My third-graders focus on the concept of organic and geometric shapes and the vocabulary associated with it throughout the year. Using a guessing game approach, we find the shapes in representational art, abstract art, and in our environment. The hook that made this project stand out was the experience of having Reggie Laurent as a visiting artist join us via Zoom.
We all want our students to achieve that feeling of success at the end of a project. That “Wow, I did that!” narrative is so important after pushing through a challenge that may have seemed too difficult. An abstract art lesson is perfect for achieving this feeling of accomplishment while incorporating many elements of art. Add a visiting artist and you have a proven winner.
Organic and Geometric Shapes
My third-graders focus on the concept of organic and geometric shapes and the vocabulary associated with it throughout the year. Using a guessing game approach, we find the shapes in representational art, abstract art, and in our environment. The hook that made this project stand out was the experience of having Reggie Laurent as a visiting artist join us via Zoom. Students were highly engaged, laughing with the artist, diligently working on their art alongside him, asking questions, and enjoying a virtual tour of his work and living space.
Even though abstract art is nothing new in the classroom and other teachers have referenced Reggie Laurent, being able to see and interact with him had a huge impact.
During the pandemic, my students’ world had gotten very small. Museums and public buildings were closed. Families refrained from visiting friends or venues with large crowds due to safety concerns. Students were missing out on important life experiences that assist in learning, so I wanted to bring some of those experiences to them.
Zoom visits were (and still are) a fabulous way to open up their world. From a logistical standpoint, they offer time flexibility and cater to a smaller budget. As a bonus, a virtual visit allows artists to bring students into their studio.
I prepped students for Reggie’s visit with an interactive presentation introducing the artist and compared his work with that of Matisse and Britto. I projected images of the artist’s work so students could locate organic and geometric shapes and trace them with their finger.
Now we were ready to cut out our own shapes to use for Reggie’s visit. At first, students were reluctant to cut out shapes without drawing them first. I told them that, like Matisse, they could draw with their scissors.
I thought a quick discussion about proper cutting techniques would set students on track to work independently, allowing me to work with students who needed help individually. I soon realized the gap in school attendance due to the pandemic had impacted students’ cutting skills, so I did a quick demonstration on how to cut symmetrical shapes. By the end of class, each student had an array of shapes tucked away in a sealed bag.
The Big Day
Students were excited to finally meet Reggie. The room was set up so students were facing forward and in camera view, and supplies were spread across the tables for sharing. After passing out their cut shapes and reviewing classroom behavior expectations, we were ready to create.
It was great to see Reggie’s face appear in our Zoom class. We greeted each other and quickly got to work. Reggie is a wonderful speaker. At the very beginning of each class, he checked to make sure everyone had the supplies they needed. He asked, “How many fingers do you have?”
“Ten,” students answered in unison.
“How many hours are in a day?”
“Twenty-four,” they responded.
“So, we all have the same things. It is what we do with those ten fingers and twenty-four hours that makes a difference.”
Each forty-five-minute class flew by while students worked with Reggie. There was a fluid transition as students were encouraged to approach the camera to ask questions and share their art. Reggie also gave students a tour of his studio and home, giving them a peek at finished artworks and works in progress.
Adding the Final Thread
During the next class period, students completed their work by adding white squiggle lines. Reggie referred to this line as the thread that keeps everything together. White oil pastel, paint pens, and fabric glue were made available to students. They also had the option to make their artwork 3D by adding spacers and raising shapes. This helped them relate to Reggie’s most recent artwork. The thread for our project? A resounding, class-wide “Wow, I did that!” feeling.
Linda Schober is an art teacher at Brown Deer Elementary School in Brown Deer, Wisconsin. firstname.lastname@example.org
Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
Capture students’ attention and engagement with lessons that lay the groundwork for a memorable school year! In this issue, students learn about art room procedures while participating in a scavenger hunt, identify key strengths and how they can use them, develop personal connections to drawing exercises through altered books, create abstract compositions during a virtual artist visit, and more.