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3rd Grade Matisse Collagraph Prints

This project was inspired in part by Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artists as well as another teacher in my county English Avery. I wanted to kind of re-think the way I have been doing collagraphs with 3rd graders to make it easier to get successful prints. For the past few years, I have been doing a collagraph lesson based on the artwork of Jasper Johns. It is actually one of my most looked at blog posts! While it is a very good lesson, the same issue always pops up when printing. Basically, it is very difficult to get every student to create their artwork backwards on the printing plate because it will print backwards. Inevitably there are always upside-down and topsy-turvy prints that illicit disappointment from students.


So this year I figured we would switch it up and create more abstract prints in order to alleviate some of the confusion. I was inspired to base this project on Matisse because we could include so many concepts like geometric/organic shapes, abstract art, and positive/negative space. On the first day, we looked at artwork by Matisse and talked about these concepts. I even showed students a picture of me in front of giant Matisse works at the Vatican!


Kiddos used card stock and cardboard to create their printing plate. They drew and cut out an organic shape and used a hole puncher to create negative space.


The next week, we talked about complementary colors and created a collage to print on. Students chose their complementary colors for a background and used fancy scrap booking scissors to cut around squares that they glued down. They also glued down any pop-ups on their printing plate so they could be ready to print on the 3rd week.



The third week we printed.


First, students rolled out about a pinky-sized amount of ink onto the phone book with a brayer. Then they rolled the ink onto their plate.



They flipped it over onto the complementary colored collage and used a spoon to press down.


Last, they peeled off their collage very carefully to reveal a print.

I am so pleased with how this project went, I feel like the amount of successful prints was much higher and that students really understood the process and concepts. Way to go 3rd graders!



Emoji Color Wheel Adjective Flowers

Last year I did a similar version of this project and I really wanted to pump it up with some pop-culture references and common-core connections this year. So, I threw in emojis and adjectives!


An emoji (I explained to my 2nd graders) is the little smiley face that you send in a text message. This lead to the conversation – how can colors show emotions? We described how different colors make us feel and realized that we were naming adjectives.


To create the flowers we began by making painted paper and cutting it into circles. We used scraps to create complementary colored petals. (This also tied into the whole feeling thing by talking about how you feel when someone compliments you.)


Then, students used oil pastels to create emojis and write an adjective to describe the face and the feeling. These turned out hilarious and adorable!

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Keith Haring meets Andy Warhol Pop Prints

I was so excited to begin this project with 4th graders. I LOVe Pop Art! I did somethign similar last year but wanted to put a little twist on it for this year. Students learned all about the gestural work of Keith Haring and the repetition of Andy Warhol. They decided that the best way to combine the two inspirations of the artists would be to do multiple prints of gestures. We talked about pop art and how it features something that is popular at the time. Students included their own personal “pop art” in their designs withe everything from sports to video games.

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We began by sketching each other which was a really fun day. (One of those days that remind me why being an art teacher is so much fun!)


Students paid particular attention to the positive and negative space that their poses created. They chose one of their favorites to trace onto a piece of styrofoam for printing. The pop-art connection came in when students added something from pop culture to their design. Ideas ranged from hobbies to video games to shopping.


4th graders printed using complementary colors. While some students printed, others worked on an op-art hand. (Step-by-step lesson HERE)


The prints came out pretty neat and provided the 4th graders with great exposure to printmaking, Pop Art, and personal expression.

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Once all students had finished, we had a small critique. Students wrote comments on sticky notes and left them on each other’s artwork. They really enjoyed getting to see each other’s artwork and talking to their friends about the process and product.

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Jasper Johns Inspired Collagraph Prints

After doing this project last year it became one of my most popular projects and continues to float around Pinterest. It was originally inspired by a lesson on my county’s website and I have decided to change it up once again this year. Students began by looking at the artwork of Jasper Johns and talking about symbolism. They had to use creative strategies to brainstorm some letters and numbers that have personal symbolism to them. This was a great experience in creative thinking: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.

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Students used complementary colors to create 2 dual-colored prints.


While some students printed at the printing station, other students worked on a color wheel at their tables.


The printing system needed some tweaking – especially at first – but overall it has worked out well for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Some of the changes included: getting rid of the phone books for rolling out ink (tempera paint) because they were too flimsy and ripped apart. Instead, students ended up rolling the paint directly on the surface which was covered in laminated posters. Easy clean up! The second change was switching out the construction paper for white newsprint. The details of materials came out a lot better and it was much easier to rub over the textures. The paper reallty picked up the colors and looked so cool with the two-toned prints. I am quite happy with how this project turned out and feel like my students got great exposure to printmaking as an art form.

