As a child, I loved drawing the exquisite corpse activity, but I always did it amongst just a handful of friends. My previous experiences of coordinating an exquisite corpse activity with classes have been difficult to pull off, so I was wondering what I would be able to do with my third graders, because I wanted them to internalize the concept of “mix and match” through an exquisite corpse activity. I found an amazingly helpful video on youtube, with a slightly different version of the exquisite corpse that the student could do on their own. While this does take away from the “surprise” aspect of the exquisite corpse (as they are no longer working with another person to complete their drawings), it is still very fun, and actually has more possibilities for combining shapes.
So how did they turn out? Have a look!
Building Their Sculpey Statues
The students loved this part! I explained how to portion out their sculpey pieces so that they had enough for each part of their creature, and making use of basic geometry to start building (“the head is a sphere, the limbs are like cylinders”, etc). I also talked about distributing weight to make sure their sculpture piece could stand on its own. They could choose to create a favorite combo from their sculpey piece, or use the same concept of mix and match to construct another type of creature altogether. After they were done and fired, students colored their sculptures, and added details such as facial features, clothing, or textures.
Next, we looked at different mythological creatures from around the world. This infographic and this youtube video were very helpful. For the video, I had students consider what kind of information the narrator provided about the creatures: Where were the found? What powers did they have?
With the mythological creatures infographic and video as inspiration, students had to provide a name and a description for their character. To make this easier, I had a template for them to fill out. As a kind of filler activity, I simply asked the students to make a drawing of their character on the back of the page if they were done. What I had not anticipated was how detailed some of them would draw their characters, complete with relevant backdrops!
Overall, this was a very fun unit to do, one of my most successful to date! I had a wonderful time reading all the character descriptions. They can be quite revealing about the students’ interests. If I have the opportunity to do this again, I would spend some more time developing sculpey inspired work, such as, make a comic that has your character, or create a collaborative crypto-zoology book with everyone’s imaginary creature getting a page each.
5th Graders were introduced to the concept of how art can transform a community. Students were instructed to create tiny houses inspired by the work of Tyree Guyton and the Heidelberg Project; an ongoing work in Detroit’s East Side that uses discarded objects to create works of arts on and around the houses of the Heidelberg neighborhood.
The first step in this project required students to construct 2-D houses out of clay, focusing on how they can add different textures to create the roofs and siding.
The following week the clay houses were being fired, so we took a break to learn about a local community art project; The Richmond Mural Project. After my lesson students were asked to draw a building or house and design their own mural for the project.
When the clay houses were fired we moved on to decorating. Instead of glazing the houses we used oil pastels to color the clay. When students were finished they took their work over to the sink where I painted the houses with watered-down black tempera paint and ran the houses under water. The students learned about resist painting, as all of the areas of the house with oil pastel rejected the black paint, and all the small areas that weren’t reached by pastels, kept the paint. The end result was a really cool, weathered house effect.
Our final week centered around decorating our houses with found art room objects, similar to Tyree Guyton decorating the houses in Detroit with discarded objects. Before cl ass my cooperating teacher and I looked through all the supply cabinets and pulled out old materials that were left behind by the school’s former art teachers. We found rhinestones, wooden shapes, puzzle pieces, googly eyes, etc. I also saved the scraps of foam from my 2nd grade printmaking project and added that to the mix. Students then spent the class adding crazy decorations to their houses. At the end of class, we talked about how art changes a community and discussed different ways we can create art for our own neighborhoods such as decorating our windows, making tiny sculptures, or just using chalk to brighten up the sidewalk.
Art Carpet is a community art event with the goal of creating a collaborative work of art that connects different regions around the city. Art Carpet has also taken place in cities around the world in the previous years. You can find out more about Art Carpet here.
The Art Carpet project at my elementary school was very ambitious. We were trying to cover the pavement area all around the school, which was no mean feat! My cooperating teacher marked out areas on the pavement with chalk the day before, and created a template with rectangles assigned to particular classes. All the Special Teachers (Sports, Art, Music, Language) helped supervise the classes as they came in. We went in order of class periods, with an entire grade working outside at a time. They had to draw a Mandala-shaped pattern with colored chalk. Their instructions were to draw concentric circles first, then fill in designs around the circles to complete their shape. As the pavement was made of blocks of concrete, two students worked together on a block. Though their prompt was to work on one design together, ultimately, some did and some didn’t. Most of the younger grades made their own, while older grades understood the concepts and made some very intricate patterns together. There was inevitably some minor quarreling over who got to draw, where to draw it, agreeing on a design, etc. However, in the grand scheme of things, once the entire Art Carpet was complete, students were very happy to see their work amongst those of all the student at the school.
