Saturday, December 10, 2011

on letting go

Don't I look innocent?
let me proceed this post by saying I'm not looking for advice on how to raise/train/bring up my baby or put him on a schedule :) thanks but no thank you.

So I've been out of my classroom for five weeks now. Time has gone very fast and very slow as far as being out of teaching responsibility. I found I was unable to think about my classroom at all for the first three weeks and thank god my sub is super competent because aside from one line answers I was not able to help her out at all. Sometimes when I'm driving or can't sleep I think of what lessons I would be doing if I were teaching right now or get excited about something I've seen on a blog and want to try this spring...but with a four week old those are fleeting thoughts.

Taking care of a newborn is really amazing and really overwhelming as everyone knows but you can only understand so much till you are doing it. For me the hardest part of caring for a infant is the lack of schedule. Long time readers know my job the past four years has required extreme scheduling and structure to switch classes every half hour and deal with 600 kids in 9 grade levels. So it turns out I have become someone that likes schedules and structure and getting things done. You know what brand new babies don't really believe in...schedules, structure or just getting things done.
getting a nap in
I find my little human a bit baffling...one day he eats every two hours and takes a bunch of one hour naps and I worry that he is starving. The next day he eats every four hours and takes one really long nap and I worry that he is starving. Sometimes he looks at me and I worry that he is starving! Now I know why moms feel so driven to shove food into their kids. Baby Drew could care less about schedules and structure and I don't think he should for the first bit of his happy little life. However, as a teacher I am having trouble letting go of my need for structure and schedules. I wonder, when I got back to work after 12 weeks of being with him, if I will welcome the structure of my classroom again or if I will be changed and will have a more relaxed approach to my teaching.

In the last few days he has started becoming a little more regular and I've been able to breath a bit more and panic a bit less. With a bit more time to think and breath I have been missing my classroom more and more. Winter lessons are my favorite and I'm really sad to not be doing them. Can you force kids to do penguin and snowflake projects in April? One lesson that I would having been doing if I was in my room and would be new this year would have been a sweet success I think;)

(I've been using Drago art for drawing instructions a lot this year)
I think it would be really fun to review one point perspective house drawings and then design elaborate gingerbread houses in a setting of the student's choice. I would have the kids add color with colored pencils, watercolor pencils and watercolors so they could learn several watercolor techniques. Then wouldn't it be fun to make a slab gingerbread house box out of clay where the roof lifts off to be the lid?

Finally I would have the last class or two before winter break be a homage to elementary school and have my middle school students make milk carton and graham cracker cookie gingerbread houses just for fun.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

my(our) best creation yet!


Well bite my tongue, I guess some babies DO come right on their due date because mine did! Looks like he won't be a procrastantor like his mom, but will like to be right on time like his dad.
Born Thursday November 10th at 4:52pm our little Drew. 7 pounds and 7 ounces and 21 inches long. One awesome little baby! Don't be surprised if the blog is pretty quiet for a while.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

waiting for baby and sunflowers

Not my best photos ever....sorry. The colors are much brighter in real life.

Tomorrow is the big day, the due date of my first child. Of course we know babies rarely come on their due date so we are not getting our hopes up. My husband really wants an 11/11 or and 11/12 baby. I don't even know what to think at this point. Especially after my Dr. appt LAST Tuesday when the midwife told me...and I quote..." I will be shocked if you don't have the baby by Monday!". I got so excited and spent all of last week waiting and prepping to leave my classroom. On Sunday night I started to feel really strange and icky...like I was getting a flu or a cold, hadn't I read that feeling like you are getting a cold/flu is a sign you are about to go into labor! I called my maternity sub and asked her to go in for me the next morning and went to bed thinking I would wake up in the night in labor.

Turns out that strange, sick feeling...yah that was me getting sick... not having a baby. Having a nasty cold is never fun, having a cold when 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant is not fun at ALL.
For me the hardest part has been staying home sick. I never stay home from school...I admit I went to teach while I had the swine flu a few years ago. I went to teach the morning I found out my dad had died last year. So far in my pregnancy I had not missed a single day of teaching.
keep reading and you'll get to the lesson...

I'm not a callous, germ spreading, horrible person. I just can't really relax the way most people can. Being occupied is what helps me get through things and what keeps you more occupied than teaching! However, I knew that with my due date this close I had to walk away from my classroom, stay home and get well ASAP. I also was about to snap from the adults at the school asking me if I should be there and if the baby had come yet. Hello, if I am still standing here and my belly still looks like I swallowed a beach ball then NO I have not had the baby!
keep reading...

