In grades one and two, the ability to make visual symbols, to create and communicate meaning through manipulating materials such as paint, clay, and paper is the central focus of the curriculum. Symbol-making comes about through a lengthy period of preparation and learning in which children experiment to gain understanding of how tools and materials work and how to express their expreiences through art making. in grades one and two, children understand that lines, shapes, colors, and clay configurations are more than designs and can stand for experiences of the real and imagined world. The understanding that creating a representation involves an interaction between ideas and mateirals becomes more apparent. The young artist now creates symbols that combine an emerging knowledge of lines and shapes with their experience of the world.

Children need to explore the tools and materials to enhance their basic manipulation skills and their understanding of the many possible ways to express their ideas. Students in grades one and two are encouraged and challenged to begin to make their representations mroe intentional. Making art work that expresses personal experiences, ideas, and feelings is at the heart of art instruction. Children want to communicate their ideas and tell their stories.

-- excerpt from Brookline Visual Arts Learning Expectations

Past Assignments:

Vincent Van Gogh:

First graders learned about the painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.


As a class, we read a book about Van Gogh that showed images of many of his paintings. We learned that he lived in Holland and France. We also learned that Van Gogh was sick and staying at a hospital when he painted Starry Night. He used memory, observation, and imagination to make this image of the area surrounding the hospital.

The first graders took time to carefully study Van Gogh's style of painting, and they noticed that he uses many different lines. The first graders saw curvy, bumpy, zigzag, short, long, skinny, wide, and swirly lines. We took some time to practice making lots and lots of different lines. Here are some examples:

As a homework assignment, the first graders were asked to go home and look out a window at night. During the next art class, we discussed the things that could be seen: cars, trees, other houses and buildings, street lights, the moon, a playground, and many other things. The students started drawing their own version of Starry Night on a large piece of watercolor paper using pencil. The shapes were filled in with lots of different kinds of lines using oil pastels. Finally, the whole paper was covered in a watercolor wash, a technique involving adding lots of water to watercolor paint and covering the entire surface of the paper with one color. The students decided that because the drawings were supposed to be at night the best colors for the watercolor wash would be blue, black, or purple.


The first graders really enjoyed learning about Vincent Van Gogh! We'll be learning about more artists soon.

Georgia O'Keeffe:

The first graders are learning about Georgia O'Keeffe. They learned that when she was a little girl, she loved to find shapes in nature and to look into and through openings by reading the book Georgia's Bones by Jen Bryant. We looked at some examples of Georgia O'Keeffe's famous flower paintings, like this one:

Oriental Poppies, 1927

As a class we discussed organic shapes, or shapes from or inspired by nature. Each student chose a silk flower to observe, draw, and paint. After choosing a flower, students made sketches that focused on the organic shapes that make up each part of the flower. Next, the students practiced making different shades with their pencils by making value scales (a series of spaces filled with progressively darker pencil markings) and then began shading their drawings. Finally, each student used a viewfinder (a paper with a hole cut out that helps the student focus on one part of an object by blocking out the rest of the object) to help find a close-up (or zoomed-in) view of the flower. This image was drawn on to a piece of heavy paper and then painted.

Prior to starting this assignment the first graders practiced color mixing with paints by making a color wheel, and also practiced making tints (a color + white) and shades (a color + black). Many of the students noticed that Georgia O'Keeffe uses a lot of tints and shades in her paintings, and mimicked this style. Students learned about blending paint together on the paper to show the variations in the flower's color.