My first graders also got into the chalk pastel action last week. They experimented with them as an extension to their color mixing unit. The week before, I read them "In My Heart- A Book of Feelings" and they used primary color crayola color sticks to make secondary colors in their drawings. Very clean!
This project was obviously a lot more messy:) We started the lesson by briefly looking at the work of Norman Lewis, an African American painter whose styled evolved into abstract expressionism over the course of his artistic career. He was strongly inspired by jazz music. On the flip side of that inspiration, musicians have actually performed pieces inspired by the shapes, colors, and composition present in his work.
We noticed how he used large and small shapes, how he added white to colors to create tints, and how he used primary and secondary colors in his work. I discussed his love of jazz. Our 1st grade classrooms are located in close proximity to our music rooms, so we connected to their experience on campus. They hear the older kids play strings and horns from their classes and they hear the instrumental music particularly at recess time.
For each stage or layer of the drawing, we worked to a different piece of instrumental music and attempted to connect our marks to the music.
Students laid down the primary color background to a mellow Miles Davis piece called "So What". They smoothed some of those parts down while continuing to listen to it. They mixed some areas to create secondary colors while listening to a calm arrangement by the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Tints were mixed while listening to a faster tempo song from Horace Silver called "Blowing the Blues Away". They then got into the first portion of smaller marks and lines. They listened to a percussion heavy piece by the Incredible Bongo Band titled "Apache" that has been sampled heavily by hip hop artists over the years, most famously by Grandmaster Flash in the early 80s. When readying for this step, I encouraged them to think about the speed of the music, it's beat, and it's loudness. Some kids were more involved with dancing at first and I told them to think about how they could translate those moves into marks on their paper. The final piece of markmaking was in response to an instrumental piece by the Beastie Boys called "Pow".
I think the kids, by and large, loved this drawing and listening experiment. It was really cool to see how different kids responded to the music with color placement and mark making energy and arrangement.