My poor sub has had to put up with pages and pages of overly detailed and controlling lesson plans and "suggestions". I'm sure she is equally ready for me to have the baby so I don't have hours upon hours of time to be fixated on my classroom.
I'm bummed I won't be able to post all the lessons going on in my room while I'm gone. Maybe I can talk her into taking some photos .
now for the lesson!
I realized I never posted this sunflower lesson that we did in September and is heavily inspired by Gail at That Artist Women and this lesson. We know I hate chalk pastels so I make sure to to at least one chalk pastel lesson per term so I don't create another generation of students that hate them. So we did Gail's glue resist sunflowers and then we zoomed in. I wanted the kids to work on their OBSERVATIONAL drawing skills so we really observed one sunflower petal and then zoomed in one more time to view the veins of a sunflower leaf. We used oil pastel and watercolor for these zoom ins. All three parts were mounted onto a big sheet of construction paper. Man these photos did not turn out well. I promise the looked good in person. The kids really liked taking apart the sunflowers to observe like scientists. I think it would be really cool to do this with a fruit or veggie where you could do some dissecting or flowers like Lilly's or maybe a small household appliance like a clock or toaster. I bet that would really interest some young men (and women) to take apart and draw a broken toaster or game controller.

you know the deal...click to enlarge

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Franz Marc results-6th grade

LOVE IT!!!

I don't think I've been this happy with the results of a lesson in a LONG time... this may go down as one of my top 5 fav lessons ever. Thanks to everyone who gave input into the lesson design process and for the many of you who expressed an interest in Franz Marc I would highly suggest using him as a spring board for student art.

I put a lot of class time/prep into this lesson and I think it was well worth it. I made two slide shows about Franz Marc...one more about his life and one more focused on looking for the elements of art in his work. Students had to follow along with handouts for both slide shows. They also had to work individually and in groups to brainstorm personality traits that went with 12 animals and 12 colors. We did practice coloring with the oil pastels to understand how to apply them thick and use value and we talked extensively about how to choose the colors we used in our work of art.

In the end each student had to choose an animal that symbolized them along with a color or selection of colors that symbolized them. They had to be able to write about AND verbalize to me why they choose both their animal and color before moving forward. I also asked for the animals to be in a position that related to the personality traits (crouched for shy, slinking for sly, looking upward for positive....so on). Each animal had to have light, med and dark of the color used. Each animal was to be in an environment and student's were to use the complementary color of their animal in either a space that touched their animal or in a large part of their background.

Beyond that I tried to back off and let each student draw in the style they wanted and go about coloring how they wanted. I did ask several students to outline their animals in black or a dark color so they would stand out. I wish I had asked this young lady to do so as her AMAZING dolphin is a bit lost in her equally cool background.

I was really surprised by how far the students pushed themselves and how inventive they were. Really I think with middle school students you get better results when you back off and give them some space to do their thing. They get so much more invested in the process.

To end it all I made them write a formal artist statement about their work....their least favorite part and come up with a title for their work....a part they did enjoy. This lesson re-confirmed my belief that Crayola oil pastels are superior to all others that working on either letter size or a tinny big bigger sized paper is perfect for most middle school student attention spans and that the more choices you give a student regarding a lesson the better things will turn out.

I will admit to meddling in one part of this lesson. Many students just could not draw big enough to make a good composition. I admit I took about 75% of the student drawings to the photocopier and enlarged them. I feel ok with this choice. I also allowed students to look at a LOT of how to draw books to help them draw their animal.

I really hope a lot of the kids will choose this to be their work of art that hangs in the spring art show...but I won't pressure them because I really want it to be their choice.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

O'keeffe inspired abstract landscapes

(aka Slug paintings)
I'm really excited to share this lesson I did with my 6th graders during their color/painting unit. I'm also proud to say I came up with this one and didn't have to "barrow" it (although I'm sure plenty of people have done similar things). I think this would be good for 4th-8th grade.

After completing our color mixing stars it was time to apply our new skills and learn how to tint and shade. I flipped through my art books looking for inspiration. When I came across the work of Georgia O'keeffe I knew she would be a great artist to study but I didn't want to do the typical large flowers. Well thank you Georgia! She has a impressive body of work of landscapes and super, super abstracted flowers. Paintings that I feel is not usually represented when people talk about her work.
So I made a Google Doc about O'keeffe that featured some of her lesser known works. I made sure to include works that used warm colors, cool colors, neutrals and tints and shades.
Here is a small sampling of O'Keeffe's work that inspired us

I wasn't too surprised that most of my student's were somewhat familiar with her work and they had a great time viwing and talking about her work and guessing what the paintings might be about. They wanted to talk and talk and talk about her art. After an entire class period I had to stop them so we could start making art!

