Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sky Color

This lesson was one of my absolute favorites because it again played into another wonderful book by Peter Reynolds, Sky Color.

Grade level:  1 and 2, could be adapted for K or 3 as well

Conceptual Basis:

As a class we will read Sky Color by Peter Reynolds, which is the story of a young girl who wants to paint the sky but thinks she can’t because she doesn’t have any blue paint. She then realizes that the sky is not always blue and is in fact many colors.

Performance Task:
After reading the story the students will be given watercolor paints (no blue) and asked to fill their papers with colors. On the second day they will uses markers to add details and create a scene. The third day the students will tell the class about the scene they created.

Instructional Sequence:

Day 1 – 

The book, Sky Color,  will be scanned into the computer and put together as a PowerPoint so that all students can see the screen. The book tells of a little girl who is painting a mural and thinks she can’t paint the sky because she has no blue. Over the course of the day she realizes that the sky is many colors and happily creates a beautiful multi-colored sky.

The s teacher will then pass out paper to the students, and instruct them to write their names and homeroom numbers on them and turn them over (this is important for the little ones - you likely will need to remind them to turn their paper over more than once...). As they do that the teacher will bring cups of water, brushes and the watercolor paint sets around to each table on a tray. The students will then be instructed to fill in the entire paper with color, just like the character, Marisol, does in the story.

Day 2 –

Student paintings will be on the tables as they enter the room. The teacher will explain to them that today we are creating our scene. It can be any kind of scene the student would like, they can add trees, clouds, house, animals, playgrounds anything, but be sure to think about what kind of story their picture is telling.

Day 3 –

Student paintings will be on the tables as they enter the room. The teacher will explain to them that today we are going to share our stories about the pictures we’ve drawn. The teacher will then model this for them. The students will then go around and one by one tell the rest of the class what kind of picture they made.


Scene: The visual representation of an event.

Watercolor Painting: A work of art created using a special kind of paint that is mixed with water.

Landscape: A work of art that features scenes of nature: mountains, lakes, gardens, rivers, etc.

Emotion: A feeling, something that characterizes a state of mind, such as joy, anger, love, hate, 
horror, etc.

Illustrate: To visually translate events or images into a drawing or painting.

Student work:

I love the little guy carrying the apple! So cute!

I don't think you can see it in this picture, but there's a character who's saying "Ha Ha Ha I'm hungry!" 

This was great, the little boy worked too slowly the first class day and didn't fill up his paper so he turned the page around made it the ground! This of course wasn't my original idea, but I love the creativity, and I think its important to stay open and flexible about student interpretation. How else can you teach creativity?

This little girl had circular shapes when her paper dried and she made them into smiley faces! 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fauvism: The Wild Beast in Me

I've been neglecting this blog, the last few weeks of student teaching were extremely stressful and this is where I let things fall.

So, now that I'm done I'm going to go back and start posting the basic outlines of some of the lessons I taught, with images and a few notes. Not too many simply because I don't want to get overwhelmed by the task and quit half way through...

Anyone with questions feel free to ask!

Fauvism: The Wild Beast in Me


Fauvism is a vibrant and colorful style of painting, developed by Henri Matisse and Andre Derain and uses bold colors, simplified drawing and  expressive brushwork.

Fauvism was the first movement of this modern period, in which color ruled; an early 20th century movement in painting begun by a group of French artists and marked by the use of bold, often distorted forms and vivid colors. The Fauvists used color to express their  feelings rather than to describe the subject before them. It was a response to the invention of the camera which allowed painters to explore expressive new ways of creating paintings.


  • How can color be used to express personality in a portrait?


Students will be photographed and use those images of themselves to create Fauvist inspired portraits of themselves using watercolor pencils.  The portraits should express a facet of their personality that they don't usually get to express.

I absolutely loved the results of this project, but listening to 7th grade girls and boys whine about how their faces didn't look right was the worst part. In the future I think I would try this with a younger age group, as they are less likely to be quite so self-conscious. The 7th and 8th graders are in the thick of those sorts of concerns, or obsessions, so I'd likely give them another subject for this project.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The West Wing

Recently I was re-watching a favorite show of mine and heard this line, about which I had forgotten. It is perfect, and sums up exactly how I feel about teaching. Well, more education in general:

"Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position, I just haven't figured out how to do it yet."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kandinsky Can - So Can I!

As part of my promise to finally start posting about some of my favorite lessons from my student teaching experience - I thought I'd start with one I consider "a keeper."

