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Throughout our unit in Alicia’s 4th and 5th grade class, we focussed on the idea of transformation. We created transformed imaginary creature marionettes, self-portraits, student’s own bodies, and masks. The students were able to create their very own expressive works that were transformed into original creatures and morphed self-portraits and masks. They used animal patterns and features, environments, personal character traits, and various multi-media techniques.


Lesson #1: Feature Creature Marionettes


 

In the first lesson we created imaginary creature marionettes (shown above). We introduced the idea of transformation and showed many examples of morphed creatures. The students were then able to brainstorm and think about what animals they liked and what features could be combined to make a new and original creature. We gave the students their own sketchbooks so they could learn how to use sketching as a plan for their future creations. In their sketchbooks they also listed ways to attach individual parts of their marionettes and what types of materials they wanted to use. They learned about attachments and movement when they started turning their 2-dimensional sketches into 3-dimensional marionettes. We showed them how to use hot glue to attach cloth, string, pipe-cleaners, paper cups, feathers, and other various materials together to create a moveable form. By the end of the lesson they were able to create an original imaginary creature that was operated by wooden dowels! The students discovered that planning in a sketchbook with 2-dimensional drawings and notes, and turning it into a 3-dimensional moveable object was a stimulating process that demonstrated transformation.


Below: A student working on making his
marionette functional by attaching strings
and wooden dowels

DSC00561

Lesson #2: Transformed Self Portraits

 

We continued with our main idea of transformation in the second lesson. The second lesson focused on transforming self-portraits! During the first part of the transformed self-portrait lesson we talked about how self-portraits represent personal parts about yourself. We discussed how colors and certain animal patterns could represent personal characteristics. The different emotions and feelings that you may associate with warm and cool colors were also discussed, and encouraged in their art-making. As a way to show how you can represent someone’s character traits with animal features, patterns, and colors, we actually painted a volunteers face! (shown below) We first brainstormed four different characteristics of the volunteer, and listed different animals that related to the traits. Then we took elements from an animal from each category and painted it on the volunteer’s face, discussing all the while, how the lines and colors that were being used on the face represented the person in a self-portrait. The students then used different layers of vellum, mylar, and a black and white photograph of themselves to create a transformed self-portrait. They used resists, by using colored pencils, oil pastels, and acrylic on the different layers. They transformed their facial features by overlapping different layers of animal patterns, features and colors.

 

 

The second part of second lesson continued with the idea of a transformed self-portrait, but this time the students had to transform their entire body, and create an environment for their transformed selves (Shown Right). We reviewed the concepts of utilizing color to create emotion, and pattern to represent certain animals, and let them decide on what type of transformed, animalistic body they thought would represent them. They also had to think about what type of environment they would need to survive as their transformed creature. Students then had to use the same media and process of resists that they used in their smaller self-portraits on a much larger sheet of paper.


Lesson #3: Masks: Reveal and Conceal

 

During the third lesson, we moved away from animal characteristics, but we still used the idea of transforming faces and form to create plaster masks (shown left). We also still used the concept of portraying characteristics and emotions through color, physical features and elements, and the form of an object. We talked about how different types of masks have very different purposes, whether they are occupational, ceremonial, functional, or just decorative. We showed the students how to use the material of plaster gauze to create a mask form and facial features. We also talked about how exaggerating facial features and other forms in their mask could help communicate their ideas for their masks. After the basic forms were created and dried, we showed the students various techniques for finishing their surfaces. They learned how watercolor, and watered down acrylic can become a wash and bring out interesting patterns and textures within their masks. Students were also shown oil pastels, which could leave a light mark or a heavy layer of color. Students were encouraged to use at least two different processes on their masks.

Above:  Students wearing their masks before a “masquerade ball.” During this ball, students danced, and asked each other questions relating to the color and form on their masks.


Lesson #4: Collaborative Quilt

 

The fourth lesson that we did was a collaboration project! The students created a class quilt that shows things that they are thankful for in the form of personal symbols. They first made a list of things that they were thankful for and then transformed their words into symbols in their sketchbooks. They then took their symbols and drew them with glue on white cloth. After the glue dried they put them in different colored dyes. When it was dry, we washed off the glue and the glue created a resist that preserved the symbol images. As you can see all of these symbols are put together to create a beautiful and unique class quilt, that represents important things our students are thankful for!


Below is a graph displaying which lessons covered which standards. The “x” indicates that the lesson included the standard listed above.


Standard 1

Observe and Learn to Comprehend

Standard 2

Envision and Critique to Reflect

Standard 3

Invent and Discover to Create

Standard 4

Relate and Connect to Transfer

Lesson 1: Marionettes

X

X

X

Lesson 2:

Transformed Self-Portraits

X

X

Lesson 3:

Masks

X

X

X

X

Lesson 4:

Quilt

X

X

X

X


Ending the Semester: 
We knew that choosing the idea of transformation in relation to marionettes, animals, self-portraits, and masks, would interest the fourth and fifth graders because it caters to a broad range of student interests. Current culture that the students were very interested in, also involved the concept of transformation. Many subjects that popped up that related to the concept of transformation were werewolves, vampires, magic, wizards, and zombies. This is why we had a great semester with our kids! They seemed engaged in the lessons and the assignments so we really enjoyed teaching these creative, imaginative, and hard-working fourth and fifth graders. Having this opportunity to work with such creative students has been wonderful, and we hope you enjoy the student’s artwork as much as we have enjoyed watching them create it!
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