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Elementary [1st-5th] Lesson Plan

Van Gogh Starry Night

Created on July 01, 2013 by judlebug81

I teach this lesson to my first graders each year. It incorporates art history (Van Gogh), art criticism and analysis, warm and cool colors, shades and tints,line, variety, as well as resist technique and silhouettes.

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4 sessions; 45 minutes per session

The student will understand and correctly identify qualities of an impressionist painting.

The student will be able to correctly identify Vincent Van Gogh’s painting/style.

The student will demonstrate the ability to create movement within their picture.

The student will create a wax resist for the sky portion of painting.

The student will understand and create a silhouette for the city.

The student will understand that artists use color to create temperature in paintings.


*Completed sample
*9x12 light colored *construction paper (light blue, gray)
*Oil pastels, various yellows and gold, white, and various blues.
*Liquid water color-BLUE
*Paint brushes
*Black construction paper or black tempera

Need these materials? Visit Blick!

Day One:
1. Teach Van Gogh history. Tell of his beginning, job tries, etc.

2. Show Van Gogh self-portrait. Discuss why he has a greenish color to his skin. Bring this discussion into
Impressionism. If available, use a colored light to show the children how the color of the light reflects off their skin, to give the “impression” that they are green (or whatever color you are using).
This is how the impressionists painted their pictures and sometimes their colors look strange to us.

3. Show several Van Gogh paintings, using the Starry Night last. This is the one we are going to recreate.

4. Give students time to talk about the painting and if they have ever seen it before and where.

5. Tell the kids that Van Gogh was on a hill, at night, painting this. Have them imagine that they are there with him.

6. Ask: Do you think you would be hot or cold? Most kids will answer cold. Discuss why. Let them, using their prior knowledge, tell you why. They will tell you that it gets colder when you go up higher.
That it is night time. Someone will notice it is windy, Ask how they know it is windy, since air is clear.
Someone will say it is cloudy, ask how they know this. Lead this discussion into “it just looks cool”.

7. Explain that artists use color to create a mood or a temperature in their painting. Mr. Van Gogh
created a cool feeling by using lots of blues, blacks, grays, etc.

8. Depending on how well the students participate in the discussions, this will most likely be where you need to stop for the day.

Day Two:
1. Refresh memory of Van Gogh discussion. Show Starry Night again, explain that we will be recreating this picture using oil pastels.

2. Hand out light colored paper (it needs to be a light color so that they can see where they place their white pastel coloring) and pastels. I separate my pastels so that they don’t have any other choices than the ones that we need. I take out all other colors.

3. Discuss the crescent moon and show them how to draw one. Hint: draw a capitol C, then a lower case C inside it. Works great.

4. Have students draw their crescent moon on an upper corner of the paper using their choice of yellow pastel.

5. Next we discuss the stars in our picture. We discuss how/why they are blurry dots, not pointy stars that they are used to.

6. Using either one color or a combination of yellows, the students put stars on their sky.

7. Demonstrate how Van Gogh created the lines around the stars to make them radiate out from the center. I use four broken lines around the dot, then four more, then four more, etc.
I demonstrate how to do this on the white board first, showing the correct way to draw the lines and the incorrect way (scribbles) around the stars.

8. I then demonstrate how to draw the wind, winding around the paper. I compare the wind lines to the lines on a street. I repeat the pattern that I created with the other pastel colors. Light, medium, dark blues, white, etc.

Day Three:
1. Refresh memory of previous lessons. If you did not get finished with all the pastel work on day two, teach and complete that work. Many times, the students are so excited about this lesson and we
have great discussions and the pastel portion of the lesson has to stretch to 2 days. I say, if they are excited and questioning, then take the time.

2. Now demonstrate the resist technique. They will think this is so cool!! I explain how oil and water can’t mix, so everywhere they colored with pastel, the paint runs of. I use a clear plastic pop bottle with cooking oil and water in it to show how oil and water will always separate.

3. Have students use large brushes and paint a wash of blue water color on their paper. I use liquid water color for this project so that I don’t have to worry about using the cake style correctly.

4 Store on drying rack.

Day Four:
1. Discuss and reteach silhouettes for students. This is a refresher for my kids, we cover silhouettes earlier in the year. The silhouette can be drawn and cut out of black construction paper for a collage effect or painted directly on the piece with black tempera.

2. Demonstrate different ways the students can draw their city scape silhouette. Demonstrate on your sample piece.

4. Students then create their own silhouette city at the bottom of the piece.

Discussion, observation, and anecdotal notes.
Primary rubric.

Van Gogh prints, self-portrait, starry night, sunflowers and more

Camille and the Sunflowers book

Getting to know Van Gogh- dvd

SPECIAL NOTES: This is a time-consuming lesson, but well worth the time. The kids love it and there are so many different aspects to it. I adjust the timing of each of the steps according to our time in class. Sometimes I begin the unit with reading of Camille or the video, Getting to know. Other times I use those as a closure because the kids enjoy hearing and seeing the things that I have already taught them. They love spotting his various paintings that I have shown them prints of.


Visual Arts Standard 1:
Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

[K-4] Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories
[K-4] Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner
[K-4] Students know the differences between materials, techniques, and processes
[K-4] Students describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses

Visual Arts Standard 2:
Using knowledge of structures and functions

[K-4] Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas
[K-4] Students know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas
[K-4] Students describe how different expressive features and organizational principles cause different responses

Visual Arts Standard 3:
Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

[K-4] Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning
[K-4] Students explore and understand prospective content for works of art

Visual Arts Standard 4:
Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

[K-4] Students know that the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures
[K-4] Students identify specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places
[K-4] Students demonstrate how history, culture, and the visual arts can influence each other in making and studying works of art

Visual Arts Standard 5:
Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others

[K-4] Students understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art
[K-4] Students understand there are different responses to specific artworks
[K-4] Students describe how people's experiences influence the development of specific artworks

Visual Arts Standard 6:
Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

[K-4] Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum

Vincent van Gogh

Post-Impressionism, Impressionism

Line, Color/Value, Balance, Variety

Paper, Pastel, Tempera, Watercolor