HighSchool Art Room: instruction and providing choice to students

Mondrian Windsocks

What starts off as a pretty typical Mondrian lesson turns into a delightful blend of art and childhood craft.

mondrian windsocks.jpeg

Students begin by viewing and discussing Piet Mondrian works. I have a little book I made myself (nothing fancy, bound laminated pages) to introduce the artist and remind me of my questions and talking points. We talk about cities and streets and the kinds of buildings and transportation you might see in a city.  

To engage students with movement, we talk about vertical and horizontal lines. The students hold their arms up and down or side to side as they repeat the vocabulary vertical and horizontal. First, I demonstrate and then they follow me, then I just say the terms and they have to show me. This is fun for them, invites movement in an appropriate way and reinforces the concept. It is also a small assessment that can be repeated anytime the terms come up again! Gotta love that.

mondrian stamp.jpeg

Students are thinking about these ideas as they stamp their black lines.  Kindergarteners dip the edge of a small piece of cardboard into black tempera on a styrofoam tray and stamp it on their paper to make lines. We listen to jazz music in connection to Mondrian's love of Boogie Woogie while we work.  I encourage the students to think about using line to create roads for cars and taxis to travel and buildings like stores, apartments and offices.  As I walk around, I really can hear them telling a quiet story to themselves as they work!

In the next class, we review the ideas and elements of Mondrian works. We really concentrate on primary colors this time. Over at my carpet area, everyone stands up to sing  a primary color song: Red, Ye-llow and Blue to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Red, Ye-llow and Blue

Ye-llow and Blue.

Red, Ye-llow and Blue.

Ye-llow and Blue.

Primary colors are so ea-sy to use!

Red, Ye-llow and Blue.

Ye-llow and Blue.

We do movements just like head, shoulders, knees and toes, but with the different words. I love to hear them singing it even weeks later!

Back at their seats, the students take their work out of their table folders and choose three or more squares to color. We talk about color application craftsmanship as I demonstrate outlining the shape and applying color with marker in two overlapping directions. I ask for one red, one yellow and one blue rectangle at minimum.

There is the freedom to color more if desired.  It’s adorable to hear the kids singing, Red, Ye-llow and Blue, while they are working.

Mondrian color art project.jpeg

Students finish up their work in this class period by gluing a blue and yellow band across the top and bottom of their art. We say it’s like a picture frame.

In the next class students are introduced to The idea of a windsock.  I was surprised how many of my students did not know what a windsock was! This is also a time to talk about how the weather changes and the seasonal change to Spring. Although I know not every region of the U.S. is feeling like Spring is near right now!

After a review of primary colors where yes, we sing the song again(!), students glue crepe paper streamers to the back of their art. I’d say the total amount of crepe paper needed is  ¾ roll of each color per class.

I love to use my glue sponges for this and I know it will keep the streamers on a lot better than a glue stick.

glue sponge.jpegWhen students finish their pattern of primary colors, they head over to my handle punching table. Just for fine motor practice and hand muscle development, students use single hole punches to punch some holes. This was a favorite activity by many students who delighted in pretending to punch tickets. Anyone who was finished out their handle on top of their art and had five minutes of free choice time, while I walked around the room stapling the art into tubes and quickly attaching the handles. It did not take long!


The students enjoy seeing the final product before they leave and twirling it around a bit, even if they have to leave it in the art room for today. We end class by lining up at the door to view the OK Go video for Three Primary Colors. One of my very favorites!

Modifying for Special Needs Students

Hung on a clothes line in the hall (3M hooks for anchors). These pieces are a colorful display.   I did not find many modifications needed as I taught this outside of using proximity and reminders. I do have some students with more severe disabilities in these classes and just decided to embrace the differences of their art projects . Their lines may not have been solely vertical and horizontal. Their color may not have landed entirely in the shape. The streamers may not have a pattern.  BUT each of these children listened to what their teacher and classmates had to say, they participated and enjoyed the movement pieces of the class. They felt proud of their work in the end. What more can I ask for?

Thanks for reading!  Maybe you’ll find a place for this in your curriculum for this spring or summer program.  I know students above Kindergarten would also enjoy this project and colorful windsocks are sure to be a joyful display.  Mondrian Windsocks1

signature photo, emily mceneely