New Value Pumpkins (3rd)

I was so excited as fall approached this year because I knew I would have the opportunity to teach my "value pumpkins" lesson again! Last year I did it with a few of my 2nd grade classes and they turned out okay.. but this year I was going to revamp my lesson and do it with my 3rd graders in hopes of achieving something greater. Instead of using oil pastels this year, I decided to use paint.
When students walked in on Monday they found mini-pumpkins scattered all over my tables (they were SO excited). The first thing we did was talk about what a still-life is and then looked at two different examples.

We carefully examined both still-life's and then students were asked which one they thought looked more 3-dimensional? They all picked the more realistic one the the right. Then I asked them what made the one on the right look more 3-dimensional? What gave it the illusion of depth?
I got a few different answers for this one. One student said that you could see the objects were sitting on a table. Another said that you could see shadows from the objects. Another said that you could see that some objects were sitting behind other objects.
Oh I was so proud of them! :)
Yes! All of these things help to make the one of the right look more realistic!
 Then I asked students to look at an image of a circle and a sphere.. and tell me how even though they have the same outside shape, the sphere looks like it has volume and the circle looks flat.
We once again went back to the idea of highlights and shadows.
After viewing a few more images we determined that the positioning of highlights and shadows depends entirely on the light source for the object.

After talking about highlights and shadows, we got down the the pumpkin drawing part of our project. I drew on the whiteboard as students followed along.
First we drew a circle/oval shape. Next we added a smaller oval near the top of our large circle/oval to act as the base of the stem. Then we drew in the stem (variations of cylindrical shapes). Then we looked at the positioning of our stem and determined where the center of our pumpkin was (the line of symmetry) and drew a faint line. Once we found this is was time to make our curved vertical lines around our pumpkins... but first we looked at the pumpkins on the table in front of us. I pointed out to students that the lines on the pumpkin weren't really curved (like to the right or left).. and when you looked at them straight on they looked straight. But because of its spherical shape, the lines appeared to curve outward.When we drew these lines in, every line that we drew to the left of our line of symmetry curved like " ( " and every line drawn to the right like " ) " . We then made each section created with these vertical lines it's own somewhat rounded shape so that the bottom of the pumpkin wasn't perfectly even.
Once students finished their drawing, they outlined their pumpkin with black crayon. Then on day two - it was on to painting
Let me start by saying that I have always HATED tempera cakes. I'm not exactly sure why I hold such disdain towards them.. but I do. This is the first project that I have EVER found them useful.
I wanted students to mix their own oranges, so the limited color palette of the tempera cakes worked out perfectly.
I explained to my students that since we were mixing colors, we had to move quickly so the paint wouldn't dry on our paper.
First they painted their pumpkins yellow and then red overtop. As they painted, their brushes mixed the yellow and red paint into various oranges. Then we cleaned our brushes and got some white paint on them. We used this paint to add highlights to the tops of our pumpkins (tint). Then we used black (just a little!!!) to add shadows to the opposite side (shade). If students got too much black on their pumpkins, I showed them how they could use yellow to bend their black up so the contrast wasn't so stark.
Then students painted in their stems. Some chose to use green, while other experimented with combining other colors to create brown.
These paintings went up into the drying rack.
The next step in our project was to create our backgrounds for our pumpkins on a separate sheet of paper. My students drew whatever they wanted in crayon, and then were given liquid watercolors to create a resist.


  1. These are so much fun! I love the first version, especially the funky lines and watercolor layers. I'm glad you are finally getting on board the tempera cake train; they are so easy to use! I have found that taking them out of the tray and keeping the colors seperate makes them get mixed up a LOT less. They tend to get really muddled of you dont. I keep mine seperate in yogurt cups that other teachers have donated to me which seems to help keep down the mixing. Love this project :)

    1. I have no idea why I never thought about separating them! Hah
      That's exactly what I do already with my little oval watercolor pans. Each one is in it's own styrofoam cup - it keeps everything so much cleaner!
      I know what I'm doing on Monday! :)

  2. Oh I love these! I will have to put this in my file for next year. I love the contrast of the warm/cool colors!