SEMESTER 1 ARTMAKING! YEEHAW!!
Oh my goodness! How did we get to 2019 so quickly? I mean, seriously? Wasn't it just a few years back that I was doing that (👇) in elementary school? Isn't it still the 80's? I mean, somewhere? But I digress.
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2019 turns out to be the best, most life-changing and exciting, year of your life . . . Full of growth and new opportunities and lots and lots of experiences!
I am now teaching art full-time in Nantong, China. Nantong is about 2.5 hours outside of Shanghai. It's a vital river port alongside the Yangtze River (pictured below) that hosts about 8 million people. (This is a small town by China's standards.) We've been here for about 5.5 months and I am starting to get the hang of things! You can read more about my hectic move with Sir Rigby, my cat, here.
I've made lots and lots of friends. Massages are cheap. And the food is healthy and plentiful. So, for the next two years, I'm good.
As I said before, I teach art--that's A.R.T.
And one of the chief reasons I was hired at this school was to progress their arts programming. My title is Art Teacher and Creative Arts Coordinator. And this has been a really tough, but incredibly rewarding, job. I feel like I am constantly bumping up against years and years and years and years of notions and thinking that I can not change in the manner of two years. So I keep trudging along, committed and thoughtful, and hope for the best.
At the top of my curriculum vitae, it says the following:
"As an art teacher, my goal is to improve student learning while energizing my students' spirits and allowing them to see life in different and creative ways. I create curriculum that goes beyond rudimentary guidelines to foster creativity and empower students through experiential learning, idea creation, process, and conversations that extend beyond art and the classroom. By incorporating engaging group discussions, movement, music, literature, technology, and games, I facilitate lessons where I stimulate and help students discover and learn."
I will continue doing all of the things that my CV promises I am able to do. Because my students are having a blast, and they are an ABSOLUTE JOY to be around! And, I am 100% doing my job for them.
So without further delay, I present to you a good portion of the projects my students have worked on during our first semester together. I teach 20 classes a week, nursery through Grade 8. Most of my classes are PYP IB classes. But six of them are bilingual students from the Cambridge program. Our school only has art classes for students through Grade 8--and I see 'em all!! Enjoy!
Thank you for coming along for this ride!
PYP NURSERY (3 Year Olds)
These are the tiniest of humans! Most of these littles are 3, but some of them are 2. And, I like to put things on their heads!
As a class, we decided at the beginning of the school year that these young artists would be known as my Nursery Narwhals. They are the sweetest little people I have ever met. And this particular class has such a fun sense of humor--all 11 of them! In the video above you can see them saying du jiao jing . . . That's "horned fish" in Chinese. Every time I see them, they scream out "du jiao jing, du jiao jing!!" I just love them so much!
For students in the 2 and 3 year old category, I tend to do a lot of play and experimentation with different materials. Some of my favorite things to do with this age are paint stamping and collaborative free drawing, watercoloring and costuming. It is fun to put things on their heads. But it's also fun to watch them use paint for the very first time . . .
Our first project was a rainbow people project. With the help of the two teaching assistants, we traced each student on giant construction paper. Each week, we would learn about a new and different color, using different materials to decorate our peoples. The students love seeing their bodies drawn out and as large as they are.
I had them color and paint backpacks when they were learning about school in their homeroom, they colored big turkeys for Thanksgiving, stamped pumpkins like Kusama for Halloween, and overlapped drawings of their bodies to see what that would look like.
My favorite project with these young artists was when they painted our school. I drew out a rough outline of our school on cardstock, made copies, and each student painted their own version of our school. They turned out beautifully! So colorful and fun! I told the school they should use them for their holiday cards.
Up next, the students are working on pig paintings for Chinese New Year, and then we start on a big culture unit where we will be dying rice and learning about rangoli!
PYP KINDERGARTEN 1 (4 Year Olds)
My lovely PYP K1 students are so much fun to be around! There are only 4 of them, and they are always laughing about everything and very eager to participate in all of our activities.
