Call me crazy....but we really did it! I have seen a lot of creative ways to emulate Jackson Pollock's style without splattering paint EVERYWHERE, including putting the paper and paint in a box with marbles and rolling them around, or blowing watercolors across the paper with a straw, or just scribbling with something not messy, like crayons or markers.
In order to not let my class erupt into complete chaos, I had them use just 3 colors, and take turns. I had a red station, a blue station, and a yellow station. The students had to stand in line for a color, splatter quickly over a newspaper, and then sit down with their paper. Then, once everyone was through with their first color, they got in line again for another color, and splattered that one. After they had splattered 3 colors, I assigned specific jobs for clean-up time so we could get my classroom back to normal.
This really went pretty smoothly the first time I tried it, which was last week. The students loved it, and taking turns with the colors really kept the messiness to a minimum.
Today, I was ready to give action painting another round with my next group of 1st graders. Surprisingly, it went even better, with organized color stations, students taking turns nicely, and just a few splatters in the wrong spots. Tables, chairs, floors, and students are all washable, so I wasn't too concerned. But then, halfway through our last color......you guessed it......surprise fire drill! Probably the worst time that could have happened....but oh well. When you work with kids and visual art, people get used to you having paint in your hair or on your clothes.
Here are a few student examples: