Sunday, August 27, 2017

Term 1 Week 1



...and so the new academic year begins again at UWCSEA and the art department dove straight in with the MS students to get them creating from the word go!

Here's a quick summary of the lessons so far:

Grade 6

In all my years' teaching, I know that the cutest and newest members of Middle School never disappoint! Grade 6 have begun their artistic journey in Middle School sharing their observational drawing skills from Day 1. The unit they will be taking on board will help them hone their skills in line, value, accuracy and contrast with the emphasis being on pencil.
Usually, we work on the theme of the natural environment, capturing leaves, feathers, shells and such like but this year I wanted a change - something to literally get their teeth into. So I chose food. The drawing unit leads nicely into the ceramics one and I thought it would be fun to get them thinking about You are what you eat and what ideas that might conjure up in their imaginative minds.
"The artist uses different materials, tools and techniques to create"
But the first lesson, we keep it simple - drawing a lettuce leaf. I know, weird right? My reasoning was that in order to see what skills they already have I needed to get them to show both line and tone in an unfamiliar setting and with varying degrees of difficulty. I bet you didn't think drawing a butterhead lettuce leaf would be difficult but it is! In comparison to a curled up dry tree leaf, there are delicate lines and markings, soft undulations and subtleties in tone from the shades of green.
But they were focused, determined and ready for the challenge, even asking if they could eat the lettuce when they finished drawing it!

Grade 7

Grade 7 were the first of my lessons this year in A1 and, true to form, they were head first into a digital challenge.
The unit centres around the conceptual understanding:
"Awareness & empathy help lead to understanding"
The Unit kicks off with a 30 minute task working with a partner to design a campaign poster using portrait photography, text and design skills. It was interesting to listen to their initial conversations: "How do you want to be photographed?" "What angle should I take to capture you best?" "What sort of slogan do you want and what do you want people to understand about you?".  They were interviewing each other to best capture the essence to be able to create a worthy and respectful design.
We took a risk sharing 2 poster campaigns from the presidential election last year to get the students talking about how they feel when they look at a poster and how design can influence the viewer. 

It was interesting to see just how organised, focused and enthusiastic these 12 year olds were on their first lesson of the year and how keen they were to do the best job for their partner and in the allocated time!
What was also interesting was how many had been influenced by the designs discussed and how many wanted to design something different and in a couple of cases, quite quirky! This will be the building block for further design work investigating photography, Photoshop, design principles as well as some analytical work responding to contemporary designs.
What was particularly encouraging to see was the skills they already had and how easy they slipped into them - using Instant Alpha, some grappling with Photoshop and others deciding between Illustrator, Pages or Keynote - they choice was theirs. Initial results and subsequent designs will be posted on Padlet.

Grade 8

Next to grace my doors were the lovely Grade 8s, now the kings and queens of Middle School. Again, full of enthusiasm, energy and excitement (does that really exist in Grade 8?!) they remained fully focused, showing their existing skills in observational drawing. Again, intelligent conversations were the highlight for me as they discussed how:

“Art can be used to express and document ourselves, our experiences and our surroundings”

From this, they started to think what skills they already knew and could demonstrate in a drawing, from cross hatching to shading and set about their 30-minute task to capture a group of simple objects.
This unit, "Journey", will take them through some key skills in capturing their surroundings and experiences from pencil, pen and wash to collage, photography and mixed media.
Confidence in art is often lower in Grade 8 than any other year and a quick poll about their initial drawings brought this home to me - only a few hands went up when asked if you feel ok about your work (no one felt pleased). 
What can I do to encourage, build confidence and help them see the great points in their work? Next week we will look at positive and constructive feedback and about valuing developing skills over time. Padlet will be a great place to track progress and to share suggestions with each other.
I shared a great video by The Virtual Instructor, an excellent go-to resource for drawing, to help them review their drawings for homework and to continue to practice this fundamental skill. Hopefully this will help them to start building some confidence and belief in their abilities as an artist.

Postscript for parents:
You can follow your child's artist journey through their Padlet board - please check back in with them as the first few weeks progress

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