After learning about Claude Monet's painting style, my 1st graders looked at White and Yellow Water Lilies. I explained how Monet painted very quickly because he painted outside. The students understood that if it started raining, he'd have to quit painting, and if it got dark outside, he'd have to quit painting. The students could understand the need for painting quickly, and they noticed his style seems a little messy, but as we were discussing that aspect, one of the students raised his hand and said, "Miss Young, even though he painted so quickly, I don't think he made a single mistake!" That made me so happy; the students really understood that the Impressionist style is quick, but thorough.
Then, I explained to the students that Monet even stopped working on a painting if the sun went behind a cloud. The students understood that things look brighter when it's sunny out, and his paintings would look drearier on a cloudy day. I explained that sometimes Monet would take two paintings with him when he worked, and if the sun went behind a cloud, he'd work on his cloudy day painting, and if it became sunny again, he'd work on his sunny day painting.
Lastly, we discussed why the lily pads near the top of the painting were smaller than the ones near the bottom. The students knew that the small ones were far away!
Finally, the students created their own water lily ponds. We used crayons for the lily pads and waterlilies, and watercolors for water. As the students worked, we talked about near and far. We made big lily pads at the bottom of the page; medium ones in the middle; and tiny ones at the top. Most of the students understood the concept, but the alliteration hopefully helped anyone who didn't quite get it!
Here are some student examples.