Friday, May 11, 2012


There are so many moments worth celebrating - the simple joys of a pleasant afternoon outdoors or a cherished dinner with loved ones, the annual rejoicing in another birthday, anniversary or a beloved holiday, the accomplishment of a large task completed or a hard-won victory, the joyous addition of new family members and friendships, the excitement of doing something new or going somewhere for the first time, the surprise and elation of an unexpected gift or surprise, and so much more.  Second graders remembered and imagined a multitude of events worth celebrating and told their stories with great detail and enthusiasm in this lively drawing unit. 
left: "Celebrating My Aunt's Wedding!" right: "Celebrating The Fourth of July!"
left: "Celebrating Marti Gras at School!" center: "Celebrating A Home Run!" right: "Celebrating Christmas!"
left: "Celebrating Swimming with Dolphins in the Bahamas!" right: "Celebrating Winning the Lotto!"
 Brainstorming for this unit involved practicing drawing the figure, and lots of creative writing and pre-visualizing.  Students learned about the proportions of the human body and practiced drawing people moving in lots of different dynamic poses - dancing, jumping, playing, running, and more.  We wanted to be able to draw a person IN ACTION!  This unit was ultimately about story-telling, and we all agreed that it was helpful to know how to draw the body in lots of different poses in order to better convey what was happening. 

left: "Celebrating Getting in the Guinness Book of World Records!"; right: "Celebrating Winter!"

left: "Celebrating Winning the Super Bowl!"; center: "Celebrating the Last Day of School!"; right: "Celebrating Christmas!"
left: "Celebrating My Birthday at the Skating Rink!"; right "Celebrating My First Time on an Airplane!"
The conversations regarding celebrations - what we celebrate and why we celebrate - were quite interesting.  Each class could hardly fit all their ideas on our little dry-erase board!  We covered the gamut from special but small everyday moments all the way to grand, uncommon, once-in-a-lifetime events.  My students imagined celebrations that they hoped would be part of their futures - places they wanted to go, goals they wanted to achieve, events they eagerly anticipated, and other exciting moments that they hoped might lie ahead.  There were even touching mentions about celebrations that come with a complex mixture of emotions - like celebrating the life of a lost loved one at a funeral, wake, or memorial service.  The conversations were so engaging and genuine - it was hard to stop and move on to the next step!

left: "Celebrating My Friend Mary at Gymnastics!"; right: "Celebrating My High School Graduation!"
left: "Celebrating the First Day of Summer!"; center: "Celebrating a Trip to Galveston!"; right: "Celebrating Winning the Lotto!"
left: "Celebrating Chinese New Year!"; right: "Celebrating Valentine's Day with My Dad!"
After refining their skills at drawing figures in motion and brainstorming on the subject of celebration, students were asked to chose one celebration (or moment worth celebrating) that they remembered from personal experience, were looking forward to, or enjoyed imagining.  Students wrote about and sketched the different elements of the story before beginning their final drawing.  They listed what was being celebrated, where the event was happening (the setting,) who would be there, what the people would be doing (the action,) and lots of other details including time of day, possible decorations, clothing, or other elements to emphasize the main idea.

left: "Celebrating My Sister's Ballet Recital!"; right: "Celebrating Depavali!"
left: "Celebrating Trick-or-Treating!"; center: "Celebrating a Touchdown!"; right: "Celebrating Summertime!"
left: "Celebrating My Birthday at the Paintball Park!"; right: "Celebrating My Birthday!"
Once students had completed the brainstorming process, they used a light colored crayon to sketch out the composition of the drawing on an 11x16" sheet of colored construction paper.  The goal was to include all of the important parts of the celebration story, and to clearly communicate that story to the viewer just as a talented writer would.  Yellow, pink, tan, and white crayons worked perfectly for mapping out compositions, allowing for corrections or changes that could easily be covered and hidden under a later of oil pastels.  We discussed ways to make the compositions more dynamic, create a sense of space in an indoor or outdoor space, and about utilizing the entire page as part of the story.

left: "Celebrating the First Snow!"; right: "Celebrating the Green Bay Packers!"
left: "Celebrating New Year's Eve!"; center: "Celebrating Baseball!"; right: "Celebrating Valentine's Day at Home!"
left: "Celebrating My Friend's Birthday!"; right "Celebrating Second Place in the Pine Wood Derby!"
Then students worked diligently to add vibrant color to their compositions using oil pastels; they were highly encouraged, though not required, to try to add color to the whole page.  You can especially see how vibrant and lovely these are in person - the students did an amazing job bringing their stories to life!  Towards the end of the unit, students worked with partners to help each another analyze whether or not the different elements in the picture were conveying the celebration story clearly.   They gave one another pointers about adding more detail to areas in further need of specificity, about emphasizing the most important focal points (the main idea) and confirmed the parts of the visual story that were communicated clearly.

left: "Celebrating Valentine's Day!"; right: "Celebrating a Trip to Kemah!"
left: "Celebrating My Birthday!"; center: "Celebrating the Last Day of School!"; right: "Celebrating New Year's Eve!"
left: "Celebrating My Birthday!"; right: "Celebrating Winning the Lottery!"
Once finished, we celebrated all the wonderful art and hard work by having a gallery walk and writing compliments to each student about their drawing.  We often take time in the year to reflect on giving thoughtful and useful compliments; "I like it" is nice, but it doesn't really offer much to think or feel good about.  When giving compliments, students considered the goals of the art unit as well as personal taste, and were guided on using descriptive language.  Students practiced giving compliments that identified what they appreciated or enjoyed about the artwork and why; this helped not only the artist to think deeper about their artwork, but also the viewers.  Every student had fun reading what others liked about their art. 

left: "Celebrating My First Swim in the Ocean!"; right: "Celebrating a Slumber Party with Friends!"
left: "Celebrating Recess!"; center "Celebrating Winning the Lotto!"; right: "Celebrating Christmas Eve!"
left: "Celebrating Making a Goal!"; right: "Celebrating the New Year!"
This unit definitely left us all with BIG SMILES on our faces.  We are all so blessed to have so many things to celebrate!
What makes you want to celebrate?!