Love Projects: 4th Grade Family

After 4th graders finished reading the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long, Ms. Foretich (art teacher) and I asked them to think about the love that exists in their families outside of school. The book shows many ways that families show love to one another.  We had several powerful conversations about images in the book such as the dad and daughter dancing on the trailer, the mom & dad fighting, the older sibling taking care of the younger sibling, and the new parents huddled over the crib.  Each student had a different reason that a particular image resonated with him or her.

In the library, we gave students a chance to list out family members that they might be able to have a conversation with at home and what they might talk about in regards to how they show love to one another. Ms. Foretich setup a Flipgrid for families to record this conversation.  The link was shared in Class Dojo by classroom teachers and Ms. Foretich also sent a printed set of instructions home with students.  

A second piece of the 4th grade project was to also create an image of love.  This was very open to student interpretation. They could create symbols, scenes, words, or any combination that spoke to them.  These images were started in the 2nd session with 4th graders, and Ms. Foretich and I used this time to conference with each student about his/her plans for creating a recording with family members at home.  We were trying to make sure each student had a plan and also had access to the tools they needed to record. I always offered the library as an option for students and families to come in and record.

After this 2nd session, Ms. Foretich continued having students create their images, and we waited on students to film. We had some other teachers check in with specific students in order to encourage them to record at home.  In the final week before our author/illustrator visit, I noticed that many students had still not recorded, so I scheduled a session with each 4th grade class to come to the library and record their Flipgrid.  This option left out the “record with your family” aspect but at least it allowed each student’s voice to still be included in the project.  Students were able to talk about how their family shows love even if they weren’t with their family in the video.

Now, the 4th grade symbols of love are hanging at the entrance to our school, and our Flipgrid is continuing to come together.

Even as I write this post, I’m getting messages from parents asking if it’s too late to add their voice. I’m hopeful we’ll have more families add their voice even after our author visit occurs.

Please take a moment to listen to each family and student on this Flipgrid. You are welcome to leave comments for them on this post or react to their videos with the emoji reactions. If you find yourself at our school, take a look at 4th grades work as soon as you enter the building.

The Meaning of Home: A 5th Grade Art Project

For the past month of our 5th graders have been exploring the meaning of home through art. They began their journey by reading Home by Carson Ellis and watching a video of Carson in her home.

They brainstormed what symbolized home for each of them. It is more than the physical building. It’s what you miss when you leave. It’s what comforts you.  It’s what makes you feel at home.

Using a variety of materials such as tissue paper, cardboard, construction paper, paint, and more, they began to construct a scene.  A portion of every student’s scene was made using a 3Doodler pen. These pens warm filament into a steady flow of material to 3D design in a freeform style. It took some tinkering to get used to these pens, but once students figured out the best strategies, they were designing swings, trampolines, bedrooms, trees, and more objects that symbolized home.  This work began in the library and continued in art until students finished.

As students finished their work, we began to construct an exhibit on the shelves of the library. Students filled out an artist statement to accompany each piece so that people touring the exhibit could learn more about each representation of home.  They also took time to record a Flipgrid to show and talk about their art.  This allowed people who aren’t at our school to also take a tour and meet the artists.

Click to hear the voices of our artists

We also wanted to inspire our youngest artists with our project, so once the project was on full display, we invited Kindergarten classes to come to art class with each 5th grade class.  The 5th graders were in charge of the lesson and tour (with the facilitation of Ms. Foretich, art teacher).

The Kindergarten classes started on the carpet. A 5th grader read Home by Carson Ellis and students viewed a few of the Flipgrid videos. Ms. Foretich invited students to think about some questions they might ask the artists as they toured the exhibit. During this time, the rest of the 5th grade class was making sure their art pieces were ready and waited on the Kindergarten to begin touring.

Classes began wandering through the exhibit and listening to 5th graders talk about the process and materials of their art. One of the special things was when a student would make a connection to a piece of art and share a special moment about “home” from their own life.

