As I continue with my “My Life Falls Out of Order” series of posts…I still find little nuggets in my archives about teaching, music, nature and art moments that I wish to put in some form of reflection.
Not much to say about this one that the photographs won’t explain, but, it all began with good intentions. When the weather is nice and the year is grinding to a close, it’s nice to get students outdoors as much as is possible. These experiences can be based on curriculum; you just need to think it through.
So, of course, I head outside to paint. There is a tradition of painting landscape called en plein air…if good for the Impressionists, why not for children? Any grade…
When painting a mural, it is the teacher’s greatest responsibility to share with students the idea behind collaboration and elevation of the group’s efforts over the familiar experience of elevating the self. Well before a project such as a group mural, lessons need to focus on the personality of line quality and the very specialization of mark making. In a group mural, it is explained, it is important to share your marks in a variety of locations. This will lead to a more successful piece, in that Unity will be accomplished through the weaving of many personal approaches to colour, design and line.
And…when the wind blows, just revise the initial plan. Don’t get sad about a splatter, enjoy the impact of elements upon the collective result.
There was paint left over from yesterday…black and white. I grabbed bright red paper to use as a ground for today’s paintings.
Last evening, my son James came over to the house after work and created a huge bowl of Hummus, using my friend Carla’s recipe. After we had our sit down dinner and the dishes were done, I headed out to drive James home. While we journeyed I asked him what he thought would make a great subject for great three Halloween paintings…witches, cats or bats? His suggestion was ghosts. He rated, by difficulty, the four subjects and in the end, I agreed. 4. Witches 3. Cats 2. Bats 1. Ghosts Ghosts would allow for creative interpretation, free flow, but would help me teach some basic design concepts and techniques.
I knew that I wanted to accomplish some successful design pieces in a very short time, so the focus could not be so much on Reflection and Depiction, but on Composition and Expression.
The class was so intensely involved in the art making that I had to stare in disbelief as it seemed I was in a bee hive. Every student was geared up to accomplish wonderful things and the engagement was other-worldly. It was silent. I felt so happy.
I have a couple of suggestions if my readers were to, at any point, paint ghosts with kids. First of all, have my readers ever had their mother dress them up in a bed sheet as a ghost at any point, for the purpose of trick-o’-treating? Two eyes cut out. No mouth…no nose. It’s tricky to get around! I told the kids the story at the beginning of my lesson and they laughed an laughed. I shared about how hot it was in the inside of the sheet as I breathed in and out, in and out. I told them about tripping as my feet stepped onto the front of the sheet. I explained about the pillow case I was carrying, being difficult to access to collect candy at my neighbour’s doors. I could tell by their faces that they could relate.
I drew a symbol for an octopus on the white board. We thought about how the shape of a ghost symbol would be different. I had them try to picture the sheet over my head. Could they tell where the head was? How? What shape would it be? The shoulders? and then….why would the bottom of the ghost be so organic? We talked about Casper the friendly ghost and the fact that he had legs and arms like we do.
Other words for ghosts that came up…spirits and specter.
Parameters for the composition. Include at least seven ghost-like organic shapes. At least three of these need to go off of an edge. Try to include three larger ghost-forms and the rest, smaller.
I demonstrated how to use a paper towel as a place mat…sliding it along to the place where paint would be applied to an edge. I showed them the difference between painting over an edge and painting up to an edge.
Given a small piece of chalk, the students moved into their composing. I really didn’t want to impose too many restrictions on how they handled their darkness, only saying that I would like to see repeating lines and that the black outline around each specter should not touch the white shrouds. Off to the races!
For the purpose of painting with tempera paints, always have a box of white chalk handy. It takes all of the ‘preciousness’ of drawing away and becomes very free-flowing, with opportunities to change minds several times.
Starting with the dark if the artist finds that all of the buckets of white are gone…
After drying…those little ghost faces were added with sharpies. No noses required. I enjoyed the creative solutions to the dark. A beautiful morning! Deb, thank you for your class!
