Periodic Table Characters (Drawing & Watercolor)

Units 2 & 3 – Periodic table character generation

(Drawing and Watercolor Painting)

(Hybrid & Distance Learning)

This is a three part unit where  students created a character from the periodic table, made a watercolor background as a setting and wrote a story or made an animation about their persona.  They filled out a series of questions about their character, chose to sketch their character realistically or with cartooning and explored mark making and shading in order to arrive at two final drawings that applied these ideas.  They had access to cartoon handouts, websites and figure drawing poses on the Internet as helpers. This lesson encouraged lateral thinking and personification as well as storytelling.

Milah used carbon for her element and explored diamonds and hairstyles.

Gwen’s sketches are playful renderings of her character.

Ava explored the element of antimony with a character with two personality sides.

They practiced shading by observing objects in order to understand and apply shading to their characters.

watercolor Character Settings

Students practiced their watercolor techniques in a grid by watching a video I made.


Grace’s character setting was in Australia.


Some students chose to put their character inside their watercolor as one option I gave them.








Collaborative Art Games–4th Grade

Group art games: Color Mixing, task box, musical chairs painting & art observation

Fourth graders participated in a unit of four classes on collaborative art games.  The first of these was color mixing using color chips I painted and gave to them so they could make that color on teams.  They chose the teammate closest to the paint chip to try to go for the class win. I showed them tertiary colors on the color wheel and how to mix them, but I left a lot up to them to discover exactly how to do this.

color mixing game






musical chairs painting

The second game was musical chairs painting, but instead of taking a chair away, we left all chairs in the room and when the music started they walked or danced around until it stopped, and then found a seat other than their own.  Finally, during the last round they returned to their seats to use the Element of Art of unity to complete and resolve their work.

Initial student completes the work






Completed Examples

I asked them to write down how they used unity in their final pieces as a way to asses them.






Task box

The students watched a video on Oliver Herring, a social practice artist, who designs task parties around the world.  Each participant places a task in a box for someone else to blindly choose and interpret for a piece of art.  When the person is done with the task, they put another task back in to keep it moving.  In our class, fourth graders wrote tasks involving painting and drawing for their peers and had a great time!

Examples of tasks the kids wrote

One girl made herself small in a garden

One student asked another to draw Thailand

This student was instructed to draw their biggest fear.








Art Observation game

The final round of games involved art observation by having one student from each team hide a piece of art from their peers and try to describe it to them.  The other students would try to draw or paint an image of the description.  The person closest to the original image would be chosen by the team and then go to the final round where I had them vote on the winner.




















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Sketchbook Mania–5th Grade

Paste paper Sketchbook Design & collaborative idea generation

In this unit, fifth graders mixed colors and created their own fancy paste papers to use as sketchbook covers that they added to handmade books.  After they assembled their books, they came up with ideas to sketch as a team or they could use my ideas provided as scaffolding.  Many chose to do cartooning so we watched videos and I gave them handouts.










Making the sketchbooks

Example Sketches



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Mosiac Storytelling–3rd Grade

Mosaics can tell a story

Third grade explored how mosaics tell stories through art history such as ones found in Pompeii.  They focused on detail and value in making their paste paper and its application on the mosaic.  After viewing the slides, they drew a plan of their story on white paper and then transferred it to a color of their choice on construction paper.

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Exploring Nature in Printmaking–2nd Grade

Block printing with vegetables

Second grade created prints in a unit on block printing and monoprinting with everyday materials found in their communities from the natural world.  They first tried block printing in tempera paint with onions, celery, green peppers and carrots.  They were working on getting movement into their piece as an Element of Art.




This 2nd grader figured out how to make rainbows with onions.

Contour line to prep for monoprinting on foam





The kids drew a contour line after I explained that they should imagine themselves as an ant walking around the outside.  Then they cut out their drawing and traced it on the foam in pencil to indent it.

Foam Plates

They added the leaf veins on the foam using observational drawing and then used markers to ink their plate and print on a damp paper.









Block printing their leaf plate with tempera paint

Students then applied tempera paint with a brush to their plates and stamped their leaf on the paper.




















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Paste Paper Animal Collage–K/1st Grade

Paste paper animals after Eric Carle and Pete Cromer

Kindergarten and first grade started the unit watching a video of Eric Carle talking about his book The Man Who Painted a Blue Horse and then I read the book to them.  Carle made the book after being inspired by Franz Marc’s German Expressionist paintings.  I explained that real or invented animals can be made with imaginary colors.

They started by making paste paper and I gave them two primary colors to mix in their paste containers.  They did this for two classes layering colors and using other colors made by other kids.

Then they drew up a plan for their paste paper animal using shape templates and we went over shapes as a class.  Then they traced shapes on the back of paste paper and cut out their collage to glue down.

