Wednesday, March 30, 2011

5th Grade Picasso Inspired Cubist Portraits

Woman in Blue Hat-Picasso

I adapted this lesson from the Fairview Elementary School's Artsonia site that I posted before this one.
This year I decided to try something new and focus the 5th grade curriculum around a theme. I really wanted to focus on depth rather than breadth and though that after 5 years of elementary school art (and 3 art teachers later) that they already had had a sufficient amount of diverse experiences in mediums, styles, artist, and cultures, and though that having a specific focus and really studying it in depth might be a good culminating elementary art experience for them. I chose Spanish artists for this years theme and we began by studying Joan Miro. We just finished a unit on Pablo Picasso and we're now starting one on Salvador Dali. Each unit uses different mediums ad has a different style, but at the end of the year I'm going to plan some kind of activity where they can compare and contrast the different artists and their styles.

This post is about Picasso and the way he created cubist portraits.

The lesson took about 7 sessions and here's how it broke down.

Day 1: Cooperative group activity to look through various books and find and share 5 facts about Picasso. I then showed a PowerPoint on Picasso, focusing in on his cubist portraits. I then gave them a worksheet with 3 columns and had them draw the basic parts of a face, (the eyes, ears, nose, lips, and hair) in each box using shapes to represent each feature.
Day 2: Practice guided drawing of cubist style face which shows the profile and front view simultaneously. I demonstrated geometric and organic shapes and then had them practice making compositions on 9x12" paper.
Day 3: Students re-drew their compositions on 14x 17"white paper and I demonstrated how to blend oil pastels. Students practiced a bit with the oils before going onto their good paper.
Day 4-6: Students colored in their pieces.
Day 7: They mounted their portraits on construction paper and created a decorative border.

As you probably garnered from the above procedure, I'm really big on practicing first...It cuts down on the "Ms. F. I don't like my work, can I start over?" :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Art Byte-Yay for SMARTboards

I just recently finished applying for a SMARTboard for next year. This year I've been steadily working on integrating interactive lessons into my units. It's such a great tool, I hope by this time next year I'll be blogging about my 'smart' experiences! In the meantime for those of you that may have a board or have access to it, here's a great site with some resources you may want to check out.

Teachers Love SMARTboards

Thursday, March 24, 2011

2 more Klee Ideas

These are both from the website I posted yesterday... Princetonol (The Incredibile Art Department). The two images are from a different lesson that you can do using Klee's grided backgrounds as inspiration. If you follow the link and scroll down the page you will see where I originally got my lesson idea from (Denise Pannell, Fairview Elementary School)

Btw, Ms. Pannell has a FANTASTIC Artsonia site:

Fairview Elementary School

Art Bytes

Here are 2 sites with GREAT lesson ideas on them.

The first is

The second is from an Elementary school in Michigan. the art teacher their has some fabulous lesson ideas. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her site!

Here are two more great art sites that can be used as part of your teaching unit:


A kind of educational 'facebook' where, students can post comments, papers, or answers to assignments. I feel it would really be more beneficial for upper levels but it is possible to use with 4th and 5th graders.

Wall Wisher

A GREAT site where you can start a wall and have students post 'sticky's' on it about any topic you want. The way I do it is by posting images and links to websites (child-appropriate ones) and then have them post facts, opinions, or ideas onto our wall. It's a great tool for collaboration too!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

3rd Grade Folktales in Art: Inspired by Paul Klee

Based on Paul Klee's Sinbad the Sailor, students in 3rd grade created their very own folktale scenes. Here's how they did it:

Day 1-2: As a class we discussed Sinbad the Sailor and I highlighted concepts such as shape, color, design, and how artists can be inspired by folktales. I then did a demonstration on how to use watercolors and what warm and cool colors are. Students spent about 2 days finishing their half warm, half cool painted backgrounds.

Day 3: I showed a PowerPoint explaining the characteristics and qualities of folk tales and showed them an image of St. George and the Dragon and an illustration of The Headless Horseman (from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow). I discussed the idea of inferencing, explaining to the students that just like in a book, the most interesting part of the story is the climax or the middle, where the most action happens. I wanted them to create action packed images that really demonstrated the planning of a plot instead of students just drawing battle scenes, or worse, not 'school-appropriate' images. The discussion of inferencing really helped get the idea of telling a story across and when the students were sketching their ideas, they really got into the idea of telling a story!

