City Collages 

Make a city collage by cutting shapes out of patterned or textured magazine pages.

Third grade students cut out textures and patterns from magazines to create a City Collage.

Art Lesson Video: City Collages

PowerPoint: City Collages

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ paper
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Scrap paper to use as glue mats

 

Make a city collage by cutting shapes out of patterned or textured magazine pages.

One of the things I have learned this year with our six day rotation schedule is to embrace the madness! It doesn’t matter how hard I try to get all of my classes back to the same spot in the schedule, something will always come up and throw us off. Engaging, one day art projects have become my go-to solution.

Make a city collage by cutting shapes out of patterned or textured magazine pages.

I needed a project that was simple enough that my students could finish it in one class period, but challenging enough that they wouldn’t be bored. I decided to go with a collage project that focused on using patterns and texture.

Make a city collage by cutting shapes out of patterned or textured magazine pages.

After the first rotation, I realized I needed to emphasize what patterns and textures would look like. I chose a page from a magazine that had examples of what would and wouldn’t work. The most common misconception was that they were supposed to cut out pictures or words.

Make a city collage by cutting shapes out of patterned or textured magazine pages.

They really enjoyed looking through the magazines to find interesting patterns and textures. We had a lot of fun conversations and some students were sharing and exchanging pages they had found. There were a few kiddos who needed an initial boost to get started. For them, I went through and pointed out 3-5 patterns or textures that they could choose.

Make a city collage by cutting shapes out of patterned or textured magazine pages.

I made a really big deal about “flippy flappies.” When a students brought me their artwork to turn it in, I showed them how to bend it slightly. Any “flippy flappies” that stuck out needed to be glued down more. (When Showcase time came, I was so glad I had done this. Their artwork stayed much more secure in the hallway.)

Make a city collage by cutting shapes out of patterned or textured magazine pages.

If I had needed to, I could have extended this to a two day project. Some classes only had a handful that didn’t finish, but in other classes there were 7-10 who needed more time. Several of the students who needed more time were really invested in the project and spent almost their whole Center’s Day finishing it!

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Brushstroke Paintings 

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After observing artwork by Alma Woodsey Thomas, second graders created a watercolor background and filled their painting with brushstrokes using tempera.

Art Lesson Videos: Brushstroke Paintings, Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3

PowerPoint: Alma Woodsey Thomas

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ poster board or watercolor paper
  • Brushes
  • Watercolor paints
  • Tempera paint
  • Scrap paper to create shapes

I was so excited to share Alma Woodsey Thomas’s artwork with my students! They had so many interesting observations to make about her paintings. This turned out to be one of those projects that really captured my students’ attention.

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They started by creating a watercolor background using the wet-on-wet technique. This was its own special kind of magic! It is always fun to hear gasps of amazement when students are experimenting with a new material.

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The second day we worked on the project, we looked at her painting “Starry Night and the Astronaut” again. (Isn’t that the best title!?) They noticed that the shape in the top corner was a different color than the background.

Create brushstroke paintings inspired by Alma Woodsey Thomas.
Starry Night and the Astronaut, Alma Woodsey Thomas

They tore a piece of paper into an interesting shape and traced it on their paper. Some students just traced it once and others filled their paper with shapes. In the process of tearing, a lot of kids created more than one shape that they wanted to use.

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During the middle of class, I played a video demonstration about using tempera paint to outline their shapes with small brushstrokes and fill them in. I wasn’t sure how my second graders would respond to doing what could be seen as “tedious work.” They surprised me by how focused they were on painting their dots! I gave them large brushes so that it wouldn’t take too long.

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On the last day of the project, they watched a video about filling in the background with brushstrokes. A lot of students wanted to experiment with mixing colors together on their artwork. I reminded them to wash their brush in between colors and they went for it! Some kids finished quickly and others still had a bit left to do, so we saved the paintings to finish on a Centers Day.

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The paintings are so bright and cheerful and the kids had so much fun making them! It was a great introduction to tempera paint because it focused their energy. It was definitely worth spending three weeks on just one project!

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Monarchs and Milkweeds: Collaborative Collage

A collaborative art project that combines scientific observation of a monarch's life cycle with a group collage project.

I was excited to bring four monarch caterpillars to our Art Room for my third graders to observe for their collaborative art project based on the monarch’s life cycle.

YouTube Playlist: Monarch Videos

Day 1: Observe and Sketch

Day 2: Painted Paper

Day 3: Collaborative Collage

Each class period, they got to observe the caterpillars. This was truly the most joyful part of our year! Every day they saw something new – they were so surprised by how quickly they grew. I had a couple of classes that were fascinated by the caterpillar poop. I told them they could talk about it, but they had to use the scientific word for it – fras.