Expectation: All my lessons will be amazing!
Reality: You will have lessons where you think "Yuck. I'll NEVER do that again." and others where you'll completely nail it on the head.

This lesson was for my 1st and 2nd grade students.

On Day 1 - we started by learning about the color wheel and how to mix secondary colors via a powerpoint I put together that gave them a little history on who discovered the wheel etc...

We then worked on a handout  I created that we filled in - as a class. The little ones don't get grades and especially for the first graders this was really about arts experience and exposure. This was meant to get them used to hearing these words as going forward they will need them as part of the CCSS Assessment exams.

The kids finger painted the primary colors and then mixed the secondaries right on the page. They got a HUGE kick out that. The room was full of "I made green!" "I made orange!"

Color theory buffs will note that my wheel says Purple and not the proper hue Violet. I wrestled with this (I teach Color Theory at the college level) but ultimately the Assessment Tests use purple (this may vary by district) - so it wasn't a battle worth fighting. 

On Day 2 we read The Dot by Peter Reynolds. My room was not set up to easily read books so I scanned the pages in and projected it onto the board. For 1st grade I read it to them - 2nd graders took turns reading pages. Which was successful with some groups and not with others.

The Dot is a fantastic book about a little girl who thinks she isn't an artist because she can't draw - her art teacher encourages her to just "make a mark and see where it takes her." Which leads her to make bigger and better dots and eventually a whole art show full of them. 

Then I showed them the famous Kandinsky painting -

We talked about his love of color and some of his background as an artist. I also made a point of putting the world map up and explaining where our city and state were relative to Kandinsky's home of Russia. My students are from all corners of the globe so giving them a sense of place is really important. An honestly, I think its important for any grade level - people are increasingly in the dark about geography.

We then started making lots and lots of pages full of painted colors and textures. I had examples to show them, otherwise they would begin drawing pictures (houses, suns etc..) The goal was for each child to have at least 3 - 4 pages to work with.  How long this takes depends on your kids and their level of focus/enthusiasm.

I had 3 sections of 2nd grade, two groups came once every 6 days for 30 minutes, and one came twice every 6 days, once for 30 minutes the other day for 45. Their was one 1st grade group that came twice every 6 days, once for 30 minutes the other day for 45. 

On 45 minute days we used wet media, on 30 minute days I gave them dry materials to work with. This again would be very specific to your group of students, your room and so on. 

My classroom had ZERO space for drying, which meant I could only use paint on the days where I could bring things to another room to layout which for me meant 45 minute days. My students are generally very hyper so getting them calm and ready to paint also made it impossible to use paint on 30 minute class days. So getting each class to have the right amount of papers was a lengthy process - but ultimately worth it.

When they had their papers ready I organized them by names and placed them on their tables before they came in for the day. When they were seated I again showed them the above painting, and explained (AGAIN) that we were going to turn their painted pages into Kandinsky inspired paintings. 

I then demonstrated tracing circles and cutting them out of each piece of paper - I had a few students who traced 3 circles right on top of one another despite my efforts, so watch for that. I made a point of "messing up" and not perfectly cutting my circles in order to let them know that it was okay to make mistakes. After mis-cutting my circles I would direct their attention back to the image of Kandinsky's work and ask if his we're perfect. "Of course not! So its okay for our circles not to be perfect too!"

The students then went back to their tables and cut out their circles. First graders were asked to make one - Second graders had to make two. Some of the examples:

I really loved this project. I thought it was a great way to show the smallest kids that art making doesn't have to be complicated, and the simplest of forms can make really beautiful art works. Honestly, that's a good lesson for any age!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A moment of reflection

Tomorrow is my last day of my first student teaching placement.

How is that even possible? I swear just yesterday I was panicking about what my first day might bring.

I've been bad about blogging. Not because there was nothing to say - TRUST ME there's been plenty. It's just these last weeks have been so busy and so intense that my ability to sit with it, and come to some sort of conclusion has been compromised.

Now that I'm in my last week I'm beginning to digest, and I have lots of lessons and images to share, so in the coming weeks I will be posting more. I promise. In fact I'm finally getting a break so I can start getting some of this info up and out there to share, which was part of the reason to do this in the first place.

First graders illustrating their "Sky Color" projects - based on the book Sky Color by Peter Reynolds.

While I am sure many more things will come to me in the coming days and weeks, a few observations have come to light that I thought might be worth sharing.

