Friday, September 22, 2017

Expressing Abstract Identity

Colors, Lines and Text

How do these three simple elements produce complex ideas?

Sixth grade students delved into self-reflection through the study of Abstract Expressionism, risk-taking and "play".

I find 6th grade students, although confident as they may appear, are nervous, unsure and self-conscious about themselves.  My goal is to give them the space and time to reflect on their positive qualities, and hopefully give them a confidence boost. Through this art unit, I found away to "loosen" up my 6th graders and push them outside their comfort zone in a non-threatening way. 

Abstract Expressionism is an art period and style often averted in an elementary art class, but I think if planned correctly, with enthusiasm, the students understand this art movement.  In the preparation phase of this art unit, I reflected on my students artistic behavior.  After 6 years with me, I realized they regressed (naturally) from exploratory, adventurous students to overly mindful, somewhat nervous students.  It was perplexing at first, but soon understood that these pre-teen students are exactly where they need to be in their development.

I was just going to shake them up a bit.

Through this art unit, students were encouraged to "loosen up" and adapt to any obstacles I created for them.
And I created a lot.
Students layered paint, used white acrylic paint to 'erase' areas and incorporated text to create original works.
The results were fantastic.

Check out more snapshots on Instagram: Smock Room
If you are interested in the art unit, click HERE

xoxo, Smock You.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dia de los Muertos...A Celebration of Life

Yianna and Helios Adventure!

Fall is always a fun time for exploring the country of Mexico!  "Dia de los Muertos!

Check out a post from the archives that uses art, history and culture to explore Mexico and all its colorful traditions!

Click to see the lesson plan here.

xoxo, Smock Room

Monday, September 12, 2016

Looking like a kid....

Exploring The Art Institute of Chicago
with two young ladies...

Just recently, I had to fabulous opportunity to visit The Art Institute of Chicago with two young ladies of ages 8 and 6.  This may sound like a disaster waiting to happen to some and an exciting day to others.  The day   full of joy and excitement, mystery and surprises, doughnuts and pasta.  It was, also, full of discovery and learning:)  
Of course.
I discovered how much, as adults, we stop looking like a kid.
I discovered how much, as adults, we are quick to judge.
I discovered how much, as adults, our perceptions are askew by the knowledge we think we have.
I discovered how much, as adults, we find comfort in the known.
I discovered how much, as adults, we stop having fun.

We, three ladies, ventured through the museum scavenging for various art works when we can across
"The First Part of the Return of Parnassus", by Cy Twombly.  Twombly, being one of my favorites, captured our attention, as well as, the crowd of adults standing in front of this massive painting.
At first glance, yes, there are wiggles and squiggles.
At first glance, yes, it appears a kindergarten student picked some writing instruments and began to doodle.
At first glance, yes, you can say, "I can do that"....but really, can you?

It was here that an adult captured my attention with his vague and simplistic viewing of this art work.  This is the artwork at which I heard, "My kid can do that".
At first glance, sure, your kid can do that....but take another look....can they?

My sweet young art adventurers took another look and came up with a different view.  They discovered that the artist was trying to tell us something. A story.
They realized that the wiggles, squiggles and doodles were organized and not just squiggles, wiggles and doodles.
"He's like keeping track or something", said an 8 year old.

Sure, these young ladies do not know and do not see the big picture, but they see small and that's important.  We proceeded to complete our art museum adventure giggling at all the butts.


smock you.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Playing with Hearts...Part One

Jim Dine, interview
Learning to Look, Play and Think
Jim Dine

Jim Dine is one of those "go-to" artists in an elementary school.  Specifically his infamous "hearts" have become a staple in February, across elementary art rooms.  From young, first grade students, to older sixth grade, we (art teachers) use this perfect little shape as a platform for making art.

I am guilty of using Jim Dine as inspiration and his perfectly, imperfect hearts, but this year I thought about the project a little differently.  The fourth grade curriculum that I designed focuses my students' attention on critically looking at artwork and studying why and how, artworks are made, through the lens of an investigator and an artist.

Prior to even entering the art room, I started my students with one simple direction..."follow the direction on the board and in your packet.  You have 10 minutes to do what it says". With hesitation, uncertainty and a little confusion, my students entered the room, read the direction, "draw a heart".  They had ten minutes and an assortment of materials to "draw a heart", is all they had to do....

But did they?

The results of their 10 minute drawing were predictable.  Most drew the simple shape of a heart and filled it in with red or pink.  As we took a "gallery walk" around the room, each student noticed that although the hearts were "different" they were also very much the same.  The important component to this activity was discussing "why".

"Well, because we just always make hearts like this".

"Why?", I asked.

A question, hard to answer.

