Category Archives: Teaching Art to Children

Successful art teaching strategies and ways to build a supportive environment conducive to art making.

Romare Bearden Inspired Collage

“Take Harlems heartbeat, make a drumbeat.
Put it on a record, let it whirl!”
-Langston Hughes

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Visit an informative and fun interactive site at MetMedia. Listen to the sounds that inspired Romare, discover the hip artists he grew up around.

We were first introduced to Romare Bearden through a picture book inspired by his life titled “Me and Uncle Romie” by Claire Hartfield. “The Block” is also a rich text that poetically places the collages of Romare Bearden alongside poems by Langston Hughes. I read aloud the poetry to students or have them perform it for the class, then ask them to search for visuals  within his mural sized collage that illustrate the terms, sounds and visuals they hear.

Students utilized their knowledge of paper collage to construct a selection of urban buildings. These were then collaged to a colored background and accordion folded for a 3-D effect.

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Writing poetry about urban experiences would be a great way to incorporate literacy into this rich art making experience and bring it full circle in connection with the era in which Romare lived and prospered as an artist.

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Consistency Pays Back

I organize my art studio with color. I mean Everything with a capital “E”. The markers, colored pencils, oil and chalk pastels, paper, paint. You name it.

Recently, a student came to me to ask if he could organize the paper scraps. “YES please!” He was finished with his art before the others and I was thrilled that he was interested in offering a helping hand over taking the time for free draw. But the best part of it all, is his strategy.

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Yes, it is organized by color! Without the slightest prompt, this is what he chose to do.

When have you witnessed your students sharing their knowledge without your prompting ?
Share those heart warming stories of pay back that we are so grateful for!

Are you interested in how I organize? Check out some ideas here.

Have a colorful day! -MJ

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Signs of Spring

The philosophy of any Visual Arts program that I lead is grounded in the belief that each child possess a resource of natural creativity waiting to be explored, expanded, and refined. As educators, it is our goal to nurture that creativity through our motivational dialogue, classroom environment and, of course, a selection of art materials that are appropirate for transforming our ideas into a reality.

What does it mean to observe? A few weeks ago, I discussed with my students how drawings can be created with our imagination, they can be based on observation, or they can be a little mix of both. Students were asked to spend a significant amount of looking deeply at the forsythia to discover its shape, size, color and any patterns that make up the tall, thin arrangement.

This is a selection from a post on an arts blog that I started on my schools website. For the whole article via a direct link, click here.

Artfully,

Mary Jo

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Knowledge = Exploration x Experience

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Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment. Maria Montessori

In the photo above, a 4 year-old child explores geometric forms after discussing the art of Wassily Kandinsky. During Art, children learned about his passion for music, his love of the arts and his desire to unite the two in harmony through color and form. Students continued to work over their collage the following class with watercolor while listening to music composed of a gentle and calm melody.

Maybe my mathematical formula will be fancied by the DOE. Let’s keep the Arts alive.

After all, the earth without “art” is just “eh”.

I enjoy what I do. -MJ

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Happiness is…

being an ART teacher.
Mrs. Hammond

-Given by a friend and great collaborator back in my days at Columbia U. What are you up to these days, Ms. Coyne?

Enjoy,
MJ

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JOY of TODAY

I just have to share this image with you. It illustrates the JOY of my Friday.

How stunning is this selection of contour ink paintings? I can’t get over the way each piece is unique yet they work together as a unified whole. Harmony.

The photo itself offers so much to the collection of artworks. The way the sun’s rays kiss the floor so calmly. The shadow of the afternoon light.

Just in case you were eager to zoom in, two close-ups await you below. All images are of observational ink paintings of African masks created by my fourth grade artists.

Happy Friday! -MJ

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The Falling Leaves: A Rekindled Love of Autumn

You can try and call my bluff but I can’t remember a year in my life where I have been so head over heels for the nature and colors that make up the autumn season. As a child, the fall meant the end of summer and the start of a new school year hence homework and high-anxiety Sunday nights; I think many can relate. This year, however, holds so much more.

