Friday, September 28, 2012

You have how long with your kids? How do you even learn their names?

I feel like today is an appropriate day to write this post as it is the last day of the first 6 weeks. Yes, I only have my classes for 6 weeks and then it's time for a new group of kiddo's. It's even worse when the 6 weeks turns into 5 weeks for various reasons (holidays, 8th grade DC trip, the start of school when the first week is only 3 days). We try our best to get all of the kids to get two quality projects in that time but sometimes it's so hard. We just run out of time. So what do we do? Let them rush the last project or scrap the last project and have the kids do art history or elements and principles of art work? Or do we have them do one big project and one mini project? It's disappointing for the kids, too. They really want to do more than 2 projects. Then what happens when a kid doesn't finish? Do we just not grade them on that project and exempt them from it in the gradebook? Do we hunt them down to finish it, and yes, it requires hunting. I swear they hide from me when I come looking for them. And then I get the, "ohhhh yeah, I forgot about that!". I've tried sending home artwork to finish but more often than not, it doesn't come back. 
So not only are we trying to crank out as many projects as we can, I have to learn a whole new set of names and get to know a whole new group of students. I had a really hard time with it my first year but now that I know most of the kids, I only have a few names to learn each 6 weeks. 
Apparently the middle schools used to have 9 week long classes for unified arts but I doubt that will ever come back. At least the kids have tons of choices when it comes to electives. They get P.E., family and consumer science, mod tech, discovering computers, health, music, 3 different foreign languages, 2-D and 3-D art in 7th grade and ceramics, sculpture, painting and drawing in 8th grade. So even though the 6 weeks are nuts, at least we are ending up with well rounded students. 

8th Grade Sculpture- Underwater Creatures

I just have to say, I LOVE my 8th grade sculpture class. There are only 8 of them so we can really expand on ideas and really go BIG! I am really bummed that I only have one more week with them. I would love to have them all year. Their second project this 6 weeks was an underwater creature. I was inspired by artwork I saw in Tuscany this summer. The artist created 3-D fish and painted them in an abstract way with lots of texture. My sculpture kids were excited to take on this project and were even more excited when I told them, "go big or go home". Their only requirements for this project was that they made an underwater (or sea) creature and they could use anything but clay. The kids jumped right in, creating forms with newspaper, wire, styrofoam, plaster, and anything else they could get their hands on. I absolutely LOVE how they are turning out.

7th grade 3D- Rodin Hands

Rodin is most famous for this sculpture, "The Thinker" but he also created hands that had a lot of emotion in them. Students studied Rodin and then created their own plaster hands. They had lots of options for the project. They could do a "cool" shape with their hand, they could hold something, they could splatter paint, they could paint designs. They could really do about anything they wanted. I ended up having a sub on the day we painted and the kids got a bit out of control on the painting portion but here are some of the really great ones!

8th Grade Ceramics-Coil Bowls

So this is a really easy and fast project if you do it right the first time and don't break the extruder. We are fortunate enough to have an extruder so the kids don't have to roll their own coils and they don't have to score and slip anything. Like seriously, this is a 3-4 day project. It's a great intro project at the beginning of the class. We ran into some issues the first time around because we didn't line our bowls with plaster wrap or bags (so the clay stuck to the bowls and everything cracked and broke) and the clay we were using was a bit too dry (leftovers from last year) and the extruder got pulled out of the wall and the plunger and dies got bents. I must have had the strongest girls in the world in that class.

To start, I made a bunch of coils because with 30 kids, it would have taken forever for all of them to make their own coils. The kids coil the bottom of the bowl and then start building up. I told them they needed at least 4 different kinds of designs. They could do braids, plain coils, squiggly coils, circles, hearts, flowers, balls of clay, openings, etc. 

Once they are done with all of the coils, they have to smooth all of the coils on the inside. This is why they don't have to score and slip anything. 

I love how they turned out. It really is a fail proof project as long as they follow directions and line their bowls first!

