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
Preps have been learning about ‘diversity’ and that differences should not only be respected but celebrated! We shared the book “The Mixed Up Chameleon” by Eric Carle where the chameleon wanted to be like other animals but after becoming like each one and getting mixed up, decided it was actually great being himself after all. We discussed a chameleon’s special talent of changing colours to camouflage itself.
Students followed a directed drawing of a chameleon on a piece of A4 paper, and made a ‘foil print’ with markers on the reverse: Colour with markers on aluminium foil, fine spray of water, take a print! Preps made a branch from twisted tissue paper and stuck leaves on a background paper then cut out their chameleon and glued onto the branch.
Foundation (Prep) Lesson plan learning intentions, success criteria, drawing guide for a chameleon, lesson activity steps, artwork examples.
While exploring the theme of the brain in Art lessons, I saw an activity to make a ‘brain hat’ by printing, cutting & folding a template, but wanted something more ‘arty’ so using the right side of my brain- (known as the creative artistic side!) I came up with the idea to make a paper mache hat with the two sides- the creative side using any chosen design and art materials, and the logical/reasoning side represented by cogs and other bits like a steampunk ‘machine’.
The students blew up a balloon to about the size of their head and began to do alternate layers of newspaper and plain ‘newsprint’ paper to the top half of the balloon. We used ‘Cellogel’ which is like a wallpaper paste. I actually mixed in a bit of PVA with it for extra strength. Another recipe some use is flour and water. They did minimum four layers. This took us two lessons.
We had already discussed the two sides of the brain, so once the paper mache ‘hat’ was dry, students drew a line down the middle to divide into left and right brain. They proceeded to paint and add embellishments to each side. For the logical / reasoning side we used supplies from Zart Art: Wooden Gears and Cogs and Buckles and Bits, along with ribbed cardboard, mesh, and industrial look adhesive foil for some great textures that are highlighted with the copper coloured Rub ‘n Buff.
The creative side was all about colour, pattern and embellishments including pom poms, patty pans, sequins, buttons and any ‘bits’ they wanted to use.
Lesson Plan with learning intentions, success criteria, activity discussion and steps, materials & resources, student examples.
During our “Brain” themed art lessons, we looked at the art of David Shillinglaw from the UK. He is known for his drawings, paintings and sculpture that responds to planet Earth, the cosmos, nature, landscape, & humans in the universe. He had an exhibition in Spain in March 2022 entitled COSMOS which included a number of paintings and clay sculptures of human heads presented as a “vessel full of dreams, a flesh machine in constant flux” and a “cosmic container, filled with fears, fantasies, facts and fictions. Enjoy your head space, it’s where you live”.
We discussed his Pot Heads (I called them Clay Heads!) and his Humanoid artworks, describing them and suggesting meanings that might be expressed by them, especially in relation to our brain and it’s various parts and functions.
To make the head, we used air dry clay, as sadly I do not have a kiln. The students broke their piece of clay into half and used one piece to form a “tall” thumb pot, drawing the sides up rather than out. The other half was used to make the top of the head (brain!) and the neck. The top of the head was formed into a shallow pot until it fitted the bottom part of the head. Students used the scratch and slip method to join the neck to the head, then smoothed the clay together for a seamless join. They needed to make sure it sat steadily and was balanced with the “brain hat” on top.
Students used acrylic tempera paint to paint their heads. Once dry they used paint pens to add details.
Year 3/4 have been learning about different biomes in their classroom, and in art lessons we have been making artworks about various biomes too. These artworks are focusing on aquatic biomes, specifically coral reefs. For inspiration we looked at the illustrations in the book, ‘Hidden in the Sea’ by Peggy Nille, and the art of Melanie Hava, (@artofmelaniehava) an Indigenous artist from Queensland, near the Great Barrier Reef. We also did an artwork comparison with one of Ken Done’s reef paintings.
Painting the sea was also a lesson about tints by mixing white with blue from light to dark. We used Melanie Hava’s ‘A Reef Wonderland‘ as the inspiration for the sea with a light source from a circle. Students started with a white circle high on the paper, then gradually added more blue in concentric circles until the filled to the edges of the paper and top of reef outline drawn at the bottom.
After looking closely at Melanie Hava and Peggy Nille’s illustrations students add patterns of lines and shapes to the reef. They then draw 3-4 sea creatures in size proportion to each other on a smaller piece of paper (A4). These are coloured in with paint sticks or markers and patterns and details added with paint pens (like Posca)
Next step was colouring the sections of the coral reef with warm colours- we used Zart paint sticks/slicks, as they give the painterly effect, but dry quickly. Paint pens (like Posca) are used to add texture, patterns and plants.
Final step is for students to cut out their sea creatures, arrange and paste them onto the background.
Year 3/4 Victorian Curriculum aligned lesson plan: Learning Intentions, success criteria, links to artist’s work, learning activities, Venn diagram for a comparing two artworks, reference sheet with organic patterns for reef and plants, student self evaluation rubric, student artwork examples.
Year 3/4 project looking at Australian animal habitats and biome of temperate forests where koalas, possums, sugar gliders, quolls etc. live. Students viewed and discussed artworks by a local wildlife artist and then chose an animal (I had plenty of print out image photos to choose from – mostly koalas) and sketching it large on their paper. They then used dye wash for the negative space, before mixing colours to paint the tree and animal using brush strokes to help create texture.
Foam leaf shapes were embossed with lines and then printed around the animal. Extra texture was added with chalk pastels, like on the animal’s fur and especially a koala’s ears!
Lesson plan linked to Yr 3-4 Victorian Curriculum, learning intentions, success criteria, artist artwork (with link for website) for discussion, lesson activities and materials, evaluation rubric.
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.