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For this lesson, kindergarteners looked at the work of Jasper Johns for inspiration. We looked at a few of his paintings and I asked students if they could find clues “hiding” in his paintings. Students noticed different letters, numbers and shapes. I asked students why he might want to “hide” these things in his paintings. Some answers included, “Because it’s fun.” and “To make it like a game.”

Next, students filled out a handout of things that are important to them that they might want to hide in their own picture.

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To create their own artwork, students drew the words, numbers, and pictures that they wanted to include with pencil first. Next, students used Sharpies to trace (around) the lines of their letters/numbers and pictures. Using Sharpies is always a big hit!

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After tracing, students colored in their letters, numbers and pictures with oil pastels or crayons.

Last, students painted with watercolors. I love how each student painted–some students picked just a few colors, some students used a wide range of colors, and some students tried unique painting techniques. 🙂

How do you encourage student choice & voice when teaching about the styles and techniques of famous artists?

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As a follow up on my recent post, Managing Materials: Watercolors, I wanted to share one way I use up old watercolors in my room… by making painted paper!

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When watercolors run low, I replace them, but usually there is a little bit of paint left over in the paint pans. So I use them up and create “painted paper” that students can then use when they make collages or ATCs.

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I keep a box of “throw away” drawings… those “mostly-empty-pieces-of-paper-that-a-kid-spends-10-minutes-drawing-on-and-then-insists-that-it’s-“bad”-and-that-they-need-a-new-paper” drawings. The ones that usually end up in the garbage/recycling bin. I am usually able to convince students to erase a “mistake,” turn it into something new, or use the back of the page. But, sometimes the student has already tried alternatives and is getting frustrated because nothing seems to be working. Sometimes I agree with the student–sometimes it’s better to start fresh. So I keep the unfinished papers and put them in a box. I also add my incomplete teacher samples (I teach 5 sections of each grade level, so some times I end up with A LOT of teacher samples) and work that gets left behind at the end of the year (or work that gets left behind when a student moves and forgets to tell me).

Then I color all of the white parts of the page (using crayon, oil pastels, texture plates, and those almost-empty watercolors). After I have a bunch of painted papers, I cut them up into smaller pieces and add them to the “painted paper” box.

It is so gratifying when students reuse those almost-thrown-out pieces of paper and create something complete new with them.

How to you reuse/repurpose materials in the art room? What creative solutions do you have for managing supplies and minimizing costs?

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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?