Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Official: 3rd Graders Find Owls Fascinating

Actually, it was official 75 years ago or whenever I started teaching. This lesson is what we call a "crowd pleaser" on every level and I've been doing it with kids fore-evah. First off, you have to think owls are totally cool and look up every educational link about owls that you can find. Then hone in on just a few. This one is quite good. If you are lucky enough to have a Promethean Board in your room... it has tons of pics of owls from all over the world, lots of good info you can share with your class. But...the piece de resistance of this site is that it has audio owls hooting and owls calling to each other--in their own language! So cool! Seriously, my kids wanted to hear every example on the site and there are a ton. I had to remind them that sadly, we can't spend the entire school day in the art studio.

So onto the actual lesson! As you will see as I add more posts, I adore doing read-alouds with my classes as another way to introduce the concepts in my lesson. Sometimes the story and the illustrations drive the lesson and sometimes they just enhance it. In the case of owls there are 2 books I like. One is Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, a lyrical very calming, but truly engaging story. The other is The Barn Owls by Tony Johnston and Deborah Kogan Ray (Illustrator). I like how the two books show different species of owls, and I read one on each day we are creating them. Owl Moon is a perfect book to read in the midst of winter, by the way, so I generally save this lesson for after the holidays.
Here's the set-up. This owl puppet really creates the right mood--it's sort of mesmerizing to the kids. I made a simple owl power point that shows many types of owls--to inspire the kids as they work. (I've never been a fan of power point presentation as an adult I think they are usually really boring & redundant). But I've found that they are great for art teachers wanting to show lots of examples.

Okay - so I guess now is where I do a sort of lesson plan. But wait...I hate writing lesson plans! So maybe I can trust that you--being an artsy type yourself--maybe even an art teacher or art teacher-in-training--can make do with me rambling about materials and some simple directions? Okay? So to begin I actually do a whole lesson on how to draw owls by using basic shapes. I'm big on using basic shapes to draw almost everything--and adding details later. This approach seems to demystify the drawing process for most little kids. I have an ancient handout from a book I use and it's basic enough that they can elaborate and create their own details. This one isn't bad. So that's day one.
The next 2 lessons will be creating the actual owl. Which as you can (hopefully) see is made using oil pastels - both metallic and regular. The metallic looks very dramatic on the dark blue construction paper. But before they use the oil pastels they lightly sketch the owl in chalk (chalk is really easy to erase!). A quick note on getting young children to "sketch lightly". It's a process. They initially want to just dive right into drawing with totally un-erasable media and then you get choruses of "I messed up!" no matter how many times you tell them that they can always "change their idea" and "there's no such thing as a mess-up!" So I really try and introduce the whole sketching lightly concept as soon as I can.

Then when we have gotten our sketch down we can use our oil pastels to color in. I suggest that when they are coloring with the pastels that they remember they are making feathers. So the strokes should have a feathery feel, especially radiating out from the owls eyes. That's key. We also discuss all of the different textures and patterns on owls.

Day 3 we finish by adding a frame in pastels which could represent a window frame if they wish. Then they can add dried beans and colored rocks for a mosaic effect. I don't know why I do this--it just seems to be part of the charm of the lesson. The kids love adding the small pieces of dried bean and colored rocks and they mimic the colors of some of the owl feathers. Always remind them not to over do it with the mosaic since it's just to add details, otherwise the whole thing weighs a ton!

So there you have your beautiful, haunting Owl!

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