Valentine Jim Dine

Fun and quick Valentine’s Day project I did with PK. I showed the work. By Jim Dine and we talked about how they thought he made his paintings. I love them because they are messy but controlled. 

I told the little ones to use a stamping methods with the brush. We used Paint Cakes, my favorite. They were familiar with the paint cakes and how to use them properly. I told them to work with one color at a time. Wet the brush, load up the brush with paint, and gently go up and down, up and down stamping color onto their hearts. Once the paint rain out, wash your brush and pick a new color. 

As they finished at different times I had another table set up with colored paper and crayons. They washed up and picked a color and scribble scrabbled all over the paper with different colored crayons. 

I quickly glued the hearts to the backgrounds and they were able to take their Valentines home that day! 

Mixing Primary into Secondary

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You would be surprised how many children and adults do not know which primary colors make the secondary. I did two versions of this lesson for the younger elementary kids and the older ones.

The younger kids, 1st grade-2nd, did the ice pops. I did find the lesson online but I changed it up a little. We did this following our How to use a brush Winter Style lesson. I did just a lesson on mixing colors on white paper. I told them we were going to make magic today. The paint brush is your magic wand. We started out by making sure our brushes were super clean. We put some yellow on the paper, cleaned the brush, put a tiny amount of blue on the tip, said the magic words and they mixed green. They were really amazed. Same things with yellow and red for orange, make sure you reinforce just dipping the tip of the brush into the red (and blue) because they are such strong colors. Last we do red and blue to make purple.

I closed this lesson by having the kids take a look around the table at their friend’s colors. Are all the greens exactly the same? Some are more yellow and some are more blue. Why? This is how you can introduce the intermediate colors. Why would you want a green that is more blue? Why would you want a green that is more yellow? This can be a nice conclusion.

The older kids, 3rd through 5th, did the color wheels. They already knew the primary and secondary colors. We traced a circle on white paper, used rules to draw 3 lines through the circle, and outlined in sharpie. Then as a class we painted in the primary colors, skipping a space between each color. So you have red, blank, yellow, blank, blue, blank. This is where they mess up. Some kids will just go again and know that they two colors surrounding the blank spaces need to be mixed in there, so red and yellow to make orange in the middle. Others you have to do it step by step.

Moving on to the Ice Pops. I actually got observed for this lesson, and because it was a step by step process it was deemed not creative enough. Which is fine, but I think the lesson served its purpose because after all the kids knew exactly how to make orange, green and purple, and they had fun. I pre-drew the ice pop shape, and even color coded labeled them with Y O R, for yellow, orange, red. They already had an introduction to mixing so it was applying last weeks skills. I still did it step by step so no one was left behind. Some kids liked painting the top, then bottom, then mixing the middle. Others painted the whole top and middle yellow then added red on the bottom going up to make the orange middle. Depends on the students.

The background was choosing horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines in a pattern. So before they did that we reviewed all those words. We used PAINT CAKES! My favorite. And any colors they wanted. Cut, glue, done.

Photography without cameras

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So you might want to introduce photography to your kids and not have any cameras! Or you want to remind them that what they choose to have in the frame should be planned and thoughtful.

In the past, while waiting for cameras to arrive I cut out viewfinders. Sometimes I cut them to be in the shape of an old school camera or you can find pre-cut frames.

I actually did this as my demo lesson. The goal was to teach them worm’s eye point of view and bird’s eye point of view. They used the view finders to get out of the comfort level of photographing in human’s eye, or just straight forward. I encouraged them to lay down on the floor and stand up on chairs for interesting views. At the end of the period they did a drawing of one of the points of views and we discussed which view was more interesting to them.

I have also used the paper view finders to introduce a David Hockney collage assignment. Showing them how many pictures you can take of one scene. I also cut up images and had them put them back together like a puzzle to prepare for their own Hockney. The did Hockney’s digitally and printed out.

The paper view finder is a great way to slow them down. I think you could stop mid year, remove cameras and review point of view with the paper view finders if you feel like their photography is becoming stale.

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David Hockney

Do you wanna build a snowman?

I have seen the obligatory snowman project done in such boring cookie cutter ways where every snowman(woman) looks the same? Why? I did these with PK and K. For some crazy reason I decided to have us paint our backgrounds, probably because I didn’t have paper that was big and not white. This was kinda a mistake because the white paint was too watery and I had to figure out a way to make the snowman. So we used ripped paper after the white paint failed, and I love how the ripped paper added texture.

