Independent Projects

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

At the end of the quarter, fourth grade art students created Independent Projects by choosing their subject and medium.

Supplies:

  • Markers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Watercolors
  • Construction paper and glue
  • Printmaking supplies
  • Yarn
  • Poster board
  • Drawing paper

PowerPoint: Independent Project

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

For whatever weird scheduling reason, the third quarter is a little longer than the others. I decided to use that time to encourage my fourth graders to express themselves creatively through Independent Projects. I’ve done this kind of assignment with high school students, so I was interested to see if my fourth graders would embrace it or feel overwhelmed.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

They blew me away with how much ownership they took of their projects! I started the assignment by reviewing subject and medium. I reminded them of the difference between abstract and realistic. Then I put up a list of all the materials we had used throughout the quarter. They were able to pick just one or several materials for their project. The first step was sketching, which they did directly onto their final paper.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

I was so excited by the way their ideas bubbled out of them. You could feel the creative energy in the room! The wide range of ideas was incredible and seeing the students work together to problem solve and brainstorm warmed my heart.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

I had the art supply options set up at the front of the room, so the most intense part was getting each student the appropriate kind of paper. I had stacks of poster board, drawing paper, and printmaking paper ready to go. After they had written down their subject and medium, I would check in with them and give them the paper they needed.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

Several students in each class decided to do mixed media. They had to plan what order they should use the art supplies. If they needed to wait for one step to dry, I had them work in their sketchbook for the rest of class.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

If a student had a hard time getting started, asking them if they’d rather do an abstract or realistic piece of art was usually enough to jump start their thought process. It was also fun to watch them be inspired by each other’s artwork. There were definitely some trends that ran through each class period.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

The timing was a little tricky; there were about 3-5 kids in each class that finished much earlier than everyone else. Luckily, the assignment lends itself to further exploration. If there was enough time left in the week, I let the student go ahead and start another Independent Project. They could decide if they wanted to stick with the same medium and subject or if they wanted to change it up.

 

 

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Miro Creatures

 

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

Third grade art students “painted” a background with bleeding tissue paper, then created creatures using lines and shapes from Miro paintings.

Art Lesson Videos: Miro Creatures, Part 1 & Miro Creatures, Part 2

PowerPoint: Miro Creatures

Supplies:

  • Poster board – 9″ x 12″
  • Bleeding tissue paper, cut into rough squares
  • Small spray bottle for each table, on mist setting
  • Pencils, erasers, Sharpies

 

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I like to ease my third graders into painting, and bleeding tissue paper is perfect for that. It’s all the excitement of painting with about half the mess. On the first day, they observe two paintings by Miro and draw three shapes that they see. Then I demonstrate how to use the bleeding tissue paper to create a background. I keep the steps posted on the board, so they can remind themselves.

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

First, they have to spray the whole paper with water. Then, they overlap the tissue paper squares so that they cover the page completely. Next, they spray the paper again so that every square sticks down all the way. I make a big deal about the last step – which is to use a paper towel to soak up any puddles on their paper before they bring it over to the drying rack. After the demo, I really ham it up and have the kids repeat the “Spray Bottle Pledge.” It is incredible how much silliness (and messiness) it prevents in the long run!

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

I let the poster board dry overnight with the tissue paper still on it. In the morning I take them out and throw away all of the tissue scraps. (Which sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually fun – a little dose of colorful confetti to start my day!) The kids are usually excited by the results; I learned that I have to prep them the first day by showing them an example of how the background might turn out, so they aren’t frustrated by the whites spaces. If a student is disappointed, I tell them that it looks like tie-dye and that the white helps the colors to pop out.

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

On the second day, I keep the image of the paintings on the board and I pass out a sheet that has some of the shape and line combinations from the paintings. I talk them through an example of how you could make a creature by putting together some of the shapes. I think aloud about which shapes I could use as the head, the eyes, the body. This also gives me chance to explain that they can change the size and direction of the shapes. And they can use the same shape more than once. They have free reign to use other shapes they observe in the painting that I might not have put on the hand out. They can also choose if they want to make one, big creature that fills the whole page or if they want to draw a lot of smaller creatures.

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

For most kids, they are able to sketch their creature in pencil, trace it with Sharpie and erase the pencil marks during that second class period. If they finish before class is over, I let them free draw in their sketchbook. Then during the third day of the project, I introduce the “Roll a Miro” game, which keeps them engaged in their sketchbook for the whole class.

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

This project had definitely become one of my favorites. The kids really enjoy making it and it’s a great way to get them thinking creatively. I like that it scaffolds them into more abstract art-making. They aren’t just copying one of Miro’s paintings, but being inspired by his shapes gives them some building blocks to start with.

 

 

Monster Sculptures

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

Third grade art students created three dimensional monsters by painting their design onto a cardboard tube, then hot gluing “extras” onto their artwork.

