Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Snowy Day

We have been doing an author study of Ezra Jack Keats. As a culminating activity, we made a 3D mural of Keats' neighborhood. Most of his stories take place in one neighborhood in New York City. We brainstormed all of the characters, settings, and objects that should be included, and each student made several pictures for the mural. Our plan is to make little puppets of the characters, so they can act out the stories against the backdrop of the mural.

Many of you have read The Snowy Day, which was the first children's book published with a child of color in it (and as the main character, no less). I read The Snowy Day to my kids every year on the day of the first snowfall. It is a simple story of Peter, who explores the snowy city outside his house. The dramas he encounters are small: some big boys having a snowball fight; the snowball he saves in his pocket; the tall snowy hill he climbs. The world in the story is entirely peaceful, bringing you into the muffled silence of the world the day after a big snowstorm. No matter what, even with the excitement of the first snow falling outside the classroom windows, this book always makes my students quiet.

I was struck by the detail and beauty of their versions of Keats' illustrations, and most of all, at how well they emulate his style as an illustrator.

Here is Peter walking through the snow. You can see the small footprints he leaves behind him. He himself is tiny, which is just how he is in the book, where he has the perspective of a very small boy surrounded by the big, snowy, white world.

See the black lines? Those are the grooves he draws in the snow, as he walks, with the stick he picked up.

Here are the snow angels Peter makes. The blue one is already finished; the red one is the one he is making right now (that's him in it). Lying across him is the stick he carries around and drags through the snow. Next to him are the bare, wintery trees.

When Peter goes inside, he puts a snowball in his pocket for later. Here is a picture of his coat, hanging up.

If you look closely, you can see the snowball melting in the pocket, and dripping onto the floor.

Finally, Peter takes a hot bath after his day of exploration. Here is his bath.

Not to toot my own horn, but these illustrations were done almost entirely independently of adult input, although some children worked with a partner. I never felt like I was very good at art, and certainly didn't imagine I could teach it well. But we spend so much time in the early years at our school teaching about sketching, paying close attention to detail, getting the colors right, making decisions about the background, and zooming in on the subject, that by the time they are in second grade, their independent work displays the result of this instruction. They are also highly invested in doing excellent illustrations, and work very, very hard to produce their best work.

I will put more pictures of the mural on as we put it together.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice. I'm thinking of using this idea with my kindergartners to make a mural on my classroom door. Thanks