I think collaborative work such as this, though difficult to pull off, gives the students appreciation for community. Even days later, as the chalk was fading, I noticed students pointing out their work to parents who were dropping them off. In one case, a student’s labelled name with an arrow appeared next to their chalk drawing another day, and I took this as a sign that they were proud of their work. There are around 500 students in the school. Many students will graduate without having known or even interacted directly with all 500, so events like this help them put themselves into perspective, and have a greater sense of belonging, as engaged, active participants within their community of students.
I love including literature in my lessons and when I recently re-read a story from one of my favorite childhood authors, I knew I needed to create a project about it. Goodnight Opus by Berkeley Breathed tells the story of Opus the penguin settling down for his granny to read him his favorite bedtime story for the two-hundred-tenth time. During this reading Opus “departs the text” using his imagination to go on his own adventure inspired by his favorite story.
4th graders read Goodnight Opus and where given the task of departing the text and making up a new story based off one of their favorite childhood books or the story of the Three Little Pigs. To help with the story brainstorming, students were asked to pull a notecard on which I had written a random location – what happens to the Three Pigs in a castle? What happens when they go into outer space? The class then learned how to make a Zine – a single piece of paper that folds into an 8-page book. Students were then free to write their new story for the Three Little Pigs in their Zine. At the end of class we talked about using our imagination and how we can create something new and exciting out of familiar things that we already love.
I closed out my elementary experience with a different kind of still life. My fourth graders and I read Ish by Peter Reynolds. In this book, the main character falls into a bit of a creative rut and a spell of self-criticism, which he breaks free from with the help of an unsuspecting fan. After reading the book, we talked about “artistic license” or the freedom to create an artwork, musical work, or piece of writing based on the artist’s interpretation. Then we took a look at still life art in a range of styles varying from Audrey Flack to Henri Matisse. At the art tables, students had a chance to practice their own observational drawing skills while drawing “ish” still lifes. Finally, we used bleeding tissue paper to “ish-ly” color in their artwork and they turned out “ish-fully” fantastic!
This week, I said my goodbye-for-now’s to many amazing people that I have met at my elementary school. I am very thankful to have had the privilege to work with such upbeat and enthusiastic administrators, kind and supportive teachers, hard-working and all-around-awesome students, and my rock of a cooperating teacher, whom I will greatly miss. While I am sad to leave such an incredible school, I am very excited for my next placement.
First grade put on their thinking caps for this lesson on “millinery,” the art of designing and making hats. After reading I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, first graders looked at the work of real life milliners Philip Treacy (UK), Mae Reeves (USA), and Ignatius Creegan and Rod Givens of Ignatius Hats (Petersburg, VA). And like these renowned milliners, first grade made sketches of hats that they would love so much that they would look high and low for them just as the bear did in the story. Ms. Corpuz challenged our first graders to come up with their most creative ideas and bring them to life in these transformed paper bags.
Aren’t they adorable? What kind of hat would you come up with if you could make your own creative hat?
After learning about Picasso and his cubist portraits, they used handouts of Picasso-style facial features to pick out their eyes, noses, mouths and ears. They then added hair and a neck and shoulder. They draw a top their dried watercolor squares with pencil, and then went over top in permanent marker.
We worked with Kindergarten on their colorful self portraits inspired by Todd Parr’s book, It’s Okay to Be Different. After reading the book aloud, we talked about the meaning of the book and what it means to “be yourself.” Before coming up with their own portraits, Kindergarteners learned about color mixing, practicing their master mixing skills with tempera paint! Next we worked on fine motor skills and learned how to use scissors to cut shapes. Each of the portraits that the kindergarteners made are different and that’s more than okay.
They did a great job! Each of them are very special in their very own way! Proud of you, Kindergarten 🙂
BONUS: Mrs. Barlett posted this picture on Instagram, and Todd Parr agrees!
Kindergarten students learnt the basics of painting with tempera paint, using multiple colors. They learnt about the life cycle of a dandelion and why they look different at different points in their life cycle.
I read them “The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream” to talk about what happens to the seed when it blows away into the wind.
K artwork hanging in the hallway.
Student making the white fluffy part of the flower.