Sunday, January 30, 2011

Drawing using the grid method

looks a bit like my chicken Saffron

How often do you have students draw using the grid method?
I defiantly use it when working with a photo and find it helpful. The art teacher at the high school we feed into uses the grid method for a few lessons so I always make sure to have the kids do one or two grid projects during middle school art.

My students really dislike the method though. They feel it is too slow and tedious They hate having to go back and forth between the grid paper and the grid on the drawing. It takes time and patience. Patience and persistence being two things my students lack.

I have done everything I can think of to make the process easier. I make the grids on transparencies so the kids can simply tape them over the photo/image. Then I photocopy grid paper off that transparency so they match up exactly.

I have the kids number the boxes on both the transparencies and the grid paper. I give the kids overhead markers to trace the outline of the drawing onto their transparency and then to cross out each grid square as they are done with it.

I have shown them how to go one box at a time, one row at a time. I have showed them how to make a dot on the grid lines showing where the contour lines intersect with the grid lines so all they have to do is connect the dots.

I get them started with the first three boxes if they ask for help.

I offer a huge selection of images to work from from dogs to flowers to celebrities photos to pictures of cars and cartoon characters. I can't think of any other way to help them short of doing the project for them.

Yet 75% of the projects handed in look like Salvador Dali possessed my students while working and did a melting clock treatment to their drawings. Let's not talk about the cat drawing I received on Friday where the poor thing looked like it had been run over by a steamroller. Even my hard working kids seem unable to work with the grid method. They will call me over knowing that something looks funky with their drawing and I'll sit down and together we will count and compare where we put lines in the grid drawing vs. the original. 99% of the time the kids stopped counting the grid squares and just started randomly drawing what they saw. "IT takes tooooo looooonnnnnggggg!" They whine.

They all seem to be making individual progress in developing their contour drawing skills and ability to draw objects by breaking them down into simpler shapes.

So how important is it to teach the grid method to 5th-8th graders. Should I just accept that it is not working for my students at their current developmental level. Can I just leave this skill to the high school teacher? If you are working with at-risk kids who get frustrated easily is it better to back off or to force them to, "push through the pain," to learn persistence?

Most importantly is there something I'm doing or not doing on my end that is keeping my kids from achieving success. Do you have a hint or idea for teaching grid drawing? Am I missing a key component. I want to start a grid enlargement project based on the work of Georgia O'Keeffe and prefer to keep Dali out of the project.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rhythm people



Want to talk about the ideas of rhythm, movement, unity, variety, geometric shape and color choice in a one or two class project?

Rhythm Dancers
This is not my original idea, but don't worry it is not your orginall idea either. Nor do I think it was MY 7th grade art teachers original idea (Shout out to Mr. Buddy). My guess is this one has existed in one form or another for many years. I think you could easily do the same project with animals pictures from a magazine. Especially if you get a horse magazine...although the thin legs may be hard to cut, but I digress.

Step 1: Go through magazines and tear out people in interesting positions. For the sake of time I pre-tore out a big stack of people for the kids to choose from. Fitness magazines like SHAPE! are great for this lesson. So are ski and snowboard mags. If you are working with younger students beware of enclosed shapes that they would need to cut out (like the triangle create by a hand resting on a hip). My older students tackled these enclosed shapes with exact-o knives.

Step 2: take the whole magazine page and have each student choose three colors. You could let them choose whatever they want or have to stick to a color family (warm, cool, primary, secondary....)

Step 3: Stack all three papers. Put the magizine picture on top. Paper clip on all four sides. Cut the magazine person out like he or she is a paper doll. You will cut three exact copies of that magazine photo at the same time. Set aside

Step 4: Get out the scrap box. Have the kids get three colors for the background shapes. I'm not sure if it is best to stick with the same colors used for the people or to choose something with contrast. You decided. Let me know what you think.

Step 5: From the background colors cut: 3 large squares, 3 small squares, 3 triangles and 3 rectangles (or other shapes of your choice...just make sure there are 3 of each)

Step 6: Arrange and glue the 12 shapes in an interesting way on a piece of black paper. Overlapping is our friend. Use the word composition a gazillion times till your kids know the meaning of the word.

Step 7: Glue the three people shapes onto the compositon. Make sure to use overlap and I tell my kids I want to see either diagonal or curved movement from the arrangement of the people.