Day 3-5: Students sketched their ideas and then re-drew them on their background using pencil first, then tracing over it in Sharpie. I tired to emphasize that they use designs on some of their objects/characters like Klee did.

The lesson was great, it allowed for a tremendous amount of self-expression, let the students plan and implement their own artistic ideas, and taught them some basic concepts of art (and literacy). I did the lesson in conjunction with the 3rd grade unit on folktales so the concepts really hit home as well!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Classroom Management

There are times I teach where, in retrospect, I find myself saying "boy, I'm not going to do that again", or "well, that didn't work". How may times do we plan, plan, plan, only to have things go awry? In truth, no matter how big of a 'planner' or 'non-planer' we are as teachers, what it really comes down to is experience. My mentor teacher has over 25 years of teaching experience and when we meet for our weekly conferences, she never ceases to amaze me. It's like things I don't even see happening she sees coming from a mile away. Ah the voice of experience! What would I ever do without it!

Because I can't keep my mentor teacher tucked in my pocket for easy reference during those sticky situations in in the art room (no pun intended) I am reading the book The Power of Our Words by Paula Denton. I think at some point in the past I have referenced it on my blog but I'm revisiting it. Actually, my entire school is reading the book as topics for discussion at our monthly faculty meetings, but so much of what is in the book happens to be really helpful. The examples are realistic, very relevant, and the book itself is very well organized and easy to follow. Here's an article I read based on Chapter 6 of the book: 'Reminding Language'. I posted a link to the books website which is based on The 'Responsive Classroom' method of management.

Teacher-Child-Problem-Solving Conferences

An adapted excerpt from Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Sidney Charney

Derek was a fifth grader who was avoiding writing. Whenever we had writing time, he would ask to go to the bathroom, and there he would linger. After observing this for a week, I decided to have a problem-solving conference with him.

A problem-solving conference is a technique for addressing a specific problem that a child is having. What makes it powerful is that it invites the child into a conversation and asks for the child’s take on the situation.

The conference begins with the teacher noticing the child’s moods, actions, and interactions before helping the child come up with possible solutions. Conducted in a nonjudgmental way, the conference sets behavioral boundaries while giving children the opportunity for autonomous thinking.

In this article, I'll describe the basic steps that I went through in the conference with Derek. These steps are intended as guidelines to be adjusted to fit different situations. Some conferences take five minutes; others are spread out over several days. In some cases a conference leads to an immediate solution; in others the teacher and child need to revisit the issue several times.

One thing that is true of all problem-solving conferences, though, is that I always hold them away from the eyes and ears of the child’s classmates. It’s important that the student has privacy for these talks, and that the teacher and child can both focus on the conversation without interruptions.

Step 1. Establishing what the teacher and student notice

A problem-solving conference begins with the teacher saying positive things s/he has noticed about the student—the student’s interests, efforts, and goings-on. When we tell students we noticed what they’ve done well, we begin to establish a supportive connection, an essential step before talking about a behavior that isn’t working.

With Derek, I began by saying, “I notice that you’ve had good ideas when we’ve brainstormed what we could write about. I also notice you pay attention and make helpful comments when kids share about their writing.” I try to be specific in my noticings, and I name the “what,” not the “why,” of behaviors.

Next I say what behavior I’ve noticed that isn’t working well. Here again, it’s important to name specific, observable behaviors. I don’t make judgments, interpret, or label. I simply describe, using a matter-of-fact tone.

“I notice that every writing time, you have to go to the bathroom,” I said to Derek. I was careful not to say, “You want to avoid writing, so you say you have to go to the bathroom.”

By naming the behaviors rather than interpreting them, I open the door for children to take note of their actions and offer their own interpretation. They are then more likely to take responsibility for their behavior.

After I say what I notice, I ask for the child’s observations. I say simply “What do you notice?” in a neutral tone.

When I posed this question to Derek, he said, “I just have to go to the bathroom a lot.”

“So you also notice that writing has become a bathroom time for you?”


