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, practice...is 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.