Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween...Wed 10/31

Today was a little crazy – it IS Halloween, after all, and all things considered the students were pretty productive. The kinders read the Day of the Dead book with me, we talked about cultures and holidays, then they did the Papel Picado project. Again, it’s a little tough for their coordination levels, though some of them were really able to do some impressive work, but they had fun, and they too got some time in with calvera masks. I like working with this group a lot this year – I love my ‘group discussion’ time with them, so strange to me how receptive they are to that when they are young, and how that goes away as they go through the schooling process, esp when considering what an essential job/social skill that is to have later in life.

Had a few more six graders sign up for the novel writing project – am feeling really glad that I decided to give this a go and get them involved. I went and bought them all special notebooks – skulls and crossbones, to keep with the Day of the Dead theme – and pens for the project today, I chose well, judging by their responses. Can’t wait to start to read what they come up with, they seem to have no shortage of ideas…

Here are some of my 6th grader writers, looking punk rock with their new notebooks:
Some of my young writers!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More day of the Dead...Oct 30/Tuesday

Today was great – been a good week overall. We continued the Day of the Dead projects, this time we discussed Papel Picado, and how it represents a form of art that is symbolic of life – paper art that gets hung outside, with the idea being that it will age and change and eventually fall apart. The younger students got behind it, but the technical aspect of drawing and cutting is still a bit much for them. They did good all in all though, and got to use their free time coloring in these cool calvera, or skeleton masks that I had kept from last year. The masks have a ton of detail, and I’m always amazed at how much students love coloring them in, regardless of the age group!

Day of the Dead artwork

I had about 10 sixth graders and three fifth graders sign up to do the novel writing project – I’m really, really excited to get that level of response, and am really proud of them for wanting to take this on. Plus, it gives me some motivation to focus on my own writing this month as well!

Day of the Dead student artwork

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day of the Dead, Vietnam style...

Today worked out great – I ended up winging it, was going to have the students work on continuing a collage/culture project they had started last week, but decided to go with a Day of the Dead theme. I was planning on doing the Papel Picado stuff with them again this year, and had brought in some books to read. At the last minute, I decided to give them a shot at drawing their own Day of the Dead art – we read from the book, talked about how different cultures incorporate holidays and art into their work, and then I had them work to try to replicate the style of what they saw in the Day of the Dead art, only I asked them to work their own culture into this. They did GREAT, and they really seemed to enjoy it, especially when I was able work with them one on one with drawing techniques, getting them to think about what they were drawing in terms of shapes and not trying to draw the whole picture as they saw it, rather, breaking it down into pieces. It comes in part from some of the right brain theory in art – something I want to look into more, as they really responded to it and were eager to try it out, even my ‘difficult’ 1st/2nd grade group got focused and was into it. It was funny leading them through it – I really don’t think of myself as someone that can draw all that well, but I am strong enough to teach it, I guess. I am a filmmaker/photographer by training, I write and I do paint a lot but in a collage context – fun for me to realize, like my students, that I actually can do a lot of stuff I assume I can’t!

My favorite piece of the day by far came from Chelsea, a student of Vietnamese heritage. She TOTALLY got the idea of incorporating her culture into her work, and did this piece:

An AMAZING Day of the Dead student work

I love that she used the image of the rice farmer skeleton – we were able to compare that to the sombrero hat that students of Mexican descent used in their pieces.

I also introduced the idea to my older students of joining up to do the National Novel Writing Month project. I am going to do it with them, focused on the ‘adult’ goal of 50,000 words in a month, and I am hoping some of them will want to sign up to write their own mini ‘novels’ or short story collections, writing one to two pages a day. Love the idea of getting them to embrace and see writing as an outlet, and I really emphasized that this is a project you do for yourself, as a means to push yourself. We’ll see if they sign up – I told them all I wanted them to think about it then come back and let me know their plans this week.

Student work

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Happy, sad, mad and crazy...10/25/07

Had the Kinder’s today – they have been really good about the group discussion time. It’s funny to me that the kids loose their ability to do this as they get older, at least until college or late high school, but the little kids come into the school structure ready for their ‘group meeting’ time. Today we went through a review for a bit, what community is and how they are a part of it, about the art we did last week, what abstract art is and how colors tell feelings. Once that was done, we jumped into our activity – I had them making abstract paintings like the older kids had, doing one side as ‘sad’ and the other as ‘happy’, having them focus on colors and shapes and marks that they associated with each feeling. Ones that finished got to do a second one, this time showing ‘crazy’ and ‘mad’ – this second assignment was definitely more popular than the first, with them taking to the idea of painting ‘crazy’ eagerly. All in all they did great – it’s been fun to have a group of kids this young that are so on it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday 10/23/07

Today was a little rough – with the weather and fires the kids have been inside all day and were pretty much nuts by the time they got to us. The goal today was to have the groups – today was the 1st/2nd grade group and the 5th graders – explore the idea of culture, and how culture affects art. To account for their giddiness, we had them stand in a circle, and quickly tell about a food that was important to their family, where their family was from and how it affected them, etc. They more or less got it, but the attention span of the group as a whole was a little limited today.

