Students always love working with clay. It is one of the best ways to get students engaged in a lesson. Because of this, it's a great medium to learn and practice other art elements. In this unit, students in 3rd grade were able to review shapes, both geometric and organic, along with discussing texture and learning a bit about a contemporary artist.
This lesson was first introduced to me by one of my best student teachers. When her time was up, I continued the project with a group of students that were behind and I repeated it the following year.. Students were first introduced to the artist Kimmy Cantrell. We looked at some of his sculptures and talked about what students saw in his works. The students were great at picking out many elements and concepts in the work.
After introducing the sculptural faces of Cantrell, the students were instructed to draw out an abstract face inspired by his works. They used black crayons to do this. We reviewed texture and use rubbing plates to color in different sections of the drawing with different textures.
Some wonderful finished works! The first is my example.
Another great option to this project would be creating holes in the clay to add nails or wire to the work after it was finished.
Do you have any other great clay projects that help reinforce shape with students?
I had students pair up so they could work together mixing one Primary and one Secondary color. They each painted a paper and added some line design on it using a variety of scraping tools and the back of their paintbrushes. The goal was for each pair to make all six Intermediate (Tertiary) colors. Our drying racks quickly filled up!
I instructed students to put their names on the back of each paper before they started or they would not be getting their painted papers back. I'm sure you are not surprised to hear that I had a whole pile of no names. They were just randomly distributed without too many groans. Honestly, the kids had so much fun creating the papers that they didn't care if they got the one they made back or not.
The next class, we looked at the work of Grant Wood. They worked in groups to discuss what they saw in his paintings. We discussed shapes, colors, patterns, and anything else they saw. We talked about how he was a Regionalist artist and what that meant. We had just enough time before class ended to pass out our painted papers and have students choose whatever color of construction paper they would like to use for the sky of a landscape.
If you are an art teacher you have no doubt taught a color wheel lesson or two (or two hundred!) I'm always on the lookout to shake things up away from the boring fill-in the blank color wheel lessons. I do think it is a very important lesson to teach, but we need to change it up some. I continue to refer to a color wheel with my adult students.
So...take the students outside and gather up some leaves and start printing!
Make sure that the leaves still contain moisture. The dry leaves will just crumble.
View the video demonstration below for complete instructions.
Vincent Van Gogh is a popular artist for art teachers to connect to. Personally, he's one of my favorites. I can get lost in his paintings. The thick brushstrokes are perfect for having students review line quality. I targeted third grade for a Van Gogh connection. I've done it many different ways with different media. I've used crayon, watercolor, oil pastel, tempera, collage, and even clay to help students see the different lines he created with the brushstrokes in his paintings.
If I had access to a Smartboard in my classroom I had students come up and draw over all the different lines they could find. In one room, my projector displayed onto my whiteboard so students used dry erase makers.
Theresa Gillespie spent over 20 years teaching Art in the Moline School District in Illinois. She has a BA degree in Art Education and a MEd degree in Education & Technology. She also is a graduate level instructor for The Art of Education