Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ideas for Art Lessons about September 11th (K-12)

2014 marks the 13th anniversary of September 11th. With such an important date looming, this is the perfect time to discuss this historic event in the classroom.

Unfortunately, most K-12 students of today have little or no recollection of this day, unless they had personal connections. When you think about the age of the average kindergartener, 9/11 happened several years before they were even born.

So how can you develop art lessons that will help students make meaningful connections to this historic day? The following are five ideas for art lessons about September 11th that will encourage critical thinking, reflection and personal expression:

1. September 11th Illustrations

Suitable for younger elementary, instruct students to create illustrations as you read (or assign students to read) first-hand accounts of the events of 9/11. Drawings can then be organized into a book or exhibited as a hallway display, memorializing the anniversary.

2. Design a memorial

Designing permanent memorials to commemorate September 11th has been a long, arduous process. After investigating the creation of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, students will select one of the locations - the Pentagon, World Trade Center or Shanksville, PA - and design their own memorial idea to honor those involved.
3. Expressive mixed-media collages

Art lessons about September 11th shouldn’t be dry, formulaic or detached; the teacher’s goal should be for their students to form an emotional attachment. Provide students with first-hand accounts, poetry, headlines, imagery, screenshots, portraits and photographs from that day (as well as art materials). Assign students to create an expressive collage, combining these elements to express a specific mood, emotion or reaction. Encourage them to write out their own feelings and responses to 9/11 on their artwork.

4. Community mural

The events of 9/11 brought Americans together, creating a sense of community  like no other event in recent history. Assign students to work in groups to create a mural, or go bigger and organize a class-wide, school-wide or community-wide mural commemorating 9/11. Be sure to show students how one community of artists in northeast Ohio is creating their own mural honoring the day.

5. Photo manipulation

This art lesson idea is perfect for older art students with access to technology (most suitably for a Graphic Design class). High school students can search for photos from the events of September 11th, and use Adobe Photoshop or other software to manipulate these photographs through juxtaposition, blending and other tools.

Students could be assigned simply to make a digital artwork related to September 11th and their reactions to it. Alternatively, add elements of graphic design by assigning students to create a movie poster for a potential film about 9/11, or a travel poster advertising a new memorial.

No matter which art lesson ideas you choose, provide students with plenty of opportunities for critical thinking, research, personal reflection, and self-expression in their artwork. Everyone has a story to tell, and you’ll be amazed at what your art students will come up with.

As a final note for art teachers, be sure to keep in touch with your administration and consider sending a note home to parents before teaching art lessons on this topic. 9/11 is a touchy subject for many, and you should be aware of problems or controversies that may arise, whether from political or religious conflicts or your school’s policy on imagery (for example, some schools ban images of guns in student artwork).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Easy Elementary Art Lessons for the First Day of School

Elementary art teachers know the first day of school after summer vacation is full of excitement and quite a bit of chaos. Meeting new students, fine-tuning class schedules, developing seating charts, preparing materials, and establishing and reviewing rules and procedures with every new art class can be mentally draining.

Yet, despite those first day of school challenges, most elementary art teachers still want their classes to do some creative activity in art class (rather than sit and listen to rules the entire period).

But what art lessons are appropriate for the first day of school, when students don’t yet know the procedures and time is limited? Try these easy art lessons, that give elementary students a chance to be creative within a narrow margin, while avoiding the mess and chaos of a full-blown art project:

1. Self-portrait dolls

Give students a half (or third) sheet of construction paper and instruct them to draw a self-portrait. The portrait should show their whole body, from head to toes. Students use easy art materials (markers or colored pencils) to add color and details to their portrait before cutting it out. If you have time (and desire), briefly instruct on body proportions with older students.

If you have younger elementary students, draw a body ‘template’ that they can fill in, before cutting out. When all your students have finished their self-portrait dolls, they can be attached to a hallway bulletin board outside the art room with a catchy phrase like “Welcome back, Artists!”

2. “We love Art because”…

For another bulletin-board themed elementary art lesson, give students a sheet of paper and simple art utensils. Instruct them to write and/or draw their favorite part of art class. When each student is finished, these can be attached to a bulletin board under the phrase “We Love Art Because…”

3. School mascot design

The first day of school can be incredibly busy. If you don’t have a lot of time in those first classes, give students copies of your school mascot (in line drawing/coloring book form). Elementary students will have fun decorating the mascot in their own style. These can then be displayed in the hallway.

4. Read a book and draw along

On the first day of school with my kindergarten students, I like to keep art lessons really easy. I’ll pick an art-related book to read to them, while they draw along on paper. Reading while working is a great activity for younger elementary students, as it teaches them to listen and focus while the teacher is talking.

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” is a favorite to read, while students draw their own fantasies with purple crayons. “The Dot” is another favorite, as all elementary students draw a dot on their paper, then try to turn the drawing into something.

5. Illustrate your summer vacation

For this easy art lesson, give students plain paper and simple art materials. Instruct them to draw the ‘best’ thing that happened during summer break, and on the back side of the paper, the ‘worst’ thing that happened. This is a great way to start developing relationships with your students on that first day of school.

