Monday, April 29, 2013

Community Quilts with 4th Grade

Did I ever mention that Faith Ringgold is one of my favorite artists?  I love the messages in her story quilts: community, heritage, harmony...

Ever since I walked into the Chicago Cultural Center back in 2000 to view her quilt exhibit, I was hooked on her quilts.  I was even a great honor to shake her hand after receiving my bachelor's diploma at my commencement ceremony at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago back in 2001.  And yes, I've met her again since then.

My students think it's cool that I've met a famous artist.  When I show them the picture, they always say, "You met her?  That is so cool!"  or I'll even get, "She's real?"  Yes...I get that.

I like to introduce a project inspired by Faith Ringgold's community quilts around the end of February/beginning of March.  I tie in Black History Month and continue with Women's History Month since this project could take a few weeks.

Before the students know what the project is about, we spend time reading a story written by Faith Ringgold called "How the People Became Color Blind."  The link takes you directly to her website with a story you can print out and read to your class.  After we read the story, the students and I have a discussion about the story, asking questions about how we would feel if the world was all one color.

Here are the materials for the project:

-10.5" x 10.5" white paper, 60lb. (thin paper will rip from the paint)
-12" x 12" color paper (if you frame each picture)
-paper plates (my palettes)
-multicultural tempura paints for skin and hair
-tempura paint
-water and water bowls
-black markers

When I'm ready to start the project, I go over step by step how to draw the face.  This project is also my main portrait project with 4th grade, so many of them are starting to draw faces for the first time (my district has a high transient rate).  I start with the oval face, then show where to draw the guidelines for the eyes, nose, mouth, and hairline.  The students are always fascinated that their ears start and end on their nose lines too!

Here are two print-outs I found on Pinterest that can be used as guides for the students:

After showing the students how to draw the face and shoulders, I encourage students to draw other details that would define who they are (for example, flags that represent pride and heritage, or drawings that represent what the student likes and cares about).

The point is to have all the students create painting of their individual selves, then combine them together to show our school community.

Day 1 of painting is for the neutrals and flesh tones.  I put out a plate of different peaches, browns, and tans, along with black and white.  I tell the students to paint their face, leaving the eyes open (sometimes the students paint over the eyes!), and to not forget the ears and neck (yeah, that happens too!).  I also encourage students to paint their hair color, and if they have brown eyes.

Day 2 of painting is for the other colors of the rainbow, which can be used for clothing, background, eyes, and jewelry.

Day 3 is for touch ups.  It's a pain trying to carry ALL those colors on a cart or to pour ALL the colors for the students who were absent or behind, but it has to happen.  I normally have a bin for neutrals/flesh tone paints and a bin for the other colors, and I have students carry the bins for me back to the storage room.  Also, don't pour every single color out on the plates, it takes too much time and not every student needs all the colors!  Instead, I have the students at each table tell me what colors they need and I can pour it twice as fast as I would pouring all the colors out.  Many students may be done with painting on this day too, so I have them trace their pictures with black markers.  This helps bring the eyes, noses, and mouths back from painting over them.

Day 4 is for final tracing and display.  You can choose to have each picture framed themselves, or you can display the paintings together as a "quilt" by gluing each block onto a sheet of kraft paper from the big tools.  I also trim strips of colored paper to add a top frame to each project (which protects the paintings from students bumping into the displays on the walls in the hallway).

Here are some close-ups of student projects from past displays!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A School That Appreciates Art (School-Wide Sculptures for Earth Day)

Today I walked into my second school (I travel to two schools in one day) and was stunned to find out that each classroom had worked together to create their own recycled sculptures for Earth Day.  I was amazed with the work the students had created, and I couldn't help taking pictures of all the awesome sculptures!!!

These were projects made by the classrooms.  The teachers organized the collection of materials, the students designed their own sculptures, and the school organized the display of finished pieces in the hallways.  As the art teacher, I was not asked to do anything.  Was I upset about not being asked to help or get involved?  Heck no.  I was proud of my school.  

That's one of the joys about my schools...they don't expect the art teachers to do all the visual work...they understand that cross-curricular goes both ways.  We always do our best to add in all the other common core subjects into the art curriculum for many reasons: to have a voice, to strengthen our subject, to re-enforce what the students learn in other subjects, and more.  To see the tables turn and view the classrooms bringing art into their lessons, not just the crafty work, but beautiful large sculptures, made me want to cry happy tears.  

To top it off, the school created the display for a good cause.  There are so many ways to celebrate Earth Day, and what better way than to create art from recycled materials?

Wouldn't it be nice to see this in all school districts?

