Thursday, January 29, 2015

In the Art Room: A Unit on Shape for Kindergarten, Part 1


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Hi, y'all! I'm here today to share with you some of the latest kindergarten masterpieces that the wee-est of wee ones have been creating in the art room. Because these lil dudes had never been to art before coming to me, I like to start with the super duper basics. Like the elements of art! Which is why, at the start of the year, I introduce 'em to a big fat hairy unit on line. We create paper line sculptures, paint a variety of lines, create abstract line paintings. Y'all, we are all about lines. And since a line creates a shape, shape is our next unit o' study!
But, before I get to said unit, can we chat about painting with small children for a moment, puh-lease? Let's be honest: they don't come by this kind of loveliness without a whole lotta proper painting how-to's, am I right? Namely, how not to jack up the paint tray (which also translates to "how not to drive your art teacher to drink the paint water"). My kindergarten kids pretty much hit the ground painting. And I've found that with lots of practice and constant reminders of proper painting technique, they can do just about anything. 
So, what do I tell 'em? The same thing every time we paint, from kindergarten all the way on up to fourth grade. It sounds a lil like this:

"Remember! Your paint brush is like a ballerina. She always dances on her tippy-toes. So you only need to put paint on her toes. She never scoots around on her bottom. So we would never smash our brush into our painting. It will ruin your ballerina's toes! And she won't be able to paint you a beautiful masterpiece. "

So, that's Thing One. Thing Two is all about changing colors from one to the next. I don't know what your paint set up is but mine goes a lil sumpthin like this: paint colors distributed in empty egg cartons, two per table of four children (I'm currently a Versa Temp by Sax paint convert. I looove this paint!); tray of water for cleaning and sponges for wiping excess water, two per table of four. And then my lil reminder routine for cleaning goes like this:

"Before you get a new color, your ballerina needs to take a bath. Put your brush in the cup of water and you should hear that paint brush scrub the bottom. It should sound like it's brushing it's teeth! Don't tap your brush on the cup, it will splash on your neighbor's painting! Instead, gently wipe your brush on Dirty Ole Sponge Bob (what we call our filthy painty sponges). Now you're ready for your new color!"

I have found that by making the process of painting and cleaning the brush silly and fun, the kids will do it. Sometimes we'll tell our brushes, "oh! Time to take a bath!" or "Ballerina! Do not scoot on your bottom!" It's hilarious to hear the kids having a full blown convo with their paint brush. But, hey, whatever works, right? So long as the principal doesn't walk in and wanna know why the kids are chatting with animate objects and drag 'em to the guidance counselor. 

Now! On to shapes!
So when I introduce the kids to shapes, I go about it a coupla ways. First we take a gander at this book. I love Lois Ehlert's books, don't you? This book especially is great because the shapes are bold and beautiful and easy for the kids to see. We count them, name them and count their number of sides. Going through this book with the kids helps me gain an understanding of their knowledge of shapes. As does playing a short round of this game.

I usually play this game once when I have a bit of down time with the kids. Again, it helps me gauge their shape knowledge. By this time in the school year, my kindergarten friends have learned quite a bit about shapes. So I like to spice this game up a bit. Instead of just calling out "pink triangle" I might say, "a shape that has three sides that's pink".  But even this simple game doesn't have all the shapes that are in the kinder-curriculum.
Which is why I love this lil handout from guruparents.com. My students are well beyond circles and squares and are now in deep with trapezoids and parallelograms. I used this handout to make flashcards that we run through at the start of our lessons based on shape. We even did a couple vocab games just to get those words stuck in our heads. Here's a lil clip of some of the vocab games we play.
So, what's our first shape-based creation? Well, it's a total rip off our first line-based masterpiece. But the tie-in is just perfect and it only takes one class. Our shape box!
 Now, you can go about creating this shape box a coupla ways. Either have the kids create the box from two strips of black paper (which is great because they'll learn how to make a square but also sucks because it will take them a million years to make said square). OR you can have a glorious parent volunteer bust 'em out in less than 15 minutes. Which is what I opted to do after a class of kinder-kids spent entirely too much time creating a box and not having enough time to create the rest of their shapes. 
 So, let's talk shape making. How'd they make 'em? Well first you start with a strip of paper which is a line. Then ask them..."how can this line become a circle?" Immediately, they'll respond that you need to glue one end to the other. Then show them that if you pinch it once...it's a drop shape! Pinch it twice...you have a crescent! Three times, viola, a triangle. And four, well, perhaps a square or a rectangle, you decide.
Kids found ways to create hearts and even stars. That pretty much made my day. 
What to do after that? Paint shapes, of course! We had many a chat about painting different shapes. The kids were intent on learning to paint stars and hearts. So many demos were given. I also have the tables covered in paper. I always encourage the kids to "practice and paint on the table". This way, once they feel comfortable, they can then paint on their paper. 
By the end of the first day, their paintings looked a little like this. We talked about how to create "rainbow shapes" by outlining the shapes in different colors. 
And one last painting day. It was funny, when some of the kids were finished and put their paintings on the drying rack, they asked if they could work on their shape sculptures again. Ermkay (cue Twilight Zone music).
Now, lest you think we be el finito with this here unit o' shapes, we've got some more work ahead of us. I'm 'bout to introduce organic shapes to these dudes with one of my fave artists, Henri Matisse. Tis time these kids take to creating some scissor-shapes, don't you think? 

