Celebrating Spring: Birds

First I must credit the amazing Patty at Deep Space Sparkle for the inspiration and foundation lesson plan. You can visit her online shop for amazing art lesson plans at amazing deals. And no she didn’t pay me to say that!! Patty mostly works with K-6 grade and while the bulk of my students are pre-K with a good handful being 5-7Y old so I knew I needed to tweak a few things to make this lesson plan a success with younger kids who are still building their pencil grip and ability to follow a draw along tutorial. I also do most of my projects in a single one-hour slot so getting through all the steps in one sitting was a good challenge. First I simplified things by having everyone cut and paint a pre-drawn bird. For my youngest students who aren’t cutting proficiently I had these already cut out so they could enter the classroom and begin painting. Below you will find different adaptations for the same lesson plan based on age and skill level. Enjoy!
Bird template (body and feather)
Construction paper for background
Oil pastel


The children entered the studio to trays full of birds and scissors…or birds and paint depending on their age.  This was a big project day, so the children were invited to get started cutting or painting the birds right away.One helpful hint for cutting round parts is to  turn the paper rather than their scissors…. it is so much easier.Before we started painting the birds students were asked to consider that the tree and branches were going to be green and brown and the background blue so colors like red, orange, yllow, pink and purple would stand out best.  When the paint was dry feathers were added to bring texture and more color. Once the birds were painted, they were set aside to dry.

While the birds were drying, we read Birds by Kevin Hankes and illustrated by Laura Dronzek. This lovely book explored birds and trees and all their beautiful shapes, sizes and colors.
birds book
Next it was time to make the tree and branches!
For the students ready to follow a draw along excercise we used 12 x 18 white paper and a black oil pastel. They were led in a directed drawing or a “draw along” to draw a tree.  I sat at the end of the table and demonstrated while verbally describing what I drew. We began with the trunk. Students were shown a strait line or a meandering  line depending on the age of the class and their abilities. To complete the trunk, they drew another line parallel to the first. Next is was time to draw a branch.  The children were shown how to draw matching horizontal lines to make a few branches. They were encouraged to draw as few or as many branches as they liked.
Next, it was time to add leaves. To draw leaves, the kids were shown to draw a small straight line with little moon shapes on wither side.  I think they really enjoyed this new skill and it was fun watching them explore size and shape. They were instructed to draw on the backside of recycled art that had been painted green. They then cut out the leaves to use on their branhces. Most kids wanted to use the side with their drawn leaf shape so in future classes we adjusted to drawing on the colorful side of the paper.
Now that the tree, branches and leaves were drawn, it was time to paint! To make brown, mix yellow, blue and red. Recycled applesauce cups make great cups with small portions for small hands. The children painted the tree brown and the leaves green (or skipped painting leaves and glued on the cut ones once the tree and background were complete). Next, they painted the background blue. The children were so focused that a quiet came over the studio.
Once they finished painting, the children retrieved their dried bird from the trays and glued it onto  the tree. And the masterpieces were complete!
My youngest students (18M-2.5Y)  worked on smaller, 9×12 in. paper with pre-cut strips of brown for the branches and pre-cut leaves made from recycled art. They used glue to create the tree branch with leaves and then applied the painted and feathered bird last.

Some of my 2Y and 3Y students worked on the large 12 x 18 paper with pre-cut branches however we did some scissor practice and they cut their own leaves.
In a few of my classes we diverged from the classic blue background. This is a lovely colorful project and can be manipulated in many ways to the likes of the artist.

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