Friday, November 30, 2012

Art Meets Literature: The Joys of Van Gogh's Cat

Last year, I found the book "Van Gogh's Cat" at our scholastic book fair.  I was excited to see that the book was written and illustrated by 2nd grade students in Muncie, Indiana.  I loved seeing how the students created their own artworks of famous art masterpieces, and created cats jumping out of each page.  I now own about 8 copies of this book: one at home for my daughter, 3 at my second school, and 4 for my home school.  You can say I want my kids to see the book everywhere!  After searching on Pinterest, I saw many lesson ideas inspired by the book too.

I decided to create a lesson inspired by the 2nd graders who created "Van Gogh's Cat.".  I wanted my students to create a picture inspired by a famous masterpiece, then have a cat jump out of their own picture.  I set up folders with colorful images of many famous artworks, and shared them at each table in my classroom.  The awesome part was that none of my students fought over pictures, shared without complaint, and didn't choose the "easy" pictures!

After the students created their pictures (I just used markers and colored pencils on 9" x 12" paper), I had them trace a cat shape on the back of their pictures, then attempt to cut the cat out without cutting from the edge of the paper (for those who were afraid to attempt it, I just pinched a cut in the middle of the paper to start them off).  The students then glued their picture on one side of 12" x 18" paper, and their cat on the other side.

After my students created their pictures, I felt that the school needed to see how I combine art and literature.  I decided to create a bulletin board to share what the students learned, what they created, and a little information about the artist.  Here's my results:

I needed something to draw everyone's attention in the hallway.  If the superintendent or curriculum director walked by, I wanted them to stop and read.

Van Gogh's "Starry Night."  Of course we needed this one...the book was called "Van Gogh's Cat" after all!!!

Henri Matisse's "Fall of Icarus."  It's fun to explain to students that not all body drawings have to be perfect.

Claude Monet's "Bridge Argenteuil."  I'm so glad a student picked this one!  It shows that he liked teh composition more than choosing something easy or abstract.

Piet Mondrian's "Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow." One of our BIP students created this one, and I loved how he focused on the work!  He loved the bright colors and filling his the space.

Andy Warhol's "Campbell Soup."  I'm glad I found a chance to share multiple artists with this project.  The students loved the idea of choosing their own.  I'm very happy that some students wanted to take on the challenge of drawing multiple cans, and they never gave up!

Georgia's O'Keefe's "Red Poppy."  Great composition, and beautiful craftsmanship with this challenge!

Alma Woodsey Thomas's "The Eclipse."  I love talking about Alma's abstract much that I introduce her to two different grade levels!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Turkey Puppets!!!!!!

Kindergarten students have the most enthusiastic reactions when they see what project they will make.   The project that gives the most reaction is always the turkey puppets.  At this time in their art journey, I begin pushing the drawing and cutting skills  a little more by creating challenges.

In the beginning of the school year, I start with assemblage and proper use of materials, such as how much glue to use and placement of pieces to create an artwork.  Drawing is then introduced with using simple shapes to create artworks.  Then comes the scissors.

The kindergarten in my district come from many diverse backgrounds.  Some have used scissors and know perfectly well how to use them, and others need that little extra help in handling scissors.  Once I feel they are ready, it's close to Thanksgiving time, which is a grand time to bring on the turkeys!

Here is the list of materials I use:

-Brown paper bags (trimmed down for kindergarten hand sizes)
-Black Marker

(Cut a mass quantity of each for your current amount of students, plus save some for next year so you know which sizes to cut!)

-Dark brown colored paper cut down to 4" x 5" size
-Yellow colored paper cut down to 2" x 2" squares (for beak and feet), then more at 1.5" x 5" size (for feathers)
-Red colored paper cut down to 2" x 3" size (for waddle), then more at 1.5" x 5" size (for feathers)
-White paper cut down to 2" x 3" size
-Blue, Green, Purple, and Orange colored paper cut down to 1.5" x 5" (for feathers)

Start by showing the students which side is the back and front.  Since paper bags have flaps, I call that the backside since the flap can ruffle the tail feathers.  After the students write their names, I show then which shapes to draw on the paper:

Dark Brown Paper:  Draw a big oval first, then cut out.  This part is the body.

White Paper:  fold paper in half, draw circle, then cut the circle out, which makes two since the paper was folded!  This part is the eyes.

Red Paper:  I tell the students to cut out any funny shape they want.  They like that!  This part is the waddle.

Yellow Paper:  I tell the students to just cut a corner off a square, and they get a triangle!  That part is the beak.  Take two more squares, draw a circle on one, then cut out two squares at the same time, making two circles!  This will be the two feet!

Red, Green, Blue, Orange, Yellow, and Purple Strips: These are the tail feathers!  Have the students glue one at a time on the back flap, then voila!  You have a turkey puppet!

Use the black marker to draw pupils in the eyes.

This project should take only one class period.  If you have overachievers, show them how to trim the feather to look more feather-pointed.  More details can be added.

                     (I thought this one was cute!  She decorated the turkey in a field of flowers!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Giving Thanks for Art

It's that time of year to give thanks for what we have, not to dwell on what we want!  Here's my Thanksgiving list of things I'm thankful for:

I am thankful for a classroom.  When I traveled to three schools, having at least one classroom was helpful.  It was my home base, and the place I stored most of my materials.  Now I travel to two schools, and there is a classroom at both.  I do miss pushing the cart because I enjoyed being a part of the classroom and seeing my co-workers.  I know it sounds weird!

