Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teacher Birdie Coloring Sheet

Enjoy! Click for a larger version. If you decide to repost please credit this blog.

Happy (Early) Halloween

Does your school celebrate Halloween? Mine does! Tomorrow all the kiddos will be dressed to the hilt as who-knows-what. It is sort of a loss for a "learning day" (especially for the little ones) because they are so distracted by all the fun. So, for me, I try to schedule projects to end on this day. This way, no new material is being introduced, and the kids already have an excellent idea of what needs to happen.

But, what to do with all the early finishers? I made this fun little sheet for them to enjoy! They always have the option to free draw, but this is kind of a fun thing, no?

I have several students who do not celebrate Halloween due to religious reasons. . . And, I hate for them to be left out. So, instead of doing something they can't do (I had one little guy who couldn't make a paper pumpkin even), I thought I'd make something that everybody can appreciate. . . .Veggies!

Click on the image for a full-size version. You are welcome to print out/reproduce with other teachers. If you repost online, please extend credit to my blog.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Back awhile ago I submitted some work into the Southern Breeze SCBWI yearly illustration contest. Since I hadn't heard anything, I assumed my work hadn't merited mention. Lately, I've had a love/hate relationship with my illustration work.

The more I work, the more I love creating in this manner. Yet, I find it harder to submit. Not because rejection is so crushing. I mean, rejection isn't a walk in the park. . . But after four years of grad school, nine years of creating and submitting artwork, and now 18 months of grad school, I'd like to think I can take some level of rejection with a grain of salt. It is just so taxing to actively get yourself in gear to submit! To keep it organized, to constantly update the website, to clean up the portfolio, to keep the working space clean, to remember when the submission dates/guidelines are. And, you know, those are ALL parts I'll have to deal with if I ever get an agent and have an active illustration career.

But, I'm balancing it with a full time job that I love, and grad school. I'm no fool. I know if I ever publish regularly, I'll still be balancing with teaching. And, I actually like that, because teaching is a MAJOR passion of mine. But, but, but, I have GRAD school too right now. And, that is a lot.


So! This Sunday when I opened my mailbox I was SHOCKED to discover I'd won 2nd place in the the illustration contest!! Annnndd, it was judged by Laurent Linn, Art Direction for Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers!!!!What a huge ego boost, and how great to be recognized. I'm honestly over the moon.

Thanks Laurent Linn and SCBWI Southern Breeze; Y'all rule!

Student Work In Progress

This work is 36 inches x 48 inches. It is being created with Shiva Oil Sticks.

The student has been working on it for 2 hours. She is creating it from a picture she took of herself and then later manipulated it in Photoshop.

Are you ready to be green with envy? She invented this project herself, came up with the photo manipulation herself. . . And she is only 15 years old.

Man, wouldn't you kill for an ounce of that kind of talent?!

Georgia Art Education Conference

Omigosh! The Fall conference was AMAZING!! It was my first conference, and I can't say enough how awesome the experience was. If you haven't been to a conference, then you need to go! It is so cool to sit and listen and discuss with other art professionals our profession.

The hosts did an amazing job organizing the entire event, and I just can't say enough. How. Awesome. It. Was.

It was held at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA. Callaway Gardens has an AMAZING butterfly house that you can visit year-round. The above pictures are what I got to witness on my visit. So beautiful!!

Have you joined your state's art education association? If not, why? Did you know that the more members you have, the power your state has in the say of arts education policies. . . Even on a national level? And, did you know that it can only mean great things for you professionally to be a part of your art education association?

I'm already saving up and thinking about how I'm gonna 100% try to get to Seattle this year for the National Art Education Conference!

Are you going? Do you need a roommate?!

The Unholy Terror That Is The Electric Pencil Sharpener

I have three professional-grade, electric pencil sharpeners. These are, in my opinion, the cadillacs of the pencil sharpener world. It only takes 4 seconds to go from broke tip, to sharp awesome-ness. But, still I have a love/hate relationship with them.

From the moment open-working time begins in my classroom until it is time to clean up, it seems these sharpeners run constantly. The kids have no respect for whether I am talking or not, and will cram their pencils in the sharpener over and over and over again. Also, they will allow their pencil to sharpen for thirty seconds or more each time. I have no idea if this is because their homeroom classroom teacher's sharpeners are old and busted. . .or what. . .But, IT. DRIVES. ME. NUTS.

