Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Nov 5th

Decided over the weekend to keep with some of the global/cultural themes we’ve been exploring, but to also shift gears and do some technical lessons on drawing. The students really responded strongly to the stuff with did drawing our Day of the Dead images last week, and likewise though I try to focus my art classes on conveying the larger concepts behind what we are doing, and emphasizing that we are all creative, I also try to provide them with hard skills that will get them excited about their progress and keep them wanting to continue to use art and writing as a tool as they grow older. Anyway, with that in mind, I revamped my planned lessons to work in more drawing skills, pulling heavily from Betty Edwards' “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’. I had a great teacher in middle school and high school, Debra Agrums (who, as a side note, deserves some sort of unique recognition for not only excellent teaching at the Jr. High and High School level, but for holding her own as the only art teacher in a school that is so academic heavy/top ranked that there was actually a book written about it recently…in fact, as I write this, it’s occurring to me that I should send her a thank you note for putting up with me and a donation for some art supplies…) who utilized it in her classroom – and I honestly had sort of forgotten about it until I was thinking of ways to work with my students that would get them to move beyond thinking about a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of doing things when it comes to their art. I like the idea of structuring the drawing instruction around getting the kids to ‘see different’, and building on what we’ve learned about symbols – how we use symbols to understand, but symbols can also limit what we see, etc. We’ll see.

I started out today, as Edwards suggests, by having them do a ‘first’ drawing – their portrait, their hand, and their mom – from memory, so we can then compare it to later work. My 1st/2nd grade group got through theirs fast, so we did some fun abstract drawing, I played some music (Album Leaf, more appropriate for the classroom than the Velvet Underground, I’ve discovered…) and with the lights off (I’ve also discovered this might be a secret to getting them calm and in ‘art class mode’ – for some reason working in the near dark seems to hold some sort of mystical status and they were amazingly focused when I did this!) they drew and colored whatever the music made them think of it. I like they results – it turned out pretty cool!

My older kids started out class by reading a piece I brought in from the Amnesty International website about Lao Hmong refugees, then we each wrote a letter protesting the situation. I like the direct action aspect of this, and I like using it as a means to introduce some of the global/civic concepts we’ll be going into. Plus, it lets them use their writing to help out someone else, which also makes it all the more relevant. Amnesty has some great materials on their site for teachers – I was surprised by the extend of it. The lessons themselves are kinda weak, but the raw resources they provide are great – I was stoked to find a ‘kid worded’ version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights I could print and hang in my room.

My novel writers are at full force – they are waaay more on track than their teacher with their writing goals. By my count today, the combined 8 writers I checked in with had over 20 pages done between them, a pretty good start…

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