Grade Fours Doodle a Paul Klee

Using leftover paints quickly involves dumping complementary colours together and mixing them to get a variety of earth tones and browns.  This way, the art teacher can get a lunch time jump start on cleaning buckets out before the weekend.

The artist, Paul Klee, has an amazing history.  I am absolutely entertained by his work and have read extensively about him.  His journals, found in The Diaries of Paul Klee: 1898 – 1918 is fascinating and captures the huge link between his passion for music and for art.

Diaries of Paul KleeHis journals are filled with diagrams and notations, but most interesting to me are his observations of nature, weather, time and the city.  He was a master of observation and yet his schematics are other-worldly and child like.

Paul Klee 2 Paul Klee 1An interesting phenomena happens with children in school art programs or structured after-school art classes.  Basically, they have a desire to draw LIKE GROWN UPS…make everything LOOK REAL.  So, this activity turned out to be much more difficult than my readers might imagine.  I needed to give the children permission over and over again to be playful and to invent and to doodle and let go of their wish to make things ‘look real’.

At snack time, the students have been listening to a settling CD…the story of Harry Potter.  In today’s pre-recess listening session, images of shooting stars pouring out of the sky, owls filling the skies, skinny people, characters wrapped in cloaks all came up.  I hoped that later on, the images would spark some design and pattern ideas.

Just a half hour before lunch, I had the students divide their square formats into four triangles, using chalk for their drawing. As a way of simulating Paul Klee’s work, this would pick up on the geometric division of space that is often seen in the artist’s works.

We looked at a piece by Paul Klee titled Plants, Earth and Empire 1918 that was similarly divided into four triangles.  I haven’t been able to find an image of this piece on line, however the piece below has similar elements to this one (House Interior 1918), but with a single line later being the division between an ‘above ground’  world and a ‘below ground’ world, organized above and below a diagonal organic line..

DSC_1958The students shared the paint palette (station), selecting four different earth tones for their compositions.  I’ve explained how to set up for painting in this lesson. The pre-lunch painting gave the lunch break for the tempera paintings to dry.

After lunch, I gave the students a brief introduction to Paul Klee, the artist, along with the following video projection.

Here’s a better one…if you have the time!  In fact, this is beautiful and you may want to sit with your coffee, readers, and just enjoy.

I turned on the funk music and had the students practice depicting their imagined world, after looking at this video of Paul Klee’s works.  I had the students fold over their drawing paper in order to use a square format, the same as their composition.  I spoke to them about creating a line that moved from one side of the square to the other.  This would create a division between an imaginary world above the ground and under the ground.  I suggested that if it was hard ‘to start’, they could begin with the list of Harry Potter images we had left on the white board.

DSC_1905 DSC_1904 DSC_1903When the students felt ready, they could begin working on their larger compositions.  I suggested that they draw first with pencil and then retrace their pencil lines with permanent black marker.  I felt that there was some preciousness or concern in the students and thought this might give them more confidence.  In future, I’d hand them over the permanent markers and skip the pencil step. To create accents, I suggested that the students use oil pastel to colour in  three or five or seven or nine or eleven shapes. Here is a little of what they came up with while the funk music played in the background.

DSC_1906 DSC_1907 DSC_1908 DSC_1910 DSC_1911 DSC_1912 DSC_1913 DSC_1914DSC_1909

DSC_1934 DSC_1932 DSC_1931 DSC_1930 DSC_1929 DSC_1928 DSC_1927 DSC_1926 DSC_1925 DSC_1924 DSC_1923 DSC_1922 DSC_1921 DSC_1919 DSC_1918 DSC_1917 DSC_1915 A great class!

Be Our Guest!

‘Back in the Day’, we were substitute teachers.  These days, we are guest teachers!  I have to say, after a day like today, I feel so blessed.  In my retirement I have opportunity to hold on to everything that is magical about teaching.  Today was one of those particularly special days out in the schools; but truly, every day, with whatever grade level or subject, I learn something very ‘cool’ about students…something very interesting about curriculum content, but most often, I learn things about myself.

This grade two class has a teacher-read novel going on that I have never read before.  After reading two chapters, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo has me hooked!

