Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kindergarten Line Drawings

Last week, my kindergarten students learned about four different lines: zig-zag line, wavy line, straight line, and loopy line. Each student drew each line across their page:

Then, the students made pictures using the lines they had learned. Some of the students were very creative! Here, the zig-zag line turns into mountains, and the loopy line turns into smoke:

In this picture, the wavy line turns into water in a fish tank:

Wavy lines also turn into hair in the picture below. The student told me the picture is of her mom, and I asked her if her mom has crazy hair. The answer was no; it's just a windy day.

Here, the straight line turns into a road. Some cars are driving on it, and a skyscraper is right beside the road.

Here, a zig-zag line turns into some mountains that people are climbing up, using ropes because the mountains are so steep:

In this picture, a loopy line turns into some balloons, and straigt lines make the string:

Below is another road, a very popular way to use the straight line. These cars are very colorful!

Here, we have an amusement park with three different roller coasters! The top one is very scary-it's upside down! The next one is the regular one, and the bottom purple line (loopy line) is the most scary roller coaster of all! We also have a wavy line making water with a boat in the middle, and a zig-zag line along the bottom making grass. This student used all four lines in her picture!

I am really enjoying the kindergartners--they're so creative!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Update on student from first post

In a previous post, I mentioned a student who refused to come to art and instead sat in the hallway with his face in his knees. I had his class again yesterday, and to my delight, he came right into the room! I closed the door to prevent escape attempts, and was pleased to see him participate in class, even completing the assignment with just as much skill as an average kindergartner.

His classmates in his kindergarten class have really impressed me. Last week, instead of making fun of him or saying anything mean, I kept hearing excuses for him: "he's shy" or "he's scared." This week, the other kindergartners were very excited to show him his seat. They really are a great bunch of kids, and I love how warm and welcoming they have been to the "new kid" (even though they have only been in school 3 days longer than he has).

Today, that student's class had music while I was in my room preparing next week's lessons. I stepped into the hallway, and was surprised to find a little boy leaning against the wall by my door! Of course it was our little escape artist. I encouraged him to go into the music room, but after he refused several times, I invited him into my room. I let him doodle on my chalkboard, and I was pleased to see him practice drawing the different kinds of lines we worked on in art yesterday, without any prompts from me.

I have not yet heard if he got tested for autism, but at least his art skills are right where they should be for a kindergartner. I know he is still struggling in many other areas, but I think he and I are friends now, and I will be expecting everyone to be present in my Thursday kindergarten class from now on.

Letter to Parents

Each week, I choose a new "artist of the week" to display in the glass case near the main entrance of the school. This week, I chose an exceptional yarn design by a second grader. The student had created a multicolored flower with many pieces of yarn, and the finished piece impressed me, as well as our office staff, assistant principal, and a few of the teachers in the teachers' lounge.

Since I am still getting to know the students, I wasn't sure whose picture it was until I flipped it over and read the loopy second grade handwriting on the back. His teacher happened to be right there, so I mentioned to her that I would like to write his parents a note to tell them their son's good news. She confirmed that the parents did have the same last name, and I could address the note to "Mr. and Mrs.".

As I was about to go back to my classroom to type a short note, the students' teacher stopped me. "But," she said. "I don't think they speak English."

That threw a new curve ball at me! Determined to contact the student's parents, I consulted Google Translate and a teacher who is quite proficient in Spanish. The result was the letter below, which I certainly hope makes sense!


Thursday, August 25, 2011


Yesterday was my birthday, and my parents surprised me by driving all the way to my school from Indianapolis to take me out to lunch. I was in the teachers' lounge when our assistant principal came in to tell me he was sorry, but I had some visitors in the office and would have to go see them. His too-sad-to-be-real face made me know something was up, so I went to the office, and there were my parents! I showed them my classroom, and the 1st grade animal texture pictures I'd put on the bulletin board this week.

