I have been really wanting to do a mural for a long time, but never really settled on a topic I felt had enough diversity to allow students at all levels to be successful. Somewhere along my drive to work about 3 weeks ago the idea came to me - so simple, so easy -- under the sea... better yet a coral reef! There are all sizes, shapes, and colors of plants and animals!
When I got to school I covered a large bulletin board in my room with blue paper and started to plan the unit. I decided it was important to not only learn about murals, but the coral reef as well -- the plants and animals that live there. I felt it was important that their mural was as dynamic as a real coral reef - so we couldn't use plain old construction paper for our creation, the beginning of the unit began to take shape......
The first day I talked with them about murals - but I didn't tell them the theme until the very end of class . The activity for the day was to decorate papers and I was a afraid if they knew the topic then they would be bias with their color choices! I handed out white paper and had the students use crayons and texture plates to color the papers. When one WHOLE side of that paper was colored they got waters colors and painted over top. The 2nd graders had 12x18 paper and used one color for their crayons -- all shades of blue for example. The kindergarten students had 8.5x11 paper and could use any colors they wanted. These papers were gorgeous!
At the end of the first class I cleaned them up a little bit early and explained that our mural would be about the coral reef - and to learn more about the types and shapes of plants and animals that lived there I had a video to show them. I told them that many of them, if not all of them, had seen this video before and they needed to look past the movie and really look at the plants that they saw -- the shapes, colors, textures.
I played them about 7 minutes of Finding Nemo by Pixar. I started the film at about 00:06:10 and ended about 7-10 minutes later. This section is toward the beginning of the movie when Nemo first goes to school. Pixar did a fabulous job of showing off coral reefs - the students 'oooo-ed' and 'awwww-ed'. I occasionally paused the video to have them take a good look at everything,
At the beginning of the next class we reviewed what happened last time in class. I explained that I cut up all their papers (I explained that this would happen during the previous class) so that they could pick the size, texture, and colors they needed for their coral reef piece. I gathered all the students around one table to do a 'think aloud'. I had a book about coral reefs, which I thumbed through talking out loud about my thoughts - what I was thinking, how I was going to choose which plant to draw. Once I decided, I then thought out loud about my paper choice. I then drew my plant on the back of the decorated piece of paper. Next, I decided if I wanted to use fancy scissors (the scissors what cut different lines) or normal scissors -- I talked out loud about if my plant was smooth, sharp, or bumpy. I cut out my plant and last, but least, took a Sharpie to add details to my plant.
I asked that the students do two plants and bring them to me when they were done. Some classes I let them pick where their plants went on the mural, and other classes I had them place them in a pile and I put them on our mural after class. When students were done with their plants they could create anything, school appropriate, out of their scraps!
At first our mural was confusing and not very interesting - but as more and more plants were added the students got more and more excited.