Supplies:

  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Sharpie
  • Tempera paint
  • Brushes
  • Hot glue
  • “Extras” like googly eyes, gemstones, pom poms, feathers, colorful wire

I like to finish the quarter with a project that introduces my students to the difference between 2D and 3D art. I don’t have a kiln this year, so I decided to create a project using materials that were easier to work with. After reading this post on Redefine Creativity, I knew that creating monsters out of toilet paper tubes would be a great fit! I sent out an email at the beginning of the year letting teachers know I was collecting toilet paper tubes. I also told my students that they could donate them for an art ticket. I ended up with enough tubes to last 4 years!

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

I organized my curriculum so that this project is right after our Pop Art painting project. This way the procedures and techniques for painting are still fresh in my students’ minds. After discussing the difference between 2D and 3D, they sketch their monster onto the tube. I emphasize that the design should go all the way around the tube. If a student has trouble with that idea, I ask them, “What do you think the back of the monster might look like?”

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

After drawing it in pencil, they trace over the lines with Sharpie. This step is essential! Painting such small details on a curved surface can be tricky. Having the bold lines helps to keep the design from getting lost. This project goes fairly quickly, many students will be done tracing by the end of the first class period. I let them work on an old sketchbook project and then we all start paint on the second day.

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

Most students finish painting on the second day. After the paint dries over night they are ready to add their “accessories” on the third day. Some students will still need to paint on the third day. I usually have them choose the “extras” they want to add on and then help them hot glue it during an Art Centers day.

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

A sketchbook project is essential to having Hot Glue Day go smoothly! For this project, their prompt is to draw and color their monster’s family. I have 4 “shopping baskets” and I tell the students I will choose who will “go shopping” first based on who is focused on their sketchbook project. Each student brings their painted monster tube and chooses 7 items that they want to add to their monster. They can choose 7 different things or they could decide that they want to have all 7 items be the same thing.

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

At the beginning of class I show everyone a couple of techniques for taping some of the objects on. I stand at the front of the “shopping” line and help each student hot glue the things that can’t be taped. Past the hot glue station, I have a tape station, so that students can tape down the feathers and wires while I’m still close by in case they run into any problems.

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

Initially, I felt like this project was a little too “crafty” for my taste. But after seeing how well it reinforced the idea of three-dimensional art, I’m glad I tried it out. There is so much room for each student to think creatively; it’s exciting to see how unique each monster is. The kids really look forward to doing this project and they love seeing all of their monsters on display at the Showcase at the end of the quarter.

 

 

Klee-inspired Watercolor Crayons

Inspired by Paul Klee’s artwork, second grade students used watercolor crayons to create artwork with geometric shapes.

Supplies:

  • Light poster board
  • Rulers
  • Assorted circular lids for tracing
  • Watercolor crayons
  • Paint brushes
  • Cups

Downloadable PowerPoint: Klee Watercolor Crayons

This quarter I have the 2nd graders that I had at the beginning of the year. I have been looking forward to expanding the curriculum to projects that go beyond one day and use materials other than crayons, markers, paper, and glue.

I showed my students examples of Paul Klee’s artwork. On the first day of the project they drew shapes all over their paper with pencil. I gave them the option of using rulers or circular lids to trace. They could free hand other shapes if they wanted.

I demonstrated how to color in their shapes using watercolor crayons. A great way to encourage 2nd graders to take their time with coloring is to have them trace a shape before coloring it in. I also explained that they could make “artist choices” about pushing down hard or soft and blending different colors together.

On the second day, I showed them how to paint water over their shapes that had been colored in. We used the same technique of painting the outline first and then painting the inside. I reminded them to rinse their brush in between colors. They were super excited to start painting; there were definitely gasps of amazement when they saw the crayon turn into paint!

On the last day of the project, about half of the class was already finished with their Shape Painting. I started class by having those students work on a sketchbook page. They could draw anything they wanted and use supplies from the Supply Station to color it in. I will staple all of these drawings to create a sketchbook and display them at the Showcase at the end of the quarter.

After the class had settled in, I passed out a piece of cardboard to each table for our collaborative project. We prepped the cardboard and they worked together to paint it once they finished their Shape Painting. I was nervous about combining two projects into one class, especially for 2nd grade, but it went smoothly as long as I made my expectations clear for each transition.

Overall, I really valued the process of this project. The watercolor crayons I had already were pretty old, so I hope if I do it again next year with better quality supplies, the kids will enjoy the colors step more and the paintings will have a little more “umph!”

 

The Magic of Wax Resist

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

Inspired by James Rizzi, fourth grade art students drew landscapes or cityscapes in crayon, then painted their art with watercolors to create a wax resist.