For anyone just tuning in, I am currently working in an urban public K-8 school that serves a population heavily dominated by immigrants from war torn countries. A very large percentage of my students speak little or no english and the majority of them live in severe poverty and/or less than ideal family situations (which is me being incredibly generous). The issues facing the teachers in my school are too many to name.

A lot of my kids have seen unspeakable things happen, in their home countries or the homes they have here. It only follows that many of them also have serious discipline issues. 

First grade "Sky Color" project - based on the book Sky Color by Peter Reynolds. 
My favorite part is the "Ha Ha I'm hungry!

My kids are "at risk" in every way possible. They resist authority every chance they get, and listening to the teacher is consider totally "uncool." So it should come as no surprise that I have heard "I don't give a #%&! what you think" more than once.

In point of fact a sixth grade girl, in response to me telling her to quit messing around and line up with the rest of her class, said to me "Who do you think you are? Come out of nowhere and try to tell me what to do?!"

At first, and for awhile, I was pretty ticked off about it. 

Now that I'm leaving I've seen a very different side of the story. These kids expect to be left, they always have been, so why would I be any different?

I know, that I really care about these kids, and I know, that if I could I wouldn't leave them. But how does she know that? She knows I'm only there for 8 weeks, and then I'll be gone. So while her behavior is not acceptable - it can still be understood. 

This week has been all about goodbyes for me. Many of them broke my heart, but there were of course are a few kids I'm not so sad to no longer have responsibility for. In particular there is a 5th grade group that has been nothing but trouble since day one. 

So, I wasn't feeling so sad as they left class today. Until a couple of girls came up to me after class to ask me why I was leaving. I explained that in order to get the "piece of paper" that says I can work with kids their age, I have to go work at two different schools. One of them widened her eyes and said "can't you just quit so you can stay here?!"

So, I guess the moral of this story is to not let these things get to you - or at least don't let it show. It seldom ever is about you at all.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Day in the Life

This week it occurred to me that most people don't understand the day to day life of a teacher. Least of all the art teacher.

People tend to approach it with this "Oh, how fun you get to play with kids all day!" attitude, and while yes, it can be fun and to some degree we can play - it is however, generally, completely draining and utterly exhausting.

In this case it can be exacerbated by the schedule my co-op has. This school is a K-8 and she's the only art teacher. Right now the 8th graders are taking music not art, so I am working with K-7 students.

1st graders learning to mix colors with their fingers.

Most grades have 3 sections, but not all. In total I am working with 17 individual groups of students, most have an average of at least 25 students. I'll let you do the math.

To make things more complicated each grade level doesn't necessarily have art for the same amount of time each week. The school has a A-F calendar. Kindergarten, 2 sections, comes once every 6 days for 30 minutes (an amount of time that guarantees you can't accomplish anything). Frist grade, 1 section, comes twice every 6 days, once for 30 minutes, once for 45. 30 minutes essentially means that as soon as you get the kids settled and explain what we're going to do, you have about 15 minutes to do it before you have to clean up.

Second grade is where things get really interesting, there are 3 sections of second grade. One group comes twice every 6 days, once for 30 minutes and once for 45. The second section comes once every 6 days for 45 minutes, the other comes once every 6 days for 30 minutes. Third grade, two sections, one comes twice every 6 days for 45 minutes and the other once for 45 minutes.

I imagine just reading that you feel turned around and confused - imagine what its like to plan for that! And I didn't even discuss the 4-7 schedule. On average I teach 6 groups a day, with 3 minutes in between and 30 minutes for lunch (which is generally absorbed by clean up for the previous class/prep for the next). There's also a 45 minute prep period thrown in at various times which is sort of useful.

The 3 minutes between classes is however, a dream. Most teachers either bring their kids early, or come late to pick them up which eats up any fraction of a second you have to switch gears. It's no ones fault, just the nature of the art teachers life.

The basic idea of lesson planning is that each grade level is working on the same project at the same time, within a day or two of each other, which means that you as the teacher can reasonably organize his or her week. But given the above schedule its really hard to keep kids on the same page. One group is inevitably ahead of the other by at least a week. And given the 3 minutes between classes its very difficult to work on the projects kids like best - the messy ones - because its so hard to keep things organized and clean. Particularly given that the room we're in right now has next to no storage.

I could go on but I think you get the picture. I should be clear though, this is insanely hard, but I love it. I especially love the little kids. I think I'd be very happy in a K-4. But every grade level has its benefits. Ultimately I'd just like to have a limited number of groups to work with, or at least a more structured schedule - you know, just to keep things a little simple...

Time will tell!