Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Op Art - 3rd grade

These paintings are by 2nd graders. I tailored the lesson after one I found here: http://artwithmrssmith.blogspot.com/2010/09/op-art-floating-spheres.html but I simplified it for my little guys.

Students each started with an 8" square of white paper, and a 10" square of graph paper with a 1" graph. The kids traced a circle twice, once anywhere on their graph paper, and once on the white paper. On the white paper circle, they made two downward arches (rainbows or frowny-faces), and 2 upward ones (smile lines), then rotated their paper one turn and did it again. Then it was on to painting! I had a choice of 2 colors of fluorescent paint on each table; each child chose one to paint every other square. For kids that got confused, I reminded them the opposite blocks would be black and would therefore cover any mistakes. I helped "dot" the squares for those students who had trouble figuring out the checkerboard, particularly in the circle. (Note they did not paint the inside of the circle on the graph paper.) Then the students painted the opposite squares black,and when dry the painted circle was cut out and glued on the graph paper. Finally some black and white oil pastels were used for a shadow. Here's the whole bulletin board:

A couple of thoughts about this lesson after-the-fact:

  • The bulletin board looks really cool, and the kids are really proud, but they lack soul. I have to justify to myself that the kids learned a lot, in particular paintbrush control and the need to follow directions carefully. But this type of project, where everyone's work is essentially the same, is not really my cup of tea - I like the unique vision of children and how they interpret instructions and ideas, and a lesson like this does not leave any room for interpretation.

  • One other thought - if I did this lesson again, I would have them trade colors for the circle. One student (the painting at the top of the blog) got the wrong green after being absent one day, and I think that the circle stands out that much more because the color is slightly different. I think using the complement would be even more dramatic.


  1. What an ambitious project for 2nd grade! Very nice results! I understand what you mean about doing projects that are all the same, I struggle with that too. Sometimes it works well though because kids have something they feel really proud of and the process was valuable.
    Phyl, I wanted to let you know your ideas have been a big inspiration lately. I am finishing up Matisse project with the kids and loved you idea about the cave art with a flashlight. I plan to try something similar with my second graders :)

  2. Yes! Your modifications definitely worked:) Love the 2 circle idea; cut one out and glue on top......thanks for sharing my site in a link too.