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1st Grade

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My students loved making these Recycled Robots. As inspiration for this lesson, I read the book Robo-Sauce, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. I also showed students a slideshow of robots form the 1940s/50s and had them guess what power/job the robot might have.

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Then, each student chose a piece of (square or rectangular) cardboard for the body of their robot and then created and attached arms, legs, and other parts to the body using oak tag. Students added facial features and buttons using bingo chips, buttons, and foam shapes.

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Then students printed their robot two ways. First, by creating a crayon rubbing and second by painting and printing their robot to create a collagraph print. Students REALLY loved using the printing press.
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I love self-portraits. They are such a great opportunity for students to express themselves. Over the past two years, I’ve been looking at how I align my drawing curriculum vertically. One of the benefits of being a “specialist” is that I get to teach students from year to year. This allows me to see student’s progress over time and to find specific ways to help students navigate obstacles and celebrate successes. This year, first graders were challenged to create a crayon and watercolor self portrait.

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First, I reviewed the words “self-portrait” and “proportion.” As I demonstrated how to break the process into smaller steps, students took turns using a checklist to help “teach” me the steps. (I knew I wanted to create my own checklist, so I looked online for inspiration. I liked the format of this one and decided to create a more elementary-appropriate version to use with my students.)

Then students practiced looking in a mirror, observing carefully, and drawing a self-portrait in their sketchbook. After drawing with pencil, students had the option of coloring their sketch with crayon or colored pencil (if they had time). Some students also decided to trace their drawing with a Sharpie before coloring it in.

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Next, students enlarged their portrait onto a 10″ x 15″ piece of watercolor paper. Students drew with pencils and drew a pattern in the background. (I provided a double-sided handout for students to use as a resource.) Then, students had the option of tracing their lines with a Sharpie, and then colored their face, clothes, and background with crayons.

I often think of observational drawing as a pretty straight-forward practice. Watching my students work reminded me of how many decisions you actually have to make when drawing something from observation. What you draw, and how you draw it, reflect what you are paying attention to (and what you are not aware of). During this process, also I noticed a lot of creative thinking! One student accidentally colored part of his eye with a little bit of green crayon. He was a little upset and not sure what to do to fix it. I asked him how he thought he might solve his problem. After we discussed a few possibilities, he decided to use whiteout to cover up the green crayon… and voila! It’s hard to tell it was even there. Another student noticed that she had lost a tooth since first drawing her portrait, so decided to erase one of her teeth before painting! 🙂

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After coloring, students used watercolors to paint their portrait. I love the way this student mixed and painted her skin tones!

How to you teach self-portraiture to first graders?

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For the past few years, I’ve taught a “warm place” and “cool place” collage lesson as a warm up (ha!) to an expressive self-portrait lesson. I use it as a pre-assessment to gage student’s cutting and gluing skills. When I first started teaching this lesson, students created two collages on this handout.

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While the handout helped students easily identify warm and cool colors, the worksheet didn’t foster much creativity or expressiveness. So I did away with the worksheet and had students create two small collages–one of a warm place and one of a cool place. Students choose one type of place to create first and I split them up by colors (3 tables of warm colors and 3 tables of cool colors).

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The prompt helped students think more creatively, and they loved sitting in different seats, but I realized that students knew the warm and cool colors after creating just one collage and it was difficult to manage the space when students were at different spots in the creative process (some were working on their first collage while others were starting their second and moving to a new seat).

So I decided to increase the size and let them focus on one idea.

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Since I started using sketchbooks with my first graders this year, I wondered if sketching their idea first would help students plan their shapes and colors better. Take a look at the results…

 

How do you use sketchbooks in your classroom?