Then, we went into Flora for lunch. The music teacher, whose classroom is adjacent to mine, suggested we try a place called the Porcupine Truffle. We did, and it was fabulous! The soups, salads, and sandwiched that we enjoyed for lunch were delicious, but even more enticing were the handmade desserts, including their special, a "porcupine truffle" which was a chocolate truffle covered with chocolate sprinkles.

The walls of the café were painted with murals, and the napkin holders on the tables also had little porcupines delicately painted on them. As we talked to the woman who owned the Porcupine Truffle, I found out that she had done all of the painting herself, and was quite an artist. I told her that I taught art at the elementary school, and she offered me some oil pastels that she has lots of but doesn't use! I was very grateful for her offer, and plan to stop by the Porcupine Truffle again to pick up the art supplies.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

1st Grade Animal Texture Pictures

The first unit that my first graders are working through is about line. This week, we are looking at Albrecht Dürer's Young Hare (below), and seeing how Dürer used lines to draw the rabbit's fur and make him look soft. The students learned to make different lines to show the texture of different animals. I made a bulletin board to show the school what the first graders are learning, but the photograph didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. If you click on the picture, it will expand, and then you can see it better.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Never Underestimate Your Students

While I was working on lesson plans for this week, I planned a lesson on hatching and cross-hatching for my third graders. The lesson also incorporated the concepts of light and shadow. Everything was planned out when I went to bed last night, ready to implement this morning. However, as I was lying awake trying to fall asleep, I kept thinking that the lesson was too complicated and advanced for third-graders--maybe I should try to write a simpler lesson in the morning.

This morning, I got to work just after 7, with over an hour until my first class at 8:15. However, cutting paper, making copies, printing worksheets, and other early morning tasks kept me busy until my first class showed up at the room to my door. It was my third grade class.

I began presenting the lesson as I had prepared, drawing on the chalkboard and asking the students questions. If the shadow is on the bottom left, where is the light coming from? Does it get darker or lighter when I add cross-hatching over the hatching? What can I do if I want it even darker than that?

The students seemed to understand the main concepts pretty well, so I explained their assignment and supplied paper, pens, pencils, and erasers. Then, 5 hands shot up in the air at once. "I don't get it!" became the resounding cry. I hurried from table to table, asking the students questions to guide them in the right direction. Should this part be darker or lighter? If your lightest part is right here, where would your shadow be?

After a few minutes, the questions began to die out as students worked silently. It seemed that most of them had grasped the concepts, but time would tell as I looked through their finished work at the end of the day.

And here I sit at the end of the day, grading and sorting artwork, and I find these pictures on the third grade shelf. Somehow my students are always smarter than I expect.

Friday, August 19, 2011

First Week

My first week of teaching went very well. I have a wonderful group of K-6th graders, with four classes per grade. Most of the students listen very well, and there certainly are some talented artists in each grade.

This week, my biggest challenge was dealing with a student who enrolled in school midway into the first week. He is a kindergartner, and did not make any attempts to interact with other students or teachers. When his teacher brought her class to my room, she asked if she could talk to me briefly. She told me that he probably would not participate, and might run out into the hallway. I thanked her for letting me know, and began showing the students where their assigned seats were.

When I got to his name, no one came forward. I asked the other students where he was, and they all said he was in the hallway. I had not noticed him sneaking out! I imagined him running recklessly up and down the hall, but when I stepped out, he was just sitting by the wall with his face in his knees. I gently invited him into the classroom, and tried to talk to him, but he ignored me.

I finally called the office and asked for our assistant principal (who handles discipline) to come talk to the boy, but he made no progress either, and finally took him away. I later found his classroom teacher in the teacher lounge, and she said that he will be tested for autism. I hope he will be more receptive to art class next week! If he does get diagnosed, it will really help me know how to handle him.

Since he was my only difficult student to handle this week, I think the year is off to a great start! I am really looking forward to getting to know all of my students better, including that little kindergartner. Hopefully by next week he will have warmed up to the idea of being in school, and will be willing to sit and draw with his classmates.