Crayola washable markers are the most ubiquitous art medium available in all the classrooms I’ve taught in, and yet all the kids ask for them as if they were something super magical. Well, I can resist only so much, so I decided to give them a project to use them. Following the music teacher’s lessons on The Beatles and her showing them videos from The Yellow Submarine movie, I wanted them to make psychedelic landscapes. I couldn’t quite figure a safe way to describe “psychedelic”, so I called it weird and wonderful instead.

I found this amazing father-daughter teaching team and showed their video on the subject: How to paint a beautiful landscape (for kids). Of course, I introduced the project by saying we would not use paint, but “MARKERS”! That got them all cheering! I love my students; they are always surprising me with what interests them.

We discussed following the video exactly or doing their own thing. Little J exclaimed that mistakes were good to learn from, and Little A repeated that art comes from the heart, so make it what you want. The usual shouts of “I’ll copy the video” and “I won’t copy the video” erupted for about ten seconds. I had the (14″ x 17″ construction paper handed out and invited them to come pick (only) 5 colours that they could share with their table-mates. When all were seated, done with bathroom breaks (apparently an integral consideration for grade 1), and ready to begin. I asked them to write their names on the back. A quasi-futile practice that seems to need repeating every time! Then I started the video and invited them to ask for me to pause occasionally.

Note that I always give them the possibility of making it horizontally or vertically. I added that “landscape” is often used to describe horizontal orientation and I suspect that is why they all went with horizontal compositions.

During and after the video, I wandered around the classroom, prompting them with the suggestion to add textures, lines, and contrasting colours. They chatted and shared their progress together, and discovered they could makes wash-off tattoos with these markers (I would mildly regret letting them later, but that’s a whole other story).

I gave them about 45 minutes to complete the task, and some extra time later in the day. I’ve been trying include some show and tell periods, as they seem to love sharing what they made. I have taken the approach of asking to fill the page with “screaming colours” to counteract the less enthusiastic fast finishers who leave most of the page white.

Here is the rainbow explosion they created.

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