Thursday, April 15, 2010

Using Chalk Pastels in the Classroom

We are concluding Storybook Art but I wanted to share one last experience. This was my students' first time using chalk pastels and my first experience with teaching chalk pastels in the classroom. The book was Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count Onby Lois Ehlert.

First we read the story. Instead of using the first idea suggested by MaryAnn Kohl, I chose one of the alternatives -- to illustrate fish on deep blue paper using chalk pastels. I also let students use a single hole punch or a tack punch to cut out the fish eyes. I had a box of chalk pastels for every pair of children. I had several dry paper towels and a large pile of wet paper towels in the center of the table. I reminded the students about their experience using charcoal (from our illustrations in the style of Marshmallowby Clare Turlay Newberry). If you press too hard on charcoal, it will simply break. I told the students that the chalk pastels, as well, were very fragile.

I used some chalk on the blackboard to demonstrate Rule #1: Don't push too hard. I told the students that when they press on the pastel, it will make dust. Pressing harder doesn't make a darker mark, it simply makes more dust. They were to press lightly; then, using their fingers or the dry paper towel, they were to drag that dust across the paper to make a mark. They were not to BLOW on the dust! Doing this makes a huge mess on your paper and gets dust on your neighbor. Rule #2 for chalk pastels: Light then dark. Unlike some other art media they've used, you can't lighten something later by belatedly trying layer a light color on top of a dark one. Chalk pastels do not work that way. When you plan your ocean scene, use the light colors first and then layer the darker ones on top. I showed my students how to draw underwater grasses. This was something I learned in 7th grade and the ONLY thing I remember from 7th grade besides Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cryand Bridge to Terabithia

Finally, I told the students to use the wet paper towels to clean their fingers off when they were done. I let them loose and boy, what a success! My classroom was completely silent for over 20 minutes. The students were delighted with their finished work and we got a lot of compliments from other students in the neighboring class. All in all, a wonderful activity and one I will definitely do again.

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