Tuesday, February 9, 2016

1st Grade Jasper Johns Names

The art show. Hours and hours and hours of preparation for show that lasts a few hours. Is it worth it? Of course it is. Do I look for ways to make it simpler and more streamlined? Oh, yeah. 

Enter Artomé. I had been contacted by art show companies in the past, but I was always a little suspicious. I would furrow my brow and think to myself, "I don't have the budget to pay a company to do what I can do for free." I got some information from Artomé and I realized that I could streamline the entire art show by using them. After talking to some colleagues who used Artomé last year and they were please with the results. I decided to give them a shot. 

Overall, I believe using Artomé will be a good move. They frame every piece of student work - 750 for me this year. It's free. In fact, I'll make some money from the show. I had two concerns. All of the frames are the same size. That means that all of the 2D artwork at my show will be 9x12. Ideally, parents will buy the framed work and I'll earn some money for the art room, so the artwork should be something that will appeal to parents. Hmmmm.... Well, that's a bit of a challenge. Most of my lessons are larger. It has been a challenge to come up with lessons that allow for a fair amount of student choice, but still conform to the required size. I also teach lessons that don't necessarily produce "pretty art." We explore science, history, and math. I design lessons to help students learn about art and the world, not specifically so they can have something pretty to take home. 

This is a new lesson that I decided to use for an art show project this year. It's based on the work of Jasper Johns. I really liked how it allows for some messiness, but the work still comes out super cool. I would include the lesson plan, but I borrowed it from For the Love of Art
and I don't want to take credit for it. It's super simple. Take a page and have students carefully fold it in half four times. When they unfold it, they will have 16 rectangles. Students write their names in oil pastels as large as they can in each box. I found that using only capital letters worked best. Students then took a couple of classes to paint the areas around the letters, trying to loosely conform to the shape of the original rectangular fold marks. It worked perfectly for my needs and it is something that I'll definitely consider using again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Alright, folks. It's that time of the year again. Do your civic duty and vote for your favorite blog over at The Art of Ed. Hopefully mine is one of them. I'm in the elementary category. There are a lot of wonderful blogs listed. It's always a time of the year when I find new blogs that I haven't ever seen before. Good luck to all of the finalists!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Creativity Time

I'm slowly changing the way I teach. Aren't we all? Through blogs, PD (I mean PD that I seek out. Not that soul-deadening garbage we all sit through at school.), and speaking with colleagues, I try to keep up to date and make changes in my teaching that reflect what I feel is best for my students. 

This year I decided to have more fun. I already mentioned that I have more free choice options this year for students who finish early. (Blocks, Legos, pattern makers, connectagons, etc.) I'm also trying to use more fun half day or one day mini projects. Last week I did a Lego building challenge that was awesome. This week I had one rotation to fill for 2nd grade before a student teacher started with them. I introduced the Movie Mash-Up drawing prompt. Hilarity ensued. 
Fashionable Toilet - The Teen Years. Two thumbs way up!
Basically, there are three columns on a handout. Kids pick one part from each column in order to create a movie name. They then have about 30 minutes to illustrate a poster for that movie. The movie titles can be pretty wacky and that's half the fun. It really gets kids thinking about how to best represent the title. 
That baby is so loud in outer space. I'd see that movie just to find out how. 
I'm working to do more things like this. I have a lot more ideas and plenty of school year to go. Is anyone else doing something similar? Share! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Guest Post - Margaret Orr: Animator

It is my delight to introduce a guest writer for my blog today. I was recently contacted by Margaret Orr, an animator and filmmaker from Bloomington, Indiana whose short films have been featured in film festivals around the world. 

Margaret is working to raise funds in order to work with early primary grade students in Chicago Public Schools on a very innovative animation project. As you find out by reading below, Margaret has a passion for animation and truly wishes that all age levels get to experience the magic of creating their own animation project. Click here to visit her Kickstarter page.

And now, the words of animator Margaret Orr:

Film and animation are art forms that are difficult to bring into a classroom. Animation, in particular, requires a level of patience that young children simply have not yet developed. As a result, young children are rarely exposed to this art form, and often miss out on its lessons.

