It’s tempting to want to jump right in and start your first kindergarten art projects, but it pays off big time to first spend a little time teaching them some fun ways they can use good behavior. By the way, these ideas work great for 1st grade, especially if they didn’t go to art class as kindergarteners.
Let them know ahead of time how “Mona Lisa listening” looks and teach them a “call and response” that you will use that day. It’s also helpful to give them a sneak peek at a “quiet critter” and let them know that they might come back out if they hear students working quietly.
More about the behavior tips:
Mona Lisa Listening
Use a reproduction of the Mona Lisa to demonstrate what good listening looks like. Ask the students to describe her eyes, hands, ears, mouth, and how she is sitting.
After that, you can ask students to show you good Mona Lisa Listening.
Call and Response
A call and response is a phrase that you teach students to use as a response when they hear you say something. The idea is that they should be listening to you after that.
You say, Mona … They say, Lisa!
You say, Van … They, say Go!
You say, Red Yellow Blue … They say, I hear you!
Here are more fun call and response phrases you can use to get students to quiet down and listen.
Have a quiet critter for each table that can come out and sit in the middle of the table if they are working quietly. You can make your own quiet critters with pom poms. Add flat feet with felt or foam and googly eyes. Maybe there are 2 sets of eyes so the quiet critter can watch both sides of the table – haha!
OPTIONAL – Add antenna for detecting good workers.
You can watch a video of Cassie Stephens explain how she uses quiet critters in this video.
As you get into the first few weeks of school, try using puppets to keep their attention, “Simon Says” to make following instructions fun and positive reinforcement to recognize good behavior.
Ways to use puppets, Simon says and positive reinforcement:
- Puppets are great for reading stories.
- Your puppet can look for good behavior.
- Maybe the puppet only comes out when the class is quiet (wink, wink).
- Your puppet’s name can be Simon and lead in some Simon Says activities.
- Simon Says can be a great time filler for students standing in line.
- In addition, it can also help you get students from point A to point B in a fun and orderly fashion. Simon says, “stand up”, “touch your nose”, “walk to the carpet”, “sit with your legs crossed”, etc.
Kindergarten students love to be recognized for doing the right thing! Instead of pointing out just one student at a time (and calling them by name), change your wording to “I notice some of you are sitting quietly, or cleaning up, etc …” This helps more students feel good about what they are doing.
Here are some more behavior Attention Getters in the Art Classroom ideas for the art room.
Kindergarten Art Projects
10 minute Rule
Don’t count on keeping their attention on something for longer than 10 minutes, so plan to rotate 2-3 activities through each day, or break up the steps of a project with a song or movement activity.
Simon Says Art
You can invite a puppet named Simon to give directions for extra interest!
Have Simon give directions for a directed drawing. This can be an abstract picture with different kinds of lines and shapes or a directed drawing of an animal. Sometimes it’s fun to not tell them what they are drawing to keep them in suspense (and so that students don’t go on to the next step). Another advantage of not telling them what they are drawing right away is that they focus on the kind of line and the placement of the line more than making it look like a certain object.
Use some black construction paper and have students paint with water. This makes a temporary drawing. Use this time to practice how to hold brushes, dip the brush in water, and swish & wipe gently between colors.
You can take a look at some Sumi paintings with students and try to make some basic Sumi paintings.
Play-Doh is great for early finishers, but it can also be used as part of a lesson.
I love having students practice making something with Play-Doh or modeling clay the day before we get out the real clay. This gives them more time to experiment before making a final piece out of clay that gets fired and glazed.
It’s easier to practice techniques like coils, pinch pots, and rolling out clay with Play-Doh or modeling clay that doesn’t get dried and cracked like earth clay.
Torn Paper Collage
If you are nervous about getting out the scissors right away, have students tear paper and glue them into shapes.
They can use the torn paper collage as the start of a drawing. For example, they can tear a shape, glue it down, then add to it with markers or crayons to make an animal or monster.
Shape Monster Video
- Here is a shape monster video by PinkFong. The video is literally one minute long! It shows a square, circle and triangle monster.
Shape Monster Book
- My Very Silly Monster Book of Shapes by Tim Read
- Here is a video where Tim Read makes a monster on the computer.
- Very Silly Monster Facebook Page
Shape Monster Art Project
- Have students watch the Shape Monster video by PinkFong about shapes, then cut out and glue down the 3 shapes, circle, triangle, and square. They can make the eyes with white circles. If the glue is wet, wait until it dries before trying to draw on the eyes.
- Add arms and legs to the shape monster.
- I also have a Shape Monsters Halloween Drawing Activity where students can us a circle, triangle, square, rectangle, oval, or diamond to make a shape monster. There are lots of ideas for faces and toppers for the monsters too.
- If you want more variety in your shapes, try My Very Silly Monster Book of Shapes by Tim Read.
Color Mixing with Crayons
Use a red that’s closer to magenta and a blue that is close to cyan and a neutral yellow for the best color mixing results.
The primary color Crayola crayons I like for mixing primary colors to get secondary colors are:
- Magenta, Cerise, or Violet Red
- Blue, Cerulean, or Cyan
Here is a Color Palette Color Wheel that works well for color mixing with crayons. This handout has a painter’s palette with overlapping blobs of paint so that students can mix the primary colors to make the secondary colors.
