5th grade Original Aluminum Emojis

IMG_3869One of my goals as an art teacher is to introduce the artists to several different media through our art projects. This year’s 5th grade artists have worked with Gelli printmaking, colored pencils, chalk pastel – twice!, salted watercolor painting, hand-drawn Shrinky Dinks, bleeding tissues, and, of course, pencils and Sharpies. I realized that we haven’t used aluminum yet this year, so I wanted fix that! They needed to experience tooling in aluminum before they’re sent off to middle school.

The holy grail in art projects is one that is fun (engaging to them), touches on some art history, makes them think and form connections, is relevant to them, and is relatively quick. (3 weeks vs. 6-7 weeks). I came up with this project myself, and I couldn’t be more proud of the emojis the 5th graders created.

IMG_3868I asked the 5th graders to think of a time when they’ve wanted to send an emoji but didn’t see the one they had in mind in the choices in their phone or tablet.

We looked at some emojis on the SmartBoard and discussed them. (They shared that there’s an app, Bitmoji, where you can basically do this project digitally.)

We talked about how emojis are especially enjoyable for visual people like artists, and we also talked about how ancient Egyptians used a distant relative to emojis called hieroglyphics.

I challenged them to come up with an emoji that’s either a combo of a few different emojis or create one that’s completely custom that they wished they could send.

IMG_3867Then the students came up with 4 school appropriate emoji designs on paper and added color with crayon or regular markers so they had it down before we worked with Sharpies. I showed them how to transfer their designs onto aluminum, and they transferred their drawings. Then they added color with colored Sharpies, cut out their design, and glued their finished colorful emojis to black poster board cut to size.

The most challenging part was getting the engraved lines deep enough. We used old magazines to give them some cushion so they could really press down to get the super-deep lines.


PS – After we had finished this project and moved onto another project, I was so lucky to have the opportunity to go to New York City with other McKinney art teachers for the NAEA Convention. I saw an exhibit about MoMA’s acquisition of the original set of emojis by Shigetaka Kurita. Also, I saw so many displays of real hieroglyphics in the Met’s Egyptian Wing. I’ll be sharing that with my 5th graders!

Please let me know @wowartproject on Twitter or on Instagram at @juliaforsythart what emojis your class comes up with if you try this lesson. I’d love to see them!!

(more student-created emojis)


(Photos I took of some hieroglyphics on display in the Met’s amazing Egyptian collection)


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