Archives for category: creative process

Welcome to the WeAreTeachers Blog Hop Stop #7. If you’re just joining us, head back to the BLOG HOP LAUNCH POST to find out how the Blog Hop works so you can collect all of the necessary clues for a chance to win an iPad, a $50 gift card and much more!

As a participant in this blog hop, I’ve been asked to write a review of my favorite educational gift. I’ve chosen:

Products: My First Crayola Triangular Crayons in Storage Container, Crayola Colored Pencils, and Melissa & Doug Sketch Pad

Age range: 3 years and up

Subject areas: Art — and virtually any other subject!

Hot Deals: On Amazon.com

In the high-tech gadget oriented world of today, why not give your child something refreshingly simple and fun this holiday season? (Not to mention, deceptively educational!) Offering limitless opportunities for creativity and self expression, the gift of crayons, colored pencils, and drawing paper is sure to surprise and delight your recipient. Though these tools might seem a bit “old school”, consider the fact that they are completely user-friendly, are one-size-fits-all, and don’t need batteries, or require an electrical outlet and a charge to be played with. Brilliant!

Children of all ages will benefit from time spent exploring their creative potential with these simple yet empowering art tools. Not only does drawing and coloring help develop small muscles and fine motor skills, but it also helps kids learn how to approach and solve problems. Countless decisions are made while drawing, whether the budding artist draws something they are observing, or develops creatures unknown and lands unseen. Stories are created and imaginations are strengthened. All of this helps develop critical thinking, which is an essential component of the Common Core State Standards being implemented in schools across the country.

While any type of crayons or colored pencils will do, Crayola is a trusted brand in the industry and one can be assured of their product quality, which ultimately results in a more satisfying experience for the artist. The triangular nature of the crayons in this pack means they won’t be rolling around the work surface, and the storage container keeps them tidy when not in use. Colored pencils are still fun for little hands, yet will allow the more mature artist to add detail to their work. Having lots of paper on hand for your young artist is a must! With 50 sheets of 9X12 inch paper, this sketch pad ensures the fun and creativity can go on and on.

As a teacher, and as an artist, I believe meaningful art experiences play an integral part in discovering who we are as individuals. Art helps us see ourselves and the world we inhabit more clearly, while also helping us to imagine future possibilities. Giving the gift of creativity through the tools of artistic expression is a gift that is truly priceless.

WeAreTeachers Blog Hop Clue #1: BUT

The next stop on the blog hop is: Teacher Gear We Love

More chances to win: What’s more, as part of this blog hop, I am offering a $10 gift card to Amazon! To enter, do one or both of the following by 11/23/12:

Here’s a fun way to engage your students’ powers of critical thinking while allowing them to explore their individuality and creativity at the same time. The “Secret Door Ornament” is a lesson that works for virtually any grade level, is easy to present to your students, and uses materials you probably already have on hand at home or in your classroom.

You will need the following: construction paper in a variety of colors, glue or paste or rubber cement, crayons and/or markers, tape, scissors, and old magazines. Optional items could include things such as yarn, glitter, buttons, brads, cotton balls, rubber stamps, sticker dots, and more.

Depending on the age of your students, you will want to either have large ornament shapes pre-cut, or allow your students to draw and cut out their own shapes. (I would suggest using 9X12 or 12X18 inch construction paper for this.) Invite the children to decorate their ornaments any way they like using any materials you have available for them. For older students, expectations could be set very high and be very specific about the level of involvement and sophistication you expect in their surface decorations. Once anything that needs to dry has been allowed to do so, cut the secret door flaps in the ornament. (You might want to do this part depending, again, on the age of your students.)

Next, have the kids look through old magazines for a picture of their own “special wish” that will be placed “inside” their ornament. These wishes could be anything such as a vacation, a toy, or even a special thought. What matters most is that it has special meaning for the child. (You could opt to have your students draw their wish if you don’t have magazines available.)

Finally, have each student tape their special wish to the BACK of their ornament so that it will show through when the secret door is opened. The kids are fascinated with this and will have fun opening the little doors again and again to reveal the special wishes of their classmates. (Be sure to display these on a wall or bulletin board so that your students can reach them.)

While these large ornaments are spectacular and fun for their own sake, opportunities abound for connections to other areas of your curriculum. For example, ornament decoration could be related to a specific area of your curriculum such as science, math, social studies, or even to a book the class is reading. You can make many language arts connections by having students share orally with the class — or even just to a buddy — about their secret wish and why they selected it. You might ask students to journal about the process of decorating their ornament, selecting their special wish, and about what makes that wish meaningful to them. These journal entries could be kept between teacher and student, or could be shared with the class.

Especially for Halloween, I’m sharing a great little art trick, that turns out to be a pretty neat treat as well.

