Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Totem Poles by 4th Grade

This is a project that I just can't quit. I've been doing it for several years now and the work just keeps getting better every year. Sometimes I wonder if readers get bored with seeing some of the same projects each year. Looking at these totems, who could get bored? 

One of the things I like best about this lesson is that it's hard. It's really hard for some kids. Good. The most difficult aspect of the lesson is drawing an animal in such a way that it looks like it has been carved into a totem pole. Negative space is essentially nonexistent. I tell my students that they need to use about 98% of their paper. It really forces students to entirely re-think the way they have drawn animals for their entire lives. It makes them learn!

I've been dealing with combined classes with 4th grade this year and I was initially concerned that it would negatively impact the quality of student work. For this project, it absolutely didn't. Students have produced more high level work this year than any previous year. The stress of teaching 34 kids at once has apparently paid off. Enjoy the work! 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Creative Play

Creativity. One might think it's automatically a part of all art rooms. I don't agree. To me, creativity is tied closely with choice and critical thinking. In following many art ed blogs and Instagram feeds, I see plenty of lessons in which every child's art LOOKS THE SAME. To me, that doesn't teach creativity. I'm not entirely sure it teaches art. I apologize if this is reflective of your style of teaching. It's just not mine. 

Over the summer, I attended the "Teaching for Creativity Institute" at the Columbus Museum of Art. As an educator, I've been studying creativity along with my elementary art colleagues in my district. I learned quite a bit at the institute, but I learned just as much simply being in the museum. CMA has done some major renovations and additions recently. One of the renovated areas was the kid's area of the museum. It was absolutely filled with items for creative play. This was something I wanted to include in my classroom this year. 
I spent quite a bit of time researching different creative play toys. I wound up purchasing about eight different kinds of materials specifically for creative play. I started the year with only some plain wooden blocks. They were on my list to purchase, but another teacher wanted to get rid of them! Score! I explained to my classes that the blocks would be available to use for early finishers. I assumed they would go over with the younger kids, but I wondered if the older kids would be too cool for wooden blocks. Quite the opposite happened. Every single student wants to play with the blocks. The variety of creative uses for the blocks is astounding. 

Open ended creative play is largely missing in schools today. Kids no longer get to just be kids. Creative play gives students the ability to make their own choices in what they make. They are only limited by their imagination. Since I introduced these creative play options, very few students choose to do free drawing if they finish early. I love seeing the enthusiasm for creativity. 

What do you do to allow creative play in your classroom? I'd love to know!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

In Process

The beginning of this year (even though I'm 6 weeks in) has been busy. The beginning is always busy, but this year has been exceptionally busy. There's a lot of "stuff" going on in addition to teaching. 

My class sizes are bigger than ever. I get a 4th grade class and a quarter each morning first thing. 33-34 kids. I'm just going to leave that one out there. 

I was asked to write an article about my printmaking lessons by Arts & Activities magazine. I was also asked to contribute to a book of elementary art lesson plans. Both of these opportunities are super exciting, but definitely did add to my workload. 

Of course starting new lessons with all five grade levels simultaneously is always a challenge as well. Since many of those projects haven't been finished yet, I thought I'd post a few pictures of things going on around Thomas just to prove that I haven't dropped entirely off the earth.

During my first rotation, I had every single student create a small self portrait and write three goals for the school year. I like that I was able to get a display up relatively quickly and get the students right into art making at the beginning of the year. Each grade level used a specific color in order to create the rainbow effect with the display. 

Photographing printmaking examples for Arts & Activities magazine. 
Nope, not crowded at all!

 My school district has rethought the gifted model for this year and there is a strong emphasis on the six habits or practices of thinkers. It really fits into what art teachers do every day, so I'm excited to see a district-wide emphasis on creativity and critical thinking. I designed this sweet poster that is now in every classroom in my building. 

 Another change this year is adding more options for students for free creativity time when they finish a project early. The blocks are a huge hit. There will be more options soon!