• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Monday, November 30, 2009


Who doesn't love Elmer?

After a lesson on looking carefully at patterns which included drawing random patterns all over a large sheet of drawing paper, My Kindergarten students did an Elmer drawing. First I read the story and then I went through the book again with a picture walk. We talked about the patterns in Elmer's friends, and also discussed the interesting scenery in the story. This was followed by a kind of "direct drawing" activity, in which I had students follow along with my directions:

- Draw a large oval for the body.
- Add a circle for the head.
- Put on a trunk. See how it looks like a J?
- We'll need some legs. How many? What shape? How big?
- Let's add an ear and an eye and a mouth.

This drawing was done with pencil. After the drawing was complete, students were asked to trace over their lines with a dark colored marker or crayon, and then to fill Elmer's friend with a colorful pattern. Some students had time to add trees or other fanciful backgrounds.

For display, I lined them up above the white board.

The students loved this activity, and even though it was a direct draw, every drawing had its own personality. Students had to think about and draw shapes, and also to work with patterns, all of which is in both their Art and Math standards. Two birds with one stone!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

harold and the purple crayon, revisited

Last year, I had my Kindergarten students draw "purple pictures" after reading aloud Harold and the Purple Crayon. It was fun, but this year I decided to focus more on imagination and have the students do purple collages. I started by asking students if anyone knew what it meant to use your imagination. A few students had ideas like having an imaginary friend, or pretending. I then asked a second question: If I asked you to use your imagination, what part of your body would you use? Most students pointed to their heads, which told me that they knew what it meant to use their imaginations although most were unable to articulate what it meant. So far so good. After this little introduction, I read the story aloud, letting the students make comments about Harold's use of his imagination on his little purple excursion.

After the story, I explained to students that they were going to use their imaginations to create purple collages. I demonstrated cutting long strips from a 6x9 piece of purple construction paper, which I placed onto a piece of drawing paper taped to the white board. (The students were intrigued by the fact that my pieces of paper were sticking to this paper, so I explained that I had made it sticky with some spray glue.) I showed students that there were cardboard squares, rectangles, triangles, and circles out on the tables, and modeled tracing a circle on the corner of the purple paper. I put all the cut pieces on the sticky paper and proceeded to move them around, letting students comment on what they thought my pictures looked like.

Students were able to choose either regular purple or magenta for their collages, and white or black paper for the background. I asked them to cut some long skinny purple lines first, then to trace and cut some purple shapes. I encouraged them to place all their pieces on the background and move them around to see what they could make before doing any gluing. As students finished their collages, I had them get white drawing paper and a purple crayon and asked them to draw the pictures they had just made.

For discussion and sharing, I held up the collages one at a time and had each student tell, in a complete sentence, what he or she had made. This gave me the opportunity to introduce the word "design" for those who had not attempted to create a picture of an object. Some students had very simple responses, like "I made a house," or "I made a bird," while others included many details in their sentences: "I made a person in a sleeping bag, camping." Whether their collages showed objects they could name or designs with no subject matter, I congratulated them for using their imaginations... just like Harold.

Friday, October 23, 2009

fall leaf overlay with watercolor

This simple first grade lesson can be used to introduce students to the use of watercolor with a little wax resist. It also can introduce the concept of overlapping and the use of visual movement through the placement of shapes on a page. Students choose from a variety of precut leaf-shaped templates in different sizes for their composition, trace them with a dark colored crayon, and then paint in the resulting spaces with their choice of colors.

I introduce the lesson by talking about how artists get ideas from looking around and also from looking at other peoples' art work. I then show pictures of leaf overlay watercolors by Caroline Duffield, having students look closely at the way the artist has leaf shapes overlapping each other, and how she has painted different areas different colors. I then model tracing leaf shapes with a dark colored crayon, overlapping the shapes and extending at least once beyond the edge of the paper. During the modeling, I talk about different ways to arrange the leaf shapes on the paper, and "think aloud" while I choose where to trace my shapes. I quickly demonstrate painting one or two individual resulting shapes with watercolors, showing how to hold the paintbrush -- like a pencil -- and giving directions for cleanup.

