Student Teacher Blog
On Fridays at my school, I see every class for a 40 minute session. I decided to do a “designer” spotlight on the Guerrilla Girls for my Graphic Design class. Many of the students have not taken art since elementary school, and none of them had heard of the Guerrilla Girls before. I showed them Definition of a Hypocrite and then we watched PBS’s “The Art Assignment: the Art of Complaining.” In the video, two of the Guerrilla Girls assign viewers the task of complaining. I then reinforced their instructions, prompting students to use Photoshop or Illustrator to design a poster raising awareness of something they want to complain about. They had about 30 minutes to do this and their posters blew me away. We talked about institutional critique during our discussion of Definition of a Hypocrite, and several students chose to design posters responding to issues they face at school, which I thought was awesome.
As Art Educators, we can only hope that every class will be full of
student engagement, inspiration, and creative art-making. However,
as humans, we all have good and bad days; on good days, one can say
we might feel overcome with joy, motivated, and ready to conquer
anything... However, our wake up on the wrong-side-of-the bed or
whatever-it-may be days can make us feel funky inside, and when those
emotions follow us from home to the school-place, it can be easy for
normal everyday interactions to amplify a bad mood and cause our
productivity to decline. In the event that a classroom full of
students with a diverse set of emotions is having one of those days,
it can be challenging to meet the needs and expectations of the
classroom without having the proper prior knowledge of it.
So how do I keep up with all 200 students that I see a week? Daily
How it works:
On the first week of my placement, I had all of my students create a
'Check-in card' with their name and colorful design.
At the beginning of each class day,
students check-in by placing their
card into the envelope of what they
are feeling that day: Great, Okay,
or Im having one of those days...
I need a check-in. While students
are working on their daily-warm up,
I go through all of the envelopes
to take roll, mark what each
student is feeling, and write
notes to each of my students in
need of a check-in. Once our lesson
activities start, I talk to them
and ask if they would like to share
with me whats going on. This has
not only allowed me to start
building trust with each of my
students but provided me with a better insight into how my students
are doing and what I can do to better accommodate the needs of my
To make it: I used an old watercolor-kit book and glue a bunch of
envelopes inside. Originally, I had students store their cards in
their sketchbooks, and it was a great way for me to learn their names,
but they fell out easily and became hard to keep track of. So now I
keep each my classes check-in cards in mini supply organizers and open
the drawers before each class.
My fifth grade students seemed to be somewhat nonchalant when it came to art class. I wanted to write a lesson, then, that would expose them to more kinesthetic materials that they may not have worked with before. Because I try to incorporate as many found materials as possible in my art-making and classroom, I decided to use recycled cardboard to make the printing plates.
The class participated in a discussion about the different things that might make someone happy. Some students, as always, mentioned video games or youtube. Many others, though, spoke about love and peace. When working with elementary students I usually try to draw connections wherever possible, so I usually allow the students to think more loosely. It can be difficult sometimes to teach students to think conceptually while learning a medium, so I err on the side of play when it comes to usage of materials.
The students drew out their own symbols for happiness, which they then drew onto the cardboard printing plate with sharpie.
Then, they traced over their designs with a hot glue gun to create a raised surface. I explained that they had made a collagraph plate, which they will use to print their designs.
. . .
I made sure to seal the plates with a clear spray sealant to prevent moisture damage. After the first class period, we discovered that the ink we had was too thin, so I decided to use acrylic paint instead, which worked out much better.
My goal with my Art 4 and 5 students is to help them grow to be more self-reflective through a series of homework activities in their sketchbooks. Several students are thinking about art school in the future, and, even for the students who aren’t, I think these activities will help them be more reflective in whatever it is they end up doing. My students have independent studio time during class time, so, in order to achieve my goal for them, I needed to think of content and activities I could plan for them outside of class. Below are images of some of the “100 words” lists, taken with student permission.
My kindergarten babies, like me, were new to the school; so I decided to try and give them the opportunity to do something fun and practical. My cooperating teacher was amazing and bought the classes some little pallets of pansies to plant. We ventured outside during our second class meeting to plant the flowers in the ground, and they drew some of their own flowers using crayons.
In an effort to build more of a sense of community in the school, the kindergarteners used their newfound knowledge to paint flowers around a mural that the first graders would be coloring.
While we were working on this unit we also discussed the importance of plants both to the body as well as to the environment. I asked the students to share why they think that plants are beneficial, and explained the necessity for them to our health. The students then pointed out the different colors in the flowers that they painted, as well as whether or not their flowers had many petals.
I gave each of the students a variety of flower pictures (collected by my cooperating teacher from calendars and things) to provide a visual reference for the kids. Also, giving them each a different flower allowed for the opportunity for students to have a unique flower design, as opposed to a generic flower painting.
This project helped the students improve some of their fine motor painting skills, their ability to use basic color theory, and gave them the opportunity to work on the floor in a more relaxed setting, as opposed to sitting on stools.
My second grade students had a huge feat ahead of them, and time only seemed to go faster!