Kindergarten plan drawings







first grade PLan drawings

Assembling the paste paper into a collage

kindergarten examples












first grade examples

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Identity Shadow Play–Middle School

The process

While student teaching in middle school, I led the kids through a unit on identity including costume building and painting.  The first step was to play around with props behind the back-lit screen.








After that, they viewed slides on shadow play and I asked them questions about identity and how they can change theirs.  They then came up with sketches for their costumes that they would be making in sculptural form out of paper or cardboard.















They could design any character, animal or object they desired, but they had to brainstorm at least two sketches first and check in with peers before coming to me with their final plan. Then they went to work constructing their costumes.









Standing behind the screen gave them a chance to show off and experiment with the final touches in front of a peer audience who would take pictures of them on the student’s phone for use as a referent in the painting later.

They used the photos they took of their costumes to create either a rub-out painting or an alla prima (wet on wet) one, giving them a choice of technique.


















































Collection of Warm Ups

Warm ups for Middle school

At the beginning of each of my lessons while student teaching, I started the class with warm ups consisting of 3-10 minute activities to get the kids engaged.

Draw yourself at age 90












Draw a futuristic car that represents yourself

Draw three animals together in one mythological creature using three materials




Collaborative Workshop & Final Show– 4.18.19 & 4.25.19

Preparation for Final Show and Button Souvenirs

In this final collaboration, the students worked on finishing up their projects from other sessions that they may not have completed for their art show next week.  We also discussed how they could choose what pieces to put in the show and left it up to them entirely, with some encouragement.  They made button souvenirs of images they had previously made if they finished their other projects.  In addition, they filled out surveys informing us of their opinions of the sessions, which were very positive.   Some chose to write an artist statement as well, which we will place next to their work in the exhibition at United Action for Youth here in Iowa City.

Prepping for the Show: Students' Choices

Prepping for the Show: Students’ Choices

 Screen Prints

Finishing up Some Screen Prints

Also working on a Screen Print from Last Session

Also Working on a Screen Print from Last Session






Button in Process

Button in Process

Buttons in Process

Buttons in Process

Buttons After Being Made

Buttons After Being Made















Final Show at UAY in iowa city

Install view

Max’s comics and our collaborative first lesson






My screen printing view

More screen prints

Rub out paintings from the shadow activity

More rub out paintings from the shadow activity


Lesson Plan

Tessa Sutton & Max Johnson
Level or Course: Secondary (grades 7-12)
Time Needed: 90 minutes

 Workshop Overview/Goals: In this activity, students will prepare for the final show at the United Action for Youth Center on April 25, by discussing which pieces they will choose for the show and how they want their pieces put together as a group. After finishing up any remaining pieces that they want in the show, they will be composing an artist’s statement for all their work as a whole and filling out a feedback survey for us. We also have a short art activity for them involving making a button or two as a souvenir of the workshops, based on some part of their art that they made during the sessions. Reflection is a key component of Barry Zimmerman’s social cognitive model of self-regulated learning as well as Dewey’s child-centered philosophy.

NAEA Standards:

  • Creating: Refine and complete artistic work, Anchor Standard 3.
  • Presenting: Select, analyze and interpret artistic work for presentation, Anchor Standard 4.
  • Responding: Perceive and analyze artistic work, Anchor Standard 7.
  • Connecting: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art, Anchor Standard 10.


  • TLW finish and select works that they want to present for their art show, as well as look over and critique both their work and the work of their peers in order to make the best choices for the show, Anchor Standard 4, Standard 7 & Standard 3.
  • TLW create a button based from their favorite art activity from previous workshops. This will show that the learners will understand how to create a work of art in the form of the button and think about their most memorable work, Anchor Standard 3 & Standard 10.
  • TLW create an artist statement in order to articulate what art means to them, how they plan on using art in the future, and reflect on their own personal style and works through the self-assessment worksheets, Anchor Standard 10.


Marcel Duchamp, Boîte-en-valise, 1935-41. Leather valise containing miniature replicas, photographs and color reproductions of works by Duchamp, overall dimensions: 16 x 15 x 4 in.

Teacher Example:


Button Example

Button Example: What’s in the Sea is Not What You Get.








Line: Line is a mark with greater length than width. Lines can be horizontal, vertical,
or diagonal; straight or curved; thick or thin.
Color: is light reflected off of objects. Color has three main characteristics: hue
(the name of the color, such as red, green, blue, etc.), value (how light or dark it
is), and intensity (how bright or dull it is).
Emphasis: force or intensity of expression that gives impressiveness or importance to something.
Souvenir: something that serves as a reminder.
Artist statement: a written text accompanying visual art that gives adds another dimension of meaning and understanding to artistic process.

