It’s A Meadow In Here


Anyone that has heard me talk about art education knows I don’t love hearing my subject area called “Arts and Crafts.” Putting together a “craft” project step-by-step so that every child’s work looks the same will eventually undermine the development of problem-solving skills and creativity that a fine art education can provide.

That said, I must admit that I love making crafts myself – I am a total Martha Stewart junkie- and I recognize that crafts have their place and can be a pretty great activity when used intentionally. When carefully crafting, children develop fine motor skills and are exposed to new design ideas. With the right materials available, children can also craft creatively, as we did in Grade 2 last week.

Whole Class Independent Activity:

I’m going to call creative crafting “craft exploration”.

In a way, this class structure is a little bit like choice-based art education, which I have been reading a little about lately. It intrigues me. The management style is similar to choice-based art ed in that children are working independently, which allows the teacher to spend a little more time teaching a trickier technique to a smaller group of students. This means that the materials made available for the craft exploration must be simple, safe, and familiar to the students.

Our Craft: Construction Paper Flowers

Materials made available:

  • All the scrap construction paper, ever.
  • All the scrap tissue paper, ever.
  • Scissors
  • Green pipecleaners


For each flower you will need at least two pieces of construction paper cut into different sized flower shapes, and one pipecleaner. Put glue only in the very middle so that the petals on the smaller flower shape can move around and stick up.

I drew a shape on the board at their height with an arrow that said “no bigger than this!” so they could compare their shapes as they cut them out.

This is basically all I gave them. I let them work out the shapes and colours and structure of the flower for the most part.

image-5 image-6

Small Group Instruction Activity:

I called up students four at a time to sit with me at the round table and do a painting for their mother’s day card. I had them wet their piece of watercolour paper with clear water as I told them roughly this: We are making paintings of a flower using a watercolour paint technique called “wet on wet”.

All the steps should be talked through and demonstrated as the activity progresses for best results. That is why I taught this in a small group.


  • Watercolour paper (9″ x 12″)
  • Watercolour paints
  • Watercolour brushes
  • Water (in a cup)

Step 1:

Get your paper wet using clear water.

Step 2:

Swiggle the shape of a flower with wet paint on your wet paper (wet on wet!). See how it spreads out? In art this is called “bleeding”, and this is what happens when we put wet paint on a wet surface. Fill in your flower a little with light paint.


I told students I didn’t want to see any gerber daisies.
I had a quick painting of a flower with petals and a yellow middle
with a big red X through it to drive home my point.

Step 3:

Dip your brush in the paint again and layer some darker swiggles on top of the flower, especially near the bottom. This will make shadows and make your flower look more 3D!


Step 4:

Add a stem, and maybe another flower. Use the whole space!

Here are some of the results…I left it pretty open ended so some of them were all over the map, but they were very beautiful!


“Look at that! I’m making the fluffiest flower I have ever seen!”image-1






Tried and True: Kaleidoscope Name Designs


This is my first “Tried and True” lesson, and you can expect to see them from time to time. As much as I would love to come up with my own ideas all the time, there are some really fantastic art blogs already out there. This term in Grade 5 we have to tackle “A2 create images using the image development strategies of rotation and reversal,” as described by the BC Ministry of Education, so I was looking for some way to get this requirement out of the way so we can start our animation unit (!!!)

Thanks to my art lesson Googling prowess, I found a great lesson online that uses super easy to find materials and challenges my students just enough. Without further ado, I give you…the link!

Teach Kids Art has this great easy-to-use tab on the side that lets you browse lessons by artist, holiday, geography, process, and medium. I will definitely be using it in the future. I checked out the Thanksgiving tab and it is decidedly lacking in hand turkeys, so they have even managed to post meaningful holiday lessons.

Learning Intentions:

  • Students will be able to show that they understand how to create a mirror image.  (BC Grade 5: A2 create images using the image development strategies of rotation and reversal)

Tricky Spots:

  • Step 3: Make sure students know to write their names out first so each letter touches the top and the bottom of the triangle. Maybe even make sketching the “bones” first a mandatory step, before they can add the “flesh” (fleshing it out).

  the “bones”


the “flesh”

  • Step 5: No light tables? No problem! Tracing on the windows works well even if it makes your arms tired.


