1st Grade - Still Life Plants

post drawing
This project started as a cross-curricular project with the 1st grade science unit about plant life cycles.  The elementary art team in my district had a grant to purchase materials specifically to do projects that corresponded with a unit in their regular education room. 

The original thought was to have the students do a still life -- look at the plant and draw.  I decided to do pre and post still life drawings to see if there would be a difference in their drawings (and boy is there a difference!).  The first day of the project students received a piece of paper (18x11) and folded it in half hamburger style.  Then, with a pencil, they drew the best plant they could making it fill most of the paper.  I did not specify what type of plant, because I wanted to see what they would default to.  After their plant was drawn I asked them to create a background and color it with crayons.

left: post     right: pre
The next class period I explained that we were going to draw plants again - but that this time they were going to have a plant to look at.  I did a demonstration where I did a 'think aloud'.  I said my thoughts out loud as I decided on the shape of the stems and leaves.  For example: "The leaves look kind of like hearts connected to the stem.  I notice that the stem is not straight and tall - but is curvy and falls over the edge of the pot.  Each stem has lots of leaves on them!"  As I talk I draw what I see.  I then ask the students if there are any flowers on my plant (the plant I was using did not).  I then ask them if I should have flowers on my drawing - they reply with no.  The students are encouraged to really focus on drawing their plants and are not given any instructions to color so that they work slowly.  If their plant is done with quality they may add a background with pencil.  After I answer any questions the students head back to their table to start drawing their own plant.

left: pre      right: post (in space)
The following class I pull the students for another demonstration about how to color their plants using oil pastels.  I, again, do a think aloud as I talk about the colors that I see.  Example: "I see that my plant is mostly green - however when I look at the leaf of the plant I notice the top of the leaf is a darker green than the middle, and the tip is almost a tan color"  I then find those colors and color the leaf as I described it.  I do this a couple more times and then ask the students questions like, "Is my plant all ONE color of green?" "Is there any purple on my plant?"  "Is there any red on my plant?"  "Should I color my plant any colors that I don't see?"  The students respond accordingly.

The kids head back to their tables, dump out their oil pastels and get to work!

left:  post        right: pre
The next class I like to put all their pictures up on a wall and we gather around their pictures on the floor - a sort of class critique.  I ask the students to silently find their project with their eyes.  I then ask them to look at both their pre and their post drawing and decide which one they like best.  Then I ask them which one looks the most real.  I then ask them to raise their hand if it was the same answer for both questions.  I ask someone to share why they think their favorite one was also the one that looks the most real.  I then ask students to share which one in the class has the most realistic leaves, the highest quality of coloring, the most unique, the most interesting background.  I ask them to explain why they chose each option. 

This part will sometimes take most of class or only part -- it depends on the students and their level of engagement.  It is wonderful to listen to students and their reasons - great higher level thinking exercise.

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