I gave each student three rectangles of paper. On the back of paper one I had them list the warm colors (primary, secondary and intermediate). On paper two we listed the cool colors and on paper three I had the kids list a color and then how to make a tint and a shade. Then we flipped the papers back over and lined them up touching each other.

I had the kids start at the upper left of the 1st paper and pretend they were a slug crawling acrross the paper leaving a trail of slime. They slimed across all three papers from left to right. Then we went back to the left-hand paper and down a bit and repeated the slug trail. And then one more time. Finally I said the slug could make one shape on each small paper.

Now each rectangle of paper has 5 spaces to paint. On paper one kids had to mix and use the warm colors, a different color in each shape/space. Same on the cool color paper and ditto on the tint shade paper.
Some kids were really confused on the idea of tint and shade (like this example) but the end result is still wonderful.

After each rectangle was dry I had the kids line up their papers again and go over their dividing lines with a thin line of black paint. This was really hard for a lot of kids and made the artwork look a bit messy. In the future I think I will have them make the dividing lines with black oil pastel or marker. These look so good on display together. Even if the rectangles did not get matched up correctly they still are successful.

Monday, October 24, 2011

google docs I love you

A big bear hug for google docs!
I'm a waddling 38 weeks pregnant right now. The act of getting up from my chair at school is epic. Walking and talking and breathing....well those things don't happen at the same time anymore. The kids and adults in the building stop me in alarm each day to inquire, "how much longer?" and if I'm ok. As I was stapling up art on Friday a teacher asked me..." should you be doing that in your condition?" "Stapling....art...to a wall?" I replied..."yeah I think it is safe for me to be stapling."

In the midst of this late pregnancy thing I have become addicted to google docs. I have a PC at home and a mac at school and I want to be able to work on lesson plans at both home and school and pull things up a will and not have issues with compatibility. Have you used google docs? You can make simple power-points and word documents and such. Everything is saved online and to your gmail account (and I know you have one if you are using blogger;) It is so easy to make my presentations at home and pull them up at school. I can keep my presentations privet or make them public to people I choose or anyone. If a student is absent I can email them the link to the google doc presentation and they can view it at home! If a parent couldn't make it to back to school night they could go online and see my presentation. Furthermore if a parent wants to see what we are doing in class they can look at each presentation.

Best, best, best of all when I am on maternity leave I can upload anything I want my sub to be able to have onto google docs from home and she can access everything with a click of a button and share it with the kids. We can both add and remove from presentations....its pretty much a dream for someone who is horrible with technology (as I am). I have promised my husband I will NOT get on google docs at the hospital after the baby is born.

Ok blame it on the hormones. My ode to google docs is done.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

the value of value part 2 : Pumpkins!


Then comes creating value with colored pencil or crayon via two methods: method one, finding a light, medium and dark of one color and method two; how much pressure is applied. Most kids are still moderately interested at this point. They like anything with color and can easily follow along as we add form to shapes like apples and pumpkins using correct value.
Every fall I do this pumpkin lesson where we LAYER different values to show form. I think 4th grade and up could do this. Here are the step by steps including what colors we used from the good old .40 cent crayola 20 color box.
Draw a pumpkin, add a cast shadow and a ground-line. Outline brown.
not a great photo but: lightly color the entire pumpkin with goldenrod or dandelion. Color the stem with yellow green, color the cast shadow gray, the ground blue and the sky violet.
time to layer with different tones or values. Start at the middle of the pumpkin. Color the top and bottom 1/4 with orange. Move to the segments on each side of the middle. color the top and bottom 1/3rd with orange. Move to the outer two segments. Color them fully orange. Go back in with the goldenrod/dandelion and go over any areas that were not colored orange. Layer your color. Grab a red-orange/scarlet and color a little bit at the bottom at each segment and the top of the two outermost segments. Re-outline in brown.
Now the cast shadow. Color a layer of indigo over the gray and then some black right under the pumpkin. For the ground do another layer of blue and blue green. Add some of both to the cast shadow area. Last use green and brown on the stem.
Last I have the kids use some purples do the "sky" area so it ties into the cast shadow and doesn't distract from all the work in the pumpkin.

