Saturday, August 31, 2013

Young Creative Minds: Introducing Kindergarteners to the Art Room

While my child was in preschool, I loved everything she brought home and how excited she was to see her teachers and friends.  She was in a small class with plenty of attention, so I didn't worry about how she would be in kindergarten..  It wasn't until she entered the public school system when something hit me.

I am now that parent.  You know the one who cries as their child climbs the steps of the bus?  Yeah, that was me.  My daughter is also going through major changes: being a big sister, going to a new school, meeting new friends, and having a new schedule all within a month time.  She is one of many kindergarteners going through the same thing.

Being in a new school is scary.  For the kindergartener, they're thrust into this big building away from home and in a class where they compete for attention among 20-40 other children their age.  It's no wonder anxiety is high with many of these students.

Being in a new school can also be exciting too.  In the first few weeks, students are soaking up all the "newness" of the year; new classroom, new projects, and new friends.  On top of dealing with anxious students, you're also dealing with the excited ones.

When you first get the kindergarten class, you will have a mixture of whole new personalities and a number of new names to memorize.  You will get criers, talkers, bouncers (you know...the ones that can't sit still), and shy ones.

In the beginning of the year, try some ways to make your kindergarteners comfortable in the art room.  There are plenty of tricks to try out and it depends on what works for you.

Trick #1: Do you have a space for a "circle time" or reading time?  Start off your class in a small group instead of seating them in their chairs right away.  I noticed when gathering the students in a small space, they focused more on what I was saying instead of what was around the room.  I also have a small easel drawing board for demonstrations and identification activities.

If you are on a cart, check with the teacher beforehand to find out if there is a designated reading area in the classroom.

Trick #2: Start off with a story.  For my kindergartener's first class, I start off with reading Caldecott Book Winner "Olivia" by Ian Falconer.  I use that book to explain how Olivia uses her imagination, and how in art, we use our imaginations in everything we make.  You can find your own book to use as an icebreaker to welcome your students!

Trick #3: Start off with a tour. Before sitting the students down in their seats, lead them into the room in a line.  Walk them around the room and point out things they should know (ex. this is the sink...this is the drying rack...etc.).   Identifying the space will help students to know what's in the new room and where they can go during class time.  This may not always work since some students may want to wander around the moment they walk in.

If you are on a cart, it's obvious you do not need to give a tour.  Instead of walking students around the room, try an identification game to make students familiar with materials used to make art (example: a pencil is used to draw, a paintbrush is used to make paintings, etc.)

Trick #4: Play a scavenger hunt.  Starting off with the rules is always key, but what if you made a game out of it?  Create a hunt using images to look for and have students circle what they find.  When the students are done, have them sit in a spot to share what they have found.

If you are on a cart, you can still have a scavenger hunt, but change your hunt to objects that would be in the general classroom that you can use for art projects, like pencils, erasers, paper clips, etc.

Once you have your students warmed up to you and your room, start going over your classroom rules and procedures so students know your expectations.

I wish everyone good luck in the beginning of the school year, and I hope all goes well with everything!

What tricks do you have to welcome kindergarteners to art?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wassily Kadinsky with 2nd Grade: Movement and Music in Art

Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian painter who is known for his abstract paintings with shapes and lines.  Kadinsky said that "Music is the ultimate teacher," and created a series of composition pairings in the 1930s.  In his early years, he stated, "Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul (Kandinsky, Wassily (1911). Concerning the Spiritual in Art. translated by Michael T. H. Sadler (2004)."

One of my favorite projects with my 2nd graders is my Kadinsky-inspired line and shape paintings.  The students love how music can help inspire any artwork, especially with abstract designs.  Prepare your Pandora account with some early Jazz tunes and start getting your materials together!

-10.5" x 16" white paper (60 lb. or heavier)
-12" x 18" colored paper (for frame)
-black and colored markers
-tempura cake paints

Since students have prior knowledge in identifying different shapes and lines in art, I ask the students to create an abstract painting using the shapes and lines they know.  As inspiration in creating their pictures, I play music in the background to encourage their creative thinking.  Students must fill their paper with the shapes and lines, leaving little negative space.

On day 1 (40 minute class), I introduce the artist with a Powerpoint showing his artworks.  I also show a few composition paintings to show the difference in painting styles with fast and slow music.

For example...

This painting demonstrates crisp lines, filled in shapes, and and precision.  This painting appears to have been made while someone was listening to music with a slower beat.

This painting is more chaotic, dramatic, and quick.  This painting appears to have been made while the artist was listening to music with a faster beat.

For the rest of class, the students use a pencil to draw in their abstract picture while listening to Early Jazz music in the background.  In the early 20s-30s, Jazz and Ragtime was the popular music at that time, so I encourage students to try and create to the same type of music Wassily would have listened to.  If students finish their drawings early, I can easily put out the tempura cake trays for beginning painting.

Day 2 is mainly for painting.  I encourage students to fill in their spaces with different colors and to complete the background (negative space) with colors as well.

Day 3 is for refinement and framing.  Since you can't use a marker on wet paint, all students should be at the same step in the lesson on this day.  Students can use black or colored markers to trace their shapes and lines, which helps enhance the painting.  To finish, students glue a colored paper to the back of the painting for a frame.