Supplies:

  • Poster board (I used light weight)
  • Crayons
  • Watercolor paints
  • Cups
  • Brushes

Downloadable PowerPoint: Wax Resist Scapes

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

I love love love the first painting project with a class! For 4th graders, I have discovered that wax resist is magical. It introduces my students to watercolor, and gives their work some structure. The crayon outlines help to define what could easily be a messy first attempt at watercolors.

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.
James Rizzi, 2011

I began the lesson by having my students observe a painting by James Rizzi and discussing what types of personalities they saw in the artwork. They shared their answers and we talked about how the artist showed those personalities. Students are inspired by James Rizzi to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.
I got the idea for this project from Deep Space Sparkle. I wanted to broaden how my students could interpret the assignment, so I let them choose if they wanted to create a seascape, landscape, or cityscape. They got to decided if they showed personality by adding cartoon faces or doing something different, like choosing their colors based on what personality they were trying to show.

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

We spent the first day sketching and tracing over the sketch with crayon. I did a demonstration to show them how important it was to push down hard with the crayon. Then I showed them two watercolor techniques: wet on dry and wet on wet. It is always so much fun to wow them with the magic of colors mixing together!

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

In one class a student asked if they could do an outer-space scene. I said “Of course!” That idea took off like wildfire, almost half the class ended up doing something related to outer-space; it was a great opportunity to teach them how to use a compass. I was so excited by the results, I’m going to add it as an option in the PowerPoint for next quarter’s classes.

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

I felt like this project really hit the sweet spot of everything I want in an assignment. My students learned about an artist, got experience with new materials and techniques, and they were able to express themselves creatively in all kinds of different ways! This one is a keeper!

 

Encourage Creativity with Hand-prints

This project introduces printmaking and encourages student to think creatively.

The perfect introduction to printmaking – second graders trace and cut out their hands, then stamp their hand-print onto their artwork.

Art Lesson Video: Hand-prints

PowerPoint: Hand-prints

Supplies:

  • 2 pieces of construction paper per student (I used 8″ X 9″)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black Tempera
  • 1 Brayer (for teacher use)
  • Plate or mirror for rolling the paint

This project introduces printmaking and encourages student to think creatively.

Teaching creativity is almost an oxymoron. How can you teach something that inherently has to come from within another person? My goal this year has been to encourage creativity by presenting projects that are open-ended and allowing students to take their artwork in a new direction. This hand-print project combined cutting, gluing and printmaking in a way that my 2nd graders could finish it in one day. It also turned out to be a great way for my students to make their own decisions about their artwork. I came up with this lesson by reinventing a project I saw on Create Art With Me! 

This project introduces printmaking and encourages student to think creatively.
Teacher example

I usually shy away from showing my students a teacher example, especially at the beginning of a project. It can make them feel like that is the goal, and sometimes it keeps them from trying something new. But I have noticed that my 2nd graders need to see how the process is going to work. So, with this project I showed them my example, but I told them that they could make a lot of “artist decisions” for their artwork.

This project introduces printmaking and encourages student to think creatively.

They got to choose if their hand was opened or closed. They decided if they wanted to cut out one hand or two. When it was time to print their hand, they chose where and how to place it.

This project introduces printmaking and encourages student to think creatively.

The results were so much fun! Everyday I was excited to see how my students interpreted the project in their own way. About half the class decided to create a piece of art that was similar to my example. Which is why I think of this process as “encouraging creativity.” You can create an atmosphere that is conducive to trying new things, but it’s up to the students to decide when they feel comfortable and ready to try something different. Creativity isn’t something you can force!

This project introduces printmaking and encourages student to think creatively.

The other thing I loved about this project is that it was a chance for kids to practice their fine motor skills. Projects or assignments that are only about cutting can be frustrating for 2nd graders. They need the practice, but it helps if that experience comes with learning about something new, like printmaking. And who doesn’t love having paint rolled onto their hand!

Eagle Challenge

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

As an art teacher, sometimes I bristle when people ask me to make “decorations.” There are a few exceptions – I am always excited to do a unit on papel picado for Cinco de Mayo. When the music teacher told me about a concert the symphony would be putting on for the community at our school  and asked if the art students would like to be involved, I jumped at the chance!

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

She told me that one of the themes of the concert was going to be the eagle. I decided to create a challenge assignment for the students and leave the medium and interpretation of the eagle up to them.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

It was incredible to see how many different directions the students took their ideas. I made a list of possible media on the board and let them decide if they wanted to work alone or with a partner.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

Because the art was going to be viewed from far away, I made one of the limitations of the challenge be that their artwork had to be at least 12″ X 18″ – many students went much larger than that.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

The artwork turned out incredible! Having it displayed along the walls when the symphony played made a big impact. It was a great opportunity for a lot of them to work with larger pieces of paper.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

Supplies:   Watercolors, Lino-cut materials, Chalk pastels, Sharpies, Colored pencil