Friday, October 31, 2014

Party Day!

I really enjoy our "Fall Harvest" party day. It's a nice break from the first two and a half months of regular school days. With all of the testing that goes on, kids don't really get to have too many fun days anymore. The related arts teachers at Thomas have several traditions, but the best is our Halloween costumes. It has been a tradition for over 18 years that the related arts teachers dress up as a group of three. Why only three? The tradition predates the addition of library as a related arts class- back when our school population wasn't as massive as it is now. Never in all those years have we repeated a costume. (Feel free to comment and suggest groups of three that aren't obvious.) This year we were face cards from a playing card deck. Seeing that my name is Zach, I redrew the jack to add a little joke to the costume. What did everyone else dress up as?

This picture makes me look like a giant.

Not too bad for making these mostly the day before and the day of the party.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

First Grade Mondrian Inspired Fish

First grade. Whoa. Sometimes I feel less like a teacher and more like a ringmaster. It's incredible how much they grow up throughout the year. For me, first grade is all about skill building and getting the basics down. For example, this particular project is all about primary colors. It is also an introduction to painting with tempera paints. It's a whole new world for many students. 

This lesson is so simple that I don't think I really need to post an official plan. We start out by describing the characteristics of Piet Mondrian's work. We also discuss why he paints like he does as opposed to creating realistic work. Students then draw a large fish on 12x18 paper and draw shapes with horizontal and vertical lines. On day two, they paint primary colors. I encourage them to leave some white spaces, but many are too psyched about painting and they paint the whole fish. On day three, students cut out their fish, glue it to a black piece of construction paper, then cut the black paper to create a border for the fish. Some students then finish a bit of painting and the others work on a Mondrian vocab word search I made. Overall, I'm really happy with the results of this project. Of course my first graders love it as well. I think some of them would paint all day every day if they were allowed. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3rd Grade Ancient Maps

Ahoy landlubbers! It be map time at Thomas Elementary. This is the second year I've done this project with 3rd grade and it's a lot of fun and also integrates quite a bit from the social studies curriculum.

We start the project by looking at a lot of old maps. If you haven't seen any of these before, check the Google. They're pretty rad. There are maps of North America that actually show California as an island. Some maps have sea monsters. Many older maps actually have quite a bit of artwork on them simply to make them beautiful to look at. 

We discuss the main parts of a map (a part of the 3rd grade social studies curriculum here in Ohio) and also look at various landforms (a part of the 4th grade curriculum). Students are required to have a certain amount of landforms in their map as well as a title, key, and compass rose. 

My students are each charged with the task of creating a map of a fictional place. Most choose to create their own, but some like to to make maps of places in their favorite book, tv show, or video game. I love to see what they come up with. 

The last part of the project is to crumple the paper several times to make it look old and also "burn" a part of the map using wet on wet black watercolor. I like the burned edges, but I think the crumpling takes something away from the overall project. I probably won't give that as an option next year. 

Click here to see my lesson plan!
Here is the handout that I put together for this lesson. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

4th Grade Totem Poles

It has been entirely too long since I've posted. I won't bore you with excuses. To make up for it, I'll post a yearly favorite. 

This totem pole project has evolved quite a bit over the years. It was originally a painting project. The problem with that is that kids would have awesome drawings, but not have the painting skills to pull off the final artwork. I switched it over to a collage project and immediately got significantly better results. My latest improvement happened last year. I make handouts with better reference materials. I've always had my students draw from real images of North American animals. I now have them use that reference (in the form of a huge stack of books from the school library), but I also copy a reference handout with images from Students find inspiration from actual animal images as well as from the traditional shapes found in the handout. 

I had some more amazing results this year. I think limiting color use does so much for the work. I have my students limit themselves to four total colors and their work shows greater maturity than I would ever expect to see from 4th grade artwork. Send me pictures if you every try this lesson. I'd love to see work from other students!

Download my lesson plan!