Thursday, March 31, 2016

3rd Grade Australian Aboriginal Dot Art (2015)

3rd Grade's Elementary Art curriculum of world cultures allowed me to "travel" with them to Australia to learn about the country and create some Australian Aboriginal Dot Art!

This project came from the ever brilliant Mrs. Nguyen over at her blog.

I Can statements: I Can tell you something about Australia. I Can create an artwork in the style of Aboriginal Dot Art.

As i've mentioned in other 3rd grade "travels" my goal is to give my students the biggest picture of a culture or country as I can in a one project time frame. I came up with framing my lesson in a way that gives them small background knowledge and then connecting one of those background pieces to artmaking. To help my students track their new found knowledge, each time we "travel" to a new place I have them fill out a passport page. You can read more about this process from this post.

Day 1: Intro to Australia, passport, animal practice, and set up.

We started by looking at the Australian flag, looking at Australia on a map, and then 5 facts about Australia!

1. Australia has over 10,000 beaches. You could visit a new beach every day for 27 years
2. There are more kangaroos than people in Australia
3. There is a lake in Australia called Lake Hillier that is known for its pink color
4. The top 10 deadliest snakes can be found in Australia
5. Australian Aboriginals make artwork using dots to tell stories about their tribes and land.

Obviously the fact we dived into the most was about the Aboriginals. I was trying to get them to use textual clues to figure what Aboriginals meant and we finally got it! However, their favorite fact was probably the pink lake!

We watched part of this documentary from 37:02 to 40:23 as an introduction to the Aboriginal culture and their dot art.

Then the first part of their passports were filled out and it was time to start working. I provided them with the handout below and then they practiced different animals they wanted to create. When they had one down comfortably they drew it on a 6x9 piece of bright construction paper, cut it out, and glued it to a 9x12 piece of black construction paper.

Day 2: Starting the Dots!

Kicked off the day with another short video...

After the demo they got to work making dots like machines! Some students had to finish drawing and cutting their animals before creating dots. Each table had a pallette with a full set of colors and enough scratch art sticks for each color. They used the back flat end of the sticks to create the dots. We talked about using just the right amount of paint and how many dots were just enough before dipping again and what the best way to go about laying down dots was. The first workday everyone was really focused and into it....

Day 3 & 4: Workdays!

Started off each day with a little review about what we remembered from Australia and then they got to work. As time went on they started to lose motivation and focus but not finishing was not an option. I did allow friends to help (if they wanted help) once we got down to the last few minutes on the last workday.

 When they were finally done the last job was finishing their passport and turning in their project.

I am so proud of their perseverance and quality that came out of this and REALLY glad I didn't go bigger than 9x12. I am thinking next time that early finishers could do a really big group one!

Looking for feedback on two things....

Do you think it was okay that I "made" them finish and not quit?

Do you think it was okay that I allowed friends to help (if they wanted) at the end?


  1. These look great! I like that you had them cut the animal out of construction paper. Totally doing that next time. What kind of paint did you us that shows up so well on the black paper? I often let my students help each other out if they finish early. It helps everyone get finished up near the same time. I think it is okay to make them persevere. 9x12" is not that big!

    1. Thanks! And I thought that those two things were the right move initially but then writing this post I was second guessing my decision to do them. Feels good to hear that I did the "right" thing :)

      It is a mix of crayola tempera and school specialty's versa temp. When I ran out of some colors I switched over to the versa.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This is exactly what I have been looking for. Thanks for sharing

  4. You wouldn't want to teach them how to quit would you? You did the right thing. I'm sure they were much happier with a nice finished artwork than if they had quit early.

  5. You wouldn't want to teach them how to quit would you? You did the right thing. I'm sure they were much happier with a nice finished artwork than if they had quit early.

  6. your blog is very nice

  7. How did they make the dots? Paintbrush ends, qtip, finger...?

    1. It states "scratch art sticks", which I have figured out are wooden sticks (very small dowelling) with one pointy end. They have them at Blick art supplies in the USA.

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  9. in real life, I'm a nanny. I would say that "making" the kids finish depends on the kids and their needs. You want them to learn perseverance, but you also don't want to teach them to ignore their needs or their physiological signals. I think it was a GREAT idea that you let them ask for help from friends. That way, if they couldn't work as fast or their attention span was maxed out, they had a way to meet your goal of finishing without disappointing you or ignoring their own needs.
    Generally in situations where I'm trying to help a kid stretch their abilities, I will keep encouraging them to "try hard" and be very positive ("i know you can do it." "you're doing great." "you got this." etc.). I worry more about the effort and whether or not they are stretching their abilities a bit than exactly whether or not they finish/do it all by themselves/etc.

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