We’ve been covering ceramics with grades K-6th this past quarter, and as I am wrapping things up I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ways I make simultaneously teaching ceramics with many grades more manageable, as well as sharing some of my favorite ceramic art lessons. Each day for the next five days I will be sharing student ceramics work as well as a ceramics management tip. Here is the link for the first ceramics management tip:
First, I will start with an old favorite. Each year My second graders focus on the big idea of community. When we get to our ceramics unit, we imagine what it would be like to plan a zoo for our community that includes all of our favorite animals. Students brainstorm a list of possible animals with each student contributing at least one animal idea. Students are encouraged to branch out from the standards-elephant, giraffe, lion. By including a different idea from every student we include animals such as naked mole rat, electric eel, and even the occasional saber-toothed tiger. (An animatronic zoo exhibit perhaps?) Once students have brainstormed as a group, we discuss sculpture-in-the-round, and each child sketches their own idea for a model animal from multiple points of view an we practice modeling an animal using modeling clay.
The following week we sculpt our zoo animals with ceramic clay focusing on modeling the animal from one piece and adding the animals texture. Students glaze their animals, and we finish the zoo-themed artwork by creating a paper habitat for the animal sculptures. Students write titles for their exhibit and I select a variety of animal habitats to display in our library display case each year.
This is a lesson plan that has been developed and refined over the years. It started out as a ceramic alebrije lesson I received from our visual arts office when I first started teaching. It was revised during curriculum development a few years ago to connect to the idea of community zoos, and I combined these lessons with ideas I found on the SchoolArtsRoom blog. I worked to incorporate more idea development activities as well as to encourage students to think about a sculpture-in-the-round as a three-dimensional object before they even handled the clay.
Because students sketch at multiple points during the unit they are repeatedly asked to visualize their sculpture as a three-dimensional artwork. Discussing sculpture as a model for a larger community exhibit encourages students to think about an artist’s potential to influence their community. These animal sculptures are beloved by students and I am occasionally hard-pressed to find a student willing to leave their display their work in the showcase-they are so eager to take them home to their families!