Archive for the book lessons Category

“Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature” by Sarah C. Campbell

Posted in book lessons on December 20, 2010 by rachjosam

I am working with a new book I just got from the librarian at work, who I must mention here because without her I would not have all the amazing books I do to work with.  The latest book she dropped off is Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell.  It is another book of photographs and explains the Fibonacci numbers through images of flower and other things from nature.  This book will work better with my older students the third graders and I already consulted the math specialist at my school to make sure learning about the Fibonacci numbers would be age appropriate.

This book gives a lot of great information but I will probably do some outside research to make sure I have a solid grasp of this math concept.  I can’t wait to continue the book exploration in the arts with my students.  If I have a book to support my lesson I am always confident it will be a success.


“Shapes & Patterns: In the Natural World”

Posted in book lessons on December 20, 2010 by rachjosam

Keep it simple.  Sometimes I plan and plan a lesson and I think it will be the best thing ever and then it just bombs.  I know I am not the only one that has had this experience and on the flip side some of my most successful lessons have been ones that I came up with in the car on my way to work and decided I had to try it that day even if I would have to eat lunch standing up while getting everything ready, I had to try it right away.

Teaching for me is sometimes an experiment one book that has led me in a new and exciting direction is Shapes & Patterns: In the Natural World from the “eye like” series published by PlayBac.  This book is full of wonderful photographs and another book that combines shapes and lines.  The first line states, “Every shape and every pattern can be found in nature!”  This book finds similar shapes and patterns and groups them together.  A snake that has similar markings to a giraffe, an animal called pangolin that looks just like a big pinecone.  Students are almost as excited, as I am to compare the different things that are found in nature.  We want to figure out why things look they way they do and together we can discuss and experiment with how to solve problems and make discoveries by combining visual art and science.   Students are curious, they ask questions and problem solve through the simple act of looking at interesting photographs.  Some of the things on the pages the students are familiar with and other things they have never seen before but because they are next to each other they can compare and contrast and quickly be comfortable with everything they are looking at.  It makes me realize that if you break thinks down look at them in the simplest way then anyone can understand them even as they become more complex because you have taken many small step to reach a greater goal.

I pick and choose maybe only looking at one page for a class comparing the snowflake to the other star shapes on the page.  Talking about different types of stars.  Counting how many points all the different stars have.  Then cutting snowflakes, comparing each other’s and counting the shapes and points of everyone’s snowflakes.  Each student’s snowflake is different just like really snowflakes.

“When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins” by Rhonda Growler Greene illustrated by James Kaczman

Posted in book lessons on December 20, 2010 by rachjosam

The next book recommendation I just recently got and I have been using it to help students transition from lines to shapes, the book is When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins by Rhonda Growler Greene illustrated by James Kaczman.  It has colorful simple shape and line illustrations that cover the pages.  Examples of where students can see all the different places to find shapes are great to keep students thinking and excited to make discoveries.  The only problem is this book is too long for one class so I have split it up into two classes or just read a few pages to highlight one specific idea.

I have tried different parts of this book with a couple of different lessons about lines and shapes.  I also found the book to be a good review of lines and I was surprised by how many of my three-year-old students remembered all the lines we talked about months before.  We experimented with using lines to make shapes such as drawing a zigzag line and then a straight line underneath and by doing so creating triangles.  Combining lessons about lines and shapes gives students a strong foundation for later visual art exploration.

As I was introducing watercolors to some students and reviewing the technique with others I wanted to allow time for students to explore the material.  I change the format so sometimes they work on paper that has a hole in the middle and I ask students where do we paint now?  Other times the paper is a triangle instead of a rectangle how does this change the artist’s work?  Will they fill the whole page or create hypnotic movements around and around?  The students start to notice differences and similarities in the culture of the classroom that keeps them thinking about art in new ways.  These are subtle changes but it keeps us moving forward and working towards new learning experiences.

A memory from last school year I had a student ask me why we always read books in art class.  I’m not sure what I said probably something along the lines of it helps us learn about new art ideas, but he left me wondering if I needed to change gears and maybe the students were getting bored.  The next class I just happened to not being reading a book and the same student asked why aren’t you reading us a book today we always read a book I like that.  My students always keep me guessing and it takes time to understand what they are telling me, but I try to be always listening.

“Just How Long Can A Long String Be?” by Keith Baker

Posted in book lessons on December 19, 2010 by rachjosam

Just How Long Can A Long String Be? By Keith Baker is a book about an ant and a bird and they talk about all the different places you can use string.  To fly a kit or hang a painting, I like how it keeps students engaged and thinking about where they can find string, or the different ways they have seen string used.

This lesson is most effective in the fall when there are lots of things to collect outside.  First the class starts with a nature walk.  Students collect items like sticks, leaves, and pinecones.  I also collect some items before class to make sure when we get started everyone will have a pinecone etc. or if you can’t take your students outside you can collect everything before class.

