Sunday, November 30, 2014

4th and 5th Grade - Music Videos

Reading schools repeats specials Fridays, so we typically have "Fun Friday," where in Art we take a break from our regular-week activities by playing an art game or doing another activity.  For this Fun Friday activity, the 4th and 5th graders collaborated to make lyric music videos for a few classic songs:  Come Together by the Beatles and Lookin' Out My Back Door by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Each student got either a lyric from the song or a "music break," and it was his or her job to draw a picture of what that lyric (or song) would look like.  I collected the pictures, put them in order, and set them up with the music to create the music video.  The results are really cool, and definitely something I want to build on moving forward - hopefully I can give them more time.

The Beatles - Come Together

CCR - Lookin' Out My Back Door

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

3rd Grade - Genius

This is a new project this year that the kids and I really enjoyed.  I recently read about the Roman idea of a genius.  The Romans believed there was a little thing that lived inside your soul that would come and go, giving you ideas and basically directing your activities.  The coolest part is that this "genius" could give you a good idea or a bad idea, and you couldn't really take credit for it either way.  If you came up with something brilliant, you would stay humbled, saying it was actually your genius that came up with the idea.  At the same time, if you tried something dumb, it wouldn't be totally your fault.  Your genius just led you astray.  

I explained to my third graders that a "genius" is this little spirit that lives in your soul that helps you be good at the things your good at.  So we planned what our geniuses look like and what they helped us with before painting them. 

Take a look at some awesome examples.  See if you can guess what the kids are "geniuses" at.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why I Teach Art

Those of us that teach in Ohio have probably heard about the Ohio Department of Education recently voting to eliminate the "5 of 8" rule that mandates Ohio school districts to have at least 5 staffed positions from the following - specials teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, and nurses - per 1000 students.  Lots of us in Ohio are worried that if this language is eliminated, districts may be less likely to keep these staff members that provide vital support services and a well-rounded education for students.  Particularly at risk are those districts who are already struggling financially, and it's those districts that may need arts education the most.

As an art teacher, clearly I have some thoughts on this.  I won't necessarily get into a lot of detail with the benefits of arts education in relation to test scores, attendance, college-readiness, or career goals (although you can read about them here, here, here, here, here, or here).  Instead I want to touch on a few things that inspired me to be an art teacher.

Growing up I loved to draw.  I loved cartoons and would draw on anything and everything for as long as I can remember.  I doodled on homework assignments and notebook pages, covering every square inch of paper and sometimes getting frustrated that the notes I was taking were getting in the way of my drawing.

My art education experience growing up was largely developing skills and vocabulary.  I came a long way.  I learned all about perspective, space, composition, the elements and principles.  I graduated high school with a portfolio of technically-sound artwork.

A first grade project by me (top) and my twin sister (bottom)
I feel like I was lucky.  I liked art.  I loved to draw.  I was good at it.  It was much easier for me to get better.  For a long time, art education was focused on developing skills and techniques.  Art classes studied the old masters and refined abilities to imitate the classics.

Portrait by 18 year-old me
But I got most excited about Art when I went to college and discovered contemporary artists that made me view the world differently.  Art that made me think and challenged my ideas.  I realized what Art could be - intellectually engaging and ultimately eye-opening.  I realized that great art wasn't necessarily made by artists who could paint like the art teacher, rather by artists who thought about life in an original, critical way.  

I was so inspired by the direction I saw Art Education heading by the time I got to Ohio State to get my teaching degree.  I knew I wanted to get back into schools and add contemporary art and critical thinking skills to grade school curriculum, and was thankful to see I was not alone.  Not by a long shot.  Art education is focusing on investigating visual culture and problem solving as the wave of the future.

So now to the main reason I teach Art.  I've basically made it my cause to develop positive relationships with new ideas, originality, and taking risks with my students.  I tell them all the time that I'm most concerned with developing their ability to problem solve, come up with their own ideas, and understand that they have ideas worth getting excited about.  I'm always there to help them get technically better, shade properly, and build vocabulary.  But at the end of the day if my students get better at decision making and problem solving, I can rest easy.

A 6th grade blind-contour drawing
Being specials teachers allows us to do just that.  In Art, we can practice making mistakes so that we can really celebrate our successes.  We can practice looking at the world from different angles, practice being silly and weird, and practice spending time outside of the "test mode" that so rarely applies to real life.  We can provide an environment and an experience for our students that few other classrooms can.  

And we get to use crayons, paint, paper mache, clay, colored pencils, markers, scissors, construction paper, glue, and cartoons to do that.

Click here for the link to ODE's contact information on the subject.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kindergarten - Name Plates

For this project, kindergarten artists got a big piece of construction paper with their names on it.  The goal was to then use the whole piece of paper to draw things they liked so that I could learn a little more about them as individuals.  This was a very simple way to get to know the kindergartners' names and interests early on in the year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

5th Grade - Graffiti

I like this project to start the year because it gives 5th graders plenty of space to focus on details and background, and explore their own concepts in their artwork.  We start off with a slideshow of various graffiti examples and talk a lot about how the artists add visual interest with colors, value, and lines.  We also talked about how it's important to graffiti a word that's meaningful.

So the fifth graders chose an idea that was important to them and took care to make sure their artwork reflected how important they thought that idea was.  Check out some of the outstanding examples.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Opening Projects - Goofing Up

Starting in new district presents its own challenges in a variety of ways, and I think a big one is setting expectations.  I am a firm believer in developing creativity and a positive relationship with art and ideas in my classroom.  I teach skills and techniques, for sure, and certainly see the value of teaching the elements and principles, but I stress to my students that what I'm most interested in is their ideas, originality, and effort.

So to start the year, our very first projects with each grade had lot to do with taking ownership of their artwork and problem solving.  The first and second graders fixed "mistakes" that I made for them by walking around the room and making marks on their papers.  Their job was to turn that mark into something else that made sense with their pictures.  

The third graders drew a portrait with their opposite hands, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders drew portraits of their classmates without looking at their paper.  The point being that we understand it's okay to make mistakes, as long as we don't give up on our artwork.  

My students are probably tired of hearing me say it, but in the art room, we don't mess up.  We just give ourselves new problems we need to solve.