Category Archives: Visual Art

Core Competencies in Action

Today, I just want to share a quick activity I did with my class last year to promote the Core Competencies found in BC’s redesigned curriculum. If you’re unsure what Core Competencies are, you can read about them here.

The activity below is simple but I found it powerful. My Grade 6/7 students really enjoyed it but it could be tailored to any grade level. You can find this and many other Core Competency activities designed by Surrey teachers here. Thanks to Chloe for providing her art and poetry sample.

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Title: Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox

Core Competency: Positive Personal & Cultural Identity

Curricular Connections: Language Arts & Fine Arts

Description:

As a class, we explored the term “totem.” We created a brainstorm of what we thought this word meant and what some examples might be in our own or others’ lives. Next, we read aloud the Author’s Note from the picture book Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox to help solidify our understanding of the term. We used the Think/Pair/Share strategy to discuss the following questions: What might you choose as a personal totem and why? What might it be like to grow up not understanding your own culture? How do we know what our personal strengths are?

Following these discussions, we read aloud the picture book Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox. Students worked either independently or collaboratively to brainstorm their positive personality traits and how they were like a specific animal of their choice. Students created poetry in a style of their choice and a piece of art to represent the connection between their positive personality traits and their animal totem. We based our artwork on the style of the book by author/artist Danielle Daniel.

Prompting Questions:

  • What might it be like to grow up not understanding your own culture?
  • How do we learn about ourselves? When and how do we learn about our strengths?
  • What guides you in making personal decisions?
  • What are some of your positive personality traits? How are they like those of an animal?

Learning Intention:

I can represent my positive personality traits through animal totem poetry and art.

Criteria:

  • Poem describes how one animal represents the positive traits of my personality.
  • Poem uses metaphors, similes, or analogies.
  • Poem includes descriptive and varied language.
  • Poem uses rhyme or repetition as a writing technique.
  • Artwork includes a representation of myself and features of my chosen animal.

Next Steps:

  • Sharing family recipes and traditions
  • Selecting totems that represent our identity
  • Video reflection on our positive sense of self

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I am a dog, loyal to my friends.

I am, and have loyal friends.

I am a dog, my tail starts to wag as fast as a plane propeller when I see my friends.

I get excited and start to tag along all my friends.

I am a dog, I worry when my friends are struggling.

I scurry everywhere to help my friends in troubling situations.

I am a dog, unique and different.

My friends always find various personalities I’ve got.

I am a dog, a man’s furry, comforting best friend.

I am a caring best friend who helps you feel better.

I am a dog,

I was, am, and will always be a friend who is loyal, friendly, caring, unique, and comforting.

 

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What Plant Best Represents You?

This past week in our Inquiry class, teacher candidates participated in a mini inquiry designed to integrate disciplines and active many of the core competencies in BC’s redesigned curriculum. For many, it was an engaging and useful activity, as it modeled how we might not always open an inquiry with the actual inquiry question! I think it’s important that teachers understand that we don’t expect students to jump in unarmed with skills and tools to help them be successful. Below is a general outline of our process.

Learning Intention: I can make detailed observations about my local environment.

Experiences:

  • Sharing photos of plants and making observations as a group
  • Nature walk where students took photos of plants they observed in our surroundings
  • Sharing out observations in small groups

Plant 9

What do you notice about this plant? How would you describe its physical characteristics?

Learning Intention: I can use creative thinking to transform a physical characteristic into a personality trait.

Experiences:

  • Teacher modeling of a short story “Chloe the Cactus”
  • Writing a brief story about one of your chosen plants and what its physical characteristics might look like if it were a person

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Once we had developed some of the key skills required to engage in the final experience, we introduced the inquiry question.

What plant best represents you?

Learning Intention: I can make a meaningful connection between a plant and my personal identity.

Criteria:

  • Artistic representation is 2D or 3D and includes at least 2 different media.
  • Connection is about the real, inside you – your essence (i.e. not your physical appearance).
  • Description includes at least 3 thoughtful reasons why your plant represents you.

During this final stage of the process, teacher candidates engaged in their own online research to help select their plant. In a classroom setting, we discussed how we would need to provide more scaffolding at this point. It would be a great opportunity to teach digital literacy and credibility of sources through a model such as Get REAL. Some questions that helped guide our research were:

Where does your plant thrive? What else grows nearby?