As students are working, I give help where help is needed, especially on the amount of water to use to help the paint flow easily without making a puddle on the paper, and giving advice about not painting over paint, because we are using regular white construction paper, not watercolor paper, and it has a tendency to break up with too much work. As students finish, I have them use crayons to draw and color a variety of leaves on a separate paper, using the templates for reference but not tracing this time. When everyone is finished painting, students do a gallery walk to look at everyone’s work and we talk about what they have observed about other peoples' art work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

leaf observation drawing with watercolor

When doing art lessons, especially drawing lessons, I like to emphasize that artists do four things: look.... think.... choose.... do. This lesson is a great introduction to that four step process because close observation is vital to its success. This drawing lesson begins with a whole-group "picture walk" of about five or six close up photographs of fall leaves,  followed by students observing and discussing the characteristics of a variety of real leaves. If I have time, I chart their observations.

A quick demonstration of drawing a leaf includes "thinking out loud" as I model giving attention to the shape, the direction of the contour, angles and curves, etc. A quick introduction or review of how to care for and use the watercolors completes the introduction.

Before students begin their drawings, they are asked to look carefully at several leaves and think about which leaf they want to draw, how they will place it on the paper, and other aspects of putting together their composition. This reinforces the "look...think...choose....do" process.

While they draw, I might give some tips about placement and/or layering. There is usually a great variety of finished work. Some students may have four or more leaves in their work, while others may have only one. As they paint, I give watercolor technique tips as needed.

When all work is finished and all watercolors and brushes are cleaned up, I like to have students do a "gallery walk" around the room to look carefully at everyone's finished work. I ask them to look for interesting shapes and colors and then we come together and share the observations.

This lesson is a true favorite. It integrates science and art in several ways, not only with the leaves as subject matter but also the act of doing an observation. Adding a related writing component extends it even further!

This lesson is included with another wax-resist autumn leaf art lesson in Art Lessons With Autumn Leaves, one of the art lessons in my TeachersPayTeachers.store. The lesson bundle includes detailed instructions, some leaf templates for tracing (for younger students), drawing tips, a few writing extension ideas, and more.

fall leaf tissue paper collage

This Kindergarten lesson can be adapted to any time of year, any season, any subject matter. Last year, I had my students do a tissue paper collage in the shape of a heart during February. The real purpose of the lesson, rather than the finished product, is to help students learn to use a paintbrush. I teach them to hold it vertically like a pencil, use just a little glue-water, and to brush in one direction.

I start the lesson with a little song that I learned from a colleague when I was teaching Kindergarten:

Fall is here! Fall is here!
How do you think I know?
The leaves are turning
..... orange and brown....
.... yellow and red....
And so it must be so!

I have the words written out on a chart with the color words written in those colors and everything else written in dark green. It is posted on the wall surrounded by several pictures of fall leaves and trees. We talk about how we know it is fall, and look carefully at the colors of the leaves.

I use a variety of pre-printed leaf shapes so that no two leaves will be alike at any one work table. I create these on the copy machine on white construction paper. In the future, I might try these on light green, light blue, and yellow.

I use regular white glue, watered down to about a 50/50 proportion. The tissue paper I have is the "bleeding" kind so it can get pretty messy, but most students do understand not to paint glue all over the shape, just in the space they want to lay the small piece of tissue. I demonstrate for the students how to hold the brush, how much glue to use, how to tear the tissue paper, and how to paint over the color to make it stick to the paper, then I send them off to the tables to choose a leaf they like and to get started. As they work, I work with individual students who need help holding the brush, calculating how much glue to use, and/or how to tear the paper into smaller pieces.

When everyone is finished, we take some time to share all the work so that all students can see what everyone else did. I don't have space to hang them all so I choose a few that are different colors and shapes to hang on the wall along with the song chart.