After the nature walk we read the book and discuss any other ideas students may have to use string.  We look and compare different types of string and yarn, how some are long or short, thick and thin and a variety of colors.  Then I demonstrate how to twist and tie the things we have collected together attaching them and making a unique sculpture with the found objects.

Students take the items and connect and combine them by tying and looping the string around and around.  Each student starts with a few pieces of yarn when they need more yarn I ask them to describe what kind of piece they would like and what they will use it for so they are starting to plan their next step.

Some of the younger students have had trouble tying things together so I realized quickly that they need some tape to help keep everything together.  When I was doing this lesson a couple of months ago I had a student who kept asking me for tape.  I went over to where he was working and realized he had taped his piece to the newspaper that was covering the table.  It was just about the end of class so there wasn’t time to rework his sculpture so I just tore around the tape and handed him his sculpture newspaper and all.  He smiled pleased very with the piece he had created.  All the students enjoyed this project they were able to explore in a new way and think about how art can be made from so many different materials.

“Lines That Wiggle” by Candace Whitman & illustrations by Steve Wilson

Posted in book lessons on December 19, 2010 by rachjosam

The next book I am highlighting is Lines That Wiggle by Candace Whitman and illustrated by Steve Wilson.  This book is so much fun and I like to start off the year with it, especially with my very young students.  It is a simple rhyming book that has a glittery line that flows through the pages moving in every way you could possibly think of.  It covers all the different types of lines I like to teach my students, curvy, straight and zigzag, and many others.

I have some discussion points that I like to use such as describing animals.  In the book there is a whale, octopus and many monsters that I talk about with my students reinforcing a lot of language while they are having fun describing the categories the animals may fit into.  I allow the students to all have their own points of view and early on start developing a high level of comfort in the art room.  Another aspect of the book is counting there are lines that go by twos and threes, dotted lines like roads, promoting lots of room for discussion and exploration.  I tend to love books like this that are simple and allow students to think and examine their point of view.

I combine this book with a simple project that is about discovering how different materials work and learn how to make different kinds of lines.  Along with the curvy, straight, and zigzag lines students discover there are fast and slow, and thick and thin lines.  I cover the table with large roll paper and put out all different kinds of drawing materials.  Markers, color pencils, oil pastels, crayons that are large and small, and chalk.  They move around the table exploring how the different materials feel on the paper and in their hands.  The different kinds of colors and marks they make.  This activity could also be done with paint or rollers in ink or paint.

For older students they could create of drawing of their own monster to go along with the assortment of monsters depicted in the book.  Then decide what kind of line their monster will make.  The possibilities are endless with Lines That Wiggle because it is fun and has so much information that can be explored in unique ways.

“Elmer” by David McKee

Posted in book lessons on December 19, 2010 by rachjosam

For the first project idea I am posting I am going with an oldie but goodie.  My first year teaching I worked with a woman named Susan Akman and this first book choice and project comes from her.  I am starting with this because I want to promote sharing among teachers, artists and everyone.  I know that she would be happy that I am sharing this project and would only ask for recognition.  Another reason I am starting with this one is it has a simple but fantastic technique that is exciting for students of all  ages.

The first book I am highlighting is Elmer by David McKee this is a story about an elephant who is multicolored patchwork and not grey like the other elephants.  He goes for a walk and finds a bush of elephant color berries that he rubs all over his body to disguise himself because he is tired of being different.  No one recognizes him until it starts to rain and the berry juice is washed away.  All the other elephants think he has performed the best joke ever and honor him for being different and great.  This book is heart warming and a good lesson in tolerance and loving yourself.

I have seen many different lessons to go along with this book, but I like this one because it is simple and about color and shape.  I use this lesson with 3 – 4 year olds we start by talking about what shape Elmer’s patchwork is “squares.”  We look at all the different colors that the squares are on Elmer.  We glue tissue paper squares onto wax paper with liquid starch.

Set-up – I prepare a piece of wax paper taped to newspaper, that is a few layers thick and about the size of the folded newspaper, for each student.  The wax paper may be hard for students to see as it blends in with the newspaper because it is clear so I also let students feel the wax paper so they understand what they are working on.  I fill cups with a small amount of liquid starch.  I have had trouble finding liquid starch in the past but now the company School Specialty has started carrying it yay! I like using the small foam brushes in the liquid starch it is great for students to spread the liquid starch gently on the wax paper.  I also cut out a variety of colors of tissue paper into small squares with sides that are about two inch long.  I put the tissue paper on trays for each student.  The students spread the liquid starch onto the wax paper and carefully drop a piece of tissue paper on, the tissue paper absorbs the liquid starch and sticks to the wax paper.  Students like to layer the tissue paper and experiment with how the colors mix.  I have had students layer many colors of tissue paper until it is so dark it is almost black, they are very proud of themselves.  The only difficulty is when students try to brush the liquid starch on top of the tissue paper it can make it clump up or rip so they need to be gentle or drip the liquid starch on.

Once the collages dry I cut them off of the news paper and the excess wax paper (if there is any) and hang tape them to the windows of the school they look great and they are all different.