The Kindergarten students left the library buzzing with excitement and talking about a project that they hoped they got to do in 5th grade. I’m sure Ms. Foretich is already brainstorming what these students might do next year so they don’t have to wait until 5th grade to do a project like this one.

This project was filled with student voice and ownership, and we learned something about each student that we might not know. It was also filled with perseverance and creativity. We were so impressed with what the students created. When we take time to get to know our students, it leads to connection, understanding, and new conversations. I would love to think about more opportunities to make these connections, especially earlier in students’ elementary years so that we can grow together through the year.

What represents home for you?

What is Home?: An Illustrator Study of Carson Ellis

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We recently received a Donors Choose grant for an education set of 3Doodler pens. These pens allow you to design 3D sculptures.  Think of them as hot glue guns that aren’t quite as hot and have more design control.

The education set is great because it comes with books of design ideas, multiple filament strands, 12 rechargeable pens, and several molds to use for creating pieces.

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As soon as the pens arrived, I showed them to our art teacher and let her borrow one of the design books.  We didn’t immediately plan a project because many times an idea will appear out of nowhere over time.  That’s just what happened.  One day I pulled some Carson Ellis books to show to a class and Home was at the top of the stack.  Ms. Foretich started looking through the illustrations during BTV and her creative wheels started turning.

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Before long, she came back to me with an idea for 5th grade.  What if we explored the idea of home with our 5th graders and had them create a sculpture that symbolized what home meant for them?  The sculpture would have multiple parts and multiple materials that would come together for one piece of art from each 5th grader.  The 3D pens could be a tool that students used to create a part of three-dimensional sculpture.  They would also use paper and cardboard along with other art materials.  That’s where it started.

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We booked multiple times on the library calendar for the project and Ms. Foretich made plans for work that would be done in the art room as well.  This week, during art, 5th grade came to the library for the initial lesson.  We wanted to use this time to look at Carson’s work as well as read Home.

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We looked at a variety of art on her site and in her books.

Students made many noticings such as the mixture of dark and bright colors.  They noticed how often times there is a bright color that seems to pop off the page.  We also noticed that her work had an embroidered or handmade quality to it as well.

After reading Home, we watched a short video to see Carson’s actual home and hear a bit about the environments she put into the book.

This brought us to a discussion of the word “home”.  Most students started by talking about a physical structure, but then Ms. Foretich asked them to think about what they missed when they weren’t at home.  This brought many students to bring up things like smells, objects, people, foods, pets, and more.  We referenced that in Carson’s video, she zoomed in to things like a fireplace, apples hanging from a tree, chickens strutting through the yard, and a guitar propped against the wall.  Ms. Foretich told students she wanted them to stretch the idea of “home” to go beyond the physical structure.

Next, we gave students some planning and exploration time. We split the class in half.  One half worked on brainstorming.  

They made a list of possible things that represent home and then selected what they would focus on the most for the art piece.  They also sketched their image as well as what part of the image they would use the 3Doodler for.  This brainstorming step is a step students will continue in the art classroom because they only had enough time to begin their planning.

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The other half of the students explored the 3Doodler pens.  I showed them the basics of how they worked as well as some examples of things that could be made based on the instructions in the books.  Each student got 1 strand of filament to experiment with.  I encouraged them to try writing their name or making a cube.  Some of them created their own designs as well.  Since this was a tinkering session, they did not have to create anything specific.  I wanted them to see the possibilities and the limitations of the pens so that they could do better planning back in the art room.

After about 10 minutes, each group switched so that students visited both areas.

We are so excited about the possibilities of this project and the many standards that it will include.  I can’t wait to learn more about the students by seeing what represents home for each of them.  We will continue to revisit the work of Carson Ellis as we go.  Planning will continue in art as well as the creation of the paper and cardboard pieces of the sculpture. Students will return soon to begin working with the 3Doodler pens.

It’s always so much fun to collaborate with art. Ms. Foretich plans the most meaningful projects for our students and I can’t wait for them to get to showcase these in multiple ways at school and in our community.