Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One Shot Lesson: 2-201 Clay Communities

Today I had the pleasure of covering a 2nd Grade class that I don't normally get to see, 2-201. As a result, I needed to come up with a lesson that they could start and finish in the span of 45 minutes. The teacher told me that they have been studying "communities", so I decided to have them work in teams to build various "communities" out of modeling clay, a material that lends itself perfectly to a short work-time and an even shorter clean-up. 
At the beginning of the class we discussed communities and they shared with me what they have been learning them in their classroom. We then made a list of communities we know (urban, suburban, rural), as well as communities we wish existed (dinosaur land, candy land, Atlantis, a city on Mars, etc.).

After this, I introduced clay and we discussed the ways we can change the clay with our hands (i.e., roll, press, poke, pull, break apart, smoosh together, etc.). Most of these students had me in first grade and/or Kindergarten, so they had worked with clay before. However, I wanted to review the ways we can build and change clay.

Adonis exploring the malleability of modeling clay

Children then went to tables and were given a card that had a name of community written on it (from our list). They were then instructed to work together to build this community on a large piece of paper at the center of each table. They would need to start by deciding which elements they would need and who would build each element. Once they had created some elements, students began putting their communities together on the large pieces of construction paper that I had placed at the center of each table.  Some pictures of students working together:

At the end of class, we took time to walk around to each table and look at the different communities. Students took turns at guessing which community each team built. We talked about how different parts were made and the way different teams constructed their communities (some teams created more vertical elements while other teams used relief to create parts of their communities).
"City on Mars" had a very detailed Martian!
The "Farm" Community was built in relief

"Under-The-Sea City" had a lot of fantastic creatures! Check out that Octopus!

"The North Pole" is a community of "Elves and Snowmen living amongst candy cane trees"!

Because modeling clay never hardens, students "smooshed" their clay up and put it away to explore with another day. As a side note, I sometimes like to do lessons that don't result in a "take-away" final product because it forces students to not become to precious with their artwork (and to learn to find joy in the process, instead of worrying about a final product). If I cover this class another day, I may do a follow up lesson where they create drawings about the community they created in clay so that they could then bring home a work of art to share with their parents, as that is always important too!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kindergarten Collage Unit

Kindergarteners have been working on a collage unit. They began by exploring ways of manipulating paper with our hands (tear, rip, fold, etc.). They also learned proper gluing techniques (we use glue brushes and glue containers instead of glue sticks or bottles, so students learn to "dot, dot, dot, don't glue a lot around the edge").

The next lesson, students explored ways of creating different edges (i.e., zig zag, fringed, curvy, straight, etc.) by "drawing" these lines with our scissors.

Students worked on the same piece of paper both weeks to create a collage exploration of anything they chose (my focus for these lessons was to explore ways of manipulating materials and techniques instead of focusing on a specific subject/end product).
Michelle, K-B02

Gianna, K-B02

Benjamin, K-B02

Students then had a 1-class painting "break" from collage. Students discussed primary/secondary colors and learned how to mix the primary colors to create secondary colors on large pieces of paper. I then introduced the idea of hand-painted paper and we discussed how it was important to fill in the entire piece of paper with mixed colors so that we could later use this paper for collage.

After this, students looked at the book "Animals, Animals" by Eric Carl and discussed their favorite animals. They spent one week creating the animal using hand painted paper, and another week creating the "habitat' for their animal on a separate piece of paper. The third week they cut out the animal and glued it onto the "habitat" background and used more collage paper to finish their "Favorite Animal Collages".
Alexa, K-B07, "My Favorite Animal is a Horse"

Ariana, K-B02, "My Favorite Animal is a Whale"

Devin, K-B02, "My Favorite Animal is a Camel"

Jasmine, K-B07, "My Favorite Animal is a Cat"

Liani, K-B02, "My Favorite Animal is a Cat"

Michael, K-B07, "My Favorite Animal is a Camel in the Desert with Pyramids"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1st Grade Paint Explorations

Students in first grade have been busy at work exploring the wonderful medium of paint!
We began this 3-class project by spending time looking at the painting, "The Mellow Pad" by Stuart Davis.
Image from

We identified and created a list of a variety of lines we saw in the painting (ie, curvy, zig zag, spiral, dotted, etc.). Students then learned how to use black paint and brush to create these lines on a large piece of white paper. At the end of class, they received white paint and learned how to properly mix two different colors together.

The following lesson, we read the book "Mouse Paint" by Ellen Stoll Walsh and discussed how the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) can be mixed and combined with brushstrokes to create the secondary colors (orange, green, and purple).

Students then learned how to use proper painting techniques (using brushstrokes instead of "scrubbing" the paint onto the paper, cleaning our brush in between colors, drying our brush on the sponge after cleaning their brush, etc.) to fill in some of the shapes they made the previous week. They focused on making new colors by mixing two or more colors together.
Class 1-108

Sabrina, 1-108

Finally, students spent the final week learning that there are many colors that can be made, other than just the primary colors. We learned to use turquoise, magenta and white to create all sorts of colors by using brushstrokes to mix the colors on the paper inside shapes that were still empty. Students also learned to paint on top of dry colors; although the colors did not mix together, colors do appear different when painted on top of other colors.

Meroly, 1-125
In the following weeks, we will be using our newly-acquired color-mixing skills to create painted portraits of ourselves with our family.
Ariana, 1-108

Carol, 1-108

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

3rd Grade Drawing Unit - SHOES!

3rd Graders have been hard at work on a drawing unit. We began with an exploration of line in white charcoal pencil on black paper. We explored different lines we know (curvy, zig zag, thin, thick, spiral, etc.) and created shapes using the lines. We then went back into the shapes with Conté crayon and learned how to manipulate the Conté (by blending, layering, etc.) to create value and texture.

