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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.

Kindergarteners have been working on their Shape and Texture Books for a few weeks. On the first day of this lesson, students learned how to create a crayon rubbing by: bending a piece of wire, putting it under a piece of paper, and rubbing with the flat side of a crayon. Next, students went on a texture scavenger hunt and “collected” textures around school–on the stairs, on the wall, and outside! When students came back inside, they practiced their cutting skills by cutting out each shape (and saving it in a baggie for later).

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On the third day, students used fall colors to print colorful leaves. (I collected the leaves ahead of time.) For this step, students shared printmaking materials with a partner. Each partner chose one color and when students inked their rollers, the colors blended together, creating a “rainbow roll.” The excitement was contagious and students printed leaves on their paper multiple times.

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The next class, I told students that all of their experiments would be turned into a one-page book! To make the cutting a little easier, I folded each student’s paper and drew a line on the back so they knew where to cut.

After opening up the paper, students arranged and glued their texture shapes (from day two) and pieces of pre-cut textures (like ribbon, bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, foam shapes, and more…) onto each page.

Finally, students created a cover for their book. On the front of the cover, students wrote “Shape and Texture Book.” I wrote the words on the white board next to the rug area, and students copied the letters. (Because this project had a lot of steps, I only had about 5-6 students on the rug at one time.) Then, students traced their letters with a thin Sharpie and decorated the cover with pictures/designs.  When all the parts of the book were complete, a teacher helped fold the pages together and staple the book together.

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Students had so much fun making these and they are excited to take them home and share them!

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Inspired by this post, I wrote a short letter explaining the whole process and attached it to the book with a rubber band.

Check out these links for instructions/handouts on how to make a one-page book.

8-Page Mini Book

How to Make an 8-Page Zine

Off-Cuts Zine Workshop

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After “meeting” Georgia O’Keeffe and her work, fourth graders began drawing their leaves from observation today. Students were challenged to zoom in, draw their leaves larger-than-life, and make their drawing touch the edges of the paper.

(I collaborated with a 4th grade teacher to tie this painting lesson into science, and when I google Georgia O’Keeffe paintings was surprised to discover that in addition to her famous flower paintings, Georgia also painted 29 pictures of leaves! Connections are just waiting to be discovered.)