As teachers, we develop long-lasting relationships with our students—and I think most of us can agree that’s one of the best parts of our job. But our relationships with each other, our colleagues, are also priceless. Nobody understands the ups and downs of teaching as we do.
Today, I have a guest post from a teacher, Amy Lewis, whom I worked with. She taught first grade at an elementary school where I was teaching art. I hesitate to call us “former” colleagues because even though she now lives and teaches in another state, I very much continue to think of us as colleagues. Thanks to social media, email, and text messaging, we are still working together to this day—sharing ideas, asking opinions, etc.
Not only is Amy an outstanding educator, but she also has a website called Otterly Fantastic Books. On this site, she shares the picture books she uses with her students. Recently she used the book Alphamals A-Z by Graham Carter (affiliate link to Amazon – see disclosure here) as a starting place for an animal art project with her 2nd-grade students. Amy did a really nice animal art project to go along with this book and shared it on her Instagram page. I reached out and asked if she’d explain this project to you!
When it comes to art integration, there are so many ways you can approach it as a regular education teacher. However, one of the easiest and quickest ways is to use picture books with your students (or novels with older students) to inspire art projects.
Amy will share with us how she used this book, Alphamals A-Z, to create an animal art project with her students. Let’s hear what she has to say…
A little over a year ago, when I searched for books to add to my website, I came across Alphamals A-Z by Graham Carter. The book has amazing illustrations that combine shapes and patterns to create animals. It inspired an art project that I did with my daughter. You can see a post I wrote about doing this project with my daughter HERE.
Recently, I was asked to be an art/music teacher at one of the elementary schools in our neighborhood. After getting to know some of the kids, I was inspired to complete this project again with a group of 2nd graders in the gifted/talented cluster. I get two classes (gifted and regular ed) at the same time. I give the gifted/talented classes higher-level art projects because they need more of a challenge. Still, I notice that their projects elevate the regular class’s creativity more than when I have two regular education classes.
Animal Art Project Step #1: Introduction
To start this project, I showed my students the author’s illustrations in the book Alphamals A-Z and had them identify the shapes and patterns used in each of the animals. We then discussed what kind of animals we could make and what shapes we could use to make these animals. I showed them the animals that my daughter Lucy and I had made. I created a bee, and Lucy created an Armadillo.
My students were able to see a version of a simple animal and a more complex animal. I wanted students with varying abilities to see that they could choose what level of difficulty they wanted to try.
Animal Art Project Step #2: Plan
On a blank piece of paper, I had students plan out their animals. I hung up scrapbook pattern papers as well as different colored construction paper for them to select from.
They drew the animals in shapes and then decided what types of colors and patterns that they wanted to use to create their animal art project. The students then came to the back table to collect the papers that they chose for their animal. This was a multiple-day project, so they didn’t start creating their animal until the next time they came to me.
Animal Art Project Step #3: Create
The next day they were with me, I had them create a background for their animal art project. You can use many different mediums for this. With my daughter, we used watercolor paint. With my students, we used colored pencils and crayons—use what you have!
My students wanted to cut out their scrapbooks and pattern papers and glue them on their planning page, so I had to redirect them to create their background first and then use shape tracers to create the pieces of their animals.
After they created their backgrounds, they then started to trace and cut out the pieces of their animals to assemble them.
Some of the students had a hard time assembling their animals, so we took a break, and I quickly traced and cut out parts to make a bee and showed them how I had assembled mine. I think it challenges students more to figure out how to make their animals on their own. Then if I see that they need more guidance, I can stop them and give them the extra guidance. But first, I like to see how they will approach the “challenge” at hand to create their animal art project with shapes.
Their final animal art project pieces turned out amazing (even their classroom teacher was impressed).
The kids had a great time creating their animals and successfully worked through their frustrations to solve problems along the way. Many students asked if I would display their artwork in my room for other classes to see.
Here are a few…
All in all, it was a fun and engaging animal art project which tied back into the book Alphamals A-Z, sparked creativity and problem solving with my students, and reinforced their learning!
Thank you, Amy, for sharing your experiences and lessons with us! What a fun and easy animal art project to do with your own students.
I hope this project will inspire you to try making art with your students too. You can use this book and project together, or let it inspire you to look at the picture books you have and the art supplies you already have and see what art project you can create.
Thanks for reading—and of course, for making art with your kids!