Saturday, August 9, 2014

Happy August, Everybody!

School's already started back?  WHAAAT!?  Seems like it's earlier every year.  Anyway, here's a little update on me.  

Our school is pretty severely overcrowded at this point, and I'm still in a mobile Art situation.  At the end of the year last year, I was asked if I would prefer to move to the former concession stand near the gym and the music room, and I jumped at the chance.  My previous office was small and had carpet.  This one is twice the size, has linoleum flooring, lots of countertops and cabinets, and best of all, a sink!  So it's much more conducive to arty-ness, even though it's still not the same as having an actual classroom.  This location is pretty ideal for me, being near the gym and the stage for theatre things, and near the music room for collaborating with my Fine Arts buddies.

There are moments when I still feel overwhelmed, but I do feel like I'm better equipped this year to make the program work.  And yes, that is the TARDIS on my office door.  At first, I did that for me, just to add a little personality to the space, but then I decided to make it relevant and cuter by adding "Imagination makes you bigger on the inside," above the door.  Already had some compliments on that!

This year we are on an 8 day color rotation.  And since the specials teachers almost all have an additional part time teacher, that makes the planning piece very complicated.  It's going to be pretty near impossible to coordinate on a lesson that keeps pace and is consistent across a grade level.  So my co-teacher and I have decided to have her teach her own self contained lessons, focusing primarily on art criticism, since that's what I tend to leave out due to time constraints.  I will let you all know how that turns out!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Spring Play

This is the time of year when my students start bringing me fun sized Snickers bars.  It's a  bit of an inside joke, actually.

I am the sponsor for my school's Drama Club (which we change the name of just about every year).  And it's almost time for our Spring performance.  We already have one show under our belt as a group:  the Vaudeville Variety Show we put on in November.  It was super cute.  We had a ventriloquist, and a dancing gorilla, and George Burns, and Abbot & Costello.  It was a way to sing and dance a little, get some stage experience and teach a bit of history at the same time.  Did I mention I teach at an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL?  Yep.  I'm pretty sure I'm the only Elementary Art teacher in the known world who is brave (read: crazy) enough to take on directing a group of 42 aspiring actors in 3rd thru 5th grade on top of teaching full time.  But it's something I've always done since I started teaching.  (Guys...I'm so sleep deprived right now that the first time I typed that, I wrote "teachering.")  In fact, I think it's what helped me get hired in the first place.  In my interview I asked if the school had a program like this, and mentioned that I would love to create one and help the music teacher with her shows, etc.  So after growing up as a theatre kid, here I am instructing young minds on how to project their voices whist wearing itchy, homemade costumes and sweating under our stage lights.  

Anyway, back to the Snickers.  I explained to my theatre kids that when we get close to performance time, Miss Teacher morphs into a fire breathing dragon who thinks you're about to steal her gold.  She is tired and cranky, and even though she still loves you, she isn't herself.  She might yell at you for making a minor mistake, or maybe for a huge mistake, but she probably is just HANGRY.  She just needs a Snickers.  Thus, these adorable and hilarious kids have started investing in some  Snickers Insurance.  On Valentine's Day, one student brought me the biggest Snickers bar I have ever seen.  She said, "Just in case you need it this afternoon when we're blocking that crazy scene."
Show is in 10 days.  Eep!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Black Glue (tested and improved)

Most of the time when I use something from Pinterest, I test it first.  But as things are now, being a mobile teacher, I don't have much time to test things before I just have to throw them into my lesson.

Thus the black glue mess.

I was trying to do a Kandinsky-inspired lesson with the kinders.  I coordinated with the music teacher and we did a joint lesson about Jazz music and how that relates to Rhythm in art and the artist Kandinsky.  Then I had the kiddos draw with crayons to re-create the feeling of the jazz music we were listening to, keeping them focused on making lines and shapes; abstract, not representational.

Then the plan was to edit their crayon drawings, and pick what we liked the best, then recreate that on a new piece of drawing paper using the black glue you see all over pinterest, then color in between the dried glue with chalk pastels.

"Oh, it's so easy!  Just mix some black tempera or acrylic with your white glue and away you go!"


Wasn't that easy for me.  First of all, I had to find the right kind of glue.  The Elmer's worked fine, but the off brand melted the black paint and wouldn't mix at all, nor would the crayola glue.  (It was too thick.)

So once I had a billion little bottles mixed up, I gave them to the kids and woops!  "MINE WON'T SQUEEZE OUT!"  "MINE'S COMING OUT GRAY!"  "MINE'S BROKEN!"

Don't you love it?  My glue is broken.  Lol.

After dealing with all of that, I then realized I would have to refill the bottles for the next couple of classes, because they got used up pretty quickly.  And refilling the bottles with glue AND paint and mixing them before the kids had to use them?  Nope.  Didn't happen.  There just wasn't time.

