In first grade, while reading The Dot by Peter Reynolds, we took the opportunity to talk about what it means to be an artist. As we emphasized that art is more than merely trying to be perfect, students gave ideas on how to encourage others who feel that their art is not good enough. The students then talked about how just a simple dot can turn into a beautiful artwork, which they got to create themselves.
In second grade, while reading The Dot to students, the conversation is led towards what qualifies as art, and the students brainstorm about what exactly art means. We then learn about printmaking, particularly leaf printmaking, and the students are asked to bring in fall leaves to use to create prints on the edges of giant dots they make out of four 1/4 dots.
In third grade, after learning about printmaking as well as watching a detailed video on the different types of printmaking, students were excited to create their own relief prints, and even more excited when they were told to collect and bring leaves to school to make them.
I have found that elementary students have a special hunger for learning about new artists, so when fourth grade got to learn about four different artists for one unit, they were pretty excited; they were even more excited when they found out they got to create their own artwork in the style of that artist. Not only did they get to experiment with new art styles, but it was the first project in the year using acrylic paint. Learning to work with acrylics is not easy, so I was proud of the students for their efforts to keep trying even if it wasn't turning out well, and surprised by the hidden talents that came out in others. It was definitely a growing challenge as they could not throw away their paper but only paint over it, but their hard work clearly paid off.
The fifth-grade students had already learned about printmaking and created their own set of foam prints last year, so this year, they were challenged with an exciting opportunity to create their own stamps by carving into rubber blocks. This process takes a while to complete as the students must demonstrate that they can use the tools safely and properly, while carefully carving each part. Mistakes are common and encouraged, but one student was having a particularly hard time. He decided to use his mistakes to his advantage and try carving out a stamp in the style of Van Gogh with many little lines. He spent the entire class carefully carving every single line, and when he was finished, the whole class was amazed, I was very proud, and he stood there beaming ear to ear.