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Tie together shaped poetry with watercolor animal sketches to create a cohesive artistic expression with a very silly side.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Share the poetry and accompanying watercolor paintings by artist and poet Douglas Florian (found in such books as “Bow Bow Meow Meow” and “Mamalabilia”). Explore his charming watercolors that capture the essence of a creature and enjoy his companion poems often in related shapes.
    2. Ask the students to choose an animal they wish to paint. Using Crayola® Washable Watercolors and brushes, encourage the students to experiment with watercolor techniques before rendering their animal on heavy or watercolor paper.
    3. As their works dry, prompt the students to write down words that they associate with their animals, brainstorming a list. Next, ask the students to come up with some words that rhyme with their words (These do not have to strictly rhyme. Florian rhymes tapir and paper, munchin’ and luncheon.) He also makes up words like stilla to rhyme with gorilla and Septem-bear to fit into his poetry.
    4. Invite students to compose a couple of poems about their animals using their lists of words. Provide a poetic formula like a cinquain or haiku if that would make the process more successful. Once each student has chosen the poem to complement his painting, challenge each to format the poem in an imaginative way. (For example, the words in Florian’s poem about a camel form two humps.)
    5. Display each poem and painting together in an exhibit or in a booklet.
  • Standards

    LA: Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.

    LA: Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

    LA: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

    LA: Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.

    SCI: Use a model to describe that animals’ receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

    VA: Students will initiate making works of art and design by experimenting, imagining and identifying content.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

    VA: Creative thinking skills transfer to all aspects of life.

    VA: Students experience, analyze and interpret art and other aspects of the visual world.

  • Adaptations

    Set the poems to music and have the students read them aloud in the performance style of rappers.

    Read other animal poems written by different poets. Would these complement their paintings? Would they need to create different looking paintings? Do poetry and watercolors fit nicely together? Would crayons or markers work as well? Florian paints his animal poems in gouache. Ask the art teacher to demonstrate that paint medium.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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