Third Grade Art Class

Exhausted. Definitely. Here it is, the first day of school and I overslept. Fortunately the principal really IS a pal, and I’m just going to go a little later. I have the kid’s packets all ready and 7 weeks of classes planned out though I have NO idea what that means for 7 and 8 year old third graders. Mainly I think the goal of this art class is to help them get the skills to draw. In my heart-of-hearts I KNOW the only way to get those skills is by drawing.

I got many of my drawing skills studying literature. I’m not an aural learner and somewhere in the dim past of my life I started drawing pictures while my teachers yammered on and on. It helped me learn and I now know that’s a strategy for some kids to help them learn through listening.

Thinking of teaching the kids up the alley, I naturally went back in my memory to third grade. I was an unusual kid, I think. The summer before third grade my mom bought me an abridged version of Little Women and I read it. It was my first “thick book” and the first novel. I was enchanted by the story, and I soon had the idea that in all those “thick books” on the book shelf in our house were stories like that.

When school started, I was placed in the “middle” level of grade three since I was a new kid and that’s how the school system worked. Mrs. Futch was my teacher and I think I was a handful for her. When we sat in reading groups and read “with feeling” I was the star. She told my mom that I was reading at an 11th grade level, and that might have been true. In arithmetic, though? I wasn’t just bad at it. I was disruptive. I found it boring and meaningless to sit there working out a long list of problems, usually getting them wrong without knowing why. Instead, I drew pictures. Finally, I guess tired of putting me out in the hall where I usually ran into my little brother, who was in second grade and even more disruptive than I was, my teacher decided her imperative was to keep me quiet and inside the classroom.

She did this by bringing calendars to school. Not just ordinary calendars, but calendars she’d acquired during her husband’s tour of duty in Japan. There were beautiful reproductions of Classical Japanese art. She set up a table in the back of the class, gave me colored pencils, set me down and told me to draw.

As long as the class was doing arithmetic, I drew. I got a W (weakness; needs attention) in arithmetic that year, but my drawing improved and my appreciation for Japanese art never went away. When the time came for us to do our geography project in which we made a book about one state and one country, I chose Louisiana (because of the beautiful plantation homes that I’d seen a few years earlier traveling with my parents to Florida) and Japan. I had to find similarities between the two places. Somehow, I did, mainly both have magnolia trees. It was an incredibly fun project that involved a lot of …


16 thoughts on “Third Grade Art Class

  1. I’m glad I was allowed to draw and paint at school. When the deputy head retired I had the pleasure of drawing a group of schoolchildren in uniform (flares, midi dresses. Oxford bags trousers) basically 1970’s styles x

  2. What an understanding teacher you had – to let you draw! That whole scenario could have gone terribly wrong for you if the teacher had just “punished” you. I barely remember art from back then. My…um…challenge in grammar school was talking too much. And asking too many questions 🙂
    I’ll bet your current art classes will be great! ❤️

    • Yep. I was living by an Air Force Base where my dad was working for the Defense Department so most people were military. Back in the 1960s there were (maybe still are?) lots of Americans stationed in Japan. Much of the decorative art from that culture made its way to Nebraska. Very amazing.

  3. I loved art. I took an art class at the university when I was in 2nd grade… it was fun (though I don’t think my college age fellow students were thrilled with my presence). My mother wanted me to go into art but as I got older I decided that being a “starving artist” wouldn’t be much fun so I poured my energies into science. I hope your latest teaching gig is a good diversion and profitable too!
    I love the classic Japanese art… Had several framed prints in college that unfortunately didn’t survive the several moves.

  4. What a lovely remembrance! I taught art to first and second graders for a year. I tried mostly to expose them to different media rather than teaching them how to draw. I always played music as we worked because I think that loosened up their creativity. I also showed them lots of art. Their favorite creations were self-portraits (not necessarily needing to be realistic), screen prints and paper mache dinosaur helmets! I was winging it; I’m not a visual artist, but it was a hell of a lot of fun for us all.

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