22.April- Day 1; Arts residency, Mason Elem. School, Laurel, MSDay 1 of my weeklong arts in the classroom residency at mason Elementary School brought many surprises. The least of which is that I didn't know the 5th graders were so creative.
I'm conducting a residency as a teaching artist supported by the Mississippi Arts Commission's Teaching Artist Roster. The residency consists of one lesson per day building each day to a big finish on Friday. The big project we're working on is a small graphic novel.
I'm not a graphic novelist, but I've become a student of the graphic novel over the past few years. I'm intrigued by the graphic novel's use of sequential visual arts to tell a story. So much so that it informs the way I design my picture books.
Today, I introduced the creative process to the students by demonstrating the steps that I go through when I design picture books. We worked through several exercises that revealed the draft steps of working in a creative medium. From the first sloppy copy draft to the final, revised and edited project.
The students enjoyed the use of the imaginations when we created a character's back story and then proceeded to find out more and more about a character's wants and needs. That's how a good story begins and the students picked up on that. Their enthusiasm spread as they worked to come up with creative motives for the different characters.
Tomorrow and the remainder of the week, I'll be working with the students to write and illustrate their own graphic novel. It's going to be interesting to see what they can come up with! Stay tuned.
23.April- Day 2Day 2~ My arts in the classroom residency continues with energetic students beginning to understand how to build a character for their graphic novel. They only have themselves to use as models.
After a brief review of yesterday's art exercises, the students worked together in a "mind mapping activity that helped them to create a character for their stories. Working in four teams of four students per team, they were able to complete a detailed back-story of their character so that they could write about the character within a story context.
In the above picture, students work together to create their main character for their story. This not only encourages teamwork, but also creativity within the group.
We also worked with an activity I call "One Story, Three Panels." This helps the students understand that a story has a beginning, middle and an end. The visual prompts of three panels that I've drawn on my large pad helps them to create a story that has character and want in the first panel, plot obstacles in the second panel and story resolution in the third panel.
The pictures below are of students hard at work with their mind mapping activity. Tomorrow we will "scaffold" or build upon this foundation that we've created over the past couple of days.
It's very exciting to see the students energized and given permission to write silly and funny stories. I know they're enjoying the process because I hear them laugh and giggle. Especially when we're writing character stories about boogers.
More silliness to follow. Stay tuned.
24.April- Day 3Day 3~ We've reached the mid point of the week and my arts residency. The teachers are really the heros here. They help the students to think every school day! I'm here this week to maybe supplement their classroom with a little more of the arts throwninto the learning process.
Today, after creating a character and its back-story yesterday, we focused on developing the character's story. Again, we used a mind-mapping process of getting ideas down on paper. The student teams worked together to create their story and finlize it before we begin to illustrate the story tomorrow.
In the above picture, I borrowed an activity from Althea Jerome, one of the best teaching artist in the state and Mississippi Governor's Arts Awards recipient that I know, I call it "A Study In Sequential Art. This is a series of pictures that connect together in a sequence of visual attachment. There are elements of one picture that lead you to the next picture. When i shuffle the pictures out of order, the students have to work at placing each picture into the correct sequence in order for the whole series of pictures to make sense.
This activity is adifficult to begin, but not impossilbe. Adults usually solve the sequential problem in around ten minutes. The younger the age, the more time it takes for the concept to finally sink in and the ordering work begins.
After a few adjustments to the rules, I thought that the activities were just hard enough to challenge the students. It was really hard for some, easier for others. But the students pushed on and worked through the process to finish up.
Tomorrow is a big drawing day as the students begin to illustrate their story in a true graphic novel format. It will be a challenging day, but fun.
25.April- Day 4Day 4~ Today was a huge day in this weeklong residency as the students were able to illustrate their graphic novels. How does one go about pursuading students to illustrate the entire four page graphic novel in under an hour? Timing.
I knew that if I gave the students a loose rein, they would waste as much time on the illustrations as possible. So, I did the next best thing to reel them in a little bit. I limited the time they could spend on each panel illustration, eleven in all, to only three minutes.
Obiously, you can't get a lot of detail work done in only three minutes, but stick figures were good enough so that the students could push through the creative process and finish the rough concept of their graphic novel.
Pictured below are some of the students hard at work on their graphic novels.
They finished their graphic novels on time. Of course, they were all in the loose, creative style of all 5th graders, but that's exactly what I wanted. Their drawings are so free and whimsical. They were also funny. That's a good sign that the student enjoyed working.
Working under a deadline and completing the task time has benefits. Perhaps we can all use that model in our every day work; that of creating a deadline to get the job done. I know that sounds obvious and most folks do just that. But, for me, it bears repeating.
Tomorrow, the final day of the residency is a bit fluid and I'm not sure how the day is going to unfold. There is a schol play (remember school plays?), Beauty and The Beast, scheduled to be performed in the morning.
Several of the students missed part of the class this morning because of the production's dress rehearsal. I helped them to catch up with their work. One of the play's students, the smallest boy in the class, was working on his drawings. I asked him what role he had in the production. He looked at me and shook his head as he said, "I can't tell you."
I asked him, "Is your role something you have to keep to yourself?"
He nodded and leaned over to share his secret. Quiet as a mouse, he said, "I'm the Beast."
I will be attending the play in the morning.
26.April- Day 5Day 5~ Today, the schedule was a bit craxy, since it was Friday and all. Some of the students were able to go to The Beauty and the Beast production today, some were not able to go. Those not able to go were able to finish their graphic novel and prepare and act out a skit that they designed, prepared and performed. It was fun watching them work out the different characters based on their own writings.
Their performances were then repeated for the returning classmates who had seen the TBATB production. The skits were funny and well recieved.
Post mortem- I think the students were able to get a lot out of the week and their creations of graphic novels. They had many components to put together. In hind sight, I think I would do things a little bit differently as far as modeling what was expected. For the most part, the week was a success!