Supplies, Materials and Resources Needed:
Supplies: Button maker, computer, monitor, any necessary cables.
Materials: Previous student artwork to complete, button backs and fronts, plastic covers, paper in circles for buttons, markers, pencils, erasers, alcohol inks, droppers, rubbing alcohol, oil paint, acrylic paint, brushes, water cups, paper plates, screen printing ink, spoons, paper, T-shirts, bags, paper.

Technology: Computer, monitor, HDMI or other cables to attach computer to monitor


Launch: (3 min.)
1. Overview of the final workshop and explanation that they will be finishing up any old work that they want to complete for the show, writing an artist statement, survey and prompts as a summative assessment as well as making a souvenir button.

Instruction or Demonstration with Problem: (5 min.)
2. Discussion about what artwork to choose to put in the show and how we should display their work either by person or by activity.
3. Show the button activity and pass out button circle paper. Teacher will handle the button making machine.

Create: (70 min.)
4. Students work on any pieces that they want to finish up and place in the show and make their button about a part of their art they made already or some aspect of the workshops.
5. Students will write an artist statement. Sheet is attached below.

Closure: (12 min.)
6. Students will fill out a summative self-assessment with prompts (see below in this document) and the workshop survey in order to provide feedback to us about the activities.



  • Questions:
    • What were some aspects of our workshop activities that you found engaging?
    • What were some parts that were not engaging? If any, what?
    • Where there any workshop activities that challenged you? How so?
    • Where there any projects you wish you could go back and re-make?
    • What works are you planning on using for your buttons?
  • Observations:
    • How the learners are engaging in the discussion, what answers are they giving for the questions, if any.
    • Observe what works of art the learners are using for their buttons.
    • See if they are taking the concept of creating an artist statement seriously.


Students will be given a self-assessment with prompts to fill out about their work and progress in the workshops. They will also be asked to write a survey over their thoughts about their activities and what can be improved

Accommodations, Enrichments & Extensions

Students who may have difficulty with this lesson:
Accommodations can be made for students who have trouble holding or grasping materials by creating a sponge for them to put their brush or pencil inside of. Students who are hard of hearing may sit nearer to the instructors as well as sight impaired students. Presentations will have large font for people at the back to see clearly.
Advanced Learners: These students can discuss with the teacher about their ideas on how to hang the show or do research on group art shows on their phone.
Students who finish early: These students can make extra buttons or double check they have completed the work for the show.


Duchamp, M. (1935-1941). Retrieved from

*Survey and Artist Statement are on the following pages.

Final Workshop Survey

Before you all leave us to pursue bigger and better things, we wanted to ask you a few questions about the time you spent here with us over the past few weeks. These are anonymous and you only need to answer what you want to answer, so feel free to tell us what you’re thinking! Feel free to draw the answers if you want as well!

  • What would you say was the most enjoyable part about coming to workshops?
  • Out of all the workshop activities which one had the biggest impact on your art?
  • If you could go back in time and change one thing about the activities you did, what would it be?
  • Did any of these activities offer challenges in art you haven’t faced before? Which ones if any?
  • What are some comments you want to give Max and Tessa?


Artist Statement by _______________________________________________

I like these artworks because _____________________________________________________________________________

I envisioned something new when I decided to add ________________________________________________________________

to my artwork.

I took advantage of an accident when I ____________________________________________________________________________

Describe why you chose to do the art you make. Who or what inspired you? What meanings do you see in your work?

When practicing your art gets difficult, what keeps you going?


Example of a Student’s Response:

An Artist Statement
I like these artworks because they show improvement as an artist.
I envisioned something new when I decided to add different mediums.
I took advantage of an accident when I accidentally made my clover look like a dandelion.

Who or what inspires you? What meanings do you see in your work?
My dreams inspired me, so it can be hard to tell meaning from it.
When practicing your art gets difficult, what keeps you going?
Going back to paper and pencil and doodling something small.


Survey for Team Tessa!

Please rate the workshops on a scale of 1-5 & circle answer for each one:

5 = Extremely engaging & challenging
4= Very engaging & challenging
3= Somewhat engaging & challenging
2=Not very engaging or challenging
1=I didn’t like this very much.

Workshop #3 – Puzzling Over Memory

5                           4                           3                           2                           1

Comments/Why did you choose your number?

Workshop #5 – Playing with Identity in Shadows & Painting

5                           4                           3                           2                           1

Comments/Why did you choose your number?

Workshop #7 – Subverting Screen Printed Idioms

5                           4                           3                           2                           1

Comments/Why did you choose your number?

Additional comments for Tessa: How can I improve teaching kids at your age and higher ability levels? Other suggestions? I learned a lot from working with you folks, so thank you.