Independent Projects

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

At the end of the quarter, fourth grade art students created Independent Projects by choosing their subject and medium.

Supplies:

  • Markers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Watercolors
  • Construction paper and glue
  • Printmaking supplies
  • Yarn
  • Poster board
  • Drawing paper

PowerPoint: Independent Project

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

For whatever weird scheduling reason, the third quarter is a little longer than the others. I decided to use that time to encourage my fourth graders to express themselves creatively through Independent Projects. I’ve done this kind of assignment with high school students, so I was interested to see if my fourth graders would embrace it or feel overwhelmed.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

They blew me away with how much ownership they took of their projects! I started the assignment by reviewing subject and medium. I reminded them of the difference between abstract and realistic. Then I put up a list of all the materials we had used throughout the quarter. They were able to pick just one or several materials for their project. The first step was sketching, which they did directly onto their final paper.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

I was so excited by the way their ideas bubbled out of them. You could feel the creative energy in the room! The wide range of ideas was incredible and seeing the students work together to problem solve and brainstorm warmed my heart.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

I had the art supply options set up at the front of the room, so the most intense part was getting each student the appropriate kind of paper. I had stacks of poster board, drawing paper, and printmaking paper ready to go. After they had written down their subject and medium, I would check in with them and give them the paper they needed.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

Several students in each class decided to do mixed media. They had to plan what order they should use the art supplies. If they needed to wait for one step to dry, I had them work in their sketchbook for the rest of class.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

If a student had a hard time getting started, asking them if they’d rather do an abstract or realistic piece of art was usually enough to jump start their thought process. It was also fun to watch them be inspired by each other’s artwork. There were definitely some trends that ran through each class period.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

The timing was a little tricky; there were about 3-5 kids in each class that finished much earlier than everyone else. Luckily, the assignment lends itself to further exploration. If there was enough time left in the week, I let the student go ahead and start another Independent Project. They could decide if they wanted to stick with the same medium and subject or if they wanted to change it up.

 

 

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Independent Projects, Part 2

Independent Projects - a great way to encourage high school art students to think creatively and pursue their own projects.
Acrylic paint, oil pastel

During the second semester, it has been amazing to see how my students have used the different materials and techniques I’ve introduced to them to create Independent Projects. This student began a painting of butterflies using acrylic paint. She was stuck deciding what to do for the background. At the end of class she grabbed a couple pieces of paper, asked for some oil pastels, and said she knew exactly what she was going to do. She came to my room the next morning to show me the finished project!

Independent Projects - a great way to encourage high school art students to think creatively and pursue their own projects.
Acrylic paint

This is a special piece of artwork because it marks the transition of one of my seniors. First semester, I had a conversation with him – “I know art isn’t your thing, but you have to pass this class to graduate.” He stopped laying his head down in class and slowly started engaging in the assignments. This Independent Project is the beginning of him really embracing his creative side. We had just finished making paper-cut artwork. He created the painting and decided to use an Xacto knife to carve designs out of it.

Independent Projects - a great way to encourage high school art students to think creatively and pursue their own projects.
Wood transfer

I love watching my students explore new techniques on their own. A student in my 4th period class told me that he wanted to try transferring photographs to pieces of wood. I showed him how to do it, and the project took off like wildfire. I’ve had 5 students in that class create a wood transfer of their own photograph. What I love about this project is the way it connects with my students’ everyday lives. This student used a photograph of her quinceanera.

Independent Projects - a great way to encourage high school art students to think creatively and pursue their own projects.
Wood transfer

The wood transfer process is fairly easy, but does take several days to complete. This video is an excellent guide if you are doing it for the first time. If you ask your local print shop to print the photo out as an “engineer print” it is much cheaper and the paper is thinner, which makes it easier to scrub off. After the students scrubbed off all the paper and let it dry, I had them finish it with several coats of furniture polish.

Independent Projects - a great way to encourage high school art students to think creatively and pursue their own projects.
Spray paint

When my student told me he wanted to paint a valve cover to display in his room, I had no idea what process he should use. He did some research on the internet and talked to our Auto-tech teacher to figure out his plan. I loved that this project gave him the opportunity to experience what professional artists do when they have an idea, but aren’t sure of how to proceed. He painstakingly taped sections so they would stay raw metal and then spray painted the rest.

Downloadable Planning Worksheet: Independent Project Form, Independent Project Brainstorm

Independent Projects

Independent Projects - Students choose the subject and materials. Great way to encourage creativity!

When I taught middle school, I had a system where my students could earn time by cleaning up quickly or answering questions. They could use the time they earned for Free Art Friday. When I started teaching high school, I wanted to have a similar system. However, I wanted my students to be more focused and create more polished pieces. I came up with the idea of Independent Projects.

Independent Projects - Students choose the subject and materials. Great way to encourage creativity!

When students finish a project early, they begin working on an Independent Project. For these projects, they have the freedom to choose any subject they want. They can also choose to use any of the materials that we have already used in class.

Independent Projects - Students choose the subject and materials. Great way to encourage creativity!

Each students has a folder that is filled with notebook paper for our writing assignments. They keep any unfinished Independent Projects in the pockets of their folder. This makes it easy for them to have something extra to work on, without them having to finish that project in just a day or two.

Independent Projects - Students choose the subject and materials. Great way to encourage creativity!

Once we finish a class project, I schedule a day that is just for Independent Projects. This gives everyone time to focus on their individual artwork, and it also allows students who were absent to catch up with the class. Independent Projects have helped so much with classroom management. One of the challenges of teaching Art is that there is such a wide range of paces that students work at. Having something meaningful for students to work on if they finish early means that they are still engaged, which keeps them from misbehaving out of boredom.

Independent Projects - Students choose the subject and materials. Great way to encourage creativity!

Part of their mid-term exam grade was to take an Independent Project that they had started and finish it or polish it up. (The other part of the grade was to write about if they thought an image was art or not, using the Elements of Art to support their case.) Some students decided to start a new project and finish it in the extra time we had for the exam.

Downloadable Planning Worksheet: Independent Project Form, Independent Project Brainstorm