5 of the Best Primary School Art Projects for Teachers
This year, Children's Art Week takes place 8-16 June. Across the country, galleries and venues open up their doors for visits by schools and families. Many of these places also put on workshops where children can try art projects and activities for themselves.
It's a fantastic opportunity to inspire children to create their own works of art, and it got us thinking about ways in which teachers can inspire their classes, too.
With that in mind, here are five art projects for inspiring children, all with excellent links to learning. You'll be able to incorporate many of the ideas in each outline into your own planning, but we loved them so much that we created complete schemes of work for each of them!
You can find links to these ready-to-teach Art lesson plan packs below each of the five art projects:
Art project #1: Get young learners drawing, painting and sculpting self portraits.
You will need:
- A box of dressing up clothes, props etc.
- Paints, pastels, chalks and crayons
Young children in KS1 may not have previously considered how they can use self portraits to portray their inner thoughts and feelings, but it's a fantastic way for them to express themselves.
Tip 1: Inspire your learners by showing them famous self portraits by a variety of artists. Take time to discuss how they were created, and what they believe the artist is thinking and feeling.
Historically, objects were placed in portraits to convey meaning!
Tip 2: Give children a chance to create their own photo portraits packed with meaning by posing for photographs with props or their favourite books or toys.
Developing greater control of pencils and pens when drawing lines and when shading is a vital skill for budding artists!
Tip 3: Begin to teach your Year 1/2 children how to make a variety of marks using pencils on paper.
You might want to take time to consider another way children can inject meaning into their self portraits: use of colour.
Tip 4: Ask children 'What mood do you want to show in your portrait? What colours do you associate with that mood?'
Tip 5: Give them the choice of a variety of paints and pencils with which they can create their very own self portraits!
It's great to give young children a choice of medium when creating their own works of art.
Art project #2: Use strong lines and bold colours to paint dramatic city skylines.
The skylines of cities are ever-changing, striking and colourful sources of inspiration for young artists. They're also ideal for studying in primary art, as children can develop a variety of art skills by designing and producing city skyline artwork!
Famous artists who work using a variety of different art media have created cityscapes.
Tip 1: Kick of your learning journey by looking at pop art, oil, watercolour and ink paintings and sketches of skylines.
Challenge children to work like Impressionist oil painters!
Tip 2: Use palette knives or scribes to apply thick paint with sharply defined edges while painting skylines. Perfect for painting skyscrapers in the night sky!
Some of the most stunning city skylines are framed beneath by bodies of water such as rivers or bays.
Tip 3: Explore the effects of reflections in art, and consider how to create your own sketches and paintings of cityscapes with reflected buildings.
Challenge children to develop their ideas by creating different versions of their own cityscape art designs.
Tip 4: Get your class to re-draw their skyline designs at different times of day or night, or during different seasons.
We love this as a subject for a primary Art project – there's so much you can do with city skylines!
Art project #3: Mix and use different tints, shades and tones in beautiful plant art paintings.
Great for your learners with a keen eye for detail, sketching, painting and sculpting plants is ideal for developing observation skills and dexterity with pencils, brushes and clay tools. To link to Science, and to inspire children to make detailed sketches, take a look at botanical illustrations.
Tip 1: Study traditional botanical illustrations, identify plant parts and consider reasons why drawings such as these are useful.
Carefully observing flowering plants is the perfect way to get children thinking about tints, shades and tones in their own works of art.
Tip 2: Challenge children to mix paints to accurately paint pictures of flowers.
It's not just colour theory that children can learn about while studying plants – they're the ideal subject matter for exploring light and shade, too!
Tip 3: Teach children how to create dramatic effects in pictures of plants, trees and forests by using light and shade to draw the eye and create interest.
Art project #4: Make beautiful jewellery with a variety of materials and art techniques.
For something a bit different to painting, drawing or sculpting, what about delivering some jewellery-making arts and crafts lessons? They're great for children who like to work neatly and methodically, and superb for developing fine motor skills.
Inspire all your learners with incredible pictures of theatre jewellery and ancient jewellery worn by royalty in ancient civilisations.
Tip 1: Encourage discussion about how jewellery examples you show your class are made, and what they are made from.
Take a look at gemstones. They're fantastic subject matter for learning about colour, shape, and pattern making.
Tip 2: Design abstract 'gemstone' repeating patterns.
Consider how threads and textiles may be incorporated in jewellery designs, and how sewing and knotting techniques may be used to join gemstones and beads. They'll be vital skills when it comes to making jewellery of children's own design!
Art project #5: Develop sculpting techniques by making stunning clay vases.
You will need:
- Play dough or plasticine
- Air dry modelling clay
- Clay boards (chopping boards, plastic table mats or tea trays work just fine, too!)
- Modelling tools such as knives, scribes (pencils and paperclips make excellent scribes!) rolling pins and sponges
- A variety of scrap materials, paints and varnish
Children love to work with clay - it's a very tactile experience, and one that gives them the opportunity to work in three dimensions.
We'd suggest you start by looking at a variety of different vases (ancient, historic ones; modern, functional ones; elaborate, decorative ones).
Tip 1: Ask children what they like about them, what materials have been used, and how they might have been made. It's good at this stage to start considering what aspects of these designs might be tricky to make in class, too!
Primary children often find working with soft, malleable clay quite tricky: we, as teachers, don't get the clay out too often, after all!
Tip 2: Give children the opportunity to develop and improve vase designs using a re-moldable modelling material like playdough* or plasticine lets them learn from mistakes and identify weak points in their vase designs. We highly recommend doing this before moving on to making final designs with clay.
*Need a fool-proof, easy recipe for playdough? Here's our own free easy play dough recipe!
After that, it's time to get the clay out and get sculpting! We highly recommend a clay wire for quickly and easily cutting equal portions of clay for all your children, and aprons or old shirts are a must; that clay gets everywhere!
Tip 3: Once the clay has dried, let your class express their arty ideas by decorating their vases according to their designs with a variety of materials.
So that's it! There's our top 5 art projects for primary school teachers. Don't forget that if you're planning a class trip to an art gallery or museum, Engage, who run Children's Art Week, have excellent advice and resources to help teachers plan their visit.
As a former teacher, one of the best things about working at PlanBee is that I actually get to make lesson planning and resources for the arty ideas I'm passionate about, just like those above. But we're far from the only ones with fantastic arty ideas. We spoke to Twitter teacher, @Teacherglitter, about one of their favourite art project, all about plastic pollution:
One of my fave projects. Not only did it take children out their comfort zone (most had never sewn before) it made them reflect on their relationship with plastic and the environment so had a social and moral angle x
You can learn all about this plastic pollution art project on Teacher Glitter's blog.
PlanBee art projects and arty ideas on Pinterest