April 21

GRADE 4 CLAY CELESTIAL BODIES

When we return to school after Easter my grade 4 students will be almost ready to create their celestial bodies in clay. They will have one more practice session and then in week 2 they will make their final piece.

Clay, as for most things with my students, is never a one off session. You cannot get skill development or clayworks like these without exploring the materials and tools and experimenting with ideas. Yes, it is hard work, yes, it is messy, and yes, it can be loud, especially at pack up time on my awfully thin laminated art room table tops but the students are smiling, eager and learning – what more could you want!

Whenever we are working with clay I frequently remind the students that we only have one rule for clay. I say it and the students all chant it back to me, whether they are in Preps or Grade 6. “YOU MUST BE SENSIBLE WITH THE CLAY! With the Prep students I usually take it a bit further.

“Can you stick it in your ear?’                                    “NO!”

Can you stick it in somebody else’s ear?”              “NO!”

Can you stick it in Mrs Menhennet’s ear?             “NO!”

And on it goes until they are all falling about laughing.

However, the students know this is quite serious as we then discuss the consequence of not being sensible with the clay (and the tools and the slip, etc). And the consequence is that the clay is removed from the student. They then wash their hands and sit on the floor while everyone else is working at the tables. A direct consequence like this makes sense to the students and is much more effective than a detention that would not even be on the same day!

And now back to the process………In the first session I bombard the students with images of artworks incorporating the sun, the moon, planets, stars, etc, etc.

These images include all sorts of artworks – jewellery, clayworks, paintings, drawings, sculptures, metalwork, embroideries, photography, and the list goes on.  You can find lots of images of celestial bodies on my Pinterest board.

And then I let them loose on the clay – and then we pack up and when it is pack up time NOBODY wants to, as they are all so into what they are doing.

In the second session I show them examples from grade 4 students previously. We discuss them and any interesting stuff they have looked at in their independent research and then they get stuck into their own creations/experiments again. I also put slip on the tables and remind them how to use correct joining technique – the four s words –  score, slip, stick, smooth! And they chant them after me!

Depending on the school calendar and the crazy timetable that changes constantly, the students will have one or two more sessions to practice/refine their ideas.  The students choose whether to make a flat 2D or a 3D clay piece. There are usually groans at pack up time at the end of these sessions but I do photograph any experiments the students are keen to keep in mind and then they all pack up their clay.

The students are encouraged to do their own research for inspirational images in their own time as they all have IPads and/or computer access.

By the time the final session comes around the students know that they need to complete their clay piece in one session. Most students manage this as they have been working on an idea for several sessions and get faster at creating and refining their clay piece each week.

I scratch the students initials and grade into the base of their finished piece with a sharp skewer before I put it on a rack to dry. This seems to eliminate any arguments about which piece belongs to whom which I used to have when they all did it themselves, as it is in my neat lettering. It doesn’t take long, gives me a chance for a brief chat with the artist about their work and check that it is joined together properly and perhaps send some students back to the table to fix an issue.

Once the works have been fired the students paint them. I encourage the students to think about the painting process before they start and have a plan in their head for what they want to do. Just a simple statement like this is enough to stop most rushing and slapping paint on willy nilly!

Thanks for looking. Leave a comment!

Shell

August 20

BUT WHAT ABOUT CLAY???

grade 1 clay 29

It has come to my attention that lots of Visual Arts programs/classrooms don’t seem to be doing clay anymore!

grade 1 clay

grade 1 clay 57

I have developed this opinion after discussing it, off the cuff, at school, at network meetings, at our Outer West Visual Art Teachers Network Professional Learning Day, earlier this year, talking to colleagues at last year’s Art Education Victoria Conference, etc, etc, etc.

grade 1 clay 53

grade 1 clay 53

And, as far as I am aware, modelling is still a part of the Visual Arts Curriculum in Victoria.

grade 1 clay 54

grade 1 clay 54

I use clay for most of my modelling sessions. It’s fun. It’s messy! It’s cheap! And my students love it! And I love it!

grade 1 clay 65

grade 1 clay 65

And, let’s face it, the Visual Arts room is the last place in the school where you are not only allowed, but encouraged, to make a mess, while you express yourself!

clay man in boat

grade 1 clay 32

So what is happening out there? Are you still doing clay at your school? Have you got a kiln that is no longer being used? Why not? Do you find it too messy? Seriously? Or is all the kiln firing too time consuming? is it an OH&S matter at your school? Why? Do you use alternative materials to clay for modelling or is it just not part of your Visual Arts curriculum any more???? Do you find it a bit scary – a bit out of your comfort zone? Would it be helpful if more networks or other bodies were offering more professional learning in this area?

grade 1 clay face 22

grade 1 clay face 22

Please reply and comment on my observation as I would really like to know what you think.

Shell

PS I have mentioned this to my students and they have been as horrified as I am that there are other students out there who seem to be missing out on such a wonderful material to learn and have fun with in the art room.

grade 1 clay face 27

grade 1 clay face 27

May 2

Grade 3 incised and decorated clay slabs

Last term, yes, in the incredibly hot weather, was when I was working with clay with Grade 3. The Main Art Room was a dustbowl for most of the term as the clay dried out and broke down so quickly but I had to persevere as we can only do clay activities in our Main Art Room. I thought I did pretty well as I only decided I couldn’t face it on one extremely hot afternoon, so that grade drew pictures with the air conditioner and fans on full blast!

The first skill to be learned was how to roll a slab to an even thickness, then we used tools and our fingers to incise into the clay as well as adding extra bits on using slip and correct joining technique. We worked on all these skills over a few weeks and this also gave us time to experiment with the type of picture we wanted to create on our slabs as we packed the clay back into a cube at the end of each session.

 I can’t stress enough how valuable it was to make time during each session to all walk around the tables (not touching, of course) and look at what everybody else was doing. The discussion after this was always intense and interesting and lots of children decided to try something new next week for their picture after they had seen what their fellow artists were doing. When I had photographed several of the slabs during these sessions I started to show these images to all the grade 3’s after we had looked at the work from their own group.

Most of the slabs in these photos were practice slabs and didn’t end up getting fired so I’m really glad I photographed them when I could!