Thursday, September 8, 2016


One of my best high school graduation gifts was a large portfolio to put my artwork in from my aunt Gina. I felt like a million bucks going into my college portfolio review with something nice to hold and protect my artwork. I looked like I belonged there. I was ready for business! So how do we begin each school year? After rules and procedures, we dive into making portfolios to hold and protect our artwork, of course! Several of my portfolio ideas come from inspiration I find on Pinterest. It's an incredible resource that's just too great to ignore...That's how I found Cheryl Trowbridge at teachkidsart. She has some great ideas for incorporating reading into portfolios, and I added my personal flare and twist! To get things rollin' each year I read a book to grades K-5! Why? Why not? I love to read and kids love being read to. True story!!! There are SO MANY FANTASTIC books in our school library, and Mrs. Bruce is always so helpful when I'm poking around the shelves looking for little gems for my lessons. 

In kindergarten we read "Matthew's Dream" by Leo Lionni. Kids ask great questions when you read to them. One of our questions was "what is a museum?". We talked about what a museum is, discussed the different types of museums, and guessed what kind our story takes place in. Kinders are really good at using clues to solve mysteries. We talked about the story characters going on a class trip, just like our kindergartners will later this year, and the adventure they had in the story. After visiting an art museum, Matthew, the leading mouse, dreams in swirling colorful shapes and hears distant music. 

We began by learning how to put our name and class section on our artwork (we'll be doing that for a loooooooooong time). It's important to know, so you get your picture back instead of Lucy's or Michael's or Edwards or Grace' get the idea, and they did too! Students flipped their papers over to hide their names (so we don't draw all over the name), and set to work drawing an overlapping line. While we worked, we played music, just like in Matthew's dream. We carefully used a sharpie to trace the line that we made, and they were so patientThey critiqued examples of my coloring and told me which picture was my best and why. That part is important. I could give them the answer, but it's way cooler if they tell me. That means they really know it. It makes them proud. It makes me proud! You should be proud too! They could tell me that I filled in the white spaces and stayed in the lines. BINGO! Then we ALL tried it! 

They did a great job!  See?! 

This year I read "The Mixed Up Chameleon" by Eric Carle to first graders, but in years past I've read "A Color of His Own" by Leo Lionni. Both are great! Drawing our own colorful chameleons presented a wonderful opportunity to review the types of lines we learned last year as kindergartners. We know a lot of lines! We used the lines we know to make patterns. Some of these patterns should be on sweaters and leggings. Seriously, these kids get it. And it's really good stuff. 

Sometimes art class is a little bit sciencey. Ask any student from first grade up in our school and they'll tell you all about how crayons and watercolors aren't pals. They don't stick together. The wax will resist the paint! It's especially cool when we use a white crayon. It's more of a surprise when you paint over it. If you try it at home, remember to press down with your crayon for a successful "crayon resist". If drawn too lightly it won't show through your paint. Right kids? Right...

Second graders read "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds. Schools all over the place read this in celebration of "dot day". This book is a pretty big deal. If you've never read it, check it out! It's a quick read and the story is full of warm fuzzies n good feelings. It's about a student that started her art journey with a simple dot. There are LOTS of ways to make a dot, loads of ways, tons of ways! We explored a few, and had a great time making our own special dots! 

In third grade we read "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak. It's one of my favorites, as I've mentioned before here. The characters, the illustrations, the imagination, it gets me every time. Every. Time. The kids liked it too! We reviewed using shapes as the parts (because there are no stick people, animals, parts allowed), and we turned them into our very own "wild things"! The types of lines we used changed our textures, making some of them very feathery, while others were furry or scaly. We used a combo of markers and crayons, and they're looking pretty "terrible"! 

Fourth grade can be tough sometimes. Kids tend to start getting more self conscious about their artwork, and for that very reason I read "Ish" by Peter H. Reynolds. It's about a kid who absolutely loves making art until his brother laughs at his work. Just when he's about to give up art altogether, his sister helps him to see that his artwork is special because he's got his own style, it doesn't have to be perfect. After discussing the story, we made lists of things about us that we turned into "ish" drawings for our portfolio covers! No pressure for perfection, no pressure to draw like the kid next to you, or across from you, or on the other side of the room. It's all about you and how you feel and what you like. Find your style. I loved seeing what they came up with!

Fifth grade is typically the last year that I read a book as the foundation of our art portfolios. This year we read "Max's Words" by Kate Banks. Max, our leading man, sees that his brothers collect stamps and coins and decides he'll collect words. Several of the words he collects are illustrated throughout the story to look like what they are. It's AWESOME! It inspired us to create our own illustrated words, so we made a list of words connected to things we loved and got drawing! There's a lot of creative problem solving in art. How do I best illustrate and represent that I love cookies? Ah-HA! The O's would make excellent cookies, wouldn't they?! YES THEY WOULD! They started as pencil drawings, then we traced them with ultra-fine sharpie, and finally students chose how they wanted to color them. They're really fun!

Lastly, our dear, sweet sixth graders. The oldest kids in our school. The last year we make art portfolios together. Sniff. Time flies when you're having fun! Since this was our last portfolio project together we did something new. We viewed and discussed several examples of graffiti art. We talked about how artist Keith Haring got his start by drawing on the black paper covering un-rented advertising spaces in subways in NYC. And then we took everything we looked at and discussed and tried our hand at fancying up our names! 

We explored a variety of ways to change simple bubble letters to make them more interesting to look at. We added rectangles to the ends of bubble letters. They looked boxy. We added ovals. They looked comic bookish. We added other shapes. We experimented with several techniques for adding color to our work. The best part was that it was their choice. Students love to choose. I love to see what they decide. Shayn Johnson is an art class trend setter! Folks went CRAZY over his watercolor techniques. See the splatter/spray? See those black oozes? That's the genius of Shayn. Mic drop. 

The portfolios look AMAZING this year! They're ready to go, and we are too! ........Just an FYI, the portfolios stay at school until the end of the year. We need them to hold all the cool stuff we make! I'll send them home during our last art class together filled with anything that hasn't already made its way home. It'll be tucked neatly inside, ready for your walls and refrigerators! If you know you're moving, please come see me!!! It's incredibly sad when students leave our school, especially when they leave their artwork behind to soak up the tears of their friends. I have tissues for that. Don't leave the art! 

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