I am not a teacher. I’m an animator and filmmaker. I first taught animation to students when working at summer camps as a college student. In my experience, once students reach about the age of 10, they really appreciate and are sufficiently motivated by animation. They're willing to sit down and draw for hours, sometimes making several hundred individual drawings to tell their stories. But younger students, especially those aged 6-8, tend to get extremely excited about the idea of making a movie, but don't have the patience to express themselves one frame at a time.

An answer to this problem comes from the history of animation, and is the inspiration for a project I am working on called Scribble. Long before Disney, back when film was brand new, innovative artists realized that they could scratch into the emulsion of film stock to draw pictures on film. We’re doing something a little different, but the principle is the same. By drawing onto “clear leader film” (which is a fancy way of saying clear plastic film) the students can create movement quickly in an accessible way. The students can use a wide variety of techniques to animate, depending on their interest levels, patience, and skill. For instance, they can use the film like a canvas and draw across it without concern for where each individual frame is, resulting in an abstract and disjointed animation. Or they can pay closer attention to where the frames are and actually create movement from frame to frame. They can use a wide variety of materials to create the film, including sharpie markers, paint, stamps, allowing for a wide variety of aesthetics and creative choices.
So what do you need to make something similar happen in your own classroom? There’s an unlimited number of ways to go about this. For Scribble, we’re using 35 mm clear leader film, chosen because it’s thicker than 16 mm, and thus a little easier for first-graders to use. But if you’re working with older children 16 mm film will work just as well and has the added benefit of being less expensive. Set up is fairly easy. We tape brown paper on the tables, use masking tape to tape the leader film onto the paper, and mark the paper with each frame interval (for 35 mm film there is one frame for every four sprocket holes). The students draw on the film with sharpie markers. I use a film-to-digital converter to digitize the artwork and edit it into a film, but you could also purchase a projector and screen the film directly.

Out students will have the opportunity to work with professional artists to create a film that will play at film festivals. We’re working with an incredibly talented composer, Aaron Marshall, to create music for the film. I have created four films over the last four years, all of which have played at international film festivals, so I have extensive experience with the festival circuit. We want the kids to be able to see their work on a big screen, with a packed audience to applaud when their names roll across the screen at the end. This project is as much about inspiring the next generation of filmmakers as it is about creating a film.
Examples of film created in the style described in the paragraph above. Very cool!

If you would like to support the project we’re currently raising funds for Scribble on Kickstarter. We’ll be using funds raised to purchase materials (film, markers, a film-to-digital converter, etc.), pay for the time of our composer, and for entry into film festivals once the film is completed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

3rd Grade Charley Harper Inspired Cardinals

Stop! Harper time! 

Wow. That was super lame. It did make me chuckle, though. It's also true. Right before winter break is when I typically have my 3rd graders study the work of Charley Harper. The outcome is a lesson that forces students to think and create art in a new way. It also looks pretty wintery and makes for a great display.

This lesson is all about Charley Harper, an artist who lived in Ohio the majority of his life. If you're familiar with his work, you know that he uses flat, graphic shapes to create mainly images of wildlife. As my school is in Ohio, I have students all make cardinals. I don't like limiting a project that much, but it works out in this case for a couple of reasons. First, there are limitless ways to create a cardinal out of flat, graphic shapes. No two students create identical cardinals. It also gives me the opportunity to display quite a few reference pictures, so students can get a really good grasp on what they are creating. 

I have students start with about 30 minutes of small sketches. I usually have students draw quite a bit before they begin a final project and it results in more thoughtful work. Students then select their favorite sketch and use construction paper to recreate it. They then create a background. More choice is included in making the background. I demonstrate how to make trees (using a dry brush technique), how to make snowflakes (using white paint and the handle of a brush), snow drifts, berries, and bird footprints. Students chose to use any or all of those ideas to make their own background. As has been the case before, the results of this lesson are super successful. 

Download the lesson plan for this project here!

Monday, December 21, 2015

4th Grade Recycled CD Snowflakes

Another Ohio winter, another way to incorporate more recycling into my curriculum. If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you'll know I'm pretty opposed to holiday themed projects. Holiday crafts can happen in the regular classroom. We learn about art in my room. This lesson revolves around a big part of winter- snowflakes!

