Monday, May 5, 2014

In the Art Room: First Grade Koinobori for Children's Day!

Are ya'll familiar with the Japanese holiday called Children's Day? I think sometimes my students are convinced that everyday is Children's Day which is why nearly every night is Grape-Flavored Grown-Up Drink Day for this art teacher. But I digress.

The real Children's Day is celebrated in Japan on the 5th day of May which, in case you didn't know, is the 5th month. It's a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness. Which, seriously, that part should be everyday in an art room, don't you think?
On this day, all children fly a carp kite called a koinobori on a flag pole, along with the koinobori of those in their family. The father's koinobori is usually at the top, followed by the mother with the children's kites, from oldest to youngest, flown below.
I had big visions of flying the kids' koinobori outside of our school for the occasion and for our upcoming art show (which is in 10 days, people! Not that I'm freaking out at all). However, we had some pretty Big, Bad and Ugly weather at the start of last week that lead me to believe that keeping these lovelies inside would be a better bet. The last time I hung something in these windows, it was a pretty big hit so I thought I'd do it again with our koinobori.
Along with a sign, of course. Otherwise everyone just thought they were super cool fish kites. Which they are but there's also a super cool story behind them as well.
So just how did my friends in First Grade Land create these awesome koinobori? Dude, it was so super easy and, like, the World's Fastest Art Project (which for me is a total rarity). Here's a list of the supplies we used:
  • Roylco's Japanese Carp Wind Sock Kit For about $8, you can get your kitten mittens on a set of 24 die-cut fish with tag board strips that get glued into the mouths (if you look at the orange fish above, you'll see the tag board propping open the mouth.)
  • Sharpies. This is optional. I had the kids use these to add details that they wanted to remain permanent.
  • Watercolor Paint. Boy, talk about an End-of-the-School-Year-We-Are-Almost-Outta-Supplies Limited Palette, ya'll. But, we're artists, kids! We can make do! Or something like that.
  • A Spray Bottle Full of Water.
  • Yarn.
  • Hole Punch.

How the lesson went down:

My kids have been learning about Asia, with an emphasis on Japan, all year. In fact, we'd just finished off this sushi lesson not long ago and had just completed making a ceramic koi fish. I needed a short and quick tie-in lesson while our clay projects dried and fired. These koinobori were just the perfect thing. 
After chatting about Children's Day, the kids were given a tray of warm and cold colored Sharpie markers. We chatted about the parts of a fish (fins, gills, scales, tail, etc.) and how we might emphasize those with either warm or cool colored Sharpies. 
That took up our first 30 minute session.
For the next 30 minute session, we reviewed correct use of water color paint (which obviously doesn't include cleaning the tray, ew!). I also told the kids that they were again to use warm or cool colors but that they didn't have to stick with the same color family as they used last art class. Once the kids had collected their supplies (a paint brush and two ziplock bags -- the two things I forgot to mention in that above supply list, doh!), they were to raise their hand and I came over and squirted their fish with water.
Because the paper is made from the same stuff as coffee filters, a wee spritz of water really helps the water color paint to spread out. The kids thought that was pretty rad.
Once the kids had painted their entire fish, they were given the option of splatter painting.
I don't think a single kid opted out of that one.
To dry, the kids gingerly carried their zip locked fish to the floor. The reason I kept the bags on the bottom was that I found that the color will often run off the paper and on to the surface that it is sitting on. However, if the paper is allowed to "sit in it's own juices" so to speak, it dries much more vibrant. 
Now, normally, I woulda had the kids add the tag board and attempt to tie the string. But I was in a bit of a time crunch. So I set aside about 15 minutes every afternoon to hot glue the tag board at the top, hot glue it into a tube, hole punch the top and add the yarn. By the end of the week, I had all of my classes finished.
To hang, I bent a paper clip so that it looked like some sort of scary prison shank and stuck it into the foamy ceiling tie. I added the top fish to that paper clip. Then I hole punched the bottom of that fish and added a bent paper clip to that hole where I attached the second fish. If I'm not making any sense it's because I'm deep into that aforementioned Grape-Flavored Grown-Up Drink Day and I simply cannot be held accountable for my incoherentness. 
I managed to get 'em all up and ready for Monday, May 5th on Friday. I can't wait for the kids (and the grown kids) to see them and celebrate all things children -- especially during our standardized testing week!

Until next time, enjoy Children's Day! Or Grape-Flavored Grown-Up Drink Day. Your choice.


  1. I enjoyed this lesson very much as well as your humor. You sound like a great teacher. The kids are lucky to have you.

  2. I didn't get a chance to do Japan this year. :(
    This is wonderful, saving the idea for next year. ^_^

  3. Sooooo beautiful Cassie! Thanks for the step by step. I'll be doing this project at my Japan-themed art camp this summer.

  4. I have a new way to refer to my nightly indulgence.........Grape-Flavored Adult Drink. Love it!! Love your blog too and your humor. You've got it all going on, girl!

  5. Sometimes you need that Grape-Flavored Adult Drink to teach art, huh? Thanks for this wonderful lesson, I am going to try it next year, but I think I might have to do it with my second graders. You have some talented first graders! Love your sense of humor too.

  6. I ordered these for my summer school class! Thanks for the pictures of each step. You are the best!!

  7. he,he very good idea:)

  8. Rachel Lintvet3/26/2018

    Planning this activity for a fourth grade Spring party. After they sit in the watercolor a bit, what is the best way to dry them? Blow-dryer? How did you adhere the top edges of the fish together? Also with a glue gun or something more light-weight? Thanks so much!

  9. Beautiful in the windows! I love this project also! However, we use sharpies for the colors that don't move and crayola markers for the colors we want to move. So if you're low on paint, go for that!

  10. Thank you for all the visuals! This is a fun idea!

  11. The ones in the pictures look much bigger than the 10 x 6 in ones on the School Specialty site. Has anyone found a larger size?


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