Ta da! One thing to avoid, people shapes that feature only the waist up and are too big. They will block your interesting background arrangement.
click to make bigger

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

professionalism and the internet

(pre-view of things to come)

Today discussion topic: Professional behavior and the internet.
As a teacher reading this post on the internet I bet you have pondered aspects of professional behavior and Internet use.

We are good about keeping students faces and last names off our blogs.
Some people keep their locations vague, some invited their student's to read their blogs.
Some people do not discusses their classrooms beyond the lessons they teach.
I have chosen to discuss aspects of my teaching life beyond the lessons I present. As more people read my blog sometimes I hesitant to discuss my teaching life. I want to carefully protect the privacy of my co-workers and the identity of my school. Yet, I think it is important for teachers to be able to speak openly about the joys AND frustrations of teaching so that we can support each other and problem solve.

So with that in mind I am curious about several things:
Do you have facebook or other social network account?
If so do you share that with your co-workers (are you online "friends" with them)
Do you allow your students access to your facebook page?
Have you ever searched for videos of your school on youtube?
Do you allow students to have electronics out in your classroom

And now the story that goes with this post.
At lunch today I am asked if I have seen, "the video," on facebook. "No, what video?" I ask. (Note: while I have facebook I refuse to friend anyone from my school; staff or student)
I am informed that last week, while a middle school teacher was out and had a sub, that a video was made. A student took out their cell phone and videotaped themselves running around the classroom, taping some other students messing around, wrestling on the floor, other students sitting in their chairs looking baffled and the sub leaning against the counter not reacting.

I feel the student was disrespectful to the sub and should not have made the video.
I have no clue what the situation with the sub was so I have no comment on that.
I'm surprised the student put the video on facebook, isn't it obvious that that is a great way to get into trouble.
BUT wait... Another teacher at school is "friends" with some students and had seen the video on the student's pages. THEN that teacher re-posted the video to her OWN facebook page with a note saying that the video showed how hard it was to work at our school. That teacher is facebook friends with a bunch of other teachers at the school who of course saw the video and now it is the talk of the school
It was a bad choice for the 13 year old to make and post the video. But I am shocked that an adult would re-post that video on the Internet, especially as the video shows student faces and lists our school name with the video.

To me that was not a professional choice regarding use of the Internet. How the student will be disciplined and if anything will be said to the teacher remains to be seen.

What do you think? Was it ok for the teacher to re post that video? What are the rules of being a teacher on the Internet in this modern age? Did I overstep a line by even discussing this incident on the Internet?...

Friday, January 21, 2011

positive/negative space radial desgins


Ok, lets see if I can describe how we did this project. I was able to demo it to 50 kids but sometimes visuals speak better than words.
This lesson is good for talking about positive and negative space, mirror symmetry and rotational designs and you could throw in organic and geometric shape. I did this with 6th and 7th graders but I think 5th grade could easily do it and maybe some sharp 4th graders.
(even simple ones look good, a 4th grader could do this)
I got a basic hexagon shape and enlarged it on the photocopier. I went ahead and divided the hexagon into 12 parts for the kids and then traced a copy of one of the 12 wedges of the hexagon onto an separate paper. The wedge is a right triangle. Each student received a sheet with the hexagon and a sheet with the wedge. I asked them to divide the wedge into 3-5 areas using organic and geometric shapes or lines.
(mirror and rotational symmetry...good math review)
They are to go over their lines with sharpie and cut out the wedge. Then they slip the design wedge under the hexagon and trace their design into every OTHER triangle. (tell them to make sure the right angle location is the same in each space) By going over your lines in sharpie you can see the lines without a lightbox. 6 sections should have the design. Have your students choose parts of the design to keep white and parts to color black. To make reversing the image simpler I had my kids work top to bottom alternating areas in white and black. Color in the 6 sections you have made already.

Now have the kids flip over the design triangle and trace the design onto the back side of the paper basically creating a mirror image of the original design. Have the students put the flipped over triangle under their paper and fill in the remaining 6 spaces (the right angle of the triangle is now reversed). After you have traced the design into the remaining spaces then have the students color in the 2nd set of triangles doing the exact opposite of the first set. What was black in the first triangle now needs to be white and what was white now needs to be black.

Trying to write this down makes it sound very confusing, BUT when I demonstrated it the kids understood with no problem and were able to help each other out. (Let's keep in mind I work with kids who are consistently several grade levels behind so that means your 4th or 5th graders should be able to figure it out just as well as my 6th and 7th graders.)

