Sunday, October 30, 2011

Highly recommended.

"Unshared knowledge goes to the grave. If I share this, somebody will learn it. Somebody will pass it on to somebody else." 
--Charles M. Carrillo, from Craft in America (Episode IV. Messages)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meet Jonesie!

We are proud to announce the long-awaited arrival of the newest member of the Dudley-Forman household. Jonesie comes to us via the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Shelter (BARCS). He is two, he was a stray, he's a very handsome Domestic Shorthair (all bowleggedness aside), and he's a sweet, big boy at 11+ lbs. He's named after a movie cat, do you know which one? And apparently we've been spelling his name wrong... all websites spell it with the -ey ending. Oops. Well, Jonesie or Jonesey, he's all ours and we couldn't be happier!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Luck of the Draw.

Q: "In a few sentences, tell me about the playing card you created. What symbols of luck did you include? What do those symbols mean to you? What can someone learn about you by looking at this piece of art?"

A: "I drew a heart, a peace sign, and that's it. I drew a heart because it's inside your body and the heart pumps slow and fast. Someone could learn to be fantastic, be proud."

I acted as a scribe for one of my Learning Center students and this answer on his self-assessment was unexpected. I want to learn to be fantastic and proud... and shouldn't we all? It would be awesome if my art could teach that... or maybe more awesome if my teaching could teach that.

*   *   *

I ran into so many challenges with this fourth grade unit. I'm not sure that it was developmentally appropriate. If I try it again, I will try it with fifth graders. If it's still not successful, I'll prob nix it, or at least do some major editing before I ever teach it again. I taught it successfully this summer at MICA's Young People's Studio to students entering 3rd-5th grade, but that was a very different population. Those kiddos were the art stars of top private schools in the area, and there were only eight in my class. Yesterday I taught the final lesson of the unit to one of my fourth grades... during my first formal observation from my consulting teacher. There were thirty students, seven of which have IEPs. With the help of my para, I survived... and even received glowing compliments! Somehow? Whew.

So this four-lesson unit goes like this:

Day 1 - Defining Luck, Risk, and Chance
Day 2 - Collage Collaboration Rotation
Day 3 - Drawing on Luck
Day 4 - Analyzing the Deck: Self-Assessment and Critique

Students will:
  • ·     Collaborate to create collages
  • ·      Randomly select a card
  • ·      Randomly select a collage
  • ·      Draw a design that represents their drawn card and personal symbols of luck with oil pastel on top of a collaged surface

Students will know that:
  • ·      Their belief in luck is unique
  • ·      In art as in life, you can’t always predict the outcome
  • ·      They can do their best with the hand they’ve been dealt

      We discuss and write about luck, risk, and chance. Then we collage as a group-- students begin a collage while listening to music. When the song changes, they pass the collage to their right at their table. When the song changes again, they pass again, etc. Ultimately, we end up a collaborative collage for each student. They can collage whatever they want. Once collages are done, they are covered with a layer of Mod Podge, they are collected, then randomly redistributed. This is where luck and chance comes in (in a big way)-- you lose control over which collage you're going to get. Then students draw a card, also at random. They then use oil pastel to create a playing card based on the card they draw, personal symbols of luck, and working with the collage they were given.

It takes some higher level thinking to negotiate your oil pastel drawing with the background of the collage, all demonstrations aside. Perhaps too high for fourth grade. Also, once I inquired with the other art teacher at the school I found out the students have had little to no experience with both collaging and oil pastel. Whoops. That's where a pre-assessment would have come in handy.

Oh and the kids hated having to collaborate on the collage. They equally hated having to receive a random collage. They told me this much when reading their reflections on their self-assessments. Gotta appreciate that honesty.

The majority of the results were less than satisfactory-- but this was a good lesson for me to learn in that... it's really about the process and not the product. Anyway, even though I'm not so proud of the teaching mistakes I made, here are the visual productions:

This unit was inspired by Olivia Gude's Spiral Workshop unit titled Life's Deal: Deck of Cards and a commissioned show by Printworks Gallery in Chicago, titled A Game of Chance.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Call me crazy...

...but I want this apron. It would only look more beautiful with painty hand smears.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ms. Kristen-Crayon can has kitteh?

