About this Site and Me

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Flower Mound, TX, United States
Hi, I am an artist, wife, mom, gamer and the Elementary Art Educator at Donald Elementary, a sweet and wonderful school in Flower Mound, TX (outside of Dallas). This is a great place to see how we are integrating studio habits with technology and interdisciplinary connections. I also love to share my "wisdom" (Re: Experiences. From mistakes.) about teaching Elementary Art. I love what I do, and I've been doing it for a long time. Creating and teaching Art is what I live for. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thinking like an artist: Castles with Landforms, 3rd grade

Think like an artist: If you could create a castle anywhere, where would it be? What kind of castle would you build? What would it look like? How would you build it?

Before we begin, take 15 min and watch this. Just do it.

Without realizing this was an Art Ed movement, this has become the direction of my art program. Out of necessity. Out of frustration. And I am so glad to know I am on the right track, that other teachers are dealing with this exact issue.

I have introduced  modified TAB (student choice within the assignment), because despite my best efforts I keep seeing from my elementary kids:

  • Copy art, even with no demo
  • Refusing to think out of the box
  • Anger if I don't give yes/no answers (Kids: Is this right? What do you want me to do now?)
  • Tendency to do the minimal required

Why? I don't know. I usually blame standardized testing. I know I am not the only art teacher dealing with this. Kids want a yes/no answer. They are terrified to make mistakes. To think for themselves. They require constant validation. It's our job to teach them the skills to think for themselves. 

So I find myself demo-ing less, and chant "Act and think like an artist" about 50 times a day. "YOU are the artist. This is YOUR idea. I am here to help you, but I cannot tell you what to do".
 They seem to get that. (*Some kids are upset with this creative freedom, just be prepared. Be patient and direct. They can do it.)

With all this is mind, I spent the summer reviewing lessons (I rarely repeat), and rewriting some lessons by aligning them to science and social studies curriculum so I could really hit integration hard, as I love integration. It's that connection she talks about at the end of the video. (*You have to do it right, though! Research first so you don't sacrifice the importance of art on its' own merit)

I also backed off solely focusing on the elements and principles, as those would be taught alongside, and just not be the superstars. I made the idea the superstar. I added metaphors and questions to my project intro.

The castle lesson: This is a 3rd grade lesson. Create an architectural work of art using geometric shapes (typical Elem art project) with landforms (science integration). See how easy it is to integrate?

I switched my approach and just casually asked the kids as soon as they came in, if you could create a castle anywhere, where would you?

 Here are their responses within the first 20 seconds, blurted out with excitement.
More on that terrible example later. There is a reason for that, I promise.

See? They have great ideas. They don't need me to dictate those parameters.

Ok, then I looked around a saw the panic and excitement. That glorious ambiguity. They wanted to make THAT CASTLE NOW, but how? I knew they needed guidance. They are 8 years old.

So I gave them some basic criteria:

  • Where is this castle?
  • What kind of castle are you imagining? Sand? Medieval? Underwater? Ice? (Oh, and no copying of Disney castles allowed... so yeah, no Frozen ice castles, which made some of my girls a little mad...)
  • Landforms (3rd grade science integration) they are currently learning about landforms in class, so they need to add 2-3 in this castle landscape. Could you have mountains and canyons with an underwater castle? How about forests and plains on another planet? What would that look like?
  • Mood: here is where I brought in the art history because I cannot give that up. I created a short presentation of castles around the world, with some medical paintings thrown in for good measure. Then we talked about the mood of the castle. How does it feel? What would a sleepy castle look like? How about a sad and lonely castle? An excited castle? Then the kids realized this would probably be best explained by their color choices.
  • How to build (this is where I bring in the elements and principles: overlapping geometric shapes) to create 3D.
  • Use your imagination

To start:

These kids were buzzing with ideas. They needed a way to plan and organize their thoughts.
First: use the iPad to research castles (I did not allow clip art), for a few minutes
Then: create a Thinking Map (flow chart) to organize ideas. Or they could write notes. Whatever their choice, the kids need to learn how to take their great ideas, organize them and save them for later. This could be done on paper or iPads.

Examples of a Bubble Map

Once they had great ideas that meant all the criteria, then the sketch:
3rd grade student example of castle sketch. This shows the power of having technology at their fingertips.

Once they were happy with the sketch, then onto the final:

 The kids are creating these castles on black paper, with black outlines (oil pastels) and using chalk pastel for color. This will be the first time we will be using chalk pastels, and they will be great for expressing mood, blending and visual interest.

Alright. So this is MY LAME EXAMPLE. I did this on purpose. I promise.

The kids and I talked about my example:

Me: Does the castle meet the requirements?
Kids: no, there is no overlapping, and not enough geometric shapes. It's kind of boring.

Me: Does it have landforms?
Kids: yes, but they are not very detailed. Like, we can't really tell what kind of landforms they are, except for the water.

Me: why did I make a LAME example?
Kids: so we wouldn't copy?
Me: Yep! I did this so you could see what the black outlines and chalk pastel look like. You can do better.

And they did.

Color will happen in January, as we are in the 2 week stretch before our Christmas break. Stayed tuned!

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