This quick exercise started my students on their way to understanding an artist's process and understanding how materials work, through experimentation and "play".  It, also, gave me a quick snapshot of my students' risk taking meter.  My goal, throughout this unit was to encourage my students to take risks and step outside their comfort zone.  And to THINK!  (without me at the helm).

With Jim Dine, we started by skimming through a Scholastic Art Magazine article to find some basic information about the artist.  I did not provide my students with much visual information, because I did not want them to be influenced immediately by Jim Dine's work.  Instead, I had them "play".

abstract from packet

For the remainder of day one, students collaborated with their table mates, experimenting, playing and discovering new approaches to art-making.  The experience opened the door for discussion and debate, filling the art room with wonderful noises of movement, talking, scribbling and "playing".  This led to a homework assignment:
abstract from student packet

In this art unit, I wanted to incorporate a technology component to my students' art-making experience.  I wanted the focus of the digital component to be a tool for developing their creative process, not solely to use iPads in the art room.  In planning this component, I asked myself, "How would this experience benefit their overall understanding of the art-making process and enhance the students' creative thinking"....."What's the point?".  My response (to myself) guided the sequence of the unit and my students' exploration of materials and their properties.

On DAY TWO, I arranged to use iPads in the art room and the App: Drawing Pad.  The students' objective for the day was to "play" with 5 art materials offered through the App: paint, colored pencils, drawing pencils, crayons and markers. Parameters: Students needed to utilize all 5 art materials and there was no erasing or starting over.

My students LOVED it....of course, but little did they know I had other plans up my sleeves for them;-)
Upon completion, I printed their digital works for the following days.

My sleeves revealed their hidden surprises!
We started the session with an overview and survey of Jim Dine's infamous hearts, looking at them with a more critical eye.  Throughout the whole group discussion, it was refreshing to hear how their new knowledge and understanding of materials translated into their understanding of possible ways Dine created his art-works and visual language.  The students broke down what they saw in Dine's artwork into processes, techniques and materials...even theories of Dine's art-making sequence.  They no longer saw a heart, but rather they saw a thought process.  

Now it was time to challenge their 4th grade brains again!
I distributed their digital hearts.  The students were simply thrilled to see what they came up with actually printed and in their hands.  Yet, the enthusiasm slowly turned into anxiety when I broke the news to them.

"Great!  I am so glad you are happy with your digital art-works.  Now, you have 25 minutes to re-create them with "real" art materials, using the same materials you used on the iPads.  And no erasing, no starting over", said Mrs. Angelopoulos.

"WHAAAAAT?" said all the students.

"Go", said Mrs. Angelopoulos and the scurry of students started! 

Paints were splashing, students were moving swiftly throughout the art room, discussions were taking place and I was watching as time ticked away and my students worked really hard :)

After the dust settled, the room was cleaned and the students finally sat down again, there was question, "Which method was more successful towards creating visual language"?
The polls were split.
When I asked, "which one was more challenging", all hands pointed to the 'real materials'.
When asked, "Why", the resounding voice was "because we had to move around and figure things out".

"Oh really", said Mrs. Angelopoulos, "wait until next week" ;-)

The project continues....follow my students and classroom on Instagram :)

xoxo, Smock Room

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Rooted in Family...

Rooting Creativity with Trees
in 2nd grade

In their self-exploratory journey, my second grade students venture on a quest to discover a little bit about themselves and how they connect to...well....the world.  
We have, recently, completed our exploration and art-making on our families by creating our family trees, expressing our family's unique characteristics through paint, oil pastels, markers and liquid water colors.  

This art unit encourages the students to ask their mom and dad's questions, understanding the importance of the people in their lives.  The art-making component offers the students the independence to make their own choices, take risks, problem solve and take ownership of their work.  The important component was the process and path the students, individually, took to accomplish their final art work.
The experience opened my students' eyes to the endless possibilities for the use of our art materials and the understanding that I (their teacher) is not going to tell them what to do:) 
and a bit more challenging....

I loved and love seeing what my students come up with on their own.
Is it a bit harder...sure!  
You have to manage more components in your classrooms, 
you have to allow students to get a little disappointed when something doesn't go their way,
you have to have more than a few materials out all the time,
you have to just let things go......
and that is hard.

I was recently reading and article by Olivia Guide, Playing, Creativity, Possibility offering insight and encouragement for allowing our students to explore, "play" and experiment independently....with whatever they want.  It does sound scary to think about just stepping back and watching.
BUT- the results are better than any well oiled, preconceived lesson.

In the end, each student was beaming with pride!

Check out more on Family Trees HERE
and the Power Point HERE.

xoxo, Smock you.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

'Tis the Season...

