Art Lesson: Primary and Secondary Colors
Most students enjoy art and having room to express their individuality, but like any other class, art needs to be taught. Students usually feel better when they are given clear steps to make a great piece of artwork. If you’re working with a small budget or are a little uncomfortable teaching art, I recommend the book Using Color in Your Art by Sandi Henry [ISBN 0-8249-6754-2]. The lessons are well organized with clear, simple steps and lots of illustrations. Each activity builds on the previous one, making it easy for students to advance their skills. This year I started using it in my class to teach students about primary and secondary colors.
The first project we did from the book involved tempura paint, cardboard cutouts of shapes, drawing paper, a pencil and a paintbrush. I began the lesson by asking the students to trace the three shapes into overlapping patterns on their papers. Then, they painted the non-overlapping portions of the rectangles yellow, the circles blue and the triangles red. Next we talked about how when primary colors overlap, they create secondary colors: orange, purple and green. We mixed these in our trays and used them to paint the places where the shapes overlapped. Once the projects dried, the students went over their lines with a black marker, making everything look sharp and clean.
Using lessons like this during the first few weeks of school accustoms students to following verbal and visual instructions. It’s also a great way for them to get used to working with paint and other art supplies.