About 5 years ago, a box of old software CDs was dumped in my room. You know, somebody has something that they don't really want to throw away, so they give it to the art teacher. "I had these and I thought of you!" they say. Inwardly, I'm figuring out where I can store these newly found "treasures" or how I can surreptitiously get rid of them. 

Luckily, I was able to figure out something to do with the CDs. Good thing, too. I've got enough to last me into the next decade. I had previously done a paper mosaic snowflake geometry project with my 4th graders. Looking back, it was pretty terrible. I suppose I could have switched a few things around and improved it, but I came up with this instead. 

Students study mosaic artwork as well as the natural geometry of snowflakes. I show them how to fold and cut a six sided snowflake. After that, students simply mount the snowflake on either a gold or silver poster board, trim the board, and add CD shards. The best snowflakes tend to be the ones in which students carefully match the shape of CD pieces to the design of the snowflake. The outcome can be extraordinarily beautiful. 

**Helpful hint- no amount of pounding on a CD with a hammer will break a CD into little pieces. I use my paper cutter to slice the CDs into strips which easily break apart into smaller pieces for students to use. 

Click here to download my full lesson plan!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Nonobjective Tint Paintings by 4th Grade

I try to vary my lesson plans for students. 4th grade recently finished their totem pole project. It's pretty intense and has a high degree of difficulty. This painting lesson provides a nice change of pace for my students. It's much more open and doesn't have guidelines that are quite as rigid. 

This is the second year I have taught this project. It's very straightforward. We talk about what nonobjective art is and we look at several examples. I then challenge students to create their own compositions using whatever types of shapes and lines they want. They try to create interest by using overlapping shapes as well as designing areas that are more complex. 

Since we are learning about tints, obviously students get to mix paints to create their tints. This is the absolute highlight of the lesson for most students. Nothing is more exciting than busting out the mixing trays. I ask students to select two main colors (in addition to white) to use the for their paintings. Limiting the color really enhances the overall design of the paintings. 

I get some really killer detail work out of my students on this project. I bought a set of #2 bright brushes. They are flats that have shorter bristles. They are wonderful for detail. They allow students to accurately paint the small overlapping shapes in their work. The work is finished by students choosing either black paint or crayon to go over all of their original drawing. Again, this is to bring out the original design. You know how it can get a little lost during the painting process. I used to have students do this with Sharpies, but Sharpie doesn't particularly like tempera paint. 

Enjoy these amazing examples from this project!

Click here to download my lesson plan!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ancient Maps by 3rd Grade

I wrote this lesson a couple years ago and I really like it. I know some people who go full choice in their art rooms. Part of me really likes the idea of a choice-based art room, but a larger part thinks that kids really benefit from some guidelines in a project. Just personal preference. I've been working on ways of incorporating more choice within the framework of my projects. I think this lesson gives students a lot of freedom to display their creativity.

Essentially, we look at all kinds of older maps and talk about how they are different than current maps. Hint- they are WAY cooler. They are as much art as they are cartography. Oh, that's another cool part of this project. I get to say "cartography" and "cartographer" all the time. It makes me happy. 

Students then get to design their own map of a fictional place. I let students have pretty much complete freedom in the theme of their maps. Some choose to create maps of video game worlds, some map out locations from a favorite book or tv show, and others just completely freestyle. I ask that they include both water and land, a title, a compass rose, and a map key. Additionally, I ask them to include at least six landforms. Parts of maps are part of the 3rd grade social studies curriculum in Ohio and landforms are in the curriculum for 4th grade. 

I really like the results I get out of the project. It's fun to sit and study the small details that students put into their work. I have learned a couple of things over the years to make the project run a little smoother. Liquid watercolor works very well for painting the water. It's easy to prep and I'm not constantly replacing the blue in my watercolor trays. It's also a lot more consistent in terms of color. I also have students add color to map details with colored pencils. It's just a lot neater than the results I got the first year with watercolor. 

Click here to download my lesson plan!

Click here to download the handout I put together to help students with this project!
Beautiful details from the map above!

Detail of "burned" map edges. Wet on wet watercolor tricks!

Were you wondering what a fairy unicorn princess looks like? Wonder no more!

Great example of a map with mostly land.