Hot Names in Cool Places (5th)

So my first lesson with my 5th graders was a graffiti art lesson! Oh Ms. Gram -- how controversial -- how risque! ;) Let me preface this by saying that I very explicitly explain to my students that creating street art without permission is considered vandalism and is punishable with jail time. I repeatedly emphasize this point to them!!
Day One: To begin with, we looked at a PowerPoint examining the artwork and lives of Keith Haring and Scape Martinez -- two very different artists who used street art in a positive way to promote social change. When we look at Haring's work, we touch on the ideas of stylization, symbolism, and the idea of street art as a vehicle for "social change" (definitely a concept that has to be further explained). To help get the idea of social change across, we look at Haring's "Crack is Wack" mural (NYC, 1986) and talk about how he created this mural to tell the world about how negative drugs can be (it was created during the New York City crack epidemic).
Next we looked at the work of Scape Martinez; a street artist whose work looks like an amazingly colorful fusion of street art and abstract expressionism. <3 It's also really great getting to show my kids artwork by a hispanic artist as a large majority of my students are also of hispanic descent. Martinez is a great artist to look at because he also is really big into educating students/kids about street art and approaching the controversial artform responsibly. I show my students the following youtube clip which shows Martinez being interviewed by a reporter (no longer available).
We will also talk about how "tagging," or signing your name in a graffiti style can be a platform for expressing one's individuality by using a variety of symbols, shapes, lines, colors, etc.
After I am done with my presentation, I give students a scratch piece of paper to practice writing their initials or name in block letters. I found that when given this task, many students were resistant to the project because they "couldn't draw" block letters. So I show them my super secret awesome block letter cheat. ;) First students start by normally drawing their letters lightly in pencil. Then they create a wide outline around their original letters and erase the original letter. 
Day Two: Students draw their initials or name in block letters on the final white drawing paper (9"x12"). They must include at least one symbol that represents themselves (we talk about how traditional graffiti arrows and such can be used symbolically). They also must create a shape which surrounds their initials and symbols as we will cut out our names later.
Next we talk about the difference between warm and cool color schemes and the effects they can create (warm colors advance in space while cool colors recede). To help them remember this point, I explain that warm colors are hot, fiery, passionate colors that come forward in space, and that they are "in your face colors" (at this point I choose a student and get pretty up in their face - the kids think this is funny of course). Then I tell them that cool colors are the opposite - they are cool, relaxed, and very chill (I kind of lay back my shoulders and look relaxed). I repeat these descriptions and actions again to help students see the juxtaposition and contrast between these very different effects. They love it - and they remember it! :)
I tell them this is why we are going to use warm-colored oil pastels to fill in our letters and symbols - so that they come forward in space and stand out. Then I demo how to use oil pastels and how to smudge them together to create a more gradated effect (similar to the results you might get with spray paints).
Day Three: I demo how to use watercolor paints and have students select a cool color scheme to paint in the background shape (the shape we drew around our initials). We use cool colors because they recede in space.
Day Four: Students cut out their artwork and glue it to a sheet of cool-colored construction paper (they pick the color). Afterwards, I have them do a little writing about their artwork. Using complete sentences, students must explain to me how their tag expresses their individuality? How does it represent themselves? This writing is attached to the back of their artwork.

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