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I really liked taking Making Faces with Lynn Whippe. The two week format was a lot to absorb, so I’m planning to rewatch the videos over the summer and make some more faces in order to focus in on how to use some of these ideas with students next year. I do know that I will definitely be teaching one or two Portrait ATC assignments inspired by this course! Stay tuned. 🙂

 

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Making Faces has begun! The course is only two weeks long, and I signed up a few days after the start date, so I’ve been playing a bit of catchup with the assignments.

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I’m currently teaching two self-portrait lessons–one with second graders and one with third graders. After watching the course description video, I realized that my portrait lessons often focus on self-portraits and I began to question why that is. Yes, self-portrait assignments are great for developing observation skills, practicing mixing tans, browns and beige skin tones and personal expression. But I’d also like to mix it up a bit.

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Each of the six lessons in this course is presented as a 20-25 minute video. Lynn provides multiple prompts for “warming up” and encourages being playful and experimental throughout the process. Below are a few images from lessons 1-3. 🙂

 

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Author and illustrator Bryan Collier came to visit this week! He read some of his award-winning picture books, showed students some of his original pieces of art and answered lots of questions!

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I love his book Uptown and have used it as inspiration for a fifth grade lesson in the past, but didn’t think the quality of the finished work was that sophisticated. There were some interesting components, but I think the content of the lesson could be stronger. I’m a very reflective teacher, and like to rework lessons until I feel like I’ve gotten something good out of them, so having Mr. Collier back for a visit was exactly the inspiration I needed to revisit this idea. Stay tuned!

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Another colleague taught this lesson when I student taught. I have taught it a few times over the years, and am always impressed with students’ creativity. It’s a fun lesson with a lot of possibilities and allows students to bring humor into their work.

I introduce the lesson by having students close their eyes and listen to me read a few names from the list and try to imagine a picture of what they hear in their head. Then, students open their eyes and I tell them that the names I read were real bird names. I defined the word pun and challenge students to create a visual pun by drawing one of the birds the way it might look based on it’s name.

I photocopied a list of bird names for each table and cut it into three strips (so students could share easily). Students went to their seats and created a sketch of one of the birds form the list. Some students made one sketch; some made many. Then, students traced a 1″ boarder onto a piece of 12″x18″ paper paper using a cardboard template, enlarged their drawing and traced it with permanent marker. (Tracing with Sharpie was optional.) Students were also required to draw a real or imaginary background to help describe their bird. Next, I showed students how to blend colors. Students had a choice of using oil pastels, crayons, colored pencils, or a combination of materials to color their picture. Students really enjoy this lesson and I love seeing all of the different results!

How do you include humor in your classroom?

 

 

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The week before vacation and all through my class, students… have been making Artist Trading Cards!

The week before vacation is usually unpredictable. Some students go on vacation early, or, during this time of year, students are often absent because they’re sick. Because of this, I put most projects on “hold” and started calling this week “ATC week.” (Kindergartners and first graders worked on completing unfinished work so that they can have more 1:1 help and so that we can start new projects when we get back from the break. When kindergartners and 1st graders were finished with all their unfinished work, they had the option of drawing in their sketchbook, or making a “free choice” collage or painting.)

When my second, third and fourth graders came to class, I told them the plan and showed them my ATC Idea Binder. It has samples of cards organized by media–drawing, collage, painting and mixed-media. We spent five minutes looking through the binder and discussing, “What makes a good ATC?”

Then students got to choose where to sit based on media. I had students “vote” what material they were most interested in using (by raising their hand) and then set up the stations based on popularity. In some classes, drawing was most popular, in others collage or painting was more popular, and in some it was split pretty evenly.

Students enjoyed the freedom of choosing their seats and materials, moving from station to station, and working with other students in the class. It was a great way to transition into break and I’m so proud with the ownership students took over coming up with and implementing their own ideas. Check out some of the results…

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I recently posted about Positive Behavior Stickers. As a follow up to that post, I wanted to share another way that I’ve used Avery label stickers. A few weeks ago, I taught a mini-ATC Zentangle lesson to my 3rd graders. I like to do “mini-ATC lessons” in between longer, multi-week projects.

To start the lesson, I introduced the word zen and explained that it is a form of meditation. I told students that sometimes when they create art they might feel “zen” when they are really focused and in the moment of what they are doing. Sometimes they might even forget about everything else around them!

I challenged students to create a Zentangle ATC by creating an intricate doodle inspired by the “Doodle & Noodle” challenge in the book Keys to Drawing with Imagination, by Bert Dodson and zentangle examples that I found on Pinterest. Students used pencils, thin and thick Sharpies and other drawing materials to add color. One of my classes got so into it that I started pointing out “Super Zen” students (students who were super quiet and super focused on their work).

Because so many students were so focused while they were working, I decided to acknowledge them with “Super Zen” stickers. I quickly made a page of Avery labels (it’s easy to copy and paste the text), printed them out and rewarded students with a sticker. One student even found a great spot to put her sticker so that her shirt read “Totally Super Zen Awesome.” 🙂

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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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One of the things that makes New England so special is fall. I love the harvest season and have been working on a vertically aligned drawing curriculum using elements of fall to teach observation skills to Kindergarteners-4th graders. (The entire curriculum is still a work in process.) As part of this curriculum, fourth graders observe and paint local leaves.

For homework, students were assigned to collect and bring in a leaf that had 3-4 colors in it. Students found the most beautiful leaves!  When students came to class, I showed them a PowerPoint about Georgia O’Keeffe and the leaf paintings that she created on her trips to Lake George. Then students had to observe their own leave and write down some of the facts they noticed about it–including colors, shapes and types of margins and veins. Students also planned their composition (square or vertical) by sketching their leaf. After class, I pressed each student’s leaf under a stack of magazines for two days and then laminated them. (I used stickies to mark each group of leaves so that I didn’t get them mixed up!) Next, they enlarged their leaf onto a 12″x12″ or 6″x12″ piece of drawing paper and then traced their lines with a thin Sharpie.

After carefully drawing their leaf, students began painting. I reminded them to reference the color wheel they made prior to the assignment and to try and match the size of their brush to the space they were trying to paint (small brushes for small spaces and larger brushes for larger spaces).

Students worked so hard on these paintings! I love the variety of ways students chose to paint their backgrounds.

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I love celebrating fall in New England with fresh apples, beautiful leaves, and pumpkin flavored everything. Drawing pumpkins has also become one of my favorite fall lessons. This lesson is part of a vertically aligned drawing curriculum using elements of fall to teach observation skills to Kindergarteners-4th graders. (The entire curriculum is still a work in process.)

I teach this lesson to my second graders in October. Students are usually really excited to draw the pumpkins and learn a few tips for making their drawings better. I also like teaching an observational drawing lesson early in the year to build student’s confidence.

I buy 6-7 mini pumpkins (each under a $1) and put one on each table. The most important part is finding pumpkins with interesting/unusual stems so that they are more interesting to draw. Before the first class, I put a small piece of colored tape on the bottom of each pumpkin so that I remember which pumpkin I put on each table.

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This year, I created a step-by-step visual giving students a way to breakdown all of the steps into smaller parts. After demonstrating how to use the handout, students get to work. Some students follow the steps one-by-one and some students work more independently. I like that I can use it at the end of the lesson as  check list to encourage students to include as many details as possible.

How do you teach drawing?