6. Work on a group mural

With a broader scope in mind, assign each student to complete one small part of a group mural that can be displayed in the school hallways the first week. For easier management, give each student an identical piece of paper (like an index card) to create their work on. Some ideas: each student draws their portrait, their name or the word 'Art' in creative and colorful letters, their handprint, a flower, an art utensil. Perhaps you could focus on the Elements of Art, and have each student create a small non-objective line drawing or artwork with shapes. 

So go ahead and make those first couple classes as stress-free as possible. Plan some of these easy art lessons, and watch how excited your elementary students will be to “do” something fun and creative their first day back, rather than listen to rules all day long. Happy planning!

Monday, August 18, 2014

10 Art Games to Play in the Classroom

Having a variety of art games at your fingertips is almost mandatory for any art teacher. Yes - of course - games can be used as class rewards, "art fun days", or (#dontjudgeme) "time fillers." BUT, art games can ALSO serve an educational and quite important purpose.

Art games can act as aids to classroom learning, can be used as testing and assessment tools, review activities, hands-on ways for students to apply knowledge, fun ways to introduce new concepts, lesson wrap-ups, or (#letsbereal) simply as art-related amusement on the last day of school or other holidays.

Here are a list of ten tried-and-true art games to play in any art classroom, elementary to high school (and every grade between):

1.) The Creativity Design Game - This art game, originally inspired from the book “Design Synectics” by Nicholas Rourkes, takes problem-solving to a new level. Students are asked to take two very different objects and create a drawing, combining these separate objects into one completely new invention.

In my classroom, I call this the “Creativity Game” and I made this activity more game-like by typing out hundreds of random nouns on slips of paper, and placing them in a bag. Two students then blindly reach in the bag and pull out a ‘mystery word’. The students are given one to two minutes to come up with an idea, sketch it out and name it. As they work, I observe their drawings and ask the most creative thinkers to share their ideas with the class when time is up.

Check out my FREE download of the "Creativity Game," print out the words, directions, and even customize your own game. 

2.) The Artwork Memory / Matching Game - Artwork memory games - inspired by the child’s matching game “Concentration” - can be perfect free-time activities for elementary art students. The “Art Memo” game comes with 72 artwork images and can be purchased for around $20 here at Amazon. However, if you have a color printer you can easily make your own Art Memory game by photographing student artwork or finding art online, printing out 2 of each image, then laminating the cards (or glue onto note cards).

3.) Art Jeopardy! - A great way to review art terms, art history information, processes or artists before a test - or simply as lesson closure - a teacher can plan an Art Jeopardy game by coming up with five or more categories, and five questions to go in each category. Depending on the art teacher’s time, A Jeopardy board can be drawn onto the chalkboard, made in PowerPoint, or can be assembled with fabric and ’pockets’ for questions on note cards.

4.) Art Room “Win, Lose or Draw” - A great classroom reward, last-day activity or holiday treat, your classes can play the classic art game “Win, Lose or Draw” (or “Pictionary”). Simply put students in two teams, give the player a word to draw and have them try to draw it in a given amount of time with their teammates guessing correctly.

5.) “Clay Wars” Game - When introducing students to ceramics -- or as a way to practice recently learned skills -- have students play a clay-based art game. All students have an equal amount of clay, and compete to sculpt items, such as: the tallest structure without falling over, the most perfect sphere, the longest single rope coil, the best cube, the most realistic animal, the funniest face, etc. Students can be split into teams, or compete individually.

6.) Educational Art Novelties - When students have additional activity time in art class, they can play solo art games and puzzles by looking at hidden-picture art books (such as “Can You Find It Inside?” by the Metropolitan Museum of Art), using mosaic tiles to create pictures, working on art-based jigsaw puzzles, working on origami, and studying optical illusions. Students can easily create their own artwork novelties and games by designing tangrams (a Chinese puzzle, easily made with paper) or creating thaumatropes (a toy popular in the Victorian era).

7.) “Paint Wars” Game - Similar to “Clay Wars”, this paint-based art game is also a way to practice recently-learned processes and theory. Students can compete as teams or individuals, and will try to do the following: best match their skin tone using only primaries and neutrals, most closely match the color of a flower, paint the most realistic piece of food, the scariest monster, and other ideas.

8.) Art Book / Internet Scavenger Hunts - More effective with older students, this requires either a large assortment of art books or the internet in your library or classroom. You can either compile a list of items that students need to search for, perhaps with a worksheet to write them down on, or give one item at a time for students to search for as a timed competition. Your scavenger hunts can be customized to whatever your students have been learning about lately (find an Impressionist painting with a dog in it, find a sculpture made in France, etc.).

9.) Art Vocabulary Word Searches / Puzzles - Word searches, crosswords and other puzzles can be an effective and fun way to review art class vocabulary. Check out these downloadable word searches based on the Elements of Art, including Color, Line, Shape and more.

10.) Online Art Games - There are thousands of online art games and activities that are safe for students to play in school (some more so than others, so be sure to check them out beforehand). These can be a great educational activity for students who finish their work early. Check out the Incredible Art Department’s list of Online Art Activities for Kids for a huge list of online art games and resources.

There is a place for games in the art classroom; despite their entertainment value, they can also serve an educational purpose. Try out some of these new games, or just add them to your mental file of ideas.