Something amazing happened. As I stepped into the staff room, at the end of the morning, I learned that employees of UPS were visiting the school and making rounds at other schools, serving special coffees and cupcakes, in order to let educators in the community know how much their work is appreciated. A heart felt message was delivered during the lunch break that left teachers feeling affirmed and happy. It was a lovely gesture and a great end to my morning guest teaching. I had a white chocolate latte. YUM!
Goofy how-to videos are out there in abundance. I actually think the best way to learn how to draw ANYTHING, is to observe it…look at it…analyse it. But, this morning, I didn’t have a bucket of Easter lilies and after a 40 day journey of Lent, I’d love to leave the children with the anticipation of spring, new life, renewal and Easter. In this video, I like the idea of drawing the star shape first. I can’t guarantee that after you do a step-by-step activity of any sort, that you will be an overnight artist!
To begin with, in their visual journals, the students wrote a ‘waiting for spring’ short poem, after brain storming vocabulary words. On the next page, they drew their lilies.
We will use this video as a reference, as well as my own photographs of lilies in my garden, for studies in visual journals. These will be tucked away once we move into compositions. Initially, I had thought to paint tulips with the students, but, the limited palette of white and a number of greens will make the preparation quick and easy.
I provided a limited palette, having mixed up a variety of tints of green plus yellow and white. The grade threes began by drawing their images in chalk and then outlining their lilies in a single colour. Each bucket of paint includes two brushes so two friends share the same colour. I mixed fifteen colours, knowing that I had twenty five students. The focus of my side coaching and support was to remind them how unique flowers are and that they are like us, in that there is no single flower that looks like another.
Here are their paintings.
After music class and their agenda writing, wee Isaiah came up to me and gave me this little gift…proof of the extended learning and that made me super happy!
Display…ready for proper caption. Thanks for your class, Jenn!
If you had previously studied the structure of the poppy during November and did some careful observations of the petals, stems and leaves of that flower, then, drawing and painting Poinsettias is a natural follow-up.
When I visited Tammy’s grade three class, I decided to have the students do a drawing from their memory/experience, so I could determine where I wanted to direct the lesson. We only contain so much information in our visual memories and so whether you are a child or an artist, sometimes the details of the visual stories are vague. So, I asked the children to draw a Poinsettia.
“What is a Poinsettia?”
“A Poinsettia is a Christmas flower…bright red…we can buy them in pots at Home Depot or at the grocery store to decorate our homes and the church.”
They set to work and created very symbolic pieces that indeed, represented the flower we would be analyzing.
Next, I pulled out a Poinsettia plant that I had borrowed from the office and did a demonstration of the structure of the center and the petal/leaf arrangement on the Poinsetta plant. I talked about the unique nature of a plant…similar to each human person being unique from one another.
There is no set rule as to how many petals radiate out from the center in a first row. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how many show in the row directly behind this first row. In grade three terms, I tried to identify the differences between informal and formal (symmetry) balance.
“In your sketchbooks, no crossing out…begin again rather than using an eraser…draw dark on top of light to make changes. Practice several times.”
If you feel uncomfortable about doing a drawing as an exemplar on the board, I’ve selected this Youtube video as a pretty good example of what I am going for in terms of representation and structure.
The second drawings looked something like this and were completed by the same students as above. (I just randomly pulled a couple of visual journals out of their desks at the end of the activity.
Moving into Composition, I handed out 18 x 24 construction paper in a complementary colour. I chose purple for our journey of Advent. As I always do, I also handed out a piece of white chalk to each student for the sake of working out their composition.
“To make your art work dynamic and exciting, boys and girls, place your center OFF CENTER. You may also wish to have a vertical format or horizontal format. The choice is up to you. Look! When you draw with chalk, you can fade out lines that you don’t like. It doesn’t matter. You will be painting over the lines that you want to keep.”