After exiting my car in the early morning and walking through the concrete parking lot, my eyes are distracted by the intense colors that cover the ground. Vibrant reds, fire oranges, intense yellows and that shade of lime that strikes a cord in my heart, sprinkle the earth in pointy geometric shapes. I collect a large quantity and use them for art making and nature explorations in the classroom wherever it supports my curriculum.

Early Childhood artists have been observing the fall colors and singing about the actions they perform in nature during the autumn. I play the xylophone to a simple melody and sing a song I wrote that was inspired by my rekindled love of this colorful season. Children are mezmorized by the gentle high-pitched sound of this musical toy and easily follow along in song and hand gestures.

Listen to the leaves (rest) falling from the trees

                                 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5  they touch the ground                            (hands are held up high then slowly fall to the ground)

Yellow, orange, green (rest) red and brown

fall colors (rest) cover the ground

With the help of the collection of leaves I found earlier that morning, we have a visual, tangable resource to inspire our art. We discuss the colors and shapes we see and notice that not each leaf is the same shape. Some have three points, others have 5 and this one has, let’s count: 15! As a supporter of Inquiry-Based learning, my learning objectives are to challenge students to observe, analyze and make connections. Therefore, my questions do not have “yes” or “no” answers. Rather than ask “what shape is this leaf?” I ask “what do you notice about the shape of this leaf?”. This allows every student to feel comfortable to share their ideas and also opens up the discussion for an endless amount of creative possibilities.

I offer a limited palette when creating collage, painting, and drawing during these fall art explorations. Brown paper is the ground and the space where we collage our falling leaves. Colored tissue triangles are the leaves that are fragile and pointy. Yellow and Red can be mixed to recreate the various orange hues that dress the fall leaves and are painted with patterns that mimic the motion of leaves touching the ground. Oil pastels can illustrate the falling leaves. I make an effort to ask the students about the shapes and lines I notice in their compositions and write their direct quote in small, neat pencil at the bottom of their drawing. The product is not my concern, rather a positive experience with the art process and the connection they make to the content determines my material choice and activity structure. Once you have an objective in mind (a goal for what you want students to learn and become aware of), format and plan your learning experiences to achieve your goal.

Elementary artists are introduced to contour drawing with the help of the various types of leaves I collect that morning. Note that leaves don’t last longer than a day inside so my collections were frequent and fresh for each art experience (if time is on your side, a quick trip outside will allow students to scan the local harvest and choose a selection of inspiring material). Students carefully observe the curves, dips and sharp angles that form the edges of the soft delicate forms and use black felt-tip pens to draw their observations. Students soon noticed the texture found on the underside of the leaves and inquired about what they saw. We discussed how veins bring nutrients to all areas of a leaf’s surface and made a connection to the veins in our own bodies and discussed how they carry blood and oxygen to every part of our body. Texture was further explored through leaf prints using black ink on white paper. Students discovered so much more about the details and patterns found in leaves when they observed the textures that the process of relief printing offered to the naked eye.

What other material would be able to display the textures found in a leaf? Students pressed leaves into clay with the help of a rolling pin and carefully lifted the pointed subject. A beautiful impression was left in the clay and students were motivated to use a clay knife to follow the contours of the leaf and cut out its elaborate shape. Colored underglazes can be used after a bisque firing to make these hard-to-see details more prominent. See the link for clay relief below. At the end of the class period, students had made at least three clay reliefs and joined them together to form a fall inspired sculptural work of art.

Are you inspired to bring nature inside for a creative artmaking experience? If so, view the list below for a selection of engaging and meaningful hands on learning.

Autumn Inspired Art Experiences (and the necessary materials)

Leaf printing (ink, brayer, paper)

Contour Leaf Drawing (any drawing material, paper)

Leaf rubbings (crayon, oil pastel, chalk pastel, paper)

Leaf prints in clay (clay, rolling pin, clay knives, colored underglaze, clear gloss glaze) learn more here.

Leaf collage (liquid glue, paper, be sure to vary the size and shape of leaves, literary resource: Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert)

And if you crave direct contact with a human being to answer your questions, as do I, feel free to email me anytime at sunporchartstudio@gmail.com .

Have a crisp, cool, windy yet COLORFUL day! (and why not finish it off with a mug of hot cider)

-MJ

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