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

 

 

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Shape Robots

 

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

To create a collage robot, third grade students cut out and glued down overlapping organic and geometric shapes.

Supplies:

  • 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?

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.
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.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

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.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

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.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

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.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

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.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

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.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

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.

 

Embracing Chance with Circle Art

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A collaborative art project that revolves around the element of chance – second graders worked with their table to create sculptures using colorful paper scraps they chose randomly.

Supplies:

  • Long scraps of construction paper
  • Cardboard
  • Paint
  • Art Paste

Downloadable PowerPoint: 2nd Circle Sculptures

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My original inspiration for this project was to use up paper scraps. I saw photos on Art Actually and was excited to alter the project for my 2nd graders. As I started prepping for it, the core goal became to help 2nd graders embrace chance while teaching them about abstract sculpture. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how well the kids responded and how incredible the finished product looks.

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

I did the project over two class periods. The first day I combined prepping the cardboard with finishing our last project. We started by looking at Lee Gainer’s artwork; the kids made observations about what they noticed. Then, each table got a piece of cardboard and wrote their table name and teacher name on the back. Then, I walked around the room and had the students randomly pull out four colors and tape them to the back of their cardboard. I explained that these would be the colors they would use to make circles

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

Choosing the 4 colors was the first “chance” element and it went over really well. I had a couple of kids say, “Oh I don’t like this color.” But once I causally said, “Well, it’s kind of like a surprise, isn’t it?” they were okay with not being able to choose. The next “chance” element was the paint. I had six closed containers of paint and I asked one person from each table to come pick a container. That was the color they used to paint their cardboard. This step was a little crazy because I had tables finishing at different times. Once a table finished and cleaned up, I had that group start drawing sketchbook pages, which helped to keep them focused.

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There was a bit of prep work for the second day; I spent 15 minutes before each class organizing cups of paper according to the pieces each table had taped onto their cardboard. This made the actual class time go so much smoother. I also mixed up the paste a couple weeks early because I was using a brand I hadn’t tried before. It was a weird chunky mess for several days. I was finally able to smooth it out using a paint stirrer attachment on my drill.

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

I did a demo for each class and showed them how to wrap the paper strips around a pencil. I emphasized that you have the “let it grow” by taking it off the pencil and letting go of it. If they dipped it into the paste before doing this step, it would unravel with the paste dripping everywhere, which could get messy! I was surprised that I actually had to encourage them to dip their circles deeper into the paste. Many of them had a tendency to not get enough paste on the bottom of the circle. I also went around with a paintbrush and added a little extra paste to circles that looked like they were about to fall off.

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The finished artwork took several days to dry completely. They definitely took over my classroom for the week! Once they were dry, I was able to hang them up for our Showcase. I used command strips and a staple gun, in the future I think I would just use the staple gun. It was cheaper and held the artwork up better. The cardboard curls as it dries, so I tried to staple them on the two points that naturally touched the wall, so that it didn’t strain the art and cause the circles to pop off.

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Displayed together, these had an incredible visual impact. The kids loved looking at them as they walked to lunch and so many teacher commented on how cool it looked. It was one of those rare projects where both the process and the end product are fantastic!

 

 

 

The Stunning Simplicity of Notans

Fourth grade art students created notans by cutting shapes out and flipping them to create symmetry.

Supplies:

  • Small construction paper to cut out of (I use 9″ x 9″)
  • Large paper to glue onto (I use 18″ x 18″)
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks

Downloadable PowerPoint: Notan

I was unsure about doing a notan project with 4th graders. It was one of my favorites for high school students, but I was worried it might be overwhelming for elementary. After doing it 3 quarters in a row, and seeing the beautiful results, it’s a staple in my curriculum.

I did simplify the process, which took a little trial and error. I didn’t want to use exacto knives in elementary. During  the drawing step, they had to start and stop their shapes on the edge of the paper. I also realized that keeping the shape on the same edge made it so much easier when it came time to flip the shapes and glue them.

