Scaffolding Learning: Observation, Value, Portraits, Grade 3

Below is a series of lessons third grade students experienced this winter in the art classroom.  Time and space only allows for a small sampling of the amazing art made by the students and very brief notes about the lessons but hopefully the following will provide a glimpse into my thinking and how I structure learning over time for students.

1. Student-made Sketchbooks, Observational Crayon Drawings, Still-life and Human Figure Manikins

For more on these observational drawings, click here to view December 2, 2012 post: "Warm Ups!" 

For more on these observational drawings, click here to view December 2, 2012 post: "Warm Ups!" 

  • Practice: quick, 2-minute observational drawings; also learned techniques for making personal sketchbooks
  • Entry point: teacher-led lesson on making sketchbooks with independent practice working on: “can you use what you learned about making the sketchbook to make a ‘better’ sketchbook?"  Observation of still-life displays and manikins
  • Created the covers using their own ideas


2. Shading Techniques Introduction

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  • Practice: 6B Soft Lead Drawing Pencil, crayon & colored Pencil shading techniques; light, medium & dark values
  • Entry point: teacher-led technique lesson
  • Drawn ‘free-hand’ to give students an opportunity to make mistakes, have variation from teacher-model, to get a feel for organization, size and placement abilities and choices


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3. Life Drawing

  • Practice: short, 2-5 minute poses of fellow students, observing light and dark shadows on the face and introduction to gesture and contour drawing


4. PhotoBooth Self-Portrait

  1. Take Photo using PhotoBooth App and Strong Side-lighting to Observe Effect of Light and Shadow
  2. Mount Photo on Black Paper and Decorate Border with Oil Pastel
  • Practice: mounting a photo and creating a design for the border; cover the entire border area with color so that no black paper shows 
  • Entry point: mount the photo any way you like on the black paper--you may add any designs to the border and cut the edges but do not draw on the photo (will be used later for observational drawing)
  • Opportunity to have fun with the photo with the goal that the more time the student spends with the photo, the more likely that they will form a stronger mental picture of the image

5. Self-Portrait Drawings with 6B Pencil and Shading, Grade 3:

  1. Left hand side self-portrait is from an observation of the PhotoBooth photo
  2. Right hand side self-portrait is a drawing using observation, memory and imagination
  • Practice: observational drawing of a portrait using shading with soft lead pencil; draw again to create a self-portrait that is original adding memory and imagination to the previous observation.
  • Entry point: notice the side lighting and how it casts a shadow on half the face--try to add shading to your face, draw the background and add shading to the entire drawing
  • Opportunity for students to experience a direct line between observation and memory/imagination to create an original and expressive work of art


6. Self-Portrait, Black Ink Pens & Colored Pencil, Grade 3

  • Practice: applying previous experience of portrait conventions and observations to an original & expressive self-portrait; drawing directly on the paper with the pen with no under-drawing--trusting what happens and working with the results; matching colored pencil shading to own skin color
  • Entry point: ‘we have been working on portraits and self-portraits--now we will create a self-portrait that will be on the cover of grade level class project called ‘All About Me.  Use your observations, memories and imagination to create the portrait.’
  • Opportunity to practice portrait drawing skills and to synthesize previous learning to create an original and expressive self-portrait using memory, observation and imagination.

Click here and here to view galleries of third grade portraits.


California Visual Arts Standards:

2.1 Explore ideas for art in a personal sketchbook.

2.4 Create a work of art based on the observation of objects and scenes in daily life, emphasizing value changes.

In preparation for Grade 4 standards:

2.1 Use shading (value) to transform a two-dimensional shape into what appears to be a three-dimensional form.

2.2 Use the conventions of facial and figure proportions in a figure study.

2.5 Use accurate proportions to create an expressive portrait or a figure drawing or painting.

2.6 Use contrast (light and dark) expressively in an original work of art.