Now, I've done the whole "how to use the sharpener" discussion. I've made rules about not running the sharpener when I'm addressing the class. But, the kids easily forget these rules. I think this is because it isn't being reinforced in their homeroom (and it may not need to be). So. What to do? Because, it has been driving me crazy!!!

I've also recently found out that the middle school and high school students lose behavior points when they forget to bring a pencil to their academic classes. When my school began, it told families that the school would provide all paper, pencils, and school supplies for students, so the parents would not need purchase these items. This statement has never been revoked. So, while our budgets have gotten smaller, the students and parents still expect us -the teachers- to provide school supplies. Sooooo, lots of my middle and high school students don't have pencils. And, when they are in art class, they swipe mine. I think I've purchased over 1400 pencils since August. And, there are about 30 pencils left. No Joke.

Finally, I lost it! I got so angry about the pencil/pencil sharpener situation that I knew I had to act!!

My mom gave me a huge box of golf pencils she had left over from a charity event. I hid all of my electric sharpeners and put out a handful of hand sharpeners.

Here is what happened:

1. No one wants to steal the golf pencils. They work great. The little kids are charmed by how wee they are, and none are walking out of my classroom.

2. No constant, aggravating electric pencil sounds!

3. Only one-two kids sharpen a pencil in class. Interestingly enough, it appears that when you have to manually sharpen a pencil yourself, it is less likely to happen. lol.

Here is what I learned:

1. A pencil is a pencil. But, a short one w/o an eraser isn't worth stealing.

2. The lack of loud noises has made a HUGE difference in my classroom management.

3. Kids really were using the pencil sharpener to waste time.

MWHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA! The Art Teacher Wins Again!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finished Dia de Los Muertos Day of the Dead Figures

They are finished! Here are two of my favorites: a set of beauty queens (can you guess who won?) and a butler. Enjoy!

Georgia Art Education Association Fall Conference Presentation

Hey Guys! This is the presentation I am performing later this afternoon at the GAEA Fall conference. It will walk my audience (and me) through the projects and will offer an explanation of how to use the origins of animation wiki:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Typical Day

Since, I work in a private school, I've gotten a few questions about my schedule or how large my classes are. A lot of it is the same. Some of it is different. Here is my basic private school run-down.

1. Private school teachers typically make less than public school teachers. For real. Even though students pay, this tuition has to supply everything from furniture to rent for the building etc. Sometimes this means the teachers are less qualified and/or don't have a teaching degree. But, in my experience, most of the teachers I have worked with in private school have been required to be just as qualified as public school teachers.

2. We usually have smaller classes. Mine range from 15-20 students. I get to do things because of smaller class sizes that I couldn't always do in a public school.

3. I get to "justify" my expenses. I'm not given a budget, and I have to argue/cajole/justify what I want. . .But, I get excellent work out of my students. . .So, typically I get to spend what I ask.

4. Some private schools supply their students with all necessary materials (including pencils and paper). Mine does this. But, as a teacher, you often run out before you are able to re-order. So, that means that YOU end up purchasing notebook paper and pencils for wealthy private school kids. Also, there are no wall-mounted pencils sharpeners in my school, and there is no place on order forms for an electric pencil sharpener. A lot of teachers have to buy their own. I bullied for mine.

5. We have "interesting" populations. Parents are willing to pay for their child's elementary/middle/high school education for several reasons:

1) Their child is "different" in some way that they feel a smaller class/school can aid (this could be a severe allergy, giftedness, and/or some other sort of defined different ability).

2) Parents want to think their child is "different," "special" or "misunderstood" (this usually means the parent is dodging some kind of psychological testing that would be required on the public school level and/or they are in denial about who their kid really is).

3) the local public schools are dangerous and/or not challenging enough (I've NEVER worked in an area where I felt that the public schools couldn't provide exactly what the private school provides).

4) the parents are snobs and don't want their kids in school with public school riff-raff (I hope you note my sarcasm).

