Aug 22, 2012

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A Back-to-School Class Collaboration!

Each year, I try to come up with a creative, motivating and inspiring new art project to kick off the year. Today I want to share one of my most successful ideas.

It is called the Exquisite Corpse.  Okay, that sounds gross, but it isn’t, I promise.  This idea is a spin-off from the Surrealist era based on the belief that wonderful, creative ideas can come from accidents.  It began as an old parlor game where participants would write part of a sentence, fold the paper and pass it along.  When the full sentence was revealed it created a unique, sometimes hilarious, sentence, poem, or story.  Kind of like a pre-curser to Mad Libs.

In order for this to work, it does require some preparation on the teacher’s part.  For younger students you will need to create a giant line drawing and then chop it into squares.  Be sure to number the squares so that you can re-assemble the large image when you are finished.  You can photocopy the squares to make a quick duplicate set.  Students will draw directly on the square and they are free to draw anything they like.  Some draw a scene, others a self-portrait and some are completely abstract.  The idea is that their piece is individual, yet part of a whole.  When the image is re-assembled, they will see their drawing but also the larger image.

For older students, you could find an image that you like, chop the image into squares, number the squares and have the students draw directly from the picture.  You could limit the supply choice or open up your cabinets.  Both create a unique final piece.

Some ideas for your mural:

  • School Mascot (see the image below of a simple line drawing of a school mascot)
  • The Olympics
  • Famous artwork of an artist you plan to study later this year (Haring, Miro, and Matisse work really well)
  • Pop Culture Icon (Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, One Direction, etc.)
  • Sports Logos or athletes in action
  • Original art for other subjects (for example, a musical poster to put up outside the music room, Spanish images for the Spanish teacher, etc,)
  • Character or virtue posters

I like this assignment because it is low pressure, collaborative, gets work up in the hallway quickly (for Back-to-School or Meet-the-Teacher night) and it gives students a reason to come show off their artwork from day one!  But most importantly, this lesson gets students creating.  Some students may not have touched paint or a crayon all summer (gasp!) and they need something to get them back in the swing of creating again.

What lessons and activities do you do to kick off your school year?

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  • Nicole

    I do something very similar. Last year, I had the students create a large banner that spelled out “Art Makes Everything Awesome!” once it was all taped together. I like the idea of creating a poster for the school or another classroom though because I’m starting to run out of room to hang things!

    • Jessica Balsley

      I have also seen a bulletin board where each student gets a sticky and they headline of the board is “Art matters to me because” and the students write something on the sticky. Very good advocacy for the beginning of the year.

    • Heather Crockett

       We have also made images that support the other specialists in the building.  An instrument collage for the Music teacher, a Mexican sun Mosaic for the Spanish teacher, etc.

  • Maryldepalma

    I did this with cat in the hat for dr suess birthday. It turned out great. This is a way of creating adaptations as well because you can give a child you know excels at drawing a more complicated piece and a kid who is struggling or special needs a simpler piece to draw.