One of my favorite projects we did from this past semester are the giant leaves. During autumn, when the leaves were changing and falling to the ground, I drew and cut out 3 huge leaves. I drew patterns into the leaves and had the students watercolor them. After that, I outlined everything with Chinese calligraphy ink. They turned out fantastic and ended up being a big part of the lobby when we hung things up for Parents' Day.
In their homeroom class, the students were learning about all things travel. So in art class, they worked collaboratively to design hot air balloons. We photographed the pairs play-acting as if they were in a balloon. I printed their pictures and placed them in the balloon basket to look as if they were flying away. This was also featured in the lobby display. You can see the students, below, reacting to their work in the lobby.
One of my most favorite projects that I did with both classes, PYP K1 and K2, were these little popsicle stick wall hangings. I got the idea off of a New Jersey art teacher's IG account. She used the wider sticks, but all I had were the skinny ones. So I had the students use a black piece of cardstock as a backing. They embellished the sticks with designs they cut out from foam paper, and they made tassels for the bottom and finger woven handles for the top.
They really enjoyed the process of making these wall hangings, and they turned out so cute!!
At Christmastime, I had all of the students create different styles of ornaments to decorate our lobby tree. My PYP K1 students each drew a nutcracker and watercolored it, and then they worked together to make lots and lots of paper chains.
I mean . . . Lots and lots of paper chains! So many that we had to make a major photoshoot out of it. And, like, these pictures are the cutest!!! 💖
PYP KINDERGARTEN 2 (5 Year Olds)
I set up a table with a slew of materials on it . . . Everything from yarn to textured papers, stickers to popsicle sticks. I cut out big squares of cardboard as starter surfaces for the students. And then, I just let them go to work!!
And I think they did a marvelous job!! Look at the house below on the right, the lime green one with blue roof . . . She made Chinese characters out of the cut paper I had on the supply table, as well as smoke coming out of the chimney.
I pre-cut all of the wooden piece and the felt stars. But they did the rest!
They looked like magic on the Christmas tree! So colorful and fun!
PYP GRADE 1
My Grade 1 artists started the year off by learning about foods and healthy bodies.
They drew pizza makers with Art for Kids Hub . . .
This was a direct response to their homeroom unit about healthy bodies that they were studying. You can see the Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry below.
One of the projects that I really enjoyed working on with my lovely Grade 1's was our city project. The students painted all sorts of boxes, turning them into buildings, and designed various accessories for our city. We weren't able to display the whole project. But I am hoping that we can install the larger version outside of my classroom at some point.
PYP GRADE 2
My Grade 2 students and I have a very special and somewhat enchanting relationship. We are all a little crazy and we all LOVE when they come to art class. I was even paired with them when we went on our autumn field trip. You can see the picture above--doesn't it look like we should start a band?
My most favorite project that my Grade 2 students did was this "icy leaves" project. It involved printmaking and oil pastels, silver paint and black paper. And my students LOVED IT!!
The next week, after the prints were able to dry for a while, the students began adding color.
Aren't they beautiful? This is such a wonderful project to do in November, just as the winter season is approaching.
PYP GRADE 3/4
Monday is always sort of a sleepy day, and the best way to start the workweek! 😀 I don't have my first class period until 10:50am, and my second (and last) class of the day starts at 2:50pm. And that's when I see my PYP 3/4 class, and they are fantastic! These kiddos are so creative and fun, and every single one of them comes from a different country. So on some days, we all talk in our own languages just to see how far we can get in the conversation before no one understands anyone . . . We've got Polish, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and English! It's super fun!
They are one of the only classes that I consistently play music in . . . And we always find a fun kid-friendly mix on Mixcloud. (👆 That one's our favorite!!) Alice (pictured with me above) and I always have a dance minute, where we dance it out all over the classroom. Sometimes the boys join in, but mostly it's just us dancing it out. We have so much fun with our dance breakdowns . . . I mean: shake it off, baby!!
This is the class that includes Olaf who is from Poland and drew the fantastic drawing of me featured above . . . These kiddos also did an excellent job learning about Dia de Los Muertos in early November and drawing large-scale calavera drawings.
I told them their drawing could be a full body or a half. But they had to think about their character and costuming and how their superhero would make a positive difference in peoples' lives. Olaf even made his superhero into a cat, because he was inspired by my cat . . .