6. We offer education as part of our customer service package. Parents pay a lot of money for their kids to attend private school. They expect results. Results are expected even when parents aren't reinforcing education at home and/or helping with homework (I mean, hey, that is what they are paying us for right?). Parents are our customers, and we need to keep our customers happy to keep enrollment up. So, sometimes (often) I find myself in a moral dilemma about how best to deal with a situation that might make a parent profoundly unhappy (like hearing their kid is exhibiting behaviors that lead other teachers, the counselor, and myself to believe that psychological testing might be best, because I've never encountered a private school parent who believed what they heard in this instance. Most often, they remove their child and/or insist that nothing changes). If no kids attend, there is no school. In my opinion, this can really lead to some murky ethical conclusions. . .

7. We deal with FAR less behavior problems. Soo many sweet kids from really loving homes. Seriously. Wow. Classroom management is a breeze. But, when you do have an issue, watch-out! The student is rarely at fault, because remember, the parents are our customers.

8. Parties!! Is it the 5oth day of school? Awesome! Let's have a party!! Sometimes this is fun, sometimes it grows old. Mostly, it rules.

9. Holidays! Ramadan, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Easter, Passover, Halloween, Thanksgiving. Oh yeah, we get to CELEBRATE them all. Which, I love!

10. Holiday Gifts. Wow. Wow. Wow. We get AMAZING gifts from the parents at holiday time. I get so many restaurant gift certificates that I usually re-gift them to my friends!

And even though it changes everyday, here is (time-wise) a typical daily schedule for me (wherever you see "overlaps with" that means I am teaching 2 classes at the same time in the same room):

8:00-8:53 High School Art (2 students)
8:20-8:50 Pre-K 4 year old art (18 students and they usually leave 5-10 minutes late)

9:00-10:00 3rd grade art (16 students)

10:06-10:59 8th grade art (18 students)

11:00-11:55 High School Art (4 students)
11:25-11:55 Kindergarten Art (18 students)

11:55-12:10 Planning (Yup, 15 minutes -providing no one is late/early)

12:10-12:55 5th grade Art (2 classes simultaneously in a room designed for 20: 36 students)

12:55-1:20 Planning (Yup, 25 minutes -providing no one is late/early)

1:20-1:50 2nd grade Art (12 students)
1:26-2:19 Advanced High School Art (2 students)

2:23-3:15 High School Art (4 students)
2:25-3:10 6th grade Art (2 classes simultaneously in a room designed for 20: 36 students)

There isn't much room for peeing and/or eating. I stay a lot of afternoons, and work every second of the day. I'm sure you can relate!

What is my grading like? Similar to yours! But, I do have to leave a lot more personable comments because of the customer service/private school thing. These comments need to be specific to the child and reflect his/her classroom experience specifically and should be 3-4 sentences in length. For instance, this past grading period (which is every 4 1/2 weeks in my school 'cause parents like that) I had 17 pages of handwritten notes for students in grades Pre-K through 6th, and I had to write a comment for every student I teach in 7th-12th grade (48 students). That is a lot of writing to do on a near-monthly basis!!

What is your daily structure like?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ceramic Baby Birds

I've really worked hard to provide a diverse and challenging set of lessons for my youngest students. There were some complaints that this was not the case last year (I was not their teacher either). . .So, it is doubly important to develop their creative abilities this year. Typically, I know a lot of us make pinch pots with the Kindergarten students for a clay component. But, I found out that my Kindergartners made a ceramic pinch pot last year that they turned into a wee bird's nest. I remember seeing these in the building last year and being very impressed with how they turned out.

I know it wouldn't be a big deal to just do a different pinch pot project with them (they are only 5, so most likely they could benefit from the review). But, you know me, I gotta make sure my students are challenged out the hilt! I love showing off just how capable our youngest students are!

So, my wee K's made a small ceramic ball and scored and slipped a smaller ball on top (for a head). Next, they pinched off of a larger piece of shared clay two wings and scored and slipped them on their bird. Finally, they pinched out a beak. I added names on the bottom. I let them dry and sent them through the kiln.

Next, they were given -on a small plate that was colored labeled- a choice of 3 different glaze colors: firecracker red, caprice blue, or seawind. They were instructed to paint just the body of their bird (to prevent glaze from running down the kiln furniture). I walked around with a plate of black and sassy orange colored glazes and went to each student individually and instructed them on how to color beaks and eyes.