Kitty place setting.

No kitty here...

Kitty bed in a (usually) sunny nook.

Nope, not here.

Kitty potty.

Not here, either.

No, not yet. But everything is in place...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's in a name?

Names I've been called, so far:
  • "Ms. Dudley."
  • "Mrs. Dudley."
  • "Dudley."
  • "Ms. Dugley."
  • "Ms. Ugly." (This student has a speech impediment. 'Dudley' is a tough one for him.)
  • "Ms. Douglas."
  • "Ms. Art."
  • "Teacher."
  • "Mr. M___________." (Students often call me their homeroom teacher's name, but I notice it a little more when their teacher is the opposite gender.)
  • "Mom."
  • "Grandma."
  • "Annoying."

Monday, October 10, 2011

"I'm through accepting limits, 'cuz someone says they're so..."

Today's new record time for getting to school: 38 minutes on the road. On a good day, I make it there in 45 minutes. Most days it's anywhere from 55 to an hour and 5 minutes, approximately. Today was an excellent day, traffic-wise. It's unfortunate that I have to chalk it up to Columbus Day and the diminished volume of commuters. Can it be Columbus Day every day?

I made it home in about 35 minutes, but that makes sense when you leave school at 8:00pm. No traffic. Tonight I cranked the stereo loud and pretended that I had Lea Michele's voice, most notably on "Defying Gravity" and "Don't Stop Believin'", complete with exaggerated facial expressions. It was awesome.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dads 'N Donuts.

Meeting the parents of students you love to teach is kind of like meeting local celebrities. Today was the PTA-sponsored Dads 'N Donuts. (And no, I did not avoid the leftovers in the lounge. Next year I need to think about how the donuts are for DADS, and I'm not a dad, now am I?) The kindergarten triplets I mentioned a few posts back? They brought their dad in to meet me as he was leaving the school this morning. Swoon! He said that they hear a lot about art class at home (hopefully more than the pants-wetting incident, at this point), and I gushed about his little ones. It was just too cute-- triplets ushering their dad into the room to meet me. Maybe I'll meet Mom when Moms 'N Muffins rolls around... and maybe I'll skip out on the leftover muffins. One can only hope...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sugar skulls? Success (so far).

That's one happy skull!
He'll be even happier when he gets his nose back next week.

The first grader who drew and painted this sugar skull asked me, "Can we do this every year?" To which I so eloquently said, "Uh... yeah!" I mean, I plan on switching it up from year to year, but it's kinda hard to resist a direct request. And conveniently, I have variations on Dia de los Muertos sugar skull units lined up for my first, second, and third grades. So she just might be doing it again-- but differently-- in second and third grade. We'll see how it goes.

I've only taught the first grade version to one class and so far so good. Most of them didn't know about the holiday, and they rightfully confused it with Halloween at first. One student asked, "So we're supposed to be happy when people die?" as I was trying to explain that it's not a sad holiday, even though it's honoring those who have passed. I told him no, we're not usually happy when people die, but we can celebrate the good life that they led and we can recognize our happy memories. That brought him around. I got surprisingly little resistance from the students. I was prepared for at least one student to balk at the idea of drawing a skull, maybe too creeped out by it. I should have paid more attention to the possibility that (male) students wouldn't want to draw flowers, which is what happened. Marigolds go along with Dia de los Muertos, but most of the boys selectively left them out. There were eyepatches and horns and crazy cobweb crowns instead... and maybe that's not in keeping with the Mexican holiday, but it's in line with artistic awesomeness, so it's all good.

We'll add color with tempera (mixed with white) next week. I thought it would be a one lesson unit, but it turned into two once I realized it took over half of class (45 minutes with first grade) just to intro the unit and draw the skulls with white oil pastel. More to come as we actually approach the holiday!


Special thanks to Deep Space Sparkle for lesson inspiration.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

So many unanswered questions.

I am grading some writing that I had my fourth graders do before starting their visual art. The big ideas we're working with involve luck, risk, and chance. One of the questions I asked was, "What risks have you taken that have paid off? What did you learn from them?"

My favorite answer thus far:

"There was a beehive in my room. I put on a raincoat and got a baseball bat and ran into there and smacked the beehive and lived."

I love my job.