Probably the best thing I did was to play them a video of someone making a notan. It really helped them to see the whole process before they started. It unlocked the mystery to making something so complicated. They were surprised that the steps were actually simple.

I had bags with their table names that they could put their shapes into as they cut them out. The biggest organizational breakthrough I made was having each kid at a table pick a different color square to draw their design onto. It made sorting shapes so much easier!

I encouraged the kids to draw shapes they would enjoy cutting out. This definitely brought the frustration level down significantly. I was also pretty loose about how the kids glued them down. Most students really wanted to figure out how to make it symmetrical. But for the students who were about to give up, I reassured them that they could glue down their shapes in a way that looked cool.

The end product really is stunning. They are the largest piece of art we make during the quarter. I think creating something that is so intricate really boosts their confidence as artists. When a student chooses their notan as a piece for Showcase, it has a big impact in the hallway!

 

Paper Challenge

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

High school students design a solution to the challenge “Create a piece of artwork using only paper and adhesives.”

Supplies:

  • Paper (Construction, card stock, origami, etc.),
  • Adhesives (Glue, tape, staples, etc.)

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

At the beginning of the second semester, I decided I wanted to try something new. With such small classes, I felt like I could open up the projects so that students had more room to explore. I came up with the idea of presenting assignments as “challenges.”

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

The first challenge they did was simple: I asked them to create a piece of artwork using only paper and adhesives.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

In order to get their brains thinking of ideas, I showed them a PowerPoint filled with examples of artwork that were made out of paper. I made it very broad so that they could see how many different directions they could take their project. I didn’t leave the PowerPoint up while they sketched because I wanted to encourage them to come up with their own solution instead of copying another project exactly.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

Another way I helped them to think of ideas was to list examples of all the different kinds of paper and adhesives that we had in the room. If a student was stuck coming up with an initial idea, I would help them begin to narrow it down by asking them if they wanted to make a 3D or 2D piece of artwork.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

Instead of requiring them to do a sketch first, I told them they could choose between sketching or experimenting with an idea. I was impressed by how many of them took their experiment seriously and came up with some very cool results.

 

 

Abstract or Realistic?

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

For the first semester this year, I took a new approach to teaching the Elements of Art. Instead of just having a project that used the element we were focusing on, I explained the concept and then gave my students a choice of two projects – one that was realistic and one that was abstract.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

On the first day of class, I showed my students examples of realistic and abstract artwork. I also demonstrated how artwork is not either/or when it comes to abstract and realistic. We talked about how any piece could fit anywhere on a “timeline” of representational to non-representational artwork.

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In the middle of the year, I had them work in groups to practice thinking about where a piece of artwork would fit on the “abstract to realistic” continuum. I printed out five pieces of artwork for each group and had them discuss and sort where they would place each one.

abstract vs real

Doing all of this work with abstract vs. realistic up front made it easier when we got into more complicated concepts like Space. Since they already understood that they could make artwork anywhere along that continuum, they could focus their energy on understanding the element of Space.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

After discussing the element of Space, I gave students the option of creating a more abstract notan or a more realistic drawing of a room. The notan used the concept of positive and negative space, while the room focused on drawing in two-point perspective. (For the room drawing I used the same lesson from last year about Surreal Spaces, but I only briefly touched on incorporating surrealism.)

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

Some students drew incredibly realistic rooms, while others created more surreal atmospheres. The notans were equally diverse. It was exciting to see my students exploring the full spectrum of abstract to realistic artwork.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

I could see that opening up the assignment helped students to feel more comfortable being adventurous with their project. Instead of ending up with a set of cookie cutter pieces of artwork, each student’s art was truly unique. Another benefit was that even though my students each picked one project, they got to learn about and see the process of doing the other assignment while they watched their classmates.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

Abstract (Notans): Black construction paper, White construction paper, scissors, X-acto knives, glue

Realistic (Perspective drawings): Drawing paper, colored pencils, markers

Downloadable PowerPoint: Abstract vs. Realistic