K

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? Art Project

This is an adorable, skill-loaded art project that you can do with your little ones. The book Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? is a perennial favorite in Kinder classrooms. We read Art by Patrick McDonnell to introduce the children to art class and they LOVED it. It’s a perfect book for little ones, especially Kinders. The story is simple yet interactive.

The book is about as perfect as you can get but strangely enough, really hard to incorporate into an art lesson. I racked my brain coming up with the best way to teach art skills without the project becoming too difficult for little hands.

I think I did it.

Warning: Before I proceed, I must tell you that templates are involved! If you do not approve of the time-saving, skill-enhancing benefits of templates (AKA Tracers & Patterns), please read no further.  Okay, I’m teasing here but I do get a lot of flack as far as certain methods go!

Painted Paper

On the very first day of Kindergarten art, my students were knee-deep in brown, black and white paint. Making Painted Paper is fun. And messy. But don’t let the mess stop you. I rely on the generous nature of Kinders to share their work, so it’s not necessary to put names on each piece. Have a variety of brown paints (dark, light, black, white) so that the end result will be varied and interesting.

Using Templates to Make the Bear

Tracing templates is hard. For my kinders, this marked the first time they used a template, so tracing was really a challenge. Each child used pencils to trace a head, body, and two legs (one back leg and one front leg). I was teasing before when I spoke about templates. It’s true that many art teachers disapprove of them, but I found that they can be a fantastic tool in identifying shape differences, developing cutting, tracing and gluing skills and also for composition. Children compose their bear after all the shapes are cut out.

The only time the templates are a disadvantage, is when parents or teachers step in and try to help too much. I’m guilty of this when a child gets very far behind or becomes too frustrated. For these kids, I need to help. Some have never held scissors in their hands before. So I step in. So my best advice in using templates is to remember what the process is about. It’s not about how the bear looks, or about developing a visual eye, it’s all about the basic Kinder skills of developing fine motor control.

Composing the Picture

After all the bear’s parts are cut out…each child should have one head, one body, one front leg and one back leg. For day one, that’s about as far as you will get. Glue these pieces down with white school glue. The next session, kids will add ears, oil pastel details, two more legs and fall leaves.

Finishing the Bear

Using black oil pastels, color in a dot for the nose, add claws and create some rough lines to mimic fur. Eyes can be a black dot or a googly eye or a white piece of paper cut in the shape of an eye with a black dot. To make ears, cut out a small circle and cut in half. Glue the two semi-circles onto the head. Add a small 1/2 circle for the tail.

Adding Leaves

In a class of twenty children, about 7 will zoom through the lesson and won’t need a lick of help. The other 13 will need varying levels of help. So while you’re busy helping the 13 children, organize the instruction so that the kids know what to do next and on their own. Place a collection of paper scraps on a table along with a tray of leaf templates and allow the kids to add as many leaves as they would like. But be quick. If you don’t show the kids what the leaf templates are for, then this might happen:

For some reason, quite a few little kinders traced the template directly onto the background paper. A personal visual demonstration helped them see what the templates were for. The only problem with this strategy is that when most kids see the flashes of colored paper, they will want to add this color before finishing their bear, resulting in bears that are well, see for yourself…

A wonderful two-legged bear!

Sometimes this can happen. To prevent this, it would be helpful to label the templates so that the kids trace the template the right-side-up. I didn’t do that.

Isn’t this little guy great?

lesson-available-in-MC

What do you think?

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  • silly eagle books

    What a great project–we love that book, but have never tried a piece of art inspired by it yet. I love the idea of using tracers. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

    vanessa

  • Louise Isobel

    Ha, ha – great post! I love the way you included the poor bears that turned out a bit wrong.

  • Devi

    I love this proect! When will it be available to purchase?

  • Heather

    LOVE this project! I’m in the middle of an Eric Carle unit and this is PERFECT. Thanks! Dittoing the comment above, do you know when the art booklet will be available for purchase?

    • Patty

      Hi Heather and Devi,
      I have a few things I’m currently working on but hope to get the new “Eric Carle” PDF out soon. Perhaps within a month, but it’s hard to say.

  • Megan Wheeler

    Love this!!!!! You have the best art ideas. I am so happy to see this post; I am teaching the ow chunk next week, and using Brown Bear as a book for my instruction. I would LOVE to have the patterns for this project. Would you be willing to email them to me, or make them available to purchase? Thank you for considering this.

