Saturday, October 10, 2015


For three weeks now, my 1st graders have looked at the artwork of Frank Stella. I do feel that these are a little more "in the style of" Frank Stella than I would like. But hey, they gave us an opportunity to focus on some skills that I have noticed over the past two years students need a bit more practice in; placement, coloring with markers, and cutting with scissors.

During this first grading cycle (6 weeks) in my district, 1st graders focus only on lines, and start to move toward shapes. We started this year practicing using a ruler to make straight lines. Next we were to explore curved lines. Since we
looked at Gene Davis for straight lines, I decided we would stay in a similar vein and discover Frank Stella.

I shared with my students the first time I saw a Frank Stella painting in person at the Saint Louis Art Museum, and how I was blown away by the huge wall of color that stood in front of me with its big swooping curved lines. We looked at some images of his works taking note of what kinds of lines we could find, and how they made shapes.

For this assignment, we used clear protractors.
Once we were done looking through them like sunglasses, we talked about placement. I encouraged students to lay their protractors on their paper and experiment with where they wanted to place the shape of it, changing their idea several times and selecting the best placement. We did this three times, purposely overlapping a bit each time to create new shapes. I learned after the first class that did this not to trace our shape more than three times. Way too many lines after three. After tracing our semicircle shapes, we used an eraser and selected a few areas only that we wanted to edit, removing lines that would create small spaces of color, or helping make some shapes more interesting.

After editing our drawing, students used markers to fill in the newly created shapes with color. We put a lot of effort into slowing down and allowing the marker enough time to soak into the paper so that we could not see through it. 1st graders want to color so fast with markers that it looks like they are drying out even when they are not. A lot of attention was given to slowing down during the coloring of this project. We also had demonstrations on ways to color to without having white holes in our color. Many students were directed to go back and put more attention on filling the shapes with color and slowing down to look for areas that needed more work. The opportunity to really focus on quality and not subject matter was one of the main reasons for creating this project.

 Our final step was to carefully cut out our designs and glue them on black construction paper. Glue and  scissor use are some of the skills that I feel 1st graders need a bit more practice with so that they can have more confidence as the move through school. This assignment allowed us to follow our scissor rules, turn our paper while cutting, and listen carefully to directions such as "do not cut your design into more than one piece." This was also a great first opportunity this year to practice "dot dot not a lot", which I was surprised how well my students did this year. In the past, it has been a challenge to keep their dots small, and not have "puddle, puddle, a lot".


  1. Stella has been a favorite of mine since I first saw his work in Kansas City. Nice choice. Fortunate students. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Roger. I love Stella's work. It was interesting to see what challenged the students and what did not challenge them with this.

  2. Great job. Loved seeing what they are doing, and seeing how it is being taught.