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Last year, first graders created Recycled Robot Collagraphs. They were so excited about creating the robots, but because they had to go through the printing press, there were limitations about what they could and couldn’t add onto their projects.

Because we are in a temporary building, we have not been able to use clay the past two years, so I wanted students to be able to build and add more onto their sculptures.

Students started by drawing a sketch of their robot and thinking about what special jobs it would have. Then, they used cardboard and oak tag to create the structure (“bones”) of their robot.

Next, students used paper, foam, gems, wire, pipe cleaners, googely eyes, buttons and other mixed media materials to create the buttons and parts of their robot. Some students began this project with only a couple of classes left before the end of the year, so didn’t get to create a sketch. I felt having a fun, hands on lesson a the end of the year was important, so I let them create without much planning first.

When I teach this lesson in the future, I would definitely do it a little earlier in the year. Students were super excited to create these sculptures, and I think teaching this lesson in mid to late May would take us through the end of the year and be a big hit!

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We get a lot of snow in Boston–this year we’ve had five snow days!–so I’ve designed a landscape painting unit that incorporates some of the magic of the winter season. For this assignment, students create a “snow globe” landscape painting of a cold or winter landscape (which also allows students to choose a cold place other than Boston).

As inspiration, I show students a slideshow of illustrations and student examples from previous years and ask questions like “What animals do you see when it’s cold?” and “What does the sky look like when it’s cold?”

 

I also show illustrations from The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats and describe what a horizon line is: a line that separates the ground from the sky. There are a lot of interesting lines used throughout this book!

I also create a “resource station” of picture books, reference books, toy animals and “how-to-draw” handouts for students to use as they work.

 

After this discussion, students begin composing a cold/winter landscape in their sketchbook. They begin by drawing a horizon line.

 

Then they add “clues” so that viewers know it’s a cold place, like winter trees, snow, foot prints, winter animals, Christmas lights, wind, etc.

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During the next class, students trace a circle tracer onto a piece of watercolor paper and redraw their landscape inside the circle.

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After drawing with pencil, students have the option of tracing their lines with Sharpies before coloring their picture with crayons.

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On the third or fourth day (depending on the pace of the class), I demonstrate a few different painting techniques that students can use to make a snow effect:

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1. Students can draw snowflakes with white crayon or oil pastel and then paint over them with watercolors.

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2. Students can paint with watercolors and then sprinkle salt on top.

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3. Students can paint with watercolors and then use a q-tip to paint snowflakes on with white acrylic paint.

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4. Students can add small dots of glue and then sprinkle glitter over the glue to create snow.

 

After painting, students cut out their image and then create and attach a base on to the back of their picture to create a snow globe. Lastly, students write a sentence or two to describe their artwork.

A selection of finished paintings is currently on display in the main hallway. ūüôā

Below is a  list of books I check out for students to reference during this lesson:

  • The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
  • No Two Alike, by Keith Baker
  • Snow Music, by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • Snowballs, Lois Elhert
  • Face to Face with Polar Bears,¬†Norbert Rosing & Elizabeth Carney
  • Marven of the Great North Woods, Kathryn Lasky
  • Snowboard Twist, Jean Craighead George
  • When Winter Comes, by Nancy Van Laan
  • The Christmas Doll, by Wendy Mathis Parker
  • Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
  • The Fiddler of the Northern Lights, by Natalie Kisey-Warnock
  • The Snowman, Raymond Briggs
  • Penguins, Seymour Simon
  • Nora and the Great Bear, by Ute Krause
  • Blizzard, by John Rocco
  • Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen

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Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis of a Butterfly, 1705

As inspiration for this lesson, Ms. Nemes showed first graders botanical illustrations by Maria Sibylla Merian, “one of the first naturalists to observe insects directly.”

Then students practiced being scientists and artists by observing an insect of their choice carefully. Students could choose to study: an insect preserved in resin, a non-fiction book about an insect or a scientific drawing. Each student created a sketch, labeled their drawing and wrote one sentence describing something interesting they noticed about their insect.

