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Big Change for 2019

For quite a while, I have read about TAB and choice based art ed. There is a lot that appeals to me with the theory but I have never seen a structure that I felt would work for me in my classroom. In the weeks leading up to winter break, I started thinking more and more about gamifying the classroom. I decided to take the plunge and so now my 1st-5th grade students will have a range of choices but with clear structures and support to make it manageable.
I decided to utilize Google slides as a means of managing the game. It is free and a slide deck can provide secure, personalized communication between me and the students. I started by setting up a template. My slide deck has the rules of the game, a slide to track badges they earn and then numerous slides of challenges students can complete in order to earn a badge. The beauty is that since slides can have links, my challenge slides can have the learning targets then a picture of a sample project that would hit the targets. I make th…
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Amazing Stop Motion

I have taught kids stop motion animation for a good ten years now. It is a wonderful way for students to understand how video and animation work by breaking it all down to set one frame at a time. For those who dont know, a typical video camera will record and playback 30 frames per second. The idea is that is too many pictures for the eye and brain to process every second so it stops looking like a series of pictures and starts looking like one picture that is constantly moving. The point where the eye is overwhelmed and it stops looking like a series of pictures is at about 10 frames per second. I always tell my students to use 10 frames per second for planning because the math is easy (if they want a 1 minute animation, they need 600 frames) and that is a speed that will look good.
Kids inevitably end up lowering the frame rate to make their animations longer but by setting 10 as my benchmark, I tend not to have anyone give me anything less than 5 or 6 frames per second, which lo…

A Better Way to Make a Hand Turkey

In November it seems inevitable that hand turkeys start creeping into the classroom. When I was younger it would drive me nuts. I used to ban the hand turkey from my classroom because it seemed too lazy to me. Of course, like most things I loathed when I was young, I have matured and come to realize I was looking at it all wrong. Kids make hand turkeys not out of laziness, but because they want to be successful and their parents often enjoy the cute hand crafted keepsakes if you will forgive my pun.

Instead if trying to stop kids from doing what they like, I realized my job is to meet them where they are then help them elevate their work. If they want to trace their hands, why not use that tracing as a basis for a paper sculpture or cut the hand from a slab of clay and make it a keepsake their parents can enjoy for years (while also teaching hand building techniques ever ceramic artist should know).

I created this video years ago to show kids how they can make a hand turkey paper scul…

Painted and Printed Pumpkins

This is a video I made to teach my elementary students how to make a painting of a pumpkin. What I love about this demo is painting a pumpkin helps to show kids how to blend colors and use value to make something look round but it also shows kids how repeating curved lines will create the illusion that they are wrapped around a curved form. This helps lay a little bit of a foundation to be used later when teaching linear perspective and for Op Art. For the background, I have students print using found objects as stamps. This can help to create a nice Pop Art type of feel particularly when kids add facial features. I encourage them to use cut shapes to create emoji type faces so they are practicing their cutting and gluing skills as well as making the composition a little more more expressive and unique. I did this with young students and it worked well to break up the activities. First, they painted just a circle focusing on creating a gradient. Next, they set that aside and printed …

Post Impressionist Painting

I'm working with my second grade students to create Post-Impressionist landscape masterpieces. One thing that I find helpful is starting by looking at some work by artists like Monet, then working through some Post Impressionists like van Gogh and finally I like to end with Matisse. As we compare and contrast, by the time we get to Matisse, kids are noticing how Post-Impressionists tend to have wilder color that is less realistic than the Impressionists. Once, kids make this discovery by themselves, I like to pose the question of why artists would choose to paint with such wild colors. The natural response from a number of kids tends to be something like "to be creative" or "to make it pretty."While these answers have some truth to them, I then like to expand on kids knowledge base.

One of the things I think is under appreciated about Impressionism and Post-Impressionism is the role of technology in influencing their work. The camera came about in the mid to la…

Square 1 Art

Every year I do Square 1 Art with the kids. I didn't when I first started teaching. I hated the idea of making money off the kids art by basically taking their drawings and selling it to parents on all sorts of junk. I became convinced to try it after parents came to me saying they wanted me to do Square 1 Art because the products were so high quality. Parents in my community genuinely wanted to have the opportunity to buy phone cases, mugs and other items with their kids art on it. What put it over the top for me was that Square 1 give all the kids a free sheet of stickers with their art on it whether they buy anything or not. That was key for me as it shifted this from a project I do to make money for the school into a project I do so kids can have stickers and get other stuff if they want. The money is nice, I'm not going to lie, but for me it was important that every kid gets something out of it and that it didn't feel like just a means of extracting cash from familie…

New Year, New Projects

As always, I'm trying to find some new and different projects to try out. This year, I thought I would do something inspired by Ton Schulten the Dutch painter best known for his bright colorful landscapes. I decided that I didn't want to strictly copy his work, so I encouraged my students to experiment a bit and be looser with their paint. While his work is very geometric, I encouraged my students to focus on just making a nice color field painting to start and not worry about having straight edges. This allowed students to feel more free to experiment mixing colors giving their paintings a wider range of colors and more depth to the color.

After letting their paintings dry, students went over the top of those color field paintings sketching first in pencil then outlining with marker or paint. So far the results are looking great and the kids are having fun. I have been doing this project with my first graders as a nice way to start the school year introducing concepts of abst…