4th Grade


Another colleague taught this lesson when I student taught. I have taught it a few times over the years, and am always impressed with students’ creativity. It’s a fun lesson with a lot of possibilities and allows students to bring humor into their work.

I introduce the lesson by having students close their eyes and listen to me read a few names from the list and try to imagine a picture of what they hear in their head. Then, students open their eyes and I tell them that the names I read were real bird names. I defined the word pun and challenge students to create a visual pun by drawing one of the birds the way it might look based on it’s name.

I photocopied a list of bird names for each table and cut it into three strips (so students could share easily). Students went to their seats and created a sketch of one of the birds form the list. Some students made one sketch; some made many. Then, students traced a 1″ boarder onto a piece of 12″x18″ paper paper using a cardboard template, enlarged their drawing and traced it with permanent marker. (Tracing with Sharpie was optional.) Students were also required to draw a real or imaginary background to help describe their bird. Next, I showed students how to blend colors. Students had a choice of using oil pastels, crayons, colored pencils, or a combination of materials to color their picture. Students really enjoy this lesson and I love seeing all of the different results!

How do you include humor in your classroom?





One of the things that makes New England so special is fall. I love the harvest season and have been working on a vertically aligned drawing curriculum using elements of fall to teach observation skills to Kindergarteners-4th graders. (The entire curriculum is still a work in process.) As part of this curriculum, fourth graders observe and paint local leaves.

For homework, students were assigned to collect and bring in a leaf that had 3-4 colors in it. Students found the most beautiful leaves!  When students came to class, I showed them a PowerPoint about Georgia O’Keeffe and the leaf paintings that she created on her trips to Lake George. Then students had to observe their own leave and write down some of the facts they noticed about it–including colors, shapes and types of margins and veins. Students also planned their composition (square or vertical) by sketching their leaf. After class, I pressed each student’s leaf under a stack of magazines for two days and then laminated them. (I used stickies to mark each group of leaves so that I didn’t get them mixed up!) Next, they enlarged their leaf onto a 12″x12″ or 6″x12″ piece of drawing paper and then traced their lines with a thin Sharpie.

After carefully drawing their leaf, students began painting. I reminded them to reference the color wheel they made prior to the assignment and to try and match the size of their brush to the space they were trying to paint (small brushes for small spaces and larger brushes for larger spaces).

Students worked so hard on these paintings! I love the variety of ways students chose to paint their backgrounds.


4th Graders are literally printing up a STORM in art class! 🙂 After drawing and carving a spring-time image, students printed their picture two ways. First they printed with a water/marker technique.


After the prints dried, students experimented by printing a layer of black ink on top of their image.


The fourth graders have finished creating their clay spoons, so we took a little time during class today to reflect on the process:

1. Explain what a symbol is in your own words.

S: Something that represents someone or something.

L: Something that represents your favorite hobby.

2. What symbols did you include on your spoon?

F: A basketball, a football, and a monkey

Sh: A neuron, a fish, a bowl of rice, and a book

B: A snowman, a smiling face (to represent that I like comedy), an ambered colored book (to represent my favorite history book)

T (4S): Lollipop, paintball pellet, ipad

B (4S): I included a lego brick, a marker, scientific beaker, a piece of quantum foam

G(4S): I have a cupcake, an Iviva shopping bag, a music note, and a soccer ball.

H (4S): Belgian flag, a tiger, a basketball, a soccer ball, and skis.

A (4S): A music note, a Hersey’s Kiss, a turtle, and theatre masks.

D (4Ge): A paintbrush and an art palette, an ice skate, a tiger, and an ice cream cone.

T (4Ge): A watercolor case and brush, a cupcake, and a math equation.

A (4Ge): A soccer ball, a dog’s paw print, and a sun.

3. What is one thing you learned about the clay process?

N: There are lots of steps. One of them is shaping the clay.

K: I learned that when you want to make a bowl or something round, you can make a pinch pot first.

M: You have to be patient and let the clay dry before you glaze it.

D (4S): Clay is messy.

S (4S): When you don’t want your clay to dry, put it in a plastic bag.

G (4S): You need to smooth the clay, so that when you paint it it looks nice.