Here are the results...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Charles Kaufman "Crushed Can Art"

A colleague in my building sent me this link this morning and omg, I fell in love! I mean seriously!? Not only are the images so stinkin' cute, they are on crushed cans. How great would this be as a quick and easy painting or 7th grade 2-D project? I need to work out the details on it but I am loving this idea! Enjoy a few of his images...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Token Response...getting kids to talk about artwork

I feel like one of the hardest things to do in my class is get kids to talk about artwork. And when they do talk about it their response is, "yeah, I like it because it's cool". I have tried different things with the kids...pulling Popsicle sticks and forcing the kids to talk, allowing them to participate in online discussions, but then this summer I was introduced to "Token Response" by a fellow art educator. Instantly I knew this would be a great idea to get my kids talking about art and making judgements about it.
So here is how it works...

7th Grade 3D- Seussical Houses

Oh Dr. Seuss...who doesn't love a good Dr. Seuss inspired project? I haven't done this project yet this year but I do love it so. It's a great project for students to work on their clay skills such as slab and coil building and they get to add such cute details to it, they can really make this project whatever they want it to be! 

Steps for this project...
1. Create a template that will be used for the front and back.
2. Roll a slab and cut out the template 2 times.
3. Roll a long slab. Use a long, 2 inch wide template to cut out the sides of the house.
4. Score and slip the sides along the edge of the front of the house.
5. Stuff the inside with newspaper
6. Score and slip and attach the back of the house to the long slabs.
7. Stand the house up. This requires some help from the teacher.
8. Cut out doors and windows. Get creative and make sure the front and back have cut outs
9. Roll another slab and score and slip the house to it. This will be the base. Cut the base one inch away from the house. If the base is too big, it takes up too much space in the kiln and they are more likely to break. Make sure the connection of the house to the base is strong and smooth.
10. Add extras like a chimney, mailbox, door, bushes, trees, slides, ladders, etc.  This is the fun part where the house really starts to come to life.

These are examples from last year. I loved how cute they were and all of the details.
Yes, this house has a little man with a cookie tray hanging out of the window.

Monday, September 24, 2012

8th Grade Ceramics- Shoes

Oh shoes...who doesn't love shoes? This is such a fun project and I love to see what my 8th graders come up with. I've done this project different ways. Last year, students had to create a shoe in the style of an artist or artwork. Students got inspiration from Helen Frankenthaler, Mondrian, and artwork that was up around the room. Some students decorated their shoes to resemble the artwork. Others created a shoe from the time period or in the theme of the artist, like Picasso's blue period. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

You teach middle school? I don't know how you do it!

People often ask me what I do. My response..."I'm an art teacher!". Their next question is always, "oh, what grade do you teach?" and when I say middle school, they cringe and say "ewww, I don't know how you do it. That is such an awful age". Yes, you are right, middle school was a hard time for most of us. We were groing through some tough changes, there was a lot of drama and most of us wouldn't go back to that age if you were paid a million dollars. But you know what, I LOVE this age. Is there drama? Yes, sometimes. But even more than that, these kids are absolutely incredible. They are at an age where they are mature enough to handle complex ideas and responsibilities. But they are still young enough that they love art and getting a little messy. At this age, these kids need an outlet and that's what my class is. It's a chance for them to get away from the drama, to get away from their core classes where they have to sit and listen for an hour, to get away from real life. They get to enter into a world of imagination and creativity. They get to listen to some tunes and escape. They get to have fun!
Not only is art an important class for this age but it's also important for me to form relationships with these kids. They need a safe place, a safe person to go to. I want to be that person for them. I get to know my kids, I try to understand their problems, I try to go to their level. I have fun with them.
Do I think it takes a special kind of person to want to go back to that awful age and relive it everyday? Yes! But it has been an easy transition for me. The kids make it easy for me. It's the kids that make me want to get up everyday and go to work. I can't imagine doing anything else!

Friday, September 21, 2012


Hi friends! Welcome to my new blog where you can follow what we are doing in my art classroom! It's safe to assume we are always getting a little messy and having fun! Stop back frequently to see all of the amazing things my kids come up with!