Friday, January 15, 2010

"This is the funnest art ever!"

This was a comment from a second grader today. I smiled. If you looked into the art room and wondered what we're doing, it's simple: We're doing art.

I have been thinking of trying out some of the TAB concepts (see my blog entry here) for some time and am now going on my third week of a modified TAB approach. I have three centers running so far and the idea in each is to allow students to make choices while at the same time getting them to visit each center - eventually.

One center is a construction center where kids are cutting and gluing using
construction paper and making pictures by combining shapes of all kinds and all sizes. Both 2D and 3D constructions were encouraged. The first two weeks were open-ended and kids were allowed to make whatever their creative little minds could come up with.

The drawing center takes up two tables and is fully stocked with drawing books, plenty of paper,and drawing/coloring supplies. Kids can choose to either draw from their imagination or draw using the step by step books in the book tub (I have about 25 books available for the kids that range from easy to difficult).
The painting center is a busy place (like the drawing center, it takes up two tables.) Currently we are using liquid tempera, mixing colors, using brushes, forks, sponges, tongue depressors, and an assortment of objects to paint with. We are learning about combining colors and layering them to get interesting visual effects. The kids have produced some very interesting paintings and as soon as I get some scanned I plan on uploading some to this blog and to my website.

The first two weeks have been mostly learning about how the room is to be run and experimenting with new techniques in painting. It's also proving to be a time for me to learn what works, what doesn't, and where holes need filling.

Since students will be given more choices, personal responsibility is a key factor to success. I'm attempting to deliver a more student driven curriculum while remaining faithful to the goals and objectives for each particular grade level. In a nut shell, my intent is to teach (through modeling, encouragement,
inspiration, and opportunity) artistic behaviors. What do "real" artists do when they sit down to do their art? How do they treat their tools? How do they think? What questions do they ask? Where do they get their ideas? All of this fits neatly within the framework of the art's standards. And you'll be happy to know that in order for this to work, there is a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility and making good choices. So far I'm liking what I'm seeing. There are some areas I need to address, but the student involvement in the center work and the creativity I'm seeing has surpassed my expectations. On the other hand, the clean up leaves something to be desired. But that's something I can fix.

The next several weeks I will be teaching the upper grades some painting techniques. The kids have experienced interesting visual effects using sponges, combs, forks, straws, pencil ends, and a variety of tools for stamping. 5th graders will use tongue depressors to paint a sunset. 4th graders are making fantasy castles using a background of either warm or cool colors. Backgrounds are painted with tongue depressors. Castles are make using cardboard, and details drawn on with permanent markers. 3rd graders are painting with an analogous color scheme and 2nd graders are making secondary colors from primary colors. (For the time being, I'm back to teaching whole group with the first graders. They don't handle the new environment well. I experienced lots of off-task behaviors. Back to the drawing board with them.) The other two centers in the room are open as well and there are new activities at each. I'll write about them after a week or so and reflect on how things are going with the new activities.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Babysitting the two grand kids over Christmas break. What fun!

So what does grampa do when babysitting his 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 year old granddaughter's for the day?

Well, how about play with the new playdough kit, bake cookies, make some new playdough from scratch, and end the day making gingerbread houses. Yeah. That will be a good memory. And it will help keep them critters busy.

What is it about playdough that makes it so much fun to play with? It's easy to mold and shape, and it feels good. Reese, the youngest, loves the feel of it in her hands. Just watching her squeeze it, roll it, and pat it was fun. They both played with the playdough for a while, and when they were becoming restless, we played with a new dough that one can eat. Cookie dough!

Baking cookies doesn't exactly fall under the category of art, but it's somewhat like playing with playdough and you get to eat it. What more can a kid want? (I'm talking about myself here). The kids, as expected, thought it was so cool to help "bake" cookies. But I forgot to have them get on their aprons and hats first. Not to worry, we still have to make playdough and after lunch, make gingerbread houses. We'll get those hats and aprons on next.

Making playdough is fun. I used to make this stuff all the time when I taught kindergarten. I still have the recipe I used back then. While there are many recipies one can find on the net (and they are good ones) here's the one I use:

2 1/2 Cups of flour
1/2 Cup of salt
1 Tbl of powered alum
2 Cups of boiling water
3 Tbl cooking oil
Food Coloring

Combine dry ingredients, sifting alum or rubbing it smooth. Stir in water, oil, food coloring (1/2 the bottle for vivid color). Knead until smooth. Store airtight. Need NOT to refrigerate.

The girls picked their own colors, did most of the work, and really enjoyed the changing texture of the playdough.

A quick lunch, a nap for the 2 1/2 year old (Camryn says she's too old to take a nap. Wait till she gets old like Papa). The girls had never made these before and it was quite a treat to see all that candy and goodies that they were told not to eat. lol But I did tell them they could eat an occasional piece of candy, which they did with delight. To my surprise, even the youngest granddaughter caught on to spreading the frosting (the cement of the structure) and needed but a little help. Camryn was able to do most of the work on her own. In the end, they were master pieces.

I love being a Papa (what they call me). We had a fun day and the girls stayed busy. And I earned a well deserved nap, which I took the very next day. First, a late sleep-in and then an afternoon snooze.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tis the season....

The weeks just before Christmas break can be challenging for any classroom teacher. It certainly has proven to be a challenge for me in the art room. Typically, the kids are more energetic, more talkative, and more inclined not to take their work so seriously. Consequently, I usually choose activities that are simple, engaging, and don't ask too much of the kids.

This year I've been thinking a lot about TAB (Teaching Artistic Behavior). You can read more about TAB at the website. I had planned on trying some of the TAB concepts after the first of the year. So to end the 2009 year, I set up some centers to see how the students would interact with the different activities.

TAB is a student-centered, choice-based approach to teaching art. It's much more than that simple statement and likely I'll share more on TAB in subsequent post. Being honest, my main goal this final week of 2009 was survival while giving the students something meaningful and maybe even instructive, and most of all fun.

Here are a few of the centers I ran that final week of 2009. What is it about centers that kids love so much? I think I know: they get to choose! Even if the centers are teacher chosen activities, they seem to love the fact that they get to choose the center!

Kids love to play with clay. And some of their creations are simply wonderful and imaginative creations. Not so much this week. The boys flocked to the clay center and made an assortment of unrecognizable things, laughing and chatting all the while. No matter the creation, they loved showing me their work. I have another blog entry in mind where I'll share some of the more "on task" creations. But for this week, the clay center was mostly about hanging out with friends.

I don't think one can ever go wrong with a drawing center. And since I'm aware of how much kids love to make cards (especially this time of year) this center was an easy setup. It was simply titled: Make A Card; Draw A Picture. Lots of creative work took place and I was glad to see that at least this center was drawing a serious working crowd.

Stencil painting is a popular activity as well. I guess you could say it's on the order of some of the printing activities kids love as well. The students painted the backgrounds, and then painted on the stencil, adding that to their background. The results were great.

Some students chose just to use a brush rather than using the stencils. But whatever they chose, they were happily engaged in the activity and the time just flew!

Ed Emberly is one of my favorite author/artists. He has a number of drawing books for kids out and is also the idea man behind the video Squiggles, Dots, and Lines and the Ed Emberly Drawing Alphabet. I teach his ideas to my students during the first weeks of school. This Santa picture is based on his ideas.

A great way to end the year. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Happy New Year too!