A new year has begun, and we are enjoying a fresh start at both schools with a fine-tuned class management strategy. In order to give kids a time and place to really relax and enjoy themselves, WITH sometimes-messy art materials, in a BORROWED room... we needed more structure. After spending my time off studying up on this stuff, I am happy to report that the kids are responding amazingly to a new, clear set of procedures for everything from entering the room to giving feedback on artwork. We also have tightened up our system of consequences for going against one of the five agreements (picture to come). It felt a bit rigid at first, but the experts were right! Kids excel when then know exactly what to do, when. In afterschool programs in particular, balancing structure and consistency with creativity and expending energy is really important for a worthwhile program.
The video (and the fantastically creative and sophisticated artwork) says it all. Even I almost couldn't believe how quiet and intensely these first graders were working!
After looking at some slides of abstract artwork made with oil pastels, we made our own. I don't direct students toward emulating any particular famous artist - it's not a very diverse group of "chosen ones", and who knows whose work will resonate with any given kid? So I just grabbed about 20 images off a google search, to be sure some "random" work was there, too. Obviously, younger kids have less trouble with abstraction. They could even see much more easily how overlapping shapes create new shapes - kids just a few years older had a lot more trouble with this. Their shapes were more limited (some found it impossible not to draw hearts/starts) and the artists needed more instruction on how to get their work to look "different". All this younger group got was "Start out by drawing some shapes with lines. Maybe the same shape, maybe all different ones. Maybe shapes with straight lines or maybe curvy shapes. Try to overlap them so they make more shapes you can color in, if you liked that look. Invent your own way to make abstract art!" Each table had four very different approaches to their artwork! Awesome!
They are using oil pastel on black cardstock with a leathery-plastic finish (intended for use as back covers on spiral-bound booklets).
And here is the same young group doing their first "critique."