3rd grade Collaborative Concentric Squares

Who wants a no-fail art project?  Let’s add a movement component for the kinesthetic learners, and a dash of math cross-curricular (fractions), plus line type review and color theory instant application to make this even better!


Sara Kingsolver is a rock star art teacher.  She has amazing art projects, a great relationship with her kids, is a super motivator, and a sweet, funny person.  Last year, when she was hanging up her district art show, I was blown away with her awesome square artwork.  She explained it to me and now it’s one of my favorite projects of all time.



Here’s how the magic happens – you pre-cut 6×6″ squares of drawing paper.  The students draw concentric squares starting from the outside going in (biggest to smallest.)  I showed them how to measure with their fingers as a guide.  (If your pointer finger can’t fit into the squares you drew, they need to be wider.)


Then we painted each square a different color with the hockey puck tempera paints.  Once they dried, we drew patterns with oil pastels on each square.

We discussed with a class what a pattern is and what it isn’t (scribble scrabble drawing over your tempera paint.)  We discussed how to start a good basic pattern on one of the concentric squares by using a line.  We reviewed line types (straight diagonal, wavy, spiral, zigzag, dotted, broken) and then talked about how to make a “single” (any one type of line or shape) into a “double” or “triple”.  Just add either more lines in another color, or add shapes in another color, or make a cool A,B pattern with your shapes and lines.


I don’t know what it is about the girls in my art classes, but they always want to paint tempera paint magenta and then draw with a pink oil pastel over that.  I show them how you want to be able to clearly see it from across the class because they are going to love these so much that they’ll probably be hung in their homes when they’re done.

So we do some color theory review about how to make the colors high contrast and super-bright (choosing that color’s compliment on the color wheel or choosing a dramatic black or white.)  There’s a legendary bright sky blue oil pastel that works magic.  It doesn’t matter what color you put it over, it’s always high contrast.  Weird but true and very awesome.  Use the awesome blue if you’re in doubt.


So then they created different patterns with different colored oil pastels for each band of the concentric squares.  So far it’s not collaborative, but wait…

When everyone is done, I demo how to fold into quarters (math cross curricular!) and then cut out each quarter.  They write their name on the back of each quarter, and decide which one is their favorite.  They circle their name on their favorite and then we form a big circle in the room.

Get ready for a PE/movement cross curricular component that I added!  Once they have their squares, they hold their favorite in their hand and place the other 3 on the ground.  I show them how to face the same direction in the circle, and I then start playing music.  When I stop the music, they bend down, pick up a different artist’s square, and stand back up.  I play the music again, stop it again, and then they know what to do.  It’s fun to see them excited and picking up a new square and then being excited about their new square.  We continue until the squares are all distributed evenly.  If someone lands on their square or get a duplicate from the other time, we just trade with a neighbor.


When they have 4 new squares (theirs plus 3 other artists’ squares, they go back to their desks and create a new composition.  Now it’s collaborative!  We then glue their new squares on a 7×7″ black square as a border.

This is a true no-fail project.  I love how they turn out!  Just make sure you demo how to turn a weak oil pastel line (where the painted background shows through) into a strong line (thicker and more solid.)  Enjoy!

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