Sunday, January 29, 2012

My difference makes a difference.

Pink hair!! Pink Hair!!...

My 1st graders have been spending the last few weeks working very hard on making self-portraits with a twist. 

Inspired by The Boy With Pink Hair, written by Perez Hilton, my students drew their self-portraits with only one restriction, they were not allowed to color their hair the color it naturally is in life.  At first I heard groans, but it didn't take long for them to get inspired; many of them asked, "Do I only get to pick one color or can I make my hair look like a rainbow?".


The self-portraits alone look TERRIFIC! But the background really adds even more splash.  

With an abstract background composed of circles and black watercolor paint washed over them, the students and myself both think these pieces of art look great!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Lake Effect Snow, it's unpredictable...

Another thing that I find just as unpredictable as Michigan's lake effect snow is how long each student needs to complete their artwork.  I accept my students will finish at different rates.  I do not want to discourage my students from taking their time, doing their very best work, and adding the little details and finishing touches I've taught them are so important.  Seeing them doing those very things in creating their art is rewarding and ensures me that they are listening, understanding, and trusting what I repeat over and over again.  What I am teaching them each week has greatly impacted their techniques and approach in art. 

There will always be the students that still tend to finish quickly though.  For the students who do finish first I have a drawing prompt written on the white board; typically the prompt is one word and is just meant to evoke their creativity.  It is enjoyable and always a pleasant surprise to see how my students interpret the word visually.

The prompt for the last two weeks was the word SNOW.

These are a few of the AMAZING works of art created by my loving speed demons.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The snow has arrived; Lets make a snowman!!

Snow has finally arrived in Michigan. 

I will say that it has been WONDERFUL to not have had to drive between schools on roads that are not plowed and extremely slippery.  It's beautiful to watch the snow fall from inside my classrooms, but carrying my "necessities" to and from each of my buildings is really difficult during the winter.  I say to myself once snow is accumulating that I need to drive safely and walk carefully; with the time I am given to commute however, I often find I risk my safety because if I do not, my students are the ones who suffer and that isn't something I will accept.  With snow now covering the ground thickly, I wish I had been more vocal with how concerned I am about how much time is needed to drive from one place to the next safely during winter, but I didn't, so I will continue to do what I have said in a past post, hold myself accountable to reaching the high standards I have for myself as an educator.

Now to share what I love.... The art of my students

This week I had my 1st Graders create snowmen and women.  Apparently, perfect timing.  Students used crayola construction paper crayons to create their snowmen/women with snow hats.  After they finished drawing their snowmen/women they created gloves that they colored and glued onto their drawings.  To finish their project students folded and glued white scrap paper strips to be arms for their snowmen/women.  The projects looked great and each was very unique.  The students did an incredible job of creating unique patterns with their color selections and use of shapes.  They are so creative and it is an amazing gift I'm given each day to be the one to watch and help them grow as artists.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ndebele Tribe; Linga Koba Dolls

The people of the Ndebele tribe live in Southern Africa.

The Ndebele tribe is most well-known for their painted homes, beaded dolls, and their beautiful use of color in both.  To begin, my students learned about the Ndebele's traditional painted homes.

Students first learned the real reasons why the Ndebele people paint their homes.  It's natural to see the painted homes for their visual aesthetic; the symbols and complex expressionistic designs with bold, beautiful coloring are striking against the stark surroundings of South Africa, but the exterior and interior walls of each home are painted to also relay secret messages that can only be distinguished by other Ndebele people.  The painted symbols and expressions communicate personal prayers, self-identification, values, emotions, and marriage.  The women of the Ndebele are accountable for carrying on the tradition of painting the homes; how well the home is painted and kept up is representative of how good a wife and mother the female is.

To paint the homes, women first begin with whitewashing the walls.  Next, they apply a thick black outline of their distinctive design.  After the outline is dry, five main colors are used: red, yellow (gold), blue, green, and pink.  The secret messages are sent through the color combinations applied to the walls.  Over time, the traditional techniques of painting has adapted and modernized.  In present day, the women of the Ndeblele use bundled twigs with feathers as brushes to apply the paint, rather then using their fingers as in the past. Advancements in the tools used have allowed the patterns and designs to grow in size and in complexity, making the homes today even more remarkable and impacting.

After learning about the painted homes of the Ndebele people, my students could not wait to learn about their dolls the following week.  They were surprised to hear that the Linga Koba dolls hold significant ritual importance in the lives of the Ndebele people and are not used for amusement purposes of a child.  The dolls are handmade with beads, fiber, and thread.  It takes countless hours to construct each doll and they are cherished being passed on from generation to generation.  During courtship, a suitor places a doll outside a young woman’s hut, representing his intention to propose marriage.  While preparing for the marriage the women then cares for the doll, which one day will be passed on to her own daughter.

My students were touched by the values and traditions they learned the Ndebele people preserve.  They were impressed by the strong community bond of the Ndebele people and the amount of time and importance they place on carrying on traditions of their ancestors to each generation.  I asked at this point if anyone had specific traditions that had been passed on in their own family.  Many sadly did not have any personal examples.  With how many of my students were unable to share a specific example we briefly discussed common traditions in America.  Students mentioned passing on specific pieces of jewelry and clothing, along with figurines and special collections.  After writing their ideas down in a “Thinking Map” I had the students write a sentence on one tradition they thought they would enjoy passing on to family in their future. 

With limited resources creating actual dolls was not practical this year, but the students drew their own doll with bold black outlining, bright colors, and string and beads for hair.

It was a very memorable, successful, engaging lesson that I will definitely be repeating in the years to come.  My hope next year is to have the opportunity to create actual dolls with my students that they could keep or pass on to someone significant in their lives. 

(Citation: I've seen variations of this lesson done on many art blogs, all amazing)