Brian 3-228

Gabriel, 3-228

After exploring these various drawing materials, students practiced drawing from observation (or close looking) through a series of different types of sketches("gesture" and "contour") in ebony pencil. Students first observed their shoe, in particular the outline of the shoe. Students thought about this outline as one long piece of string, then tried to draw this outline by not picking up their pencils. This required them to look at their shoe as much as their drawings, and to carefully study all the bumps and curves in the outline of the shoe. Next, students did a blind contour drawing of their shoe, which required them to draw their shoe while only looking at the shoe, not at their drawing. Students learned the importance of observation through this excercise. After this, students learned to draw their shoes as quick lines and shapes from observation. Unlike contour line drawings, gesture drawings require the artist to pick up their hand and move it quickly, all over the paper, in order to learn how to draw the correct proportions and shapes in the object they are drawing.

Bin, 3-228

Michael, 3-303

 After this, students used white charcoal pencil to create a final drawing of their shoes. They used their observational skills they learned in the previous week to help them create a more detailed line drawing of their shoes. Students focused on creating a proportional, detailed drawing of the shapes and lines in their shoes. 

Larry, 3-303
Lienwei, 3-228

Kelly, 3-228

After this, students used conté crayon to add value and texture to their shoes.

Kiara, 3-212

Finally, students looked at Van Gogh's Paintings of shoes and discussed who might have worn the shoes and why.
"Shoes", Vincent Van Gogh, from
"A Pair Of Shoes", Vincent Van Gogh, from

We learned that certain visual clues in an image (i.e., color, shape, line, texture, etc) tell a story. Students were asked, "If the shoe in the painting could go on a journey, where might it go and why?". Students then thought about this question in relation to their shoes and came up with ideas for where their shoes might go if they could go anywhere. Students then created a white line drawing of this journey in the background.

Larry, 3-303
Xavier, 3-212
Zhiwei, 3-303

Stephany, 3-204

Karen, 3-204

Please enjoy 3rd grade's drawings of "Shoes on a Journey"!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2nd Grade Oil Pastel Portraits of "Me + My Hero"

2nd Graders have been working on a drawing unit based on the Blueprint Standards for Visual Arts (the NYC art standards). The benchmark for 2nd grade states that students should be able to "create a drawing that demonstrates experimentation with various drawing tools such as oil pastels, pencils, colored pencils and crayons and also demonstrates use of varied lines and colors to convey expression". The suggested theme is "a family portrait with attention to physical features".
I started the unit by doing an oil pastel exploration with students, as I always feel an exploration with materials is necessary for students at the beginning of any unit. I could teach them techniques as they created a final drawing (and I do to some extent), but I feel the learning they gain from just exploring the materials is much richer, as well as more beneficial. I want students to focus on the process, not the end product, and I feel that doing an exploration also helps with that.

The exploration I did with students began with a class discussion in which they learned how oil pastels can be manipulated in a variety of ways (smudging, layering, mixing, scratching, etc.). Students were then given a square piece of white paper that they folded twice, so that the paper  was left with four squares. Inside each square, students explored the techniques they learned about in the class discussion.

Jean, 2-216
Eny, 2-225
Emily, 2-216
After this, students looked at the work of Frida Kahlo and discussed the portraits she created; students learned that a portrait is a work of art that depicts a person, usually the head, neck, and shoulders with a focus on the facial expression of the person. . We learned that Frida often created portraits of loved ones, as well as people that were her heroes (like her doctor).
"Self-Portrait with the Portrait of Doctor Farill, Frida Kahlo, from the website

We then made a list of who our heroes were and students filled out a worksheet to describe/sketch their hero.

Jason, 2-216, He chose me as his hero :)

Once students had decided on their hero, they started working on their portraits of themselves with their hero. Students began in oil pastel, lightly drawing in their own portrait from observation using a mirror. We talked about how we might arrange the space inside the page so that we could fit in our hero as well. We also talked about how our hero might be taller than us, so we might need to draw our own heads further down on the page so the hero could take up more of the page and appear bigger. Students began by creating the shape of their portrait, then blended oil pastels to create their skin tones. After this, they created basic facial features in oil pastel. Once their own portraits were mostly complete, they added their hero's portrait by using a picture of their hero as reference (either a photo or a printed picture they each brought in as homework). Once both portraits were complete, students thought about where they might go with their hero and created a background that conveyed this. Finally, students used ebony pencil and sgraffito (with scratch sticks) to add details (like texture in hair, eye lashes, lines in lips, etc.).

Work in progress:
Annaya, 2-225

Yujia, 2-225

Yahay, 2-225

Steve, 2-216

Jason, 2-216, "My hero is Ms. Westerberg because she teaches me art in class"
Finished Artwork:
Dylan, 2-216, "My hero is David Wright from the Mets because he always hits home runs"

Raul, 2-216, "My hero is my Sister because she almost did a split in the blizzard"

Rosalia, 2-216, "My hero is my mother because she always helps me with my homework"

Stacey, 2-216, "My hero is my mom because I love her and if somebody robs me she will get them"

Yannae, 2-216
"My Hero is a Doctor", Nathaly, 2-225

"My Hero is a Doctor", Yujia, 2-225

"My Hero is a Firefighter", Francisco, 2-225

"My Hero is a Firefighter", Kimberly, 2-225

"My Hero is my Brother", Helen, 2-225

"My Hero is my Dad", Angel, 2-225

"My Hero is my Dad", Nayeli, 2-225

"My Hero is my Mom", Annaya, 2-225

"My Hero is my Mom", Luis, 2-225

"My Hero is my Mom", Sabrina, 2-225

"My Hero is my Mom", Yahya, 2-225

"My Hero is my Sister", Yamilet, 2-225