Tag Archives: 4th Grade


Wow!! I have been blown away by this lesson. Last summer I went to the exhibit Spring into Summer with Andy Warhol and Friends! at the Bruce Museum in Connecticut with my mom. When I saw Andy Warhol’s series of Endangered Animal Prints, I knew I wanted to try something similar with my fourth graders this year.

After working abstractly for quite a while, I thought this lesson would be a good way to balance the curriculum because students are challenged to work observationally and experiment with various color combinations and layering.

As I was making a PowerPoint of some examples of Warhol’s prints, I came across this lesson by Mr. Stoller at Thomas Elementary. I used some of his images when presenting this lesson to my students, but gave them more color options and used Pacon Fadeless Paper to print on. I also set out pieces of painted paper for students to use if they wanted a more textured effect. (The prints measure 6″x6.”)

In my intro, I described Warhol’s commission (as described in the above link), defined endangered species, and showed students examples of prints from his series.


I printed out a variety of images of endangered animals ahead of time and students looked through my selection, or asked me to look at the WWF Species Directory and print out a picture of an another animal on the list. They were surprised and curious at the different levels of conservation status–from near threatened and vulnerable to endangered and critically endangered.


After drawing their animal with pencil, students taped their drawing to a square piece of Styrofoam and traced the outline of their animal with a pencil. Then, they lifted up their paper and carved their lines using a carving tool.


Next, students were ready to print layer one. I reviewed how to use the printmaking tools and students got to work. For the first layer of ink, students are limited to one color, but could choose different colors of paper if they wanted to.


After printing at least four copies of the first layer of their animal, students washed off their Styrofoam, dried it and reattached the tape. (Before printing, I had students trace the outline of their tape with a Sharpie so they would know where to attach it.) Students used the same method as above to trace the eyes, nose, mouth, fins, fur or other details of their animal and then carve the lines with pencil.


Then students cut out the outline of their animal and  began printing their second layer of ink.


Some students loved the printing process so much that they printed a third layer of ink to create a background or to change the color of a specific detail of their animal.

The last step was to create a background and/or add details. Students had three options for this step:

  1. oil pastels to add brighter colors;
  2. colored pencils to add fine details;
  3. or collage papers, including tissue paper, painted paper and construction paper.

Below is a sample of students finished prints.


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Fourth graders recently finished a unit on abstract art. After creating Abstract Portraits with my student teacher, I wanted students to learn more about abstract art and to have some time to experiment with various materials.


For the first lesson of this unit, I played several instrumental songs and students tried painting the sounds they heard by using colors and brush strokes. At first, some students looked at me with confused looks–those looks that ask, “You want me to do what?” I asked students to try it out and told them that it would make more sense as class went on. As the music played, I asked questions like, “What color could you use to show how loud or quiet this instrument is?” and “Does the song sound fast or slow? How can you show the speed of the music using your brush?” After a few minutes, the students were dancing and painting along to the music!


During the next few classes, students could add to or change a painting they had started previously or create a new abstract drawing/painting. I limited the paper to 6″x9″ because I wanted students to be willing to try out new ideas and not be too precious with their work. We talked about different things that inspire abstract artists, like experiences, feelings, elements of art, favorite materials and new tools.

As inspiration, I read the book The Noisy Paint Box, by Barb Rosenstock, which tells the story of Vasily Kandinsky, an artist with synesthesia (who experienced sounds as colors), and who became one of the first abstract painters. The students were really interested in his story and had lots of questions about synesthesia. I also showed them footage from On a River, a short video about contemporary artist Heather Day. The video includes footage of Day traveling, sketching and working in her San Francisco home/studio.

In addition to learning about these two artists, I showed students images of abstract art created by Beatriz Milhazes, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Odili Donald Odita, and Shinique Smith.


On the last day of this unit, students were also given the option of creating their own abstract painting tool using old paintbrush handles and everyday objects like toothpicks, q-tips, plastic forks and string. Students came up with some very creative tools!

Below are some examples of the work that students created. I am so impressed with their willingness to try new materials and engage with this process! It can often be intimidating to create something abstract–something that you cannot quite put a finger on and name. I’m so grateful for students’ openness and willingness to try something new and learn from each other as they worked.


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After learning about blind contour and contour drawing, students used their drawing skills to create an abstract self-portrait. Ms. Nemes taught students about abstract art and students discussed some of the reasons an artist might choose to make something abstract. After looking at images of abstract portraits as a group, students brainstormed ideas for their own Abstract Feeling Self-Portrait. During this unit, students thought about what colors, lines, shapes and features would describe their feeling best. I am so impressed with all of the portraits that students created!

Students finished creating a name design for their folder. I laminated each one and then attached it to the front of the folder and labeled the top right corner with a colored piece of tape (to show what table they sit at) and their class.

I give each table a folder of idea pages of different fonts to use as they work.



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.