  • Step 6: They had a really hard time with this step! A lot of them had a hard time understanding they would have to flip their template triangle over so it was facing the window in order to achieve the proper mirroring effect. Some hints you can give: The side of the triangle you drew on doesn’t always have to be facing you. The first letter of your name should always be on the inside, or always on the outside.


And as a final heads up, colouring in took longer than I thought.

Collaborative Crayon Stories


This lesson is a great lesson for any primary classroom. It is simple, quick, and uses materials that are easy to find. The only tricky part is acquiring the book. In Vancouver, this book seems to be everywhere, so I hope that proves to be no problem as well. It’s perfect for getting creative juices flowing, and using as a starting point for Language Arts activities to follow (see below.) 

I love starting primary lessons with a story book. I have been building my library of elementary art books for a couple of years now (slowly, because I was a starving student until fairly recently). Art books are my favourite thing to get as a gift, and I hope to share many of them on this blog! Readers, any recommendations would be more than welcome! 


  • “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt
  • Crayons
  • Large pieces of cartridge paper (18×24)

Part 1: Story Time!


We read The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. This book is a compilation of letters addressed to a boy named Duncan from his crayons, all of whom have very strong feelings about the way they should be used. Spoiler Alert! At the end, Duncan makes a picture with his crayons with their feelings in mind, and gets an A+ for creativity.


Part 2: Collaborative Drawing

Instructions given: In pairs, on large sheets of paper, draw a picture keeping in mind the feelings of the crayons in the book. For example, what colour are you going to make the sun, in order to keep both Orange and Yellow happy? (Orange and Yellow both felt they should be the colour of the sun.) Be as creative as possible!

You may choose to circulate while your students work and have them tell you a story about their drawing. We did, and the results were awesome.


“Our story is basically about a jungle and everywhere in the jungle there are weird things and weird people. The jungle is in outer space. Everything there floats. There are rain clouds that drop brown chocolate raindrops. It is basically a candy coloured jungle. Aliens come to see the scenery and to eat candy flavoured flowers. There is a village that has very happy trees. They have smiley faces and can talk. A long time ago space created aliens and space was without candy and without anybody there. It was boring. So there was a source of candy and aliens to make the place more cheerful. Every day chocolate flavoured raindrops and they make big chocolate puddles for aliens to jump in. In this world, everything is made out of candy and awkward things. Rocks are puffy, turtles have ears on the top of their head, the ocean is floating in the air (it is yellow). There is even a fish with a suitcase and a hat on! Fishes have mohawks and strange aliens from Star Wars (the second movie) come to visit. The sun is orange and yellow because it would be too boring if it was a different colour. The reason the sun is these colours is so that people can lick it like a limesicle.”


“This is a magical flying boat. There is a little girl who is going on an adventure with her puppy on a magical boat. She sees pink water and a whale that different colours on it also. There is a rainbow that is different from the colours she learned in school. She has a wonderful time in there, until she crashes. They had to go on a very dangerous thing. There was a fireball on a shooting star. There was a shark and it died. The shark is in a glass container. It stays in there because it died. The boat takes her home and she is happy. She wrote a story about her adventure, just like us. She showed it to her father and her mother who said, “Where have you been for these weeks?” She said, “You’ll find out” and she took them on the journey.”


“This car is driving on water and it is not even a water car! And, it is still okay when it drives through rocks. It is like a house car. The rocks are red and the water is green and yellow.The mountains are turquoise and red and pink and purple. The stars are rainbow stars. I have two pink clouds with grey rain coming down. I have two fish. One is a blue fish with a orange mouth and a purple eye and the other is a black fish with a yellow mouth and a blue eye.”


E: There are two ladies falling out of their planes. C: They’re going on a trip and they’re going skydiving and they want to find interesting places, so they find a colourful world, so they jump down and see a mermaid and different types of fish E: …and a weird whale! C: And then people in another plane see them falling out of the plane and they say “hey!” E: They see the sun and they’re like, “Woah, that’s a wack wack sun.”

Part 3: Follow-Up Activity (Language Arts)

Students blindly chose a crayon from a box, then wrote a letter to themselves from the point of view of the crayon. We asked: “How is your crayon feeling? What does it like? What does it not like?”

They wrote one page letters to themselves. Remarkably, they seemed to pick up on the patterns from Daywalt’s writing in the story – most of them independently signed the letters, “your (adjective) friend, (colour) crayon.” Next time I would add this to the criteria for everyone.

