Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Laurel Burch Cats

This is one of my favorite third grade lesson plans. Students learn so much from this project, and the final pieces are always stunning. We begin with a PowerPoint about Laurel Burch's life and artwork. We discuss her style, and I always lead the conversation to make sure students notice blended colors in the background of the figures/animals, bold patterns, and the one line she uses to create the animals' eyes and nose. The kids are so engaged and love Burch's bold style.

Next, we use a guided drawing technique to create our unique cats. I walk them through the drawing one step at at time, and give them options along the way to ensure that no two cats look alike. Before we start, I draw several large rectangles on the board and tell the kids that those are my papers and if I draw something large on my paper, theirs should also be large. Their goal is to have a cat that takes up the whole page when they are finished. Begin the drawing with the cat's head-instruct the students to draw a large U-it should take up about half of the paper. Next, connect the top of the U with a line that starts diagonal, flattens to horizontal and then is diagonal again to create the ears and top of the cat's head. To start the cat's face, instruct students to watch all the types of noses they can make before they decide which one to use. Draw two vertical lines in the middle of the cat's head and show them three types of noses; square, triangular, and rounded at the bottom. Once the nose is drawn, they should add curved lines from the top of the nose to the sides of the cat's face. These are the top of his eyes. The bottoms of the eyes can be large or small, depending on where the kids place the lower lids; show several choices. They should add a circle inside the eyes, and can add a dot or line inside the circle.
Next is the cat's body. First show them examples of cats with and without wings and tell them if they choose to add wings, they should make a skinnier cat to leave room for them. If not, the cat's body can go all the way to the edge of the paper. I instruct them to start with the front paws, which can be on the left or right of the cat. I show them both choices, and instruct them to make a "lower case d and lower case b," to help them see the shape of the paws. Next is the back of the cat's body, which I draw with several choices of tails. I show them a curved tail, a straight tail, and a wavy tail and tell them they can use one of those or make up their own tail. They look nice if the tail touches the front paws, but if they don't they need to add a belly to the cat between the paws.
Finally students can add some personal touches. They can add a mouth, tongue, whiskers, freckles, lines for toes, wings, and/or a halo. Next, they need to go over every pencil line with black crayon very darkly. I show them how to color over the same spot several times to cover all of the color of the paper.
Next class, we finish the crayon if necessary and start the color. We used chalk pastels for the blended color background. This time, I asked them to use warm/cool colors-either one color group for the whole cat, or one for the head and the other for the body. I liked them much better using these color groups! I demonstrate how to clean off the chalks and blend them with their finger. I discourage using a tissue for blending as I feel the tissue takes some of the color off and makes the paper rough. Once their chalk is done, I ask them to run an eraser along their crayon lines to get the excess chalk off and brighten the color and to erase any smudges outside of the cat.
Our final class period focuses on the patterns of Burch's animals. I remind them of the types of patterns that Burch used to avoid getting any crazy patterns or stripes. The students are shown oil pastels, and I point out the differences between the chalk they used last time and the oils they will use this time. They are instructed to add the patterns and finish up the cat's eyes. I encourage them to use more than one color in the eye, as it makes it much more interesting. I have laminated these in the past, but be aware that if you do the oil pastels will melt. Rarely, they melt too much and smear across the project.
I assess the completed works of art for: blended color, use of pattern, correct use of warm/cool colors, and craftsmanship.


Anonymous said...

Very nice lesson. What grade is this? Pastels are my favorite medium to use with students. I look forward to trying something similar with my class. Thanks for the idea!

Jodi said...

You're welcome! I do this one with third graders and they usually turn out wonderful. I like that they get to understand the difference between chalk and oil pastel. Another blog reader told me she found an interview with Laurel Burch on You Tube. I haven't had time to look for it, but it sounds like a great technology connection for introducing this lesson!