Derek was agreeing with my observation. If he had disagreed, I might have said, “Well, I notice that you want to go to the bathroom at every writing time. You notice that it’s only sometimes. Maybe we should both notice extra hard for the next few days and then come back and compare.” I would have made a plan with Derek for how to remember our observations. But I also would have continued with the conference. It’s possible to proceed in addressing a problem while we continue to gather data.

Step 2. Naming the problem and the need to solve it

The next step is to help the child see why her/his behavior is a problem and to establish that the child wants to work with the teacher to solve it.

To Derek I said, “When you go to the bathroom every writing period, you lose important work time. By the time you get back, you have to hurry and often you only get about a sentence written.”

“Yeah. There’s not enough time.”

“So your story doesn’t get very far. For example, you don’t have very much yet of the story you’re writing now.”

“Yeah. I only have the first page.”

“I want you to be able to write complete stories that you can be proud of. So this seems like a problem we should work on. What do you think?”

“I guess so.”

Here it’s important for the teacher to express positive intent—for the student to get along with others, have friends, enjoy and take pride in his/her work, solve math word problems, or follow directions—and to show faith that the child will make progress.

Sometimes when we ask whether a child wants to work with us on the problem, we get only a slight nod or other gesture of agreement—which is fine. We go ahead. Other times, a child refuses adamantly: “No, I don’t need help!” or “No, I don’t think it’s a problem.” If this happens, it might be useless to push ahead with the conference.

However, it’s important that I state the expectations for behavior—for example, for the child to stop putting others down, to get work done, or to end aggressive behavior. I might say, “I see that it’s hard to discuss this right now. I’d like to help. Let’s see if the rude comments stop.”

Step 3. Understanding the cause of the problem

When the student and I agree that there’s a problem (even if there’s only a moderate or muffled agreement from the student) and we agree there’s a need to solve it, we explore the “why” behind the problem. I suggest possible causes based on an understanding of children’s need to belong, feel competent, and have choices. I’m also aware that confusion or frustration about academics may be an underlying cause. I often use “Could it be . . .” questions to initiate this discussion.

To Derek I said, “When I see kids go to the bathroom at a particular time every day, I think they want to avoid something they don’t like or that’s hard for them. Could it be that writing seems hard for you this year?”

Derek grinned and said, “Sort of. It’s sort of hard.”

Children don’t always give a clear answer to our “Could it be…” questions. A “yeah, maybe,” a slight nod, or sometimes a “yes” disguised as a shoulder shrug may be all we get. But those signals let us know it’s okay to go on.

With Derek, I probed further to get at why writing was hard for him. As happens with many children, I needed to name several possible causes before he heard one that sounded right. “Could it be that writing is hard because you have trouble thinking of ideas? Or could it be that you know your main ideas, but you get confused about what words to use? Sometimes writers worry about the spelling or the handwriting. Could that be true for you?”

“Sometimes I can’t think of the words I want,” Derek replied.

Even when the cause of the behavior is very clear to me, I ask rather than assert. We gain children’s confidence when we invite them to participate in the conversation. This confidence grows not because the teacher has brilliantly solved the mystery, but because the child was part of the process.

Step 4. Generating alternatives

“Do you think we could come up with some ways to help you remember the words you need?” I said next to Derek.

It often helps to list several alternatives before seizing upon one solution. In Derek’s case, we decided together that he could brainstorm a list of words before starting a story. He could try some story mapping exercises. Or he could jot down main ideas before starting to write.

Step 5. Choosing one strategy to try

The conference ends with an oral or written agreement to try one of the alternatives. With several possible strategies on the table, I asked Derek to choose one idea to try. He chose to try brainstorming a list of words.

Always, it’s important that students choose an alternative that they believe will work, not one that just pleases the teacher. Over the next days and weeks, the student and teacher both take note of whether the problem they identified gets resolved. If not, they learn from the experience and return to the list of alternatives to make a better selection.

The strength of this problem-solving approach is its openness to the child’s perspective and ideas. We try to see children as they really are, exploring with them what they need in order to do better at school. Ironically the correct solution is not what’s most important. What’s most important is inviting the child into the conversation, searching together for solutions, and expressing faith in the child’s ability to solve the problem.

