Art lessons for Foundation to Year 6 – Victorian Curriculum aligned
I am a primary school Art teacher in Melbourne, Australia. I have been teaching Art for 13 years and I love finding out about artists and their artworks to inspire students. I am sharing my lesson and unit plans and student artwork examples with other art teachers. I also have an instagram account: @primary_school_art
This lesson is part of a series of lessons around the theme of ‘BIOMES’- (geographical area consisting of a biological community formed in response to the regional climate), this one being a GRASSLAND BIOME. There are many examples of African animal / savanna sunset silhouettes in stock photos and art, and was perfect for Year 3/4 skill set- drawing from observation, fine cutting, and arranging on a warm sunset background.
First we watched a video: The African Savannah – Virtual Field Trip and discussed this grassland biome, listing animals that live there. They viewed some examples of sunset silhouettes with African animals and students used pictures on Google of African animal silhouettes to draw just the shape outline of 2-3 animals and an acacia tree- all in proportion to each other- onto black cover paper (125gsm). The background was made with warm coloured food dye wash on A3 paper.
In the second lesson, the students fringed the edges of a long strip of black paper, then snipped pieces out at an angle to glue along the bottom of the sunset background for the grass. Next they carefully cut out their animals and tree, arranging before gluing down.
I did this project with Year 3/4, but would be really great do with Year 5/6 (11-12 year olds). Firstly, students viewed and analysed different types of landscapes by Australian artists, including Streeton, Drysdale, McCubbin, Namitjira, and Nolan.
Students began this project by choosing an Australian landscape type they wanted to depict. We sorted photos into the following categories: Beach, Bush, Mountains, Desert, River and Rain forest.
Students Began by mixing paint colours to match their photo to paint the background/ underneath layer of their landscape inside a sturdy box lid.
Next lesson they began to texture such as sand, tissue paper, bark, etc to the background- furthest away, moving to middle ground and then foreground. When complete they thought of an interesting title for their landscape and filled out a reflection/ evaluation sheet which was stuck to the back of the box.
Lesson Plan aligned to Year 3/4 Victorian Curriculum with learning intentions, success criteria, slides of Australian landscapes for analysis, analysis sheet, lesson activities and discussion questions, examples of student work, reflection/ evaluation sheet.
The theme of ‘change’ is a perennial one in primary school, and for Prep students, caterpillars to butterflies along with Eric Carle’s ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ is a wonderful inspiration for art lessons. Last year’s Preps made painted paper caterpillar & butterfly collages which were amazing. This year in the classroom they were looking more at chemical change, so I decided to do colour mixing activities- primary colour mixing to make secondary colours.
I shared The Very Hungry Caterpillar story and we looked closely at the colours on the caterpillar. The students were given a small pieces of blue and yellow Model Magic paper clay to roll and knead together to make green. They then tore off small pieces to roll into balls, pushing only lightly together to join. Some decided to make a hump on their caterpillar. Next they were given a small piece of red for the head and a tiny bit of yellow to separate in two for the eyes.
To make purple for the antennae, they were given a tiny amount of blue and red to then roll thinly to attach to the top of the head. They just used a green texta to add dots on the yellow eyes. Brown for the legs.
Butterflies were made by using food dye in dauber bottles on a folded piece of kitchen paper. Students daubed the colours any way they liked and when opened could see the design was mirrored on the other side. (Discuss symmetry!)
The drew a half butterfly wing design and I used that to cut out the folded kitchen paper when dry. Students chose an insect body (made by Roylco), put a chenille stick through the head for antennae and I fan folded their butterfly to insert though the slot in the body.
Next step will be for the Preps to make a leaf for the caterpillar and a wire stand for the butterfly for display! Will update with a photo when done.
Autumn is a wonderful time to do lessons on the concept of change. I collected lots of fallen leaves for the students to look at to talk about the colours, shape, lines and texture- a lesson on art elements in one leaf!