You could also do this with larger sets of colored pencils...some prismacolor scholor pencils would be GREAT for this...but spendy and you would need a lot of sets. I know the kids like this mini lesson because they ask to take their pumpkins home as soon as we are done.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the value of value (and gradation) part 1


For some reason I find it easiest to teach value by going paint, then crayon, then colored pencil then graphite. So we start with paint.
Official definition of Value (tone, tint, shade...) "refers to the use of light and dark, shade and highlight, in an artwork."

Middle school definition of value..."this is hard, why do we have to do this....I want to do something fun!"

Ah teaching value at a more advanced level can be a pain in the butt. I find younger students are perfectly happy to learn how to make tints and shades with paint...they delight at the magic of creating colors. Middle school students are less impressed. Remember I'm working with 6th and 7th graders who have never had art before...so they need to learn some basics but are not longer easily amused. I need them to learn how to make tints and shade, tone, or value or whatever you call it in your classroom with paint, colored pencil or crayon and the dreaded graphite pencil.

Most students can easily grasp the idea of tints and shade in paint and when guided create a decent black and white gray-scale in paint and tints and shade of a color. While not the most exciting thing in the world it is pretty easy to to.
Students that feel tint and shade is too easy are challenged to gradate between two or more colors on the color wheel. Then to show their new skills I asked them to tint and shade or gradate a background and add a silhouette image. I even give them some silhouettes of people in motion as I am more interested in their ability to tint and shade or gradate than anything else.
6th graders shows she gets the concept
6th grader who basically understands the concept but needs a bit more practice with making small changes in color and using the paintbrush
7th grader who has been exposed to the concept twice now. Understands the color mixing... decent but not great paintbrush control
7th grader: 2nd time exposed to concept. Has mastered tints, good paintbrush control and starting to think about compositional choices as she choose to have her tinting follow the shape of the silhouette.

One of three bulletin boards showing off value or gradation, lots of teacher and student response to these.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Franz Marc...second steps



Well a few people showed interest in doing a collaborative lesson...or at least were enthusiastic about the prospect of something Franz Marc inspired.

I've been trying hard to do research on Franz Marc and finding surprisingly little. Marc was a young German man who was interested in theology but the son of an artists and as a young adult attended art school. He came in contact with Van Gogh, Matisse and Gauguin. He shared Van Gogh's interest in spirituality and color symbolism. I see why he liked Gauguin's saturated colors and Matisse's organic shapes, Fauvist colors and less realistic drawing style. I learned he died at age 36 when killed in WWI and I have found a few quotes from his letters to Kandinsky who he founded the Blue Riders group with. The other books and articles I have found about him are in German, and while I took 6 years of German in school, I'm finding my translating abilities to be limited.

There is a Scholastic Arts from 2009 about Franz Marc called Working with Color. Anyone have a copy of it? I'm having trouble getting my hands on one.

So onto the lesson. I'm going to try a few different approaches and post them. I also encourage anyone else with ideas to make a sample and post it. For this first try I only used oil pastel and did the animal first and background second. I asked my husband what animal he would be and what color would symbolize him. He choose blue and a dog and then specified our dog Dexter. OK I said. For the setting he choose the forest because we like to go camping and he wanted to look up because he is an optimistic person so I have him looking up at a star/sun thing.

I started by drawing the dog and my first drawings were too realistic for a Franz Marc lesson so I had to loosen up my approach. I will encourage the kids to go simple and not too detailed. I also wish I had drawn my dog bigger. Then I made the setting, a sun/star thing, a pine tree and an organic shaped ground.


Then I outlined the dog in dark blue. While looking at Marc's work I noticed a lot of complementary color pairs. So I made the ground orange. The tree as green so I made the sun/star red. I think it would be helpful to ask the kids to use two complementary color pairs for the majority of their work.
why does blogger do this?

Next it was time to color the dog. I found a light, medium, dark blue and white. I tried to show some modeling like Marc did by choosing a few highlight areas and working my lights and darks. I would have to give the kids a lot of guidance on this part.


Next I found 3 oranges and worked on the ground making sure to put a darker orange/red shadow underneath my animal. This part was pretty easy. Next I went up to the sun/star and worked in reds and a little orange...also easy to do and demo to the kids.

Over to the tree and I decided to add a row of tree's in the background that overlapped and got smaller to show depth and space. Maybe I should have left it be at just one tree. I'll stick to one tree in the next sample. Once again I found three greens and worked lights and darks.

and now we are left with the sky area. Part of me wants to use watercolor paint with it and salt but I don't know how Franz Marc-esque that would be. I'm also not sure about the sky color. A purple maybe?

So now it is time for feedback on attempt #1....what is on track and what could be done differently. For my next attempt I will do something with paint.