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Story Paintings

Students strengthen observation and memory skills with primitive style paintings depicting holiday and/or seasonal activities celebrated by their families or communities. Mounting a class exhibit provides an opportunity to appreciate diversity.

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Read a book such as “Chicken Sunday” or a holiday chapter from one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books that depicts family or community holiday customs. Encourage students to note the details included in the story. Provide time for a discussion of students’ favorite family or community traditions. Discuss the holiday customs of cultures students have learned about in social studies class.
    2. Share reproductions of “Snow Sports” or “Preparing for Santa” paintings by Nan Phelps that were donated to the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies. Discuss primitive style art. Have students point out the many different activities depicted in the pictures. Note the use of color even in these snow scenes. If possible, provide additional examples of primitive style paintings such as those by Grandma Moses.
    3. Invite students to each think of a favorite holiday or season of the year. Ask them to brainstorm a list of activities or images they associate with that holiday. Provide time for them to share their ideas with the class or a small group of classmates. How many different holidays are represented? In what ways do students’ memories of the same holiday differ? What common images do they have?
    4. Invite students to lightly sketch their holiday or seasonal scenes on white paper. Encourage them to include as many details as possible.
    5. Suggest that students use Crayola® Watercolor Pencils for large areas such as grass and sky but regular Crayola Colored Pencils for small details and figures. Painting over the large areas with plain water will achieve a watercolor effect without the colors of the smaller areas running into each other.
    6. Provide time for students to share their work with the class. Encourage students to discuss the diversity of holidays represented. What similarities do they see? How would students like to see their work exhibited? Discuss and mount a class exhibit.
  • Standards

    LA: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

    LA: Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.

    SS: Explore and describe similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures address similar human needs and concerns.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

    VA: Select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices.

  • Adaptations

    Some students may enjoy writing stories to accompany their paintings.

    Encourage students to research some unfamiliar holidays.

    Have a Holiday Share Day. Each student shares some holiday related food, craft, song, or game that may be unfamiliar to others in the class.


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