Monday, January 30, 2012

Gesso Woes

I've been having gesso problems. I use gesso with my elementary students to prime papier-mache projects. It blocks out the newspaper print, provides some additional strength to the structure, and also provides a nice painting surface.

I'd been using this stuff from Nasco for umpteen years:

But last spring, I opened up my container after not using it for a couple of months and what was left was all ORANGE (and didn't smell good either). So I called the company, and they replaced it. The new bucket was opened and used toward the end of the school year, but we didn't use it up. I went to use it this fall, and again... ORANGE. So I threw it out.

Because I was worried about a repeat of this problem, I ordered something else. Our district wants us to order from School Specialty, so I ordered this:

I opened it to prime my Laurel Burch papier-mache cat prototype, and it was disappointing. It would probably take 3 or 4 coats to cover the newspaper print, so it's not practical for our use. We need to get the priming done in one session. I can't think of a possible good use for this stuff.

So I ordered this:

In the catalog it was shown in a bucket, but it arrived in a bottle, like the Sax one in the previous photo. So I opened the bottle up and stuck my finger in, hoping to see its opacity. But what I found was a solid rubbery lump. EEK. The whole bottle!!! I called School Specialty and they sent me a replacement immediately. It came right away, and so I opened it immediately. Here's what it looked like after I cut the bottle in 1/2.

Yes, the top half of the bottle was another solid rubbery lump. The bottom half is like a thick rubbery spackle. It can be smeared onto a surface with my hands, but it won't spread with a brush at all; it is on it's way to being another rubbery lump.

I called yet again and they offered something different for replacement. But most of the gesso was way pricier than the stuff I'd ordered, so the only thing I could find at the cost I'd had approved was this: Rheotech Gesso. It's listed as 'economy' so I hope it will have some density and coverage. We shall see.

Do you use gesso at school? What kind do you prefer? Have you ever had spoilage problems?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are you going to the NAEA convention?

Decisions, decisions. I live in NY state, and to get to NYC from my home, it's an hour drive to Albany and then 2-1/2 hours by train. So it would not be too hard to get there, and I've NEVER been to a national convention. It sounds so exciting!!!! I love conferences!

But remember, I'm retiring in June. Can I justify the expenses of transportation, hotel, food, conference registration, and ticketed workshops, as well as using up my personal days at school, knowing that I pretty much already have the rest of the year planned out? (So I wouldn't really plan to use anything I learn at the conference.) Help me decide what to do!

Are you going? If you are, when do you plan to arrive in NY, and when are you returning home? Have you already registered? Reserved your room? Are you presenting a workshop? Have you been to a national conference before? What else can you share to help me decide?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Second graders grow mustaches!!

It's Salvador Dali and his mustache!!

I'd love to take credit for this goofy & adorable idea, but I can't. I first saw this lesson posted by Anne at Use Your Coloured Pencils back in the fall. Her 5th and 6th grade students had created portraits of Dali and his famous mustache, but I did my version with my 2nd grade students.

We used a black oil pastel (with no pre-drawing with pencil). When done, the students cut the portraits out, glued them on a construction paper color of their choice, and made a mustache with a black pipe cleaner. I hot-glued the mustaches on when the students were ready. Last week, the second graders had practiced creating a variety of facial expressions using an oil pastel and the 'biggie' paints, so they were ready to draw Dali's expressive face!

But to 'get in the mood' we began by growing our own mustaches! I gave each student a 3"x 9" piece of black tag-board, and they quickly cut out crazy mustaches and taped them on, keeping them on while they worked. They were a real hit! Some of the students used their scraps to create funky eyebrows as well. Even the teaching assistant who comes to art with his 1:1 student made a twirly mustache to wear over his real (and much shorter) real mustache in art!

These mustaches below are samples of those that have been 'grown' by my second graders. Sorry the first batch is sideways. (Oh well; tilt your head or your computer. Thank you, blogger!)

Yes, it's me below (having a bad hair day but a good mustache day!) with two real characters.
By the way, since many of my readers have been 'pinning' stuff from my blog to their Pinterest boards, I'd prefer that you choose to pin just the artwork or the hideous photo of me, and not the photos of my sweet students. I realize I don't actually have the power to prevent you from pinning them, but I thought I'd at least make the request and hope you will respect my wishes. Thanks.

One of the second grade classes shows off their newly grown mustaches! Note that many of them are trying to bug out their eyes, Dali-style!

