First and second graders are easily engaged and are interested in many things. It is important to present one idea or tool at a time to them to support their cognitive abilities. At this age they particularly enjoy fantasy and make-believe. These students are moving from an egocentric outlook to an awareness of the world as it functions beyond their direct experience. They are refining their motor skills and have a strong interest in making things. At this age students have a hard time with abstract concepts. They do not engage with things that they cannot see in front of them.

First and second graders are interested in artworks depicting subjects that are familiar to them, such as animals, family, and people engaged in everyday activities.

When looking at a work of art, students are able to:

  • analyze similarities and differences.
  • learn and use new vocabulary.
  • identify details.
  • identify artistic media.
  • identify primary and secondary colors and discuss how color relates to feelings and moods.
  • describe various types of lines.
  • find basic geometric shapes and forms in their world—plants, animals, figures, etc.

Suggested Lessons

Images of Children in Dorothea Lange's Photographs
Looking at Portraits: Looking at One's Self

Suggestions for Discussion
At this age students like ideas that have emotional appeal and encourage their imagination. Asking students to imagine that they are a part of a work of art can be effective. They enjoy sharing their ideas and feelings with others, and inquiry that taps into this can lead to fruitful discussion if the teacher keeps discussion to one concept. These students also like to learn and use new vocabulary. Describing elements in a work of art orally will develop their effective use of new words.

Suggestions for Art Production
First and second graders need time to discover, experiment with, and manipulate new tools and media.

Two-dimensional production:
Explore a variety of tools and materials such as markers, charcoal, pastels, crayons, watercolor, and tempera. Provide different kinds of painting experiences so that students can experiment with spatter, sponge, and string techniques, as well as color blending. Crayons with color names printed on them will develop students' color vocabularies.

Three-dimensional production:
Students at this age are interested in three-dimensional construction and will enjoy mask making, sculpting in clay, creating dioramas, weaving, and puppet making.