Grade 1 Portfolios — Design a Dot!

Every year, I start each of my Art classes by going over my “Art Rules”.While this is review for most of my stu­dents, it never hurts to hear it again! And read­ing this book pro­vides a great on-ramp to hav­ing this discussion!

The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, has to be one of my favorite children’s books of all time. If you only read one art-themed book to your stu­dents this year, this should be the one! This is the story of a young girl named Vashti who, intim­i­dated by a blank piece of paper announces, “I just CAN“T draw!”, (break­ing Rule #3!). Her very wise teacher is able to get her past her artis­tic block through the use of inspi­ra­tion and encour­age­ment, and then instill in her the con­fi­dence to keep going. This is a book you can (and will!) refer back to many times, so it’s a great way to kick off the new school year! I read this to my first graders, then use it as inspi­ra­tion for dec­o­rat­ing the front of their port­fo­lios:

1. Do a quick review of the color wheel and how to mix sec­ondary col­ors from pri­mary col­ors. (A color wheel poster is a handy tool to have for this pur­pose!)
2. Using water­col­ors, paint a dot (about the size of a cherry) in the cen­ter of your port­fo­lio. This is a good time to talk about the often over-powering char­ac­ter­is­tics of the color “black”! Tell stu­dents that they are only to use black in tiny amounts, mixed with other col­ors, to change the look of those col­ors, but not to turn those col­ors com­pletely black.
If nec­es­sary, you can tell stu­dents not to use the black at all on this project or (if you use the Prang refill­able sets) you can even pop the blacks out of all the paint sets before pass­ing out mate­ri­als.…. you know your stu­dents best!
3. After you paint your dot, mix a new color and, start­ing at the out­side edge, paint around your dot, mak­ing it big­ger.
4. Con­tinue doing this, exper­i­ment­ing with new col­ors and mixes each time, until your dot reaches from the bot­tom of your port­fo­lio to the top where it opens. Try not to go over and over areas you’ve already painted because that could make your col­ors look “muddy”!
5. When your dot has reached “full size”, you may go back and selec­tively add a few touches of con­trast­ing color here and there, to jazz it up a lit­tle. Don’t get too car­ried away with this step — a few extra splashes of color is all you need!
5. As a final step, “Sign it!”, in the lower right cor­ner, where an artist signs his work!!

This project presents a great oppor­tu­nity to review the care and use of water­col­ors.… how much water to add, the proper way to rinse your brush, how to use the mix­ing wells in the lid, and how to clean both the lid and the col­ors them­selves when you’re fin­ished, so the set looks good for the next stu­dent who gets it!

(Tip: Some­times rail­road board can have a shiny side and a dull side. Always make sure that the medium you are using will “stick” to the front of your port­fo­lios! Test it first, before you make your port­fo­lios, to deter­mine which side to have fac­ing out when you fold them.)


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