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.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Exploring China...

Taking in the sights and sounds of China at the Field Museum in Chicago...

Just recently, a new hall was created to feature the changing historical landscape of China.  This exhibition reminded of a past workshop I conducted at the Smart Museum  at the University of Chicago, emphasizing their exhibition "Envisioning China".

My workshop centered on the various masks used in Chinese Opera, developing an art unit of mask making and personal identity.   The art unit guides student learning through an investigation of Chinese mask history, art elements and technical processes.

 This complete art unit can be found HERE:)

xoxo, Smock you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Traveling without Moving...

To Ghana
with Yianna and Helios

Our most recent 3rd grade adventure has taken us to the vibrant country of Ghana, following the exciting discoveries of Yianna and Helios (two precarious 3rd grade friends who travel the world).

My 3rd grade students enthusiastically await for emails and letters from these two friends in discovering where in the world we land next, in our art adventure.  This time we landed on the continent of Africa and in the country of Ghana.

This art unit focused on the art and culture of Ghana, particularly the folk traditions of Kente Cloth. The art unit was broken down into 3 components in which students explored, created and reflected on the tradition and process of Kente Cloth.

Exploring:  With every travel adventure, we take a day (or so) to explore the specific country by reviewing and understanding the cultural and historical components that make each country unique.  Throughout this unit, we were building our knowledge towards answering the essential question of "How do artists use the cultural context to communicate an idea?"  Knowing the context, students begin to develop a better understanding of purpose and meaning, connecting their knowledge to their artmaking.    Along with the historical and cultural references, we listened to the story of "The Spider Weaver", telling the legend of how and why Kente Cloth is an important component to the people of Ghana.

Creating:  The instructional sequence of this unit focuses on the creation of a "Kente Cloth".  But that did not seem interesting enough;-)
The overarching goal was "By investigating the art and culture of Ghana’s Kente Cloth, students will demonstrate their understanding of color symbolism by creating a personalized “Kente Cloth” using art elements and principles (color, lines, shapes, repetition), and reflecting on their personal characteristics."  Students referenced a list of colors and associated their description with their own unique personalities, choosing four.  This creating process afforded the students to practice their measuring skills and just the challenging feat of holding a ruler straight.  The students created 3 different patterns to use within the larger creation of their Kente Cloth, filling them in with the 4 personal colors.

Reflecting:  The final component asked students to think about their choices and connect their personal understanding to the symbolic representation of color in Ghanaian culture.  Simply, the students completed 4 sentence prompts expressing how they express their chosen colors.  (I am BLUE, because I show LOVE when I HUG MY BABY BROTHER). 
This was a quick art adventure.  The instructional sequence lasted about 3 days with my students working swiftly and often in helping each other.  Check out the few of many snapshots below and follow my students daily activities on Instagram.  If you are interested in the full lesson, with printables and more resources click HERE.

Thanks for dropping by!
xoxo, Smock You.