out, “Are you done with the white?”
Thank you, Dana, for your wonderful assist.
The paintings, in the end, were lovely. The Pinterest crowd will find a whole variety of projects based on this story book including fabric arts, oil pastel drawings and paper cut outs…lots that you can do around a story. Advent and Christmas art abounds at the moment, I thought that these paintings might bring the spirit of winter into the classroom, for a longer duration. Thank you, Ashley. Thank you, Grade four students. I had a beautiful day!
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.
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.
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.
As we approach the month of red and pink and doilies, I thought that I’d try something new and chat with the grade fours about Robert Indiana and his hard edged Pop Art, particularly his LOVE sculpture.
I showed the students this little interview that included a number of slides about the well known sculpture and I spent a bit of time showing them the negative spaces and talking about the colours that were used.
In retrospect, I would have used a smaller format and had the children use only wide and flat tipped marker pens on white bond paper. I realized, much too late that it was a challenging enterprise to paint such hard edges at this level. The students went ahead like gang busters, however, and took on the challenge. Once again, I showed them how to use the edge of their brushes to paint very long strokes and thin lines. I try to teach this whenever I mix paint.
We began by looking at the Clarendon Black or Bold Font. I talked to the students about serifs and about the sorts of fonts that we use when we open up a Word Document.
Their first depiction was made while making observations of the Calendon style, looking closely at the shape of the negative spaces, as much as the positive, the letters.
The students folded their bond paper in such a way that they created a square.
After that they created a + sign by folding edge to edge both directions. These left them the template where they practiced drawing their LOVE, remembering to leave their O on a diagonal. This is when we ended up giving the negative shapes names such as Arrow Head.
Remember, also, that a whole number of four letter words can be used in this study of Robert Indiana’s approach to text and language.
I then gave the students squared construction paper for their larger composition and they created their text, using chalk.
I first mixed up a number of tints of red for the painting of the font. I decided that contrary to Indiana’s pieces, I would not work with Complementary Colours as wet edge to wet edge, this would most certainly create mud once the children got busy painting. I mixed a whole palette of related colours, almost an Analogous palette and these are the resulting compositions.
Have fun with some version of this. I’ve since taken a peak on the web and their are a number of different approaches. It’s possible that you could outline the letters in oil pastel or sharpie pens. The students and I talked about that, waited for the pieces to dry and decided that from a distance the words popped out successfully.
A beautiful person and artist, Ted Harrison passed away on January 16, 2015, at the age of 88. The world is losing so many heroes…and Ted is one. Having a beautiful heart and eye for simplicity, he loved the northern skies of the Yukon and never failed to share his delight with anyone he met.
One of my big encounters with his illustrations was in the beautiful version of The Cremation of Sam McGee…a poem I used to challenge my grade sevens to memorize from beginning to end. And every year, at least three students did!
I recommend that you introduce Ted Harrison to your classes. For years, Ted’s work has inspired works by school children of every age. When scented coloured markers came into vogue, so did another lesson based on Harrison. It’s wild what variety of lessons we invented as art teachers. The students loved it all!
Something I appreciate Ted saying in the video below is that if one is ever tired of life or inspiration, try looking up at the sky.
So, today…I looked up at the sky.
This morning, driving to school, I noticed a dappled sky above the rising sun…brilliant yellow, pink and orange, with a soft cerulean blue below an arch of cloud and an electric blue, above. That was it…in the afternoon, I would paint the SETTING sun with the grade fours…thinking about chinook arches and dappled clouds over the mountains. And so it went.
I line the back of construction paper with masking tape, when I can find the time. This allows some durability. Tempera paint tends to make paper, especially cheap paper, a bit crunchy after a while. This way the work can be preserved for those folks who like to save things forever. (pointing at myself)
Always use coloured paper for these paints as it creates a bit of an ‘under painting’ and activates the surface, taking away the intimidation of white or that ucky beige. Below…see my favourite yogurt buckets. Every art storage room needs at least twenty of these to be shared around.
Recess and the painting pods are readied…that, and a piece of chalk for drawing, placed at each desk.
A paint station (Palette) is readied…two brushes in each bucket. Students travel back and forth with colours agreed upon by every pair…back and forth they go. The place is like a HAPPENING!
I always work through a sample…don’t expect to have the students do something that you haven’t…how else will you know their struggles or the pitfalls of the lesson?
First…the short ‘review’ of dip, wipe and stroke. Surprise! You always discover that a lot of students haven’t handled a brush very much. (Painting IS MESSY!!) Show them where to hold the brush…not at the white tip. :0) Explain how to share the paint center and remind them to keep two hands on the bucket on each journey to and from.
Regarding the composition, first I spoke about portrait as compared to landscape format and explained that just for today, the composition would be landscape. I explained how clouds that are closest to the horizon line appear smaller…and as they are found higher in the picture plane, they can be depicted as larger and then they almost seem to come over our heads. “Often, Ted Harrison outlined some basic shapes in his paintings and serigraphs…instead of painting up to the chalk lines, how about leaving some of the paper unpainted and the coloured paper will become the lines?” (some of the students got this)
“No…I don’t want you to do a giant sun. No…no sunglasses…no rays…not today.” I went back to describing how the morning sun had not yet shown itself, but that there was a really bright light next to the land. I knew the sun was coming up. So…for the sunset paintings, I hoped that the sun would be almost gone from the sky. The teacher can always drive the vision…as long as he/she has one. I’m sharing mine with my readers. The teacher also benefits by allowing freedom within the vision.
“OH! Why are those small clouds near the mountains the brightest? YES! The light from the sun is hitting them first because they are the closest to the light!
I explained that because the students were focused on the sky, the mountains needed to be located below the one third line. (Yes! You’ll have to talk about dividing the landscape into thirds.)
The chalk is picked up and the students begin drawing, planning, and problem solving.
“Yes! As soon as you’re ready, you can get your first colour. PLEASE, don’t everybody begin with the mountains! Choose any colour and away you go!”
“Pick up a paper towel with your first bucket of paint. This will be your place mat…slip it along the edges as you go and then you won’t have to wash your desk! If this gets super sloppy, you might need a second place mat.” I asked the kind caretaker if I might have a bucket half filled with water in my classroom. This would provide a portable sink.Tonight, as I walked Max at the pond…I captured some of the clouds. We had an energetic hike about the area. It was so darned beautiful!
I showed the grade four students a couple of Youtube videos about the essential nature of bees to our agriculture.
We talked about the differences between the physical traits of wasps and bees. We talked about the differences between caricature and realism, along with some examples.
The students were dealing with lines of symmetry in math, so I decided to have them choose an imaginary line of symmetry and to create two different compositions, without crossing that line. I also thought that by creating a sort of frame, we would avoid desk clean-up at the end of day. I think that the students produced some amazing pieces. After that, they wrote a poetic/informational or descriptive piece containing things they had learned about bees, honey production or collapse of hives. Once they peer edited with a friend, they recreated their writings on bright yellow paper.