Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Third Station - Painting

I opened the painting station this week for the third, fourth, and fifth grade students. This station has two tables, because I knew that a lot of students would want to paint. I put the ends of the tables right next to the two sinks on our free-standing island. I am going to locate any wet projects that we do close to these two sinks and the other sink that is on the wall behind them. So far the only paints that I have placed at this station are watercolors and tempera blocks, as well as four sizes of brushes. Most students seem to be choosing the tempera blocks. On the first day for each class, there was a lot of experimenting with brushes and the kinds of strokes that they would make. They seem to really like the 1-inch flat brushes that they can make broad strokes with.

On the second day for each class, I had made and displayed signs giving the students a choice of a still life, a portrait, a landscape, or a non-objective. I had prints of master artist's works to view, as well as one of my own non-objective paintings so that the students would understand that concept.

In the last two weeks all students have been working on artist statements. They must give a title to their work and an explanation about it. The explanation can tell what they were thinking as they worked and what inspired them, or the techniques that they used. The younger students are having a little more trouble understanding what is expected. I prompt them with leading questions, then write their sentences when they say them if they are in first grade.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Madison and the ukelele

Madison concentrates on drawing the baritone ukelele with white charcoal pencil on black paper.

4th and 5th Grade Collages

Students viewed a teacher-created Powerpoint slide show of Henri Matisse's collages. Students were excited about using the variety of papers and shapes that they found at the collage station.

Second grade masks

After a demonstration, students made their own expressive masks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Opening the second station

After all students had had two class periods in which to use the drawing materials, I opened the collage station. This station has glue, scissors, scissors that cut decorative lines, construction paper, tissue paper, specialty papers (wallpaper, gift wrap, and bubble wrap), and shapes to trace. My husband is a packaging designer, and brings me all kinds of interesting shapes that are left over from cutting display boxes from the company where he works. The students love to trace these. I started out putting magazines at this station also, but the students didn't understand that rather than cutting out a picture of an object, they should cut out another shape, such as a diamond or a freeform shape, from within that picture. I'm going to hold onto magazines until I can do a demonstration of how I want them to use them. I am starting the younger students, 1st and 2nd graders, with construction paper and tissue paper only until they more fully understand collage.

I have been stressing hands, head, and heart with the younger students. I found this concept on the TAB-Choice website and the "art_education website." This concept is helping tremendously with getting the younger students to put that extra effort into their art work that I would like to see. St. Francis of Assissi said, "One who works with his hands is a Laborer. One who works with his hands and head is a Craftsman. One who works with his hands, his head, and his heart is an Artist." John Crowe uses this as a rubric for assessment in the TAB-ChoiceKnowledgeLoom website.

I have added puppets and masks to the collage station for the younger students. We are making masks from paper plates, and puppets from small paper bags. Since this is the collage station, every detail must be made with cut paper.

I also added to the drawing station. I added white charcoal pencils and showed them how they would look on dark colors of paper.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Students use our toy dinosaurs to practice drawing skills and add imaginary environments.


I put dragons illustrated by the Australian contemporary artist Graeme Base in the box of images for drawing. This has inspired some student artists to draw from his pictures, like Chaunsi, and some to create their own original images.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Shelby's Butterfly

Shelby decided that the fluorescent crayons were perfect for a butterfly with pretty patterned wings.

Me and My Mom

As you can see, Lily really loves spending time with her mom.

Jacob's dinosaur

Jacob got right to work with markers to create a fire-breathing dinosaur. Those must be planes flying around it.

Autumn's non-objective art

This student was enjoying using the oil pastels. She started out to make a tie-dye picture like so many other students, but quickly branched out with other, more creative, patterns.


When the drawing station was opened, this first grade student started his drawing by making 6 symbols in the center of his page, then labeling them. He finished the whole page in the same fashion.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

First Week of Choice-based Art

During the first week I opened the drawing station by demonstrating how all of the materials could be used: broad-line markers, fine-line markers, crayons, colored pencils, fluorescent crayons, glitter crayons, changeable crayons, pencils, sharpie markers, and oil pastels. I also had a tub with a collection of small toys that could be drawn: dinosaurs, farm animals, and jungle animals. I had a large variety of drawing books, approximately 40, to look at, which I have since pared down to about 10. I plan on rotating these, as the original number had too many choices. We discussed the various ways that an artist gets ideas. I gave the students a choice of papers to work on: black, white, brown, purple, or green. I told them that sometimes an artist spends time experimenting with and manipulating new materials to see in what ways they could be used, and that the colors in the background around the colors that you use affect the appearance of your color. I had many students excited about trying out materials on a variety of colors of paper. Others chose to draw something of interest to themselves.

On the second day for one class, three students at one table got inspirations from each other. One boy used his whole sheet of paper to represent an aquarium with a large fish in it. It had a large cat's paw reaching into it. One of the girls next to him drew a very creative, colorful, fairy-tale boat on a bucolic ocean with a lot of clouds above it. The boat was meant to go in the aquarium. The girl on the other side of him drew the interior of a room with a dresser with the drawers hanging out, with the aquarium sitting on top of it and the cat poised beside it. It gave me chills to see how they had worked together to create a whole story in pictures.

Since the first day for each group, I have added mirrors for self-portraits, texture sheets for rubbings, and an African art book,a Native American art book, and design books for butterflies, undersea, and stained glass windows to use for inspiration. So far, all students have been actively engaged in their art in every class period.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Transition to Choice-based Art Education

After 22 years of teaching elementary art, I have decided to change my teaching style to one in which the students make all of their own choices, as practicing studio artists do, rather than using teacher-directed lessons. This change has come about gradually after finding websites which advocated this style during the past year, attempting this classroom set-up in a limited fashion last spring, and doing about 6 weeks of research during the summer.

This teaching style is based on constructivist learning, in which the students interact with materials, and make their own choices and create their own solutions to problems, and, I believe, is best for the students. Constructivist learning is based on recent research about the brain and how learning occurs. In this style, the student IS the artist, and the classroom becomes a working studio. I have divided the classroom into stations, where the students have a wide variety of choices to be made in the way of materials and techniques to use to express themselves. Students may work independently or with a classmate. Brief instruction in the way of technique, content in the way of art appreciation and culture, or new materials are introduced at the beginning of each period. Students are then allowed to select the stations where they will work.

Students are expected to reflect on and discuss their work, as well as give each finished work a title and write an artist statement about it. They are expected to put their “heart” into their work, rather than just their hands and their head. Moving toward choice-based art gives students greater control of their education and allows them to communicate personal meaning and ideas, enabling them to become confident, inventive, and inquisitive human beings.