Teaching Art

At the end of July 2018 I finished a full year teaching Art to children ages 4-11 years old at a large primary school in Coventry.  Teaching children with a range of ages and abilities doesn’t faze me; it is one of my favourite things about supply teaching when I do it.  However, coming up with that many art lessons for the academic year seemed rather daunting, and yet it turned out inspiration was never far away.  Some of the bigger challenges were logistics, time, and school resources.

In this blog post I shall share with you some of what the children got up to in their Art lessons.  If you are a parent or teacher looking for inspiration, don’t think twice about stealing these ideas.  Great teachers steal.  So do artists, according to Picasso.

Year R

Being Year Rs, these children led the activity themselves to a certain extent!  However, an idea of how they could achieve their goal was usually demonstrated, and often had a link to the story they were currently reading or an annual celebration like Fireworks night.

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Year 1

The year 1s were lucky enough to have art for about 18 weeks of their school year.  In that time they worked through units of artwork that linked to topics: Dinosaurs, Space, and Patterns.

They explored a couple of artists in the Space topic, learning some new techniques and applying them to their work.  We also had fun making aliens out of modelling clay!

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In the Dinosaur unit, they covered how to use shape to accurately draw (in this case dinosaurs), and developed colour theory, managing to create paintings using only the primary colour paints.

The ‘Patterns’ unit was probably the most relaxing set of lessons we had!  The children explored patterns on animals, around them, ending with patterns created through Neopoprealism.  At the end of the year, the children relaxed in the sunshine, discovering the therapeutic joy of doodling patterns in the style of Neopoprealism.

Year 2

The year 2s mostly had a watery theme, exploring making 3D models of marine creatures, with some colour theory about warm and cool colours thrown into a painting session.  They created bright, beautiful work, some of which is now hanging in the corridors of the school.  What a great installation piece!


Year 3

The year 3s ended up spending a good chunk of their time enjoying Art.  This year they explored Roman Greek Art through collage and created huge final pieces collaboratively as classes.  The collages took a long time and a lot of patience from the children, but they did a super job.


Later in the year the Year 3s visited The National Gallery in London, learning about the artwork and finding their current picture put to them by the gallery through ‘Take One Picture’.  This year it was that creepy image of a group of people watching a Science experiment, involving sucking the oxygen out of a bowl.  Creepy, I say, because of the bird suffocating (almost?) in the bowl, the mixed emotions on the faces of the viewers in the painting, and the scientist who strikes me as eccentric in what looks like a dressing gown.  It’s as if he has just dreamt this idea up to test what the air is made of, and gotten everyone up in the house to observe his genius.  Of course, the children and I loved ‘An Experiment of a Bird in the Air Pump’ as our chosen image.  It brought about a lot of discussion.  The children learned why the bird was involved to test whether there was oxygen (because in those days people were only just beginning to understand that the air was made up of various gasses), the contrast of dark and light was significant and led to further lessons on this, and attempting to sketch the artwork led to further lessons about how to use shape and form to accurately draw.

Image result for an experiment on a bird in the air pump
‘An Experiment of a Bird in an Air Pump’ by Joseph Wright, painted in 1768.

Year 4

The year 4s had a term on learning about Kandinsky.  They were also working through a topic about music and musical instruments.  The Music Room was also looking like it needed some love at the time, so we decided to put Kandinsky, musical instruments, and the Music Room altogether and liven up the walls of the Music Room.  The children loved the sense of purpose to this project, and produced high quality work.


Year 5

What a super time this group had.  I only had a few weeks with this year group, so everything was planned tightly and the class had to keep very focused!  Despite the time, they managed to make some 2D and 3D artwork with the theme of Space.  They explored Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ as a starting point as a style to implement into their final pieces.  I am really pleased with how their 3D work turned out.

space year 5 copy

Year 6

The year 6s began with collage, and then focused on developing their painting skills with watercolour paints.  During their unit of work, the explored colour theory to a higher level, developed a range of painting techniques to achieve different effects, and referred to artists to inspire their work.  The topic their artwork linked to was Frozen Kingdoms.



Frozen Kingdoms

If you want to see my planning for an activity, just drop me an email at: smiles-art@outlook.com, and I will happily send them to you.


Remember to share your favourite Art lessons and activities in the comments, so that we can all steal from you too!



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