Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Universal Thread: ART

Friday, March 22, 2013

Layers of Me: Exploring Identity through "Wallpaper"

Understanding Identity.....
Deconstructing the 6th grade student

It is always great to have your students engaged in what they are learning....It is even better to have them experience a little bit of fear, nervousness and anxiety when making some art ;-)  Sixth graders, particulary, are in a whirlwind of crisis on a daily basis.  Just this morning, a young lady had streams of tears coming down from her face because a friend sent her an unkind text message.  And all she was trying to do was get on the bus. 

Of course, we all faced these challenges and somehow made it through those very hard formative years of our adolescents. Throughout the year, in 6th grade art, we try to try to understand what in the world is happening to us.  From understanding personalities, discovering hidden characteristics and embracing our uniqueness, we explore the concept of identity and pull back the layers of wallpaper the define who we are.

It has been a scary, interesting and eye opening journey.

The discussion began with the quote from "Printed Patterns" and the photography of June Farley.  A significant focus for this lesson was the 'implication' of a person, whether figurative or literal.  While interpreting meaning and exploring clues within images and text, we used "bunny ears" a lot, suggesting ambiguous analyzations.  A series of visual literacy questions, prompted discussion and stimulated the students' critical thinking skills, while looking at Farley's images and reflecting on their own experiences. 

Visual Literacy Questions to
Prompt Reflection and Discussion:

What do you see?

What more can you find?

What's the story?

What makes you say that?

How does that make you feel?

What more do you want to know?

(Much like 'text-dependent' inquisitions, these questions encourage each student to really look at an image and respond with 'evidence' within the context of image and description.  Each response was supported with what the image shows or hides.  This concept and these specific images affored the students flexibility to interpret within their own ideas, lending to a very vibrant and active discussions.)

The repeated emphasis for this lesson was the notion of how, we as individuals, use "layers" to hide or reveal aspects about our lives, who we are and our personalities.  Keeing in the same theme as the quote from "Printed Patterns", we discussed how clothes, actions and attitudes are used as "layers" for protection and to conceal truth.  The students' revelations and "ah-ha" moments demonstrated the "click". 

The six week project guides the students through a week by week investigation of themselves,delving into the hidden layers of their secrets, dreams and wishes. 
Each week the students created another layer, literally and hypothetically.  Some embraced the idea of writing down their inner most thoughts.  Some were very scared.
Most  became nervous.

All were deconstructed.

who am I? I am

Students complete an "I am" poem, reflecting on phrases, such as, "I dream....", "I cry....", "I want...." and "I am...."  Upon completing their poem, they were instructed to write at least 6 of the most secretive phrases on a piece of large drawing paper with a Sharpie.  

This simple suggestion prompted some anxiety.  "What do you mean with a Sharpie?!"  "Wait, you want us write what we are hiding?"  "I'm nervous!" "Wait, what are you going to do with them!?"---to which I answered "Put them up on display around the school."  "WHAT!"---to which they responded.
The idea of exposing their inner thoughts and emotions started a slight grumble and lots of mumble. 

wall paper
Writing their inner most thoughts and secrets created the first 'layer' for the students, causing a bit of stress, fear and anxiety.  As a second 'layer' the students used pieves of decorative paper to 'cover up' their phrases, emulating the notion of how they, as individuals use various ways to conceal who we are. 

image transfer

Our third 'layer' students needed to add themselves to the canvas.  With just a simple materials, students explored and experimented with the process of image transfer.   Looking at the art of Robert Rauschenberg as inspiration, students discovered how this new art technique becomes an interesting way to convey identity. 

Image transfer is the delicate process of using a printed image and 'transferring' it onto another surface.  There are various methods for this technique.  Our method was to use Mod Podge as the transferring agent, in which the ink from the xerox copy portraits, adheres to the Mod Podge and the paper is slowly and delicately rubbed away.

(This 'layer' created a great dynamic in the students' artwork and reflected the original notion of 'tearing down' our wallpaper, and exposing ourselves.)


wallpaper design
In emphasis of the idea of 'layers' and in conjunction with June Farley's photographs interpreting wallpaper and image, students explored how pattern can 'imply' the presense of a person.  We looked at numerous examples of wallpaper samples and suggested the type of person or the character of the person 'implied' in each particular pattern design.  This discussion prompted the students' reflection on the pattern design that would best 'imply' their character.  Students continued by sketching several ideas for their "wallpaper".
(This portion of the lesson was in sequence to their art making and unit packet.  The sketches were in preparation for an additional 'layer' to their project) 

WEEK FIVE: positively me
Since Week ONE of this art unit, we have been thinking and reflecting a great deal on aspects of our personalities that we tend to hide.  Along the way we discussed aspects of our personalities and our strengths that reflect a positive image for our character.  The students reflected on their "I am" statements, focusing on positive attributes that they reveal to people, who they are as 6th grade students.  Combining their new 'wallpaper' design  and four positive words, the students completed their identity collage.

