Thursday, November 17, 2016

5th Grade Reductive Prints, and Drawing Challenges

It's feast or famine with me.  I don't know how some folks manage to blog all the time.  Do they not have life stuff that happens?  Do they sleep?  I'm looking at going to our Thanksgiving break, and I'm determined to post some stuff that we've done this semester.  Gearing up to start Choice- Based Art in the second semester, we are doing all kinds of challenges so that we've used our various art supplies/mediums prior to me letting them loose with the whole Art Room at their disposal. 

The first major challenge after the drawing challenge of our sketchbook covers was to make reductive foam prints.  I showed them a PowerPoint on intaglio printing, and discussed how Styrofoam printmaking is sort of like intaglio, since we scratch our image into our plates.  If you're interested in the PowerPoint, you can email me at

We started out by doing a mind map in our sketchbooks.  Given a choice of 6-7 words, students developed a four-pronged mind map that had four legs/words and led to at least four degrees of separation from the beginning word they chose.  Their choices were:  courage, laughter, honesty, morning, curious, quiet, green.  Here's an example of one student's mind map:

If they wanted to, they could have more than 4 words off from the original word, and they could go more than  4 degrees of separation.  This student chose to make her print about clothes.  
The students all agreed that having the mind map really made a difference in how they chose their subject matter for their prints.  This was a great way to get them to think in new directions and to choose something that had some real meaning to them.  It made for some interesting choices.

Once they got their ideas solidified, they drew a picture of their planned print on a half-sheet of copy paper. The foam plates we were using were 6" x 12," so they it helped them to know what size their picture would be for their print.  I reminded them to keep from making too many little details, as they did not translate well onto the printing plate later on.   They also had to make sure that they made any words backwards, as they would be printed forwards when they pulled the print.  Most of them used tracing paper to make their drawings, if they wanted to put words on their plates.  I tried to discourage it, though, as it's so easy to make the mistake of putting one letter backwards...

Once they got their drawing finished, I gave them a foam plate and a ballpoint pen.  They put their drawing on top of the plate and then traced, with a lot of pressure, onto the plate. Afterward, they went back and retraced their lines on the plate, so that it would be deep enough to keep from getting filled with ink.
Sometimes the ballpoint pen does not leave a mark with the ballpoint ink, but as long as the image is pressed deeply, that doesn't really matter.
They began their printing process.  I like to use phone books and catalogs to put the printing plates on when they are inking; it keeps the table from being a crazy mess.  Once they finish inking, they have to turn the page for the next person.  
I set up two colors on one side of the table, two colors on the other side, and a third color at a different table.  Kids go up to the colors they need, ink their plates at the inking table, and then take the plate back to their own table and bray it on the paper there.  It keeps things from getting wildly messy.  They're responsible for keeping their own area cleaned up, and they get points off for lots of smudges.

When they have inked their plate once, they cut away anything that they want to stay that color, or they cut out things they want to make another color--either way works.  Below is an example of how it works. 

I actually took this off of the internet, but it explains it all quite nicely.  I apologize to whomever it belongs--there was no citation.  If it's yours, please let me know!

Here are some of the works the 5th graders produced. 

The kids did a great job.  They worked so hard to get good, clean prints.  Afterward, we had a gallery walk--the students took their best print, their original drawing, and their mind map and put it neatly on the table top where they sat, and set up a space for their peers to come look at the process they used to make their prints.  They were all impressed with each others' work and we had some great conversation about the process, the difficulties, and the rewards of developing a plan for their artwork before executing it. 
The gallery walk

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Back to School, Just Like All of Y'all....

Here we are again!  I loved stepping into Choice Based Art last year with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders; I'm going to do it again this year, although I'm tweaking some stuff.  In the next week or so I'll put up some results from last year (forgive me for not doing this at the appropriate time--you know how that burnout thing is, right?) so you can know how it turned out. Maybe as a teaser for this year--stay tuned!!

Here are the bulletin boards.  Compare to last year if you like--you'll notice they're once again teaching tools, same themes, but a little bit of new material.  My fave is the Elements of Art board--I dig the picture frames.  I'm sure I'm not the only Art teacher who gets in the zone making all the cool bulletin boards and posters.  While all my colleagues are stressing over room prep and class lists, I'm earbuds in, rocking out (sometimes dancing--don't judge), and making Art for my kids.  I'll post some pix of my room later.

The landscape, still life, and portrait boards are a little too stock for my wild-at-heart artistic self, but I want my kids to see work by Artists we are going to study.  Otherwise, I'd just fill the boards with my own fun work.   But you know how it is, we actually have to do our job and teach about all those folks.  I used some of the same works as last year...I really dig the diversity in the portrait set, though.  All those Artists are faves of mine.  Reppin' the ladies a bit, too.  I wonder if I need to go Guerilla Girls on my school this year.  Hmmm.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We Have Been Making, Building, Creating, Learning!

I can't say how  much excitement Choice-Based Art has been this year.  I am astounded at the work my students have done and how much learning and excitement letting them drive their own learning has changed my viewpoint on autonomy in the Art Room.  This has been an amazing year. 
Sketchbook Mapping

Every project began with research.  Students had to choose a theme or concept they wanted to convey; they had to think about something they cared about and how they might portray it in an artwork.