I then proceeded to demonstrate how to use the paint center and how to share the paint with a partner. I showed them how to use a place mat and slide it along the edges and how to care for their brushes by stroking the paint, rather than scrubbing the paint. Some where along the line, I had the painters stop (brushes in your buckets) in order to show them that the flat brushes could make wide marks and thin marks. For some reason, they broke out into wild applause when I turned my brush sideways and painted a long thin line. That actually surprised me.
For the sake of expediency, I had the children limit themselves to one outline colour from the warm palette for their Poinsettia petals and one from the green palette for their leaves. If the students are accustomed to using a paint center, they can travel back and forth, trading colours frequently. Here are the works, outlined and ready for fill ins.
The children’s individual styles surface quickly and I like that! A lot.
They had a wee break for a music class and returned a half hour later, ready for the quick and immediate activity of filling in the rest of their background spaces. I really enjoyed working with these guys and I appreciated the fantastic support of young student teacher, Shelby. Thanks so much for your help!
I haven’t written many blog posts lately! I’m very busy teaching a four month grade three contract these days. I began the last week of February. I really enjoy my students, but we are super busy! Each student, taking on an altar ego and the mantle of a super hero means that school is a very busy place. When not a super hero, then there are always the roles of mathematician, engineer and wildlife biologist to fulfill! It’s a busy life we live.
As a result of all of the ‘busy’, my body flops onto the red sofa shortly after dinner and sometimes I even nod off. I just can’t even believe what heroes teachers are to take on such a huge part in children’s lives. Since retirement, I think I’ve become one of the most outspoken advocates of teachers I know. It’s one thing to support teachers in theory; it’s another to know and understand what they are living each and every day.
In the morning we have quiet focus time on the mat…I log onto Duke Farm’s Live Eagle Cam, much as I did during my grade one contract a couple of years ago. I made up a booklet that was grade specific, using the content provided for a higher level study. Duke Farms provides a wealth of information. This year we have two eggs on the nest and the weather has been brutal in the east. We have some sad moments as we observe female or male sitting until their own bodies are absolutely covered by snow. I think I captured a screen shot one day…yes…here’s the nest on March 1 and that snow crept up a few times so that only the adult’s beak was exposed. The children seem to be enjoying observing life on the nest and I am holding out hope that the eggs will successfully hatch over the coming week. Here are the blog posts directly from Duke Farms.
I have a few photos of my little nest, but it hardly captures the intensity of the space when the children enter and begin swirling through their day. There is never a pause. There is so much to learn.
In the morning, each morning, for just about ten minutes, I read aloud from the BFG by Roald Dahl. When I asked my adult daughter what she remembered about grade three, she told me that she remembered Roald Dahl and all of the wonderful books that he wrote. And so, just for wind down time, the children and I are sharing those words.
The BFG makes us laugh…and he shares some very intelligent, however nonsensical, words.
Books for inventions and schematics of every kind…this week…a dream making machine. INVENTORS!
Each pod of desks is a city in India (Mumbai and New Delhi) or the Ukraine (Kiev and Odessa) or Peru (Lima) or Tunisia (Tunis). The students are just getting their pavilions researched and constructed. This makes it very easy for calling up a rep from each city to pick up things or deliver things to their group. They share responsibilities and connect it to their place in the world. Sorry for the out-of-focus photo…will try to get a better archive. Most of the art has been collaborative to this point. This Klimt tree will be evolving over the seasons. A place to publish descriptive words and elaborative detail.
Students collect bling for all sorts of everything and post them on their plain-jane brown paper wrap Super Three frames. By end of year, these will be the most highly decorated frames in existence. The students are wildly motivated.
My brother and father both sent explanations of their military medals and ribbons so that I could share with the students what an honour it is to be decorated. I showed these to my students and explained what a sense of pride is felt with such achievements. They were very excited about the possibility, as Super Threes, of receiving such as these. While having gold star days are an every day occurrence, receiving a ribbon is more special and rare. I’ve got a huge stash of them and jot down the reason for each ribbon presentation on my note cards. The children have to then share with me what they are going to do to earn the next. Again, every child receives recognition and praise.