First of all, a basic understanding of colors is helpful. Generally, all colors can be divided into two broad categories known as “warm” or “cool”. Warm colors — red, yellow, orange — are those that you associate with warmth, or with warm things such as fire, the sun, or hot lava. Cool colors — blue, blue-green, aqua — are those that you associate with a feeling of cool and with cool things such as the ocean, sky, ice and snow. (A few colors can work in either category depending on their composition. Green and purple are good examples of this duality because each is made by mixing a warm color with a cool color.)

Children are fascinated not only by colors and color mixing, but also with the idea that colors can make us feel a certain way based on their perceived warmth or coolness. Advertisers and designers are particularly adept at using our innate feelings about color to their advantage. As it turns out, warm and cool colors can also be used to manipulate our visual perception as well.

Which brings me to the art trick I promised! When creating any type of artwork, if you’d like to enhance the illusion of depth in your piece, remember this simple trick: warm colors advance and cool colors recede. Even the lightest application of cool colors over an area of your work, be it a painting, a drawing, or whatever, will make it look like it has been pushed back and is farther away from you. The opposite is true for warm color application, making that area magically seem as if it is closer to you, advancing toward you. And if you apply both in the same piece — warm colors on foreground images, and cool colors on background images — Wow! The illusion is striking!

Try this little trick for yourself and teach it to your students. The results are a treat and will be sure to delight both artist and viewer!

If you’re an elementary school teacher, you know that young students are very enthusiastic about art. They are willing to try just about anything, and they are willing to try it with gusto. The older children get, however, the more reluctant they become to try their hand at art. When art experiences are authentic, they usually say a great deal about the artist, so by their very nature can make one feel vulnerable. By the time students become young adults, many have completely shut down artistically.

As a teacher at both the elementary and the secondary levels, it has been my experience that the single most important way to engage the reluctant older student in art, is to first meet them where they are. Initial lesson designs should rely heavily on skills that they likely already possess or will find less intimidating. (For example, painting a still life realistically using watercolors would probably not be a good first lesson choice, but using a pencil to create an abstract design using thick and thin lines might be.) Beginning with art experiences that virtually guarantee success, and showing students that you value their authentic efforts, will build their confidence and enable them to move on to ever more challenging art production.

A second approach that I used time and time again was that of providing a specific age context for the work they were doing. For example, while keeping expectations for involvement and exploration of materials very high, I would ask my high school students to imagine they were creating a particular piece of art for a viewing audience of very young children. This would allow them to “play” with images and design like a child, while still remaining their “cool”, older selves. It consistently produced wonderful results.

By presenting thoughtful lessons, and by demonstrating interest through questions and constructive suggestions, the teacher can create an atmosphere where otherwise reluctant older students will feel safe and are willing to take creative risks as they explore new materials, skills, and concepts in art.

If you’d like some tried and tested lesson plans that are sure to engage students of all ages, please check out my professional development class offerings through Fresno Pacific University.

Do you remember the simple joy of creating one of these? Consider sharing this wonderful experience with your students this autumn. It couldn’t be easier and the rewards are great!

For supplies, you will need only three things. Paper… nothing fancy… copy paper works great here. Crayons… broken into easy-to-hold chunks with the paper peeled off. An assortment of leaves and maybe even some small twigs and branches.

Your students will love exploring outside to find just the right leaves and twigs. If you have magnifying glasses — even the super inexpensive ones — give them to your students to use. (You won’t believe how focused they get!) Once back inside, explain the process of placing their leaves and twigs underneath their papers so they can rub over them using the sides of their crayons. A simple pantomime of how they will rub over their paper using the crayon is enough — you don’t have do actually do it — let them have the thrill of discovery themselves.

And they will be thrilled! When the rubbed images appear, it’s like magic and they love it! And don’t be fooled into thinking your kids are “too old” for this experience. As a high school art teacher for many years, I was consistently shocked by how many of my juniors and seniors had never done this. And the ones that had, had such fond memories of it, that they loved the opportunity to do it again.

So why devote time to an art experience such as this? Besides the obvious — it’s fun! — so many important things are going on here. Being outside. Exploring. Talking with each other about what they’re finding and doing. Analyzing and making decisions about their leaf selections… colors, shapes, textures, sizes. Using small muscle control to make the rubbings. Deciding on colors and placement of objects. Talking to others about what they’re making. And what if you incorporated writing? Depending on your approach, the curricular possibilities are virtually endless. And then, what if you incorporated science and scientific observation? What about math? The point here is that this simple, joyful activity suddenly becomes the catalyst for a profound level of learning and involvement. (And did I mention that it’s fun?!)

For other simple ideas about how you can easily incorporate art into your classroom and support the curriculum you are teaching everyday, please check out the affordable, convenient, self-paced Professional Development courses I teach through Fresno Pacific University.

Back to school… yes, it’s already that time of year again!

If you’re a teacher looking for an excellent, easy back to school lesson idea — and what teacher isn’t? — then you’ve come to the right place!

