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.