The kids started out pretending to build a snowman on the carpet. We talked about what shapes we’d use to draw a snowman. I had stencils of a big, medium, and small circle for each kid and they arraigned them on their paper in size order and traced. When they painted they stayed in their lines, and then when they ripped and glued paper they stayed in the lines as well.

Accessorizing the snowman continued with collage. We talked about how we could dress the snowman(woman) using different shapes. For the younger kids I had precut shapes, and the older and more capable were able to cut their own shapes.

Some kids added snow eventually, smaller classes used glitter. They made snow dots using glue and I added the glitter.

If I were to do this again I would definitely use ripped paper again and find some colored background paper. I’d use any colors, the more colors the better.

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Tree Mania

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I decided to do a tree project because I was sick of seeing a typical trees being drawn with a poof on top. I think winter trees are really beautiful especially when there is a good sunset behind them. I did this with 2nd grade.

We did a lot of sketching, looking at paintings and photograph of trees and concentrating on the branches. They tried to make their trees as close to the images they were copying from as possible. They previously prepared their rainbow background paper, and only painted their black silhouetted trees when absolutely ready after practicing on white paper first. We added snow last.

Since we did this towards the end of the winter I continued right into spring trees. We made tints of colors by adding white; they chose any color they wanted. We used brown instead of black, and replaced the snow with different colored flowers or leaves. They loved their spring versus winter trees.

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While on the subject of trees I went into the most famous tree of all, Klimt’s Tree of Life. We discussed how we were trying to paint our spring and winter trees to be realistic. Looking at Klimt’s tree how was it different? They were even able to come up with some interesting meanings for why the branches were spiraled and what the black bird represented (death).

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I taught them how to draw and paint spirals too. I was observed for this, my formal actually, and I wish I could say it went well but it was not an easy period. It was with one of my more challenging classes that I never, ever had a problem with. I’m not saying I let them do whatever they wanted, but I didn’t make them do the typical lets sit down and have a rigorous discussion for an eternity, because they would fight if they weren’t happy. This class did the best work, because they had so much time to actually paint and draw (you know art class stuff, kids are now WRITING in gym class, GYM class, whatever other blog) … needless to say they wanted to get into painting and not sit there and have a conceptual discussion on why we are painting spirals.

In the end their own trees of life were amazing. Since it was their imaginary tree they were allowed to use any color they wanted, not the typical lets me a Klimt tree out of gold paint because it is such a good excuse to use gold paint. Gold paint is expensive.

We added a collage element to the trees using colored construction paper to add in all the fun shapes like Klimt’s tree and a ominous black bird.

Rainy Day Photography

There were only so many places to photograph in school. When the weather was good I had plenty of ideas but I dreaded a possible rainy day. We had talent classes every Monday for double periods. That was a lot of time to shoot and be able to edit after. I knew it was going to rain so I decided to have them use their skills of lines, shadows, texture, point of view, etc., and apply it to a theme photography project. The theme being rainy day!  I ran around beforehand borrowing umbrellas from other teachers so we each had one. The front of the school had an awning so we were able to shoot from there and come out into the rain with our umbrellas. Then we took it inside and photographed the rain from the windows around the school. Last we uploaded and edited as usual.

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Photography: Lines/Shadows/Texture

The photography of my elementary students brings tears to my eyes. They were so talented and totally understood concepts that I only began to learn in high school. My first year was a struggle teaching photography to youngsters, but by the second year I felt that they got it and I got it.

I taught photography the way I was taught it. Black and white was key. I feel that learning composition is easier without the distraction of color. We set the cameras to black and white for most of the year. Funny enough, at the end of the year when color was brought back the kids had new respect for black and white and some of the preferred to shoot or edit their photos back to black and white. And yes, my elementary kids as young as 2nd grade knew how to edit their photography in iPhoto.

The first year the students learned a lot about worm’s eye view, bird’s eye view, and rule of thirds. They brought these skills into their second year. I started the year out with editing in iPhoto because new cameras had not come in yet. They learned every editing tool in iPhoto and it was a huge success. By the time we began to shoot they were pros.

Lines, Shadows and Textures. Pretty basic stuff, but it got them shooting and excited. The school playground had a lot of this and when we went on a trip around the neighborhood they continued to find interesting lines, shadows, and textures. It never gets old, just look at anyone on instagram. I always reminded them to use their previous skills of worm’s eye view, especially with texture. My students would enhance their photographs themselves, sharpening, adding contrast, and so on.