Til then!
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19 comments:

  1. They turned out beautifully. jan

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    1. Thanks!! They did a great job, those little dudes!

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  2. Hey! Random question. I am an art teacher also, and I found your blog on pinterest, and it inspired me to create my own. How did you customize yours though? Was there a certain tutorial you followed? Thanks!

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    1. Hi Julianna! I used a great web designer that I found on etsy! Her name is Rebekah and you and find her here: rebekahlouisedesigns@gmail.com. Thanks!

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  3. I love the "ballerina" painting technique. It obviously clicked with the kids; their shapes and lines are clear and the colors vibrant.

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  4. Anonymous1/30/2015

    Cassie I love your blog and have been following it for a while but I have been hesitating to say this as I dont want to hurt you, but maybe take a poll if your readers are still interested in the What the art teacher wore today shpiel. I find it very distracting and almost feel like unsubscribing because of it..I wonder if other readers like it enough, I know that you certainly enjoy it and wouldnt want to take away your pleasures in life, but maybe reconsider?

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    1. Hi! Thank you for your input! Honestly, putting together a "What I Wore" post, which means remembering to snap a daily photo, can get a little overwhelming and I've often thought of putting it to rest. However, a part of how I approach teaching is, well, how I dress. I use my clothing to introduce artists, to inspire the children and, hopefully, inspire other art teachers. If I remove that element from my blog, I feel as though I'll be taking away one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place: so share my love of fashion. I truly appreciate your thoughts and your genuine concern. I do hope you'll continue to read this here blog :)

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  5. totally stealing the shape box:)

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    1. Do it! The kids love creating those 3-D shapes, man.

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  6. Three things:
    1) I believe most of your followers totally LOVE your 'what I wore' posts, and they make your blog unique and fun. Don't stop them. (Unless, of course, you want to. It's YOUR blog, and your content is up to you.) Your blog is free to readers, so people are free to read, or of course, to not read. So what one reader thinks shouldn't affect how you approach posting. And anyhow, I doubt you'd have as many fans as you do, if you didn't have that uniquely special element on your blog. It's part of who you are/what you do.

    2) I love the shape box. We did that with just one color per kid. The strips were cut to make the box frame and the leftover paper was cut, folded, twirled, etc within the box shape. Then we stacked/stapled them to each other in front of a window and they made the coolest patterns all together! Very Louise Nevelson!

    3) Color and Shape BINGO is the BEST! Even my 6th graders wanted to play! And the best is when you let the winner call the next game, and you don't have to do anything but hand out stickers for prizes!

    4) oops I said I had three points, but here's a 4th: I love that book! One of my faves!

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    1. AH! Thank you. For everything. And, as for #2, I've been DYING to hang these guys in the window! Now I'm totally going to have to do it, thanks to your inspo. Seriously tho, thank you so much for your constant encouragement and friendship, Phyl!!

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  7. I love the book, too. It was one of the first I bought when I started teaching (not that long ago despite being kinds oldish).
    The BOX!!!! It's so awesome! I use the paper strips for line and I've been trying to find a way to contain shapes made from strips so THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing!
    Oh, and I started using the ballerina quote this year after winning enough $$ on a bet to buy new paintbrushes. The kids really get it. It really works.

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  8. I'm curious, what are the dimensions of the black box? And when you pre-assemble them, are you stapling them? I think it would be fastest, but I worry about little fingers getting hurt on the staples...

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  9. Hello, I love your blog ... all of it! You're so talented, creative, and reflect so much passion for your students and teaching! Keep doing what you love ... I'm super hooked! Many blessings!

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  10. Ah, it looks like fun painting classes. I loved your blog pictures. I am also an art teacher at Phoenix preschool and always try something new with them. I would love to use Bingo games in my class. Kids did great job!

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  11. As always, more wonderful art lesson ideas! I would love to try this with my kinders soon and was curious to ask: what size paper and what type/size of paint brushes do you use for the painting portion here? Thank you!

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  12. Cassie, I love your posts and your teacher outfits- they link to your teachings and integrate a fun and connective hook! Cheers from Canada! I would love to collab with you! - Jill

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  13. Great post, very informative. I think a lot of people will find this very useful.Keep post in coming future as well!!! colossaltopreviewer

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Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)