Friday, March 9, 2012

A New Home on the Internet

Dear Readers,
Please join me on my new blog -
Art with Mrs. Gonzalez
*the link is working now ;)

The Briargrove Elementary Art Page has been such a wonderful place to showcase beautiful student artwork, connect with parents and educators, and share unit ideas and classroom practices. After having spent 5 years working on this blog, I began to think about ways to expand and improve what I do here on the Internet. What better way to make a change than to start fresh?! I hope you enjoy my new features and a more organized format for finding what you're looking for. And of course, expect large amounts of fantastic student artwork!

Please head on over and check it out! If you are a follower here, I would love it if you would follow us on the new blog! I'm glad to be back on a regular posting schedule, and eager to share more of the wonderful things that we are doing here at Briargrove Elementary. Thank you for reading, supporting, commenting, and celebrating here on the Briargrove Art Page. So excited for you to come on over and continue on this journey together!


Mrs. Gonzalez

Monday, January 2, 2012

Primary Color Mixed-Media Exploration

Back in September, the kinders and first graders were getting accustomed to their new "studio" space in the kinder pod area. I took advantage of the interesting new arrangement (3 tables, twelve stools and a large floor area for 30 kids) by doing some art activities that allow for the students to move around, experiment and create in an intuitive, student-lead, kinesthetic way.

Last semester, I spent a lot of time on color theory with first and kinder. We spent the first few weeks in our new studio learning about the primary colors. For this first unit, I just wanted the students to become familiar with (or review) the three colors that make up the primary color group, while experimenting with different materials and processes as well as choosing subject matter that interests them most. I purposefully chose materials whose properties generally do not allow (or do not work well) for color-mixing. I wanted the main focus to be on learning the primary colors, and exploring familiar or new materials in an open-ended way.

With my experience working in early childhood education, I know the importance of open-ended, process-based art exploration. I always keep this in mind when designing a new unit, and I have been especially pushing that goal this year with my younger grade levels. For this unit, that meant allowing my students to decide on their own subject matter, to explore variations of the colors within the primary color family, to chose abstract or realistic imagery, and to experiment with and combine materials as they see fit.

As they made these choices, I demonstrated and gave gentle guidance as to how to get the most use out of each material (marker caps need to be on whenever a marker is not in use so they stay fresh, push hard with your crayons to get the most color, use the "just a dot, not a lot" technique to get your paper to glue down securely, etc.) along with giving some encouragement for them to use their whole page.

I set up different materials at each table, as well as a station on the floor. One station had red, yellow and blue colored crayons; another had markers in the same colors. There was a table with a stack of construction paper scraps in the primary colors for ripping and gluing. The last station had two bins of 2-sided colored paper tiles. Some colors on the tiles were primary, some were not. Students had to sort out the primary colors before using the tiles since they were supposed to limit themselves to that color family. I also circled the work area with rolls of masking and duct tape, giving students small strips of any desired color, which they could then tape whole or rip to many pieces before adding to their artwork. That, especially, was a hit (and a behavior incentive, too!)

When I teach about primary colors, I like to include many variations of red, yellow and blue - darker and lighter shades, warmer and cooler tones - so that the students start to grasp the concept of how colors are related to one another. Later on, we will discover how a blue might become a shade lighter or why a red might look a little bit orange. I think exploring the primary colors in a broader spectrum like this now allows for more connections about color theory to be made later on.

It's such a joy to watch how students chose to use each material and see what they decided to create. Some students were so focused and methodical, following a grand blueprint in their head, while others were feverishly ripping, coloring and taping with free-spirited excitement, watching their art transform before their eyes. During different points in the process, we discussed the different properties of the materials - the students learned a lot! Everyone had fun, felt successful and made great art, while learning about one of the most important color families!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hand Creatures - Individual Drawings

I wanted to share some more examples of our monster drawings. These were done individually with with my students the second week of school. The kids liked the activity so much, I decided to repeat it, but let them work on their own monster the whole time. It was just as much fun, and the students were eager for the opportunity to design one all on their own.

This was a great activity for the week of the move. Easy set-up and clean-up, and directions they were already familiar with. The last day in my room, I was teaching this lesson with kids on the floor while furniture was being moved out! Pretty chaotic. But, ARTISTS make it work!

A few students and parents shared with me that many of them went home and drew more hand monsters! Fun stuff! That always makes an art teacher feel like it was a job well done...

All the enthusiasm for hand creatures led me to an idea for the big unit to follow for 2nd-5th grade. Working on that post... Stay posted for more hand-monster-madness!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Lesson of the Year - Collaborative Creatures

We began the year with a one day group activity that had everyone engaged in creative problem-solving, reviewing past concepts and skills, and working respectfully and successfully as a group. By the end of the class period, every student had contributed something to a whole class set of art! Everyone had a blast!

Here's what we did:
The Set-up:
Since we were moving out of the art room soon, I took advantage of that and arranged the tables specifically for this activity, creating what we like to call "MEGA table," which consisted of 7 of our large tables pushed together in the middle of the room, surrounded by 30 stools. Every individual table in the arrangement had a basket of twist-able crayons to share, and each individual seat had a post-it with a number on it.

Getting Started:
Students chose their seat and wrote their number on the back of their paper with a crayon. At the end of the activity, all artwork was returned to it's original creator, but putting a number instead of a name on the back kept it anonymous during the activity. I used two auditory signals for this activity - the first meant for the students to pass their paper to the person on their right, and the second meant for the student to put their hands up and their eyes on me. The signals were both played on the same instrument, so students really had to listen to determine which signal I was playing.

Students were instructed that they were going to collaboratively create a creature, but could only add to the creature something from the art vocabulary card that I held up during each turn. We decided we were going to assume that anything anyone added to the artwork was intended to make it more interesting or beautiful. Each student started their monster by tracing their hand and wrist in an interesting position to start the creature's body or head.
Then, the passing began!

For every turn, I held up a card; cards included types of shapes, lines, compositional techniques (such as overlapping, cropping and repetition,) shading techniques, and color families. For some turns, students had to listen to directives about how to add the element on the card (such as "attach this element to the inside of the creature", or "choose a section of the creature and color it in using this shading technique with colors from the family on this card.") Towards the end, we began passing the art in a more rapid-fire succession; each student was supposed to quickly look at the creature and decide something they could add as a final detail to make the artwork stronger. This could be any element or technique that we had discussed before.

When the art had rotated around the entire circle, and each drawing was in the hands of the person sitting to the left of the original owner, the paper was flipped over so that only the number showed. Before the final pass, I gave students their final instructions. "When you get your number back, write your name on your paper, then flip it over. Remember to be respectful, since this art was worked on by everyone in the class. Take a look at your amazing creature! Finish your creature by adding some final distinctive details (including facial features) with a black Sharpie."

We finished class with a gallery walk (walking to our right around mega-table, looking at every work of art.) Students delighted in the final results - even when the final work was completely the opposite of what they had expected. This was a truly fun and effective activity. I even participated!
*For first and kinder, we did this activity without the collaborative element, and with more simplified directives on the cards. This works great too!

P.S. Hopefully there will be a post coming soon updating everyone about my current teaching set-up. I don't have a "classroom" exactly, but I'm not a-la-cart either. This year has been a big challenge so far, but my students are making great art as always. I have had my hands pretty full since the move, and blogging is pretty hard to find time for these days. Hope to post again sometime soon... There are some great works of art I would really love to share here!