Thursday, February 24, 2011

Zentangle Inspired Art

So apparently this is a "thing." I never catch on to trends until they are almost no longer trendy. But I ran across the idea of Zentangles when I was searching for artist's trading card swaps. Zentangle is basically a glorified doodle on a 3.5 inch square of very nice paper, using very nice pens. The patterns are supposed to be slighly variant within themselves, not just perfect repetitions. If the size or media is different is is not technically a Zentangle, it's "Zentangle Inspired Art." So I guess that's what this is, since it's 2.5 x 3.5 inches. If you want to know more, this site is great. They are pretty persnickety about the "rules" of Zentangle, though. I dunno, I think the point is more to relax and draw, and let your mind focus on that instead of your day-to-day stress. Doodling is a natural habit for many people. I feel like I am tuned in more to a lecture if I am doodling while I'm listening.

Today I tried this with my 5th graders. A handful of them were finished with the current project, and while the rest of the class was finishing up, I showed them how to zentangle on an ATC. I had them use prismacolor premier fine line markers, (which my awesome principal got for us for free!) and showed them how to pencil in a border and a few strings, sectioning off their drawing for different patterns. They were so into it! As the other students finished the project, they wanted to Zentangle too. So I had the first group of students teach the newcomers. At the end of class, I told them that they had "homework": to teach another person to Zentangle. Would you believe it? The response was, "YAAAY!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wanna Trade?

My kids are finishing up their artists' trading cards and I need a school to swap with. My 2nd graders have done monochromatic cards about value, and 3rd and 5th graders have done designs with radial balance. I am hesitant to ask other teachers in my school district because we are all in the middle of preparing for our big county-wide art show at the moment.... Anybody out in cyberland interested in having your classes made some trading cards and swapping with me? :) Pretty please? My students are bugging me about it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Surrealism Writing Prompt

Last week I made a worksheet. Yes, I know. It's an unforgiveable sin. But you might forgive me if you realized how challenging the 4th grade classes have been in terms of discipline and staying on task. I couldn't get them to stay on task at all. Normally I just let everyone visit and talk while they are working, because I like that loose atmosphere. But these classes just weren't getting work done that way. So as a state change, I made a worksheet with questions about slides from the Surrealism movement. They answered the questions and at the bottom, just for fun, I included a little writing prompt. I put up a slide of Dali's The Elephants.

The kids went to town writing stories. Yes their spelling and grammar were a little off, but I've enjoyed reading these verbal depictions of their imaginations. Here was the writing prompt:

1. Write a surreal story about this picture, imaging that it is your illustration. Make sure it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. One of your characters must be a rabbit, and you must include the word, “marshmallow.”

I was so inspired by their enthusiasm, that I began writing my own story from the same prompt. Today I read it to my class, and they were interested to find out what will happen next. Here's the beginning of my story:

The Elephants Writing Prompt

Salvador woke from his dream with a start. He turned over and scratched the head of his faithful rabbit, Sam, and the gesture brought him back into reality. Sam did not even stir from his rabbit sleep, but Salvador was truly disturbed. He had seen in his dream a small house, in the middle of a remote desert plain, guarded by the last of the Stiltephants. The two creatures loomed over the diminutive hut with their long, spindly legs. He knew then that this was the sign he’d been waiting for. And he knew that the adventure of his lifetime was about to begin. He took one deep breath, and then Salvador threw off his blanket and leapt from his bed, stumbling over a few things in the messy floor of his room. What was that he’d just tripped over? Cauliflower? Nevermind. He had to get going or he would miss his only chance to save the Stiltephants from extinction. As he gathered the necessary items for his journey, he remembered all the important moments in his education. He thought of his schoolmasters scolding him for doodling what they called “magic marshmallows” in the margins of his algebra assignments. He thought of the time he was punished for chiseling symbols he thought were imaginary into the walls of his parents’ garage. This was it. Suddenly he knew he was the one weird kid who could actually pull this whole thing off. Salvador scooped up little Sam and hurried out the door.

Hopping on his bicycle, Salvador fumbled with the straps of his helmet. He pedaled furiously as the sun began to peek over the horizon, turning the sky a cheerful pink. But Salvador didn’t feel cheerful at all. In fact, he found himself feeling many things at once; excitement that he had finally been given psychological proof that the Stiltephants and the Marshmallow Seed were real, but also panic over his lack of preparation for this journey. Had he packed enough vegetables for Sam to eat? The rabbit stirred in the basket of Salvador’s bike. He was waking up. Salvador hoped they would reach the subway platform before Sam was too frightened.

