Third Grade Experiments with Color

In November and December I took an online course through the Art of Ed called “Assessment in Art Education.”  It was a fantastic experience, linking me with other art teachers from different parts of the United States.  I learned a lot.  In addition to learning various assessment strategies, I reaffirmed that being a teacher in the United States is HARD. Dang hard.  Lots of hoops to jump through, lots of paperwork.  Although all the teachers felt supported by their admin and districts, they all felt insecure about the future of art education where they live.  It made me very thankful for my little school in the desert, thank you very much.

Art of Ed classes are a great resource for art teachers at any level. The main thing I love about them is you design a tool kit throughout the month long class to use in your teaching practices. By the end of the month, you have not only your toolkit, but all of your classmates’ kits.  Buh-bye boring papers on pedagogy, hello useful materials!

One assignment I had was to make a learning unit, including pre and post test. I decided to do a color theory unit with my third graders  I made a pre-test to discover how much they already knew about the primary and secondary colors.  I’ve had these kids since first grade, and we’ve done lots with color, so I was confident they would prove their knowledge base to be strong.  I was wrong.   Very surprised  (and sad!). Most students didn’t even know what the primary colors are.  Haven’t we done this a gazillion times????  This is why pre-tests are so important, forces you to wake up and realize your kiddos don’t know what you thought they did.

Back to the drawing board.  We watched YouTube videos on the primary and secondary colors; we chanted; had exit slips, etc.  Then came MODEL MAGIC.  We have a ton of this stuff in the art room.  I’m not a huge fan as this stuff. Marshmallowy clay, it comes in very small individually wrapped packages.  Very wasteful.  It also dries very fast and crumbles like crazy so it doesn’t last at all. But, it holds tempera paint incredibly well, and you can blend colors.  Super fun, engaging, and memorable.

First, I gave everyone red, yellow, and blue paint.  Then we mixed the colors into the model magic.  After making the first three balls, we proceeded to make the secondary colors by dividing (good practice for fractions!).  For additional practice, we then made the tertiary colors.




After this, we did the same color wheel, but with paint.

For our final assignment, children were asked to paint whatever they wanted, but it had to involve multiple colors. For example, they could design their own skateboard, but it had to contain as many colors as possible in the final design.




Another part of the assignment, making sure children had a rubric to check back to while they completed their work. This helped them focus on the task and reflect on their work.


This was a very successful assignment for third grade and their teacher.   We did a final assessment and the majority of the class could fill in the color wheel within minutes.  They are more confident with paint, and have a better understanding of how to use the paints and paint trays effectively.

Author: Sonia Chapman

I am an art teacher, living in the Middle East, following my passion for art, teaching little children about the finer things in life, and loving every bit of it.

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