    Megan
    meganwheeler44@yahoo.com

    • Patty

      Sorry Megan, I don’t email lessons or templates but hopefully with a month or so, you can purchase a booklet that will include these templates.
      I’m glad you liked the lesson and I do realize it was a bit of a teaser offering the lesson for free but not the templates! Truth is, I need to fine tune the templates to make it easier for children.

  • Brannan Lawson

    I did do a brown bear lesson from the book Big Smelly Bear. Here is the link of how I create the bear but we only did the head not the whole body.
    http://elementaryartist.blogspot.com/search/label/Big%20Smelly%20Bear

  • Charlene

    I love templates for kinder and it would be really easy to break the bear down into templates on my own, Great lesson!

  • Amber

    Ha! I’m sure you do get some flack about templates…but my opinion…some projects for young children require templates to even remotely turn out somewhat similar to what we had in mind. So, templates every once in awhile works out just fine (and since they do their own cutting…they all turn out differently anyway!) I guess this is the first I have heard of your art booklets. May I have more information on that please? Thanks!

  • Caroline

    HELP PATTY!!!!! This project is taking years off my life!!! I am a seasoned elem art teacher (11 years) but I wish you could see a video of me trying to do this with our kinders! Maybe it is that we have 40 minutes classes which really means about 35 because they are late usually. Or maybe it is that there are 22-24 of them. I teach in a middle to lower socioeconomic area. But still . . . this is crazy!

    They are 1. wanting to trace pattern on top of pattern on top of pattern, with no regard to the fact that they will have to cut these out. OR they are trying to construct the bear with the patterns. WE ARE JUST TRYING TO CUT OUT 4 PATTERNS TODAY: head, body, f leg, b leg. I am not even worried about anything else yet.

    2. When tracing patterns,they are not laying all four patterns down at once to trace-so they end up putting their small patterns pieces right in the middle then they don’t have room for their body piece. I have told them 10 times to lay all pieces down first then trace, but they just dont get it. I even showed them how before I passed out anything. HELP ME!!!!!!!

    • Patty

      Oh no! Poor Caroline! Well, the first thing to do is take a deep breath. Remember, they are very little and it’s very important how to deliver your instructions. Many kids can’t process too many directions at once, so help them out a bit by cutting their painted paper in half or even quarters and placing the stack on each table. Don’t worry too much if a child doesn’t use their painted paper. Think of it as a group project! On each table place a stack of painted paper, the templates (it’s helpful to label the templates with Head, or Leg, etc) and scissors, pencils and glue sticks. Then demonstrate how to take a template (any template) and place it on the white part of the paper. Here’s a brief dialogue:
      Pick a painted paper piece and turn it around. The color part hugs the table. Put one body/leg/head on top of the paper. Do you see the words? Now, trace around the template. Does it matter if I don’t trace well? Of course not! Do the best you can. Now, cut all the way around the pencil lines. Pretend the scissors are a snapping turtle: open and close, open and close. When you finish cutting out the leg/head/body…pick another body part and do the same. I’m here to help you, so raise your hand.
      You get the idea. Perhaps the trick is not give them a 12″ x 18″ sheet of painted paper. That way, you won’t have to worry about placement.
      Does this help?
      Remember, go slow, talk in a calming voice and don’t worry about the results. I did this lesson for developing the fine motor skills!
      Good luck and let me know how it turned out.

      • Caroline

        Okay-the KEY that will solve all these problems is going to be giving them smaller pieces of the painted paper. the 12×18 was impossible for these little guys to comprehend, and think ahead! THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH! I’ll let you know hoe my next class goes tomorrow! Hopefully by then my headache will be gone!! LOVE YOUR LESSONS!!!!

  • Lori

    Hi! You’ve done an amazing job with this art project. When I think of Brown Bear by Eric Carle, I automatically think of texture and you captured that with this project. Thanks for sharing your great idea. I featured it on the Montessori MOMents’ facebook page and tweeted it (@loriMOMents). http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Montessori-MOMents/186597394722411

  • Marcie

    Stumbled on to your blog – the artwork the children create is awesome!!! I wanted you to know that I was inspired to teach one of your lessons and mentionned you in a post on my blog : http://madebymolliesmom.blogspot.com/2012/04/whole-lotta-stuff-goin-on.html

    Thank you for the inspiration!!!
    Marcie

  • Kate

    Love the idea of this lesson. Did you ever make your bear template available in a booklet, Patty? I couldn’t see one on your website?

  • Kate

    Please ignore my previous comment. I just found the booklet with the templates. Sorry!

  • Tera

    Do you have a PDF of the templates?

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