I focused my elementary unit on Qing Dynasty landscapes. These landscapes offer an insight into the interpretive and self-reflective qualities present in Chinese paintings. Furthermore these paintings are beautiful accounts of China’s scenery. It is important for students to consider their personal interpretation of artwork. This lesson teaches us to each brushstroke count, and embrace our mistakes as part of the process.
My students really enjoyed this lesson. They were engaged in the process because it is very active and it has specific methods behind it. Students mimicked many of the techniques and aesthetic qualities present in the exemplar artists work. Brush and ink came to a beautiful union to preserve the spirit of landscape. One of the students added a wifi bar as the reflection in the water. It was a great play on the metaphor of what we connect to.
I focused the lesson on the meditative qualities present in Qing Dynasty landscapes. Because they have elements of the Taoist philosophy, emphasis is placed on not being afraid to make mistakes. Hence students were prepared for the permanent properties of the ink. I told them to stand up and imagine your wrist is broken because Chinese painters used the full motion of the arm to achieve fluid brush strokes. This lesson is great for introducing negative /positive space, depth, or value. It is important to have reference photos of Qing dynasty artists so students can mimick some of the techniques an compositions. Some of my favorites are Shitao, Zhu Da, and Hongren. If the weather permits take students outside to paint. Later students can go back in and add subtle touches of pastel to their landscape.
Finally students wrote a haiku about one of their classmates work. Students wrote an initial poem describing the natural elements. Later they wrote another poem using stronger adjectives from a thesaurus. As a result of including language arts, students can reflect on the artwork they have made through cross disciplinary practice.
At my elementary placement the principal would give out a pamphlet of advice from master educators. These pamphlets along with advice given to me by other teachers helped improve my practice. Here are seven of the most important pieces of advice from my teaching experience.
1. Walk with intention not as a tourist. Be Aware.
At challenging schools it is very important to walk with intention and purpose. Students demand respect before they give it. Therefore to generate respect, resolve not to ramble or negatively preach. It is important to be firm in expectations and not have a brittle spirit.
2. Teaching is both an art and science.
Teaching is affected by the teacher’s attitude and skill. Therefore content must be artful in presentation, and methods behind the lessons must be effective for all students. It is important to present content with enthusiasm and choose material that specifically guides the essential components of the lesson. Later, providing personalized instruction is appreciated by the students because they recognize you are meeting their specific needs.
3. Respect is the lifeblood of teachers.
After earning respect you must sustain it.
4. Pick your battles wisely.
Locking horns with students over engagement or conduct can result in you or the student losing the battle. It can be embarrassing or demoralizing for either party. It is important to gauge each situation individually.
5. Use fun games to engage younger children.
Extend fun and games to clean up and instruction. Consequently students will catch on quickly to your energy and will comply with classroom management if it has an element of excitement and theatrics.The monkey bucket and voice acting sorted out most of my challenges when it came to cleaning up with the Kindergartners.
6. Let students express frustration with their work.
As a result students learn how to respond to frustration as a learning process and a sign of growth. For example a student in my cooperating teachers class had trouble expressing his emotions and wouldn’t know how to respond to failure. When he started crying and tearing his artwork she let him do so. Later she taught him how to respond to a mistake and embrace them as a sign of learning.
7. Saying too much or saying too little.
Saying too much or saying too little during instruction can hurt a lessons potential for student understanding and willingness to experiment. Therefore it is important to strike a balance between the two and only focus on the essential components to guide instruction.
Critiques with younger students are a great way of developing language arts skills, and teaching how to respond to feedback. The three keys to elementary critiques are to be kind, specific, and helpful. Provide some sort of item that tells students who is the speaker. Allowing students to create drafts of their work and then returning to critique them as a class or a small group gives students the opportunity to improve their work and comment on the elements they find successful in other people’s work. During critiques have students highlight elements of design that they find successful in the works of their peers.
It is important to highlight that saying something is beautiful, or that you like it is not enough. Therefore students must address the why and then provide a how regarding improvement. Through a step by step return to critique students can see mistakes they may have missed the first time. The critiques should be brief for time’s sake and preventing an overload of guidance because too many opinions and criticisms can discourage the student and confuse them about the direction of their own vision. Too often everything is approved as correct which diminishes student capabilities. above all critiques demonstrate the power of perseverance and revision.
My experience with 2nd grade critique:
We practiced a critique with the second graders after completing plein air landscapes. Students were introduced to the guidelines of the critique. As a result students provided insightful comments and were encouraged to comment on some the elements of design that were present in the work. Hence one student stated, “I really like the bright blue colors you used in the sky but I think you can spread out the tree branches.” After the critique students used the remainder of the class to apply what they learned from the critique.
After finishing up a small unit on patterns students in first grade learned about the artist Faith Ringgold and how she and other artists use their work to tell stories about their lives, history and culture. Students read Faith Ringgold’s book Tar Beach and defined what a community is before identifying school as a community we are all a part of. Working like the artist, students made a paper quilt that told a story about their favorite day at school then integrated math concepts by making original patterns that went around the border.
On the first day we introduced the project and looked at quilts of the utilitarian kind and the narrative kind. Students defined quilt and compared a photograph of a regular bed quilt to a pictures of pieces by Faith Ringgold including The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles, Dancing at the Louvre, and Church Picnic. We discussed how both quilts use colors, patterns, and pictures, but the quilts made by the artist tell stories inspired by her own life and the things important to her. Students quietly watched a video of the artist reading her book Tar Beach, and then as a class brainstormed a list of positive things that happen at school, including field trips, parties, content that they liked learning, or classes they enjoyed. Students then sat with their eyes closed for one minute while they thought of their favorite or most special days at school. They were then given a 10 x 10 inch piece of paper and were asked to draw their happy school community memory.
