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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Radial Symmetry using Printmaking

Printmaking art project – fourth grade students carved designs into styrofoam using a pencil, then repeated it four times to create radial symmetry.

Supplies:

  • 4 inch squares of paper
  • 4 inch styrofoam squares
  • Painter’s Tape
  • 8 inch squares of neon paper
  • Spray bottles
  • Plates or mirrors for rolling out ink
  • Brayers
  • Black printmaking ink

Downloadable PowerPoint: 4th Printmaking

Students do printmaking using radial symmetry.

My favorite part of teaching printmaking is watching students break down the process and become comfortable with an art form they have never tried before. When I introduce any printmaking project, the kids are in awe of how magical it seems. I love seeing them take ownership of the process and become confident in something new.

Printmaking supplies can be expensive, so I’ve learned where I can cut costs and where I need to buy the good stuff. When I can afford to do lino cuts, I jump at the chance. They are excellent for teaching positive and negative space. Doing Styrofoam prints is a little less glamorous, but I would rather use it than cut printmaking from my curriculum entirely. Styrofoam is also great for younger kiddos who might not be ready to use sharp carving tools.


Even the large packs of Styrofoam can get expensive, so I have been searching for a project that uses small pieces, but still had a big impact. When I saw a project on Art. Paper. Scissors. Glue! that blended printmaking and radial symmetry, I was intrigued. After all, it capitalizes on the inherent benefit of doing printmaking – create an image once and then use it repeatedly. I always do this lesson with my 4th graders right after Notans, so they still have the concept of symmetry fresh in their minds. With high school and middle school students, I introduced the idea of radial symmetry by linking it to the radius of a circle. I quickly realized that 4th graders haven’t covered that yet, so I simplified my definition to symmetry that goes around in a circle.


The sketching step for this is pretty quick. I used visuals on a PowerPoint and did a demonstration to show students how to fold their 4 inch square into a triangle, draw an abstract design and then trace it to the other side. Then I showed them how to tape their sketch onto a 4 inch square of Styrofoam. First, they traced the design on the paper, pressing into the foam. Then, they took the paper off and drew over the design a second time, so they could carve the design into the Styrofoam.


I’ve experimented with several different paper and ink combinations. My favorite, in terms of visual impact and classroom management, is black ink on neon copy paper. It means that every table has the same color ink, which makes our class run so much smoother! But there is still room for color variety with the paper. I have learned that I can cut costs by buying neon copy paper instead of the fancy printmaking paper. But I do not scrimp on ink! I get Speedball block printing ink; I’ve tried using black paint to cut costs and it just does not work well enough. The rule is that a table all raises their hand when they need more ink, and I am the only person who is allowed to squeeze or scoop more onto their plate. That guarantees that their prints don’t get too goopy and our ink lasts as long as possible!


The setup I have at each table is minimal. There is a spray bottle on the mist setting, a plate of ink, and two brayers (one labeled “Ink” and one labeled “No Ink”). Only having two brayers means that there is a little wait time since four students have to share, but having more than four gets very messy very quickly! I’m so glad I invested in a seat of spray bottles for printmaking. Paper that had been lightly misted makes for a much darker, crisper print.


I demonstrate the steps for printmaking and I have the steps listed on the board for students to reference as they work. During the demo, I emphasize the importance of putting a dot in one of the corners on the back of the Styrofoam. Making sure that dot is in the middle for every print is what rotates the image. As they finish, I have students give me their prints so that I can put them onto the drying rack, organized by their table name.


I let students choose how many prints they want to do. They have to make at least two, but they can make as many as five. This range helps reassure students if they get a couple that don’t turn out how they wanted. I also make a point of telling them during the demo that you don’t want your print to look like it was made by a machine, you want it to look like it was made by a human. I didn’t realize how much that statement sunk in for them until I heard them saying it to each other as they were working!

 

 

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!