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Third grade studies skeletons in science, so this year I asked our PTO to purchase a skeleton for the art room. They said yes and it was delivered this winter. The skeleton sat in a box for a few weeks because I didn’t have the space or time to open it up, but it was fun having the kids guess what was inside. ūüôā

First, I taught students about cropping and they created a few thumbnail sketches to choose a composition they were interested in studying. When I originally thought of using the skeleton with third grade, I thought students would draw the entire skeleton, but once it was assembled, I realized that would be too much for them, so I told them to “zoom in” on a part of the skeleton that they thought was interesting. I demoed this on the white board and once I thought students understood what might make an interesting composition, they began sketching. I reminded students that the sketch did not have to have every single detail–it should just give an idea of what part they wanted to focus on and the general shapes they saw.

Once students chose a final composition, they drew a final version onto larger paper.

Then I talked about shading and students began shading their drawings. I told them that they must include at least three different values.

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WOW! I was TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY by what students created. While this type of observation drawing was a little hard for some students, most of them ran away with it! They were generally interested in observing the bones and trying to draw them accurately.

In the future, I think I might do this drawing assignment in the fall with older kids closer to Halloween and maybe do a slightly different version with younger students.

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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.

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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?

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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?

IMG_00187th graders have been working on an observational drawing of shoes. We discussed different ways that a composition can impact the meaning or message of a picture. Students worked individually or with a partner to create a composition of two shoes that describes a relationship or depicts a an action or expression. This lesson was inspired by a colleague of mine.

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Sixth graders focused on perspective drawing this year. For this project, students created observational soda can drawings. I taught students how to draw ellipses to make their cans look three-dimensional. Then students observed and drew the fonts and words on their can. Finally, students shaded their can using at least three different values. I gave students the choice of shading with pencil or colored pencil. Some students created a more complex space by adding a shadow, popcorn or a background.