The next day students reviewed the artistand vocabulary and looked at examples of Ringgold’s work – specifically The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles, and Church Picnic. The class talked about how colorful the quilts were and students described the different colorful elements in the quilt like trees, flowers, houses, and a sky. After getting back their drawings students used a fine sharpie pen to trace over the lines from the previous class in order to not lose the detail of their drawings. When students finished the tracing they were then given crayons to color their picture in with.
On the final day of the project the class looked at quilts again and focused on the border going around the quilt. We looked at some different quilts with different patterns going around them, including a recent piece from Faith Ringgold, Ancestors part II. Students broke down the patterns on the quilt and then used oil pastel and colored paper to make patterns involving lines, shapes, and whatever else the wanted. Once everything was completed the teacher cut each paper into 4 equal strips and used tape and squares of colored paper to assemble the border around the quilt.
Exploring the visual design process, 4th grade students had a discussion about animals as symbols, and the concept of a hybrid as two different things coming together to create something new. Students used their knowledge of animals and symbolic association to create their own hybrid creatures. After finalizing the designs of their creature, students used model magic to translate their two dimensional drawings into three dimensional objects.
We looked at artists like Nicholas DiGenova, James Prosek, and Ellen Jewett for design inspiration, and were instructed to combine two or more animals. The 4th graders in each classroom came up with some wild and imaginative combinations that utilized dragons, squids, dinosaurs, bees, horses, snakes, owls, turtles, wolves and more.
After sketching, refining, and finalizing their designs, students went through a worldbuilding exercise where they filled out a field journal detailing specifics of their creature. By thinking about details like the movement, diet, habitat, size, and call of their creature, students were able to experiment with roles of artist and scientist. Through drawing their creature in its habitat and creating characteristics they might observe in their hybrid creature students were able to have a more concrete image of their creation, push their imagination, practice consistency, and take further ownership in the design process.
After finalizing their designs, students used model magic and handbuilding techniques to create their creature in three dimensions. Through guided demonstration and experimentation with the model magic, students sculpted their creature in 3D. Each class then talked about tint, shade, and color mixing and began to paint their creatures according to their finalized reference sheet.
These are examples of student work from 3rd grades animal hybrid lesson plan.
Students are given an example of an animal and break down what about them (adaptions) allows them to live in their habitat. A polar bear, as seen in the power point, has white fur to blend in with their surroundings. Their paws are both webbed and large allowing them to swim faster in water and spread their weight evenly across the ice.
Then they are introduced to a taxidermy artist, Enrique Gomez de Molina. The big idea is inspiration. Students take inspiration from the hybrid animals of this artist as well as the animals themselves.
They will sketch and label at least 3 animals and write 3-5 sentences on the same paper about the animal parts they chose and how they help the animal live in its habitat. Then they get their final paper and use markers, crayons and construction paper to make their finals.
Kindergarteners are learning about printmaking! We practiced with our invisible paper and stamps, going “up and down, up and down” to learn about how stamping works. Then we got our hands messy, using textured stamps while we used cool or warm colors. We switched, giving everyone an opportunity to try new stamps and new colors. We also tried some found object printmaking, learning that contact cases, command hooks, and even a bathtub stopper can make some pretty cool stamps. We practiced sharing paint and stamps with our table-mates, and went through our clean-up procedures where students were responsible for washing their hands and wiping down their tables. It was super fun to see the surprise on students’ faces where I told them a spatula could be used to make art. And the student’s prints came out so beautiful! A fun process and an awesome product.
Fifth grade students spent the past few weeks engaging form with papier mache, using newspaper, cardboard, and colored bulletin board paper to create sea animal figures out of balloons. We discussed how the round form of the balloon was similar to the basic shape of many sea animals. Once the students had their round form covered in papier mache, they were surprised to learn that we could pop the balloon inside and the paper would hold its shape. Then we discussed how we could make dimensional appendages out of cardboard, and the students problem-solved to give their animals noses, fins, tails, tentacles, and so forth.
Once the students completed their sea animals, they worked with the other students at their table (generally a group of four students) to plan for a stop motion animation. We talked about what a storyboard looks like, and how to make the props needed for their animation. Once the students planned out their narrative, they were given an iPad and created a stop motion animation on a free app called Stop Motion Studio.
The students created all kinds of narratives, and many came back to school the next day reporting that they had downloaded the app at home and made more stop motion animations themselves.
Students worked together to make props for their animations.
Students learned how to make portions of their animation move at different speeds.
In preparation for a school-wide International Night, each class has been given a different country to make art about. 1st graders learned about Brazil and the Brazilian currency artist Rodrigo Torres, and made their own money using printmaking processes. I spent one class period with every class having them matte and hang their artwork (of course I precut the mattes and pre rolled the tape and helped and supervised the whole process and kept everything at a 1st grade motor skills level).
I was excited to have the students have control over that process of their work because I feel like it increases ownership and pride over their artwork. Now when they bring their loved ones for International Night they can show off their artwork and say that THEY got to hang it, like a real artist. At first it was frustrating to let go some of the control of making the show look ‘perfect’, and to let go of some of the expectations of what a finished show should be (the mattes are not all the same exact size), but I think it is worth it because at the end of the day, the exhibition is to show off their hard work, not make me feel in control. The best part is now whenever I walk down that hallway, I feel full of pride.