Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Tie Dye" with 1st Grade

This is a fun project that I got from my cooperating teacher when I was student teaching last year. She did it with her emotionally handicapped class, which consists of students in several grade levels. I chose to do it with 1st grade, but I probably would have gotten better results with 2nd grade. Even my 5th and 6th graders thought the examples looked really cool when they saw them in my classroom!

This lesson can be used to teach a variety of principles of art, elements of art, or color theory. I focused on contrast, and told the students to pick the brightest colors they could find in their crayon box. Then, I asked them what the darkest color of all was (black), and we used black watercolors to create contrast. The dark background makes the bright colors really pop!

Here are some examples of 1st grade students' work:

Here are the steps to do the project:

First, you need to pick three really bright colors, and make a dot in the middle of your page with one of them:

Then, you make a swirl from the middle dot to the edge of the page:

Add another swirl with another color:

Add your last swirl with your last color. I think it looks nicest if you make sure the end of each line ends on a different side of the paper. For example, I ended my red swirl on the bottom side, the blue swirl on the right side, and the yellow swirl on the top side:

Then, start scribbling back and forth on your first line with the same color that you used to draw it. It's important to press hard with your crayons to make your colors extra bright:

Scribble all the way to the end. It usually looks nicest if you scribble wider at the end:

Scribble on the other two lines as well:

Use black watercolors to paint over your picture. The watercolors will only stick to the white paper, since wax resists water-based paint:

The finished piece:


  1. What a great color/contrast lesson! I think these are all VERY successful!

  2. Love this! My town just re-wrote the curriculum for art and now movement is a concept to be taught in first grade. This will make a perfect using line to create movement project!

  3. I like your work. Look at mine and Recommend if you like. Greetings .

  4. I will try this out with my after-school class. I am excited to see the kids' artworks. Thank you for sharing Jessica.

  5. That is so cool! Thank you for that simple yet effective activity!

  6. wow! A simple but a great idea! Thank you for sharing this activity.

  7. what kind of paper did you use?