What does your plant need to survive?

What are its physical characteristics?

What are some unique features of your plant that make it different from others?

This process was really beautiful to watch, as many of my teacher candidates used this as an opportunity to really reflect on their true selves. It is a good reminder that inquiry doesn’t have to be something overly complicated, but it can certainly be beautiful! Below are a few examples of the work that came out of this mini, teacher-guided inquiry. I hope they and the process inspire others to see how we might approach developing Core Competencies in a meaningful, inquiry-based way.

Harleen

Succulent plants are known to be found growing in mild and warm climates and do not require frequent watering. Cold weather does not suit these kinds of plants. The desert rose succulent best represents me in terms of the climate of situations I have faced. Similar to the desert rose succulent, I have built enough resilience that I do not need frequent “watering” to combat a situation. The succulent resembles a colourful flower but its exterior is tough and thick, which is similar to how I view myself; vibrant and carefree but also tough enough that I can withstand and get through stress and pressure from all aspects of my life (school, work, social life). The individual I am on the inside likes to stand outside of the box, not inside, and likes to be unique in small but meaningful ways. The plant is different in the sense that it stands out from other cacti and succulents but not in an overwhelmingly neon-coloured way.

Michelle

I found this decision quite easy, and associated myself with a Scotch Thistle quite quickly. My reasoning behind this is that this plant is nature to the Scottish highlands, the place in the world I feel most calm and happy. I, like the thistle, prefer wet and cold climates, to the sun. Thistles also are weeds, and tend to grow in the wilderness. Though they can come close to society they prefer to be on the outskirts and watch. Thistles also grown close to each other and other plants, but flower and leaf at the end of their stems, which are long. I connected to this because although I like to be near people, and to have people close, I like to have my distance as well, and am, at heart an introvert. Finally, thistles protect themselves by being bristly, and spiky. I too like to protect my inner self, and tend not to like to open up to many.

Heather

I ended up choosing a lotus flower. The obvious reason being that I literally have them tattoo’d on my shoulder. However, the lotus flower is quite a symbolic flower – which is what drew me to them enough to get a few permanently inked into my skin. In the buddhist culture (and I want to declare that I am not buddhist, nor am I trying to steal part of their culture) lotus flowers are a symbol of purity as it is a flower that physically has to push up through the mud to bloom into something so tranquil and part of this reason is why it also represents patience. The structure of a lotus contains multiple layers of petals that protect its core centre. I feel like we can relate to these characteristics of a lotus. Like others, I feel as though I have  had to push through the mud multiple times in my life to be the person that I am now. While I try incredibly hard to be patient, and would label myself as patient, it is still a quality I would like to have more of. The structure of the lotus is something I feel as though I can use to describe myself as well: I have a true inner self that protected by my outer layer personalities. I present myself as outgoing, funny, sarcastic, and confident – but these are just the outside petals I’m not afraid to show. As so many people do, the more vulnerable parts of myself I keep tucked away behind those petals. The firey red colour of this lotus also holds a meaning. A red lotus, according to the buddhist faith, symbolizes emotional attachments of the heart. I find that I can be quite an emotionally attached person and try to live life with passion and compassion.

 

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I would be a lime tree.  I chose a lime tree for a number of reasons:
The first is that my name, Linnea, means lime tree in Scandinavian, so I have always had an unusual fondness for lime trees despite not caring all that much for limes.  But having looked a little more into the plant itself, I uncovered a few similarities beyond simply the name.
Because it is a tree, it appears strong and sturdy.  However, lime trees actually require considerable care and support (such as consistent watering) in order to thrive.  They are “heavy feeders” which require regular fertilization (I love to eat!).  While they will still produce limes in colder weather, these limes would be small and dry, and few in number.  Lime trees produce the most and best fruit in warm climates!
In all, while lime trees appear to be hardy and resilient, they are actually quite needy.  They need lots of care, support, food, and warm weather to be the happiest trees they can be!  I feel like this description also fits my own personality quite well.

Credit given to Yvonne Dawydiak for the original inquiry question and art activity: What plant best represents you?

