Thursday, February 4, 2016

Chinese New Year 2016: The Year of the MONKEY

February provides a wealth of integrated arts inspiration for Art Teachers! February 8th (2016) is Chinese New Year--the Year of the Monkey. Here are some of the projects from my site that I've done with my students over the years along with some resources and projects from the interweb that I love. 

My previous posts:

Projects I LOVE from around the web:

And a recipes to enjoy:

Resources I've used:

  • "China: DK Eyewitness Books," by Poppy Sebag-Montefiore (A nice overview of China and Chinese culture. The book has some clear, beautiful images of calligraphy, writing, and dragon costumes).
  • "Gung Hay Fat Choy," by June Behrens (This is a great nonfiction book that has lots of pictures and info about Chinese New Year. I love the pictures of the dragons used in the Dragon Dance).
  • "Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats," by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz & The Children's Museum, Boston (A wonderful book of Chinese holiday tales, activities and recipes).
  • "The Boy Who Painted Dragons,"by Demi (All of Demi's books are beautiful! This artist has been known to paint with a mouse's whisker! She's also created books on Mother Theresa, Mary and Jesus).
  • "The Kid's Multicultural Art Book," by Alexandra M. Terzian (This is a great go-to book for a number of crafts from around the world. A must for an art teacher's personal collection. I love the whole series of art books for children by this publisher).
  • "The Paper Dragon," by Marguerite W. Davol (LOVE this book! And artist saves his village from a dragon by using creativity and intelligence. A great book!)
  • "You Can Write Chinese," by Kurt Wiese (A bit dated, but the way the information about Chinese symbols is presented is wonderful and very kid-friendly).
  • A China Family Adventure. (Accessed January 2012) This site has a section entitled, "Learning Chinese Writing Symbols for Kids" that has some wonderful, clear images of chinese calligraphy and a nice chart that shows the evolution of a few Chinese characters (this is where you will see that the original Chinese character for rain looks like rain falling from a cloud)
  • Chinese Calligraphy By Kids. (Accessed January 2012) A wonderful website by two elementary girls that is very child-friendly and has a ton of wonderful information about Chinese calligraphy, great picture examples and explanation of some symbols and the combination of symbols. Lovely!

Monday, February 1, 2016

7th and 8th Grade Final Projects

A rite of passage in the art room for the middle school students at Amherst Middle School is the final project. Despite its name the project is started pretty early on in the semester because it has a bunch of components to it.

Anthony's project inspired by Roy Lichtenstein

Here's a basic outline:

  • Students are shown a Powerpoint presentation of famous artists and artwork (7th grade focused on the art from 1900-1950; 8th grade focused on 1950-today)
  • Students choose an artist to research
  • Students create a paper/brochure/poster/oral report, etc. about the artist's work and life (details below)
  • Students propose a project to do that is inspired by the artist they researched, but should be personal to them (the sky's the limit here--they can use whatever media they wish, but no copying the artist)
  • Students complete a final project
  • Students write an artist statement about their project
It's quite the process and it really was a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know the students and help them explore a variety of materials. Some of the students struggled with the open-endedness of the project, or with the writing component, and again, it was a great opportunity for me to hone my teaching skills to help each student succeed. I really love these projects and how unique they are! Unfortunately, I do not have photos of all of the projects--that's the problem with doing something like this at the end of the semester--final grading and clean-up take away from documentation, but you get the idea. Students worked in acrylics, watercolor, colored pencil, clay, assemblage and more. We had a great range of 2D and 3D pieces. When I do this project again, I also have some ideas for tweaking it slightly to make it easier for the students to understand and to push them to develop their ideas even further, but it was a great first run for this project--definitely a keeper!

The graphic organizer I created for the students to use for research.
I was hoping a design like this would help them organize the information better
than giving them a list of what was required. 
Here's the final project proposal form they needed to fill out
prior to starting their final project. This gave me a chance to meet with them
and SEE what they were thinking of doing for their final piece.

Beka's piece inspired by van Gogh, I think (it's hard to remember!)