After all of the parts and pieces were complete, we layered everything together. Buildings and clouds glued down to the blue paper, then we raised the superheroes up a bit with cardboard before glueing them down on top of everything. I really like how these turned out. Their teacher still has them hanging up in her classroom, and the students made these like a million years ago in September!
The students were learning about explorers. So I thought, what would happen if we all worked together to create our own explorer boat or ship? And it went over like hotcakes, people! It took us about 2 months to make, from concept to completion, but we had so much fun!!
And just look at it!! Who wouldn't want to explore the world in a pink boat, flanked by colorful flags and complete with a fox tail stern and a rabbit on the bow?!!!? Plus, those Hokusai-inspired waves are pretty *choice*, eh??
While our boat was in process, my little Nursery Narwhals even used this boat to learn about Thanksgiving in their homeroom class, which was pretty sweet to watch!
For my Grade 3/4 students' Christmas project, we used the above picture as inspiration. I found it online, and couldn't stop thinking about how classic and beautiful this photograph was. I couldn't find the name of the photographer, though . . . Which was a bit puzzling.
So during our last week of school before Winter Break, I threw this photograph up on the projector and gave each student a large piece of white watercolor paper. And, their work blew me away!
I've included their preliminary drawing and their finished watercolors, below. Aren't they marvelous??! I will definitely be revisiting this project in the future!!
These lovely folks are my Grade 5/6 students. And they are the last class that I teach in the IB PYP section of our school. The following grades are on the bilingual side, in the Cambridge program.
We started off the year creating a giant collaborative mural. I think the size is somewhere between 1 meter x 2.5 meters. I love that the students included their home country flags! We have China, Singapore, Greece, India, Brazil, and the Philippines. Greece and The Philippines are for one student. And our girl, Connie, left us for a different school. But everyone is included, and this piece now hangs proudly in our school lobby!
One of the most interesting projects that this class did this year was to make a kaleidoscope. Even after multiple tries, we couldn't get this project to work quite right. But, the process was really exciting.
We used the video above as a guide. And, we used empty colored pencil containers as our main kaleidoscope form. The lid turned nicely, and the sizing was perfect. Once the students emptied the containers of colored pencils, the kids decorated the tubes to make them their own.
I tried to take pictures of the inside of our kaleidoscope, but it was a challenge. You can sort of see the reflection in the two images below . . .
Since I got to see these students on Halloween day, I decided to do a mask making project with them. And they totally got into it! More-so than I expected. It was awesome!
Some classes are much more 3D inclined, and this is one of those classes. So they really excelled at making these materials come to life. And they even wore them out of the classroom and back to their teacher's classroom. It was great!
The most exciting project that these students embarked on was their plant portraits. I call this series, "Flower Boys". The students were learning about the earth and earthly things in their homeroom class. So, I thought it might be interesting to surround themselves with nature and growth.
This was also a really good way to teach the students about color and layering, using stencils and patterns. We looked at this illustration company out of Brazil for inspiration.
My Bilingual Grade 5 group is another very boy-heavy class. But, I love this group of kiddos so much. They are the silliest, kindest, sweetest, and most hardworking class I have--maybe--ever had. I am always laughing when they are in my classroom. My translator and TA, Bella, helps with this class. They call me Ms. Ling and they produce the most beautiful works of art.
One of my favorite projects that they did were these scratch animals inspired by Mexican folk art. We have so much of this scratch paper. It is not a material that I naturally gravitate towards. But I thought it fit this idea quite well.
The students chose animals based on their likes and dislikes, and personality traits. Then, they carefully drew out their animals on the coated black paper. After their animals were drawn out, they used a wooden tool to scrape away various patterns all over the animal.
That's King (👆). He never smiles. But he is literally the most hilarious kid on the planet. And below, and to the right, are Kim and Eason. With the help of a small group of students, they built a boom box to use for a skit in their English class. It was the coolest!!
And they give me fun, handmade presents all the time. I really love these kids so much . . .
The three girls in the picture above finger wove three different strands from one skein of yarn. How did they do it? (I have no idea! 😂) And sweet Jason, in the picture to the right, is so patient and diligent. He is always this way with all of his work.
