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Using Picture Books in the Elementary Art Room

This post contains affiliate links for each picture book title.

In the art room, I often use picture books as a source of inspiration for my lessons - especially with my K-2 kiddos! Not only do I have an appreciation for the gorgeous illustrations, but I also love the vividly descriptive language that is often used. In fact, most of my lower grade art lessons actually start with me doing a read-aloud with my class. The kids love it (because who doesn't like having a book read to them?), my administration loves it (uhhh incorporating literacy anyone?), and I love it (gotta savor those few quiet art room moments). :)
Recently I had a colleague ask me to send her a list of books that I often use in my classroom, so I decided to turn it into a blog post! Of course this is not an exclusive list (I literally have more than 100 picture books in my classroom), but it's a great place to start!
Each of the 8 book recommendations below includes a brief description of the project(s) I normally do with it and links for more information.

Rainbow Paper Mosaics Revisited (K)


If you're a regular around here, you may remember reading about my kindergarten rainbow paper mosaic project. After a couple years of teaching, I decided to make some changes. For example I switched to blue paper instead of the grey I used before, gave my students one more additional class period to work, AND let them loose on some glitter (yayyyyyyyy). :)
This time I started by reading the book "How the Crayons Saved the Rainbow" to my students. We talked about the colors that we say on the rainbow and about rainbow order in general. Afterwards students created a piece of textured painted paper with liquid tempera paints and paint scrapers.
The next day we began by talking about what a mosaic is (and looked at a bunch of fun examples) and then reviewed rainbow order once again.
Then each student was given a sheet of 12"x15" blue construction paper and was asked to draw a cloud in each of the two corners and then a tall red line that went from one cloud, all the way to the tippy-top of the paper, and back down to the other cloud.
Once this was done I had my students come back to the carpet and I demonstrated how to begin their painted paper rainbow mosaics.
First I had to tear up my pieces of painted paper down into smaller pieces. Then I dipped a 3/4" tempera paintbrush into a cup of clear liquid glue and painted a line of glue over the red line that I had drawn. Since red is the first color in the rainbow, I placed pieces of red paper next to each other to cover the line of glue. Once the red line was done, I painted another line of glue just under the red line and placed torn up pieces of orange paper. And so on...
Gluing and placing the paper took most of my kinders about 1 1/2 (45-minute) class periods. On the last day once they were done I called each table over one by one to add the finishing touch - puffy clouds!
To make the clouds appear puffy, I mixed shaving cream and white liquid school glue together. I wish I could tell you the exact recipe.. but I pretty much just eye ball it every time. If you don't add enough glue the puffy clouds will flatten and flake as they dry. 
Students used popsicle sticks to scoop up some of the mixture and then patted it onto their paper where they had drawn their clouds. Once they had those on their page we (and by we I mean I) added glitter on top!



Radial Symmetric Marker Prints (4th)

This past week my 4th graders have been working on some radial printmaking. To begin the project, we started by reviewing a PowerPoint which goes over the three basic types of symmetry; linear or bilateral symmetry, radial symmetry, and asymmetry. In the beginning of the year my 4th graders made mandalas, so they were already very familiar with radial symmetry and design.
After the PowerPoint I gave each of my students a half-sheet of grid paper with a few 2”x2” squares blocked out (the same size as the stamp). I explained that students would be creating a stamp, that when rotated around its access and stamped 4 times, would create a radial symmetric design. Because the stamp would be rotated, it was important that lines that started at a particular side ended at the same position on the adjacent side. So for example if I drew a line that started at the first mark on the y-axis, it would need to end at the first mark on the x-axis. Students were asked to create a few different design ideas and then pick their favorite from the ones they drew. After selecting their final design, students transferred their design onto a piece of 2”x2” Styrofoam with a dull pencil. It’s imperative that the pencil is dull so that the Styrofoam doesn’t tear. 

Radial Printmaking (4th)


I LOVE LOVE LOVE this project - AND so do the kids! :)
We begin by talking about what a mandala is, how it has radial symmetry, and even watch an amazing video clip I found on YouTube of some Tibetan monks creating one with sand (the video clip is a must - it puts the kids in awe).
I tell the kids that the radial symmetry found in the mandala will be the inspiration for our very own printmaking project! Then we look at an amazingly awesome PowerPoint I put together to show students how to properly create their printmaking plates so that when rotated and printed, it will create a print which shows radial symmetry.
After viewing the PowerPoint, each student gets a piece of graph paper which has 3- 2"x2" areas blocked out (this is the size of the Styrofoam printmaking plate they will make). I leave 3 blank squares so that they can make a couple sketches for their plate and choose their favorite. Students are instructed to pick a corner which they will design around. Then they begin adding lines and shapes to their paper. I explain that any line that they start at an edge must connect to the adjacent edge at the same distance from the corner they are working towards (I know this sounds confusing - which is why I rely on the PowerPoint and the grid to visually show students).
Once students select their favorite sketch, I give them a piece of 2"x2" Styrofoam which they place over their favorite sketch. Then using a dull pencil, students trace their design onto their Styrofoam. Using a sharpie marker, students gently write their name on the back of their stamp when done, and attach an opened paperclip to the back with a piece of tape (to create a handle).
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