For this activity we collected Plane Tree leaves (there is a Plane Tree right outside the artroom) as they have good veins for rubbing and printing. You can any leaves, and a variety of different prints would be interesting.
Students placed a leaf under their paper and were shown how to hold the leaf and paper down whilst rubbing with the edge of the crayon from the stem outwards along all the veins. We used metallic crayons.
Food dye wash in warm colours was then used to brush over the rubbings to create a resist of the crayon leaf.
The next lesson, students were tracing leaf shapes for a new project while small groups came to do their leaf print. They chose either brown or black for the print, rolled paint over the more textured side, placed in on clean newspaper and popped their background on top. They rubbed smoothly and firmly over the top, making sure to press along each vein and around the edges of the leaf, before lifting their paper to reveal the print.
Victorian Curriculum Lesson Plan with learning intentions, success criteria, lesson activities and photo examples.
The students in Year 1 & 2 had been on a community walk with their teachers down to the shops and services like the police station and library in our local area. In Art class we listed all the places they saw or know, like the local shops, supermarket and cafes.
We had a discussion using “Visual Thinking Strategies” (VTS) after viewing the James Rizzi artwork below. One child said, “It looks like the buildings are alive!” which was a lovely observation…..and I asked, “What do you see that makes you say that?” And on we went.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN THIS PICTURE? WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT MAKES YOU SAY THAT? WHAT ELSE CAN YOU FIND?
We used the idea of drawing shapes, adding a face and windows, and the name of what the building is. This is a spin on a Cassie Stephens mural. They loved this activity and let their imagination run. Paint sticks were used to colour in their buildings.
Year 1/2 Victorian Curriculum Lesson Plan with learning intentions, success criteria, artwork image & discussion ideas, students examples.
Children used pre-cut shapes to assemble a house shape with white or coloured squares for windows and the number of people in their family. They draw a face of each family member on the squares. Shutters (patterned paper) are added over the window squares and cut so they open in the middle.
A background for the newspaper house is made by using white pastel for clouds in the sky (blue dye wash or liquid watercolour over) green sponge for textured grass. Students glue their house to the background, adding trees, flowers, fence.
Paper bag houses!
Not my original idea- I’ve seen this on lots of other blogs- just my take on it.
The paper bag house is a similar process, except the students are gluing onto stiff paper bag (that will stand up on it’s own) They add a garden or yard by sitting it on green paper, adding stand up trees, flowers etc. The roof is a folded piece of coloured card, stapled on.
Lesson plan aligned to the Victorian Curriculum with learning intention, success criteria, lesson activities and a reflection sheet for the students. Lesson includes the mixed media collage and the paper bag houses (similar steps)
Heather Galler, born in 1970 is an American folk artist who make colourful patterned artworks of landscapes, animals and nature. She is well know for her pet portraits, where she uses a photo of a cat or dog, to produce a painted portrait in her folk art style.
After looking at and responding to the colourfully patterned dogs by American folk artist Heather Galler, Year 1 & 2 students explored lines and patterns to use on their own dog outline. The patterns were drawn in oil pastel and then a contrasting colour was painted over each section in dye wash (or liquid watercolour).
Digital Dog using Brushes App
As an alternative extension activity during remote learning, I posted a video demonstration to use Brushes Redux App (for beginners- no layers) to make a digital version of a Heather Galler dog (I think some of the parents enjoyed having a go too!)
Preview of a digital dog -Heather Galler style made using Brushes Redux App without the layers.
Preview of digital artwork using Brushes Redux App- with layers option to trace a dog outline, colour in, add patterns and finally a patterned background in a contrast colour.
Using the layers on Brushes Redux App (or similar) is easy once you know how to do it! It takes a little practice, and for younger kids, some guidance for each step. I have introduced using layers from Year 3 for other digital projects with success.