Once they had figured out what they wanted to accomplish in their artwork, they built a complex design  plan through mapping it in their sketchbook.  They began to research on the iPads and computers in the classroom; they could also go to the media center to use the computers there, or bring their own devices.  They had to come up with at least one supporting reference picture, but they could have up to three.  They uploaded them to a Google Drive account and I retrieved them and printed them, and they were added to the sketchbook maps.  Once they had their theme, materials list, explanation of their inspiration, reference picture, and layout, they followed up with a paragraph that explained what their underlying meaning was to their planned artwork, and how they planned to get the piece done.  Students could choose any materials I had available, or even bring in their own materials.  My office has been chock-full of extra stuff kids have brought in!  We had some discussion about their projects, and as I looked through their sketchbook maps, I made notes for them to remind them of what we had discussed for their projects as they began.

Here are some of the works in progress:

Many students are finished and it's time to reflect on their work.  I will post finished products in the next couple of weeks.  I'm so proud of all they have done.  They have more than risen to the challenge. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Choice-Based Art and Sculpting Around the Room

I have been so excited to be getting my students ready for Choice-Based Art.  I began working with them on the Elements of Art, graduated to Drawing Around the  Room, and now we are Sculpting Around the Room.  I have to give a huge nod to Cynthia Gaub at has some amazing things she's doing with middle schoolers, and I'm modifying her Around the Room activities to fit my elementary kids.  They are loving it and I'm so grateful Cynthia rocked this before I tried it.  It's made my job a million times easier.  She even provides the handouts--go check out her website.  Thank you, Cynthia!

Sketchbook Covers
We began our school year working on the Elements of Art, and how to research on our iPads.  We took a "field trip" to the hall outside my room to study the Elements and  Principals bulletin boards, then headed to the media center to learn about safe searches, best practices in research, and effective websites for student inquiry.  Students chose the Element of Art they wanted to work on, researched images for inspiration, and then chose the medium they wanted to use to depict their Element.  Some students chose to illustrate more than one medium.  Afterward we did a quick gallery walk to see what everyone did (they were so amazed at each others' work!) and then they took a bit of time to reflect in writing what they had learned.  I have Art Standards  checklists for them to check off the date when they  meet a standard each quarter, so that was also part of the activity.

Then we turned to the studio introductions for Choice-Based Art.
 Drawing Around the Room
In preparation for beginning our Choice-Based Art Studios, we have some activities using various media; the kids are finding out how their art supplies behave.  Our first set of activities was Drawing Around the Room.  In Drawing Around the Room, students worked with 7 different drawing mediums:  drawing pencils, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, chalk pastels, crayon, and charcoal.  Stations were set up at each table, and students rotated in groups of four to test each medium.  Cards with definitions of techniques were at each station, and students were required to write the definition before trying the medium.  Next, they worked with the medium and tried out various techniques.  They were encouraged to experiment and see how they liked each one.  Afterward, they reflected on their favorites and least favorites in a writing exercise. 

We are now in Sculpt Around the Room, which is the same sort of experiential activities, except I am not letting  them move around the room--I am bringing them the supplies and activities in big boxes--we lost too much time in transition with the drawing studios.  With Sculpt Around the Room, students have a full 45 minute class period to work on their sculptures. 

Boxes, supplies, so much stuff!  But so worth it.
Prepping for this was pretty big.  I was so glad to finally get it put together!  Cynthia had noted on her website that her kids didn't want the projects that weren't pretty--nobody wanted to take them home--so I made sure the paper projects, for example, were monochromatic with lots of size and  color variety so they could make it look really good. 

I totally stole a  beautiful paper sculpture poster idea from Sarah Brooks, once again right off of Pinterest.  Thank goodness for Pinterest.  Reinventing the wheel is over.  Isn't this gorgeous?!
Perfect for giving inspiration--and reminders that they already know so much of this already.
In each box are materials for a different sculpting project--wire sculpture, a paper village, a mobile, modeling clay monsters, and a relief sculpture using straws.  As the weeks are going by, the artworks are getting better and better.  They have the full class period to work, and they are becoming more and more confident as they continue to get new boxes of materials. 
Dr. Seuss Villages
Working on the Kinetic Hanging Sculptures (mobiles)

Examples of kinetic sculptures

Modeling clay monsters
Straw relief sculptures

Wire sculptures
Everybody is so engaged!

It's been so much fun to watch the kids get the hang of working together on projects--the group sculptures are getting better and better. And the individual sculptures are improving as the students get ideas and inspiration from one another.

It's only a few weeks before we are making Choice-Based Art in earnest.  We will have a Painting Around the Room set of activities, and then we are off.  Can't wait!  I will introduce sketchbook mapping for preparing to make an artwork that is a WOW piece--a Work of Wonder--on which students will work for several class periods, on their own steam, and without my telling them what to do.  I become a facilitator and mentor as they learn the Habits of Mind that help good artists create effective artworks.  This is so exciting.  As usual, stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Teachable Tools

This year I started out strong on my bulletin boards.  Every year I do a bunch of pretty ones--they are nice to have when you don't have any art to display yet.  But this year I wanted pretty and useful, and so I set up teaching tools on my bulletin boards.  Take a look:

The Elements and Principles boards were really helpful with 3rd-5th grades, as their first projects had to do with Elements and Principles, and discussion was then followed up with a trip to the media center and the beginnings of research.  It was so successful that I am planning on making Elements and Principles boards every year.

The Basics boards were put on backgrounds of  primary colors, just one more basic that gets a rubber stamp on it in a sort of subtle way.  I liked being able to share the artists with my kids, too.
I liked the idea of getting the kids into the halls to see the boards, and felt that it would be good to be able to get them out of the classroom. It was an opportunity to share the stuff we are supposed to hit no matter what, and to let them be a catalyst to finding examples of these concepts around the school.  Study the bulletin boards, then go find examples, like a scavenger hunt.