Sunday, December 11, 2016

Observational Leaf Drawings and Play in the Art Room

I'll admit it, the title of this post sounds a little contradicting but I've been inspired to try a new way of teaching with my kindergarteners and first graders and hopefully I'll inspire you to try the same!
I Can draw leaves that look realistic.

Day 1: Drawing the leaves.
We started with the beautiful video below of a timelapse of fall.
 After the video both Kindergarten and First grade did a "I Know, I Wonder, I Noticed" activity looking at real leaves that I brought in from my back yard. The activity went like this: They turned and told the people around them what they knew about leaves, I paraphrased conversations I heard; they turned and told the people around them what they wondered about leaves, I paraphrased conversations I head; I sent them to their tables to look at variety of leaves with a magnifying glass, and I paraphrased the things I was hearing them notice. After this activity we came back to the carpet to watch my demo video of drawing the leaves with black oil pastel. Because observational drawing is a more difficult concept for K and 1, I found it helpful to use my document camera and "think out-loud" what I was seeing as I was drawing. We had a conversation about not drawing what our brain told us a leaf looked like but what our eyes told us. Then I sent them on their way to draw. Check out the Boomerang of drawing in action.
FYI, Boomerang is my new favorite thing to do for videos so expect to see a lot of those in the future.
Now I have to warn you, this was a CHALLENGE (for the kinders especially). There was a few tears here and there but it was SO worth it, and to see the end result be successful nonetheless!
Day 2: Wind, Color "scavenger hunt", and Painting.
I LOVE surprises and when my students get excited, so when they came to art next, I read them a story about a windy day and had them draw wind lines on their leaf artwork with white crayons. They looked at me like I was nuts but I told them to trust me and that it would be a surprise. After this, I had students come back to the carpet. I wanted to give them a little time to forget about the wind they just drew.
 This next part is where some of the new way of teaching for me starts to come into the lesson. This summer I attended a PLC conference that had a lot of sessions on engagement. I went to one session with a huge take-away--make sure my students don't have a choice but to be engaged 100% of the time. That seemed like an incredibly hard task to accomplish, however, slowly but surely I am figuring out how to make that happen.
I showed a variety of artworks where each notable artist was inspired by fall. I had crayon buckets scattered on the carpet and gave them the direction to pull out the three most important colors that they saw in each artwork. We did this at least 10 times until they noticed a trend in the colors we were pulling out. Tada! Our fall color scheme and the colors we were going to use to paint the leaves. And guess what, EVERY kiddo was pulling out crayons and in on the lesson. Not one kid was crawling around on the floor, making animal noises, or distracting their peers. IT. WAS. AWESOME. And all I did was use crayons and not even for their actual purpose.
 After this engaging activity, I showed them my demo video and gave each table a set of liquid watercolors with red, orange, yellow, brown, and a little green. They could paint any way they wanted--a messy wash across the entire painting, filling in some leaves, filling in all the leaves, it was up to them. When they started painting the "oooos" and "ahhhhs" 'MY WINDs"and "OH MY GOSHes" started to happen when they noticed their wind was there after all and I wasn't crazy. Again, an awesome Boomerang of painting in action.

Day 3: Raking time.
In October I attended a different conference, the Wisconsin Art Ed conference and attended a session on play in the Art Room. Below are two slides directly from the presentation that summarize why play is so stinkin' important and why I did what I did next.
Meri Lau (K-2 Midvale Elementary)
Mary Hoefferle (UW-Madison)

Meri Lau (K-2 Midvale Elementary)
Mary Hoefferle (UW-Madison)

THIS was the absolute best part of the lesson. THIS is what I was waiting for since the day I went to that session. THIS very awesome third day of the project they made rakes, cut up their leaf paintings, threw the leaves, raked them, collected them and took them home. It was awesome to watch them play with their art and be engaged in their art making and not ONE kid was stressed or complained about cutting up their artwork. Below is my rake, I had a demo video like usual for creating the rake and cutting the leaves in a very stress free, on-lines-don't-matter kind of way.
 I asked local hardware stores to donate paint sticks for the handles and used white tag board for the rake part. I did draw tick marks of where to cut the diagonal for both grades and squares to cut for kinders to make the teeth. I tried not having the squares for the first class of kinders and it was about 100000000 times harder for them, but 1st had no issues. We did do the diagonal cutting together on the carpet in both grades to ensure the highest number of success. They decorated their leaves while I went around and masking taped the paintstick handles on. Enjoy the short little Boomerang of them raking.
MAN OH MAN am I excited to keep teaching this way for the rest of the year with this bunch. They're not the only ones who will be having fun. And just in case it needs to be said, and I don't think it does. THIS is why professional development opportunities are so important for Art Teachers.

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