Friday, October 2, 2009

first day exploration

A new school year has finally started for me, and I've completed my first round of Art lessons (at three different schools) for Kindergarten, First, and Second graders. To start the year, I decided to do rotations at which students could just explore different common media and art tools. The lesson part varied, obviously, according to grade level, with very explicit directions about scissors and glue sticks for the Kindergartners, simple reminders for the same tools for first graders, and a demonstration on how to use watercolors for second graders. I also used read alouds for all three grade levels, to spark discussion about certain elements of design and ways of thinking.

Kindergarten students did two rotations using one sheet of 12x18 drawing paper:

-- construction paper cutting and gluing
-- stencil shape tracing with crayons

I started by reading The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. We talked about the concepts of same and different, and I asked them to make sure that their art work was not the same as anyone else at their table. We gathered into a circle to practice holding scissors and opening and closing glue sticks, then they then chose a table to start at. Students had about ten minutes at the first table, then they took their papers to the other table to add to their art work.

First grade students had three rotations using one sheet of 9x12 construction paper:

-- crayon drawing
-- construction paper collage
-- eyedropper painting

I started this group by reading The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. After the story, I demonstrated how to create large and small dots by using circular strokes. I showed them how to use the eyedropper to make small dots of paint and how to blow on the paint drips to make interesting shapes and lines. I also reviewed the use of construction paper scraps, asking them to cut new shapes rather than just use whatever they found in the basket. I asked them to make at least some dots at each rotation. Students had about seven minutes at each table.

Second grade students had four rotations using two sheets of 9x12 construction paper:

-- crayon drawing
-- construction paper collage
-- stencil tracing with colored pencils
-- watercolor painting

I started by reading Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds, and we talked about how it isn't important to draw things perfectly, and that we should think -ishly. After a quick reminder of how to use small dots of white glue and how to distinguish between "trash" and "usable scraps" they chose a table at which to start. Each rotation only lasted about five minutes and students got a second sheet of paper after the first two rotations, so each art work was composed of two different media/techniques. Depending on where they started, their papers had watercolor plus collage, collage plus stencils, stencils plus coloring, or crayon plus watercolor.

With all three grade levels, I purposely gave no suggestions about content; instead, I focused on proper and careful use of the tools. At the end of each lesson I gave students a little time to walk around and look at everyone else's creations, emphasizing that the number one big rule in art class is to not touch anyone else's work without their permission.

And of course, several pieces went immediately up on the wall for display. Since I have almost 200 students at each school, I can't display everything, so I explain to the students that I just choose a few from each class that are different from each other, to remind us about the lesson.

Monday, April 27, 2009

crayon faces with watercolor overlay

To introduce this lesson to second grade students, I first showed students two art works: Head of Dora Maar by Pablo Picasso and Senecio by Paul Klee. I wanted them to see these two very different treatments of the human face, and used them as references for contour drawing and use of shape and color. I then had them identify the qualities of portraits and self-portraits, then I modeled contour drawing using a black crayon on white paper, starting with an oval for the face shape. I pointed out to the students how hair grows down, not up, and emphasized that i was drawing the hair using only lines, and that nothing would be colored in with the crayons, since they would watercolor over the whole drawing.

Then I did something which really caught the students' attention: I drew the same exact face using a white crayon on white paper, pretending to ignore comments such as, "I can't see it!" and "Oh! I can see it just a little!"

I painted over the white face with watercolors using large blocks of color rather than following any of the contour lines. The students were surprised and excited about the way the white crayon resisted the watercolor paints, allowing the drawing of the face to show through. I explained to students that they would use only lines to draw their own face and then paint over their drawing with watercolor. I invited them to choose whether they would like to use black or white crayon, and talked about the use of the paints, explaining that they would need to use lots of water and avoid painting over painted areas. Since we were only using construction paper, rather than good watercolor paper, I knew it would be very easy for the paints to get muddy.

Most students chose to use black crayon, but a few brave souls opted for the white. The hardest part for many students was using large blocks of color rather than trying to "paint in" the face features or following the contour lines. I did encourage them to paint the background as well as the face itself, and in a few cases showed students how to paint across the lines rather than with the lines of their drawings.

