Thursday, January 28, 2016

Texture with Playdough

Kindergarten and 1st grade have been learning about texture for the past few weeks. This week we talked about petting zoos, and how different animals feel. Students rolled slabs out of Playdough, or didn't, then cut out the shape of an animal, and finished by adding patterns with the clay tools to create texture.

Previously, students have drawn line patterns to create texture, done texture rubbings, and even used the texture plates with the Playdough. Playdough has been a big hit.

Here are some more pictures.

Ojo De Dios

Just a quick post here to show what we have been doing recently. My 4th graders have started a weaving unit. As our intro project, we created Ojo de Dios. I remember doing these when I was in the third grade, back in the 80's, and going back many times after that and making them again on my own. So, I figured if I got something out of it as a kid, surely one or two of my students would get interested. Guess what? I was right.

Since teaching the 4th graders how to create these, I have been ones made at home brought back to me as gifts. I have also had many students go home and make much larger ones and bring them back to show me. That brings me joy. I even had one student who is often extremely checked out, or asleep, or just a behavior/attitude nightmare, wake up and get super excited about these.

Here are some more pictures.

There were many great Ojo de Dios made, but for some reason I did not take many pictures during this project. Probably too busy helping. One thing that was awesome, was that students that really caught on and finished early set out helping the struggling students, and did a better job teaching this than I did. I will be starting this with my third graders soon. This is a quick assignment that I would definitely recommend.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Paint Party Reward

I love reading blog posts from other teachers that give me tips or ideas that I can incorporate into my classroom procedures, or give ways to make things easier for me. I hope that this post is that kind of post for someone out there.

A little background:
My classroom is in half of a portable, with no sink (or should I say, I have one of those portable sinks with the hand pump and a jug under the counter. Aka no plumbing), and large class sizes. With the exception of one grade level I always have a class and a half, on average 36 students, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a little bit less but never much less. So, painting projects have always seemed like a challenge for me in my classroom. Overcrowding often leads to spills. Cleaning brushes and paint containers always seems to take more time than I have. Lucky for me, I was a house painter for over 10 years and feel that if I could clean brushes then, that I can do it now. However, the challenges of my room had led me to only using watercolors because they are easier to clean up, and only letting each grade level have one painting assignment per school year. Which means constantly hearing " Mr. Fleming, are we ever going to paint?"

Down to the helpful information:
Back in December, I stayed late in my classroom and was being a good little art nerd and listening to AOE Live while cleaning my room for the holiday break. While listening to Episode 18 with the lady from the blog Painted Paper, I heard something that got my wheels turning. She mentioned not having water at the tables for students to clean their brushes, but having them clean their brushes out on paper before dipping in a new color. That seemed to answer all my problems. Laura Lohmann, if you read my blog by any chance, thank you. Not having water at the table means no spills. In an overcrowded room, I hadn't found any way to prevent spills, not even the large roasting pan under the wash cup worked, they just tipped that over too. For a long time now, I have been contemplating ways to bring more painting back into my classroom. The one trick of cleaning on the paper was the piece of the puzzle that I was missing.

If you look in the above picture, you will notice that I rolled paper out across my table that is actually a little less in width than the table itself. I told my students that the exposed table area there is a no paint zone. This prevents them from leaning into paint. The other tip with that is this, no students are allowed to tie their aprons. They all whine about this till I demonstrate why. Letting them hang low, prevents the students from leaning against the table and getting paint on their pants. Additionally, I do not have to help anyone untie a knot at the end of class. I tell them if they tie their apron, they can not paint until the knot is out. Students were told as they entered the classroom, that on paint party day, nobody sits down. You can't sit and partaayyy. This is actually a clever way to keep sleeves out of the paint.

Another trick I pulled out was only having primary colors. I told my students this Friday that they could paint anything they wanted, as long as it was appropriate for school, and as long as they mixed color. "Experiment, see how many different colors you can mix." I do plan on having a color mixing game for Paint Party 2. For mixing colors, I showed the students to mix their colors on their artwork. This cuts down on how much paint is used. I also showed them to get all of the paint out of their brush that they can before dipping into another color. This actually works well, if they do not load their brush too much, that is something I need to work on for next week.