I created videos so that I could share interesting moments with the classes that missed them. For a few weeks, it became a wonderful ritual that we would watch the latest video during our Circle Time at the end of class. One lucky group was there when a caterpillar morphed into a chrysalis. Another class got to be there when we released one of the butterflies.

A collaborative art project that combines scientific observation of a monarch's life cycle with a group collage project.

Monarch Caterpillars Video: Monarch Caterpillar Growth StagesMonarch Caterpillar Eating MilkweedMonarch Caterpillar Makes Path of Silk

A collaborative art project that combines scientific observation of a monarch's life cycle with a group collage project.

Chrysalis Video: Monarch Caterpillar Morphs into Chrysalis

A collaborative art project that combines scientific observation of a monarch's life cycle with a group collage project.

Monarch Butterfly Video: Monarch Butterfly Release

Kandinsky Drawing Game 

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

After learning about Kandinsky, second graders played a drawing game using crayons. Later, they painted over their artwork with ink to create a wax resist.

Art Lesson Video: Kandinsky Drawing Game, Part 1Kandinsky Drawing Game, Part 2, Ink Set-up Video

Drawing Prompts: Kandinsky Drawing Game

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ white paper
  • Crayons
  • India Ink, one part ink to 5 parts water
  • Brushes

 

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

I am not a huge fan of crayons; it’s hard to get them to do exactly what you want them to do. But since I inherited boxes and boxes of crayons with the Art Room, I’ve been designing several projects around a technique that makes crayons interesting – wax resist.

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

My older students love doing a wax resist project that involves covering the whole paper with crayon and then crumpling it. For my 2nd graders, I wanted to try something that would involve a little less intense coloring. I decided to inspire them with images of Kandinsky’s artwork.

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

After they talked about his paintings, we played a drawing game inspired by Kandinsky’s abstract art. I love playing games with my students; it is such a great way to get their creative juices flowing! I think next time I might use the game as a warm up and then let them create a drawing on their own inspired by Kandinsky.

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

I emphasized how important it was to press down hard with the crayons as they drew. What really helped them remember was a visual example that showed a “soft drawing” and a “hard drawing” side by side. It was a great reminder that once you paint over it with ink, a hard drawing will show through bright!

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

Second graders with india ink is a scary proposition. It worked out that we were inking our artwork the week before Christmas Break – Yikes! I was so proud of how my second graders handled themselves and the art materials. We didn’t have a single spill in all 14 classes. Making a video about how to set up the table for ink was a huge part of that success. It showed them exactly what to do and the magic of videos meant that they all listened carefully!

I always have a few kiddos who are absent, so I save their artwork in their class folder so that they can work on it during a Center’s Day. I had kids who were also finishing their Watercolor Grids. On a whim, I decided to have them paint over their crayon designs with watercolors. It was magical! Next time, I think it would be fun to give my students a choice of using india ink or watercolors for the background.

 

Chalk Pastel Observational Drawings 

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

After observing still lives by Georgia O’Keeffe, elementary art students create their own “up-close” observational drawings.

Art Lesson Videos: Chalk Pastel Observational Drawings, Part 1 & Chalk Pastel Observational Drawings, Part 2

PowerPoint: Observational Drawings

Supplies: 

  • 9″ x 9″ colorful construction paper
  • Sharpie
  • Chalk pastels
  • Assorted objects

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.
I wanted to put a new spin on my usual Georgia O’Keeffe observational drawing project. In the past, I’ve had my students observe and draw flowers after learning about Georgia O’Keeffe. This year, my goal was to continue to focus on observational drawing and filling the whole paper, but to switch up the subject of their artwork.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

We started by discussing Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork. Then I played my video demonstration for them which broke down the steps of looking at an object and drawing the lines and shapes you see.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

After the video I followed up with a couple of important reminders. I showed them how to pick a part of the object to go off the page. I also encouraged them that our goal was not to create exact photocopies of our objects. (If we wanted to do that we would use a camera!)

Instead, our goal was to be inspired to create interesting lines and shapes.

Instead, our goal was to be inspired to create interesting lines and shapes. Overall, this took a lot of the pressure off and allowed the kids to focus on drawing what they actually saw instead of being critical of their artwork.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.
I chose objects that I had 6 multiples of; I did not want any “object envy” between tables to cause a disruption! I also tried to pick objects that were simple enough to sketch in one class, but with enough details to keep them interesting.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

Observational drawing with students of any age is always a little stressful. Some students have a hard time getting started and others are easily discouraged when their drawing isn’t turning out how they envisioned it.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

The best fix I’ve found is to let kids start on a fresh piece of paper when they get frustrated. And, of course, lots of pep talks! Another trick I’ve discovered for the kiddos who are about to give up completely is to offer them a “very special object” to draw. I have a couple of stuffed animals that work perfectly!


