Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sketching Time

"We don't expect all children to become poets or novelists or essayists, but we teach all children to read and write because we want them to be confident, expressive communicators. Similarly, we don't expect all children to become professional artists, making their living through painting or sculpture. We do, however, teach children how to use a range of art media so that they may communicate their ideas, experiences, emotions, questions, and insights in many languages. And, we want children to know beauty, creativity, and expressive emotion." 
(Pelo, Ann. The Language of Art, pg. 3)

Over the past four years, thirty minutes has been set aside once a week for a period called Sketching Time. During Sketching Time, the children are introduced to new art techniques, the use of new art materials, and are provided with a guided modeled lesson to support their understanding and learning.

For the past month, the children have been learning and practicing how to best sketch their friends. Using a pencil and working in their individual sketch books, the children became more aware of lines and shapes. With encouragement, the children started to become more comfortable looking closely at their friend's features and sketching what they saw. In their first attempt at sketching, children were made aware of the elements that were missing, e.g., eye lashes, ears, short/long hair, etc. Once their pencil drawing was complete, the children learned that using a sharpie to trace over their pencil marks highlighted their sketch and drew attention to the lines and contours used. Introducing colour by using water colour paints involved another guided lesson. The children learned about using only certain colours that they saw reflected in their friend's features. Blending and colour mixing were other important skills learned as the children soon realized that some of the colours they needed were not found in their paint selection.   

In the classroom, many items are sorted by some attribute including the paint brushes. Sorted by the size of the bristle I've noticed encourages the children to make more thoughtful selections when creating. During another guided lesson, the children experimented with the various brush sizes allowing them to become familiar with the type of marking they produce. For the friendship sketching project, the children practiced using the various brush sizes and learned the technique of dipping the brush into the water, wiping it on the side of the jar, then proceeding to dab it into the water colour of choice. Depending on the feature they were painting, they became more confident in choosing the appropriate brush size needed.

As mentioned, the children have individual sketch books. These books are used to practice particular art techniques and using new art materials. The children have used oil and chalk pastels, water colour pencils, pasel pencils, charcoal, water colour and acrylic paints, and sharpies. Sketching Time is not only necessarily about sketching. During this time the children have also had the opportunity to explore plasticine and clay, wire, and natural materials to produce art.

Below are a few snapshots of the children working on their friendship sketches.

"Art explorations are rich experiences for children. They inspire scientific investigation, as children seek to understand the qualities and uses of an art medium. They spark collaboration and strengthen relationships among children, as children share discoveries, coach each other about strategies to try with an art medium, and work together on a creation. They demand focused attention and physical finesse. They stir the senses and emotion, delighting eyes, hands, and heart." 
(Pelo, Ann. The Language of Art, pg. 13)

C. F. was absent for this photo.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Infusing Aboriginal stories into our learning and the manifestation of our Aboriginal cards fundraiser!

From the first book I read (Nanabosho How The Turtle Got It's Shell), the children were mesmerized by the characters, story line, surprise, and adventure found in the Aboriginal stories.

Each week I read a new story and it didn't take long before some children started creating books with their own story versions or re-telling the stories using materials.

The stories became very popular and an area was set-up to support the children in exploring the Aboriginal stories further. 

Open ended and natural materials were set out along with small plastic forest animals and plasticine to provide a variety of different ways the children can use the materials to express their learning and re-telling of the stories. 

The children chose to work independently, with a partner, or in a small group to re-tell a story of their choice. 

Each time a story was shared with peers, the children improved in their public speaking skills and were more prepared by taking the time to practice acting out their story.  

Stories are not only entertaining. They help us learn. Stories were the primary teaching aid of many First Nation People, and storytelling is still very important today. For every event, natural feature or animal, there was a story. 

As we studied the stories more deeply and compared their similarities and differences, the children learned more about the characters and lessons that some of the stories provided. Some of the stories made reference to teasing, bullying, fear, and trickery, while others exemplified courage and bravery, friendship, and kindness. 

During Sketching Time, I decided to introduce the children to some North West Coast and Ojibwa Aboriginal art work.  

To begin the sketching session I modeled the sketching of a hummingbird. I made notice to the lines, shapes, colours, and designs found in my hummingbird art piece as well as in the many other art pieces they would have the opportunity to choose from. I had the children use sharpies and oil pastel pencils to experiment with. I must admit, I had a bit of a change of heart as I started modeling the sketching of the hummingbird. I found it quite difficult and worried about how the children were going to make out. I didn't want them to become frustrated but I did want them to at least try. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed this experience and in their connection to the animal they chose to sketch. 

The children started to wonder why animals were used to tell many of the stories. I was so glad when I found the book "Sometimes I Feel Like A Fox".  

The book provides an introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, with young children explaining why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose.
Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others. ( book summary:

The Aboriginal stories we have been reading are full of life lessons that highlight many character traits through the use of animal protagonists. As we learned more about the meaning of the stories, we also learned about the meaning that each of the animal characters held. 

Totem animals serve as guides and their meanings teach positive life lessons. As we discussed the meanings of some of the totem animals we also took time to reflect on our own strengths. Through these knowledge building discussions, the children were able to select a totem animal that they best identified with.

Acts of Kindness...

Simultaneously the children have been learning about what it means to be and do kind things. During a discussion K. C. suggested that maybe we could keep a tally of kind things being done in our classroom. 

The children liked this idea and taking S. F.'s idea, use post it notes to write down the acts of kindness they noticed their peers doing and placing the post it notes in the "Kindness Jar." 

Growth of an idea...

With our school toy drive coming to an end the children seemed quite sad one morning because they were not able to donate toys anymore. I explained that if they wanted we could do a classroom donation of our own. The children seemed to be excited about the idea and began making suggestions for what could be donated!
  • Money - E. B.
  • Books - C. T.
  • Clothes - K. C.
  • Crayons - T. H.
  • Paper - J. B.
  • Cat food - D. F.
  • Dog food - W. C. and C. W. 

Ella had a wonderful suggestion which everyone seemed to really like. She wanted all the children to make cards for animals. But a few children wanted to know how the cards would help animals since they can't read? After some discussing S. F. suggested that the cards can be sold and the money can be donated to an animal shelter.

The card creations...

One day on our way to the gym, E. B. told me she had a great idea for what the children could sketch on the cards for the animals. She suggested the children sketch and paint their Totem Animal! 

Below are the cards that are displayed on our bulletin board outside our classroom. D. F. suggested we sell them for $10 which I thought was reasonable especially given the effort they demonstrated in creating the cards. Below each card is a statement that reflects why they chose the Totem Animal that best represents their own character. 

After the cards were finished P. M. C. asked if he could speak to Mr. Nigro (Principal) about being able to make an announcement about our card fundraiser. D. F. then suggested the class make some posters to place around the school so other grades and teachers know that we are selling the cards for the Toronto Humane Society and the Toronto Wildlife Centre!

K. C. and D. F. writing their announcement speech.

E. B. sorting the money we collected thus far from some of the cards that sold.

Using beads to help us count how much money we have received from the sale of some of our cards!

The cards have been available for purchase for only a few days we have already raised $270! We are excited to see how much more we collect in another week!

Thank you to everyone who has supported our card fundraiser. I couldn't be more proud of the children for their kind idea to help animals in need.