Students enjoyed this activity very much, and they were very successful... and very, very quick! My classes are only an hour, but many students had time to do two self-portraits. I had those students try the second one using black if they had used white on the first, or vice-versa. I gave them time at the end of the hour to walk around to look at everyone else's self-portraits and to talk about other students' work... in positive ways, of course!

self-portraits with landscape backgrounds

This first grade lesson began with group observations of the Mona Lisa. I asked students to look carefully and talk among their group about things they could see in the painting. After a couple of minutes of "talk time" I had students tell me what they could see. I did this with seven different first grade classes over three different days and the lists were pretty much the same, which I expected, although specific language was a little different, such as "it looks like sunset" and "there's light in the sky" and "the sky looks yellow." I charted students' responses and one class's example is shown here. I particularly wanted students to notice all the detail in the landscapes in the background, and was not disappointed. In fact, most groups paid more attention to the background than they did to the portrait itself.

After the discussion and chart-making, we talked about the difference between a portrait and a self-portrait, and I explained that they were going to use construction paper crayons on black paper to draw a self-portrait with a landscape in the background. I did point out to them that they could make these pretty fanciful by using interesting colors for their faces.

The first day I taught this lesson, I found that students were drawing the faces pretty small, so the next two days I provided the rest of the classes with oval templates which they could trace for the face shape if they chose. Most students chose this option and, although I really prefer not to have students trace things they could draw themselves, I also wanted them to have faces large enough to work with and proportionally right for the size of paper. I did whisk away all the pencils as soon as the ovals were traced so that they had to use the crayons for the drawing.

When all students were finished with their drawings, I had them walk around the room to look at everyone's work. We then finished up with a short "analysis" of individual work in which students were asked to tell what they particularly liked about their self-portraits, and then what they particularly liked about others' work.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

marshmallow sculptures

I cannot claim any part of this activity; in fact, I found it on the Internet somewhere, and unfortunately don't remember where, or I'd give credit where credit is due. Basically, I had students "build something" using mini-marshmallows and toothpicks, then draw their construction using circles for the marshmallows and lines for the toothpicks. The drawings were done with pencil, and then traced with colored markers. Very easy directions for what turned out to be not so easy of a task.

I quickly modeled the whole process, not only the building part but especially the drawing part. I did a lot of "thinking aloud" to give students an idea how I decided to draw my structure. I talked about the toothpicks going in different directions, for example; "hmm... this one sticks out on this side, and this one over here goes the opposite direction and kind of down, making kind of a triangle shape...." so they would take the time to try to replicate their structures as best as they could.

I had each student count out twenty marshmallows and provided a paper plate full of toothpicks for each table. I asked them to use as many of their marshmallows as they could, because I didn't want the sculptures to be too small. As they worked, I made some interesting observations. The building with marshmallows and toothpicks part was pretty easy for most, although there was some problem-solving for students whose structures were getting a little tall. Some students finally just laid their sculptures down sideways on the table because they had a hard time getting them to stand up. But what was really interesting was watching students translate their three-dimensional sculptures to two-dimensional drawings. Getting the depth was very, very tricky.

After they drew and traced their structures, students were allowed to eat their marshmallows, including the ones that made up their sculptures. Lucky for me, one little girl did not like marshmallows so I put her sculpture, a very complicated, organic-looking thing, on a table off to the side. In the following class an hour later, her twin sister built a very similar sculpture; her drawing looked remarkable like her twin's sculpture. Interesting.....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

kindergarten face collages

Kindergartners can never have enough cutting practice. This activity gives them lots of that, and more, plus it is a great way to use up some construction paper scraps. For these face collages, I purposely took all the pink construction paper out of my scrap bin, because I wanted students to use wild colors that have nothing to do with real faces. I'm sure the one little girl who asked for pink thought I was just being ornery when I told her we weren't using any pink this time. All we needed was an assortment of colors of 9x12 construction paper for the background, 6x9 pieces for the faces, and a lot of construction paper scraps. I did provide tagboard ovals for students to trace for the head shape, but other than that they were on their own.

I gave students simple directions, emphasizing that they needed to choose two different colors for the face and background. I spread the construction paper scraps across the floor and invited them to take any colors they needed.