Most of them have time that first day to trace their pencil lines with Sharpie. If they have any extra time, I always have a Sketchbook Project that they can work on. For this assignment, they drew a spot they observed in the art room. They created so many fun drawings of our classroom!

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

I love how much my students felt free to experiment with the chalk pastels. In the second video demonstration, I showed them a couple of techniques they could use. Chalk pastels ended up being the perfect medium for this project. They were able to finish adding color to their project in one class period. And the freedom they had with the pastels was nice balance to how intensely they had to focus on the observational drawings.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

I inherited the chalk pastel setup from the previous art teacher. Now that I’ve used muffin tins as a way to organize pastels, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. The kids had a wide variety of colors they could easily see and choose from. And I was able to put out the tiny little pieces that, in the past, I would have just thrown away.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.
This combination of subject and medium was a great way of tackling drawing from observation and introducing an artist. It felt less fraught than other realistic drawing lessons I’ve done. And a little controlled mess along with some color mixing always makes for a joyful art class!

Draw a Verb

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, elementary art students drew lines inspired by a verb and colored their artwork using markers and colored pencils.

Art Lesson Videos: Draw a Verb, Part 1 & Draw a Verb, Part 2

PowerPoint: Draw a Verb

Supplies:

  • Lines that Wiggle by Candace Whitman
  • 9″ x 12″ drawing paper
  • Markers
  • Colored pencils

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.
I love connecting our projects to a book that we read as a class, especially with second graders. They are so enthusiastic and engaged when we sit together on the floor to read a story. Lines that Wiggle inspired me to create a drawing project that connected different kinds of lines to verbs.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

After reading the book, we talked about what a verb is and gave examples of different types of verbs. We drew lines in the air that could represent those action words. Then, I asked them to go to their table and write down a verb that they wanted to use for their drawing.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

Next they wrote their verb onto their drawing and created lines that showed the action. It was incredible to see how creative they were with the lines they chose to represent their verb. Most students were able to begin tracing their lines during the first class period.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

When I was making the video demonstration, I felt a little ridiculous breaking down how to use colored pencils to the very basics. After seeing the results, I’m glad I did! It’s easy to forget that second graders don’t have a lot of experience experimenting with colored pencils. Even knowing how to use a sharpener can be a challenge!

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

For this project, I was a stickler about asking the kids to fill the whole page. In the video, I showed them a way to color in big spaces quickly. So when I had a quick finisher, I reminded them of how easy it was to color in the big background spaces.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

At the beginning, I was curious to see how the students would respond to this project. I was a little worried that second grade was too early to make the jump of connecting abstract lines to the concept of a verb. It was exciting to see the wide variety of responses they came up with.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

 

 

Warm and Cool Shapes

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

After cutting and gluing organic and geometric shapes, elementary art students use warm or cool colored markers to fill the background of their artwork with lines.

Art Lesson Videos: Warm and Cool Shapes, Part 1 & Warm and Cool Shapes, Part 2

PowerPoint: Warm and Cool Shapes

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ white paper
  • Sets of warm and cool colored construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Sets of warm and cool colored markers

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

I really enjoyed starting the year with this project! It was the perfect balance of structure and freedom. I was inspired by a lesson I saw on Art Tango and decided to make it appropriate for my third graders by allowing them to make more of the artistic decisions. I tried to step back during the first day while they were cutting out and gluing down shapes. I wanted them to have the creative freedom to make different choices than the steps they saw in the demonstration video.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

I wanted them to have the creative freedom to make different choices than the steps they saw in the demonstration video.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

I let them decide how big or small they wanted their shapes to be. I didn’t put any limitations on how many shapes they needed to have or if their shapes could overlap. During the first day of this project, our room had that pleasant buzz of kids working! I overheard so many great conversations as they brainstormed with each other about their art.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

On the second day, I had some kids that jumped right in to drawing lines to fill their background. There were other students who needed a little more direction one on one. I told them to start out by drawing an outline around each shape three times. After that, I showed them how to fill in the new spaces their outline had created.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

In the demonstration video and during class, I made sure they knew that they could be creative and come up with their own way of using lines to fill the back ground. It was so much fun to see how unique everyone’s artwork was!

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

This was a great project to set the tone for how the art room operates. Students had a chance to see that they have the creative freedom to make different choices about their art. The project also had enough structure that they were able to learn the art room procedures and expectations.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project