Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kandinsky's Concentric Circles

One of my favorite things to do is to really talk to kids and find out what is going on in their little noggins. This is a project which focuses on the BIG IDEAS in Art (is your curriculum heading toward big ideas rather than standards and benchmarks? In Florida they are called the NGSSS and while any curriculum change is difficult to swallow, the NGSSS are exactly the way I like to teach art: to get away from the cookie-cutter images and allow student responses to the Big Ideas.)

Wassily Kandinsky's "Study of Concentric Circles"
This is by far one of my favorite lessons that I do with my Kindergartners and First Graders! Once I get beyond the logistical hassle of prepping paints and keeping water clean, I am THRILLED with the results, both in a tangiable way, and in an educational way.

I start my lesson out with Wassily Kandisnky's "Study of Concentric Circles" up on the board. Without giving them ANY factual information, I ask them the following questions:

"Who do you think made this"- answers: "A Kindergartner, an illustrator, a fifth grader, an artist, Mr. Davis, YOU! {followed by SHREIK, GASP! NO SHE DID NOT! She is a WAAAAY better artist than THAT!}, a clown, an elephant {really?!}....)

"Artworks usually have titles. What title would you give this artwork?" - answers: "Eyeballs. Circle Circle Dot Dot. Twelve. Target Practice. Target Store. Coiled Snakes. Colorful Hula Hoops...."

Have I ever mentioned how much I love how carefree children think?

I then give them the background about this piece. Wassily Kandinsky often painted circles on canvas as a color theory experiment to show how different colors reacted when placed next to lighter or darker hues. Wassily never thought these studies would be sold, never mind highly regarded in the art world. Students are not intimidated by his work because they're CIRCLES, which they know they can make, too!

For this project, I focused on the Big Idea of Critical Thinking and Reflection: Cognition and reflection are required to appreciate, interpret, and create with artistic intent. 

So I asked my Kindergartners "Can you make an artwork like Kandinsky? What colors would you choose? Would you paint it like he did? Would you use concentric circles like he did?"
One Kindergartner's response to my Big Idea (interpretation):
For this project, we used 12x12 sheets of white paper, fluorescent tempera paints, and crayon on Day two once the paint was dry.

Another question I asked them: "How many circles does Kandinsky paint? We only made one, how can we make ours look like Kandinsky's?
A (partial) Kindergarten class's response to my question: (put them next to each other- it's hard to see the scale here, but these are all 12"x12" pieces of individual paper the kids put together)

In First grade, I posed the same question(s)/Big Idea, but gave them a rectangular piece of paper. How would we break this paper into a grid? 
A first grader's response to my Big Idea (interpretation, creation): (fold the paper into 6 sections and paint/draw circles inside each section. 
For this project in First Grade, we used 12x18 sheets of white paper folded into 6 sections. We used fluorescent tempera, and crayon on top once the paint was dried. 

After their paintings were dried, I gave them crayons and asked them how they would distinguish their work from someone else's and to make sure we weren't copying the artist's work exactly, but still keep the same main idea of concentric circles. 
Their response: draw some round-ish designs on top of the paint (which Kandinsky did not do).

Even though half my kids can't say or pronounce his name, they know they can make circles JUST like Kandinsky! What would your students' response be?

Joanna Davis-Lanum is a National Board Certified teacher and teaches Art at Garden Elementary School in Venice, Florida. For more Kandinsky inspiration, you can check out another Kinder Kandinsky lesson right here

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You have some very creative kiddos there! I love that you have an objective for "critical thinking and reflection". Whenever we do a critical thinking activity, I have to tie it to writing or something else because we have nothing related in our curriculum. While I'm sure getting used to a new way of planning, I like the concept of having Big Ideas-I think especially with the little ones-that's how we teach! :)



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