Sihlouettes and Cityscapes-Van Gogh Style (1st gr.)

I know I got this lesson from somewhere, but I've been holding on to it so long, I don't remember where...If you have a lesson like this, leave me a link to and I'll add it to my post.

This lesson was a BIG success. EVERY student was able to successfully complete all the steps, ended up with a great looking product, and was proud of their work. On the last day of the lesson I spent half my class time just having a whole class critique of everyone's work!
Here's how the lesson went down:

Day1: As a class we looked at Starry, Starry Night and discussed some of its qualities. I emphasized the words movement, texture (which was a word we learned from our previous unit), and emotion. I demonstrated how to draw a night sky, using swirly lines and circles, like Van Gogh had done.
Day 2: I read Camille and The Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt and we discussed the 3 types of paintings Van Gogh created: landscape, portrait, and still-life. I demonstrated how to use oil pastels and explained that each student would either use warm colors or cool colors for their sky.
Day 2-4: Students worked diligently on their skies. I reviewed some key terms and really tried to emphasize creating texture with the pastels by blending and overlapping. I also tried to reinforce that they should color in the shapes they drew, so if they drew circles, their coloring should be circular (to avoid random, scribble-like coloring).
Day 5: I showed a PowerPoint of silhouettes and we discussed what some different kinds of buildings and trees we could draw and cut out were. I also emphasized that they cut some buildings and plan how they wanted them to go before gluing. My students loved creating their own silhouetted cityscapes that they made buildings ranging from the Space Needle in Seattle to the Taj Mahal in India!
Day 6: I had them play a sorting game in teams of 4 at their table using landscape, portrait, and still-life cards. We then reviewed the answers in PowerPoint format and spent the second half of the class examining and discussing each others work.
There are so few lessons that go this well....Ah, bellissima! (And yes the last building in the last picture IS falling over...that's how the artist wanted it! :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

All-County Art Exhibit Photo's

This year was my first year participating in the 7th annual Nassau All-County Art Exhibit. The exhibit is sponsored by the Art Supervisor's Association and is open to any Nassau County school who has an art supervisor/administrator who is a member. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to participate because each art teacher was only allowed 3 student entries, but I'm glad I did! The exhibit was jam packed and it was really great to see such a huge and impressive range of student work from all grades throughout Nassau County. Below are a few pictures I snapped from the exhibit. I should have taken some middle and high school work, but the exhibit space was so crammed I barely had elbow room to hold my camera! The first 3 images of artwork with the white mats are my students while the ones below are some other artworks I thought were particularly interesting. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Whitney Museum-Edward Hopper and His Time...

Over the weekend I went to the Whitney Museum of American Art (one of my favorite museums) and saw 3 great exhibits:
Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time
Glenn Lingon: AMERICA
Singular Visions: Contemporary Art from the Permanent Collection

You're not allowed to take photographs in the museum (grumble), so I'll post up some of the names and artworks I saw in the exhibits. The Edward Hopper exhibit was particularly interesting, it showed a variety of artists who work pre and post World War I and really portrayed an interesting view of American life at the time.

George Bellows, Dempsey and Firpo 1924

Paul Cadmus Sailors and Floosies 1938

William J. Glackens Hammerstein's Roof Garden 1901

Edward Hopper Railroad Sunset 1922Here's a brief description of Edward Hopper and his work:

"Generations of Americans have responded deeply to Hopper's art, to the spartan canvases that reflect the emptiness, and sometimes the almost heroic plainness, of modern American life. As a young artist, Hopper studied with Robert Hneri and other realists who advocated a commonplace subject matter, keyed to everyday American experiences. Hopper first won critical acclaim with the etchings of American life that he began to produce in 1915 and that launched his mature style... For all their apparent realism, Hopper's paintings rarely record actual sites with precision. He sketched assiduously but the fabricated most of his compositions in the studio... In his images of the lighthouses and rocky coasts of New England, of railroads crossing the countryside, or of the streets and interiors of the city, America continues to find in Hopper's art a compelling reflection of itself." From Whitney:American Visionaries (a gallery guide I bought on sale for 3 bucks!)