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!
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 Brown 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 Brown 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.
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?