Speaking of frequency of paint parties. I am using paint parties as a reward. At my school, I see all classes during the first four days of the week, Fridays are a rotating schedule. One Friday I will see all of my Monday classes, the next I will see all of my Tuesday classes, and so forth. I have been doing a behavior contest at my school for 2015-16. Classes can earn up to 5 points per visit to art. 1 point for how they enter the classroom, 2 points for not interrupting instruction, 1 point for using table voices during work time (not screaming at the person next to you), and 1 point for clean up time. The class with the most points at the end of a grading cycle gets a trophy for their classroom, that can be taken at the end of the next grading cycle if someone gets more points than them. (I got the trophy idea from an article by Michael Linsin, author of Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers) As long as the home room teachers are behind it, this has worked very well. However, I wanted to sweeten the  deal for the last semester of the year. If classes earn enough points before they come to me for their rotating Friday, then they earn a paint party.

Friday paint parties allow me to set up paint supplies in the morning and not worry about clean up until the end of the day. They give the students something to work for that they really want, and give me something to remind them about when their behavior is starting to step away from ideal.

As for clean up, sandwich bags inside of my paint cups is the best trick of all. I saw this on one of those classroom hack lists. Without water, cleaning paint containers takes for ever. Another plus to this is, at the end of the day, I just squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it. No paint gets washed down a drain.

As a house painter, I learned that one of the easiest and cleanest ways to clean brushes is in a bucket. Students simply drop their brushes in my water bucket. Once they are all collected, I swish them around, drop them in a second bucket with clean water, swish them around again with the bristles touching the bottom of the bucket, shake the water out of them, and let them dry. I use the buckets that Model Magic comes in. Oh, and don't worry, all of that paper on the table does not go to waste. It is cut down after class, to be used either as scrap paper, or as collage paper.

I can not wait till next Friday for the next paint party. I had all of the kids cheering this past Friday, and way pumped to earn another paint party. We will see how good this works for behavior this week as they try again to earn a party.

I almost forgot, some classes did not earn a party. They had to walk through class looking at the paint party materials to get their alternate assignment. My last class of the day got to watch as I cleaned up from everyone else as they worked on their alternate, silent, writing assignment. Does this make me mean. Maybe, but I hope for the classes that did not have good enough behavior before, that they will want to try a little harder now.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Make it 3D!

I know I probably shouldn't pick favorites, but the drawing above is my favorite drawing of the week. My 2nd graders started a unit on architecture this week. When given time to draw a building of their own design in 3D, one of my second graders drew this awesome monster gas station. I told them they could draw any kind of building they wanted. What I love about this drawing is the overlapping inside of the gas pump area. We haven't covered overlapping at all. 

This kind of drawing started last year when I taught Kindergartners and first graders how to use diagonal lines to make shapes 3D. They loved it, and yes, we did cover height, width, and depth. What sold them was showing them how to apply this to drawing cars. They went home and practiced drawing cars all summer. Many of them came back as the 2nd grade version of a 3D drawing master. So, for my pretest, they had to draw a square, triangle, circle, and car shape in their art journals, then use diagonal lines to make their shapes 3D. Here are a couple of pretest examples.

Check out that truck. I am impressed.

After their pretest, and before their buildings, we read a bit from our digital textbooks. Our district adopted the Davis Digital art books this year, so I pulled some of the pages up on the Promethean Board. I like to turn the pages into I Spy and Matching games. We discussed what an architect is, and then the time was given to them to design their own building. Here are some more examples.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

What's in the box?

Well, the first week of the new year was great. My kindergartners and first graders are beginning a unit on texture. Last year when introducing texture, I first showed my students how to make a texture rubbing with the side of the crayon, and then took them outside to create texture rubbings from things around the school. However, I met with my younger ones later in the day and this year I start the morning off with 1st graders. Not thinking too much about the weather when I was originally planning for this year's texture unit I had planned to do the same thing. Not a smart idea with little ones when it is below 40 degrees in the morning. So I had to plan something different, and it has turned out to be a great intro to texture.

Trying to intro texture during the first week back after break the activity had to be short because I had to revisit rules and give new seating assignments. We tend to have a lot of move ins and move outs during winter break. Not sure if everyone deals with that. After all the new seats and a few new procedures, I scooted into the front of the room "my box".

