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Together We Can

The book, Swimmy by L. Lionni, inspires a paper painting mural by students recreating a major event in the book! Art and Literacy activity with a “Together We Can Attitude!”

  • Grade 1
    Grade 2
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Conduct a brief discussion about the ocean, leading easily into a read aloud of the book Swimmy by Leo Lionni. Provide sufficient time for students to experience the illustrations in the story.
    2. Teacher models thinking strategies during story by asking/answering story dependent questions that require students to think about events in the story. A story dependent question might be, “How did Swimmy feel when he escaped from the tuna and swam alone?”
    3. Encourage students think about their own lives and reflect, “When we work together we can…?” Students share responses with class. (Students, or supporting adults, record responses on paper and use them later when the activity is completed.)
    4. Provide each student a sheet of Crayola® red construction paper, a pre-cut fish and square shape templates (both templates made from cardboard from recycled cereal boxes), a Crayola dark or black crayon, ample red paper swatches (from recycled magazines) an eye sticker, a pair of Crayola blunt-tip scissors, and Crayola Glue stick.
    5. Referring to the story, ask students, “Why we are using the color red?” “What do we know about the color red?”
    6. On the red construction paper, students trace the square shape template with a dark/black color crayon, making it large enough to accommodate the fish template, but not too large for the grade and skill level of students.
    7. Students are reminded to select the warm color red areas from the magazine pages/papers provided to use as the paint for our paper painting.
    8. When all cutting is complete, use the glue stick to adhere the red paper swatches in the crayon drawn square on the red construction paper.
    9. Paper painting is easy! Just overlap the color swatches to completely fill the entire square drawn on the construction paper. Start in the center of the square shape; have students place glue on the construction paper. Add the paper swatches. This is teacher tested for best success for young students: less stress, more fun and little mess.
    10. Students place cardboard fish template on top of the paper painting square, and carefully trace the outline of the fish template with a dark/black color crayon. Mark an eye on the template so that all the templates face the same direction.
    11. Students cut on the crayon outline from the fish template and then give their little red fish friend an eye, with the sticker or eye of your choice.
    12. Students and teacher cooperate and assemble all the student’s paper painted fish to recreate the main event in the story on a large surface in your classroom or school hallway …include student responses to the prompt, “When We Work Together We Can….” from personal connections earlier in the lesson.
  • Standards

    LA: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

    LA: With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

    LA: Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

    LA: Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

    LA: Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

    SCI: Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

    SS: Explore ways that language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements may facilitate global understanding or lead to misunderstanding.

    SS: Students work independently and cooperatively to accomplish goals.

    VA: Experiment with various materials and tools to explore personal interests.

    VA: Demonstrate safe procedures for using and cleaning art tools, and equipment.

  • Adaptations

    With access to a digital camera, students take pictures during this activity to place in a slide show or PowerPoint, class blog or teacher website. This can be played during a back-to- school night, celebration of the arts night, National Book Month, etc., and any place where you can share student work.

    Younger students may substitute the word family for community. The paper painting will be simpler with teacher prepared/precut materials.

    An additional writing component could be added to reflect personal connections of cooperation and community for enrichment. Students can use the classroom iPad lab to take a photo of their paper painting and writing and upload these files to their folders in the class drop box.


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