The new term started at the end of September and I knew exactly what I was going to be doing.
Last term's theme on Art and Artists had been so well received that I pushed back the Indian books on the theme, into a term of their own.
So in the term peppered with Indian festivals and celebrations, our books and stories on Indian art fits right in.
However we didn't start with an 'Indian' book. There were 3 reasons I chose to start the term with a book which could not be termed as ‘Indian’
Children had requested for this very popular book
The book is so celebrated, that it has its own day on 15th September
The book would lead on to the book I was planning for the next week, our first Indian author.
The book in question?
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds...a modern classic, as far as children’s picture books are concerned.
The children who knew the book were excited and those not familiar with the book fed off the energy as their excitement spread.
The Dot is a wonderful inspiring story of little Vashti who just cannot draw. Her art teacher encourages her to just make a mark, so she jabs the paper with her pen, making a little dot. Then her teacher asks her to sign her 'art', which Vashti does...not knowing just how much the teachers gentle encouragement is going to change her life.
A book about just taking that first step, encouragement, self belief and confidence.
The children responded to this story by sharing about people in their lives who have encouraged them in different ways, as well as trying to remember when they may have encouraged others. It was a beautiful sharing as many spoke about their peers who have encouraged them in different ways. What I love about a sharing within the class, is that one child’s sharing jolts the memory of another, the sharing of those who easily express themselves, motivates others to realise what they are expected to reflect on and share.
I never tire from seeing the range of unique interpretations of each brief.
As always with exploring art through books, the children wanted to creating art using dots. They had the freedom to use dots any way they wanted.
The second week was a big one for me...I was starting on Indian artists and art. It has been hard for me to select books. Most of the biographies of Indian artists lack the narrative flow of the books we did last term and end up being stilted stories bordering on history textbooks of yore.
As a result, I will be interpreting the Indian art and artists theme in a variety of ways.
Raza’s Bindu, a stunning picture book explores the works of Indian artist S.H. Raza, from his childhood when his teacher asked him to stare at a dot drawn on the wall, to help him focus to his obsession with exploring the form of the dot or ‘bindu’ through his art.
I find that children relate beautifully to picture book biographies which feature the artist as a child. They are able to identify with the child in the book and this helps them connect with his story and the themes in the book, keeping them engaged.
As we went through the book, we stopped to reflect over the prompts the text offered.
“Raza marvelled at the textures and colours of nature.”
It was easy to talk about colours, but how aware are we about the textures in nature. This was a wonderful prompt for children to think about and hopefully go on to explore the wonderful textures around us.
From the smooth leaves, to the pokey cactus, to the roughness of bark, the velvety feel of some petals, the waxy feel of succulents and a rubber plant, to the coarseness of sand, from feathers to fur, from fruit to foliage...textures abound everywhere in nature.
“Now keep looking at the dot.” The teacher tells Raza.
The children imagined how it would feel if they had to sit in one place and stare at a dot all the time.
There were a range of responses to this prompt, from bored, restless, fiddling, angry, I’d scratch it out, calm, hungry.
Using prompts like this to garner responses from the children do not only get them to walk in the characters shoes, but also help set up the story that follows.
What did Raza do with the time he spent staring at a dot? He began to notice that dots were everywhere and later harnessed this in adulthood and explored dots through his art.
What are the dots that we know or see around us?
Answered varied from a football to a full-stop, from a pebble to pixels, from a camera lens, to a pencil eraser, from a cell from which all life begins to the eyeball. The children came up with such unique items like the bottom of a stem glass to a human face.
As we moved on we explored each of the paintings in the book and noticed how Raza did not only use dots or circles, but used many other shapes as well. The paintings were new to the children and they had interesting interpretations for each painting.
"This looks like a portal inside which we will find dinosaurs."
"It's like looking inside a straw."
" A black hole"
" Like looking down a well."
" A void, going on forever and ever."
"Big and small hula hoops."
" A black version of super saturn."
"A ear hole and sound waves."
How does this one make you feel?
God is in the centre
I feel an energy emanating
Scared...like something will come out and grab me.
Feels like I'm travelling
What does it look like to you?
The inside of a big pipe
Like it is an illusion of something
As we moved on to Raza’s paintings of the Panchtatva or the five elements that make up everything in the universe....earth, water, fire, air and space.
Hands were popping up as we explored what could possible be/hold these elements in our own bodies.
We concluded that the bones and muscles would be the earth element, blood the water element (some insisted that ‘susu’/urine was the water element too...but a quick suggestion that it was waste, squashed that idea), the stomach held the fire with the acid that helps digest our food, the lungs held air and space...well its all around us.
Idea from... https://www.theheritagelab.in/sh-raza-art/
The children compared the two books...The Dot and Raza’s Bindu and they felt that there were a lot of similarities as well as differences:
Both ‘artists’ creativity took off from dots.
While Vashti only drew dots, Raza used shapes along with dots.
In both cases a teacher set them on their art journey with dots. Both
Vashti painted to show that she could do better dots than the one she had on that blank paper.
Raza’s art was more reflective. His dots held meaning.
Both artists believed in themselves and their creative ideas.
As always, a true story speaks ‘loudly’ to an elementary age child and they loved to hear about the acclaim Raza earned worldwide and the awards and honours he won.
Shapes in art was something new for the children, and here are a few that came in.
SELF AWARENESS: Self efficacy/growth mindset, identity
SELF MANAGEMENT: Initiative and agency
SOCIAL AWARENESS: Respect for others, Kindness and empathy
RELATIONSHIP SKILLS:Communication, Relationship building, Social engagement