Next, students were challenged to translate (and simplify) their complex drawing into a collagraph using mixed-media materials. Students shopped for foam, wire, mesh, oak tag, buttons and string at the “art store” and then cut and arranged the materials to create their collagraph. The last step before printing was to paint a thin layer of mod podge over their collage.

Next, students learned how to print their collagrpah using ink. Each student painted their collagraph with ink and then used the printing press to create 3 copies of their image. After they printed, students added details to their prints using oil pastels and colored pencils.

As part of a fall drawing unit, I want to share three drawing prompts I use with 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders.¬†I love teaching these lessons in the beginning of the year! It’s a great way to build students’ drawing skills, practice routines and build students’ drawing skills from year to year.

 

 

1st Grade Apples Drawings: I put one fake apple on each table before students arrive. On the first day, I walk through a few steps of how students might approach the drawing and give them a few tips along the way (like sketching lightly before pressing harder). After drawing for about 5-10 minutes, I do another short demo explaining how to blend colors. Then students have the rest of class and another two classes to finish their drawing.

 

 

2nd Grade Pumpkin Drawings: This lesson is similar to the first grade lesson. Before students arrive, I put one mini pumpkin on each table. On the first day, I walk through a few steps of how students might approach the drawing and give them a few tips along the way (sketch lightly before pressing harder). After drawing for about 5-10 minutes, I do another short demo explaining how to blend colors. Then students have another two classes to finish drawing their pumpkin and creating a background from observation or memory. This lesson usually falls around Halloween, and students love adding spider webs, ghosts, vampires, and other Halloween-themed ideas to their picture.

 

 

 

 

 

3rd Grade Leaf Drawings: Third graders have been talking about how scientists and artists are similar. For this unit, students chose a colorful autumn leaf to observe carefully. Students made sketches of their leaf and labeled it with observations and questions they had. After reading the book My Name is Georgia¬†and learning about how Georgia O’Keeffe made paintings large, so that¬†viewers, “[would] be surprised into taking time to look at it,” students enlarged their scientific sketch onto a new piece of paper. Ms. Nemes taught students how to blend colors using colored pencils or mix colors using watercolors. Then, students colored or painted their drawing and created a background to unify their image.

This year, I want to give first graders a few more sketchbook assignments so that they can learn different ways to use their sketchbook. For this lesson, I read the book Ten Black Dots, by Donald Crews. The book shows various ideas for transforming a dot into something different. After reading the book, first graders sketched what they wanted to turn a dot (or many dots!) into.

Next, students used their sketch as inspiration for a collage. After making a plan in their sketchbook, students used paper to create the shapes they saw in their sketch.

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For their first sketchbook assignment, first graders sketched a picture of something they did over the summer. This year I shared pictures from my summer trip to Thailand and then asked students about what they did over the summer. I  loved learning about all of the different things students did!

Students finished creating a name design for their folder. I laminated each one and then attached it to the front of the folder and labeled the top right corner with a colored piece of tape (to show what table they sit at) and their class.

I give each table a folder of idea pages of different fonts to use as they work.

 

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I love this collage made by four of my first grade students! It was made over a few class periods when students were done with their assignment work and had “choice time.” Students practiced valuable skills while working together. First, they¬†had to agree on which players to include. Later they had to agree (or compromise) when choosing colors for the background. Different students took on different jobs when it came to making each part of the player’s outfits. They used an iPad to research what each jersey should look like and talked to each other throughout the process to create details like grassy texture (using edger scissors and markers), cleats and team flags. The process wasn’t always easy, and I’m so proud of how my students worked together to solve each problem. After finishing their work, my obvious question was, “Who gets to take it home?” After talking to each other, they decided that the fair solution was to give it to me! I’m excited to display this in my room next year, but also wanted them to have a memory of the process, so I took a picture of their work and printed a color copy of the image for each student. ūüôā

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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! ūüôā

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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?