Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Rainbow Connection


Why are there so many songs about rainbows... the Frog once asked. Well, maybe because they're the AWESOME?

My Kindergarteners seem to think so judging from their enthusiasm and the joy their paintings show.

But I am getting ahead of myself here. So, kindergarten studies rainbows as a Science unit. So I did my art scaffolding routine, natch. I mean, how can I not?

I really love the book A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman. It just creates this "anything can happen" atmosphere that right off the bat draws kids in and allows them to start imagining their own rainbow, so we read it together. Natch.

Then, because I am big fan of sign language and music, I teach the kids I Can Sing a Rainbow. It lists colors of the rainbow, well actually not the actual colors of an actual rainbow because then the song would have to include indigo and violet and blue is easier to rhyme, I guess. Plus, they learn the real ROYGBIV colors in science. Artistic license, folks! But I do mention ROYGBIV to them just to clarify. But mostly they just want to paint a rainbow of their very own.

So now let's see what the K's came up with rainbow-wise:

First, we thought talked about what happened in the book. Then we put ourselves into the story. And drew. 
And drew some more. With pencil first then crayon. Some kids wanted a friend or sibling in their story picture. It's good to share a rainbow
Now we can paint!
And paint. Of course we use watercolors because they are translucent. So are rainbows!
Watercolors are so perfect for K's. They can work at their own pace mastering the technique and they always looks bright and beautiful.
Told ya.
The end of the rainbow. Or just the beginning?

Speaking of endings and beginnings...indulge me in a little advocacy and maybe even some outrage? (outrage is good sometimes, if it's directed and action-based.)

Firstly, President Obama. this little (and I mean little) Turnaround Arts Initiative you, err...initiated...seems a bit of a lame attempt at acknowledging the true importance the arts play in all of our children's education. Not just the lucky recipients of 8 schools. EIGHT? How did you come up with that number? Funny, the arts plays a large, critical role in your own daughter's school...I bet you knew that when you enrolled them. Just thought I'd throw that out there. If I was allowed a place at your cozy roundtable of "ed reformers" I would show you and Arne Duncan all the beautiful art my kids do with me and how it allows them to experience joy, creativity, develop and refine a personal aesthetic, fine motor skills and use higher-order thinking. But I wasn't invited to the table.

Now...so we don't leave on a non-magical, non-rainbow-colored note: The Frog wants to remind you to watch this:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In An Octopus's Garden

Do you ever wonder when and why you stopped drawing a smiley face on everything?
Ok, so this lesson connects to my K's curriculum study of underwater life and their visit to the local Aquarium. Terrific! But more importantly this octopus lesson allows me to introduce the kids to The Beatles! Little kids need to hear a Beatles song at least once, in my humble Beatle-loving opinion.

One of the reasons I love being an art teacher is it allows me to share the things that bring me joy and call it teaching.

This lesson is a quickie, a one day media circus with music, video and books. Oh and I can't forget the delightful crowd-pleasing water soluble oil pastels they use to create their Octopus's Garden! Dip and draw...dip and draw...

Before we start I read them this book:

a totally hilarious story about a giant squid, who's a little bit of a show-off and a doofus, in the most endearing way possible. The story shows a lot of very colorful cartoony underwater creatures and a cute little octopus is featured.

Then, so the kids know what a real octopus looks like, I created a short Powerpoint of different kinds of octopi. Then we made  a math connection; Octo=8 as in number of legs, and a science connection; octopus are mollusks, a kind of sea-creature.

Then we watch this video:
Which has the song and the real-life octopus! The internets are in love with octopi and I'm glad! There's another great little video here and here.

Now take an artistic underwater journey to an Octopus's Garden with me!

We did a lesson all about spirals in nature the other day, and we saw that the legs of the octopus were spiraled so most of the kids created very curly legs! 



You can tell that we talked about the suction cups on the octopus's legs, can't you?

                    I hereby nominate this day (in my mind) Octopi the Art Studio Day! Huzzah!

Friday, May 4, 2012

I am Your Groupie: Ezra Jack Keats




Ezra Jack Keats, now there's an author illustrator whose body of work seems to exist just to provide me with endless amazing springboards from literature to art. Seriously. That man could write a wonderful kids book. And make it seem effortless. If you've ever attempted to write a children's book...you'll know it's hella harder than it looks!

His story-telling seems to float off the page and his illustrations...well... I'd say they were hip and vibrant and mesmerizing. I'm no fool...I see how my kids eyes are glued to the page when I am reading one of his books. So many of his stories - even 40 years later - speak so clearly to my small urban students, in words and pictures together.

I am a sucker for collage and I adore the way he uses it. The colors, textured and patterns, they are all so relevant to his stories and the environment his characters live in, like Peter and Archie and Willie the dog (who I am particularly partial to!). Nothing cutesy or patronizing in the way Keats portrays his characters. Keats' kids inhabit places in childhood like quiet wonder, resourcefulness and creativity, being an older sibling, playing with friends and meeting new ones, and sometimes having some serious chutzpah, like in the following book...

One of my favorite books is Goggles. I like to introduce the book to my kids by telling them that it is a suspenseful story! Then they all want to know - what's suspenseful mean? So I tell them...it means, you just don't know what's going to happen until the end! And you really don't. Until as Archie says at the end of the story.."things look real fine now!"

Take a look at a photo journey of my 1st graders: "Portrait of a Friend in Goggles":

Firstly, we need to make an oval for our friend's head. So we trace it! 

Then of course we cut it out. In this lesson, the sequence of events is important.

Glue, glue glue. They use cups of Elmers with a swab and make "dots" of glue all around the thing they are gluing. I ran out of glue sticks a week ago! I tell the kids to save the scraps after they cut out the head to make the neck!  


Now comes the suspenseful part: Can 1st graders trace and cut-out a rather complicated template?  

Well, yes they can! Some of them need me to help them make the "snip" cut in the center of the goggles to cut out the eye part...but most can do this with no help at all! 

Now there's a method to my madness: You have to glue down the goggles first--so then you know where to put the eyes, nose and mouth!

Cut up some wallpaper or other colorfully patterned paper for the shirt and also a little matching frame on top!

After coloring in the eyes and lips with pastels...the piece de resistance...yarn hair!

The Boy With the Blue Goggles. Sure beats The Girl With the Pearl Earring.