Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A question about interruptions.

Sorry folks; no photos of artwork from awesome students in this post or great lessons to share. Instead, I have a question. How do you deal with the constant interruptions to lessons that come from the normal activities of school? It is that time of year for us here in TX where testing, field trips, holidays, assemblies, and even severe weather prevent students from making it to the art room, sometimes up to 3 weeks in a row.

I have classes in every grade level that are way behind the other classes. To keep myself sane, sometimes I skip a lesson/assignment with one group so that all of my classes in a grade level can start a new lesson on the same week. Of course, then I end up with students asking "why didn't we get to make...?" Sometimes I just keep a group trudging along hoping that fate will put them back on pace with everyone else. Other times, I try to condense information or assimilate it into the next lesson.

Please don't get me wrong, I am not trying to gripe. I know we all deal with this situation, and I would simply love to see a discussion on how others deal with interruptions. An opportunity to help each other out. This is only my third year teaching, so I know that some old pros out there could lend some sage wisdom to the rest of us.

So, please respond. If you don't have a solution, but have other info that might generate some tactics of dealing with this, feel free to give that input too. Or if you have an opinion of why this shouldn't stress us out, let us know why.

Thanks ahead of time for any input.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Break 2016

As of right now, I have about an hour before I go to bed. Then, for me, spring break will be over. But, it was great. Before I reflect on the past week, let me share with you what some of my students did the Friday before spring break. 

This was a bit of a relaxed day, as I did not see all of my classes, and it was part of our rotating Friday schedule. So, we had a fun day. 1st and 2nd grade students were allowed to use markers and crayons to create a quick drawing of what they planned to do for spring break. However, they were warned that they could not tell anyone what there plans were, as the plan was to share our drawings for the last half of class, and allow others to guess what we planned to do. We talked about how success can sometimes be judged on how well you can convey a message without words. In keeping with the instructions I gave them, I will not say what there drawings were about, with the exception of maybe one.

Below is the one that I will talk about.
This student said that his family was going on a hunting trip for spring break. I love the details he added; chopping firewood, camping, camp fire. It reminds me of a great many of hunt artwork that I have seen from cave art, to Native American Art, to medieval European art. Too cool.

Now for a bit of personal reflection about spring break.

When my students were creating their artwork of what they planned to do for spring break, I created my own. Yep, plans of backpacking. 

Two years ago, I went to Boston and New York City for spring break. I came back completely rejuvenated and excited for the rest of the school year. Last year I simply stayed at home. I enjoyed my time at home, but did not feel that I was as refreshed after spring break as the previous year. This year, I had plans yet again to get away, this time, completely away. I spent 4 days backpacking the Ouachita Trail in Oklahoma. No computer, very few people, no traffic, no walls, no phone. I even went so far as to not even bring a camera on this backpacking trip. I instead decided to bring only a sketchbook to record my journey. The whole experience was very refreshing. As yet another way to get away from the norm, I decided to only make observational drawings, since I have been working strictly in abstraction with my own artwork this year. Here are some of my results.

The above sketch was of one of my fellow backpackers resting after we retrieved one of our water catches by the roadside.

The one above got interrupted by a brief rain storm. I was working on adding a great many trees to the foreground. This was in water soluble pencil. Perhaps I should have let it get rained on to see what it would do. Oh well, I saved it from the rain instead.

The last one is yet another drawing that got interrupted by the rain. Mostly linear here.

How do you spend your spring breaks? Do you think it is better to get away, or simply to take some down time?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Texturing and Tearing

Kindergartners and 1st graders recently completed some torn paper collage landscapes. We focused on texture for a while and are now looking at space and forms, so these collages served as a good transition to introduce space through overlapping.

After students created textured paper with crayons and texture plates, we got to tearing. When I ripped my first textured paper during my demonstration their faces got all concerned. "Mr. Fleming, why did you rip your paper?" they cried. "Because it's fun. Join me. Lets make some clouds". Before long, they loved it, and went to town ripping out cloud shapes, mountain shapes, tree shapes, hills, you name it. Of course, I did have a student or two that said "I can't do it". Of course I replied with "can't do what, rip paper?" They told me that they could not rip paper into the shapes of things. I had to coerce them into trying it. After all, it's just torn up paper it is not meant to look perfect. Even the reluctant tearers got the hang of it and had fun.

This assignment took two class times. One 9x12 blue construction paper, two 6x9 pieces of construction paper in two different colors, white paper from my scrap paper box, texture plates, glue, and crayons.

Paint Party 2016 Volume 2

I have been wrapping up our second run of paint parties as a class reward for good behavior. For 3 years, I have felt like dealing with behavior has been a major time killer for my art class. Paint party rewards seem to be helping a ton. Class behaviors have improved dramatically. Kids want to paint. 

In case you missed my last post about paint parties, here is the run down. We have a rotating Friday at my school; which means Monday classes see me one Friday a month, Tuesdays one Friday a month, and so forth. That means each class sees me one extra time once a month. I use this to my advantage. During the four visits prior to a Friday visit to art, classes earn points (5 possible per day). If they get 15 out of 20 points by their Friday in art, they get a paint party.

Essentially, a paint party is just a paint day, but those don't happen often at my school due to large numbers in the classroom and no running water/sink. Painting all day on one day of the week allows me to set up once and take down once. It makes it easy on me, and keeps it energetic and fast paced for the students.

This go around our theme was outside places. I showed the students a photograph that illustrates atmospheric perspective well. We talk about overlapping, how things look smaller farther away, how the color gets lighter for things farther away. We have had some great discussions after asking the question "Why does the color get lighter in the background?" My older grades which have studied the water cycle usually come to the conclusion that evaporation has something to do with it.

Each table received black, white, and one secondary color of paint. During demonstration, students learned about the tints and shades of values. We started with the sky, and worked our way forward with overlapping since we only have the paper on our tables to clean our brushes with. 

Students were allowed to create a painting of any kind of environment they wanted as long as it was outdoors. We even had the opportunity to talk about monochromatic color schemes.

Though this student did not use their color, I love the expressive quality of this painting. Awesome overlapping and rhythm.

This was one of the most rewarding one day assignments I have had in my classroom. What successful rewards do you have for class wide behavior? Please share.