Thank you, Lyle Elementary, for your beautiful artwork.  I was so proud of you, I couldn't help but share your artworks!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ways to Use Social Media in the Elementary Art Program.

As a traveling teacher, it becomes tricky to fit in using technology in the art class...but if used correctly, technology is the key tool to help promote your department and your students' accomplishments.

How can I document my art class if I have a cart or drive from school to school?  

Have you ever considered bringing your phone with you from class to class while pushing your cart from room to room?  Normally, I would have shunned the idea.  I would have been in fear of students stealing the phone, dropping it off the cart, or parents and the school being afraid that I was taking photos of students for my own use.  Instead, I use my phone for instant access to promoting my art curriculum.  After taking photos of student work, I email them to my school account, or post the student artwork on Twitter to share with the art education community.

If you are still uncomfortable with the idea of using your phone (especially because it is a GREAT responsibility), try bringing your digital camera, and uploading images of student work on your own!  The iPevo digital camera is also another great tool of technology that immediately takes pictures and uploads them into the computer (affordable).

Using the iPevo camera can help in instant access of student artwork onto Artsonia, or any social media networks you use to promote your curriculum.

Although I do not currently own an iPad (I'm working on a fundraiser for one for the art program), there are plenty of resources on how iPads are used in the art room.  Even a simple web search can lead you to multiple links and resources on its many positive uses, including documenting student work and uploading projects for Artsonia or other project sites.

Why take photos in the art room?

Sharing photographs of your student projects and lessons you teach is a great way to promote your curriculum and advocate for the visual arts in education.  It is a great power to have to share with the nation and local community.  It's immediate access, and saves you from extra work of finding more display spaces beyond your already jam-packed display responsibilities.

What do I have to do to protect myself and my students?

But as said in the Spiderman movie, With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.  Before taking any action of promoting your program in your room or on a cart, take the steps to protect yourself and your students.

In the beginning of the school year, parents sign forms to approve or deny any video or photography of their children for school events or local papers.  In my schools, once we gather all the forms, we have a list of students who can or cannot be photographed during that school year.

With that said, you can begin documenting (but be careful of adding student names).  Take every precaution in protecting the student's full identity.

During open house, inform parents that you photograph as well to promote the art program.  Be open with the parents.  If need be, send out a second form for yourself to inform parents of your intentions.  Tell them of any sources you may post, such as Artsonia, your blog, Twitter, or even your website.  If you present at conferences, even discuss how photos are used to share projects and curriculum with colleagues to improve professional development.

How can I use social media while at work?

One example: When I received a display case from Art Room Aid, I could not wait to show off how we could use the case for displaying student artwork in the school.  As I pushed my cart with sculpture projects to the case, I set it up, closed the door, locked the case, pulled out my phone, took pictures, and while my principal was nearby, I showed him how I uploaded the image straight to Twitter, tagging Art Room Aid and hash-tagging #artsed.  I explained that by doing so, I just shared my documentation and gratitude for receiving the cabinet with Dick Blick by publicly thanking them, and hash-tagging the post to share our accomplishment with the art education community.  The teachers are now very used to me watching around taking photos of bulletin boards and displays with my phone after I set them up.

Facebook also helps us to connect, even if we only accept friends and family.  By joining art teacher "groups," we connect to share our own stories of successes and challenges, promote our contests and programs, and help each other answer general questions.  We even post those photos we take with our phones and digital cameras to share student artwork (while being responsible).

The same goes for Google +, where you can use live chat hangouts to communicate (similar to Skype). I've used this during school to interview artists and have students ask questions to artists who work in  the field (good way to promote careers in art!)

(Creating caricature drawings after interviewing Cliff Roth on Google +, a well known speed paint artist in the site!)

With Blogger, we can create our own blogs, follow other blogs and view recent posts, but with the help of other social networks, we can instantly post a link of our blog entries for others to view instantly.  When I finish this post, I will take the extra steps to share the link on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to promote it.  Yes, I've whipped out blog posts during my plan time.

Depending on your school district, you may have access to social networks, or not at all.  In my district, I can access Artsonia, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  All can be great resources to access during the day, but be mindful to use it for professional purposes, not checking what your friends are up to or what recipe to find for dinner tonight.

I use social media to promote my art program.  I share pictures of artwork, bulletin boards, blog posts, and article I find in Art education resources. I protect my students' identities by not adding names, and barely any faces unless the image was used for local newspapers or school newsletters. Since I am an elementary teacher, I do not encourage students to use social sites in the classroom simply because our district does not use social media with the K-6 students.  Many students in grades 3-6 have their own Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts, but with walking that fine line of safety and responsibility with students, we choose not to cross those boundaries.

