Monday, September 17, 2012

Engaging Students via Blocks

I am really looking forward to this school year. We had a great first week and I am really thrilled to see the kids and know 90% of their names on day one. My first two years in elementary was tough to get to know over 400 names quickly. When at the middle school, it was much, much easier because I would see my students every day or on an A/B day schedule.

So, I am feeling great to know their names and know more about who they are individually.
Part of that individuality, is making the art room an environment that nurtures each student and recognizes interests that they have.

In my experience, one of the best ways to engage boys (and girls) is to vary the medium used frequently, to use tools that are cool (think gouges for printmaking) and to incorporate SCULPTURE! Teaching 7th and 8th grade sculpture classes that were 80% male when I was at Timberlane, I loved to see how much the materials that I shared communicated to them. Wire, plaster, building with cardboard, clay and carving...

In elementary, I share any and all of my favorite building materials whenever I can. But what about when I can't? How can I fill the need to build 3D structures?

With that thought in mind, I came across a good article over the summer about engaging boys in art during those "down times". The times when a student finishes a project early, did a great job and has some free time.

The answer is blocks. More specifically, Keva Planks.
I purchased a set and made an Architectural Center for early finishers.
In my intro week, wow, so many of my students seemed so excited to begin creating in this center.
I am definitely going to have to purchase more and create a secondary carpeted area to keep the building areas small, contained and with only 4-6 kids at each area.

Brand new bin of Keva planks and a guide book the kids are excited to use

Click on this picture to access the Art of Ed article that inspired me to add blocks to the art room!
Although my kids will not have a ton of time each class period to build because we really are quite busy with our projects, it is my hopes that having the blocks as an option will be one more thing to be excited about and motivate some students to work hard to finish up.

So, if you are ever at a yard sale and come across similar blocks, GRAB them! They are also available on I will be buying many more as soon as I can!

My 1st graders had some extra time yesterday and couldn't wait to build together

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