As we had to wait to fire everything in the kiln, we had a "in between day." On this day I gave them small black cards and lots of brown textured paper. The students were asked to draw a circle and to add torn paper to create a nest.

On the last day, we read the book "Ruby in Her Own Time" by Jonathan Emmett. Students were given their birds -much to their delight. Students were asked to draw their own story about their birds. As students worked, I called them up individually and helped them glue their bird to their nest. To conclude, we gathered in a circle and went around and told a story about our bird.

How much fun!

Day of the Dead Figures -Work In Progress

My 8th graders are creating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) ceramic figurines. They have been through one kiln firing, and have been glazed. . .Now they await the final firing! I'm soo excited to see them finished. The kids have done an AMAZING job. I'll post the finished ones ASAP. . .But until then, Enjoy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Claymation Wiki Is Now Live!!

Hey Everyone, the wiki I created for my claymation unit entitled "The Origins of Animation" is now live!

You can visit is here:

This unit is designed to take learners from the beginnings of animation to the pinnacle of today’s animation processes. Students will begin by learning about, and (according to age group) create, Victorian motion toys such as thaumatropes, zoetropes, and flipbooks. Students will develop their own character and write a short story about this character. They will next develop a storyboard about the story, design sets, props, and even the character. Next, middle and high school aged students will learn about how to plan out shots, control lighting, and will shoot their own stop motion movies. Finally, these older students will learn how to take their images from the camera and use Windows Movie Maker to use their still images alongside royalty free music to create a finished stop motion film.

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

I hope you set out to create some animation in your own classrooms!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

PK-4 Pumpkins

The 4 year olds discovered how to make orange paint this week. . . And, then made these hilarious pumpkins!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Southern United States citizens. I find most of these misconceptions are formed by people who have 1. never visited the South and 2. overheard something from a "friend" about backwards Southern ways. There are plenty of backwards people in the South, just like there are anywhere else.

I'll never forget the time when I was camping in upstate Maine when a guy who had a shirt with a South Georgia city on it laughed when I wondered out loud where he got the shirt because that city is "way on down there." This fellow had the heavy Mainer accent (that I find very charming) and had never traveled out of Maine before. Yes, clearly, I was the backwards person in that instance.

Backwards is everywhere.

Having said that, I can't deny that we don't have scores of racist fools down here. But, I personally think there are scores of racist fools everywhere. The Guardian just printed an article about how the ratio of black prisoners to white prisoners in the UK is higher than that of the United States. I also can't deny the number of people down in Georgia who still have the confederate flag on their bumper on somewhere else on their vehicle and/or person. If you question them about it, they'll claim it as part of their heritage (as an allusion to the Civil War). However, the confederate flag -as we know it today- was created in response to the Jim Crow laws. . .So, let's not lie, it's a big ole slap at equality. All the same, the people waving the confederate flag live in rural, less densely populated areas. I've never seen a confederate flag on an Atlantan (maybe in a museum etc.). Basically, it is not okay to act like a racist fool in a more metropolitan area, because someone will say something. . . 'Cause, hey, socially aware Southerners ain't afraid of nothing!

While you have all of these "socially aware" people in heavy metropolitan areas and also among the affluent, there is still an undercurrent of racism that is accepted by these same people: Anti-Mexican. Mexican immigrants have literally poured into the South in last decades. Some areas have such a strong Mexican population that Spanish is the more common language. A lot of Southerners have taken a HUGE affront to this, spewing things like: "Speak English!" And, as you can go to the DMV and take the test in Spanish, there is a huge ado about that as well.

In fact, a lot of people assume if they hear Spanish that the person speaking it is Mexican, and the same even holds true for Portuguese. Some folks even go so far as to assume anyone who appears to be Hispanic must be Mexican! Honestly, I think some people may be so dull they think the word Hispanic is interchangeable with Mexican!! As such, it is "accepted" to slur Mexican persons in many circles.

I am fortunate in that I grew up in a home that didn't tolerate unsympathetic behavior towards anyone. And, I also grew up knowing a lot of Mexican families. So, for me, when I hear one of these slurs there is face to it.

