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I give very little biographical information to first graders, if at
all unless I'm focusing on just one artist. I recently did "Mondrian"
and "Van Gogh" for this age and did give some information to create a
context for the work we were viewing, but I tend at this age to focus
instead of the basic elements represented in the pictures and to ask
questions that can be discerned from looking at the works.
For the trees activities, I used a variety of prints with trees in them from
representational, impressionist, expressionist, and surrealist works
because that is what the school has here in Africa from cutting up a
Post-Impressionist painting book primarily and whatever else I've
been able to add to that from my own shipment.
The works were basically from Bruegel, Monet, Seurat, Kandinsky,
Mondrian, Cassat, and Hopper that I pinned to a mobile display board.
I also had a selection of art postcards which all had trees in the
works that I handed out for one of the classes.
Our first session together, I told students that everything in nature is made up of three basic shapes - the circle,
square and triangle - in various combinations - and that all drawing
was using and changing these shapes together. So I reinforce it by
asking them to show me circular lines, squares, etc. I call on the
kids to come up and trace the shape or line in the work with their
finger that they have identified.
To begin this lesson (#4 this year...) I asked students to look at their
postcard and to identify which work of art on my board was the most
similar to their tree. I have them sit in a circle around the board,
away from the art tables and drawing materials.
They then came up, showed the class their card and said why they picked the work they
did. This was very effective and got them looking initially. Then I asked
questions like, which works were the most like looking at a window and
seeing trees in nature, which works of art were the least like looking at
real trees, point out a work of art where the trees are mostly rectangles,
point out a work with pink trees, when would you find pink trees in
nature? which work is made up of dots? which work is made up of
dashes, etc. reinforcing that artists don't have to draw things the way
they see them - questions that are concrete but introduce color, shape, and form.
For lesson number two, i changed some of the art work but left some
of the same ones up and asked, which works of art are new this week
so they use recall from the week before. The more concrete the
questions the better.
Hope this helps.
loved your tree proj. i would like to know more details of what artwork you
used and bio info given that was appropriate for first graders. i am very
interested in teaching this grade level also.
i think your lessons really capture the whole concept of multi discipline
teaching with eco/art. i also think that kids in first grade are at a really
good age for ideas like listening to trees. some of the children's comments
are truly beautiful and inspiring. they almost have to come away from a
project like that with a greater respect for nature.
thanks for sharing your story,
arted university of arizona