Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wee Art

In a previous post I told you that given a prolonged shower, I'd find solutions to all the world's problems. Well, all my world's problems, to be precise.

Since beginning of last school year, I've been working on an art-literacy program with second graders in the six local elementary schools which I visit.  I had the students paint a landscape picture, usually about a holiday nearing the time of the lesson. I then directed them to write a paper describing their own painting, detailing color, shape and location of the main parts. We then matted the paintings and hang all of them together anonymously, after which we had an "Art Show." Each wee artist stood behind the class reading his/her paper, while the classmates and teacher listened and looked at the pictures on the wall in order to guess which one was being described. The point was to show the writer/artist the importance of detail and accuracy in communication; it also required the writer to focus on what made his/her work stand out from the rest.

It worked fine. But I thought I could do better. My experience in teaching has taught me that the best lessons are elegant; and elegance means simple and engaging; and to make simplicity engage is, well, VERY, VERY hard.

In my judgement, the aforementioned lesson was not elegant enough, if at all.

So, I took a prolonged shower last night, and came out inspired.

Here's what I got:

The new lesson will be called "The Lost Shoe." I will show my wee artists-in-training how to draw a tennis shoe using geometric shapes. (Note: since life drawing is too hard for their age, I've made an template which I drew from a real shoe, one I borrowed from KDM's granddaughter Lauren. I could make a copy of it for every one, then it would just turn into another coloring exercise. Kids love learning to draw; the efforts they have to put in make it much "cooler" than coloring. Trust me on this.)

Once the drawing is done, they will trace over the lines with a black marker, then personalize it by painting in color, line, pattern, and more, a process by which they would learn a great deal of brush techniques.

Then I'll ask the kids to imagine each has lost the shoe represented by the painting somewhere. They are to write a letter to the lost-and-found department of the place where the shoe has been lost: a park, store, theater, McDonald's, etc. They must do a good job describing the shoe to help the reader identify it, assuming someone has turned it in.

That's the gist of it. As of now, I'm working on the nitty gritty of the steps. Believe me, this part is a science and crucial to the rise and fall of the whole lesson. I usually do several dry-runs (Is there anything dry about paint?) to prevent all sorts of hair-pulling scenarios ("Ms Chen, I just can't make that curvy line! Sniff, sniff. Waaaa...."). After much toiling and revision, it will come out looking and working like a breeze, in other word, elegant.

I will post pictures of my template later, and, hopefully, products by the wee ones too.

Wish me luck.

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