Murals…getting students to work collaboratively while making art!

In my enrichment classes with 3rd grade (this changes), we are working on collaboration and cooperation.  Something every elementary student should experience is group work.  I never thought I’d say that whole-heartedly but honestly, if every project could be a group project, I would definitely make it happen.  And it slowly seems to be trending that way in my classroom. 🙂  No, I won’t get rid of individual projects but I can’t deny the power of a group project.

Anyway, what the students do for the project doesn’t really matter in the long run.  Mine happen to be making an abstract drawing using oil pastels.  First we use cool colors, then another day we use warm colors, and on the last day we will use all six to see how we manage them together.  I, of course, show them techniques and ways to use the oil pastels that are different from other materials.  And we talk about abstract vs realistic as well as lines, shape and how to draw “large”.  This is the foundation of the project.


Not the purpose.

We really dive into a discussion about collaboration and cooperation for this project.  These things are completely different from one another as we discover that collaboration is all about working together, sharing ideas, compromising, listening, figuring out solutions and working towards a common goal.  All the while, once we collaborate to create our goals and how we will reach them, this is where cooperation comes into play because that means we will follow our expectations and respect one another.  For younger students, I’ve had to create projects that address these separately before they come together.  Beginning at 3rd grade I’ve been able to combine them together to enhance their understanding.

For the structure of the class it’s very simple:

1. Spend time reviewing and discussion (while writing on the board to show them) what cooperation and collaboration means.
2. Spend time reviewing art concepts such as color schemes, material uses, techniques, etc.
3. As you pass out supplies have students collaborate together by sharing ideas, asking who wants to do what, working out the problems when people want to do multiple things – encourage students to establish how it will all work before they start their artwork.  Don’t let them tell each other what they are doing – make sure we are always asking.
4. Once students have collaborated they are free to cooperate together and begin working – encourage conversations, remind them of their goals.
5. Stop half way through a period to have a gallery walk – include prompting questions and time for discussions – be sure to only allow a discussion about each piece once so that all students are included. Also include questions about working together and how we’ve improved our communication.

I am so pleased by how my 3rd graders have grown from this project.  We communicate better, compliment more and the students truly enjoy working together on projects rather than separately.  Today was probably my best day with students thusfar – and it was so simple I had to ask myself “why haven’t I been doing these sort of activities all along?”  Plus their blending skills and use of oil pastels has improved also – they are teaching each other!


One response to “Murals…getting students to work collaboratively while making art!

  1. Pingback: Easy Collaborative Art Activity…even in 2nd Grade! | Art Class With LMJ·

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