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.
Many elementary art teachers like to incorporate seasonal content into the art lessons. Though I never let a season control my curriculum, I did love the change of seasons and often used them in the projects if they fit the learning standard I was working with. This project in one that I found fits in well and the students love to get to paint early in the school year. I had my students painting a lot. I enjoy it and I knew they would too. It's something that most students don't get to do at home, so why not let them do it as much as possible at school. Last year I was placed at a couple new schools. It made me smile when the students were thanking me when we painted. When students enjoy what they are doing they are far more engaged in learning.
This lesson was a line review lesson. One of the learning standards I had for 2nd-grade students was for them to be able to distinguish between horizontal, vertical, and oblique (diagonal) lines. We began the lesson by learning the directional lines. We practiced these by using our arms going in the directions of the lines. I would put mine in a horizontal position outstretched and they would copy and say, "horizontal". The same would go for vertical and diagonal. We would then play a game where I would put my arms in a certain direction and they would shout out horizontal, diagonal, or vertical. I would vary my speed as I changed from one to another. They would laugh when I went too fast. It was a fun way to get them moving and engaged in remembering the lines.
As they drew their pumpkins, I explained that we would paint the pumkin with lines that would go the different directions along with as many different kinds of lines they could think of. They brainstormed with their group different lines they might paint onto the pumpkins. I only asked that the horizontal lines stayed in the background and the vertical and diagonal lines go on the pumpkin. This gave us a chance to discuss background and foreground as well.
I didn't spend too much time discussing color, but mentioned that warmer colors reminded me more of Fall. They painted the pumkins using tempera cakes and liquid tempera.
Technology Extension -
When time allowed, in the last few years I have had a technology extension with this project. We used the iPad app Percolator to abstract our pumpkin paintings. This was a great introduction to creating with the iPads and to Abstract art.
There are many fun ways to engage the younger student as they learn about different lines. Encouraging the young artist to recognize and draw different types of lines will help them see things differently and be able to convey what they see. It will also help boost their vocabulary as they learn to describe different lines they see.
One of my favorite lessons classes that I have with a new group of Kindergarten students is introducing them to Line. Most lesson intros have been changed up over the course of my 21 years, however, the way I start this particular lesson has remained the same. After students are settled I told them we would be learning about lines in the next few classes. I then ask them, "Does anyone know what a line is?" 90% of the time I see a hand go up and the following response comes out of the cute little one brave enough to offer an answer up during one of our first classes, "It's an animal that goes roar!"
We all have a laugh together when I explain that I'm not saying, "Lion". I then proceed to draw some different lines as they make their own marks on a paper with crayons. This loosens them up and they are ready to explore lines even more.
Here are some different projects that are great to help Kindergarten students learn and explore the Element of Line.
Monoprints with tempera
Monoprints are great ways for students to explore creating different kinds of lines. Any slick surface can be used. I have used plastic trays, laminated cardstock, and aluminum foil. You can even use plastic ziplock bags. For my Kindergarten students, I squirt some paint on the surface and let them spread it around with a brush or roller. They use cotton swabs or the back sides of paintbrushes to create a design. We put a piece of paper on the top and they rub it around and then pull it off.
This is a great project for these young students because they naturally work quickly.
Paper Line Sculptures
With just a few demonstrations of different folds or curls, the students are ready to create their sculptures. I usually have some glue poured into a paper plate for them to dip the paper into instead of dealing with glue bottles. Before the class is over we take a walk around all the sulptures and I give each student a chance to tell us about it. Some students talk about their favorite part and others go into an explanation of what their sculpture is. It's fun to hear them describe the sculpture as a park, maze, roller coster, house for a creature, and other creative ideas.
What are some of your favorite lessons to introduce the Element of Line?
The beginning of the school year can be a chaotic one in an elementary school. Often schedules are not completely set. Often as late registrations happen classes fluctuate for the first week or so. In my school district after the 6th day of classes, things were set for good. Splits were made and teachers moved to schools were numbers were higher. The first couple of weeks can be a challenge for art teachers because the classes are not set. You don't want to get started with something and then have a different group of students the next class. Because of this I have done different projects at the start of the school year that involved all students or students grouped by grade. Collaborative projects are a good way of starting the school year because it gives everyone time to get to know each other and gives you time to begin to build a relationship with students.
There are many different collaborative projects that can be done. One of my favorites is a version of Circle Painting. It is a great way of reviewing line quality with the older students and introducing it to the younger ones.
After a brief introduction, the students go to it. Students paint for a large portion of the class moving from one table to another and then we pause to go over a few classroom rules or procedures as things are cleaned up for the next class. The finished paintings look great hanging up in the hallways for open houses and until other lessons provide projects to hang.
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