Well, after a successful run of Reward Day, my 2nd graders were finally ready to get back into their birch trees. We had a few tasks at hand: first, rub off all of our salt and make a mess on the tables (yes!). Second, peel off our tape ever so carefully. Third, add some texture to our birch trees with oil pastels.
First, we passed back our work and all had a paper towel ready in hand. And like a race, I told students to quickly rub their paper towel over their grass to rub off all of the salt from last time. Move quick, tell them, like you’re creating the sound of sand paper. This is fun for them because it’s just a bit messy and it’s loud – something they always like to do.
After we successfully rub off all of the sand, it’s time to peel back the tape. This is tricky because you have to really demo how worth while going slow and carefully is for their projects. The nice thing is, when I had them put the tape on, I didn’t have them coat it with lint from their pants much like I’ve seen many do before. While this makes removing the tape a lot easier – it also takes away from the natural curve you might see in a tree by becoming rigid. If students carefully peel back their tape, they start to see that some of the paper gets pulled with it – I compare this to normal birch trees and we agree that this slight curve or bump, sometimes even a knob sticking out, can really add to our trees.
Now it’s time to add some texture. Set out some photographs (in color is best but I understand we are all on a budget) and have students spend 1 minute talking with their table mates about the texture they see on the tree. How does it look? What makes birch trees different than trees in our playground? How do you think it feels? After one minute, ask some people what they came up – I had answers like “soft, white, like paper, it looks like it peeled off, there are black spots and lines around the tree, they’re really straight and tall”.
Use these answers in your demo that involved adding line to the trunks. Using black oil pastels, have the students outline the tree trunks – carefully, and make sure they go all the way to the edge so they don’t have white between the sky and tree or ground and tree. Have them carefully trace around the bumps and knobs created by the tape too.
During your demo, show them how to make a slightly curved line. Talk about the roundness of the tree and how we want to make our trees look full and real. After a lesson learned the hard way, limit them to 7-10 lines on each trunk spread out. Discuss that this will help make it look real and not so messy. Curve the lines towards the center of the tree but don’t forget to remind them to stay away from J lines and Cs or U lines because those wouldn’t be very rounded.
After they make these texture lines, talk about the warm colors – this is fun because now it’s time to break the rules as artists and add a little color to our trees – afterall we are studying birch trees in the fall. We talk about warm colors – what they are and why we think of them as warm. It’s a fun discussion because you can then ask – what are cool colors and most kids will start to see the rules behind warm vs. cool.
Using warm colors, have students add red, orange and yellow lines like the black ones on each trunk. This will really bring the trunks out from the background. Students, as I noticed, get really into this and try their best to get just the right amount of color. Note: Remind students that we are not coloring anything in during any of these steps – that we are practicing use of line. If you don’t point this out, or reiterate it as needed, you will inevitable have the student who colors the entire trunk in. Quite honestly, if you have students who don’t listen, you’ll have that anyway, hahah. Good news is, it still looks beautiful. Next time we add leaves!