Carrie's piece inspired by Claes Oldenburg

Clayton's helmet and shield inspired by ancient Greece

Hannah's piece inspired by James Audubon

Hunter's house design inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright
(designed on the computer and printed in 3D)

This little house was a lot of work! :-)

Nathan's still life inspired by Paul Cezanne

Nolan's sculpture inspired by Alberto Giacometti

Top: Daniel's piece inspired by Robert Delauney
Bottom: Patrick's piece inspired by modern street art

Trey's piece inspired by Roy Lichtenstein

Friday, January 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Paul Cezanne! (On January 19th)

In honor of Cezanne's birthday, I thought I would REPOST a popular lesson from 2013 that is fun and easy and is appropriate for a wide range of students. The painting below is my youngest son's and was featured in the book "500 Kids Art Ideas" by Gavin Andrews published by Quarry Books. While this is a nice fall-inspired still life, you could change it to pears or lemons/limes for a more winter or spring theme. Either way, the results are fabulous and the lesson is chock-full of active learning.


We are all into fall over here and I thought this week would be a nice time to do a still life with apples with my after school art class. This is the first time we've met this school year, and the group has 1st-4th graders in it. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, it's actually a combination of two lessons I saw out there:
My 1st grader's example with Cezanne's reproduction.
I can't show you the still life--he ate it!
(UPDATE: He's now in 3rd grade, but still eats still eats everything in sight!)

"Still Life With Oil Pastels and Baby Oil" (2 posts) from Fine Lines

That was pretty much the lesson I used, but I modified my talk in the beginning to be about Paul Cezanne's work showing them "Still Life With Apples."

I then used the talk I found on That Artist Women: "Open vs. Closed Composition"

I really like how she shows real art examples in her post. I showed those to my kiddos as well.

Then I gave them time to experiment with arranging the apples (and one girl's donated pear) into closed and open compositions. There were three students to a table and the table needed to agree on a composition they liked best.

And then we were off! I walked them through drawing, demoed how to use the oil pastels and baby oil, and gave a quick watercolor demo.

These are their creations! Beautiful! They are so proud (me too!).


Grade 5 Romare Bearden Storytelling Collages

The second project I did with my fifth graders was a storytelling collage. This project idea was one that the art teacher left for me to complete with them. However, I decided to present the idea of collage to them by showing them Romare Bearden's collage "The Dove" from 1964. I have a HUGE laminated print of this from the "Picturing America" series from the National Endowment for the Humanities ( For those of you not familiar with this collection, check it out! I'm not sure if you can actually get the portfolio of laminated images anymore, but you can access the images digitally through the website as well as a bunch of other resources (discussion questions and lesson plan ideas). I am constantly amazed and delighted by the images in the collection--there seems to be an image for just about every art concept I've been wanting to teach lately (1 point perspective, 2 point perspective, landscape, portrait, radial symmetry, etc.).

So, back to the collage. We had a great discussion about collage, storytelling, setting, mood, and the figure based on the discussion questions in the Picturing America Teacher's Handbook and some of my own questions. Bearden's collage shows a place and time very different from our town! The children enjoyed looking for the dove and the cats as well as commenting on how the people were dressed and (gasp!) how there was a cigarette in the image. Great discussion that got us all thinking!

Then students were given a piece of card stock and could browse the big bin of magazines in the classroom to find images to create their own collage that told a story. I advised them to be open-minded about the story--I couldn't guarantee they'd be able to find *exactly* what they were looking for--sometimes you need to let the story emerge on its own! As they worked, students also needed to think about focal point.

One they had the entire surface of their piece covered, they could create a frame that enhanced their piece (also with collage)--students could think about colors and textures that would go with their main collage.

And lastly, we coated the entire piece with an, ahem, liberal coat of Mod Podge to seal it all in. I had the students complete a quick little write-up of their piece where they titled their collage and told me a one sentence story about it. Some of them were so funny!

After students completed this sheet,
they taped it to the back of their collages. 

If you'd like to learn more about "The Dove," check out this link from PBS:

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