Monday, November 24, 2014

Contemporary Inspirations for 6th grade Art Projects...

"It was hard to find that perfect word." ~Bobby

Every year I make an effort to create new projects for my 6th grade students, that are new and fresh and contemporary.  Primarily,  I want grasp their attention and then hold on to them, for as long as possible.  A challenge, to say the least.  So....Here goes something....

As all other years, the central theme to the 6th grade art curriculum is "Identity", answering the bigger question "Who am I?"  It's interesting, with all that 6th graders have to say, this question brings a hush over the room (along with some confused looks).  Throw in taking their pictures and they are just about to scream out of anguish and agony.  
I found this amazing photography project that sparked my interest and motivated me to find a way to use the idea of photography and text for the students first project.  The Identity Project: What defines you was the perfect connection (with some slight modifications). 

 The Identity Project: 
"This photography project seeks to explore the labels we choose to identify with when defining our gender and sexuality."  Intriguing but, not entirely appropriate for 6th graders, or my school in general.   BUT, most definitely adaptable for encouraging my students to reflect on their unique characteristics that make each of them special.

 I can't begin to try and explain ARTY FEMME to a group of 6th graders, but we can take a look at their photographs (without the label) and study their characteristics.  With descriptive words, we can 'label' their identity, explore their personality and breakdown some stereotypes.   

Our goal, for this component of the lesson was to take a picture and with one, unique word, capture their identity.

Taking the pictures was not all that challenging, but figuring out the most unique word, was.  My challenge was trying to encourage my students to think outside the box, get out of their comfort zone and think...just a little bit about their internal selves. was I thinking?

Along the way, I was skimming through Facebook and took notice of a post from a long distance friend and her recent artwork: Define Me.  The theme related completely to my students' theme but I found a way to connect their word choice to their art.  Stacy Gibboni used words to emphasize word choice and the lack of words.  So, simple but amazingly powerful.  
That is what we did.
But was I suppose to encourage my students to put aside common words, "nice", "funny", "smart" and rethink word choice.  
We used dictionaries.
A blast from the past but WOW, it demonstrates how technology, spell check and auto correct have hindered our students' ability to spell.  Not surprising, this activity took a little longer than expected, but the results were incredible.

The goal for component number 2 was to choose 6 different words that "define you" and be able to express why.  In doing so, create 6 different little drawings expressing the word choice, using two elements of art: color and shape.  Sounded simple enough, but I quickly observed the students mindful attention to the connection between drawing and word choice.

Simple tools and materials made the art project more engaging and the students felt a little more independent.  My students used 4x6 inch pieces of paper, traced a 31/2x 31/2 square template and used oil pastels for their drawing and word.

The concluding component to this lesson was a written and typed reflection statement, targeting specific questions about the students' processes and thinking.
The results were thoughtful, reflective and honest.
...And impressive.

This was only a small caption to an 8 week project. 
 It made my students think. 
 It made my students reflect.  

"It makes me feel happy to know about myself more."~Crystal