Merry Holidays to All

As the clock starts ticking towards Friday 3:25pm, we suddenly feel a sense of elation, joy and bliss.  This feeling is not because of the exodus of our students (and ourselves) but 'the season' suddenly hits us and our teacher eyes start to glisten, as we anticipate 2 weeks to focus on our families, ourselves and our non-teacher lives.  For a short while, we turn off the teacher switch, begin to speak to our husbands like they are adults (not elementary students), eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in more than 10 minutes and then get a little anxious because we are off our schedule.:)

It's time to dance, and

Sit in a cafe with friends and drink a cup of coffee, and

stroll through the avenues, leisurely, and

play around with old friends.

These images, by Ed Wheeler, tell a short but sweet story:)

Have a great break!

xoxo, Smock you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Learning to Look...

Investigating Henri Matisse
and the Evolution of Looking
in 4th grade

There are a lot of buzz words trending around the art education world, these days.  In the past couple of years there has been a shift in how we, as art educators, guide our students through processes of investigation, self-exploration, evaluation and, some good 'ol art-making.  Our challenge, as art educators, is finding a way to put it all together, while making the students feel proud and accomplished.
Aside from the students, I have to be able to see 'student growth' to feel proud and accomplished (and to be able to justify what I am doing in my classroom as something the positively impacts student development and is somewhat measurable).                                                                           

In 4th grade, our yearlong goal is to better our abilities to analyze art and understand different processes for creating art.  By focusing on one artist at time, I engage my students in a thorough study of an artist life and his/her work, affording my students an opportunity to investigate how, what, where, when and why Henri Matisse made art:)  Super Fun!                     For this art unit, our focus was creating representational self-portrait line drawings and pattern design.  Our initial focus was Matisse's "Woman in a Purple Coat" and the Scholatic Art Magazine edition highlighting Henri Matisse.  The art unit can be segmented into 5 artistic skills:  INVESTIGATING, PRACTICING, DESIGNING, PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER and EVALUATING.

INVESTIGATING:  This component the art unit asks the students to use informational text, from images, an artist biography and the Scholastic Art Magazine to complete, what I call, their investigation.  The "investigation" helps the students use art skills of identification, description, analysis and inquisition.  The most important component to the students' investigation is using Visual Thinking Strategies to build their vocabulary and critical thinking skills.

PRACTICING:  Practice, practice, key to developing fine motor skills and observational skills.  I like to start their art-making experience with a little test (formative assessment, some may say) that helps me understand their individual developmental levels and that helps me prepare my instructional strategies to achieve and accomplish the overall goal of the art project.  I, simply, had the students draw a self-portrait.
It seemed simple enough and my students were extremely confident, because, after all this was not their first self-portraits.  The simple task required them to use a marker, a mirror and a piece of paper.  Upon completing their first attempt, we took a short break, walked around to "look" at each others attempts and reflected on one question, "Does it look like you"?

The response was a resounding, "Eeeeehhh, not really".  
But, "why?"
We didn't really LOOK in the mirror.

So we tried again...this time taking a longer LOOK.
And it was getting better.
So we tried again, this time taking a longer LOOK.
And it was getting better.

We practiced for a full day and then for homework.

We watched a wonderful short video clip of Henri Matisse drawing the portrait of young boy, noticing how Mr. Matisse just kept LOOKING....  
Our goal was to capture ourselves with quick gesture lines that capture our unique facial features using contour lines.  No biggie!

By the end, our practice didn't make our drawings perfect, but it definitely made them better!

DESIGNING:  In the same breath, we found inspiration in Matisse's patterns and colors that were a common observation in all of his painting.  Like wallpaper designers, we took the time to think and plan what patterns to use in our final paintings.  In my experience, having the students plan out their next steps helps them transition easily from one component of the lesson to the next.  

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:  After investigating, and looking, and practicing, and designing, we finally put it all together.  Using big permanent black markers, paint, oil pastels and whatever else we needed, each student created an amazing self-portrait, that not only looked like them, but demonstrated growth in the process:)  



EVALUATING:  The last component was evaluating our work and our skills throughout the art unit.  There are many different ways to assess and evaluate the students' outcomes, but I like to give my students ownership of the process and their final product.  These two examples are some ways attain information about my students development and growth in their art education development, focusing on skills of interpretation, reflection and self-evaluation.  A contributing resource for this lesson was the Scholastic Art Magazine December 2014/January 2015 Issue featuring Henri Matisse. My students used the magazine as a resource to discover new facts about Matisse and explore color theory. This process (and practice) really opened my students' eyes to their own strengths and abilities.  It also opened my eyes to my strengths and abilities:)

Check out more snapshots below....

Thanks for stopping by!  Check out the lesson resources HERE:)

xoxo, Smock you.