What is so cool about many of the Mexican persons in the South today is that these people are now 2nd or 3rd generation American and are highly educated (if they weren't already!). The reasons for their families to immigrate here has come to fruition. Twenty years ago most of the subcontractors my father used in his construction business were white-owned. Today, nearly all of them are Mexican owned. How awesome is that?!

My students repeat a lot of the slurs they hear at home because they are modeling adult behavior. They almost seem confused when I redirect them and explain why the slur is offensive. And, guys, this is from very affluent students who have seriously involved parents. I think this behavior is best demonstrated in the following example:

My first year teaching I had 6th grade students make Underground Railroad quilts. As they finished the project, they had to write a letter to someone on the Underground Railroad from the current time (a time traveling letter!). One student wrote this: ". . . I hope you find your family soon. And, don't worry. No one is racist today. We all just hate Mexicans."

Y'all. For real. He wrote that down and didn't think there was anything wrong with the statement. We had a very teachable moment that afternoon, let me tell you!

Soooo (long story) I like to incorporate Mexican culture (any and all culture really) whenever I can to demonstrate to students how rich and awesome our Mexican friends are. The history of Dia de los Muertos is just so wonderful! My students LOVE learning about it, and have tons of fun making it. For this project we (5th graders) made clay "sugar" skulls, and then the students had to use the steps they took to make the skulls to tell a silly story. For instance, one student told a story of a 35 year old 5th grade student who had to find the "perfect" recipe for making a sugar skull to graduate the 5th grade.

Fun, no?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Teaser From My Animation Unit

I'm getting ready to send out the link to my animation unit!

It takes learners from the fabrication of animation toys through to the creation of a full stop-motion animation. This is the unit that I will be presenting at the upcoming Georgia Art Education Association Fall Conference. This is my first conference AND my first time presenting. . .I'm really excited and don't know what to expect! Any tips for a first time presenter? I'm not bringing in supplies to create an animation. . . Instead, I've created a wiki with the entire unit on it, and will be walking teachers through how to use the wiki, how to do the more intricate parts of the animation (the stuff with the computer), and show them how easy it will be since the wiki takes them click-by-click. I just checked and my session is nearly full, so I'm a tad bit nervous.

So, any tips?

And, I'll be posting the link to the Origins of Animation wiki here on/before Friday. I'd love any feedback you want to give (be gentle!).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dirty and Clean

I love seeing smiling faces and dirty hands. . . But, clean ones are good too.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Middle School Picasso

It is a straight-forward project. These two are my favorites. :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Layout

It is still me! I'm in the process of updating my website information/blog information etc. etc. for some future presentations. . .And, I'm trying to keep everything similarly themed. :) Thanks for your patience.

Not That Kind of Missionary

My parents brought back over 500 Kazuri beads from their trip to Kenya. I realize now, I haven't spoke too much about their trip, their aims, and experiences. Well, mainly that is because this is an art blog. . .But stay with me, it all connects.

My parents decided some years ago to devote themselves to mission work. They began in Mexico, ventured into the Dominican Republic, did some work in Russia and ultimately felt they were of best use in Africa. The part of Africa to which they devote themselves is in Kenya. . . we think. It is a tiny triangle in northern Kenya which Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda all feel they own. Additionally, this tiny triangle is considered by many to be one of the most remote parts of the world. As my Dad says: "Brown claims they go everywhere. Brown don't go there."

This triangle is heavily impoverished because -to my understanding- the native tribe of that area are the Turkana. The Turkana are the lowest tribe of the social standing system in this part of the world. As such, they receive the least of aid and the least of care.

On top of all of this, the number to orphaned children in this triangle -all of Africa really- is staggering. It is a very hard life, hygiene is medieval at best, there is little modern convenience, little medicine, and disease is rampant. Oh, and you know, women are property.

Nancy opening a pen-pal letter from one of my students.

Now, my parents are religious missionaries, but they are different than many you would encounter. They've had a hard time fitting in with much of the missionary crowd because their interest is to ease and aid the life of people right now. Whether or not these people share in their religious beliefs is very secondary to them. This is controversial because much is made in many a missionary circle about saving the spiritual lives of people in tribal cultures. My parents have encountered people who've criticized them claiming that their own goals are loftier because they are trying to save someone's spiritual life. To this, my parents overheard an excellent (if somewhat mercenary response): "If all you are interested in is saving someone's spiritual life, then you should save them and then kill them. Because the quality of life in these areas is horrific. . . And, they would be guaranteed -by your line of thought- to go straight to heaven."

