Archives for the month of: October, 2013

IMG_2268In the spirit of this most spooky time of year, I’m giving away a free book! This National Audubon Society field guide features insects and spiders with so many gorgeous close-up photographs you’ll be certain to feel creeped out! But seriously, this book would be a fantastic addition to any classroom’s reference library. This field guide is valued at $19.95 and will be sent free to one lucky blog reader.

IMG_2270The photos are clear and crisp, and will provide wonderful visual references for anyone wanting to draw virtually any insect or spider realistically. Click here to read a previous post about how you can easily set up your own visual reference files.

To enter this free giveaway, just leave a comment here on my blog anytime between now and midnight PST on Halloween, October 31st, 2013. One winner will be drawn at random from the names of those who leave comments, and will be notified via email on Friday, November 1st, 2013.

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COVER-226x282.ashxI recently came across a terrific little article in the September 2013 issue of California Educator magazine. (Click here to view the digital edition of the magazine and read the article that starts on page 9.)

The article is entitled, “5 Reasons to Bring Back the Arts”, and it’s the magazine’s cover story. I urge you to take a look at this piece because it’s a nice summation — a very quick read, written in a sort of “bullet point” style — about why the arts are essential, and about what they bring to the educational table. Statements like “the arts help students express themselves”, and “the arts make you smarter”, are explored and backed up with studies. If you don’t already see the value of a thoughtfully planned and implemented art program, this short but persuasive article might just make a believer out of you.

If you’d like to start bringing meaningful art experiences into your classroom, but don’t know how to get started, click here for information about my affordable, convenient, and self-paced professional development courses that you work on from home on your own schedule.

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I love this time of year! This season of magnificent color presents an exciting opportunity for students to notice and record what they observe happening around them. If your students aren’t already keeping “art journals”, I suggest that now is the time to have them start! You can read my earlier posts about the ease of setting up and using art journals here, here, and here. There’s also a post here about observational drawing that you might find helpful.

My proposal is simple. Have your students observe leaves, one at a time — over time — as they change colors throughout the fall. While many different approaches are possible, I would suggest that you begin by simply having them each select one leaf to bring into the classroom. For this first observation, I would encourage you to suggest that they look for leaves that are primarily green. You might say something like, “We’re going to go outside (to some specific area) and spend just a few minutes while you each find one green leaf to bring back inside our classroom.” This sets a few basic parameters as well as your expectations: A) we will all be staying in the same area together, and B) we will be spending a very short amount of time doing this.

Once back inside, the process of carefully observing their leaves can begin. (Having each student set his or her leaf on a small, pre-cut square of black or white construction paper will help simplify the background, and will make each leaf seem “special” as if on display.) I would not have any pencils or paper out at this time to help focus their attention on their leaves only, and on LOOKING. Oral language and sharing would be great here… what do they see? Students can share their observations with a neighbor. Perhaps you could make a list of class observations. Vocabulary words like line, form, shape, color, and texture can be introduced or reinforced.

When it’s time to draw, journals/paper, pencils, erasers, color pencils, crayons and anything else you might make available can be distributed and the drawing can begin. You might encourage your students to draw one large image, or perhaps you might encourage them to draw several smaller images — or “studies” — of the same leaf from different angles. (This is great for those students who always finish at light speed! Ask them to move their leaf and take another look at it from this different angle.) Most of all, encourage them to take their time, to slow down, and to really look at what makes their particular leaf special and unique. The trick to observational drawing is to actually draw what you see in front of you, not what you THINK you see. Every child in your class has seen a leaf, and generally knows what leaves look like, but today you want them to do the best drawing they can of the particular leaf that is right in front of them.

If you have the time and the inclination, you might attach a writing component to this activity, having students describe what they see, or perhaps how they felt looking at their leaf and trying to draw it, or maybe even compose a poem about it. This writing could be as structured or as “free form” as you want it to be. The writing and drawings can be shared aloud with a partner and/or with the class. Another idea is to have everyone leave their journal open on their desk (or their paper out) and everyone moves around the room doing a “journal walk” or “gallery walk” to enjoy everyone’s work. (If this type of activity is new for your students, you might need to spend some time talking about how important it is to value all efforts, and to stick to constructive comments.)

As you notice the leaves changing colors over the next several days or weeks, explore this same process all over again, but this time you will encourage your students to select leaves that are say, yellow. Maybe a few days or weeks after that, everyone will select red leaves. Reinforce for your students how amazing it is that while you are returning to the same area over and over again for leaves, they have changed color dramatically.

This simple, multi-step journaling practice can be repeated using a multitude of subjects, some of which include growing plants, trees budding out in the spring, or something rotting like a small piece of fruit — kids LOVE the gross-out factor of this last one! Once kids get the hang of what you expect from them out of this process, this type of drawing can even be something that your students can do independently like at a station or center, or perhaps when other work has been finished. When practiced frequently, observational drawing is so much more than an art exercise for students, but rather it becomes a thoughtful, meaningful way of viewing, thinking about, and of understanding their world.

IMG_2245Hello October! In addition to being excited about this new month which brings such lovely fall weather… I’m also very excited to announce my second Art Kit winner!

Congratulations to T. Leonard who earned her entries by registering for my distance learning class ART 900: Drawing Magic. (If you need affordable, convenient, self-paced professional development, check out the information here.)

Each Art Kit is loaded with terrific art supplies, and a lesson plan ready for use in your classroom or homeschool setting. Click here to learn more about this fabulous kit, and to find out how easy it is to be entered into the drawings to win one.

I hope your month is off to a great start! I know T. Leonard’s is… she can look forward to receiving her Art Kit full of goodies very soon!