Posted by: keepingthemistakes | August 27, 2010

Great First Project, Wordy Post with No Pictures (yet)

Last year I purchased this book for my school with part of my art room budget.  It is an amazing resource.  It’s written as a complete curriculum, but I’m not planning to use it as that.  It’s VERY well written and easy to incorporate into your existing plan — she’s broken the year down into the basic art elements and taken them from introduction to the elements to three years down the art education path.  She also gives many practical ideas for art room organization, displaying work, etc.  GREAT book.  I can’t wait to get her other book now (maybe I’ll order it today!).

Anyway, I began the year at the school I teach K-8 with the following lesson.  It worked for every age group.  That amazes me that one project can work for that many age levels, but it did!  I changed it up a bit, and I’ll tell you what I did.

The basic lesson is to teach them that every artist is different, thus no two works of art in a classroom should look the same, and they are all works of art.  I began by saying  just that, asking what we use when we create something, be it visual, dance, poetry, etc.  I got lots of answers along the way, but most classes ended up with “imagination”, which is what I was looking for.  We talked about the fact that artists do what they do in order to share what they see with others.  I then lead them on a guided visualization (I added this).  I asked them to close their eyes and imagine they were out in a large field, in the middle of the field is a tree and they are sitting under the tree.  Maybe they’re eating a snack, reading a book, or just sitting and enjoying nature.  The sun is shining and they feel the warmth on their skin.  There is a breeze and they feel it in their hair and hear it rustling the tree leaves and grass around them.  They might hear birds chirping or smell flowers or freshly mown hay.  I then ask them to open their eyes (there are always one or two who won’t close their eyes) and ask if they think everyone in the room saw the same picture in their heads?   Of course, they answer no!  I ask why not?   Which leads to a discussion about each person imagining things differently, seeing the world differently.  I ask if they’ve ever read a book and then seen the movie made from the book and if it was disappointing.  I share that I am almost always disappointed in that case, because no one imagines the story the same as I do, and they leave lots out!

We then move into looking at paintings of trees by a variety of artists.  I used the following prints, in this order, moving from realistic to abstract to stylized artistic style.    The Alley at Middelharnis 1689 by Meindert Hobbema;  Red Tree by Piet Mondrian; Forest with Brook by Ernst Ludwig; The Equatorial Jungle by Henri Rousseau; Gray Tree by Piet Mondrian; Trees by Piet Mondrian; and Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt.   I showed the prints and asked them to tell me what they noticed about them, especially about the trees in the pictures.  I was amazed at how much the students were into this part!  They had great discussion and observations! I had never really tried this kind of thing and WOW!  It was awesome. 

We then moved into the creating part of class.  I showed them the paper we would be using, told them they could make their work either landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical).  One of my older classes said they only knew hamburger or hotdog paper orientation, so I told them that now they did know something besides that!  I told them their work had to include at least one tree and it needed to be their very own tree — it could be realistic, abstract or stylized — an apple tree, cherry tree, bubble gum tree, etc.  I did remind them to put their name on their work, no stick figures and no word bubbles.   They were to sketch with pencil and then could add color with markers, crayons or colored pencils.  And they should fill their page, not have a little tree in the middle of a white paper.  They ran with it — so much variety in the end product!!!  GREAT first full week of school!

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