As my Dad likes to say: "I'm not that kind of missionary."

Instead, my parents have devoted themselves to aiding the life of children through education. They deeply respect that their ability to aid the children of Africa is but a drop in a bucket. There is a story they heard told in Africa: A great fire is burning the jungle and all the animals run away. A tiny hummingbird keeps dipping into a lake and then spreads the drops from his wings on the fire. A lion asks the hummingbird why he does this, because surely he cannot stop the fire. The tiny hummingbird replies that if everyone helped the fire could be stopped. My parents respond to this call by finding children who want and need education and providing it to them. . . along with any medical/food etc. issues they may have.

I could wax a very long time about the enduring spirits of many of these children but I will leave you with one: A boy named Cyrus has lived on the street since he was three years old, he has no home. After 8th grade he must pay to attend school, and he scrapes by on odd jobs and does this. He is 16 or 17 years old. He hears my parents are visiting through a kind spirit at a local orphanage who aids him when she is able. This homeless child prepares a resume, finds a way to wear a full dress uniform, gathers all of his test results and requests a meeting with my parents. He tells them that he scored in the top 20% in the recent standardized test, but he knows if they can help him, can do better. He tells them he wants to be a brain surgeon.

My parents can't save everyone, but they can help Cyrus.

students at House of Hope in Lodwar, Kenya opening letters in their "assembly hall" note no chairs, no color, nada

Back to the Kazuri beads. Kazuri, which is a Swahili word that means "small" and "beautiful" is a ceramic bead guild founded in 1918. You can read the full history here. It enables Kenyan women to make their own money and living in a culture that would otherwise deny them this. The average woman who works at Kazuri makes three times the average income of anyone in her area. Each and every bead is painstakingly made by hand and glazed by hand. . . And, seriously, they are beautiful. My parents purchased these beads and it was a sacrifice. The beads themselves are not at all expensive by American standards. My understanding is that the beads can be purchased for pennies on-site. But, the weight of the beads is extraordinary. My parents had to carry these beads everywhere with them, and many of the places to which they travel have severe weight limitations due to tiny prop planes etc. etc.

One of my art club students stringing a Kazuri bead onto a necklace.

It was important to bring these beads back because we intend to use them here in America to further aid children in Kenya. My art club students spent this afternoon stringing the beads onto waxed string and jewelry papers. It is our intention to sell our Kazuri bead necklaces and devote 100% of the charge of the necklaces to purchasing a playground at House of Hope in Lodwar, Kenya. The children there have no place in which to play, and the terrain is very harsh and not conducive to play. So, what was made in Kenya to help those make a living will be resold in America to purchase a playground in Kenya.

bag of about 250 round Kazuri beads

And, in case you were wondering individual Kazuri beads sell for around $6.00 to $12.00 in America. Several acquaintances of my mother upon spying the beads tried to buy the entire sack off of her!

My students, my parents, and myself are hoping to set up a etsy/ebay account to sell the necklaces. We have 500 beads and our goal is to earn $5,000

So, my question is, do you want a necklace?

Finished Zebra Herd

I haven't spent too much time talking about my educational psychology here (and I really should!), but this post has a lot to do with it, so it is worth delving into a wee bit. I am a very strong believer and advocate of play. Kids don't creatively imagine and play today as much as I believe they need to/have in the past. So much of is made of "keeping occupied" and "guided entertainment" style activities. . . Things like television and video games. Both, of which, I must say, I adore. But, this adoration must be in perspective. My experience leads me to believe we learn better when we play, when we discover things for ourselves, when we give ourselves the opportunity to be wrong.


Today, I aided the last 1st grade class glueing on their manes and tails for their zebras. While I was aiding others I had asked the students to sit back in their seats and "play" with their zebras. But, a funny thing happened. I had left the savanna picture on the floor (because the next activity was for the students to pick a place for their zebra to "live"), and quite a few studenst snuck out of their chairs to look at it more closely. I didn't mind as I was sitting right next to the picture. So, while I helped the last few students, I quietly observed my students and the savanna picture. They were picking up their zebras, making up stories, and walking them all over the savanna as if it were a doll house. First, it was killer cute. But second, wow! What a great teaching moment!!