Lesson Idea: Create Personalized Calling Cards

For this little lesson, all you will need are some blank cards (index cards without lines will work just fine here and you won’t have to cut anything), some drawing tools (crayons, markers, pencils) and an ink pad with washable ink.

The idea here is to have every student in your class create a “calling card” that represents them. Talk for a moment about what things make each one of us unique. (Things we like to do, things we like to eat, music we like, pets we have, places and people we love, etc.) To reinforce language arts, consider making a list of some of these things as your students mention them.

Ask your students to create their special card and to include the following on one side: Their name (first and last or just first, it’s up to you), drawings and words of things that make them unique (you might want to give them a specific number of items here), and their thumb print (that’s where the washable ink comes in).

Depending on the age and ability levels of your students, modifications can be made to take this from a very simple art experience, to a much more sophisticated design problem that will challenge older students. Reading a story first about how we are all unique and special might be a wonderful introduction to this experience of card making. Asking students to reflect in a journal about their creative process while designing their cards can be a meaningful culmination to the project. Allowing students to select, cut, and glue magazine images on their cards in addition to their words and drawings can also be interesting if you choose to get that involved.

Once finished, these cards will look great displayed in the classroom, or on each child’s desk, or can even be used by the teacher to select students at random for special jobs or to answer questions.

If you’d like to be the kind of teacher who effortlessly brings meaningful art experiences into your classroom on a regular basis — check out the classes I offer through Fresno Pacific University. You won’t be disappointed and your students will love you for it!  🙂

 

Like so many people around the world, I’ve been watching the Olympic Games. Yes, I’ve cheered on the swimmers, divers, and gymnasts, just to name a few. But what’s really been interesting to me is the design of the Olympics. The art of the Games, if you will.

From the Opening Ceremonies — to the various competitions — to victorious Olympians receiving their medals of achievement, I have been captivated by the art and design of the Olympic Games.

Clothing design is a special favorite of mine. From the Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremonies, to the uniforms and warm-up/cool down clothes of the athletes — it’s interesting to see how countries represent themselves on clothing. In my opinion there have been several standout examples so far. The red and yellow dragon theme designs… the wild prints that several countries have used… sparkles… graphic elements, etc.

Then there are the various Olympic arenas. Personally, I don’t care for the color of the gymnastics arena or the volleyball courts, but I’m sure those selections made sense to somebody on some level.

And what about the logos? The block-y looking “2012” that I was unable to decipher until I asked my husband what it meant… NBC’s “London” logo that it shows during broadcasts… the font chosen to say “London 2012” at many of the event arenas…? Oh, and don’t forget the beauty and simplicity of our most enduring symbol of the games… the Olympic Rings. Brilliant! Love it or hate it, people spent time imagining and then creating all of these things and more for the games. I’ve made this point before and I’ll make it again:

ART IS ALL AROUND US!

Even at the Olympic Games. As teachers, we can help our students see this. Even if you don’t feel comfortable teaching an “art lesson”, how about helping students see the simple fact that art is everywhere in their lives? Help them begin to think about the idea that someone, somewhere had to first imagine an idea in their mind before it could be made into a reality and then shared with the world. Imagine the critical thinking that has to happen as options are explored and decisions are made about — well, virtually everything! Imagine fostering that kind of thinking and creativity in your classroom. You can.

Very often I’m asked by students and teachers if it’s acceptable to look at something as a reference while they are creating. My answer is always yes. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect students  — or anyone for that matter — to be able to recall exactly what any given thing/animal/place, etc. looks like from memory. Using some sort of visual reference is a great support for the creative process. But here’s the thing… I think it’s imperative to make a distinction between the different kinds of visual reference materials available.

Of course working from life is the best of the best. But if one is trying to recall the facial details of a lion, for example, getting a peek at the real thing might not be possible or practical. As the next best thing, I strongly suggest using photographs — as opposed to drawings — when some type of reference is needed.

The reason I prefer photographs over drawings is simple. If I want to draw a flower for example, maybe even something like those pictured above, by using a drawing that someone else has done as my reference, all of the decisions have already been made for me by the person who created that drawing. Things like, color, shape, shadows, highlights, details, and on and on, have already been determined by the artist who drew that flower. By using a photograph for reference, everything is there for me — all of the visual information, and I — as the artist — can make the decisions for myself about what I want to include, add, or leave out of my piece as it suits me and my creative experience. The interpretation of that photo is mine and mine alone as I create.

As a classroom teacher, I would purchase books on sale that were filled with color photos of all kinds of things… birds, reptiles, mammals, fish, flowers, you name it, and then tear the pages out and keep them in files. This made it easy to pull them out and allow students to sort through them and find what they were looking for, and then take the individual photo(s) back to their desk to reference while they worked. Having computer access in the classroom provides a virtually limitless source of reference photographs as long as students can find what they need quickly without being distracted.