During our first class we discussed the topic of comfort, and I asked each student to share what brings them comfort, and to try and explain why? Every student had the opportunity to share about their favorite bear or their toy dinosaur or their dog. Every explanation of comfort brought a dimple to their cheek and taught them the overall big ideas of the unit: Comfort and Compassion.
My school had a higher percentage of students who fall below the poverty line, so I wanted their projects to also be able to serve as a source of comfort outside of school. The students each drew some sort of creature that they would like to hug for comfort on a piece of paper (we learned, for time’s sake, to use smaller paper).
The students then chose two pieces of fabric (which I cut out from scraps and samples provided by my AMAZING CT) that they would be transferring their creature onto. Some students ran into some difficulty holding their paper AND fabric AND drawing so I offered a little *help* on my own time (though with more class periods I’m confident we could’ve done it!)
I taught the students how to do a simplified blanket stitch, which they used to sew their projects. While they had some time to practice, I wanted them to be able to finish. This all brought me to one conclusion:
HOT GLUE CAN FIX ANYTHING (EVEN STUFFED ANIMALS)
Their finished projects turned out really awesome and adorable, and the students seemed super happy to have a new stuffed animal to take home with them.
Animal Unfairness? Let’s Raise Awareness!
For the last 8 weeks, my amazing 3rd-graders have been learning about the effects that littering has on animals and the environment. On the first day of class, my students entered the classroom to find a giant plastic bin full of water and plastic. We discussed what this might look like, I got quite a variety of answers… empty yogurt containers, plastic, and even trash in the sea! Then we viewed a slide show with footage of trash in the ocean and two images of whales. The two images were side by side: a dead whale and a plastic whale, both (washed) ashore on the beach. I asked the students to discuss what they saw and eventually told them that one of the whales was made using plastic by an artist concerned about animals in the environment. Then we learned about plastic art and some amazing artist like Pascale Marthine Tayo and Micaella Pedros.
Eventually, it was time for our own plastic art-making! Each student thought of an animal to create, using recyclable items and paper, and how it could be affected by littering.
After a few classes of working on our sculptures, the class moved onto the next lesson.
The students used their Chromebooks to research images and geometric animals to practice drawing the animal they made for their sculpture! Several students decided to change the animal they used originally and the drawing portion of this lesson was quite challenging for some but very exciting for others.
Once drawings were nearly complete, we used them to make collages. As a class, we discussed what awareness was and how each student had been practicing environmental awareness by making art using plastic.
Where do we live? Who is in our family?
Recently, the first grade class read Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach. While reading the book, we payed close attention to the setting, and family members.
Does this place look like Chapel Hill? Where is her home? Who is in her family?
After the story, we discussed all the different kinds of homes we live in. We also shared who is in our families, and what that word means to us.
Creating pictures of their family, and where they live, students learned foreground, middle ground and background. We then mounted the drawings on large pieces of construction paper, creating the boarder for our “quilts”. Students then created patterns with cut pieces of paper, mimicking patterns in quilting.
This work shows one side of the family in the United States, while the other is in China.
Ringgold is a mixed media artist, often incorporating quilting into her work. Tar Beach’s illustrations are highly detailed, mixed media, and incorporate quilting. Quilting contains elements of touch, and it can be hard to visualize how it is made only seeing a photograph. Fortunately, I brought in my own quilted art, both self made and bought. This way students could inspect these pieces, better understanding the process.
I loved seeing all the variations in this project, and how different each student’s art was. This was clear in the images they drew, as well as how they approached patterns. Some students repeated patterns around the entire boarder, while others spread them out. The discussions we had defining family were important, helping students reflect on who is important to them, and what their relationship is. By doing this, it allows students to think outside the nuclear family unit which is so often presented as the norm. If I were to do this project again, I would use fabric for the quilting. The paper mimicked the process, but the connection was lost between fabric and paper.
Poetry and Imagery
The fourth grade recently completed a project combining poetry, bookmaking, and printmaking.
That’s a lot!
We read “Clean Jean” as a class, and brainstormed on imagery from the poem. Questions included; What would Gene’s bubble suit look like? What’s a music tub?
We picked one line from the poem, and illustrated it.
Students learned relief printing, scratching into a plate to create an image. Next, we sketched their ideas, and then transferred them to Styrofoam plates. Following this, we use the brayers (rollers) to spread the ink on the plate. After that, we place the paper on the plate, and rub the paper with the barren. Printmaking can be a little tricky, but the beauty of this medium is it’s all about making multiples. I am thankful we had these materials to give the students a learning opportunity with art materials less common in the classroom.
We folded accordion books, fitting to our prints, and printed our illustrations. Students could print their friends’ images in their book, creating collaborative print-books.
Challenges and Triumphs
What was frustrating was how enthusiastic some students got. There is no reason to use as much ink as some of us did, as fun as squeezing it out of the tube is. I have never taught printmaking to a group of twenty-five, and have been reflecting on how to have better methods of clean up. Many things that are “clean” for students are not the same as “clean” for myself.
Finally, the last part of the project was creating a front and back cover, and adding extra elements in our books. Students measured with rulers, making these elements from construction paper.
In conclusion, this was my favorite, but most stressful project of elementary practicum. I am glad I did it, and appreciated how happy students seemed to be, even if it was a little chaotic.