The students were play-acting with their zebras and were speculating about what the zebras ate and what they do etc. etc. They asked themselves all sorts of exploratory questions that they wouldn't probably ask me. And, it was because they were playing. It was okay to be wrong. A high school teacher walked by my open door who is a great admirer of art and stopped. He complimented the students on the zebras and then he knelt down to play with them. They greatly loved this and began having their zebras ask his zebra (really my zebra, who they named Ralph) what food he liked etc. etc. The high school teacher told them zebras like grass etc. etc. and it was a great moment for them just to play and learn.

I thought it was worth noting because I love play and try to incorporate it all the time. So, I thought I was doing such a great job by allowing them to play with their zebras in their seats. But, by letting them play in a larger group with the savanna picture, the students learned far more. It was and is, for me, a great reminder of how not every moment needs to be structured to the hilt. That sometimes, allowing the students to guide the activity leads to much more profound learning.

Alphabet Art

My 1st graders learned about Jasper Johns, collage, and re-examined letters. We talked about how letters can make art! Then, since there are EXACTLY 26 students in the 1st grade we worked together to make an super awesome alphabet. We also talked about how orange is the opposite color from blue! So fun, and so beautiful!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Zebra Project!

A lot of us have been making little herds of zebras. Did you know there are three kinds of zebras? I think it is so amazing that even for something as special as a zebra there are still three different types. We've been working on Georgia Zebras in the first grade this week (Georgia Zebras aren't one of the three types). The project idea came from here and here.

For this post, I thought I'd show how the delivery of the project went for me.

1. I really (REALLY) wanted to this project because I love art and I love animals. But, I wanted to make sure there were super meaningful parts of it for my students. So, the first graders and I learned about thick and thin lines. We looked at pictures of zebras (from my Mom and Dad's recent trip to Kenya) and noticed how they have both thick and thin stripes on their bodies. We also read the book A Zebra's World by Caroline Arnold. We talked about where zebras live and I showed them my large savanna painting and told them this was where we would glue our zebra herd. It was fun to discuss how we were making our own art AND we were combining our art to make one big art piece.

2. Together, we practiced making thick and thin lines using this worksheet I made. We got to use colored markers because color is fun!

3. I handed out the cardboard versions of the zebra body (with head already glued-on) and 2 clothespins to each student. The students were encouraged to play with the pieces to see if they could make it look like a "brown horse." The kids REALLY loved this part. After we figured out how to make our horses, we talked about how we could create different poses by moving the legs different ways (sitting, running, standing). Then we discussed how zebras look different from horses.

4. We painted our posed zebras white! We got to use acrylic paint (for better coverage), so we "smocked up." We talked about how to paint thinly and to keep our zebras from being "goopy."
5. I pre-labeled sheets of paper with 2 students names each before class. I showed the students where the papers were located and told them when they finished painting their zebras to put their zebra next to their name.

6. Then we washed up, cleaned up, and "desmocked." This was the end of class one.

7. Since this was the beginning of class two, I handed out their thick and thin worksheets and we talked about thick and thin lines and how they relate to zebras. I gave everyone black permanent markers and we made thick and thin lines all over our zebra bodies.

8. I handed out scissors and 2 pieces of small black paper. I demonstrated how to cut a small mane and a little tail. I provided school glue so the students could glue these on. . .But, also had a glue gun handy (some of those wee manes needed more glue).

9. We sat in a circle on the floor and played the game: "My favorite zebra." One of my high school students saw day one of this project and invented this game! The game goes like this: Everyone goes around and states their favorite type of zebra. For example: "My favorite zebra likes to ride the ferris wheel at the state fair!" This game is silly and provided a good opportunity for the students to play with their zebras.

10. After our game, we worked together (with Mr. Glue Gun) and found a place in the savanna for our zebras to live.

I'll post our finished zebra herd grazing on the savanna tomorrow!

Ooooohhh this project is SO. MUCH. FUN. Thank you to all of you who have posted and shared it!!!