As students finished tracing their head shapes, I took pencils away so that they would have to "free cut" the shapes for their faces without drawing them first. Most students got right into it and started immediately cutting shapes. For those who insisted that they didn't know how to cut something, I had them look at my face while I traced the contour of the part they were trying to make and then asked them what shape they might use and to give it a try. If they were still hesitant, I would model cutting a shape for them, and then have them cut their own. For the most part, students were happy to have unorthodox shapes for their facial features.

As students finished their faces, we lined them up on the white board tray and I had them look at their own work and then look to see if they could see anyone else's that had something the same as theirs. Then we compared two at a time, looking for similarities. Most students found same colors or shapes, but an occasional student notice that "they both have wiggly hair" or another quality that was more sophisticated than color or shape.

Monday, March 30, 2009

pop art hearts

These Pop Art heart paintings by first and second grade students, painted in mid-February in honor of Valentine's Day, were inspired by the art of Jim Dine and Wayne Thiebaud. I introduced the lesson by showing students copies of several works by these two artists. I asked them to describe what they saw and to make any comments they wanted about their observations. I pointed out how the repeated shapes in these works were painted with slightly different colors or patterns and explained that they were going to do a Pop Art painting of hearts. It seemed appropriate to do something with hearts since it was February, and this activity took the hearts out of the cliche realm.

>To lay out their designs, students were able to cut and trace their own hearts or to trace hearts that I provided. First grade students used larger hearts and were asked to trace four on the page; second grade students were asked to trace six. I initially wanted all the students to cut out their own hearts so they would be really different, but I discovered that this was more problematic than I expected with some of the students and turned out taking more time than I thought it would. Since my classes are only an hour, I was glad that I had thought to cut some of my own hearts "just in case." After a couple of classes, I offered the hearts for tracing as a first choice, and anyone who wanted to cut their own was invited to do so.

Because I wanted students to focus on subtle differences in color and patterns or brush treatments, and because this was the first painting they had done this year, I had them use just two primary colors and white to create as many different variations in color as possible. I modeled for them how to outline each heart first with a narrow brush, and then challenged them to paint each of their hearts a different way or with a different color or pattern. I teach at three schools, for a total of six first grade classes and eight second grade classes with approximately twenty students each, so after two weeks of heart painting, I was pretty much on heart overload, but I am pleased to report that collectively we ended up with approximately 1200 differently-painted hearts!

stamp, stamp, stamp

There's nothing new or particularly innovative about using found objects dipped in paint to stamp designs on paper. The trick is in getting students to actually think about what they are doing rather than just stamping paint willy-nilly all over the paper. I'd like to think I'm successful in leading them toward more planning and less chaos, but that would be a lie. All I can do is gather up objects with different shapes, model the procedure, and let them have a go at it. The objects I used for stamping in this activity were cut up sponges, pieces of corrugated cardboard, several wine bottle corks, clothespins, and some assorted bottle and other tops, including several tops to glue sticks that I had saved when we trashed the used up glue sticks themselves.

My Kindergarten students did enjoy this, and some of them got very into it, to the extent that I had to be right there with a wet cloth to wipe hands before the table, their faces, and their neighbor's clothes were paint-spotted. Amazingly, the faucet in my art room doesn't work.... well, it works but it makes a huge grinding noise that sounds like the pipes are going to explode... so I have to be innovative in the hand-washing department. But I digress....

What I tried to do with the stamping activity was encourage students to create patterns. At three of each tables, there were different combinations of two primary colors, and students used white paper at first, but then I got the idea to have the paper be the third primary color (red & yellow paint on blue paper, etc.). Some students really did work on patterns of some type, others worked on stamping out shapes of actual objects (cars, boats, houses, etc.), but for the most part, students basically explored stamping with different objects without really worrying about trying to create some kind of identifiable design. And that's ok...... it just tells me that they need to do more of it, not less. :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

symmetrical cityscapes

I regularly cruise the Internet looking for new ideas to use with my students. On one of my surfing trips, I found a cityscape idea on the Art Projects for Kids blog (link is in the "on the web" list on the right side of this page). It was done on dark paper with oil pastels. The California 2nd Grade Art Standards say that students should create an artwork with bilateral symmetry, so I decided to have my second grade students draw a symmetrical cityscape. And since I didn't have any oil pastels, and since there had recently been a freeze on ordering new materials, I decided to have them use construction paper crayons on black paper. To prepare, I found several pictures of cityscapes, some photographs and some art work by various artists (thank you, Google image search), which I printed out.

