Painting with 2nd graders

The class had been studying northern lights (aurora borealis) during the week, obviously not the physical explanation (although when someone asked I did tell them a simplified version of how the northern lights are created) but they’d been reading poems and stories describing the lights in Lapland.

Since only a few had actually seen northern lights I had showed them this amazing video during previous classes and they were really excited to start working.

Originally I wanted to teach them to work with dry pastels. With dry pastels you would draw the northern lights and then “spray” dots of thick white paint with a toothbrush/regular brush to create stars. ButΒ  unfortunately the school where I was subbing didn’t have dry pastels. So I devised a plan B on the go (plan B is always a must! You never know which supplies each school has!)

Since pretty much every school has the Caran d’Ache crayons and basic water colours, I decided to work with them.

As white paper some times feels just too white, I cut out pieces of brown kraft paper for the students. Although it takes a while, we taped the papers to a base before we started. I think it’s something that should be taught to the students from the beginning, so eventually it will be a natural part of the art class. I hang my own paper+basis to the blackboard so everyone can see the instructions.

We started by learning the crayon drawing techniques before starting (moving our wrists in the air with the crayon). First we drew the line of the horizon and the trees (Siberian spruces btw). Then the northern lights and then worked with watercolors.

The students wereΒ  familiar with the watercolor over crayons – technique already so they kind of knew what they were doing. It took us a while to get the watercolors washed, they were in a horrible condition from the class before us. It’s really important to make sure the kids learn to “caress the colors” as my old teacher told me and as I tell my students now.

The term “caress the colors” before and after working is such a great way of letting the students know that they should not use paper towels/running water to clean the colors. Just a caress with the brush is enough.

It took us 45 minutes to finish these paintings and clean up our mess, although I must say I had to stay and go through walls and the sink after the students had washed their colors πŸ˜‰

The paintings were absolutely AMAZING! The students showed such creativity with them. Unfortunately I don’t photograph my students’ art work / publish them here. I have not asked them or their parents permission to do that, so you have to just take my word for it πŸ˜‰

However here’s the example I made with them. I find that showing an example (or making an example as you explain the assignment) is good with younger students, they know where to start and start working right away. I don’t worry them “copying” the things that I do, usually kids need some guidelines but still do their own thing πŸ™‚

The kids’ paintings were filled with bright colors! Mine here looks a bit blah πŸ˜‰

After a quick example to start the assignment I start going round the class helping the students. If I had an example painting ready I might show it but still make an example painting as we start the activity. When I make the painting WITH them they can see steps and do them with me. If they see a ready made painting it might be hard to understand the process. (Also when you paint with kids, you don’t have to make the paintings beforehand, you know, after school or during the night… πŸ˜‰ )


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2 thoughts on “Painting with 2nd graders

  1. melonaide says:

    I love your post. I teach preschool kids as well in their art class. I agree that doing the painting in front of the kids and showing how it is done is better than presenting a finished art asking them to copy even if it is easy. Good luck to your art classes. – mel πŸ™‚

  2. […] I talked about northern lights and dry pastels way back when one school didn’t have dry pastels and I had to improvise something else. Well, this was what I originally intended to do. Black paper, dry pastels (fixative i.e hairspray) and white paint. (Sorry, the paper is a bit crumbled on the right ) […]

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