Monday, 26 March 2018

A Valuable Lesson!

 For very young children, making art—or just talking about it—provides opportunities to learn words for colours, shapes and actions. When toddlers are as young as a year old, parents can do simple activities such as crumpling up paper and calling it a “ball.” By elementary school, students can use descriptive words to discuss their own creations or to talk about what feelings are elicited when they see different styles of artwork.

For many young people talking about their art comes naturally. For others it is a struggle. For many of the students I am teaching this year, talking about their work, their feeelings' or their opinions can be quite challenging. I am going to follow a few students throughout the year and record them talking about their art and the process involved. I am hoping as they become more confident in sharing among their small group the discussions will become more detailed and richer language forthcoming. 

I am also hoping their conversations will encourage others in the class to share their thoughts and become involved in open classroom discussions. The 5 students I have chosen to be my leaders will eventually lead their own small groups in discussions. 

To set it off I planned an art lesson to paint Omaru Creek in water colours. We had been walking past Omaru Creek for two weeks on our way to swimming lessons. We would stop and talk about how dirty the creek was and what was causing this. We had many interesting discussions about the wild life living in Omaru Creek. I was hoping this would follow through to my art lesson. 

My lesson was a complete disaster. The students were not listening to my instructions,  talking the whole time and been incredibly silly with the paint. I could feel myself getting frustrated. I should have stopped the lesson right then but unfortunately I carried on and the lesson soon deteriorated into complete chaos. The whole point of this lesson was to get them talking and to introduce them to new rich language. For once they had finished their painting, their task was to write a narrative and Omaru Creek was to be the setting. 

I sat back at lunchtime and thought, what happened? How did it go so horribly wrong?
Then I thought of the grouping.  First mistake. I had all the top writers with me. I had done this on purpose as these students have a different writing plan to the others. These students are chatty and full of confidence and I thought this would generate amazing discussions. Second mistake. I had let them sit wherever they wanted. If I don't let students sit on the mat together because they talk too much, what on earth was I thinking letting them sit together to do art. 

Even if we accomplish nothing else in a school day, the least we can do is demonstrate a respectable level of self-control. Part of our job is to show students how to handle anger, stress, and conflict in a healthy and productive way. We can’t just tell them to do that. We have to show them. And yelling is definitely not showing them healthy, productive stress management.

So my art lesson turned into a self discovery of how I could have handled this situation better. I did eventually stop the lesson and the students packed up the paint and cleaned the tables in complete silence. 

I don't know if I will attempt to do this lesson again. I think it is marred now with negative energy. I love teaching art, it is my passion, so one bad lesson will not put me off. Instead I did learn a valuable lesson myself. It gave me time to reflect on my own practice. Was I expecting too much from them? Were my instructions not clear enough? Was I giving them enough time to follow one instruction before giving them another? 

What I do know is this. When a child puts their heart and soul into an art project—and spends hours working on it, cultivating it, and making it beautiful—they'll feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s complete. The arts are a great leveler, as we are all in the same boat, learning to create and succeed in new and unexpected ways. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Big Hoot's Little Hoot

Last year I had the pleasure of working with 4 Year 8 students in the Big Hoot's, Little Hoot fundraiser for Child Cancer. This experience cemented my belief that Art is an amazing way to encourage students to communicate with each other, where they otherwise would not.

To start we gathered together to talk about what this fundraiser meant to them. Cancer had affected each of them differently. Next we discussed what story we wanted our owl to tell. I gave them paper copies of the Owl so they could start designing what they wanted to paint on the Owl. They all had to make compromises and listen to each others ideas. There was the obvious joking around however they knew the enormity of the Charity we were supporting and I was really impressed with how mature they all became pretty quickly. I could see they were taking this project seriously. They wanted our Owl to tell a story of the students at Pt England School who are largely made up of Maori and Pacifika backgrounds.

We named our Owl Te Ahorangi which means 'enlightened one'.

The colours were chosen and the base coats began to go down.

The design on the front of Te Ahorangi became a Maori tribal piece of art. Even though all students were working on all parts of the Owl they each had a personal task that they had designed themselves and wanted to paint. As Isaac began to paint the front of the Owl he soon began to have doubts on how he had approached this.

What impressed me with Isaac was that after he had painted the outline of his design he asked the others what they thought. What followed was a deep discussion between all four artists on how he could make it better. Everyone had advise for him and it was done in a positive and caring way.  I could tell he was frustrated but he decided to paint over his design and start again. We bought some slim paint pencils and the process began again.

Chris took on the task of designing the moku which covered Te Ahorangi's head.

David and Danielle took on the task of painting the wings. The wings were bright and bold and full of life which is how they wanted to represent our Pacifika students. Danielle first played around on the white board to decide how she wanted to approach her painting.

Davids creation coming to life.

                                                           Danielle starting her design.

When I looked at the wings once they were finished a sense of enormous pride came over me. I knew from the looks on David and Danielle's faces they were feeling the exact same emotion.