Cross-Curricular Connections

Whenever I’m asked to share about our redesigned BC curriculum with other teachers, the first question I’m often asked is: “Can you show us examples of planning?” I struggle to answer this question for a few different reasons. First of all, planning is personal. I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach to planning, regardless of what your curriculum looks like. Secondly, if I truly shared my mind’s journey as I plan, I think I would frighten people. Finally, finding cross-curricular connections is something that I feel is crucial to planning with this redesigned curriculum. This takes some effort and thoughtfulness on the part of the teacher who will, in fact, be teaching whatever is being planned.

I’m lucky to have the opportunity this year to be working with teacher candidates one day per week at UBC. This means I get to play with different ways to think about this redesigned curriculum in addition to what I am trying in my own Grade 6/7 classroom. Last week, we explored how mind maps might help us visualize connections between Core French and other disciplines. Through facilitating this exercise, I realized that this simple method of brainstorming could be a powerful tool for helping all teachers beginning to think about cross-curricular connections that could eventually lead to large scale inquiry.

Learning Intention:

I can create a mind map that highlights opportunities for cross-curricular connections between Core French and other content areas.

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By simply identifying curricular competencies and content that work together from a couple of different disciplines, we can begin to understand how this way of approaching teaching and learning is more efficient and more effective for our learners. For example, teacher candidates quickly realized that francophone culture – a big idea in most Core French curriculum – is a great entry point for inquiry. This can be combined easily with competencies in Social Studies or Language Arts to create a deeper, more meaningful understanding of cultural stereotypes, traditions, or historical events. Cross-curricular connections are also what free up time to allow for other creative experiments such as Maker Spaces and Genius Hour, so it’s a win/win situation.

The key to finding solid cross-curricular connections is being intentional. How can we scaffold student learning to ensure we’re targeting all disciplines involved? How can competencies be combined to allow for a single learning intention? With Core French, it’s about connecting communication with context. For example, using language structures such as les verbes à l’impératif with directional vocabulary in French can help us teach communication through P.E. skills. Students practice giving and responding to instructions while focusing on movement. Other disciplines and other classes may look different and that’s ok. Ultimately, it’s about exploring these connections so we can create the most powerful learning experiences for our students. So pull out some art supplies and start envisioning the possibilities! Exploration leads to innovation.

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Photo Credit: Questions to consider when planning @beverleybunker

For the Love of Art

My students this year are very talented artists. They have consistently demonstrated creativity and a sense of artistic expression. They have used art to deepen their understanding and appreciation of particular artists, genres, and principles. I thought I would share some of the art projects we have completed this year as a tribute to my fantastic students! I’ll miss them!

Colour: Tints and Shades in Tempera Paint
In this introductory project, students practiced paint mixing techniques and experimented with the possibilities of tints and shades all stemming from an original colour. They also developed creative patterns in which to display their tints and shades. They were given freedom in the design.

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Line: Exploring Patterns in Black Felt
This project was intended to allow students creative expression within the constraints of a line study. They were instructed to explore line in all its forms (e.g. curvy, straight, zigzag) as well as in a variety of widths. They used line to create pattern and the illusion of no beginning or end.

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Georgia O’Keeffe: Giant Flowers in Chalk Pastel
This was one of my favourite visual art projects this year. We spent some time studying Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings and describing their characteristics. For instance, students noticed they often depicted a bird’s eye view and that only a portion of the flower was shown. Using chalk pastel, students chose a flower and experimented with blending techniques and perspective. The results were beautiful!

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Andy Warhol: Pop Art in Oil Pastel
One of our more recent projects involved Andy Warhol’s pop art. Again, we made observations as a class about repetition, colour schemes, and social implications of this style of art. We chose a coffee cup as our object of choice, but there was some liberty taken with style and size. Again, great results!

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Although there are many things I would go back and change about our art program this year, all students were successful in exploring new techniques and principles. They were creative and engaged. They all tried something new or took a risk.

I don’t think there is enough emphasis currently placed on the arts in our schools. Fine arts give kids the opportunity to explore, take risks, practice creativity and personal expression. They can also act as a means of managing emotions. If creativity, innovation, and critical thinking are important skills to give our students, art should be a part of every single day we spend with our students, not an activity relegated to Friday afternoons.

I love teaching art and am always looking for new ideas… Please feel free to share what has worked well for you!