Our class medals and ribbons.Our gathering place.
We keep many different publications going…books of THREE (a place to look at why Three is such a powerful number), WHEN-THEN books When__________ (teacher provides an action) Then___________(what action results, giving students opportunities to explore how choices and results connect) and Save the Day booklets (students explore how they want to use their super powers for good).
The students are engineers. After the students tested for stability in a large, medium and short cylinder, they had opportunity to explore how to increase stability. Whoosh! They are some sort of inventors. At the end of the frenzy, they decided that the base of a structure should be wider and heavier and include some sort of connecting material in order to be more stable. :0)
Thanks to all of you peeps who have supported me and shared your wisdom. You know who you are! And, no, you won’t be seeing many updates! Now, “Come, MAX! Let’s go!”
I saw the beautifully illustrated books lining the window sill of the grade three class room and knew that we needed to paint something in the jeweled colours of India. HOW WONDERFUL! One illustration, in particular, struck me and so, with this as my inspiration, we began our journey from the soft sculpted forms of the outdoor Taj Mahal, to the highly decorated interior.
This activity was designed for two distinct art experiences. I didn’t wish the paint to cross over into the delicate pencil crayon drawings. We spoke about different shapes that make up architecture and I projected an image of the Taj Mahal on the Smart board. I turned on the Bollywood music and the drawings began. Of course, the question soon surfaced about how you make things look “NOT FLAT”. Turning off the music, I gave a basic lesson in how to show light and shadow, to be followed, once colouring, with how colouring practices the same muscles as hand writing does.
“My muscles for handwriting don’t work very well.”
“Well, colouring your Taj Mahal will be like hand writing practice then.”
Reflection and Depiction are so often abandoned for the sake of plowing on through that ‘make an art project’ mindset.
The boys started dancing, so the Bollywood music was turned off.
I demonstrated adequate pressure (back and forth, back and forth in small amounts, rather than long airy strokes…not hard…but not soft, either) for the students as they began to colour with their pencil crayons. And this is when we explored weather, atmosphere…beautiful light. The students, at this point, told me all about monsoon season. I always act like I know absolutely nothing about these topics and I become learner and they are the teachers.
“How do I do a white Taj Mahal if I don’t have a white pencil crayon?”
This is where we looked at twenty or so photographs on line…different times of day and different weather changed the colour of the Taj Mahal…so basically, any colour families would do once you, the artist, decided what kind of day it was. I showed the students how they could use yellow to show the light on a purple dome…or how they could use green on a blue dome. The colouring began!
Once completed, these were cut out and traced, with chalk onto their large composition, then set aside. Chalk is used to break the entire composition into borders, a window sill and a flower box.
The palette I set up was a mixture of ‘spice’ colours…cumin, cinnamon. We talked about the spices that get mixed up…we talked about curry and yellow food. I gave half of the class purple paper and half brown. The students with purple paper worked with the six buckets of warm colours first for background. The students with brown paper traveled back and forth from the cool palette for their background. After lunch and drying time, they would switch palettes for their interior patterns. There were 22 students in this class, so 11 pods of 2 students. I explain how to do all of this in previous painting lessons.
Backgrounds before lunch…patterns after lunch. We were sooo busy that I didn’t grab photos for these two steps, but only photographed the end results, after gluing the Taj Mahals into the windows. Let your paintings dry before the gluing! We did Math families and agendas before that step!
The artist who created the following painting was so intent on her Taj Mahal colouring that she is not quite finished, but she can do that on her large piece…amazing work! These are beautiful, unpredictable and richly coloured. I totally enjoyed the openness of the students, their excitement, commitment and knowledge. We can’t all travel to far off place, but we can explore them through books, learning, art and we can open our souls to their colours, textures, sights, smells and sounds. I am grateful for their teacher.