Monday, February 15, 2010

What shall I paint? How about Penguins on the ice?

This is the title of a Usborne book, one of several that I own. I like the big illustrations in the book. I love the colorful illustrations and the kid centered projects in this book. I am also drawn to those ideas that will get kids "out of the box" in their artistic thinking. I enjoy using materials that wouldn't normally be considered for a painting project. This probably explains why my current art studio center (what I'm trying to call my centers now - studio centers) has available an assortment of combs, forks, spoons, sponges, tongue depressors, straws, miscellaneous screws and other hardware for making a variety of marks and effects. I'm sure my collection will grow as I discover new things with which to paint.

This is a third grade art project but it would also work well with my second graders. A brave soul might even try it with the first graders (not me - teaching my first graders is like trying to hold down a bathtub full of corks). In this project, which takes several steps, students first paint the lower 1/4 of the paper with white paint. The paint can be sponged on, wiped on with a cloth, or painted on with a wide brush. After the white is applied, the student then paints the top 3/4 with a blue. A dark blue is best as they will be adding more white to the blue section.

You don't have to let the blue section dry to begin the next step. Experiment with it and see how it works for you but we painted the next step right away. The directions call for painting white on clingwrap and pressing the wrap onto the blue side of the picture. The white paint beads up on the clingwrap and when applied to the blue it gives a frosty look. Repeat this until the desired effect is reached. "Frost" the entire blue section. (We used plastic sandwich bags. Students placed their hands in the bags, like a glove, painted one side white and then applied the paint to the blue area that way).

Finally, add the penguins. The steps we followed are right from the book. Paint the black body (and oval) and add the black wings. Let this fully dry and then add orange feet, and orange beak, white belly area, and a small white circle for the eye. When that dries add a dot of black to the white eye.

In the white area students used familiar shapes to paint colorful fish, allowing to dry before adding the details on the body.

The kids had a great time with this project. What I like best about art projects like this one is that they often lead to unique innovations as students try the same techniques (with various twists) in future painting projects. This particular project is good for the younger primary students because most of the shapes they will use are one with which they are most familiar.

This project was done whole group with a lot of teacher direction. If I were to do this project at one of my centers, I'd likely make it a "have to" so that all students would learn the painting technique. Most of the steps are easy and a quick demonstration can get the class started. Teaching in centers the way I do allows me to hover at one studio center and do some small group teaching. After a few students learn the process, they become peer teachers and help the others with the process. This approach has been working with many of my other center activities and allows me to move around the room and spend time with various groups and even individuals.

Your thoughts are most appreciated. Thanks for reading. A small gallery can be found here.


  1. Like holding down a bath tub full of corks, what a great analogy! That is EXACTLY how I feel with first grade! Sometimes I think they are more "corky" than my Kindergarten students!

  2. Definitely true in my case. I almost decided against using centers with my first graders because they are so challenging. But even with a whole group project they can give me a run for my money. I'm hoping they'll settle before the end of the year!

  3. It is so good to know that everyone has challenging first graders!!!! I love my Ks and can deal with my 2nd graders, but 1st graders wear me out!! Especially, the last class of the day that comes!!!