Friday, August 26, 2011

Crazy or Not - First Art Class of the New Year = Painting!!

The first two weeks of the new year have come to a close and I have a weekend to renew and regroup for week 3. This year I decided to approach the first class with students a bit differently than I have in the past. Instead of spending the 45 minute first class of the year with rules, procedures, and creating art portfolios, I decided that we would jump right into the new year with a fun, energetic project. 

I chose to do "Circle Painting" with my 2nd through 5th graders and adapted it to "circle drawing" with my Kindergarten and 1st grade students (see this modification at the end of this post). If you haven't heard of Circle Painting yet - do a quick Google search on it. There are some YouTube videos out there on the subject also. Here's my take on the basic gist of circle painting: a group of people get together to collaboratively work on a painting. Each person adds something and expands off of what others paint. This can be one large painting or a circle of smaller paintings.  This sounded like a wonderful first day project. As we were working on them I could be emphasizing one of my important rules in my art room - Respect. Working together as a group requires students to respect each other and their ideas. So even though I didn't spend a great deal of time boring students with art room rules -we had fun as one of the rules were explained and practiced.

Here's how I set up my circle painting - 
I have my students in groups. I hadn't yet put my students into seating charts yet -so I just made sure the groups were even. Depending on the size of the class - the groups ranged from 3 to 5 students each. Each table had a large 18x24 white paper labeled on the back with the class code. I squirted a little tempera into about 35 cups (I have some rather large classes this year!). A brush was placed into each cup. Students were sent to put on a paint shirt and pick a cup of paint and stand -not sit- around their table.

Before students were told to start - I went over how they were going to be moving around the room and how they knew when it was time to move. I assigned each table a number 1 student who would be responsible for starting the painting by painting a circle in the center of the paper. Once that student finished the circle the rest of the students could begin to paint on the paper. They could paint inside the circle, outside the circle, adding lines, designs, shapes, whatever they wanted to add. I asked for them not to paint words at all and we went over how to be respectful of what someone has painted. Adding to someones painting is what they need to do - not to destroy or paint over what someone has done.

After I noticed that all students had painted at least a little something painted on the paper at their table I rang a bell or made a clapping pattern that signaled them to move to the next table and continue with that painting. We moved clockwise around the tables and they were allowed to trade paint color at any time. After that initial painting round I only let them paint about 3-4 minutes before I sounded the alert to move to the next table. My goal was to get them to every table and then back to their original table.

Everyone enjoyed the experience. It was interesting seeing the reaction of the students when they returned to the table where the painting had started. Some were pleased at the results, while some were a bit upset because someone had changed something they thought should have been left alone. It was a great cooperative project and I believe it will stick in their memories.

Here are some in-progress pictures from different classes -

Kindergarten and 1st grade modification:
I was not brave enough to do the circle painting with my youngest groups of students. They just were not ready for that. Instead of painting we did the exact same project but called it a "circle drawing". I introduced Line as an Element of Art. We went over how to draw a variety of lines and then I explained how they were going to do these circle drawings.

Using crayons and markers they did the same thing as the older students did with paint - just a lot less mess and confusion. They had fun doing this and were even a bit more cooperative when it came to making marks off of someone else's marks.
Sometime before the end of the school year I plan on revisiting this project with these little ones and have them do the circle painting when they seem ready for it.

Here are some pic from the "circle drawings" -


  1. You are a very BRAVE woman! How many groups did you have with 3-5 kids? I have up to 12 tables of 4-5 kids...not going to attempt to paint any time soon! Kudos to you! Great job!

  2. Hi Theresa,

    This is Hiep, founder and director of Circle Painting ( I'm glad to learn that you've made the best use of the Circle Painting project for your first week of school.
    Hopefully we can collaborate to make a Circle Painting event that involve all the students, parents, staff, and the whole community to create murals for your school in the future.


  3. I love how you set up this lesson I am going to try this with my Kinders next week!! Thanks for posting!

  4. Low Man - 12 tables? Wow! Are you Middle school?

    In one school I have 6 tables that have up to 6 students at each table - most classes have 4 or 5 students at a table. In another school I have 8 tables that have 4-5 students at each one with many classes having 3-4 students at a table. At my third school - I teach out of a "multi-purpose" room where there are only 5 tables stuffed with up to 6 students at each table (honestly I didn't attempt this with this school - room just isn't set up for it). My largest classes range from 30 to 35 students.

  5. Hiep - Thank you so much for your website. It was great inspiration!
    I was definitely thinking that your Circle Painting project would be great for one of my Family Art Nights at one of my schools. I will contact you if I can organize one later in the school year. The fall our district's art department (K-12) is very involved in hosting an Empty Bowl Project so I'm thinking the Circle Painting would be a great Spring event.

  6. That's sound great, Theresa. I'm looking forward to it.

  7. This is a great idea for my special class of 7 disabled students. They are together all day and yet don't have many chances for collaborative work. This is perfect. I'll start with 7 papers and 7 colors!

  8. Beverly - it is a great idea for your students. I have many special needs students who are integrated into the classes that loved this project. They worked with all the students and could not fail. I'm going to hang the paintings up tomorrow and look forward to seeing the students' reactions when they return to school.

  9. Do you send this shared work home? If so how do you decide which students get one? I love this project and also how great they look hanging up! Thanks for sharing this!

  10. SMGB - the work is currently still on display - but I marked the papers on the back with the class code and plan on cutting up each painting for students to take a part home with them.