You could also do this project in black and a color or even two colors but I like how the black and white really pop. I don't have a lot of photos because the kids actually took this project home with them!!! It took most of the kids 3 50min class periods to complete.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chalk pastels


I don't know about you, but if I don't feel comfortable with a art media then I tend not to use it while teaching. For example I dread using chalk pastels. I never learned how to use them.

During my collage figure drawing class we sketched with vine charcoal and thin sticks of hard pastels and I could figure that out, I pretended they were thick pencils. Then we were asked to replicate a photo using chalk pastels. My professor was puzzled by my lack of pastel skill wondering how I got to a 400 level life drawing class without having previous pastel experience. I didn't know what to tell him, I had taken all the pre-reqs for the class and had never been presented with a pastel project before. I muddled through the project ending up with a smudgy, color distorted, disappointment.

So I guess it is not too surprising that when I choose mediums for my students I pass over the chalk pastels. We have the cheap sets from the school district. The kind that are 48 colors for $5. I know the low quality is part of the problem. The kids don't like their smudgy, dusty, thick lined nature. They seem to crumble in my hands and the feeling of the chalk on my fingers makes my skin crawl.

I bring out the pastels when we study Degas and to fill in black glue line drawings. We (the kids and I) can deal with the messy nature of chalk when it is contained in glue lines. But in my heart I know I am creating a new generation of art students who avoid the media. I worry about sending my middle school students to high school with little pastel experience.

With that in mind I have decided this will be the year I use chalk pastel with my middle school students. I have been stalling but I can hold out no longer. We have been sketching stuffed animals and beanie babies and the kids are ready to do their final drawings. My first thought was to have them paint their drawings, but I know that pastels will capture the soft feeling of the stuffies much better. I have been practicing after school so I can at least demo without grimacing at the feel of the chalk but I still am not feeling confident in my own skills, let alone my ability to help the kids learn how to use them.

Any suggestions? We are going to use (cheap) watercolor paper for texture, and I have some Q-tips for blending, I shook the pastels in rice to clean them and I have a can of Aqua-net for when we are done. Should we be blending with our fingers? Do you work light to dark or dark to light? Do I need to break down and buy better pastels (out of my own pocket) or can we make this work with cheep stuff? Does anyone know of a good book or online video to show me how to better use these little buggers?

Friday, January 14, 2011

so...should I wear green?

my dog looking cute...but having nothing to do with this post.

Our sweet AmeriCorps member put on an MLK Day assembly for the kids today. There was a skit, readings and a song. I took my 6-8th grade class and they were very, very, well behaved and will be rewarded for that on Tuesday. As they were leaving my room I stopped a spacey 6th grader and wished him a nice weekend and reminded him we will not have school on Monday.

He looked at my quizzically and asked, "why not?"
" Because it is Martin Luther King day, it is a national holiday," I told him.
He looked down at the floor and thought for a moment, looked up at me and asked....
"So...should I wear green?"
(I want to smack my head and yell doh!)
"No sweetheart, not St. Patrick's Day, Martin Luther King day"
"Who?"
me..."The person....that we just had the assembly about!?" exasperated
"Oh, I wasn't listening during that, see you Monday!" and walks off.
Yes my fellow teachers, I give you...the future of America.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

There goes the Kiln


I do clay with the 5th-8th graders before winter break and with k-4th and life skills from January till mid May. My kiln is pretty small. It lives in a small closet with the floor waxer and other janitorial supplies. I have to keep the kiln fan, a vent fan and two extra fans running while the kiln runs so that the closet does not get too hot. Buying enough clay for the entire school uses up more than half of my budget for the entire year.

I started clay projects in earnest the first week back after winter break. Already we have made clay fortune cookies inspired by Katie at Adventures of an Art teacher and pinch pot funny face fish for 3rd grade. 6 classes have projects made and ready to fire.
I popped some of the cookies into the kiln on Thursday and ran the kiln as usual (I have to manually change the temp on the kiln and we don't have a pyromeater, its more a guess and watch the clock method ) I rely on the kiln sitter and the slump cone to shut off the kiln.

On Friday morning I went to unload the kiln and as I entered the closet I knew something was very wrong. I opened the door and a wave of heat hit me. Glowing orange in the dark was the kiln and waves of heat shimmed in the closet as I turned on the light and the fans that had turned off when the 12 hour timers were up.

