Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In the Artroom: 4th Grade Viking Ships

I'm just gonna tell you right now, this is one photo-heavy blog post. Which is totally not my fault. I blame my amazingly talented 4th grade artists who just so happened to kick some serious Viking butt with this project. They absolutely loved the Viking unit that student teacher Rebecca introduced (before heading off to high school-land) and I really think their amazing work shows it. Call me a brag-a-saurus (been called worse, trust me) but I'm in love with these works of art.
If you've seen some of the our Viking projects this year (like the 1st grade Viking self-portraits or the 3rd grade Viking ships), then you know a coupla things about how the lessons were designed: 1. They're collage-heavy. Seriously, I think I have a teaching problem(s); 2. They incorporate several different techniques and media; 3. And just about all of the projects take approximately a million years to complete.

I know. I told you, I've got teaching problem(sssss).
And yet I keep coming back to projects like these. Le sigh.
What I really enjoyed about teaching this unit was all of the media the children were able to explore (watercolor, colored pencil, permanent pens) as well as the techniques (painting, sketching, shading, collage). So I thought I'd walk you through our big fat Viking Unit. So put on your horned helmet (horny helmet...?) and hang onto your long ship (dare you to say THAT ten times fast), cuz we're about to get our Viking on (er, what? Never mind. Just keep reading, please).
As you know, my classes are 30 minutes long. So on the first day, using a folded 12" X 18" sheet of paper, the students had to decide how they would like their sky to appear. We brainstormed ideas of what could be seen in a day or night time sky. Using oil pastels, students drew stars, clouds, a sun or a moon. They were given both yellow and white oil pastels. From there, they could begin painting but they had to use analogous colors only. Students were encouraged to paint with horizontal brush strokes (and by "encouraged" I mean and the stink eye if scrub-painting commenced). Several students were unable to finish in that short amount of time and were given the opportunity to continue work the following class.
On the third day, students were given a tri-folded piece of 12" X 18" piece of paper. Rebecca introduced them to three different watercolor techniques. For splatter painting, the students were given the choice to paint wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry. For the wet-on-wet technique, students had a small sponge which they could swipe their paper with water before splattering. This gave the splatters a soft look. For wet-on-dry, they simply began splattering which gave more defined dots. For the mid-section, students were to paint wet-on-wet and add a sprinkle of salt when finished. For the last section, students were to again paint wet-on-wet and when finished, cover with a piece of cling wrap. This was left on the paper over night and when removed, had the cool effect you see on the bottom.
The next class, the collaging began. The students cut each of the three sections down the fold. Then they were instructed to tear each section horizontally creating a wavy line. From there, they painted a line of glue (we keep our glue in cups [think butter dish with a lid] and apply with an old paint brush because I HATE glue bottles. But I'll save that tirade for a separate post) on the straight edge of the paper and added it to our sky to create a horizon. Another strip was added directly below that one.

This process was continued until the bottom of the collage was covered in a lovely sea.
Oh! A tip: Once the kids have used the oil pastels and painted over their drawings, sometimes beads of paint will form and leave unsightly dots. If this bothers the kids, have them go back over the (now dry) paintings with oil pastels again. That will cover up the dried paint dots.
We chatted about blending oil pastels to create a three dimensional look for the sun or moon. This genius got it.
For the long ship, the students were given the option to trace a boat template. This ONLY gave them the general shape of the boat, not the head or tail shape (calm down, template-haters. Breathe). From there, the kids were given these directions:
  1. Draw a sea serpent/dragon head and tail in pencil. The kids were shown about a trillion examples (some printed from images found online, some from books).
  2. Add texture somewhere to your sea serpent.
  3. Add shields and add designs to them that represent your Viking clan. The kids traced bottle caps for their circles.
  4. Add curved lines to your ship to show the texture of wood and the 3-D quality of your ship.
  5. Trace in thin Sharpie.
All that mess took a couple of days. They got really into their drawings. Reading the book mentioned in this post as they worked really sparked some creativity. After their drawings were complete, they then had to:
  1. Add color to the sea serpent and the shields using either Sharpies or colored pencils. Shading was demonstrated.
  2. Use watercolor paint on the boat.
  3. Cut out VERY carefully. Which involved me saying a lot of this:
Do NOT cut off the head. Cut in...sloooooow...moootiooooon.
No, I cannot cut it out for you. 
I'm sorry your hand is cramping. Maybe all those spikes weren't the best idea. Keep cutting.
Do you think Vikings whined this much? Me neither.  

Some of them added Vikings to their ships. Oh, the hilarity.
And just when they thought I wasn't mean and cruel enough, I threw creating a 3-D sail into the mix. Go back to that 3rd grade Viking ship post for details on how to make the sail. All this typing is making my hands cramp. Sorry. I'm one of those whiny Vikings, in case you didn't know.
Shading is tricky for these guys...but they CAN do it. We talked and talked and talked about it and...guess what? They got it! Some of them had to make a couple of sails before they were successful, but in the end, we had shaded sails. Victory! Some kids decided to add a clan design to their sail. They were to lay out their pieces before gluing down, as you see above. This helped them settle on a good composition.
Are you checking out this detailed cutting work? And this was by one of my hand-crampers. I knew she could do it.
And this one was by my friend who said he couldn't shade. When he finished that sail, I had him to hold it up so the class could give him a round of applause. And then I put him in charge of encouraging other slacker-sail makers. A job he did very well.
So, one million years later, we've got Viking ships! And I really don't know who is the most proud, the kids or me...although I'm guessing it will probably be Rebecca. 

Okay, the end. You can take off your horny hat now. Thanks for reading.


  1. Great work! I love what happens when kids can spend both quality AND quantity time on their work. The results are worth the effort. (And don't you love the look on kid's faces when they have worked so hard and accomplished so much?) :D

    1. yes, I do! They were mighty proud of these they should be :)

  2. these are amazing!! Tell those 4th graders to keep up the good work! :)
    Many greetings from Salzburg

    1. I will, thank you for your kind words!

  3. I want a viking hat now!! You know, just for those times when I need a little courage or I'm out on my viking ship!! You have such a talented bunch of students! Very impressive. Well done to you and Rebecca, we salute you! (By we I mean me and my cat as we are the only ones in the room!)

    Jerra xx

    1. I firmly believe EVERYONE needs a Viking hat in their life. I think you and your cat need matching ones ;)

  4. Absolutely stunning ideas, I hope you don't mind but I've linked it to our website. I love what you do.

    1. Great, thank you! I shared your website on my facebook page and I noticed people started sharing it like crazy! What a great concept -- I can't wait for the weekend to explore your site!

  5. Please tell your students that until you mentioned the 3-D aspect of the sails was actually shading I had no clue that these were 2-D images. Great job!

    1. Well, I did forget to mention that they glued them so they popped out a little...but the shading made them pop even more. I'll tell the kids you said so :)

  6. So so so so so so SO freakin' awesome!

  7. Oh wow! I want to be in your art class! These ships are awesome!

  8. Anonymous2/27/2016

    These look amazing! Going to try this at home with my daughter for her Viking project. Thanks!

  9. Love this so much! I talked my band teacher into a Viking/Norse song with her 4/5 band as well. We are going to make these in art class and hang them up for the concert. I think our librarian will do Norse mythology with the students as well.

  10. Thank you for sharing this wonderful lesson. Great job!

  11. Anonymous3/21/2018

    We have just completed these in class.They look amazing and the kids LOVED it... thanks so much


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