First I had students look at the pictures to identify what they saw and how they were all the same. Then I introduced the term "bilateral symmetry" to them. They had already been doing some work with symmetry in math, but I found that they had a hard time describing what it means to have symmetry. Most who responded referred to a "line down the middle" but were unable to go far beyond that in their definitions so I drew a butterfly and talked about it being the same on both sides. Then we looked at the prefix "bi" which they eventually realized meant "two" when I had them compare the number of wheels on tricycles and bicycles. l didn't spend too much time on this introduction, but I wanted them to understand that they were going to start this drawing in the center and then build out symmetrically on both sides of the center, making sure that each subsequent pair of buildings would be exactly alike. I drew a very quick example, stressing the importance of making them the same size, shape, color, etc. I also showed them one that I had done, and explained that they should not color in the windows, as we wanted them to be created using negative space, which I defined as "the parts you don't color" -- leaving a more detailed explanation for another time.

Before I sent them off to begin their drawings, I pointed out the line along the bottom of the groups of buildings in the pictures. Some of these lines were very clear, like sidewalks in the photographs, or a prominent line in some of the art work, while others were more virtual, like the place where grass meets the bottom of the building in a photograph or where the bottom of the building in a painting or collage simply creates a line. Their instructions were to draw the line first, then draw their first building right in the center, on the line. As they began, I wandered around, giving tips on coloring in one direction, suggesting larger windows next time, and reminding them now and then to be using bilateral symmetry.

I made sure students knew that it was ok for their buildings not to extend across the entire length of the paper, and to take their time. During the last ten minutes of class, I had them do a "turn and talk" activity with a partner, in which they told their partner which part of their drawing they especially liked, which part they might change if they were doing it again, and how they knew they had used bilateral symmetry. Finally, I had them tell their partners what they liked about their partners' drawings.

Because I teach several hundred students each week at three different schools, I can't display everyone's art work, but these were so awesome that I created a "strip" of them in each of my three classrooms, using the work of about fifteen or so students. I love the way they create the look of one long, nighttime cityscape.

This activity was very successful on many levels. Every piece of work produced was original and had its own personality, and the students were very engaged with their drawings. And the best thing of all is that when they finished this art work, most of the students were more clear on the concept of symmetry, and that it's not the line, but what's on each side of the line that counts, and could explain the concept to me or to a partner.

green paper sculptures

My Kindergarten students had great fun making simple construction paper sculptures. In honor of March and St. Patrick's Day in the near future, I decided to have them use only green paper for these. Prep was easy; I simply cut tons of paper strips from the 9" end of 9x12 construction paper, roughly an inch wide, but truthfully I didn't measure and didn't worry about the width, so there was a lot of variation. I also provided a few 4x4 inch squares on each table for kids to make cylinders or to cut out shapes to use along with spirals, accordion folds, circles, etc. A few students made "paper chain" loops that hung loose, and two little girls attached several strips end to end, creating long, long tails.

My favorite moment was when a student found a little "googly eye" on the floor, apparently left from a project from the previous day's after school program. He squealed ecstatically that he had "found an eye!" and glued it on the top of a loop of paper. He then looked around on the floor and found a tiny piece of green yarn, maybe about a half inch long, which he glued next to the eye and announced that "now I have a mouth!" Later, when we decided to name the sculptures, he decided that his would be named "Mr. Sculpture!"

