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Celebrating as a community that’s learning

Confidence in media processes

Student Brittany, Matthew, Lucas,
Sarah, Keriann, George,
and Charlie (Room 7),
Marshall and
Damon (Room 11)
Date 23 May to 27 August 2008
Topic The arts: visual arts.
Science: living
world, ecology,
planet earth and beyond,
earth systems
Observer Libby (teacher)
Helen (arts and EfS advisor)
Rob (cameraman)

How we created opportunities for learning

The children will learn the techniques of printing, sewing, tearing a soft edge on calico, stencilling, wet cartridge, and dye powder composition (the visual arts strands of developing practical knowledge and developing ideas strands).

They will make compositional decisions about the collective work, they will have opportunities to try different combinations, and retell the stories about making the works (visual arts strand of communicating and interpreting).


Following on from our first painting morning (19 May 2008), we looked at the works and talked about the individual styles coming through. Each child had at least five works. Lucas used quite a bit of white in his works, which gave them a distinctive and recognisable look. He was proud to hold his work for others to see; he touched it and vocalised about it to the group. He had spent some time watching the slide show of our first session on the computer. He was vocalising, especially when he saw himself.

I offered the class the opportunity to sew onto their works. We had done some sewing earlier in the year, which they had really enjoyed. They wanted to sew (21 & 26 May 2008). This was a marvellous opportunity for collaborative work, as one child was able to work the pressure foot and the other could move the sewing direction lever on the machine. Each child was able to choose a coloured machine thread, and then team up with a classmate. They enjoyed the sounds of the machine and the fact you could sew really fast; this excited Marshall, a big fan of Coronation Street – he said: “I want to sew like they do at Underworld”. (video clip 7)

Relationships developed from this activity. Some children were very capable at the pressure foot and others were skilled at directing the sewing. Natural partnerships arose and we were thrilled when Marshall asked George and Keriann to help him with his work. It was a chance for everyone to appreciate the strengths of their classmates and to show how each person has something to offer and a part to play.

Asked by Helen what he thought the sewing added to the work, Marshall thought for a while and said, “it adds pizzazz”.

23 May 2008

We could see that the edges of our works, where they had been folded and attached to the slope boards, were without paint. We talked about what to do about them and whether to leave them or to remove them. Scissors are difficult for the children to use and we thought of other ways other than cutting and came up with ripping the calico. We talked about the children making the decision about where the rip should begin. I demonstrated just once. The children worked together with an adult to reduce the unpainted margins of their work. Some children could snip the fabric but most of them were able to give their affirmative response to the adult when a ruler was moved about on the work. Brittany was able to use both her hands together but the other children needed help. Here is some of the conversation that came from this session.

Teacher: Tell me where to go (on the composition).

Marshall: Up.

Teacher: Up where… This way? Say when.

Marshall: There.

Teacher: Which is the best way for your hand to go? (for the tearing)

Teacher: This is your good arm for pulling away (the fabric), is that what I felt last time?

Marshall: Yeah.

Teacher: Was I helping too much?

Marshall: No.

Teacher: Do you like the look of the edge? Is it OK? Check it out, are you happy with all the sides?

Marshall: No.

Teacher: Which side? (Marshall indicates) That one? In a bit? There?

Teacher holds the work up to Marshall: Do you like it?

Marshall: Yeah.

There were many opportunities for genuine decisions to be made here. Because of the attachment the children had to the works they made sure not to rip any of their paint effects. When two children were able to rip the fabric together and the noise of the ripping was loud, one of the children said that it was like a Christmas cracker.

26 May 2008

Helen returned and taught us some printing techniques, using plant material from camp and plants we collected from the school garden. (video clip 8)

Lucas made a print from the acacia pods we had gathered while on camp. (video clip 9)

Other children noticed the effect and asked him if they could have the pod. Some children found the printers ink more challenging and sticky on their fingers but Helen was patient and persistent at making sure they had understood the process. Keriann had great fun with a bundle of tussock inked up; she had great energy and was able to thrash her tussock on strong brown paper and make an amazing work. She smiled and laughed throughout this session and was able to work with less support.

19 August 2008

We folded the large canvas panels horizontally into three and used the rollers to paint the sky, earth, forest, and sea. (video clip 10) By this session we could see the children’s confidence growing, they were so eager to get started, choose their colours, use the equipment, and talk to each other about the process. They were able to share paint and equipment with each other. All children wanted to be involved. (video clip 11)

George chose purple for his part of painting the canvas panel. He often chooses this colour. Other children were watching him and commented on how they liked the colour, too. “It’s the colour of Barney,” said Marshall.

Lucas and Marshall had to work together to solve the problem about how their painted areas would meet.

By this time, there was an interest from the wider school community, and children and teachers started to ask questions about what was going on in our classroom.

The children frequently asked when they could “paint”. They asked about Helen and Rob.

I shared a progress report on our project with the arts committee and Helen spoke about our work in the staffroom.

With resources from the school library, we began to research and discuss the wildlife we had seen on our camps: birds, crabs, shellfish, and some of the things we could not see that may have lived in the mud and water.

The teacher aides and I photocopied and backed with card a number of bird and animal images. We used these to talk about where the bird or animal would live in the forest, the estuary or under the water.

27 August 2008

We added dye and paint to the bird and animal shapes. (video clip 12)

Helen showed us how to carry out a further stencil technique, which involved sponging around the shape. Marshall chose a black shag (kawau) to begin with. The black shape on the white paper was an excellent contrast that enabled him to see his work and carry out his stencilling with minimal help. He then chose the kahu (hawk), which he knew was a bird of prey, and after that he wanted the tern (tara). In the finished work, he insisted the kahu and the tara had a fight in the sky.

The teachers noticed the wonderful paint marks on the shapes produced by the stencilling process. The children made decisions about which bird they wanted and which colour they would use.

While the birds and animals were drying, Helen asked the children if they would like to try a different painting technique. She showed us how to dampen the wet-strength cartridge paper and add dye powder to the paper with a sieve. The children were very excited to experiment with the colours and the immediate effect gave them feedback and generated a buzz of excitement. When the dye paintings were dry we reflected on them. Here are some of the comments from children and staff: (video link 14)

Marshall said, “[I think] fire! [Now that it’s dry] Ashy! Can you see a little bit of green in there? I want to do more on it [I would like to show it to people by doing more] I can see purple [I would like people to see my work and I would say] Copy me!”

Libby said, “Charlie did copy you.”

Charlie clutched his work in his hand holding it so the others could see.

“It looks like the opening of the Beijing Olympics,” Libby commented.

“Gunpowder,” said Marshall. “I like it.”

“Inside a volcano,” said Marie.

Charlie continued to hold his work and smile. “It’s good you are proud of your painting,” Libby said.

Brittany talked about Keriann’s work as she was away on that day. “Red – an explosion!” Marie said, “It’s like looking down a tunnel, like Star Trek.”

In a later session the children decided where to place their completed birds and animals in the composition, where it would feel right. (video clip 13) All decisions of the children were honoured and together we stuck the shapes on with the glue gun.

The language generated from this session was astounding and the deep knowledge the children had accumulated over the term about paint and the environment became evident to
us all.