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Tag Archives: Observation

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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.

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.