Here is a lesson that combines reading, learning about authors/illustrators, value painting and clay sculpture. My first-graders totally love this lesson. Say “Hello” to winter with the help of these charming snow people!
FIRST, GET THE BOOK Snowmen at Night, by Caralyn and Mark Buehner, and read this beautiful story to your students. Show them the book, page by page, using a document camera or similar device. Ask them to think about how the pictures help make the story more interesting and engaging. Ask: How do artists tell a story with pictures? How do artists paint nighttime pictures using light and dark mixed paints?
Your students will love the nighttime snow people activities that take place all over the town while everyone else is sleeping. Two of my students’ favorites are the snowmen making snow angels and drinking cocoa without melting!
Point out the variety of hats and mittens the snowmen are wearing. Then, tell students they will be painting their own nighttime pictures of one or two snow people (boys or girls) having fun.
PREPPING FOR SNOW PEOPLE PAINTINGS. Put white tempera paint into five sections of the students’ 12-count egg-carton “palettes.” Then, put each primary color into three, black in one, and then brown in another.
First, students will mix secondary colors and then create tints. Explain to the children that tints are achieved by adding small amounts of white to the secondary colors until they achieve the tint they want. Be sure one or two of the whites are kept pure for the snow-people bodies.
On dark paper, students draw a hill and a “three-ball” snow person in pencil. Next, they paint the hill with “snow,” and the snow people themselves. Next, the children add interesting hats and scarves to their snow people.
Next comes the sky and the decision of whether to paint it or leave it dark. The tints are lovely in the sky, and once the sky dries, some students choose to add snowflakes. For the finishing touch, small paintbrushes are used to paint brown and black details such as eyes, stick arms, and buttons.
When all of the children have finished with their paintings, discuss with your young artists the ideas or stories their paintings depict. Compare student paintings to the book illustrations.
YOU MIGHT ALSO HAVE YOUR STUDENTS CREATE small clay snow-people sculptures. To begin, students form large (baseball size), medium (cue ball size) and small (large marshmallow size) pieces of clay into three balls. Demonstrate the use of scoring and slip to connect them. Be sure to tell students that these don’t need to be perfect. After all, when we make a snowman outside, it is never perfectly round, right? Telling them this helps them feel successful no matter the shape!
Next, students add hats, caps or earmuffs and press in facial features, buttons and so on with improvised tools. Then, using chopsticks, either you or the students push deep holes on two sides of the mid-section, twirl the stick a bit to make them a bit wider, since clay shrinks when it dries. (After the final firing, twigs will be placed in these holes for arms.)
I have my students choose from three glaze colors for the head coverings, which are applied with very small brushes. Following the first firing, students brush on clear glaze for the second and final firing.
The next day, the ends of twigs are dipped into white glue and inserted into the arm holes. Narrow ribbon remnants are just the thing for colorful scarves, adding a bit of flair.
First-grade students will …
• identify primary and secondary colors.
• create secondary colors and tints.
• recognize light and dark values in artwork.
• build a form out of clay.
• share and describe their personal artwork.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
MATERIALS AND RESOURCES
• Book: Snowmen at Night, by Caralyn and Mike Buehner (Dial Books; 2005)
• 12″ x 18″ black/dark blue tagboard or heavy black construction paper
• Tempera paint (primary colors, white, black and brown), large and small paintbrushes, water containers
• Cardboard 12-count egg cartons
• White earthenware clay, slip, clear and color glazes
• Chopsticks, white glue, twigs
Cynthia McGovern teaches art at Kenny Community School in Minneapolis.
Want More Classroom Projects From This Issue?