Teachingartonthecheap's Blog

Filler Lesson: Primary Colors

Posted on: November 29, 2009

A amazing Whitman artist created a tessellated design and added color using only red, yellow and blue crayons.


Creative Reuse Lesson Plan Week 10 Grade K-5

Written by Keri Piehl for SCRAP /Whitman ES 2009-10

Filler Lesson: Primary Colors

Cost per student: $.01

Materials: Crayons (reds, yellows and blues – you can pick “almost” hues, too like periwinkle, marigold, magenta, turquoise etc.), paper (I used 5”x7”index cards), black markers (or black crayons).

Students will be able to identify primary colors and mix them to create secondary colors.

Vocabulary: Primary, secondary, tessellated design


1. Start by introducing the concept of a tessellated design. Tessellating a surface means covering a surface completely by repeating positive shapes that fit together in such a way that leaves no gaps, like a checkerboard, a mosaic, or famously, MC Escher. Another way to think of it is like a stained glass window.

2. Hand out the paper (smaller sheets work better, I’d say 8.5”x11” will frustrate all but the most dedicated of student artists) and black markers or crayons. Have them create a tessellated design; it could be geometric or more of a literal representation of something. Creating all the separate pieces makes using color so much easier later on in the lesson. Have them return or put away the black writing utensil when they’re done.

3. Follow up by reviewing primary colors (I would say about 1/3 of the kids solidly know this by now) and secondary colors.

3. Show that by laying down a thick layer of primary crayon (say yellow), you can top it with a thick layer of another primary and you will get that elusive secondary color! Lighter pressure lets more white paper show through, creating a tint. If you wanted to get really crazy, you could let them use black to create a shade, but I felt minimal art options worked best with this lesson.

4. Suggest that they can give their art realistic color or false color, just based on what is fun to create. What happens if they layer all three primaries?

5. Encourage them to fill in all sections, but if some need to remain white to help indicate details that’s fine. Denounce scribbling, and promote the idea of laying down thick smooth areas of crayon.

Reflections and feedback: All ages loved this, and many fourth and fifth graders had to ask each other “Hey, what makes green again?” so I learned that there is no such thing as too much elementary art vocabulary review.

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