As Salvador slid down the railing of the subway entrance, he zipped up his pack two thirds of the way to give Sam a little air. They wouldn’t have to be undercover for long. He checked around for witnesses. There weren’t any yet. It was still barely dawn outside. Salvador ducked quietly into the men’s restroom. It was empty, but still a very unpleasant place to be. He didn’t care. He knew it was the only way. Salvador checked his watch. It was 5:28 am. The first train would be arriving very soon. Sam sniffled inside the backpack, and Salvador opening it, pulling out his companion. “You ready for this, little guy?” In the distance, outside the bathroom, Salvador heard the rumble of the train nearing the platform. He slid the metal trash can away from the wall, revealing a hole just big enough to crawl inside of. Salvador felt the tickle of fear in his belly. This was it. He heard the train’s brakes screech as it came to a stop, and the low murmur of voices as commuters entered the station. He watched the edges of the hole. For just an instant, he saw a shine appear, like a thin layer of oil covering the entrance. It was happening. A portal formed over the hole, with a rainbow of colors flickering like the outside of a soap bubble. Salvador carefully put Sam back into the pack, and crawled into the hole. There was a small rattle in the men’s restroom, and then Salvador disappeared.

to be continued.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Just thinking...

I love it when a kid randomly asks me to spell something and then I later find that word in a little love note on my desk. Today a 1st grader asked me how to spell "girl" and then 10 minutes later she handed me a folded piece of paper that said, "I love you you are the best nice girl." Also today I was waiting for my Kindergarteners to settle down at the beginning of class. I usually close the door, turn off the lights and stand by the door "pressing pause." (It's my school's universal quiet sign: Hand raised with one finger extended, as if pushing an invisible pause button.) It was almost quiet in the room except for a little fidgeting. I opened my mouth and inhaled ready to say, "Good afternoon, Kindergarten." But I was interrupted by a cute little voice saying, "You're pretty, Ms. ___." You can interrupt me with that stuff all day, kid. This amuses me too, because I normally feel like I am pretty stern with the kids. I really have very little tolerance for what some consider to be normal kid behavior, such as asking irrelevant questions, frequent requests for bathroom breaks, tattling, and short attention spans. But they still give me love notes and random hugs in the hallway, so I guess I'm not as mean as I think.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Free Liquid Watercolors!

Don't you love free stuff? Of course you do! It's part of your teacher chromosome! ;) I thought I would share this technique because it is essentially free, and it's working so well for me. I heard about this from Debi West, a fabulous superwoman art teacher from Georgia. She suggested making liquid watercolors from "dried out" markers. All you have to do is take the lids off the markers and soak the tips in water. It took me a bit of experimenting to perfect the ratio of ink to water. I found that it worked best filling these square cups to the line and then putting in as many markers of one color as I could. The watercolor paint can be diluted more if you want a pastel look, but I prefer the color be as bright as possible. I then pour the colors into seperate larger bottles for storage.  (****UPDATE:  If you have a pair of pliers, you can actually take the marker apart and remove the foamy ink reservoir, then put just THAT into the water.  That works even better, I've found!****)

When I let the kids paint, I fill squeeze bottles (the kind with the twisty lids that are made to hold glue work best)with the liquid and they can refill their palettes themselves. The students always ask me how I make the paint and they are amazed about the markers. I've also found that the other teachers at my school are happy to give me boxes of used up markers that they haven't thrown away. I guess holding on to supplies so they can be recycled is another part of the teacher personality. Once or twice a year I'll email everyone and say, "You know that tub of markers that barely work that has been taking up space in your cabinets? I'll be glad to take it off your hands!" I always get pounds and pounds of them.

One thing to be aware of is that the paint in the bigger bottles can get a little smelly every once in a while, just like tempera paint. I usually fix that problem by squirting a significant amount of Germ-x into the paint, and shaking it up. Maybe that isn't the best way but it works for me. In my opinion, this is a minor problem considering that this stuff is free, easy to obtain, and the resulting paintings are beautiful. The projects you could do with liquid watercolors are infinite.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Artist's Trading Cards

I've noticed that students really love these mini-art projects and I think they're a great way to reinforce vocabulary words that we learn along with each project, especially Elements and Principles. I had previously kept a folder in my classroom with info for students to make these on their own, but they weren't working on those with the level of quality I wanted to see. So I think as a follow-up to all my big lessons, I'll have the students (at least 3rd grade and up) create a trading card for the Element or Principle we focused on for the project. I also found this worked well for my classes who have missed out on the big projects because of snow days or other scheduling hiccups. Instead of having them create the whole project on Radial Balance, I just had them work for one class period on an ATC. They were really into it once we got started and they loved digging through my "junk box" to find treasures for use in their cards. I required that the whole background of the card be covered first to avoid looking unfinished, and I also required that they encorporate the vocabulary word in their design, using cut collaged letters (ransom-note style.)

Here is my example for radial balance:

It would also be fun to try this with representations for different artists, and have students make a card in the style of Kandinsky or Van Gogh. This would work best with older students. I've only tried that with 5th graders so far. But I think as a summative assesment tool these could be very effective, not to mention fun! My kiddos love the idea of making them for other people, and I've always wanted to start a trading group with another school. Dream Big. :D