Archives for category: brainstorming

IMG_2355With the holiday season upon us, what better way to decorate your classroom, or another location at school, than by having your students make some festive, one-of-a-kind holiday streamers?! This idea can be used at any grade level, and materials can be as simple or as complex as you’d like them to be.

MATERIALS: You will pre-cut one long, thin strip of butcher paper for each child in your class, plus a few extras in case of any “disasters”. 🙂  A good size for these strips would be about 6 inches wide by about 5 or 6 feet long. Decide what materials you’d like them to use to decorate their banners. Depending on your time frame, the age and skill levels of your students, and how involved you want to get, materials can range from crayons only to things like, construction paper and glue, cotton, buttons, brads, tissue paper, and more. You might consider limiting their color choices, so that all designs will be created using red, green, and black for example.

MOTIVATION: Before distributing the banners and supplies, tell your students that they are each going to decorate their paper strip with a vertical (tall) design. This means that they will work from top to bottom and not from left to right as they usually do. Talk about all the possibilities for holiday images including things like designs, lettering, and symbols. Time spent brainstorming before you distribute supplies will pay off greatly once everyone gets to work. In fact, you might consider making a list of things during brainstorming, so that students have something to return to if they feel stuck. (Great language arts connection opportunity, too!) Be sure to stress that the decorations for these streamers need not only be “representational” art. (Art that looks like something.) Images of pure design (nonrepresentational art) can be fantastic here, too. (New vocabulary words!) This will help alleviate stress for those students who might be insecure about their drawing skills.

Once everyone starts working, you might get questions about how to draw this or that. The way I handle this is to “talk them through it” without solving it for them. Ask them questions about the thing they want to draw or represent, leading them to create something themselves. Depending on your students, you might make little pieces of scratch paper available, so they can work out some rough sketches before committing their idea to their banner. This kind of thinking and decision making is a vital part of any meaningful art experience and distinguishes it from merely being a “craft project”.

Once completed, the streamers can be suspended from a line stretched across your room or will even look spectacular if they are taped or stapled to the walls. If you don’t have space in your room for display, perhaps you might consider hanging them in the front office, library, hallway, or cafeteria? If time permits, invite students to describe their streamer decorations and talk about why they did what they did with the class. (Oral language!) Or perhaps you might have them write about their streamer decorations and their decision making during the creative process. (Written language!) If you really want to try something fun, consider introducing the idea of a “critique”. This teaches students how to be careful observers, and how to speak respectfully to each other about the work that has been done. A thoughtful critique also shows students how many other creative solutions there are to any given art problem. When the time comes for winter break, the streamers can be simply rolled up and held with a rubber band or paperclips to be taken home for family and friends to enjoy.

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IMG_1778It’s never too early to encourage students to begin thinking about careers that interest them. This simple, yet powerful art experience called “Career Cubes” is a fun way to do just that, while incorporating critical thinking, writing and even a little research if you desire.

You will need the following materials: Light-weight cardboard — used file folders work great here, masking tape, construction paper scraps, scissors, glue, color pencils, crayons, and markers. Additionally, things like yarn or string, staplers, brads, and discard magazines could also be included.

Each child will need 6 light-weight cardboard squares. They can be any size, but I’ve found 4 inches by 4 inches to be a nice, workable surface. Depending on the age and ability level of your students, measuring and cutting out their 6 squares can be great math practice. You could also provide a template for tracing, or you could provide the squares to them already cut out. (The more carefully the squares are measured and cut, the better the resulting cube will fit together.)

The reason 6 individual squares are used, rather than a “cube pattern”, is that the separate squares provide a more challenging set of 6 individual compositions, and a more interesting approach to cube construction.

I would suggest deciding ahead of time what your expectations are for each side of the career cubes. (Your specific requirements for your students will vary greatly based upon the age and ability levels of your students, but even for the very young, I would be sure you have some sort of guidelines established for them.) For example, if your students are older, you might require the following: One side devoted to “naming” the career, three sides will be visual representations of that career, one side will be a written statement about why the student has chosen that career — or is interested in that career — and one side devoted to some basic research on the career such as schooling required, etc., for a total of six sides.

