I’ve been so antsy to share this project on Classroom Collage (and not just because it’s a collage project). Several years ago, I tried the idea of giving students a multitude of choices in a collage project. It was OK. Just OK. So I took a break from the idea and tried it again this year. And here’s how it went:
These 4th graders hit it out of the park!!! Their work was/is amazing!!!
So, the whole time they were working, I was excited. I was taking pictures and wanting to blog about it. But each time I thought I would, their art got more exciting. So I waited til the end.
I’m not going to lie…this project took FOREVER. Partly because it was split over winter break. Partly because I was sick and missed 2 cycles of art. And partly because their work was so awesome and full of great thinking that I didn’t want to rush them. (Are you getting the idea that I’m totally in love with these projects???!!!)
We started by “viewing” the book, When Pigasso Met Mootise, by Nina Laden. Students collaborated on Venn diagrams to compare the styles of the 2 artists, based on what they saw in the book and what I shared with them. We also collaborated on sketchbook work learning about basic color schemes.
Then I outlined the requirements of the project:
- Must be a collage.
- Must be in the style of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, or a combination of the two.
- Must have a music theme.
- Must use a color scheme.
- Must show good craftsmanship (important with all things, but especially important to stress when doing collage work!).
That’s a lot of things for a 4th grader to keep in mind. So we broke it down a little bit more. We planned in 2 parts. The background/base collage and the music part that was layered over the base.
For the background/base, students were reminded (repeatedly!) to keep with a color scheme. And they were reminded (repeatedly!) to use big shapes. They also had the opportunity to use newspaper, patterned paper, and music scores, much like Picasso did in some of his work:
Pablo Picasso – Pipe, Glass, Bottle of Vieux Marc
After completing the background/base layer of their collage, they planned the “music layer.” While many students chose simply to stick with a musical instrument, others made last minute changes to include figures dancing. One student even did a record player (in 3D perspective, I might add!). Whatever their choice, students were challenged to figure out how to take this musically-related thing or concept and complete it in a collage with simple, flat shapes. Some caught on right away. Others needed me to individually explain it to them. And others, well, they needed to experience it for themselves to figure out why it was a challenge!
Here’s the thing that I’m so proud of these students for…they struggled with it, but they didn’t let it discourage them. They were determined to see their idea through, whether they had to try 4 times to cut and re-cut their shapes to get them just right. They learned the value of planning, a skill not just important to artists, but also a vital one in life.
When I, myself, was planning this unit, I really hesitated in doing this particular activity. I remembered back a few years ago and thought, “Do I really want to do that to myself again? That was an awful lot of work on my part for projects that turned out alright.” Here’s the thing with this project. These 4th graders had a lot of choices from the beginning, whether it was color schemes and colors, or music themes, or artistic inspiration. From the beginning, they were personally invested. Because they were personally invested, they were willing to put the thought into getting it done. They did the hard thinking; I didn’t. I simply was present in the room for them to bounce ideas off of, provide extra supplies for, or trim projects at the paper cutter.
Not only did these 4th graders learn about Picasso and Matisse, not only did they learn about the power of planning and perseverance, they also gained respect for themselves as artists and self-confidence in their ability to get things done. Take a look at their artist statements that some of them wrote below. Way to go 4th grade! I’m so proud of you all!!!