Depending on the load you balance, there are many positive ways to use social media with students in Jr. High and High School, and in being a part of the art education social media, I have seen many ways students are properly using technology in the art room.

If you read this entire post hoping for ways you can access social media for student use, I apologize if I misled you.  At the elementary level and with the multiple responsibilities I juggle traveling, I do not feel that I have the focus to fully monitor students on social media in my art classes.  It's a powerful tool that requires more attention than I can give.  However, since I am a part of a PLN, I know of other teachers who have experimented with social media in their classrooms.

What is a "PLN?"

There are many public networks that teachers use to share ideas and promote their departments, and in doing so, they are participating in a "Professional Learning Network (PLN)."  The #artsed PLN on Twitter has been a wonderful resource in meeting art teachers across the country who are strong advocates with many brilliant ideas.  We share images of student work, videos of activities ( and how-to's of projects), and post questions on handling of materials.

According to Wikipedia, professional learning network is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment. In a PLN, a person makes a connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection.  In my case, I interact with other art educators across the country.  I promote by program, share my projects and ideas, and in return, I learn a great deal of how to becoming a stronger advocate in the arts and a leader in art education.  By being a part of a social media art teacher group or visiting the #artsed hash-tag, you are an active part of a PLN.

(Remember this picture?  We're the #artsed PLN that met at the NAEA convention in Ft. Worth last month!)

Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible.  Key words in our elementary schools to promote a positive learning environment, and the same goes with social media.  But as much as I warned to be careful, don't hesitate to take the risk to share your program.  Without technology, you may feel like a teacher stuck in a storage closet with a cart, feeling left out with no support.  With technology, you are a strong advocate for art education and your school's program.  Let other art teachers know who you are.  We want to meet you and see what you do to promote the arts in your schools.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kindergarten Pop Art with Andy Warhol

Even though it appears to be as easy as a "sub project,"  there are just some concepts that need to be explained a little more with kindergarten... plus when you're on the cart and have few materials to work with, this is a good project for you!

All you need is:

-10.5" x 10.5" square white paper
-12" x 12" colored paper for a frame
-woodemn stencils, which can be purchased at Michaels Arts & Crafts (normally .25 a piece, or wait for a good sale to buy shapes in bulk)

I start by introducing Andy Warhol to the students.  I show them a picture of Andy, as well as picture of his repetative paintings he made of "Pop Art." 

After showing how Andy repeated his drawings, I showed the students how to take one shape and repeat it four times on the square paper.

But how can you get the students to keep their shape in the centers of the four squares?  Easy.  Have the students fold their paper in half, then while the paper is still folded, have them fold in half again to make a small square.  Unfold and you have four boxes to work with!  Let the students have only one stencil to work with.  When I attempted to put a bowl of stencils out for the students to use, they kept chosing four different shapes because they couldn't make up their mind!  One shape to each student works best.

After the students have their shapes, use a pencil to trace the stencils in all four boxes first.  Tracing can be tricky for kindergarteners, so it might be a good idea to use simpler shapes for those who may struggle with sharp corners (use hearts, clouds, apples, or other rounder shapes instead).

After tracing the shapes in all four boxes, have the students trace their pencil lines with markers.  I do not like students coloring in with markers for this project because it does not look as nice, but tracing helps the shape pop out more.  Once traced, students complete their project by coloring in each space with crayons. 

Since we are learning repetition and contour, I do not introduce color theory with the blocks, although it is a good idea to visit the idea of complimentary/analogous/monochromatic colors later on in older grade levels.

Complete the project by gluing a frame to teh back and you are done!  I can take 1 to two 40 minute class periods for students to complete this project.  If they do not finish within the first class, I have students practicing forms with play-doh once they finish with their project on the second day.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Balancing Curriculum and Materials

Back in February 2013, Arts & Activities featured my article titled "Balancing Curriculum and Materials."  The article focused on how to time up your lessons throughout the year (so you don't have too many heavy-ended material projects at once) and managing sculpture materials.

The theme of February's magazine was clay, and since clay is the least used material when pushing carts from room to room (so I've heard from many art teachers), I wanted to share how it is possible to work with the tricky material without a classroom.

I based parts of my article on an older post I had written back in 2012 titled Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture, Oh My!  .  When pushing a cart from room to room, it's tricky to balance the excess materials on the cart, and I had found a few tricks to balance the load.

One of my biggest keys when working with sculpture materials on a cart was student help.  In the morning, I would leave the materials in the classrooms with the teachers, and once the classes were cleaned up and finished, I would have students carry the materials to the next room, or place the bin of sculpture items in my storage room.  Cleaning took a little longer than normal, I just budgeted in more time at the end for clean up to get all the clay off the desks!

How have you managed to work with clay while traveling?