It was a LOT to get done in a 40 minute art class, and honestly both my 2nd grade classes ran overtime but we all got done. THANK YOU THANK YOU to my wonderful awesome spectacular fabulous 2nd grade teachers for their willingness to wait for their kiddos and to help with lining the kids up quickly for a photo. And another thanks to the very patient 4th grade teacher and her students who were waiting patiently for their art class time while we cleaned up the mustache trimmings all over the floor! I know elementary classroom teachers' prep time is precious, so I appreciate that this lovely teacher was cheerful and non-complaining.

And the minute the artwork went up in the hallway, people (kids AND adults) were smiling when they walked by! FUN, FUN!

Class pictures in Alien School!

These pictures are a companion to my prior post about school pictures for aliens! We passed a paper around each class, and each student made a miniature of their alien picture. We gave their teachers new alien names, and I drew in the teacher for each class based on some student recommendations. Cute, huh?

My school district is named North Warren Central School, so we decided to name the school in this artwork by simply changing it to North Alien Central School.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wear your best smile; it's school picture day!

The inspiration for this fun lesson came directly from a series of posts by Mr. E. I used different materials, but otherwise did not deviate much from his lesson idea.

My 3rd graders had done portraits of each other in 1st grade, so were familiar with the concept of portraits. Last year my 3rd graders did self-portraits with mirrors, but I didn't have enough mirrors for this year's 3rd grades and frankly, they lack the attention span. So I did a different portrait lesson.

Just like Mr. E, we began this year's portrait lesson by looking at the Mona Lisa. My students were fascinated with her and with the life of Leonardo da Vinci. We discussed how formal portraits are posed, and we then talked about school picture day, and how mom makes you dress nicely and comb your hair! The photographer insists that everyone should smile. We discussed how we were creating school photos for students from another school - a school of aliens from other planets! It was so funny, in the space of 40 minutes to segue from Leonardo to silly aliens.

We used black Sharpies and construction paper crayons. Everyone used a second sheet of construction paper to make a frame for their portrait. Here are some samples of the student work.

The artists for these two funky aliens are twin boys, but their aliens are nothing alike.

These aliens put on their best dress-up shirts.

The girl aliens all combed their hair nicely.

The aliens all tried to smile, even if they were having a bad day.

But it's not easy to smile for pictures when you have 2 heads!

Folding your hands is hard when you have so many of them!

This alien looks straight out of the Toy Story movies.

And then there's always one kid who pushes the boundaries of the assignment. I'm not too happy about the message on his alien's shirt. Would mom really have let him go to school dressed like this on Picture Day?

And here's the whole batch of them all at once on 2 bulletin boards:

At the suggestion of one of the classroom teachers, there's a couple of pieces left to show you, hopefully tomorrow when they have been completed. Each 3rd grade class is creating a "class photo", with all the students in a group "photo" including their teacher. Nice idea from a supportive teacher.

I miss my NPR but at least I have Fleet Foxes

It's been a couple of weeks that my car radio reception has been decidedly less than optimal. And now, every morning when I get on the Northway (the highway between home and school) my radio goes completely fuzzy and the only station I can get is a religious Christian radio station, which is seriously not my cup of tea. So the nice people at my auto dealer are ordering a part (an antenna amplifier?) and in another week I should be back listening to the friendly voices on North Country Public Radio. Yeah!

I've been bringing CD's to keep me company in the car (my drive is 1/2 hour) - the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons are my latest favorites - but they aren't the friendly voices of my friends at NCPR. Anyhow, the Avett Brothers are great to sing along with but they weren't in my car tonight, and Mumford and Sons are pretty angry and not what I needed to keep myself calm in bad driving conditions.

I had left work in the dark, after it had started snowing and sleeting and I needed music that would keep me relaxed on my lonely highway, especially for the moments when big trucks would fly by me splattering my windshield with wet snow and freezing rain. My music of choice: The Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues. Lush, layered, and lovely, the Foxes engaged me and lifted my spririts all the way to my cozy house.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

And some more...

Only a couple left still to be finished. Thank goodness!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cartouche, Cartouche!

Another batch - just finished on Friday, the end of the marking period. And there's a handful of stragglers who are doing GORGEOUS (but slow) work that will be in my room during lunch and study hall time Monday/Tuesday to finish, so they can get graded before their grades go on the report cards Wednesday morning. My mom used to say about me: "slow as molasses in January, moving uphill..." so I guess I should be more understanding of these kids, but NO. I always meet my deadlines. They just don't seem to 'get' it.

