Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Open Studio and Extra Activities

I worked in my Art room for a while this morning. For some reason, the room always looks worse after I leave when working during the summer. I try to sort, reorganize, pitch junk, etc. and usually make a huge mess of it.

One of the tasks today was moving materials that the kiddos use during Open Studio and Extra Activities. I have markers, crayons and colored pencils in containers - enough for each table group to have a set of each. I thought it would be a good idea to move them away from the wires connected to the laptop, the ActivBoard, the speakers, phone, etc., etc. A few too many student artists got tangled up in those wires last year...Now they're on shelves easily accessible to the kids and no wires!

Open Studio is the time before school when students may come to the Art room to use materials freely. When necessary, they can also use that time on their current projects, depending on the media. I open at 7:30 am, then start cleanup at 7:50 so they are out of the room by first bell at 7:55.

Teaching in a low-income, urban district means that many of my students don't have access to art media at home. For many of them, having materials available every day is equivalent to having Christmas everyday! During Open Studio they can use old markers, old crayons, colored pencils, plasticine (oil-based) clay, drawing books, books about artists, scrap paper, Legos, K'nex, tanagrams, glue, scissors, pencils & erasers. Although my school's population is 900+, the usual crowd before school is only between 10 - 25 students, which is manageable.

Most of the markers & all of the crayons are donations from end-of-the-year desk cleanup in the classrooms. I just send out an email about mid-May and get LOTS of donations! Colored pencils are odds & ends from my stock as well as classroom leftovers.

Drawing books are hand-me-downs from my kids, garage sale finds, clearance sales, etc...

Scrap paper for the drawing is usually paper printed on one side - leftovers from the teachers lounge (we have a large plastic tub located by the copiers for misfeeds & misprints) or leftovers from my room.

I also keep a basket of construction paper scraps for those who like to cut & glue. The Art teachers in our district often have unwanted/damaged paper donated to them & occasionally that finds its way into the 'scrap paper' bin on the counter as well.

Books about artists were purchased as a resource by the district...

Legos & K'nex are from home - my boys outgrew them years ago & they were cluttering up the house. I did learn the hard way to remove all the Lego 'people' because the kids just fought over them. They get much more involved in construction and design w/out those pieces. You do have to expect that some pieces 'walk away' or get swept away at the end of the day. I also have a set of tanagrams & some math manipulatives that were destined for the trash that the kids like to build with...

Many kids prefer the plasticine clay over drawing - we never have enough time for more than 1 clay project a year so this gives them an extra tactile kick. I prefer to use only yellow clay - the other colors tend to stain hands & that clay doesn't wash off easily. I use laminated 12" x 18" construction paper for clay mats to keep clean up to a minimum.

Students can also use these supplies for Extra Activities. There are always one or two kids that race to finish their work first and after having them re-work/refine the project several times, I can direct those students to Extra Activities. I also use this option if we are in the midst of a multi-step process and some students have completed the current step and I won't be teaching/demonstrating the next step until the upcoming class. They're able to get extra practice time with materials (same as listed for Open Studio) and it allows me time to help the other students. My 45-minute classes are jam-packed with review/intro, demos & hands-on work so Extra Activities are a treat that usually happens only once or twice a grading period during class time.

I have some teacher-made card games - my student teacher a few years ago made memory card games (thanks Becky!). One set reinforced primary/secondary colors and the other reviewed colors and color names. She used paint chip cards for her color cards and laminated the sets so the cards will hold up for lots of use.

Other memory card sets have been made by yours truly featuring the work of arts we've studied...

Bridget Riley (5th grade/line & movement/British Op Art artist)

I discovered design templates/cards created by artist Ted Naos in the gift shop at the Art Institute of Chicago (#1 son is a graduate) a few years ago. You can layer the cards in an infinite number of ways to create designs. I limit these cards to 5th graders because they are not as sturdy as playing cards & the little ones try to use them for templates with markers - eek! Here's the link to check these out: http://www.naosgraphics.com/Games.html

The second class of the year, I teach the rules for using the Open Studio/Extra Activities materials: where to find them, how to use them properly, how to put them away correctly, etc. The little ones (grades K-2) get some time on that day to practice what they've learned since many of them may not have been in my room the prior year. (Due to the size of our school, we have a traveling art teacher at our site who instructs the K-2 classes that can't fit into my schedule.) The older students just need a refresher & then it's on to the first project of the year!

Please remember that I did not acquire these materials over night - I bought a few at a time or made use of donations. I believe it enriches the art experience for my kids to have time to explore and manipulate a wide variety of materials/media. At the same time, it reduces discipline issues because they always have something to keep themselves busy with if they finish work earlier than others and it's a great incentive for those who are slow to finish...

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