I was disheartened too, but not about their art. Art is more about process than product and to be honest, I think their product was beautiful. I was disappointed that I couldn't figure out how to engage them in using the easel creatively. I wanted them to want to paint more and to be proud of what they painted. I needed something that would get their creative juices flowing. Besides, I had to do something with all that easel paper I bought at IKEA, right?
That was when I found the idea for art dice from Tinkerlab and got inspired to transfer it to the easel to see what would happen. I had a Discovery Toys "Crazy Cubes" that I purchased at a garage sale that allowed me to change pictures through the plastic sides. I drew some simple line designs so the pictures would fit in the plastic slots and also made some extra ones so they could change them whenever they wanted. The die only has four slots so I when it lands on "Crazy Cube" they just giggle and yell "CrazyCubeCrazyCubeCrazyCube!!!" which adds a touch of much needed silliness to the game. I'm sure I could add some plastic, but I think I like watching them yell "CrazyCubeCrazyCubeCrazyCube!!!" too much.
Within a week they were all at the easel playing the Crazy Cubes game. Sometimes they took turns rolling the die and painting the same picture together, other times they did it alone. Just two weeks after introducing the Cube their painting has gone from this:
What excites me is that it's clear that the students used many of the shapes from the die in their paintings, even though the die wasn't out for this picture. Prior to us practicing with the die, they refused to attempt to paint anything specific. Now we look for shapes we know in pictures and that seems to give them a base to go off of.
I plan to add more shapes and eventually pictures for them to try their hand at. The creative possibilities are endless!