For the past several years, I have started the year with 1st grade through 5th grade working on some sort of printmaking project. (Kindergarten doesn’t participate, because they need a special introduction to the art room.) For me, even with all the dirty brayers, and the drying rack sagging with work, its easiest to have the whole room set up to print all day. I can adapt the content to each grade level, while keeping my mind fully in printmaking mode. (I have a similar method when I teach ceramics to the whole school.)
Let’s dig in and see how I approach this with 1st Grade, shall we?
We start by talking about how artists think. The video below describes how artists Research, Brainstorm, and Get Feedback from each other. As a class, we come back to these practices over and over throughout the year. The great thing about these three practices, is that they are not specific to art, but can be applied in other areas of life!
After we are done talking about thinking like an artist, I show them some of the prints we have made in past 1st grade classes. I explain that we will learn a lot about nocturnal animals and print white ink on black paper to make the artwork look like it takes place at night.
I ask the students if they learned how to draw any nocturnal animals last year. Eventually, student remember that they learned to draw and paint owls. Some gold star students even remember making clay owls in kindergarten, too!
We get out our sketchbooks (copy paper folded in half and stapled together) and review how to draw owls as a class.
After the students have reviewed how to draw an owl, I let them practice drawing it in their sketchbook or drawing other things in their sketchbooks.
At the end of the class I show the following video about nocturnal animals and ask students what animals they want to learn how to draw in the next class.
On the second day, we go into a little more depth about how Albrecht Durer studied nature with his sketchbook. I let students choose a few different nocturnal animals to try out in their sketchbooks. (I have a few of my demos up on youtube here.) After sketching, I bring out my tray of moveable type that another teacher gave me and I show pictures I took of the printing press while I was at Colonial Williamsburg.
I also show this short video about Gutenberg:
On the third day, we make our printing plates, but carving our drawings into a piece of Inovart Printfoam.
At the end of class we talk a little bit more about the Renaissance.
Finally, its time to print. I give each child three sheets of black paper and have them put their name on each one. Then I send them to the rug to see this demonstration video:
While students are reviewing the printing process, I put the ink at the tables. We print for 3 days and make a total of 9 prints.
There are two reasons why I do this:
- Students improve their printing skills after repeating the process.
- If someone is absent on print day, they still can print on the other two days.