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The “one out of 2” or “1/2” that some of them have is because they had to label their edition. They were amazed to learn that you can print hundreds and hundreds of times using the same plate. The whole process is illustrated really nicely in this video:

The last step of the project was a scavenger hunt/critique. Each student had to collect their classmate’s “autograph” to fill up their scavenger hunt boxes. This was a great way to get students to look at and talk about each other’s art. They had so much fun visiting their classmates and discussing the reasons behind their artistic choices. Here is the Word document version of the scavenger hunt: collagraph scavenger hunt 034 (2)

This project produced my favorite rubric I have seen so far this year:

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This project is a great S.T.E.M. connection. I was inspired by Artwithmsgram’s Tessellation Monsters.

We began by learning all about M. C. Escher and his famous tessellations. Students found inspiration in the bold, graphic quality of his work and began “sketching” on iPads using the wonderful app iOrnament. This app is really cool because there are options for colors and line thickness as well as many choices for tiling or tessellating. I had originally wanted to use another app which didn’t work out but thanks to iPad Art Room I was able to find another option. The kids came up with some really creative designs!

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They took a screenshot of their favorite concept and emailed it to me. I have compiled all of the designs class by class into albums on Imgur. That way, the kids can access their work from any computer and check out what their classmates created as well. Check out our virtual sketchbook albums HERE. I projected my email inbox on the whiteboard so kids could see who sent me the work.


The next part of the lesson was really tricky. Kids had to come up with 3 different ideas and make them tessellate across the page. They traced a square onto sketch paper. I found that the easiest way to explain this was to use the analogy of legos or puzzle pieces. Some kids caught on really quickly and were able to come up with wonderfully creative ideas.

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The trick here is to keep it simple. Students quickly realized that if their shapes were too complicated it would be very difficult to tessellate or repeat a shape.


Most ideas were monsters or faces but the kids had the freedom to design anything they wanted. They traced over their designs with sharpie and used complementary colors to color with markers.

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Students could show a pattern of complementary colors any way they wanted. Some kept it simple and clean while others played with creative designs.

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Complementary Flowers

Second Graders learned all about Complementary Colors to create flowers. I was inspired by this lesson over at Deep Space Sparkle. We began with a color mixing magic show and carousel painting. Students cut circles out of their painted paper for the middle of their flowers.

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They glued the circles onto big paper making sure to give each one “personal space.”

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Then, they used the scraps to make petals. We talked about how complementary colors live across the street from each other on the color wheel. Students noticed that “complementary” sounds a lot like “compliment” and we talked about what it means to give someone a compliment.

The next time we met, 2nd graders used tissue paper to add more petals.

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Some kids who finished early had the opportunity to decorate their flowers with construction paper crayons. Overall this project turned out beautiful and was extremely successful at teaching complementary colors. 🙂


Space Invaders

3rd graders learned about mosaics, street art, grids, complementary colors, and pixels for our Space Invader project. I got this idea from Artsonia when I was student teaching and have since lost the exact link. (If you know the origins of this lesson, please share!)

We began by watching this video:

We talked about pixels and video games and students came to the conclusion that the person who made this video probably thinks that video games are destroying the world. New art forms met old when we compared artwork by street artist Invader to images of some old school mosaics. Students made a real-world connection when they noticed that both artworks reminded them of Mine Craft which is a super popular computer game.

We began by creating a grid using some prior knowledge of math and measuring. This was a pretty tricky process and required a lot of step-by-step instructions, differentiation, and peer cooperation. Students measured out inches on their 9×12 paper on all 4 sides and used the ruler to create straight lines. I had some students write the number next to each inch mark so they could match it up when they drew the lines.



The next step was to create a Space Invader design. Students used markers to outline their creatures and chose their complementary colors. With all of the squares, it could get kind of visually jumbled up so some students decided to write letters in the squares to show where they were going to glue what color.

I pre-cut construction paper into 1×1 inch squares and students could take what they needed from the trays and fill up little recycled yogurt cups.



These came out AWESOME!!! Most of the kids really loved this project and you could hear a pin drop when they measured out their lines. They used team work to help each other be successful and shared ideas and tips on construction and production.



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That last picture is an image of the self-assessment rubric. I thought it would be interesting to see what grade the kiddos would give themselves and whether or not my opinion matches. (Please excuse the “Scale” that does not make any sense, I used the rubric from another lesson.)

Here is the awesome display hanging outside of the front office suite. I decided to add some key words and vocabulary to spruce it up.


When I did this lesson as a student teacher it was during the first 8 weeks of school and it was completely crazy. I am glad it went so well at the end of the year. Only one project remains to be completed for most of the grades. Next up for 3rd graders is weaving with yarn. 🙂


Gesture Prints

4th graders just completed a project that is one of my favorites so far. We began by talking about the artist Keith Haring and his gestural figurative artwork.