Possible Criteria for Follow-Up Activity:

  • Write a letter to yourself from the point of view of your crayon
  • Sign your letter, “your ____________ friend, __________ crayon” *

*This is a good lesson to introduce letter writing language, so if students don’t already know what “signing a letter” is, now is a great time to teach them! Make sure you give examples from the book of adjectives they could use in the closing sentence. Ask them to suggest other adjectives they could use to describe how someone might be feeling.

Renaissance/Classical Sculpture Challenge

DSC_0881      DSC_0880

I have been working with my Grade 6 classes all year on independence, so the format of this lesson is going to be unlike the previous two. My goal is always to foster independent artistic problem-solving skills, and I often give “challenge” lessons with a few instructions, but no step-by-step guides to my classes. At the beginning of the year the sixes hated me not telling them exactly what to do at all times, but they have evolved into fantastically creative and confident individuals over time.

This lesson is Part II of an abridged History of Art in Europe unit I am doing this term while they study Europe in Social Studies. We did medieval art last lesson, and this lesson we moved onto the Renaissance, though in a longer unit I would have done this lesson to kick the unit off because we would have had time to go as far back as ancient Greece and Rome. 

Learning Intentions:

  • Students will be able to create proportional miniature human sculptures. (BC curriculum – Visual Arts A2 (minification))



  • White modeling clay
  • Toothpicks
  • Popsicle sticks (for support)
  • Kleenex/Tissue
  • (optional) rocks
  • (optional) marble slabs
  • (optional) shells

Pre-Lesson Conversation: (15 Minute Art History lesson)

Before the lesson, I showed one slide of Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew and had the students just sit in silence and observe it, then I asked them to share what they noticed. I then briefly talked about the Renaissance, but this is where, if you were studying this from an ancient Greece/Rome perspective, you could talk about classical sculpture and art. For those of you trying to figure out how to describe the Renaissance to your students, the kid-friendly, somewhat historically correct summary is as follows:

The Renaissance:

The Renaissance was when people started thinking a lot differently. Before this, the church and royalty controlled almost everything, and most people just did what they were told, but during the Renaissance more and more people started asking questions and seeking answers, and they referred to themselves as “humanists.” Instead of someone saying “Do this!” and them saying “Okay,” they asked “why?” It isn’t that they weren’t Christians anymore, because most still were, but they were more thoughtful about their beliefs.

I talked about how Italy was sort of the “capital” of the Renaissance, particularly Florence. I mentioned the Medici family, and one of my students informed her classmates that they were very powerful and killed everyone in their way so they could be the Pope. I pointed out that, while on the one hand this was a period of enlightenment, it was still a period of horrible people getting their way, but they at least commissioned a lot of art.

I used the Ninja Turtles to guide a brief look at some of the artwork from that period. Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo. Miraculously, almost all my students know who the Ninja Turtles are, even though they are more of a thing of my generation.

Instructions given:  

We looked at Michelangelo’s David (censored, of course, as it would have been the talk of the school otherwise), and I showed the following slide. Note: David is a perfect example when talking about correct proportions – ask the students to identify the part of David that is not in correct proportions (his huge hands!)


Note: I did not say they had to stand up…I wanted them to spend their time making sure the person looked proportionally correct, and it would have to have massive tree trunk legs in order to be free standing when it is made out of modeling clay, and then some.

A selection of the results:


Left to right: Mermaid on the Rocks, Tintin reading, Greek Katniss, a bride, Venus? looking in a mirror, woman, mermaid on the rock, a woman with a cape, and the Thinker.

My students were very inspired by Rodin’s The Thinker, and mermaids it seems.

Roy Lichtenstein Onomatopoeia Collages


Since the Grade 5 students at our school were examining super heroes in their homeroom classes and comic books in French, I decided Roy Lichtenstein was a perfect artist study to embark on. Probably the chief place I look for lesson inspiration is on Pinterest; I start with an idea, say, Roy Lichtenstein, and type in “Roy Lichtenstein lesson” in the search and then just scroll through the photos until I find something I like, then I make up the process that will take us to that end result. So to give credit where it is due, I found this pin: and worked backwards from there. 

This project was a perfect fit in Grade 5, and would work well in any class that knows how to make block letters. It is a great intermediate lesson with a very high success rate! 