Before handing out the first square, encourage discussion and brainstorming about what types of careers your students are interested in. Talk with them about how different careers could be visually represented… for example, what sort of symbols might one make if they wanted to become an architect? A nurse? Make a list if you like of the many possibilities your students come up with. After you feel your students have been sufficiently motivated, concentrating on only one square at a time, have your students begin the process of surface decoration. Depending on your available art supplies, the squares could be decorated with a variety of materials, or you might limit them to just using cut and/or torn construction paper. The choice is yours. If you decide to require a written component, you might like students to write in their own best handwriting, or perhaps you’d like them to write and compose something on the computer that they can attach to one square. Depending on your schedule, you might have students work on this in one, uninterrupted block of time, or perhaps you might break the process into smaller, shorter work sessions. (Squares, along with bits and pieces, can be easily stored in ziplock bags while in progress.) Lots of options here to make this work for your students, your curricular objectives, and your time frame.

When all 6 sides of a student’s career cube are complete, the cube can be constructed. First, lay out four sides. Be sure to leave a small amount of space between squares to serve as a “hinge”, and tape with masking tape like this:

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IMG_1780Then attach the remaining two sides to the four you just taped like this:

IMG_1782Now bring all sides together to form a cube and tape securely.

IMG_1785Masking tape used neatly on the “outside” of the cube is fine and can become part of the surface decoration. Once complete, each student will have created a unique, concrete representation of his or her desired career choice. Career cubes are fun displayed individually on student desks, stacked up as a group, or can even be hung from the ceiling if you are clever. Your students will love not only making them, but looking at them as well!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking for a unique and creative way to celebrate Earth Day with your students this year? Allow me to suggest Earth Day hats! (Pictured above is a basic, undecorated scored paper hat shown from the side/back.)

The idea here is to have each student in your class create a hat, and then decorate it using Earth Day as the theme. While the basic hat shapes will be the same, each child’s surface decoration will be distinct and unique, making each hat a personal statement about how that child feels about protecting and celebrating the earth.

You will need one sheet of 18X24 inch construction paper for each child in your class — color choice is up to you. You will also need a stapler, any type of glue, scissors, and lots and lots of discard materials for the students to choose from. This could be anything from a scrap paper box, to things like, ribbon, buttons, cotton balls, tooth picks, fabric, feathers, tissue paper, brads, yarn, pipe cleaners, glitter, etc. This art experience is the perfect time to use up a variety of random things you have on hand, and to recycle old things into something fresh, fun, and new!

To make a basic hat, just make one simple scored line in a half circle shape on the long side of a sheet of 18X24 inch construction paper. (See diagram below.) If you’ve never scored paper before, you will simply drag the pointy end of a pair of scissors — or even the tip of a paper clip that’s been bent open will do — gently across the paper. This “scored” line that you’ve just created will allow you to then fold the paper along this curved line. (Scoring as a technique is amazing! Once you start exploring it, you’ll be hooked!) Attach points A and B together with a staple, and you’re done. Super simple! (In the photo at the top of this post, you can see this stapled connection point at the back of the hat.) If you’re working with very young students, it might be a good idea to have the hats made ahead of time for them so that they are all ready to be decorated. Scoring takes a little bit of practice so as not to cut through the paper while you’re doing it, but after a few tries, you will learn what amount of pressure is just right.

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If Earth Day is going to be your theme for hat decoration, it might be a good idea to spend some time talking with your students about all of the different ways they could decorate their hats to show how they feel about protecting and celebrating the earth. They could cut out letters to include words on their hats, they could cut out, or tear out, and create symbols to place on their hats (think earth, sun, clouds, water, plants), they could add fun, three dimensional things to their hats such as paper streamers, ribbons, and more. (I would strongly suggest that you not use drawing materials such as markers, crayons, or pencils for hat decoration, as drawings tend to lack the excitement and involvement that other types of surface decoration provide.) Perhaps this brainstorming could be captured as a list that the students could refer back to while they work?

By this time, your students will be highly motivated to get started creating their hat masterpieces, so there is little left to do beyond getting their hats and materials distributed to them. They will have a blast making something that is such a personal statement, and the fact that they will be able to wear them when they’re complete just sweetens the deal. (I’m envisioning a photo op in here somewhere!) Have fun with this, and I’d love to hear how it goes if you decide to try it! (Pictured below is a basic, undecorated scored paper hat from the front.)

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