4. What is one thing you learned about glazing?

Na: If you want the glaze to be dark (without white spots), use three layers of glaze.

E: Most of the time the colors look different after they come out of the kiln (because the glaze melts).

T (4S): The chemicals get heated by the kiln and change.

A (4Ge): You don’t put glaze on the bottom of the spoon. Because otherwise it will stick when you put it in the kiln.

5. Imagine your friend wants to make a clay spoon. What tips/advice would you give him/her?

J: Don’t be surprise if your glaze looks different because after it goes in the kiln it might change colors.

V: Paint three layers (or more) of glaze so the colors show up better.

A: Look at the samples to match the glaze colors you want.

G (4S): Smooth your clay so you don’t see any cracks.

D (4S): Don’t glaze the bottom of your spoon, otherwise it will get stuck to the kiln.


“An End of a Sunny Day”

Fourth graders created abstract collages after looking at Matisse’s cut outs. Students worked on this project for two days and practiced giving feedback. Without knowing what the collage was about, students guessed a partner’s topic or idea. If the person couldn’t guess, the artist would tell the idea and then the guesser would give one or two suggested for what could change to make the idea a little easier to guess.

Over Thanksgiving I went to see Henri Matisse’s Cut Outs at the MoMA. Inspired by the the extraordinary exhibit, and this video of the traveling show during it’s time in London, I’ve been thinking about ways to share Matisse’s story and artwork with my students. Because my fourth graders just created a series of abstract paintings, I thought this would be a good follow up lesson. Stay tuned to see what they create…

IMG_9783After working on observational leaf paintings for a few weeks, I wanted students to have a different painting experience. For this lesson, students created abstract paintings while listening to music. The goal was to “try and translate the song–the sounds you hear, speeds you feel, and emotions you experience–into lines, shapes, and colors.” I played four different instrumental songs and encouraged students to think about different ways they could use their paint and brushes to describe the sounds.

Here are some of their reflections :

Which song was your favorite? Why did you like it best?

E: “The second song because [the painting I made of it] is very colorful and has wavy lines”.

N: “The third song because mine looks like a rainbow monster. The song sounded very colorful.”

T: “The fourth song because I put more dots [in my painting] because I thought it matched the sounds in the song.”

What did you like about making these paintings?

J: “It was fun because one of the songs was electric music and I was thinking about a humongous blue lightning explosion.”

E: “I liked that you get to do the pictures in your unique way.”

M: “For the first song, I thought it was really slow so I let my brush do it’s own thing.”

G: “That you could make them weird and use different colors that you probably wouldn’t always use.”

B: “With both art and music you can translate the notes into colors, shapes, and flavors. Like ‘That note is… definitely this color or this flavor.’ The third song I thought about it as flavors and I was able to translate [the sound] into a deep purple.”

R: “I liked that none of the songs started out the way that they ended. Some started out slow and then went fast. You got different pieces and could use different types of paints [to make the different sounds.]”

C: “I liked that we were more free… listening to the music and trying to turn it into colors seemed more creative.”

L: “We had a lot of freedom finding out what colors the song would be.”

What was difficult about this process?

A: “It was hard not to turn things into pictures because some kids who like to run might want to turn [a song] into somebody running. One of the songs reminded me of the beach and I wanted to paint the beach.”

M: “Trying to paint the one that had words.”

A: “It was hard choosing the colors because you don’t always know what color to make something.”

T: “The fourth song was really hard because all the colors that I put looked really messy. So then I used the end of the brush (the pointy part) and scraped it and then it looked like a huge rainbow underneath.”

O: “Not drawing things that I know. In the fourth song I really wanted to paint a person.”

F: “For different sounds in the songs, you had to match the color. For the last one it was hard to find the color to fit. The second one was easy to find the color because it was very fast, but the fourth one was harder.”


After “meeting” Georgia O’Keeffe and her work, fourth graders began drawing their leaves from observation today. Students were challenged to zoom in, draw their leaves larger-than-life, and make their drawing touch the edges of the paper.

(I collaborated with a 4th grade teacher to tie this painting lesson into science, and when I google Georgia O’Keeffe paintings was surprised to discover that in addition to her famous flower paintings, Georgia also painted 29 pictures of leaves! Connections are just waiting to be discovered.)