One teacher told me that she used the printable Color Wheel Palette as a clay mat and gave students tiny balls of clay (red, yellow, and blue) to mix.
Trace circles to make the caterpillars and make each circle a different color of the rainbow.
You can have students layer the primary colors to make the secondary colors using crayons.
Step by Step Drawing
Step by step drawing is great to do at the beginning of the year. The goal of a step-by-step drawing is to build confidence in students and teach them a drawing strategy so they can move on to making more of their own choices later.
Here are the benefits of step by step drawing:
- Step by step drawing can build the confidence of your students by showing them how to get started.
- When you show students steps you teach them how to draw the largest shapes first.
- If you describe the lines as you are demonstrating, you teach students how to decipher a drawing.
Drawing Winter Animals is an example of easy step by steps drawing. In this set, students have a choice of 9 different animals. Each animal is broken down into 4 steps.
My friend Ms Artastic has some Youtube videos called Drawing with Littles that show students how to do a simple drawing for each letter of the alphabet.
Finish the Drawing
Finish the drawing activities are great for kindergarten because they can add their own ideas to the drawing, but they aren’t intimidated by a blank page. Students’ confidence will grow as they see that they are able to complete the activities. Here are a couple of examples from Expressive Monkey that will work well for kindergarten.
- ABC Art Book by Expressive Monkey gives students a different art lesson for each letter of the alphabet. You can print out a book for each student and have 26 lessons that are ready to go!
- The ABC Animal Draw, Color & Write set gives students a different animal for each letter of the alphabet. Students can trace the letter, trace over the name of the animal, add a face on the animal (from the choices given), then color in the picture.
- Trace Hands – Have students trace their hands and turn them into something. Try turning the page in different directions until they think of something.
Painting Techniques for Kindergarten
Here are some painting media ideas to keep the mess at a minimum. Have students go over their drawings with a Sharpie marker or other marker that won’t smear or disappear once it’s wet. That way they won’t paint away their drawings.
Draw on 80-90# paper. Go over the drawing with a black permanent marker. Use a washable colored marker to outline each area and put some patterns in larger areas.
Paint over each color with a brush and water. Do not brush over the entire picture at once. Instead, have students brush over just the sky, or just the hair, etc. then go on to the next part. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a puddle of mixed colors.
I discovered marker painting by accident when I had students paint over a picture they had outlined with colored markers. You don’t have to use marker painting by itself. You can combine marker painting with watercolor painting or use marker painting for part of a picture and another technique, such as crayons, elsewhere.
Amie from Glitter Meets Glue explains how she uses marker painting in this video. She will also demonstrate marker painting and give you some fun tips.
Have students color things in with watercolor pencils, then the next day, let them paint over their picture with water and turn the watercolor pencil lines into paint. This is a fun way to practice some color mixing. Have them color in parts of their picture with 2 primary colors overlapping, then when they paint, they’ll see what happens when they mix.
You can also teach about color neighbors on the color wheel and have them overlap 2 color neighbors or call them color friends.
Have students color in part of the drawing with crayons. They can outline areas will crayon, make patterns with crayons, or color in solid areas with crayons. Make sure they color heavily so that the crayon will resist the watercolor.
Then have students paint the remaining area with watercolor. Make sure that students use plenty of water. Liquid watercolors work especially well. You might try giving students just one or two colors at a time. Also, make sure students don’t push down too hard with the brush. This is a great opportunity to practice gentle brushing. Some people have success using words like “tickling the page with the brush” or making the bush use its “tiptoes”.
Manipulatives are great for early finishers or for an art center if you are doing centers. Here are some activities and manipulative ideas for kindergarteners.
- shapes cut out of tag board
- their hands
- a worksheet with shapes
- art supplies or found objects
- woodblocks (on a mat to make them quieter)
- cardboard with notches cut
- Plus Plus Puzzle Blocks are a newer fun toy
Play-Doh or Modeling Clay
- Make shapes by rolling out a slab and cutting with a cookie cutter.
- Roll snakes and form letters on a mat that shows the letters.
- Roll snakes and make different kinds of lines on a mat with fun lines on it.
Manipulatives at Kindergarten Centers
My friend Melissa wrote a blog post about how she used the book Yertle the Turtle to introduce the idea of balance and structural integrity as students build a throne for Yertle with manipulatives. The students tried out different media at centers. You can read more about this idea for Kindergarten Centers here.
Summing it Up
- Which lesson will you try first?
- What behavior ideas sound doable to you?
- Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Pick out a few behavior strategies to try and some easy art-making techniques that fit your style and the art supplies you have on hand, and come up with a game plan! With a bit of planning, you might just turn your kindergarteners into your favorite age level!
Want to learn more?
My friend Stephanie has a blog post with her Top 10 Art History Picture Books. Not all are for kindergarten, but she has indicated the appropriate grade level for each book.
This infographic is a good reminder that kids, especially reluctant drawers, are in a special place that requires nurturing from their art teachers to cultivate confidence and a love of drawing. This is the perfect time to celebrate their ideas more than their technique and reward their efforts more than their finished product.
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