As I am a year 3 teacher these 4 seniors had to paint inside my classroom when the weather was bad, and in doing so had to involve themselves with my students, who had many questions for them. They were patient and took the time to explain what they were doing and why they were doing it.

When they were waiting for paint to dry they took photos and blogged about this incredible journey they were on. They gave up their lunchtimes and arrived on time every day ready to get to work.

 The collaboration between all four students was wonderful to watch. They were not best mates before this experience but I would hope that after working together on this project they have a new found respect for each other. If they had a disagreement over colours, designs etc,  it was talked about calmly and with a great amount of maturity.

 Rangitoto was included to represent our magnificent Maunga standing proudly in our harbour.

This experience has been the highlight of my teaching career. I want to thank Isaac, David, Chris, and Danielle for allowing me to guide them along a path of exploration in Art. Here are the final photos.

This year I was thrilled to find out that Te Ahorangi was one of 3 Owls entered by 40 schools to be displayed in the city. I went with Danielle to the Auckland City Library to take a photo.

So in conclusion, art is all around us. In it's many forms it represents fantastic opportunities for discussion, focussed language work and skills based activities. It represents the Key Competencies which to me, is the base of all learning. Art breaks down boundaries of social status, religion and cultures. It gives students a voice where they may struggle otherwise. Art is individual beauty and  expression for everyone.

Monday, 29 January 2018

2018 Here We Come!

As a lover of art I went to see the Banksy art exhibition in Auckland. It was amazing and I got so many new and inspiring ideas to take back into my classroom. But one of them really stood out. It's one that any student of any age can understand and I am going to make it one of my great quotes this year.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Art Creates Equality

Over the holidays I have been putting my students art on their blogs for them. As I was doing this it dawned on me that the art I was looking at was so special and different for every student. I also recognised there was no right or wrong in their art. How can you judge a child's art? What makes one painting better than the other?

The art below is inspired by either sunrise or sunset on the ocean. The children used crayon and dye to create their paintings.We looked at many designs and I modelled a few for the children. The first is from a student who is sitting well above in all curriculum areas.

The next is from a student who is struggling in all academic areas....apart from art!

The next is from a student who is right where they should be according to National Standards. 

When I look at these paintings there is no top, middle and bottom. There is just beauty. This is why I firmly believe that artistic expression is so important for students. It lays the very foundation of creativity, to allow children to think outside the proverbial box.

If children have practice thinking creatively now, it will come naturally to them in their future careers. For young children drawing, painting or sculpting in class helps develop visual-spatial skills. I have seen it bring out perseverance in some students who were challenged and frustrated but I would not let them give up. Funnily enough I noticed the students who find the core curriculum subjects the easiest, were the ones who got the most frustrated. These students had their confidence tested, whilst the students who struggle daily with Reading or Writing managed to cope more calmly with the art assignment. I loved seeing their confidence shine through. The smiles on their faces. The look of pure joy when it came time to share their art and talk about it.

I understand that the art my Year 3 students are doing is modelled by myself first, so there are similarities that cannot be ignored. However, every student always manages to bring their own uniqueness to their work. Watching my students focus, some with tongues slipping out of their mouths, made me smile. To be able to focus is vital for learning in class as well as doing a job later in life.

As we do art in class I often play classical music. At first I got laughter and giggles from my students, as they tend to like rap and hip hop. But after awhile the music took over and a sense of calmness would wash over the classroom. I would explain that the music they are listening to is art in their ears. This would bring many laughs, but one day I hope my students look back with fondness on their time spent in my classroom and remember all the artistic expression I tried to introduce to them.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Art Incorporating Math

For the last week of school I wanted to do an intense push on art. Recently my class had explored creating art with pastels and crayons and dyes. I wanted to give them a chance to have a choice of the next medium we used.

So first thing in the morning we sat down and talked about what materials they had enjoyed using. Everyone liked the look of the pastels but all agreed they were very messy and were easily smudged. Crayon and dye was a favourite, but it became clear they all wanted to get the paints out.

They separated into groups to talk about what they would like to paint. It became clear that they needed guidance. The last time I let them have free choice completely with what they painted, they all drew these tiny figures with their pencil and then were unable to paint such small details. I had sat back and watched to see who would figure out they needed to draw bigger more simplified designs, maybe 3 children grasped the concept and changed their painting.  The rest of them were disappointed with their end result, opting to throw them in the rubbish bin instead of taking them home.

As we were looking at images on google, I reminded them that sometimes the simple images can be the most effective. We came across some simple black and white paintings children had done. Everyone liked them, so we had our plan.

Each student got a choice of a design and I printed out one A4 size for each. To make sure they got the size in proportion with their paper I decided to incorporate some Math. We got a ruler and a pencil and divided out paper into quarters.

This bought up aspects of math. First they had to correctly use the ruler to find the half way points across the page and down the page. This bought up conversation surrounding halves, doubles and quarters. It was great to see the students who are working in Stage 4 and Early Stage 5 helping out the other students. They then used the same strategy to divide their size A3 paper into quarters.