It was very interesting to watch different students' approach to this activity. One student kept walking over to a table off to the side, on which were sitting a couple of unfinished models that I had used to show different ways to fold and curl the paper strips, and to remind students how much glue to use. He would stand there with his head on his crossed arms, gazing at them for a minute or two, then come over to ask me to show him again how to do a certain thing. In the end, it was lots of fun, there was lots of success, and most students managed not to use way too much glue!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

patterned circles

This first grade observation lesson is almost identical to the Kindergarten "playing with patterns" activity, but in this version, the crayon-drawn patterns are confined inside connected, free-drawn circles. Students use the same rolled-paper viewfinders to observe the details and patterns in a variety of photographs.

Students are first asked to think about what it means to be an artist, and also to name some things that artists do. This is followed by a short discussion about the importance of observing carefully, the making of paper tube viewfinders, and some initial observations of two or three photographs. Students are asked to focus on the details and patterns rather than the contours or subject matter. After these initial observations, students draw one circle about the size of their fist, placing it somewhere away from the center of the paper but not touching an edge. I model this on an actual sheet of paper to show them an approximate size. Circles that are too small will not show the patterns well, and circles that are too big might cause the student to run out of space, so I do like to suggest a size.

The first photograph is held up and students are asked to look carefully at the colors, shapes, spots, lines, and directions, then to fill the first circle with the pattern they see. When most are finished, directions are given to draw another circle, about the same size, touching the first circle. The next pattern is observed, discussed, and drawn in that circle. Subsequent circles are drawn one at a time, making sure each one touches only one previous circle. Students are reminded to completely fill each new circle with patterns they observe in the photographs, and to pay close attention to lines, dots, colors, shapes, and directions.

I especially like that this lesson requires students to really observe what they see, and places more emphasis on the observation than the content. By directing the lesson one circle at a time, I am able to get the students to slow down and pay closer attention to what they are putting on their paper. When they draw a new circle, I remind them that they can attach the new circle anywhere, but they should look to see where the bigger spaces are, and go in that direction. We keep adding new circles until we run out of time, leaving about ten minutes for discussion.

During the sharing/discussion time, I hold photographs next to students' versions of the patterns. I also have students compare and talk about different treatments of the same pattern. Students are able to see that there is more than one way to draw something, that people see things differently, and that close observation is important for an artist. As simple as this lesson is, the results can be very striking and quite varied. While the samples shown here were done with crayon on white construction paper, but I can see them being done on dark construction paper using construction paper crayons or pastels, or even painted or done with markers or colored pencils.

playing with patterns

The purpose of this Kindergarten lesson was facilitate students' observations of details in everyday and/or natural objects, and to have them draw patterns they observed in these objects. The original plan was to have them go for a walk outdoors, looking for patterns in and on the buildings, fences, and landscape at the school. To be safe, though, I brought in a couple of dozen pictures of animals, flowers, buildings, fences, etc. that showed a variety of patterns created with dots, lines, and shapes. As it turned out, time and weather directed the use of the pictures rather than the outdoor walk. In the end, I think that was a good thing.

To begin, I had students name things that artists do. Along with the standard "paint" and "draw" there were a few students who named things like "work hard" and "think about what they want to do" and "look." One student won my heart when she said that artists "look back at their work and do it again." But it was the word "look" that I was after. I explained that artists do a lot of looking, and that we'd be doing more looking than anything else with this lesson.

I wanted students to focus their observations on details and patterns rather than contours and objects, so we made viewfinders, but not the traditional "square hole in a piece of cardboard" kind. These viewfinders were simply 9x12 sheets of construction paper rolled into a tube and taped together.

Then we looked. I held up about half a dozen pictures one at a time, had them look at the patterns through their viewfinders, and asked what they could see. I asked about colors, lines, dots, and shapes. I asked how they could draw each one, and demonstrated a few possibilities on the board. Then I sent them off to work. Their job was to draw patterns on a white piece of paper, taking their inspiration from the pictures I had posted all along the white board tray. They could bring pictures to their tables for a closer look, but I encouraged them to sit on the floor and look through their viewfinders to help them look very closely and decide what colors they should use, and to think about how to draw the patterns.

When art-making time was over, we looked at each student's work, comparing the original photographs with the students' treatments of the patterns.