Thursday, October 1, 2015

In Process

The beginning of this year (even though I'm 6 weeks in) has been busy. The beginning is always busy, but this year has been exceptionally busy. There's a lot of "stuff" going on in addition to teaching. 

My class sizes are bigger than ever. I get a 4th grade class and a quarter each morning first thing. 33-34 kids. I'm just going to leave that one out there. 

I was asked to write an article about my printmaking lessons by Arts & Activities magazine. I was also asked to contribute to a book of elementary art lesson plans. Both of these opportunities are super exciting, but definitely did add to my workload. 

Of course starting new lessons with all five grade levels simultaneously is always a challenge as well. Since many of those projects haven't been finished yet, I thought I'd post a few pictures of things going on around Thomas just to prove that I haven't dropped entirely off the earth.

During my first rotation, I had every single student create a small self portrait and write three goals for the school year. I like that I was able to get a display up relatively quickly and get the students right into art making at the beginning of the year. Each grade level used a specific color in order to create the rainbow effect with the display. 

Photographing printmaking examples for Arts & Activities magazine. 
Nope, not crowded at all!

 My school district has rethought the gifted model for this year and there is a strong emphasis on the six habits or practices of thinkers. It really fits into what art teachers do every day, so I'm excited to see a district-wide emphasis on creativity and critical thinking. I designed this sweet poster that is now in every classroom in my building. 

 Another change this year is adding more options for students for free creativity time when they finish a project early. The blocks are a huge hit. There will be more options soon!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wait! I'm more than just a teacher!

I know it sounds like crazy talk, but most teachers do actually have a life and interests that aren't school related. Summer is a great time to indulge those interests. Over two years ago, I designed a dining room table with the intent of building it that summer. My daughter was an infant that summer. Needless to say, I didn't have time to build a table. Last summer, time again slipped away from me and my plans gathered more dust. This summer was do or die. I did!

From a design standpoint, I like to combine clean, modern lines with older elements. This is how my finished table came out! 
The table top is made of 8/4 ash. I designed the base and had it fabricated by a local iron working company. The top has old letterpress typography inset and covered with glass. My wife is a graphic designer is a slight obsession with typography. I love the history behind it and being able to think about what the letters have been used to print throughout the decades. 

I'm really happy with how the whole project came out. I'm even happier that I found time to build it. 

Close-up of the type inset. It was slightly terrifying taking a router
to a perfectly good tabletop. Everything wound up fitting perfectly.
Detail of the base. Much of the type is lead,
so the top needed a good amount of support.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Day!

 It's a new school year. How can I tell? My floors are like mirrors. It's my favorite part of the beginning of each year. The custodial staff at my school is awesome and I greatly appreciate the work they put in over the summer to get the building ready for a new school year. 

For me, it's back to waking up early, trying to remember my routine, and not getting to hang out with my little girl nearly as much. The new year also brings excitement about new ideas, art, and a district emphasis on creativity and critical thinking. I'm super excited about that last part. 

I also re-arranged my tables this year. I've had the same setup for seven years in a row and I needed a change. I'm hopeful that the new setup will work well. Even if it doesn't, I burned at least 500 calories moving them around over and over until I finally figured out something that I hope will work! 

There are some new posters hanging in the art room this year. I took inspiration from quotes from such greats as Albert Einstein, Bob Ross, and Adam Savage. I also grabbed some from The Art of Education who was kind enough to put together a couple of helpful art room signs. 

I hope everyone has a great 15-16 school year!
Two greats. Einstein and Ross. 

AOE has these signs available as free downloads!
Teaching that failure is not a negative experience this year. Adam Savage said it best. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

5th Grade Nature-Based Block Prints

Woohoo! Another printmaking project! This is a new lesson I wrote this past school year when a student teaching project wasn't working out so well. 

The basis of this project was patterns found in nature. We started out by looking at a bunch of photographs of naturally occurring patterns. If you look for it, there are some pretty astounding patterns and designs on plants and animals. I even brought in some math (gasp!) and talked about the Fibonacci sequence and how it is related to the golden ratio that can often be found in nature. 

An example of the golden ratio in plant form!
Each student then used some reference material to sketch out a few different zoomed in views of natural patterns. The best drawing was then transferred to a piece of EZ-Kut block printing material that I had pre-cut as equilateral triangles. The triangular shape was a definite departure from other printmaking lessons in the past. 

Before they printed, students lightly sketched out where they wanted to print. Most students chose to do a random kind of layout. If I were to change anything about the project next year, I would at least want students to make a symmetrical layout of their final prints - the work that turned out the best used symmetry this year. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

4th Grade Reduction Prints

This project is like magic. The first year I did it, I was absolutely astonished at how well it turned out. It is still my favorite printmaking project that I teach. I usually post 4-8 examples of each project and every year I find myself posting WAY more than that for this lesson. It's just that good. 

I have visual instructions for this project on my original post of this project. The concept here is that students start with a large piece of foam and press in details to print one step at a time. The inks are layered and students eventually wind up with a three color print. 

Andy Warhol is the major inspiration for the lesson. We take a look at various example and talk about how screen printing was Warhol's primary method of art making. It gives the students a good jumping-off point for the lesson. 

Also, before you ask, we use photo reference for the animal drawings. I get a huge stack of animal books from the library and students choose a specific photo or two to draw from. I get way more detailed and realistic work from students this way. 

Enjoy the examples from this year!

Click here to download my lesson plan. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

3rd Grade 3D Paper Landscapes

I love it when a plan comes together. Sometimes it doesn't. That's fine, too. 

This lesson originated as an amalgamation of two projects I've taught to 3rd grade in the past. One of my goals was to create more 3D lessons this year. This was my attempt for 3rd grade. 

Essentially what I wanted to do was have a paper landscape with individual pieces created for the foreground, middle ground, and background. The landscape would depict the habitat of an animal that would also be included in the work. The landscape elements would be combined with two accordion-like edges, and a little paper frame would finish the front. It would look something like this quick demo piece I did. 

The project went great. Then I demonstrated how to put the whole thing together. That's when I got the dreaded look of confusion from most of the class. I knew the way I had it planned was going to be kind of difficult, so I had my demonstration broken down pretty well. I was using a document camera and my projector to project my demo on the big screen so everyone could see. We worked step by step. A few kids got it, but it was mass confusion for the rest. Needless to say, I changed things the next day. 

I ended up making little springs out of 1x3 strips of card stock and having students attach attach several in between layers of their landscape. I still really like how the project turned out and it was MUCH simpler to teach to my other four classes.