Using their pencils they had to use the space in each quarter to draw the image they had chosen. Of course there was the usual,,,,"I can't do this" "This is too hard" Some students rubbed out their drawing 3 or 4 times before they understood the concept of spatial awareness. Using words like on, off, under, over, up, down.

Having the paper cut into quarters allowed them to have a realistic view of how big their image had to be and to get the proportions right.

This art project took a few hours from start to finish. I think the best part was seeing the pride on their faces looking at the end result. I have to admit I did join each student towards the end and show them how to tidy up the outlines using a small brush.  The art was simple and best of all it was achievable to every student.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Maori Legends - Animations . Recounts

Just think of the smiles on your kids’ faces when you read them a great story, or how their eyes light up when you show them tiny plants buds just peeking through the soil.  The great thing about teaching young children is that they have an innate desire to know more about the world.  Sadly, this innate love of learning is often squelched by the time kids hit elementary school, crushed by ineffective academic standards and incorrectly implied curriculum that take the delight out of learning.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!   As a teacher, you can make a big impact on your students’ future love of learning by simply allowing them to learn in a way that’s not only educational but also fun.
As I continue to inquire into how art helps help my students learn, I am becoming increasingly optimistic that there is a link between learning and art. 
Last week I had my students create a piece of Maori art to celebrate Maori Language week. Their art was inspired by NZ's native bush. This was done to inspire their writing. I set the children up to write their Maori legend by first reading them many Maori myths and legends prior to doing their art. I also set up links on their i-pads where they could go and listen to short Maori legends. Some were in English however some were also in Maori. This did not bother the children, they were silent as they all sat on their i-pads with their headphones on listening intently.
My goal was for them
-  to create a cool Maori legend themselves with a message behind it.
- animate their story on their i-pads
- write a recount on the whole process
The children were excited and ready to go. I felt I had set them up properly with all the tools needed. Needless to say I was so proud of each and every student. Even my children who have difficulty with writing were eager to get going.

I have taken the work from their blog so the story's are just how they blogged them errors and all.
The work below is from one of students who excels in writing. She is also reading above the National Standard at Level 30

Mere and the Pukeko
Once upon a time there was a Maori girl called mere and she lived behind a secret beautiful bush.
In their bush it was full of Kowhai's with beautiful yellow flowers and big rata's. one lovely afternoon when mere was fast asleep, a pukeko flew down and the pukeko saw a beautiful shiny necklace and grabbed it and flew away. Then Mere woke up and got upset because it belonged to her great grandmother, so mere goes to God of the sky Ranginui to ask for help.

Mere explained to Ranginui the promblem so Ranginui called out "pukeko please give the necklace back to mere how would you feel if someone stole something of yours" pukeko felt bad so the next night pukeko sneeked and slowly put it back, The next morning Mere found the neacklace she was so glad.

Finally mere and her family celebrated with a beautiful big yummy feast and said a karakia to Ranginui for helping them.


Last week at school room 15 designed Maori art around flora and flora.

First I got my sharp pencil and drew my design. Secondly I got some greens browns and black pastels and coloured in my drawings. Lastly I got a big piece of black paper and stuck my art on the paper and got some shiny green glitter and decorated my art.

Next I wrote a Maori legend about mere and a pukeko. Finally I went on google and searched for some native NZ bush scenes next I drew my characters and animated my story.

Last week at school room 15 designed Maori art around the native bush.

First we got a pencil and we design our beautiful Maori art. Secondly we chosed dark and light green - brown- blue pastels and colour in our drawing. Lastly we stuck our outstanding Maori art on the black pieces of paper and we put green glitter on our art. 

Next I wrote my own Maori legend and it was about Pania and the Taniwha. Finally I went online and down load some native NZ bush pictures and I drew my characters and animated my story.

Last week at school room 15 made Maori art around the native nz bush.

First I got pencil and draw my debasisgn.

Secohdiy I got some green brown and blue pastels and coloured in my designed.

Lastly i got some black paper and stuck my art on.

Next I wrote a Maori legend and then I animated.

The last example is from a student who is reading at level 22. He can write independently.

Maui and Kiwi
Once upon a time there lived a cool boy called Maui and his friend kiwi. They lived in a nz Bausch with yellow flowers and red flowers and it was so beautiful.

One  beautiful day Maui and his kiwi got up and jamped into their amazing waka.they set off to their fishing to their secret Island.

First Maui said to his kiwi run"for your life" Then Maui got his hook  and killed the Taniwha.

Finally Maui and  kiwi got in their waka and went fishing. Then they they got home and ate the fish with they family and told them all about their adventure with the Taniwha.

Last week at school Room15 designed cool Maori art around the native NZ bush.

First we got a pencil and designed my beautiful colours and it was green brown and blue and coloured my art in and ms Eaid gave us a black paper and and stuck my picture on After that I decorated my art with green glitter.

 Next I wrote a Maori Lagend about Maui and kiwi and I went on google to get my back gound and I drew my characters then I animated my story.