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Going Back To Our Future

22 Mar

There are all kinds of online tests to determine if you are right or left brained. Here is an interesting one that also gives recommendations on how to strengthen your weak hemisphere, and well as offers studying tips for how you learn best. While this is useful information to use with your students, it is also inspiration for a different kind of “left-brain” and “right-brain” comparison.

Who we are is greatly dependent on our past experiences. Our entire lives, leading up until right now, have influenced us and make us completely different than our neighbors, friends, and even family members. Our experiences are stored in our memories and affect future decisions and emotional responses. I like to call this our “Past Brain.”

On the other hand, we also have our “Future Brain.” That’s the side of us that has hopes, dreams, and goals. That’s the side of our brain that, though guided by our past brain, still has the freedom to plan out the next step. The half that allows us to try new things because it has no reference from the past brain telling it that it might be a bad idea. The two halves go hand in hand, and certainly influence each other, but while one might be filled with regrets the other has the ability to live freely.

So I asked my students to consider their past and future selves, and to brainstorm what makes up each side. Most of them, especially with some prompting, were able to list at least a few things that had great influence on them (both good and bad.) The future side was surprisingly more difficult, especially when I pressed them to try to be positive. Most of them saw little difference in where they had come from vs. where they were going. They clearly assumed that the rest of their lives, no matter how long or short, were going to continue on the same path that had gotten them in trouble and landed them there with me. That was saddening to me, especially since it was relatively easy for me to fill up my future side with new ideas and expectations. We ended up having a heart to heart about how YOU make your future, and only YOU can make it different from your past. Once they started allowing their future brains to separate from their past brains, they began to dream. And hope. And imagine things that their past brains believed only happened to other people.

Get the full lesson plan here!!
Get the brainstorming sheet here!!

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Best Gesture Drawing Lesson Ever!!

3 Mar

My kids are scared of drawing. Even the ones who are good at it get very self-conscious and don’t want to try. They will trace other people’s pictures with no problem, but when I try to get them to draw from life they freak out. So attempting to teach them about gesture drawing was a daunting task for me. I knew I needed to take the focus off of the drawing itself, and convince them that I wasn’t going to pick their work apart.

So I set up stations. About twelve separate stations around the room, each one containing a sign to number the station, and a simple object to draw. After discussing the difference between gesture drawing and contour drawing, which we had already discussed, I assigned each student a starting place, and told them they were going to rotate around the stations until they had returned to their original positions. I took out my timer, and set it to thirty seconds. Before they could even protest, I pressed start and shouted “Go!”

“But Miss! I can’t…”
“Go Darren! You’re losing time!”

So they drew. Some of them did great, and drew with great concentration. Some of them laughed the whole time about the fact that they were drawing Kermit. And the rest of them grumbled and complained about how bad they were at drawing, but they were drawing none the less! When the class had finished, we gathered up everyone’s work and compared some of the results. This also produced some laughs, but really got them to see that nothing bad was going to happen if Kermit looked like he had six arms and no legs. When we moved on to more drawing lessons, I was proud of how much the kids had loosened up by doing this exercise for me.

Get the Full Lesson Plan Here

Tomorrow: Overcoming fear of drawing…help them take the next step.

Gesture Drawing-The Next Step

1 Mar

“I can’t draw.”
“Of course you can, everybody can draw.”
“No, I really can’t. I don’t even know how to draw a star.”
“Oh, you’re being sill…wait, what? You don’t know how to draw a star?”
“No.”
“You mean the kind of star without the lines in the middle? Because they are a little tricky.”
“No, I mean a star. With the lines.”

This is me, talking to a sixteen-year-old student. Not a first or second grader, which is what one might assume, because I think that’s about the time I learned how to draw a star.
I take things for granted though. My mom was a nursery school teacher, and she was always working on projects, letting me help her, and giving me fun stuff to do. She was crafty. You should see the amount of holiday decorations we have. So maybe my kids don’t have moms that are teachers, but is that why they could go sixteen years without learning how to draw a star? No. Surely, somewhere along the way, a teacher, a friend, an aunt or an uncle would have passed along this skill, right? That’s how it was where I grew up. But where my students come from, I have to remember, is like a whole different world. My third graders’ toys are fake guns, not crayons. No one even told them not to bring toy guns to school. And when they bring them to school, they don’t just pretend to shoot like a cowboy, “Pow! Pow! Pow!” No. They pull their toy guns out from the waist of their pants and cock them to the side, like 50 Cent does in his videos. They use the N-word and know what it means to “bust a cap.” And that’s when I realize: if no one is teaching them that that’s not appropriate, there’s probably no one sitting down for a little star-sketching lesson.

With such low confidence in their drawing skills, (and understandably so!) it’s sometimes really difficult to get even the most well-behaved kids to draw. They think that everything should look a certain way, and they’re positive that they’re not going to make it happen. So they give up. Or they don’t try in the first place. This lesson on gesture drawing was one of my most successful efforts in getting them to break out of this mentality.

First, we talked about Keith Haring. He was kind of a rule-breaker, which they liked. Then, we looked at some of his characters. The bubble-head guy. The barking dog. The cute little round baby. They liked them too. “This guy was famous?” they asked? “We can draw like that.” So one by one I got them to stand up on a table. Posing. Laughing. Being silly. Their classmates had 30 seconds to draw them. Perfection went out the window, and self-conciousness went with it. Check out the results, and give the lesson a try. My sixteen year-olds may still not have mastered the star, but those bubble guys opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Get the full lesson plan here!