Noilly Prattle: Call Me Mr. B. – Six

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Call Me Mr. B. – Six

     As I mentioned above, in the beginning I organized materials, class schedules and lesson plans for Grades 2 through 6 until the number of classes increased to where I had to let go of some classes because there weren't enough hours in the day and week to handle them all by myself. As I shed classes, first the 6th Grade and then the 2nd Grade, the responsibility for Art classes passed to the classroom teachers who then did standard textbook lessons approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education. I did not use these textbooks, which was alright, since we were a private school and as long as the required number of hours for Art were provided, the lessons were at my disposal. Being a foreign teacher, my Art curriculum became a PR selling point as a kind of immersion program for recruiting parents and students.

     To conclude this Call Me Mr. B series, I've decided to discuss some of the lessons that evolved over the years with a few examples for the various grade levels.

Grade 2

PET Bottle Dolls

1.5 Liter PET bottle in back
     Children in the second grade are seven years old, still relatively unspoiled, full of wonder and enthusiasm and open to learning how to make and do things. Manual dexterity and fine motor coordination are still developing and these skills need to be worked on. Manipulation of 3D objects are quite useful in learning to use the hands and tools and different materials.

     Kid at this age like to make representations of humans, so what better project than to make a doll. Interestingly, both boys and girls were enthusiastic about this project. It was with some trepidation about how the boys would react to making “sissy stuff” that I introduced the lesson for the first time, but I had been anxious for nothing, the boys got very much into the activity.

yarn makes great hair
     For this lesson I had the kids bring a 1 or 1.5 liter PET (plastic) bottle that once contained juices or soft drinks. I had them save their one-serving size milk cartons from school lunch (washed of course). Other materials included scraps of material from Mom's sewing, yarn and any other decorations they liked. Tools included scissors, cellophane tape, glue, bond, staples, etc.

     The PET bottle became the body of the doll, while the milk carton, covered with construction paper with facial features either drawn or cut and pasted from construction paper served as the head. The clothing style was up to each individual and material was affixed to the pet bottle with glue, tape or just tied with knots. Hair was made from yarn wrapped around a pencil case either way for long or short hair. The yarn was slipped of the pencil case, tied in the center with another piece of yarn. Then the loops were cut with scissors, and, voila, hair.

     Some of the dolls were quite simple with the less imaginative kids, but could get quite complex with some of the more romantic girls who made princesses with braided hair and even, once or twice, brides beautifully gowned and veiled. Boys tended to more macho dolls with swords or pop culture robot-like characters from games and TV shows; naturally monsters were big with the boys.

Conical Hats

     Kids this young like to dress up in masks, funny hats, etc. I found an idea on the internet for hats made from a paper cone. I worked out a pattern that the kids could trace onto colored construction paper. You could then roll the shape into a cone big enough to wear on the head. Now, 7-year-olds have different size heads, so the hat has to be adjusted to fit. To this end, I had the kids bring their cut out to me and I would adjust and staple it to fit. They would then design and create a head and face and glue it to the top of the cone. Voila! A funny hat.

Strange Clothes

inspired by The Wizard of Oz
     To stretch the imagination you can turn to “what if”? If people didn't wear jeans and t-shirts or school uniforms, what funny or strange things might they wear? This is an exercise in imagination and thinking outside the box. It also introduces a new technique—crayon resist. The child draws a figure of a person, childlike and puts odd clothes on it coloring it with a wax or plastic base crayon that will “resist” water based paints such as water colors or poster color. 

     When the crayon coloring was finished I introduced (with great fanfare and bravado) the concept of crayon resist. I would put my sample picture on the whiteboard, grab a big paintbrush, dip it in thinned poster color and smear it all over the picture while the kids would gasp in horror, assuming that I would ruin all the hard work I had put (they had put) into the drawing. You can imagine their awe and delight to see that the picture shone through the paint and looked better with the added color border.

     (Only a few were really brave enough to try crayon resist outright. I would see them meticulously outlining their drawing instead of painting over it. You could see the brain ticking over: “I put too much work into this to risk ruining it!”)

To be continued...

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