Madeline reads her writing to her classmates

We’ll pick it back up next week to better success, I’m sure. After we discussed the ideas, they started a collage – ultimately, we are going to make a ‘quilt’ that reflects each of us, and will highlight our commonalities and uniqueness. They did pretty good for a start, going to need to give them better examples of what collages are and can be though, I think, in order to get them totally seeing the possibilities.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday 10/22/07

Today we moved into making some abstract art. We reviewed what we did last week in terms of mixing colors and how we talked about color being used to express feelings. Then, the students wrote about a time they were really happy and a time they were really sad, with the focus being on providing details and to also explain what colors they associate with each event. The writing was really good, and ran the spectrum in terms of subjects – really sad was everything from getting in trouble to loosing a sibling to cancer to having a cousin murdered. I like giving them these writing opportunities as a means to express themselves – I hope that it clues them into the power of words and art, gets them out of the mindset that writing has to be this tedious task that they dread.

Jamie and his abstract work

Once they finished that, they then made an abstract painting for each story, relying on colors and shapes to express what happened and how they felt. It turned out really good – I was impressed with that they came up with, and am figuring out a way to expand this sort of idea into a more comprehensive lesson/curriculum.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Painting with five year olds...Thur 10/18/07

We turned the Kinder’s loose with the paint today – they did really good, only a few minor tragedies in all. They loved mixing the paints – it was pretty rad to feel like a super genius for showing them how red and blue make purple, you don’t get an entire class of students going ‘ooh, you’re magic!’ very often, it’s nice to still feel like a rock star to them every now and then! They seemed to grasp the idea of using color to explain feelings and what not, and the names the little ones came up with for their colors were pretty amazing…

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


We got banished outside again today, on account of the room we use being treated for bugs, again. Not the most idea condition, especially in that we have the kinders today and its hard enough to keep their attention, but we made do. We had the kinders do the color project, only using crayons – we first talked about how colors are used, how they can stand for different things, and what that means. Then, they drew a bunch of boxes, all different colors, and next to each box we helped them write what they color made them feel, or represented to them. They did it really well.

The 6th graders started out by writing about a Jackson Pollock painting I showed them. They wrote about how it made them feel, and what they though the painter was thinking/feeling when he painted it. They did really well with this – cool to see them thinking bigger and bigger each day. They then jumped into the paint mixing project they had started on Monday – I’m still amazed at how excited the kids are about this. I guess it’s pretty fun, and there is a zen/zone out aspect to it that’s cool too. They nailed it today – making color, coming up with awesome names for their colors, then writing about what that color stood for/made them feel. Like approaching/easing into some of our bigger projects this way – really breaking down both art and communication itself, getting them to think about how we communicate and connect with one another.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mixing colors...Tues 10/16

Today we pretty much picked up from where we left off the day before. The 1st/2nd grade team did a warm up writing activity, copying a definition, then they got back to mixing the paints, and coming up with names and descriptions, which they totally got into. 5th graders did the same, but they started out by responding to a Jackson Pollock painting I showed them, answering some questions I had written for them, about how they felt and how they thought the painter felt when he painted it. All in all, they did really well – glad to see this activity is going over as well as it is, and to see them really grasping the larger concept. Very cool!

Painting away...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday October 15th

I was gone all of last week, with Sumner and Sarah subbing for me. It was a little rough – they did great, but with the year being so new I hadn’t had much time to work with them, so they more or less were on their own. I had the older kids start out the week by writing a statement of purpose – something they crafted to define themselves now and what they wanted for themselves in the future. It seemed to go over pretty well – going to have them continue to fine tune and edit these as part of their larger self portrait project.

Otherwise, we used last week as catch up time – they finished their self portraits, started on their journal covers and got some free time. The Kinders, in an effort to keep up the idea of community, were asked to draw something they wished for themselves, then something they wished for someone else, ie, what would a fireman, the bus driver, an elderly person, a homeless person, wish for? Sumner had a great idea and had the 1st/2nd graders make up fortune cookie fortunes for themselves, which was pretty cool and seemed to work out well.

Today, we moved into talking about abstract art. I had the students all write about their best friend, and their best friends characteristics. I then had them assign that friend a color – if their friend was a color, what color would he/she be, and why? They then did the same thing but with an animal (as a bonus, I got to give a funny example by pointing out that certain students whom were talking and being squirmy would be a little, loud poodle if I was writing about them at that moment – oddly, that example seemed to resonate stronger than any!). After that, we made the segway into what abstract art way, and how it was representational, etc. Then, we started the color mixing project – I had them sit down with paints and just play with mixing colors, only they had to record how they got each color, give it a name, and a few description words. They didn’t much time on it overall, but I think they’ll do a really good job with it later this week.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Week of October 1st

This week was a blur – I had a million things going on, couldn’t take daily notes like I wanted. We finished our self portrait project this week, and moved into creating journal covers. Mostly a catch up week, and Wednesday wasn’t a normal class day which goofed things up a little bit as well.

The self portraits turned out great though:

Self Portraits

Maggie shows off her self portrait!