So here's what I did:

I made use of an almost empty bottle of black tempera paint; the one that still has paint in it, but not enough to be pumped out by the gallon paint pumper, and I poured a bunch of bottles of Elmer's into it.  Then I closed the lid tightly, and rolled it up and down the hallway, and shook it up.  It mixed up great!  That was WAAAY easier than mixing 30 individual bottles!  Now I can refill the black glue bottles from my big one, and I know the mixture will be the same consistency with all of the bottles!

I did this in the hallway, too, by the way.  Lol.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Homeschoolers Welcome!

It's come to my attention that a fair few of my followers are homeschoolers (or just regular parents) looking for arty project ideas to try at home.  How awesome is that!?  Way to go, you, for nurturing your child's creativity at home!  If I had a Super Parent badge, you'd have earned it!

Of course my blog isn't really designed specifically for you guys, but I am glad to have you here!  My main intention is to share lesson and process ideas with other teachers who are working with large groups of kids.  I just share my experiences, and the choices I have to make given my specific situation, and what's available to me at the time.  So just because I didn't think to use something that seems like it would work better for you, don't be scared!  In fact, I'd love it if you would share that idea with me!  Comments make me feel all fuzzy inside!

Faux Batiks with First Grade, Cleanline Resist and Lumi Inkodye

I've had some interesting results with my faux batik project.  We began by studying the batiks of Africa, which is our theme continent for this grade level.  I then gave the kids a piece of muslin fabric.  By the way, if you ever have to cut 150 or so pieces of fabric for some reason, remember it is WAY easier to tear it than to cut it.

The kids traced the outline of their fabric in their sketchbook.  Then, using that as a guide for sizing, they made a very simple drawing of an African animal, and perhaps a little decorative border.  In hindsight, I could have skipped this step, because they definitely made their drawings more detailed than they could ever recreate with the glue.  But it helped them to visualize their idea I suppose.

The fabric was see-through, so they were able to place it on top of their pencil drawing and "trace" it with the glue.  Drawing with glue is tricky, and that's why the images have to be super simple.  You may get better detail if you try using gel glue instead of white glue.  But I have that lovely crayola white glue, and I tend to reach for that most often.

After letting the glue drawings on the fabric dry, we painted over them with tempera. We used one color to help alleviate my logistical issues, but you could use as many colors as you want!

Then, the next week, when the paint was dry, I washed them in the sink with warm water.  I did this for each kid individually, so they could watch the paint come off the glue and stay on the fabric.  I didn't try to remove the glue from the fabric completely, because it would have just taken far too long.  I did that for my example, and I had to wash so much that the color faded too much for my taste.  But depending on how your operation is set up, it may be best just to throw all the batiks in your washing machine without detergent.  The tempera will stain the fabric, and the glue should be completely removed.  I haven't tried that.  I wasn't going to put 150 of them in my washing machine at home for obvious reasons.  :)

I removed the glue from the fabric completely.  But my piece of fabric was about twice the size of the ones I gave the kids.  I tried to do a little gradient with the black and the blue, but it didn't turn out very evenly.  It has sort of a tie-dye look, though.

And here's a kid example.  The color is much brighter, because they dried for a week before we washed them; plenty of time for a nice stain to set into the fabric.  And you'l notice that the white lines are a bit shiny, because the glue is still there.  The kids were happy either way, and this kept the color nice, so we went with this method.

Overall, I'm really happy with these results.  I've been wanting to do a faux batik lesson with kids for years, but I never quite found my groove with it.  I've tried this similar technique on paper before with mixed results, and I've tried the chalk and glue method too.  Here's a link to the Frank Lloyd Wright project I did a few years back.  

It is also noteworthy that if you are doing this with older kids or for yourself, you might want to try Cleanline Resist instead of glue.  It's designed more for batik.

I used a brush to apply the resist to fabric, testing how much detail I would get, and what difference the thickness of the applied resist would make.  You could then use the tempera method described above, or dye of some kind.  You might want to try the Inkodye.  It's a light sensitive dye which can be used for anything from batik to t-shirts, to faux cyanotypes.  I added the dye over my resist, laid it out in the sun and then washed in the sink.  Here's the result:

Because I'm a photography nerd as well, I am gonna have to try this with film negatives!  The instructions make it look super easy.  Now I just have to wait for the SUN TO COME OUT!  :)

Let me know about your experiments with batik!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Trial and Error

So I've been adapting most of my lessons to the mobile art program pretty well.  But there are definitely some things that have to be changed completely.  Anything that I would normally put on a drying rack now has to go out in the hallway against the wall to dry.  The littles are used to doing this, since they make a lot of projects in their academic curriculum that need drying.  But the big kids?  It was weird to them, and so part of me just wants to nix all that with the big kids.  Their work got stepped on a bit, since they are more rowdy and have bigger feet, I guess?