The kiln had not shut off. I quickly unplugged everything and thanked god that I hadn't set the school on fire. By Monday the kin had cooled off enough to open up and found a batch of melted clay fortune cookies. Why didn't the kiln shut down? Apparently the cone had melted but then somehow fused onto the sitter not allowing the shut off bar to fall all the way and release the latch. Further investigation showed a metal tab that holds up the cone had come loose and was hanging down with the fused cone. Well poop. I couldn't use the kiln till I replaced the part. On the plus side the part is only $80 and I know how to replace it. Our kiln is older than me so I expect to do maintenance now and then.

I went to the principal to have him sign the order for the new part and he REFUSED to sign it. He wants someone from the district to come assess and fix the kiln. (I've been told it will take up to two months for them to come look at the kiln!) I whined and begged, pointing out that I have already spend $250 on clay and glaze for the year and 2/3 of it is still unused. He won't budge.

I do worry the kiln is a fire hazard. But I really just want to fix the part, complete the year and wait till summer for any major change. I asked the principal if he would replace the kiln if needed and he said only if we could get a grant to pay for it.

I'm not sure what to do. I have spent so much of our budget to buy the clay and the kids are soooo looking forward to their projects. Beyond that, even if I hold off on any other projects for the rest of the year what am I going to do with the 6 classes of projects waiting to be fired? I've already emailed the art teachers in my cluster and no one is willing to fire my projects for me!!! (jeez thanks fellow teachers) Now I may have to pay out of my own pocket to take the 6 classes of projects to a local ceramic studio who wants $1 per piece to fire but may be willing to go down to .50 a item since we are a school. Even at .50 an item it will cost about $75 to fire the current projects!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

warm weavings

keep weaving, keep weaving, keep weaving....

ah weaving...this is where it all fell apart last year. I made assumptions about my students prior weaving experience and abilities. Stupid me. Everything was ok when we were weaving with paper, we managed on cardboard looms, but when we tried to go vertical or in the round it was not pretty.

things I learned...
*EVERYONE, 2nd-8th grade starts with a refresher paper weaving project
You can make it simple

Or you can make them work their brains and fingers with excellent designs from Origami Resource Center


*while it is free to me, making 200 cardboard looms out of boxes from the school dumpster takes a whole weekend and kills your bread knife. It might be worth the money to order the pre-made looms, as my personal time is worth a few bucks. Dick Blick has these long skinny looms to make more of a bracelet than a tapestry. I like this a LOT and did something very similar last year when I tired of making big looms. Turns out the kids were way more interested in making their woven bracelets than wall tapestries, they took less time and less supplies. I think you could get away with only using 5 warp threads. OR it may be cheaper to buy a set of 12 wider looms and use the paper cutter to chop them into three long and narrow looms.

* You must have the yarn balls in individual containers with a hole where the kids are pulling the yarn though or else you end up with a horrid mass of yarn and crying kids.
the right way to store your yarn

*If you are weaving on a cardboard loom and you use a tabby weave and then take it off the loom it will stay together. If you are letting the younger kids just weave with strips of fabric and other materials and you take it off the loom it will fall apart.
(good ol tabby weave)

*Straw weaving: ehhheh was not very impressed with the results, I think we will skip it this year

*Woven paper baskets.... very cool looking, way to hard for my 5th graders. Half way into our first day on the project I realized it was not going to happen for us. Good reminder to self, if you the teacher finds a project a bit challenging then it will be really challenging for the kids.


* weaving in the round on a paper plate gave us mixed results and the kids were less then excited about it. It also seemed to take up more yarn. We struggled with correctly threading the loom and then the incorrect threading ruined the project for a lot of kids.
paper plate weaving from hell
I think this is a better small group project.
If I were to try it again I like this variation at Innovative Learning Solutions. They made the circle weaving into flowers. I can see doing a smaller circle of weaving and gluing it onto a construction paper flower shape also.

* Weaving in the round around a plastic cup works well, gives nice results and the kids are happy with the end results. Little Art Monkeys has a good step by step guide with photos
I have also seen the same idea done with paper bowls like at this school


clay looms or matt board looms? Seeing a recent post from "Art on the move" about clay weaving looms I was reminded I tried a similar project years ago as a student teacher. This was before I learned to make holes in the clay with drinking straws and our holes were too small rendering our looms useless. I'm going to try the clay looms with the 6-8th graders again this year and see how it goes now. I also got to thinking about how one might use pre-cut matt boards as loom frames. I have a pile of water damaged matt boards that were donated to the school and while are ok in structure, are not very pretty for framing art. I wonder if you could drill holes into the matt board to make some large group looms.