BILINGUAL GRADE 6
One of the projects that my Grade 6 students really loved was their comic book project. I gave them lots and lots of freedom on this project. They could write it in English or Chinese, and it could be about whatever they wanted (as long as it was school appropriate). And, they loved it! And what was even cooler was when they were all finishing up their comics and swapping them with classmates . . . Just to read what they wrote about. It was like we were in some handmade comic book store. It was quiet, and just sort of perfect.
BILINGUAL GRADE 7/8
The highest grades that I teach are Bilingual Grades 7 and 8 and MYP Grades 7 and 8. They are all combined into one art class of about 26 students. They are a wonderful group of students who are always interested in doing new things, but sometimes need a push of motivation.
The first project I did with them was very traditional: a coat of arms that tells me something about them . . . I was interested in learning more about each student and getting to know their stories, so I thought this project would help me get to that goal quicker. To kick it up a notch on difficulty, I told them that they could write words or descriptors in Chinese, but required that they present their final project in front of the class in English. The principals and chief administrators were invited, and snacks were provided.
I also found it interesting how they approached their drawings. Some of them looked at the big shapes and plotted those parts out first, adding in the details later. Then there were others who would draw the tiniest of details first and build their drawing around that. It was fascinating.
They had to draw everything in pencil first, outline everything in black marker. And then they could finish it off with any material they wanted. I showed them examples that included pen and ink, collage, acrylic painting, watercolor painting, etc. However, a large number of them finished them off in markers. (Markers are my least favorite material on planet Earth.) Not sure why they all chose markers, except that markers are the most readily available.
One of the biggest challenges I had with this project is getting them to spend time on it. Think about how you want this to look. How does this portrait relate to you, as the maker? What material will best represent the idea you are trying to get across? But they didn't want to spend time with this work. Still, we had some nice pieces at the finish line. *If you have any ideas on how to get older students to spend more time with their work, please let me know!!*
They have exams next week. So I won't see these kids again until after our Chinese New Year break, which is three weeks long . . . But I can't wait to see what they will do with our next project!!! I've got something sculptural up my sleeve . . . More soon!
Everyone in the school involved: timing races, manning stations, providing water (that was me). But I also got all of the students involved, creatively.
There were four teams: Orange Tigers, Blue Sharks, Red Snakes, and Green Gators. So my students made these giant signs with the mascots on them and another with the letters spelling out the team name. We also made decorated hula hoops to go with each team, as well as pennants, ribbons, paper trophies, and various other signage. It was awesome!
I did, however, get a weaving wall installed in my room . . . I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about this!!! I am going to have the students pulling wall hangings every month!! 👇👇👇 (PS: Those two guys below are the absolute best!!! So helpful and always willing to see my ideas through!!)
One of the things I was most excited about in this past semester was our Christmas tree that was in the lobby . . . I somehow managed to decorate the entire thing with all handmade ornaments, and one from every child in the school. I mean, seriously! It was a dream tree, as far as I'm concerned!!
It did not start out this way, though . . . The tree actually fell on top of me, and the top broke off on my head. (You can imagine me standing where that ladder is . . . 👆 See where the top of the tree is dangling off??!) My head was pretty bruised for a couple of weeks after that incident.
We ended up not keeping the top of the tree, which is why it looks so flattened off in some of the pictures. I mean, the darn thing was completely rotten and it snapped on my head! We eventually made a giant star to go on the top, which made everything look a bit nicer.
My Christmas card this year was designed by Alice in my PYP Grade 3/4 class . . . 👇 The one who always wants to take dance breaks. She is a wonderfully fast illustrator and has a unique style. I hope to get these cards out at some point during second semester. Maybe next year I can be more on time.
That's all for now!! I'm off to London, England and Dunbar, Scotland for a week of my Chinese New Year break. Meeting up with friends from Thomasville, Georgia and Plano, Texas. I'm going to see Hamilton on the stage (FINALLY) and spend some much needed time in the Tate. And, maybe (just maybe) have a beer or two in a pub . . . hopefully with Colin Firth by my side. More soon! XOXO