I told my students that I had a secret inside of my box, and that I wanted to share that secret with them. I let them know that we would play a game to find out the secret of what is in the box, but first we would read a story. We read "Seven Blind Mice" by Ed Young. This is a great box for introducing the idea of the sense "feel". I asked the students what it meant to be blind. I got a few strange answers, but most knew. Then I asked, if you were blind, how could you tell what something was? Some said to smell it, others to taste it, and eventually a student would answer to "touch it". I let them know that the mice in the story come across something new, and have to touch it to find out what it is. Then we read the story, with a few questions and explanations as we went along.

After the story we played our game to figure out what was in the box. I picked one student from each of the eight groups in my room to come to the front, close their eyes, reach their hand under the apron and through the hole in the side of the box, and feel around to try and figure out what was on the bottom of my box. Each student then returned to their table and whispered to their group what they thought was in the box. They could not let the other groups hear. Each student from the group then had to draw a picture of what they were told was in the box. I then went around the room asking what the students were told was in the box. There were answers of things like dinosaurs, dirt, mice, nothing, and occasionally the right answer of a fish. I had used one of the rubber fish for doing fish prints as my secret object. Out of 64 student throughout the week that came and felt around in the box only 3 figured out that it was a fish. Like the story, we talked about how you had to feel all of the object in order to figure it out, that experiencing only a small part of something does not clearly inform you about it. This was an awesome lesson, and my first graders and kindergartners were way into it.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Winter Break Ends Tomorrow

I have been reading a lot of blogs from art teachers about the new year. Some sharing New Year's resolutions, some sharing reflections of 2015, and even some discussing not having resolutions. As for me, I don't know that I have set any real resolutions for 2016, but I am looking forward to the spring semester.

Before leaving school 2 weeks ago, I left a clean classroom. Kind of like no one likes to come home to a dirty house after a vacation from home, I don't want to come back to a dirty classroom after a vacation from school. I always enjoy seeing other people's classrooms either in person, or online. Though I often feel a little jealous as I have only seen the inside of one other classroom as small as mine.

I am proud of how organized I am with my little space. After two years of constant cleaning, organizing, and throwing stuff out my half a portable has become pretty efficient for serving  an average of 36 students per class 6 times a day. It will continue to get better throughout 2016, I am certain.

For the spring semester, I am also looking to coming back to my after school program students who will be continuing our first attempt at animation. Over the break they took blank flip books home to create on their own time. Once we finish our flip books we will be focusing on claymation. They had a blast testing this out before we left.

Throughout the school year so far, I have been constantly reflecting on my lessons, my approach, heck I have been reflecting on everything, always looking to make learning better and more exciting for my students. I have put in place many things over the past couple of years that I feel very confident in, and look forward to returning not only to continue  with these things, but to improve on them for this semester. One such thing is my bell ringers/art journals. I give students 5 minutes at the beginning of class to complete a short assignment in their art journals. It has been my goal this year to have this activity work not only as assessment, but as a resource for my students to be able to come back to when needed. I will admit that I let this slip quite a bit as the semester went on this school year. Perhaps you could say it is a resolution, but for spring semester I plan to be extremely diligent with our art journals. 

Another major goal is to stay better prepared for each class. I do not want to be cutting paper during class, or allowing any down time for my students that could have been prevented by me being a little better prepared.

As a bit of reflection, I must say, starting a blog this year has been a great tool for me. Keeping this up for 2016 is yet another thing I am excited about with the new year. I have loved sharing with others, this in itself has been a great way to constantly reflect. Blogging has certainly kept me excited about what I am doing. I love seeing what others are doing in their rooms and trying many of these things in my own classroom. 

Though I have only had a few others reach out to me and make connections through blogging, those few comments have done tons for boosting my spirits. I hope to have more connections with others this year. There are some great blogs out there to learn from and many that seem less rambling than my own. I had 975 page views for my first semester as a blogger, I don't know how successful that has made it, but it has proven to give me encouragement. Looking at my blog, I know that there will be improvements here throughout the year as well.

If you have made it through all of this rambling, thank you. I hope everyone had a great winter break, and has a great 2016. Maybe I should make a resolution to become a better writer. Luck to everyone for the first week back.