Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bringing Art into Content Lessons

Even though I have absolutely no artistic talent, I really enjoy finding ways to bring art into the classroom.  My students spend one hour a week with our school's art teacher, which I just don't think is enough time.  My goal is to do one art activity a week in class;  I'm not successful very often, but I keep trying!.  That's why I love our unit on ancient China- so many opportunities to integrate some fun art projects.  I'm going to be sad next year when the new Standards of Learning move ancient China up to 3rd grade.

One of the more simple projects we do is a Chinese banner.  My kids LOVE writing Chinese characters, and these banners give them another opportunity to practice.  Making the banners also helps them appreciate how difficult some of these characters are to reproduce.
Chinese banners
This year we were lucky to participate in a "Have Art, Will Travel" program hosted by a local college.  A docent from the college's art museum came to our school and gave a presentation on ancient Chinese clothing, porcelain, and mythical creatures.  I whipped up a quick planning sheet (which you can download at the end of this post), and then students designed and created their own zhenmushou out of Crayola Model Magic.  My kids really got into creating their mythical beasts.

Zhenmushou made from Crayola Model Magic
The final project focused on pandas and managed to cover just about every subject, with the exception of math.  First, we watched clips of a National Geographic movie about pandas living in the wild.  Then we followed this tutorial to complete brush paintings of a panda.  I love how all the pandas turned out beautifully, but different from each other.  Not at all cookie-cutter.

Panda Brush Painting

Next, students completed research on the giant panda using the Enchanted Learning website.  Finally, the students used what they had learned and wrote a paragraph about pandas.  (Again, the planning sheet and final draft paper we used can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.) We put the paragraphs and panda brush paintings together to make a nice display for the hallway.

And if you're looking for a new way to introduce or review your ancient China unit, check out my Ancient China QR Code Hunt.  Students scan the codes to answer questions about ancient Egypt.  It's an easy way to fit in technology and research!