                   Here's a video I like to show students before starting the project!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Going to School: 1st Grade Drawings with William H. Johnson

                                             "Going to Church" by William H. Johnson

William Henry Johnson was an African-American painter from Florence, South Carolina.  Johnson created paintings that characterized African-American culture, traditions and folk art.

In the beginning of the school year, I like to have my 1st grade students dive into drawing.  In their previous year as kindergarteners, I work on having students drawing bodies with shapes instead of sticks and backgrounds fully colored (instead of the blue line at the top of the page).

-depending on the time, 9" x 12" white paper or 10.5" x 16" white paper
-12" x 14" colored paper or 12" x 18" colored paper for frames
-thin black markers
-glue (for gluing project to frame paper)

The point of the project is to have students revisit their previous skills learned in kindergarten.  Since they had a summer off, I like to jump into their drawing skills right away.

I also look at how shapes can be used to create a composition, and with using William H. Johnson's "Going to Church" as an example, I show students how shapes do not have to be perfect, but help us to create simple pictures.

Day 1 (40 minute class) is for the introduction into the painting and demonstration of the drawing and tracing with markers.

Day 2 is for coloring.  I have students use markers, including multicultural colors, and crayons for the grass and sky.  Once the pictures are finished, the students glue a frame paper to the back of their projects.

Sometimes, depending on the class, a third day is needed for finishing.

                                                Here are some of the finished products!

                      Here's a youtube video found with images of William H. Johnson's work!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Learning Our Lines with Piet Mondrian in Kindergarten

                                                          (an image of Piet Mondrian)

Piet Mondrian was a dutch painter who created non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism. His paintings were created with  a white background with a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colors.

In the beginning of the school year, I like to start out with the simplest of elements with the kindergarten students: lines!  This project is also a good way to introduce the three primary colors as well.


-10" x 10" white paper
-12" x 12" primary color paper (red, yellow, blue, and even some black)
-1 1/2" x 10" primary color and black strips of paper
-a writing utensil for student names


My main focus for this project is to have the students identify lines that are vertical (up and down), and horizontal (side by side).  After identifying the two lines, I also discuss the primary colors that Piet used to create his works of art.

This project takes one 40-minute class period to discuss and create.  I start by showing students a poster of Piet's "Composition II in Red, Yellow and Blue (seen above)," and discuss the lines seen in the painting.

After showing students the painting, I begin to show how they can create their own composition piece using pre-cut lines.  I like to have students work with me on creating the piece, so I ask the students with each strip of paper "Which was is vertical?"  "Which way is horizontal?"  and I even try sneaking in a diagonal...which I hear students say "No!!!!"  Kindergarteners are so much fun.

This is another opportunity I use to show how to use a glue bottle responsibly.  I don't use glue sticks in my room, so I start all the kindergarteners off right away with the glue bottle.  We go over the "just a dot, not a lot" trick, and practice twisting the orange tip, not the white cap (I use elmer's glue bottles).

After students complete their Mondrian compositions, they glue the 12" x 12" colored paper to the back for a frame, and they're complete!  Since open house is within a week on school starting, this is the first and only project I have completed for display in the hallways.

You may get a few students who miss the main concept, so try keeping your eyes open to correct those who start going diagonally!

Then you get students who don't quite finish enough of their project...

This looks about right!

Here are some videos I had found on Pinterest and Youtube to use with any Piet lesson!

Starting Your School Year Off With a Smile! September's Stepping Stones

Arts & Activities issues this image as a sneak peek into their September 2012 issue that will be off the press within a week!

For my first article for the 2013-14 school year, I wanted to focus on how to keep a positive outlook when starting off with the students.  It can be hard for many...some of you have multiple classrooms to set up while others only have a cart and storage room.  No mater what your responsibilities are, you make the best of it!

When you start at the beginning of the school year, remember these key elements to having a successful year:

1.     You have the power to brighten your students’ day with art.  As the art teacher, you are giving your students a chance to speak their thoughts and emotions in ways they cannot say in words.  Having this outlet helps students to be creative thinkers and inventors in their own way.  You are giving them that outlet.

2.     You have the ability to enhance student learning through art.  You bring history, culture, literature, and mathematics into your classroom.  You show them how to problem solve to work through mistakes.  You show the students how manipulating materials can make wonderful creations and how we need art in our everyday lives.

3.     You have the ability to change your situation.  If you struggle with teaching from a cart?  You’re not the only one, and many teachers are sharing their input in art educator groups on the internet.  Are you feeling disconnected from your staff?  Invite them to your room, or start a conversation when you visit their room.  There are ways to make your situation more positive, and even if it takes some work, persistence pays off.   

4.     You are the advocate for the arts in your school, district, local, state, and national community.  Believe it or not, you are the spokesperson for the arts wherever you work.  If you carry a negative attitude about your situation, you will reflect that in your practice.  Show your passion for the arts in each project you teach and all displays you create.  Be proud of your student work and show it off whenever you can.  If you feel burnt out, reach out to others in your field.  There are plenty of art teacher groups on social networks willing to give advice and listen to your concerns, challenges, accomplishments, and honors.

If you are interested in viewing the full article, please click here for the September article of Stepping Stones in Arts & Activities Magazine!!