Friday, July 25, 2014

3rd Grade Machine Brains

Do you know who Rube Goldberg is? If you do, you're cool in my book. If you don't, you will quite soon. This project was originally written by a colleague of mine, but I took it, added to it, and adapted it to my own curricular needs. It was originally written to fit in with the science curriculum (learning about simple machines) in third grade. That curriculum has since changed, but this project keeps on rockin' because it's too cool not to do. 

Rube Goldberg is now the main inspiration for this lesson. I still hit the simple machines pretty hard, but my students think Goldberg's cartoons are hilarious. His fantastically complicated machines are still a source of inspiration for competitions, Mythbusters, and YouTubers. They are all about cause and effect and make sneaky use of science and physics.
A classic example of a Rube Goldberg comic.
 Another source of inspiration for this project is a music video by the band OKGO that was created as a massive Rube Goldberg machine. The band is known for making incredibly creative music videos, including this super rad one that was released recently.

Finally, it comes down to making cool art. Each student spends a ton of time brainstorming and sketching for this project. I challenge them to design a machine that does something that happens in their heads. (Blinking, thinking, chewing, making boogers, etc.) They are required to have at least eight steps and at least four simple machines in their work. I use a projector (just shooting a white screen) to trace the students' silhouettes, then they use construction paper to make the rest of the project. I want at least 95% of the project to be made from the construction paper. I think the project turns out really cool and it really makes students think. I swear I saw some smoke coming out of a few kids' heads this year.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

5th Grade Radial Printmaking

I'm writing this post as I'm attending the AOE Online Conference and drinking a delicious iced cappuccino. How's that for multi-tasking? 

This lesson is a new one for me this year. It is one I included in my presentation on building a printmaking curriculum for the AOE conference. For this lesson, I introduced my students to block printing using E-Z-Cut printing blocks. This material is available in several different names, and essentially replaces linoleum blocks for younger students. I used linoleum blocks in middle and high school and they required a lino cutter tool and bench hook. I remember several students who gauged fingers (and got at least a few stitches) because traditional linoleum is kind of tough to carve. E-Z-Cut is super soft and doesn't require a bench hook. It is incredibly easy to carve and makes this type of printmaking completely feasible for an upper elementary project. 

The secondary idea behind this lesson was radial design. I showed my students how to sketch out a design that would work as a quarter of a radial image. We used some Celtic knots as inspiration (although some students went in their own direction) and got to work with some sketches before drawing out the finished design on a 4"x4" piece of E-Z-Cut. Students carved with a lino cutter tool (always carving away from their hand/body) and were ready to print. They drew an arrow pointing to the center of their design on the back of their printing block to make it a little easier to print the final design. 

I was really impressed with the results of this project. It kept my 5th graders completely engaged even at the very end of the school year. If you teach 5th graders, you understand how impressive that is!

Click here to download my lesson plan for this project!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Awesome 4th Grade Reduction Printmaking

It's summer! For me, that means getting to spend tons of time with my daughter, working my butt off on some grad classes, and forgetting to update the blog with projects I didn't have time to post at the end of the school year. Well, I'm finally getting around to doing a little posting. I have several projects I need to write about, so my goal is to get a post in once a week or so until I get caught up.

This project is awesome by the way. I've gotten really into printmaking in general and my students absolutely love it. The focus here is reduction printmaking in order to make multiple color prints. It's something my students haven't done before and they get really excited about making prints with more than one color. 

Students start with a realistic sketch of an animal portrait. I'm having them pull inspiration from a series of cow portraits done by Andy Warhol. Whenever I have kids draw realistic animals, I make sure I have a lot of books for photo reference. If you don't do this, you'll wind up with your students drawing what they think their animal looks like as opposed to what it actually looks like. Once the students have their drawings finished, it is simply a process of pressing certain details into a foam printing plate, printing, then adding more details/cutting the foam. I have a full photographic demonstration at the bottom of my post of this project from last year if you're interested.