Oh, the expectations. First grade students are perfection: they know the rules (well, almost) and are at their beginning of artistic creativity. I have never heard a first grader say they couldn't do art. Not once. Just not in their vocabulary. Needless to say, art lessons for this age group are the MOST fun lessons to prepare because I know that no matter what I put forth, I will be rewarded with the cutest, most adorable pieces.
So, in keeping with my series of recommended art lessons to kick off your year, here are my top five:
As with my theory in Kindergarten, I believe that starting the year off with a line lesson has its advantages: warms the kids up, let's you see how well the kids can listen and teaches them some fundamentals right off the bat. My Joan Miro Art Lesson is perfect for this.
And the biggest benefit of them all? Very little prep and supplies needed. The perfect lesson.
Time: One 45-minute class (maybe two if you draw it out). If the kids don't finish coloring on the first day, set the project aside and they can come back to it later. Supplies: 6" x 9" White Drawing paper (cut 12" x 18" in half), Crayola Thick Markers in Joan Miro Colors (black, red, green, blue, orange, green)
This next project takes a bit more prep, but the results are worth it. The Not-So-Scary-Scarecrows fits in well with a fall theme and since it takes 2-3 class times, by the time you finish the project, the timing will be perfect for your Autumn Display. Break this lesson into two or three sessions: first day, do the watercolor background and the second day, do the little scarecrow. If you have time, add pumpkins and corn stalks out of paper for added interest.
Time: Two 50-Minute sessions (perhaps three if you have shorter periods)
Background: 12" x 18" watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, oil pastels (green, brown, yellow and white), brushes
Scarecrow: Printed Craft Paper, 1 Popsicle stick per child, plain paper scraps, raffia or yarn for hair, small buttons, White school glue, scissors and pencils.
Now that you are into October, it's time to really surprise the kids and get messy. At this point in the year, I introduce my "Eric Carle" inspired projects. For first grade, I usually do Eric Carle Inspired Butterflies but you could do almost anything: birds, caterpillars, ladybugs, flowers, etc. You will create more paper than you will need for the butterfly project, but this is good. You can then keep this paper for making other projects later on in the year.
For a detailed lesson plan, complete with templates, consider purchasing my Eric Carle Inspired Art Lesson. It'll give you instructions/templates for four lessons.
Time: Two 50-minute sessions (more if class time is less than 50 minutes). Supplies: Lots of Paint!!! Mix your own tempera paints for this project: combine colors to create interesting hues and place a large amount in a margarine or sour cream container. Put three different colors at each table. Also, you'll need a stack of 12" x 18" white paper, large brushes and some texture tools (plastic forks, combs, sticks or purchased texture tools), scissors and glue sticks.
After the unstructured, free flowing Butterfly project, you'll want to calm things down a bit and do an oil pastel project. There is none cuter than the Oil Pastel Self-Portrait. Like my Miro project, this lesson has some very appealing benefits: little prep and few supplies needed. Yay!
You'll find this project featured in my Fun with Portraits Lesson Plan PDF. I include some templates so you might want to check it out.
I love this project because it is so dynamic and provides the kids an opportunity to be expressive. My only comment is encourage the kids to color in well. It really makes a difference. Play some calming music to keep them in the rhythm.
Time: Two-Three Classes Supplies: 12" x 18" white drawing paper, oil pastels (make sure to have some good skin tones available).
So far we have concentrated on many different mediums: watercolor, collage, oil pastel, and texture painting. The next project should focus on tempera paints. One of my favorites is the Colorful Clown. I chose large paper because, at some point, it's good to give the kids space. Keep this project on the calm side so don't feel compelled to wear a clown outfit or red ball on your nose to get the kids in the mood. Most likely, they'll crawl under their desks with fright. Clowns can be a scary thing.
You can keep the painting intact or you can cut out the clown and glue onto black paper. Either way, this is an adorable form of self-expression.
Time: one or two 50-minute classes Supplies: 18" x 24" white paper, black oil pastel or small paint brush dipped in black, watered down paint, lots of tempera paints in a muffin-tin type palette.
Good Luck First Grader Teachers!