I am thankful for my co-workers.  Even though going from one school to another is tricky, I'm happy to know I have friends wherever I go.

I am thankful for a budget.  I have friends that teach in schools with little to no money for art supplies, and I try to give when I can to help them out.  With the budget that I have, I am able to create a decent curriculum to bring everything about ART to my students.

I am thankful for a staff that doesn't look at me like I'm a plan period.

I am thankful for administration that communicates with me.  Because I travel and was unaware of alot going on my first year, I vocalized my concern for wanting to know what was going on!  Now I know when students transfer in/out, when a field trip or assembly happens, or even when a contest happens in the district!

I am thankful for my students.  When they walk into my room, I don't hear a single complaint.  Instead, I hear, "What are we making today?" or "I showed my project to my family and they hung it on the wall!"  I am also thankful for their enthusiasm, their participation, their pride in being responsible, and their high fives in the hallway.

I am thankful for my art education colleagues.  Yes, you guys are awesome.  I love how we share ideas, stay active in the arts community, and how we are advocates for the arts in education.  You rock!

I am thankful for ART.  I love my job.  Enough said.

Please take the time to think of what you're thankful for.  And if you can't, think of ways to make your situation better for you.  You spend most of your time during the day at work, away from your family.  Make that time enjoyable for you!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Revisiting "Pros and Cons: Balancing the Scales While Traveling to Multiple Schools"

My third article is published!  This month, I focused on the pros and cons of traveling to multiple schools and pushing a cart from room to room.  I wanted to share how even though you may feel like you're being pushed around or struggling with storage and materials, there are positives to each situation.  I am very thankful that Arts & Activities shared my advice with fellow art educators, and I hope to continue to work together with colleagues to strengthen our practice and be advocates in our field!

To view the article, turn to page 12 here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sharing Spaces

I've been pondering how to write this particular piece because I'm having a tricky situation this year.  Allow me to share the story:

I share an art room with another art teacher.

There's the brunt of the story.  No juicy details, no cat fights or name-calling...just sharing.

I do not wish to make anyone appear as a complainer or share frustrations.  As I've been pondering, I felt the need to share ways to create an inspiring art space that could be shared between two artists, or two dominant type A personalities.

I would like to list some challenges I have come across and share with you what works best in my situation.

Challenge #1: Veteran Teacher vs. Novice.  In my case, I am the novice.  I've been in the district for 6 years, my co-worker for over 20 years.  Knowledge and wisdom are wonderful tools, as well as mentorship possibilities.  Respect the advice your co-worker gives.  He or she may have some good stories to share.

Challenge #2: Materials.  I learned from day one that materials that are ordered are ordered separately.  We have saved on countless frustrations because we knew to keep our materials separate.  We share very few materials, such as the drying rack, paint cups, and the cutting board, but almost everything else is our own.  When we were both on carts, we had our own storage space separated, and it worked wonderfully.  Now that we have a shared room, we have our own shelves and space in the room for our materials.  This way, when one teacher walks out and the next teacher walks in, our materials are still there...especially the consumables.  With a shared room now, we combined crayons, markers, and colored pencils, and drawing books since they're the most used items for projects.  Everything else...still separate.  We like it that way.

(My old cart!  It's now turned into the resource cart: art books, coloring sheets, crayons, colored pencils, games)

Challenge #3: Communication. When it came time to set up the room, I was extremely passive.  I thought, "Hey, she's been wanting a room for the past few years, she's got it, I'll let her figure the floor plan!"   Then, when it was arranged, I found it incredibly difficult to navigate.  Instead of holding it in, I felt the right thing to do was to talk with my co-worker about the set-up and what would work best in both of our situations.  We came to an agreement, and now we're good.  If you've ever seen the end of the movie "Legally Blonde 2," you'll know what I'm talking about.  Speak up and share your voice, but don't be a meanie about it.

(With being on a cart for years, we are slowly building up out visuals for the room.  It takes time!)

Challenge #4: Display Space.  Throughout the school, everyone battles for display space.  My co-worker and I have specific spaces, but we have had conflicts with the usage of that space.  This year, we decided to alternate displays each month.  This gives us a chance to showcase student work from both art teachers.  My challenge is that I wished I could show more  of my student's work.  Who doesn't want to show off their awesome, amazing masterpieces?  Still, as role models for our students, we show how sharing is positive thing to do!

(Look familiar?  Yes, it's a Keith Haring inspired project I found on Pinterest.  Thank you to the original creator, my 5th graders were proud!)

(My co-worker's display space)

Challenge #5: Dealing With the Little Mistakes.  It's been two months into the school year, and we have had a few mistakes along the way.  The key is forgiveness.  Everyone makes mistakes, and holding grudges is never a good thing to your stress and your health.  Oops, one of us forgot to lock the paper cabinet.  It happens.  There can be a list of little mistakes that happen every day, the key is to communicate, be respectful, and try not to make the same mistake twice.

(Always make sure you double check your space before passing it over to the next person!)

In a way, I feel that writing this has helped me to understand that any frustrations I may have had, it's nothing compared to the big picture:  We are there for the kids.  We love our jobs, and we love art.