Lesson plan includes learning intentions & success criteria, examples of artist and student artworks, student self assessment rubric, instruction and links to demonstration videos to make a digital dog using Brushes App (or similar).
A great lesson to do in a unit on pets. We used Andy Warhol’s ’25 Cats’ as inspiration for these drawings of cats in all sorts of positions. Before Warhol was well known, he published a book with lots of illustrations of cats. Warhol was living with his Mum in New York and at one time he had 25 cats cohabiting in the apartment!!
When looking at Street at with students, there are some interesting discussions about graffiti and street art and the fine line between the two. Of course there is much street art that is done with permission or on commission, but some graffiti (not done with permission) can be powerful art too! And then of course there is the graffiti that is only considered vandalism because people don’t appreciate it as art.
We looked at the different styles and types of graffiti / street art including tags (nick name or initials), a throw (still using a nickname or word, but often done with block or bubble letters that are coloured in), a ‘piece’ (like a throw, but usually with more colour), a ‘piece’: (more time spent on the visual conventions of the design including overlapping letters in a style like wildstyle, bubble or block letters adding dimension to the lettering to give it more form, like shadowing, and colour graduation and combination); and stencils which the artist (looked at Banksy’s work) has pre-made a cut out to spray over onto the surface. (see Banksy Stencil post)
The students did a Seesaw activity to review terminology so they could match the terms with some some graffiti & street art images.
Using just their initials, students drew a tag, then explored thicker lettering styles, before deciding which one to use for their (master)’piece’.
A background of a brick wall was printed using foam blocks, and a large “dripping paint blob” was cut out to go under the letters. The lettering needed to be slightly overlapped or connected, outlined, have dimension added in the way of shadow lines and colours chosen to contrast the paint blob.
Lesson plan contains links to Victorian Curriculum, learning intentions and success criteria, rubric for student self assessment, links to useful youTube videos for the class, lesson steps and activities with photo examples, display photos of different types of graffiti (taken by me!) with explanation, and link to an online graffiti maker for early finishers.
This project tied in with our “Picasso Cow Program” where the school was involved in learning about the dairy industry and the health benefits of eating dairy products. The “Discover Dairy” website was a wealth of information with loads of short informative videos.
Firstly, I posed some questions to students to see what their prior knowledge of dairy farms was: What is a DAIRY farm? What does a dairy farmer do? What do dairy farmers do besides milk cows?
We watched some videos from Discover Dairy to give students an insight into life on a dairy farm and were useful to learn about what happens on a typical dairy farm to prompt discussion.
‘George the Farmer’ is a character created by two people from farming backgrounds whose vision is ‘a world where children connect to the earth, food and farm’. Based in regional South Australia, they produce fun picture storybooks about all types of farming and agriculture, with lots of teacher resources as well. https://www.georgethefarmer.com.au We used the picture book: ‘George the Farmer- Ruby and the Dairy Dilemma.’
One of the learning opportunities when beginning our farm scene was about SPACE- foreground, middle ground and background and the size proportions. Students drew a background of farm paddocks, discussing how when things are further away they look smaller. They drew some farm buildings like a dairy, barn or windmill just below the horizon line and added a tractor and maybe a cow in the middle ground.
Students used oil pastels to colour in and food dye wash for grass and sky.
Students then made painted paper for George the Farmer’s shirt and pants, and scraps of painted paper in brown, beige, yellow for the hat, face hands, boots etc. I had several of each shape for the pieces of George in card cut from cereal boxes so the children could trace them on the back of the painted paper, choosing the shape shirt they want. I had painted paper already done for the skin, hat and hair and cut them into smaller pieces to just fit the card shapes so there was no wastage.
I cut out card shapes of the shirt, pants, face, and hat for children to trace around on the back of the painted paper. They used scraps to cut out a belt, boots, hair and hands.
Students paint a print out of a cow and cut out to glue on or the cow could have been drawn onto the middle ground or foreground (larger) instead.