To create a collage robot, third grade students cut out and glued down overlapping organic and geometric shapes.
- Glue Sticks
- Scissors (mix of small and larger sizes)
- Construction Paper
- Pencils, erasers
Downloadable PowerPoint: Shape Robots
One of the challenges of teaching elementary art is learning to think like a kid again. What is fun? What is challenging? What concepts do you already understand? What concepts do you need to have explained?
The first time I taught this robot shape lesson, I jumped right in! It seemed like a simple, straight-forward project. I was surprised to find out that many of my third graders were baffled by the idea of overlapping shapes to create an image. So with the next class, I broke it down into the easy steps. We compared my sketch to the robot I had started; we talked about how I glued down the larger shapes first and picked different colors for the smaller shapes that went on top.
Once I had the kinks worked out, this became a great project to start off the new quarter. I begin the lesson by having the kids brainstorm what they would look like as a robot. It makes the assignment so much more fun to connect it to a self-portrait.
My students start off by sketching their robot – I remind them to draw their shapes big enough so they fill the whole paper. Otherwise, they won’t have room to fit the smaller detail shapes inside. Usually, the sketching step takes one class period. If I have a couple students finish early, I let them work in their sketchbook until the end of class.
Before we start cutting and gluing on the second day, I do a quick demo. I don’t take anything for granted! I show them step by step the easiest ways to cut out shapes (cut with the inside corner of the scissors; turn the paper, not your hand) and glue them down (put the shape onto scrap paper so glue doesn’t get on the table). I also emphasize that the shapes don’t have to look exactly the same as they do in the sketch, because sketches are like rough drafts.
I use plastic magazine holders as a way to keep the construction paper at each table organized. I also have a system where students can line up by the paper shelves if they need more of a color. If I see them there, I come over and give them the color they need. I like that it gives the kids autonomy to get up and move around the room when they need something. But that is balanced with me helping them get materials so that the shelves don’t get crazy messy and kids don’t end up with five sheets of green paper that all have just one shape cut out of it.
The only downside to this project is the little scraps of paper that take over my room! When it’s time to clean-up, I show them how to dump out all of the paper in their holder. Anything that is smaller than their hand, they recycle. Everything else gets stacked together neatly and put back in the holder. Instead of doing Circle Time, I have each kid pick up three scraps off the floor as their ticket out the door. And it truly is their ticket! I might I have to insist with one student per class that they have to do their part before they leave.
I love how diverse the artwork is at the end of this project! Each kid has a chance to create something from their imagination; I’m always surprised by what they come up with. This project also really pops out when it’s matted and hanging in the hall for the art show at the end of the quarter.