Then there's the lovely 6th grade student, a girl who came with her family from Mexico 4 years ago not speaking a word of English. She's totally fluent now, as matter of fact no longer qualifies for any ESL time, a hard worker, really sweet, and I've got nothing bad to say about her. BUT. And it is a big BUT: she went with her family to Mexico for more than a MONTH and just got back this past week. With the Christmas vacation in the middle of her trip, she still missed at least 3 weeks of school. We had just begun the project when she left, and she came back as everyone was finishing and starting something new. The first day she was missing I thought she was out sick. On the second absence, I asked the other kids, "is she OK?" and they told me she was in Mexico.

And while I'm betting she told her homeroom teacher (who in our 6th grade setup is also her social studies, ELA, and science teacher) and I'm sure she told her math teacher (the only other 6th grade teacher; they switch for social studies and math and keep the homeroom teacher for all other academics), and while I'm sure they gave her work to do to keep up during her absence, it didn't occur to her to tell me she was going. And the homeroom teacher certainly didn't pass on the info to me. I don't know if the student told the music teacher, or the teacher of whatever other 'special' she has right now. (I see the 6th graders twice for 40 minutes each, in a 6 day cycle, as does the music teacher. But they also have Home and Careers, and Tech, and other stuff I can't recall, each daily for a 10 week cycle.)

So am I the only one of her teachers confused what to do about grades? I haven't heard a 'peep' about it from anyone else! When the girl came to art this past Monday, and still had to prepare the sheet rock for carving, I gave her a set of hieroglyphics and newsprint to take home and prepare her design so that she could immediately start carving in the next art class. She didn't do it. So she had art again on Friday and spent the class doing what she should have done at home. I explained how upset I was that she hadn't told me. I would/could have given her an alternate assignment to do in Mexico - she could have done a fabulous art journal. She said "I'll get this done". She now has her design drawn and transferred onto her sheet rock, and the marking period is officially over.

But really - she can come in during lunch on Monday and engrave the lines. She can put a coat of paint on it during study hall on Tuesday. But it will lack the relief carving of all of the other student work. Is it fair to give her a grade on something done quickly, even if it looks nice (which it will; she is meticulous)? OR conversely, is it fair to penalize her for a choice her parents made?
The grades are numerical grades that are entered electronically. I can give her an incomplete but she'd still have to make it up, and unfortunately she is generally not able to stay after school.
What would YOU do?

Here's a closeup of one of the works shown above:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Such a fun messy day

A boy did this cute alien drawing after he had cleaned up. Today's 2nd graders did some of the cutest free choice ever in the last few minutes of their art time. Here's a couple more:

Yes, that's Batman and Robin!

But here's the fun mess. We had drawn faces with various expressions with oil pastels, and were painting over them with "the biggies".

These paints have been in my art room longer than I have. Seriously. But there's still good life left in them. Because they've been around so long, I totally don't worry about what happens to them. Go ahead! Stir one color into another and see what you get!! WOW!

The kids were so excited about color mixing - "Mrs. Brown! Come see the raspberry color I made!" "This color looks like a storm cloud!" "I made beautiful violet!" "Guess what ! Blue and Orange make BROWN! It looks like swampwater!" Gotta love it... Here's some works in progress -

The kids were fabulous, the room was a mess, everyone pitched in to wash the tables, and we all were happy. And one girl found an extra paint brush in her water bucket, and spent the whole art class painting with both - sometimes one in each hand, and sometimes like this:

When I collected the colored pop sticks that match the table colors, a couple of kids said the cutest things. (Let me start by explaining - I always say something like "Pickle Green" or "Jelly Bean Green", or "Rudolph's Nose Red" etc, and the kids always have suggestions for what the colors should be - today at the red table, one boy said "tongue red" (too funny!) but the best was at the green table. One of my sweetie-pie 2nd graders said "Greatest Art Teacher Green". Awww shucks!

So the rest of the day was just as good. The 4th graders saw the wacky Dali video "Get Surreal" and LOVED it, and came in at lunchtime to finish wampum belts and play Exquisite Corpse, the art game they learned about in the video. Then the 5th graders merrily stuffed plastic bags that will become the bodies of their Laurel Burch fantastic felines! Stay tuned... More great days to come!!!!!