Haring is one of my ultimate favorite artists — I love the movement and energy of his work and wanted to bring that to the students with this project. We began by drawing each other doing silly and interesting poses. I wish I had pictures of this fun and wacky day but unfortunately I do not so I will just have to describe it to you. Imagine 30 4th graders drawing furiously as one of their classmates strikes a pose in the center of the room. Students contorted and positioned themselves in crazy ways; one student even held a backbend for almost a full minute! Students were initially apprehensive about drawing people but when we broke down body parts into shapes it became simple. WE also observed positive and negative space (the hole that your arm makes when you put your hand on your hip, the triangle your legs make) and this prompted even crazier poses.

Next, students carved their designs into a styrofoam “plate.” They added expressive lines and repetition to create balanced designs.

Students could make 2 prints with complimentary colors. This project was super fun and super messy. The students worked together to help one another and everyone was able to complete and create successful prints.


One Direction themed:

Here are some links to a couple of Keith Haring related videos we watched for inspiration:

Keith Haring Video

Keith Haring Video 2



Jasper Johns Collagraph Prints

3rd graders are finishing up their Collagraph Printing project. This project was extremely awesome and spanned over several weeks. The lesson included planning, production, and even a critique of sorts. We began by talking about Jasper Johns, an artist from Georgia who made prints of letters and numbers. We discussed symbolism and even identified symbols like peace signs, street signs, bathroom signs, etc. Then, students came up with their own symbols with personal meaning.

Next, it was time to create our “plates.” The whole point of Collagraph Printing is that it includes different textures and a variety of materials. Students loved this how-to video. With materials like styrofoam, pipe cleaners, and cardboard, 3rd graders began to build their plates.

Then the real fun/mess began! Students decided on a duo of complementary colors and could make 2 prints. They rolled the ink and carefully placed their plate onto construction paper to create beautiful images.

(Check out that neat-o digital watch!) Printing was a process I was super nervous about but it ended up being very smooth and by the second day of printing, the kids were basically running the show. Only 6 students could print at a time so while those 6 were at the counter with the ink, the rest of the students worked on a color wheel worksheet to reinforce color theory. (Borrowed from this AMAZING website ) I had only 6 printing at a time in the hopes that at the end of the class period it would not look like a rainbow threw up all over my classroom.

Check out the prints!

The last part of this project was an Art Criticism Scavenger Hunt. We talked about how in school, you mostly focus on your own work and hardly ever get to see what other people are doing. In order to foster some good dialogue and conversations, we did this interactive critique. Students arranged their artwork on their tables and walked around the room to find people who had the clue. They collected “autographs” to fill in the graphic organizer. I included clues that are cross-curricular and prompt the students to read and even do math! This activity allowed students to explore their classmate’s artwork. I got the idea for this activity from a seminar I attended which would have otherwise been dreadfully dull. I thought hey, if adults think this is even slightly fun then kids will too. I thought it would be a great way to engage the students and have them reflect on a project and the students loved this activity.

I am extremely glad to be finished with this because now we can move on to our paper chameleons — here is a preview:

4th and 5th graders are also completing their prints and they are coming out quite beautifully. 🙂


Cubism Still Lives

4th Graders learned about CUBISM and PABLO PICASSO. We talked about GEOMETRIC SHAPES and COMPLEMENTARY COLORS. Using these concepts, 4th graders completed still life artwork.

We started by talking about CONTOUR LINES and how to draw what you see. Many students were initially intimidated about drawing objects from life but when we broke things down into shapes, it helped to simplify the process. Each table chose a tray filled with interesting objects like flowers, cups, toys, shells, bells, and blocks.

Students were given the option to draw whatever they wanted that they saw, as long as they filled up their paper. I felt it was important to have some freedom in this project because I have always loathed technical life drawing and wanted to provide more choices. Some students chose to draw all of the objects and some decided on a couple that they really liked.

Students drew in their sketchbooks and then transferred their designs onto white drawing paper. From there, they used rulers to ‘fracture’ the picture and sharpies to outline their shapes.

Then it was time to color. I told students they were only allowed to use 2 colors and after the outrage explained that they could also use black and white. We talked about how this would give them at least 6 colors and possibly even more.  Students learned how to blend colors of oil pastels together to create VALUE and TINT AND SHADE. This was a fun and messy process!

The idea for this project was adapted from a project found in the county database. I also used inspiration from a project I did several years ago  with still life, fracturing, and oil pastels.

I am excited to finally be finished with this and move on to printmaking!