I was trying out a faux batik lesson with first grade, and the process was to "draw" on muslin fabric with white glue, then let it dry.  Next day, paint over the entire piece of fabric with bold colored tempera paint.  Since I'm on a cart, I gave everyone blue paint.  I couldn't deal with multiple colors of tempera in a room with barely any space to walk between tables, and ONE sink.

The other teachers have been very receptive and accommodating for the most part.  My school is awesome, and my colleagues are the best.  Seriously.  One teacher said I could just leave the wet projects at the kids' seats, since they are my last class of the day and that way, each kid would know which one was theirs without having to mess with writing names on fabric.  I hope I didn't stain her tables blue with paint.  

I have assigned helper kids to collect work at the end of the day once it's dried, and put it back in their portfolio box, but I really don't know if that's happening or not.

The hardest thing for me is when I've made my example, and it worked fine for me, but then when I get in the room, something malfunctions and I have to switch gears on the spot.  I can't leave the room, and I can't send a kid to fetch something, since my stuff is all spread out in various places and I don't even know where everything is offhand.  Most often, I run out of paper, or there's a new kid in class who doesn't have a sketchbook yet, and I have no way to make him one right there.

Another thing I'm struggling with is figuring out a way to have "I CAN" statements posted for my lessons.  I can put them in the powerpoint when I introduce a project, and I can reiterate them while I'm teaching, but the only other thing I can think of is having the kids copy them in their sketchbooks.  That takes a lot of time though, and when I'm already losing minutes setting up, traveling to the classes, and cleaning up, I'm not sure I'm willing to take 20 minutes for a whole class to copy a bunch of objectives.  I could also have them posted on a white board that is attached to my main cart somehow, but it would have to be HUGE to fit everything.  Maybe a flipchart or something?  But again, more stuff to take with me everywhere...

I also get a little frustrated when kids explain to me, "Oh, everybody will be quiet if you just ring the bell," or whatever their classroom "thing" is.  I cannot remember 35 different things for 35 different classrooms. Oi vey.

Also, if I take my laptop with me to the classrooms, so that I can access all my files faster, I inevitably have to reboot entirely so that I can connect to the network in that room.  But that's just a technology glitch. 

So every day is different.  I keep a binder with me that has my lesson plans, class lists, and schedule.  And on each grade level cart, I put the project example.  Yes, I trust the kids not to touch it when it's out in their hallway.  Maybe I shouldn't, but so far, so good!  Ha!  Sometimes I can't even get the cart into the room.  There are so many desks and obstacles in each room and the layouts are completely different, sometimes from week to week!  Our teachers, being so fabulous, like to change up their seating arrangements frequently, which is good for the kiddos but not for me.

I hope that by sharing my experience I can help somebody out who's going through this transition!  I would love to hear about your own situations, too.  Maybe we can put our heads together to solve some of these challenges!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Here Comes the Art Mobile!

Hey there.  Sorry I haven't made a post in like - forever!  Been kinda busy.  This January our school's overcrowding got out of control and I have been (temporarily - probably) placed on a cart.  My classroom is now full of kindergarteners.

I have learned a lot so far about what works and what doesn't.
(Pictured:  Unit 00.  This is the cart which I take to every room, sometimes I park it outside the class, or inside, depending on how much space there is in the room.  I didn't clean it up or organize it for the picture.  I wanted to be real with you guys.  It's got my water bottle, project examples, my time timer, drawing books for sketchbook time, glue sticks, markers, scissors, and a lot of nasty pencil shavings which I can't seem to control no matter what I do.)

The first thing I asked for was to have a separate cart for each grade level, and another main cart with basic supplies everybody can share, as well as my planning stuff.  That works pretty well, except when I fail to think about the fact that I need that box of pastels for second grade in the afternoon and fifth grade has it in the morning and I have zero minutes in between classes to go and get it.

(Pictured:  Art Mobiles on their hallway, my paper storage drawers, and the blue class portfolio bins)

Thus, I employ children.  That's right.  Child labor!  No.  Just kidding.  But I do give a lot of "helper" jobs to each class.  I have four helpers whose job it is to push into and out of the rooms, and on to their next destination.  Sometimes they get to push the button on the elevator.  This is a big deal.  Then in addition to that, I have two or three helpers to get the class portfolio box, which I keep on the hallway as well.

So all that's going ok.  I was disappointed that I couldn't do clay with the kiddos this year, but fourth grade has made some cool paper sculptures of Classical columns, all working in their groups at their own desks in their fourth grade classroom.

So other than all that, it's going.  If you are teaching from a cart, please share with me what you've learned so far!  Hopefully by the time I get used to it, I will be in a classroom again, but still!  :)