Learning Intentions:

  • Students will be able to use found text to create texture.
  • Students will be able to show understanding of good composition by using the whole space.
  • Students will be able to express an onomatopoeic word visually.
  • Students will be able to use layering to create depth.



  • Blue construction paper
  • Yellow construction paper
  • Red construction paper
  • Newspaper or magazine pages (with lots of text)
  • Glue sticks
  • Black markers
  • Pencils
  • Scissors

tricky spot 3

Pre-Lesson Conversation:

Show some slides of Roy Lichtenstein’s work, and explain what Pop Art is. Pop Artists were trying to change the way people thought about art. Many people thought art should be complicated and fancy and follow certain rules, but this meant that not as many people could connect with art and enjoy it. Pop Artists wanted to make art that every person could recognize instantly and engage with, so they chose to depict things that everyone in their society knew, like celebrities, Campbell’s Soup, and comic books.

Questions for the class:

  • How does Roy Lichtenstein create texture in his paintings?
  • What sort of colours does he use?
  • What do you notice about the way he uses paint? Are his colours blended together or separate?

Step 1: 

Choose one colour of construction paper to be your background, and put it aside. Choose another colour to use for your onomatopoeia word, and begin to sketch the block letters.

You can add small details to their letters, like making a “Zap” jagged like a lightning bolt, to express the meaning of the word in the way they shape the word itself.

tips for success

Step 2:

Cut out the letters for your word.

Cut out clouds, bursts, lightning bolts, or other shapes of your choosing. You should have some small shapes, some large shapes, and a few similar shapes of various sizes to layer on top of each other (see examples).


Step 3: 

Arrange the shapes and letters on your background page until they are exactly the way you like them. Do not glue them down until you are absolutely sure, and make sure you are using the whole space.


  • Have you used the whole space?
  • Have you layered shapes to create depth?
  • Do you have enough texture (text) showing?


Step 4:

Glue your pieces down.

Step 5:

Use a black marker to outline all your shapes, and add a few little detail lines.


Aurora Borealis Mixed-Media Nightscapes


I came up with this project in response to the ever-present dilemma of creating non-denominational winter holiday cards.We made full-size (9″x12″) landscapes to display as well as quarter-size (4.5″x6″) landscapes for the holiday cards, and they were all beautiful. This lesson has been successful so far in Grade 5, and should be appropriate for any intermediate grade, though it has potential as a small group lesson in the primary grades. 


Learning Intentions:

  • Students will be able to see how using light materials on a dark background creates a glowing effect.
  • Students will be able to use chalk pastel smudging techniques deliberately to create the desired effect.


  • Blue construction paper
  • Black construction paper, cut lengthwise in half
  • White paint
  • Little cups and/or containers (for the white paint…palettes work too)
  • Toothpicks
  • Glue (white glue or glue stick)
  • Chalk pastels

Step 1: 

Use chalk pastel to draw squiggly lines with wide horizontal sweeps from the bottom corner of the blue construction paper to the opposite top corner. Do not blow or shake off chalk dust, as you will need it in the next step.

image(3)         Tricky spot aurora 1

Tips for Success in Step 1:

  1. I recommend using 3-4 colours of chalk pastel, and one of them should be white.
  2. Instead of tracing the same line exactly with every colour of chalk pastel, picking and choosing where to add colours to your line makes the aurora borealis look like it is changing colour.
  3. Use white to brighten certain areas, and darker colours like forest green or navy blue to help other areas fade into the night sky.

Step 2:

Place your finger or thumb directly on the line. Press down and drag the chalk pastel up towards the top of your page. Repeat this process working either from the bottom of the page to the top, or the other way around.


Step 3: 

Use a toothpick dipped in white paint to dot the starry sky. Don’t forget to put stars everywhere, including ones that shine through the aurora borealis.


Step 4:

Use scissors to cut a jagged line into a black construction paper strip. Vary the line to make your trees more interesting, instead of having ones that are all the same height.


Step 5:

Cut little details and texture out of the tree line.

Tricky spot aurora 2




Step 6:

The starry sky should be mostly dry by the time you finish the details on the tree line, which is perfect because it is now time to attach the tree line. Carefully line up the bottom of the tree line strip with the bottom of the page and glue this in place.