Sketchbook Project #4: Abstract Art + Free Project Guide




The Sketchbook Project is a record of how my sixth grade students used sketchbooks during their art class to record art information and create projects. Learn how I used sketchbooks instead of individual sheets of paper to teach art & creativity.

Week One: The Beginning

Week Two: Creating Value

Week Three: Atmospheric Perspective

Week Four: Tree Line Drawings 

This Week: Sonia Delaunay Abstract Art

All the kids in my sixth grade classes  were caught up with previous projects so I was excited to introduce another concept and artist to the Sketchbook project.

This week we learned a bit about artist Sonia Delaunay.

Here's What You'll Need:

  • 8" x 11" colored paper (I used a pack of multi-colored card stock)
  • Scrap colored paper (about 4" x 4")
  • Pencil
  • Plastic cups of various sizes or various circle templates
  • Scissors 
  • Glue stick


Sonia Delaunay along with her husband Robert Delaunay cofounded an art movement called Orphism. Strong colors and geometric shapes defined this movement. My class looked at a few of these pieces of art and examined the colors she used and how she arranged the shapes.


Leaving the kids to their own devices, I offered pencils, plastic cups, scissors and colored paper and allowed the kids to proceed at their own pace. Many kids delved deep into creating concentric circles and layered paper on paper. Some cut one circle and deemed done with the project. 

This is where the Sketchbook Project gets interesting. 

When do you let a child create art to his own liking and when do you encourage the process by creating boundaries?

I feel strongly that in order to bring out the best work in some kids, you need to create boundaries. Often children will stop or quit working on a piece because it feels uncomfortable. They may not like where it's going. They may not completely understand what they are supposed to do. They may not understand how to proceed when there is no set path. 

This is completely normal. I'm not sure it's realistic for art educators to expect all children to create independently without a road map. For these kids, I sit down with them.

We pick some colors. We trace and cut a few shapes. We play with arrangement. Then I leave. See what they do on their own.

Often times, it's enough to get them started.


Even though this project looks easy, it requires a lot of cutting. Try to remember that kids in grade 6 are still only eleven years old and are still learning how to cut well. Really. It's not that easy for many kids. I find it helpful to have a collection of adult scissors on hand as many eleven year old boys are pretty big with large hands.

I love the color composition of these pieces. We only spent one class on these projects (50 minutes) so many kids didn't complete their projects when I took these pictures. 

A realistic time frame would be two, 50-minute classes.




Missed the last installments of the Sketchbook project?

Intro #1:  The Sketchbook Project: The Beginning 

Week #2: The Sketchbook Project: Creating Value + Free Worksheet

Week #3: Atmospheric Perspective + Free Worksheet

Week #4: Tree Line Drawings

Week #5 Expressive Self-Portraits

Do you have any tips on how to teach PAPER CUTTING? It's not easy for most 11 and 12 year olds so I'd love to read your tricks. Leave a comment below.


What do you think?

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  • Jeanette Rengel

    In regards to paper cutting , my other art teacher had cut out the work for the year ones and twos them so when i did a sub for her , I said to the students ” are you up to cutting out your own giraffes” and snow beenies etc . they said yes so i made them cut then out there were a few amputations but we use tape to put them back together they really did a great job . Its just a case of getting them to take it slowly and using correct scissors if they left or right handed . I find they are getting less practice due to the use of laptops and I-Pads . So in art there is often several exercise or projects that i do which involve paper cutting even paper weaving as it is tough and hard for kids to do but i use it for doing optical art exercises. Just lots of practice and make them go slow like the tortoise and not fast last like the rabbit.

  • Audrey Smith

    I teach Transitional Kindergarten, which means my students turn 5 between September 2nd and December 2nd. Most of my students have never used scissors before, so we practice every week until it is easy for them. I give these tips every time we have a scissor activity, while modeling for them how to turn the paper with the “feeding hand” and how to keep the “cutting hand” stationary with only the blades opening and closing. I call the cutting hand a lazy alligator. He is always hungry but too lazy to do anything but open and close his chompers, while the feeding hand feeds him the paper and turns the paper so that the lazy alligator can chomp on the lines, “chomp, chomp, chomp”. I also always point out that the large whole in the handle is for many fingers, and the small whole is for the thumb.
    I also supply several different types of scissors for kids to try out for varying fine motor skill development. I also teach them how to spot the “lefties” so they can avoid them if they are “righties” or grab them if they are “lefties.
    I agree with Jeanette, go slow like the turtle to avoid tears!

  • Kristina Hayes

    Just a suggestion on something that recently worked for me, circle stencils. You can buy them for about $ 1.00. I got one for each table in my room and it was a game changer. It is better than cups and cans in that they take up no room at all and are easy to get out on a moments notice (the students request them all the time now), and clean up. In fact they were such a hit, I ending up buying enough stencils for each student.

    Also, I do a lot of paper cutting. One thing that works for me, and you probably already do this, is getting them to focus on the result, not the process of cutting. I encourage them to go in from different angles to cut right up to the line. I call it “chunking it” vs. “cookie cutter”.

    Thanks too, I have visited your website a lot over the last 10 years and you have been an inspiration and a great source of information. : )


    I like your methode of teaching!

  • Patricia O'Drudy

    Things I demonstrate/say during a cutting lesson: “Fingers on the bottom, thumb on the top, open and close, and chop, chop, chop…” Freeze your cutting hand’s arm/elbow to your side and the other hand turns and moves the paper for you. Always point the scissors away from your body.
    Some dollar stores have scissors that have a plastic resistance “lever” that helps re-open scissors for kiddos that need that help. The lever can be flipped out of the way when their muscle memory and hand strength kicks in.

    • Team Sparkle

      Hi Patricia!
      You’ve got great ideas to help with learning how to cut paper.
      I love the phrase you use!
      Team Sparkle

  • Seema+Shahzad

    Thanks for amazing lessons,

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