From Wikipedia…this summary of the early events of Book I

Book I: A Mouse Is Born

Book one tells a story about a small, sickly mouse born in a castle named Despereaux. He was born a runt with large ears and eyes. Despereaux, unlike other mice, spends lots of time reading. He particularly enjoys a book about how a knight saves a princess and they live happily ever after. One day while reading he hears music. He follows the sound and is led to Princess Pea and King Philip. He falls in love with the princess and speaks to her, but the king led the mouse away because mice were related to rats, which are a danger to the kingdom. Furlough, his brother, sees this and tells his father, Lester Tilling. Lester calls the mouse council; Furlough goes to collect Despereaux . The mouse council orders Despereaux to be sent to the dungeon because talking to a human is forbidden. In the dungeon he meets Gregory, the jailer, who saves him because Despereaux tells Gregory a story.

As I discussed the preceding chapters with the students and then delved into issues around today’s chapters, I was in awe of the sensitivity of their responses.  In fact, as I reflect and type here, I smile for remembering.  We spoke a lot about happy endings.  One little boy said that he was going to go home and write a prayer for his Gramma who had passed.  One little girl said that when someone passes, we don’t just have that memory to hold on to, we need to remember all of the happy endings along the way. One pointed out that the entire board ledge was filled with stories with happy endings.  We thought about courage.  We thought about how hard it is sometimes to be brave.  We talked about wee Despereaux’s love for Princess Pea. We talked about ‘the rule’ for mice…about not letting yourself be known to humans.  What an awesome time for me.  I learned so much and so appreciate the goodness in these 22 little people.

The students were eager and knowledgeable about the rites and rituals of their entire day.  The class hummed along like a well-oiled machine…and I sort of followed along.  We deemed it Wacky Wednesday simply because everything I did with them would be ‘somehow’ different.  Soon after that, one wee boy, looked up from his desk and asked, “When is our teacher going to be back?”  Laughing about that right now.

Before library, we collected our books and placed them in stacks, then prepared the classroom for an art extravaganza.  Their chairs were decked out with individual and ‘named’ cubbies, and so, a simple solution was to push the chairs against the perimeter of the room and tackle the projects in standing position around the classroom tables.  Love was the focus.  Prior to the day’s beginning, I mixed up a great variety of reds and pinks…threw in some peach colour and white…and we were off to the races.  February, all wrapped up in a January afternoon!P1140650 P1140652 P1140651I set up the paint center and explained to the children how to use it efficiently and without accident.  Two hands wrapped around the buckets…two brushes always in each colour…In that last half hour before library, the grade twos had their hearts sketched out in chalk and practiced a variety of patterns.  They also watched my demonstration of how to stroke their brushes, rather than scrub them…and off they went for their book exchange and then lunch.

P1140645 P1140644 P1140643The afternoon opened up total possibility as they began by painting in their concentric hearts.

P1140653 P1140655 Once their hearts were painted in solidly, they went back to the dried colours and applied their various patterns.

P1140667 P1140668 P1140670 P1140671 P1140672 P1140673 P1140675The students busied themselves while waiting for certain areas to dry by cutting out their projects and wiping wee bits of paint from the table surface.  Because the hearts only met the edge of the paper at five points, this project is NOT one of those messy ones.  But watch the natural inclination for the tapping of the brushes on the bucket edge…teach your students to do a wipe to remove excess paint.

A wonderful day…I was blessed in so many ways!  Grades Kindergarten, one and two…BIG BRUSHES, LOTS OF LIQUID COLOUR, BIG PAPER and Pizzazz!

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Thank You for Your Class: Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Student Art Work

A favourite poem of mine at this time of year is Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.  A few weeks ago, I invited one grade six class to create these amazing multi-media winter landscapes based on the master’s poem.  They explored the vocabulary: foreground, middleground and background…learning the concepts transparency and opacity.  They practised filigree mark-making and thought about the structures of both deciduous and evergreen trees and finally, embellished their work with footprints from nature.  At this point, the students shared stories of various sets of footprints that they have discovered over time.  I used this beautifully illustrated picture book by Susan Jeffers as my motivating literary source.

Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Student Art Work

 The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. — Gustave Flaubert