Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kindergarten Paper Playgrounds

It's always in the back of my mind how to validate to all the 'non-believers' how and why art is a valid subject and important skill to learn in school. This is something that so many art teachers deal with everyday. Every time we plan a lesson, give a presentation, or go on an interview the question of 'why art?' always seems to be on the tips of everyone's lips. This question is especially pressing because with so many budget cuts, policy reforms, and teacher layoffs we really are forced to not only explain but also demonstrate why we do what we do and how our children benefit. I work in a charter school that has, previous to this year, never had art. Thankfully I have a principal that supports the arts but my main focus is to use the arts to support what's being learned in the general education classroom. I'm sorry to say that the days of 'art for arts sake' are, for the most part, long gone. So, in my attempt to create engaging and meaningful lessons in both the general education domain, as well as the visual arts domain I've been developing lessons that integrate specific concepts or ideas I've seen being taught in my schools k-5 classrooms. Let me also give credit to some of the great art ed blogs out there, whose ideas other teachers have shared have really been an inspiration (and big help) in coming up with a lot of ideas.

I got this lesson from 'ArtSmarts' and I adapted the closing portion of the lesson ti include some ELA.

I started off by showing the kindergartners the online story 'Lizzy and Gordon Visit the Sculpture Park' found on (the national gallery of art) and I then showed them pictures in PowerPoint of the actual sculptures in the story. They particularly liked the thinking rabbit! We then discussed the difference between 2D and 3D, with 2D being 'flat like a pancake'. As a followup to the sculpture, I had them draw a 2D representation on white 8 1/2 x 11" paper and then hand the do a writing piece to accompany both.

The writing sample was based on a chart their classroom teacher had made of direction words, i.e. below, beneath, above, on top of, underneath, behind, etc. We brainstormed these words, then I wrote a sample description of my playground with them on the board. They basically had to write: 'My playground is ______________ (descriptive word). The blue swing is next to the yellow slide. The green pond is below the purple bridge...' The task required the use of 3 direction words and some sort of description. Overall the end results were really great! I'm glad to have found this lesson and satisfied with the idea that I can teach the kids something about art (for arts sake) while also reviewing things they learn in their classrooms!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chinese New Year

Throughout all my experiences, one thing remains constant: kids love scratch art. It doesn't matter what the subject matter is, there's just something ultimately appealing about scratching away at a black surface to reveal the 'hidden' colors underneath. Now I don't have the budget to buy pre-made scratch art, so it's a good thing I'm a d DIY kind of gal and just had the kids color and paint their own. I will say though, in the realm of knowing when quality is a must, that in order to make successful scratch art you need to work off of heavyweight paper. I had medium grade white drawing paper and heavier weight watercolor paper (both of which I tried on) and the watercolor paper working exponentially better than the regular white paper. For the subject matter we examined the Chinese New Year and discussed the differences between American traditions and Chinese traditions. I spent 2 sessions using guided practice to show them how to draw a tiger, first we used white erase boards, then they practiced on their own using sloppy copy paper. When they felt ready I gave them a small square of scratch paper to practice on and then they went onto their large paper. To finish off the lesson I had the kids use a bunch of scrap white strips I had saved and glue them into a frame, then collage the frame with tissue paper. I finished it off by varnishing it, so all the tissue paper was secure and used packing tape to adhere the scratch art tiger behind the frame. We ended the lesson by completing a Venn diagram on the differences/similarities between U.S New Year traditions and Chinese New Year traditions. It was a really great lesson and I think the kids really enjoyed it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Rainbow Fish

As part of our overall school program each we have a character development program where each month every classroom teacher receives a book based on a theme that is encouraged throughout that month. Some of the books we've used this year are 'How Full is Your Bucket', 'The Principals New Clothes',and for the month of August the book was 'The Rainbow Fish' by Marcus Pfister. The theme that correlates wit the book is humility and sharing. I try to incorporate literature into most of my art lessons and some books lend themselves more easily to this task. Although I will say, at the elementary level most books can be used for some sort of art activity. In his case I had the students follow the same steps for the Eric Carle book, creating an underwater background first followed by a watercolor wash resist over the crayon drawing. I then found a fish template and had the kindergartners color, cut, and glue their finish on adding glitter at the end to make some of the fish's gills sparkle. Lastly I put on a googly eye and viola very cute and colorful rainbow fish!