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Tag Archives: 1st Grade

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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?

Yesterday I went to visit The Magical World of Art (the school where I did my student teaching). It was great visiting and seeing all of the exciting things happening! I can’t believe that it’s been seven years since I worked there! Here’s what students were up to…

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1st graders were painting colorful line landscapes. They had already painted their landscape with black lines and tempera paint. When I visited, they were making edits and adding details with Playcolor Tempera Paint Sticks*. I have never seen these before. They looked like a lot of fun! I’m going to order some and try them out with my students.

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In The Magical World of Art, Mr. D talks a lot about Habits of Mind. He has created a character for each of the 8 Studio Habits of Mind. These kid-friendly characters help students learn how to think about art and express their ideas using age-appropriate art vocabulary. Throughout the year, students can earn habit of mind badges. In order to earn one, another student must nominate you. Here, the Super Storyteller telling his story to the class, “The sun rolled on the ground and made the mountains yellow. And there was cotton candy in the sky.” Does it get any better than that??

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2nd graders reviewed what it means to be an architect and some basic architectural forms. In their sketchbook, students sketched their Dream House or Dream School.

4th graders talked about abstract art. First, Mr. D read My Name is Georgia: A Portrait, by Jeanette Winter. Then students went outside and zoomed in on what they saw in nature. Students drew close-up sketches of leaves, trees, and rocks.

*Here is a review of the paint sticks on The Artful Parent.

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This year my Kindergarten & 1st grade students are using sketchbooks (last year I only did them with Ks). Kindergarteners have yellow sketchbooks and 1st graders have red ones. I have tried making and using sketchbooks in various ways over the years, and I think I’ve discovered the perfect book!

It is SO easy to make these and they work great. I have a student teacher this year and she helped me make all 200 (!) books. Thanks, Ms. G! I’ve found that making the books ahead of time ends up working better than having them bind them themselves. That way they can spend more time using them. 🙂

This year, I will also be giving students a few sketchbook assignments. I want them to learn that artists use sketchbooks in a variety of ways–to plan, to practice, to observe, to take notes, etc. Other times, students will be able to choose what to draw in their books.

Last year some students made 2-3 drawings and some students filled up their entire books. This year, my goal is that more students use their sketchbooks more often.

Steps:

  1. Cut covers. (1 piece of colored construction paper 6″x18″)
  2. Cut pages (5 pieces of 6″x18″ white drawing paper)
  3. Fold cover and pages in half.
  4. Staple.
  5. Bind with a piece of duct tape.
  6. Add a label with each student’s name and class.
  7. Label student’s table (put a circle around homeroom) with matching color. This also reminds students what table they sit at and helps them find their books more independently later on.

*Update: I just bought this stapler for another book project. It is so easy to use and am going to use it for making sketchbooks next year (or for those students who fill up their books this year and need a second one!)

My first day assignment is pretty simple, but I love it because it helps me learn (and remember) students’ names, which is crucial for building relationships.

The lesson also gives me a general idea of my students’ drawing skills and creativity. With my K students, I wrote their name in block letters ahead of time and they colored them in. As students get older, I add more challenges–1st graders learn to write their own name in block or bubble letters, 2nd graders “make it artistic”, and 3rd and 4th graders are encouraged to design their own font and include an image of something they like.