Left-Brained Art: 5th Grade Math Art 2012

This last part of the art process - the showcase, is extremely important.

This last part of the art process – the showcase, is extremely important.

One of the most important roles I feel I take as a teacher in a classroom is to show how art skills (which are really just critical thinking and problem solving skills) are related to every single subject and can teach difficult concepts in a more visual way that is wonderfully effective!  As the famous quote says: “a pictures tell a thousand words” – well, it does! Learning anything several different ways cements learning so much better.  Plus, I found there is so little extra time in a normal teaching day to be able to squeeze creative opportunities in for our elementary kids that I did it whenever I could!

Yes, I was a covert art operator and I am not ashamed to admit it!

The hallway presentation is as important as the individual process of making art.  You must share it!

The hallway presentation is as important as the individual process of making art. You must share it!

So my lovely 5ths (where I student-taught for a year) were struggling with the math concept of classifying triangles which is an important part of the foundational math concepts that they need for success in more advanced math next year.  After a few days of struggling with it I hit upon this simple design lesson that we could use to classify our own triangles.  They really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun comparing the variety of triangles that were contained within each piece of art. They were also using the language of math to describe what they saw and could debate whether something was one shape or another based on our classification rules.  It was awesome!

So here’s how I did it:  (Sorry, cruddy picture of the actual directions I posted in the hall adjacent to our classroom)

Art for left-brained folks!

Art for left-brained folks!

Starbursts – Angle Art!

Materials:  copy paper, pencil, rules, colored pencils.

1.  Make 12 small dots randomly over your paper.

2.  Create 2 larger dots on each short end of paper – see diagram

3.  Use ruler to make a line connecting each small dot to the 2 larger dots.

4.  Do till all dots have been connected to the big dots.

5.  COLORS!  Rules:  3 colors only

Each triangle must be colored in

Only tip can touch of same color!

6.  Sign ON THE FRONT!

BTW:  Do NOT show an example!  What?  Yes.  Do this project a few times on your own so yo know what obstacles students may encounter, but if you show an example you will get 27 copies of your work. That is NOT art.  No examples?  This is blasphemy to a general ed teacher, but TRUST ME, this is the best way to proceed with art ed.

So here’s what the directions all means.   Art is best taught from this point of view:  Freedom within limits.  Strangely, art is best and most productively created when there are limits imposed on the creator.  This pushes the students to come up with an entirely unique art solution to this art problem, and it’s got to be unique – if it’s the same as the neighbors, they aren’t using their own ideas and  really, that’s what art is all about, this is the freedom bit.  The process, not the product, is mainly what matters.  I’m trying to get you to use your critical thinking skills.  Mental push-ups, really.

The bulletin board part is really vital:  what it basically does is share with the outside world what we are up to but so much more!  It shows the process we took which helps the viewer understand how we got where we did; it invites the viewer to create their own art by using very simple language and directions (good thought to create a half-page handout that interested parties could take with them to try at home…because, really, if you do it at home…I WIN!); and it also demonstrates to the class and the viewers that

there are many, many different solutions to one single, art problem!

This is my favorite part!

Focus on many different ways to solve an art problem!  No "turkey art" here!

Focus on many different ways to solve an art problem! No “turkey art” here!

Also, for gosh sakes, mat their work!  It’s important.  It elevates the work and shows that their efforts are valued and valuable.

I get infinitely better effort and more perseverance from their future projects when they see the care I take with their work and the way I present it to the world.

This is also a great project for students who are uncomfortable with the drawing process, such as left-brained thinkers and those (the majority of students I meet) that have had little, to no prior, directed art education.  I have some very strong feelings about the important role art must take in the world of education, unfortunately, my ideas are not in vogue at this time.  BUT!  That doesn’t mean I won’t take every chance to take my art curriculum and go rogue the next time I have to teach science, reading, or Spanish!!  Stay tuned!