(This part of the art project afforded the students an opportunity to independently use their sketches in unique ways.  The used colored Sharpies for their 'wallpaper' pattern and works.  The bright colors compliment the black and white image)

WEEK SIX:  reflection
The last and most important activity for this lesson was for the students to compose a reflection statement, describing, reflecting and interpreting the various 'layers' they used throughout their exploration of identity.  Student responses were prompted by guiding questions that helped them reflect on their process, interpretation of content and self-discovery.

This is one of my favorite art lessons I teach, within the 6th grade curriculum.  The entire process of this art lesson emphasizes critical thinking skills necessary for fostering independent reflection and a creative personal project.  Along the lines of visual literacy, the students' abilitiy to interpret an artwork by inverstigating the details within June Farleys's photographs demonstrated their ability to "read" a picture, connect their interpretation of meaning to a personal narrative and use independent creative art-making for self-expression.  TOTALLY AWESOME!

Now, did they know they were doing all these things, with these big words????....probably not.  But did I know what they were doing it?.....absolutely.

Have a great spring break!
See you back in the

xoxo, SMocK you

PS:  I presented this art lesson at the IAEA conference in 2012.  The link to the presentation is available, although some of the text seem to have moved and flipped. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

make something....

A lump of clay turns into a beautiful big bowl.  
This creation is about 12 inches in diameter and 5 inches tall.



xoxo, SMocK you.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

School Inspirations....

I have been thinking about how to begin this blog post for a few days now.  And for those out there that know me, I tend to be a 'tell it like it is' type of girl but with a rhetorical approach that sometimes....surprises the unsuspecting.  In addition, I verbalize about 5% of what is stirring around in my mind.  I preface with this explanation because my blood has been boiling for the last few days, and here's why....

Friday afternoon, I was sitting around a kitchen table with blonde haired, blue eyed, 5 year old lovable little girl...having some fun with some educational card games.  Amongst the commotion and the games, a discussion began about education and "what they should really do".  The infamous "They", who is undefined and ambiguous. As I sat there and listened....and listened and listened...(remember 5%) I thought of the notion of literacy (being literate) and how, apparently, everyone is an expert and everyone has a clear understanding of education and what "they should do".  "They should just get rid of all the old teachers and bring in some young blood".  "They'll find other jobs".  (which makes me laugh out loud, literally).  I proceeded to count coins and create patterns with my little girl, as the conversation progressed and my tolerance thinned.  At one point, I was having an out of body experience, seeing myself turn to these gentlemen and looking at them dead in the eyes and saying "you're an __________ idiot".   

But I didn't.

Instead, I turned away from the flash cards and the 5% came out, calmly and teacher-like, "Maybe you should know more about educational policy, reform and state laws, instead of all this chitter-chatter about something you don't know much about" (making the chatting gesture with my left hand).  At which time, SURPRISE!  and a hush blankets the kitchen.

And you may wonder why I didn't say more, or take a really active role in the conversation.  I have discovered that trying to have a thoughtful discussion with people that know "what they should do", only resolves in my blood boiling and their intolerable ignorance inflated....offering no conclusion and in the end, I'm just a teacher.  What the hell do I know!

So, here's my 95%.  "Thanks for the incredible insight and knowledgeable approach to a behemoth of a complicated topic but from now on....let the professionals do the heavy lifting.  Good effort, though." 


PS.  Oh, and we'll try not to have another snow day, as to not disrupt your schedule.  Because that's what the goal is...right? (insert word that defines this person here....)

xoxo, SMocK you.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

School Inspirations....

Creative Challenge

challenge found on pinterest

Part of what stumps people from creating something is what to do.  As an art teacher I hear this quite often in my art room. "I don't know what do to!!!!", said, of course with a passionate whine.  Currently, my 6th grade students are designing and executing independent projects.  A bit of a selfish act, I must confess.  After 6 years of teaching them all they need to know about art (well, as much as can be squeezed into an hour a week), I decided to put myself in "time out".  I declared my students' independence in their art making and my liberation of telling them what do to.  Incredibly enough, 6th grade students do not like either option. 

For the amount of work they are responsible for completing, they are taking this creative challenge quite well.  Even expressing enthusiasm and personal investment.

Now, I challenge you, your students, your children and your friends....
make something everyday.

Step ONE: One sketch, doodle, drawing a day.....spend 10 minutes, 30 minutes...5 hours.  Just draw....on a napkin, on a piece of paper, in you daily a calendar, in a meeting ;-)

Step TWO: take a snapshot

Step THREE: share your drawing.  Post your artwork on the SMocK Facebook page

Take the challenge and see what you discover.
xoxo, SMocK you.


Friday, March 1, 2013

School Inspirations.....

It doesn't take much.  
A silly doodle.  
A quick sketch. 
A splatter of color.
A chunk of clay.

Cleanses the soul and makes you feel fabulous.

xoxo, SMocK you.