Friday, August 30, 2013

Chicago Cityscapes - Third Grade lesson plan

•cool colored construction paper, 12 x16, 12 x 14, 12 x 6
•dark or black construction paper 12 x 18
•silver Sharpie markers
•color sticks

Which overused moniker can I start this article with?  My kind of town?  That toddlin’ town?  The Windy City, the Second City? They do all fit the beautiful city of Chicago.  It so happens that I have the pleasure of teaching just eight miles or so west of the City with Big Shoulders.  Even though on a clear day we can see The Willis Tower - formally the Sears Tower just down the street from our school many of my students are not very familiar with the architectural history of Chicago.  In fact they know little about the city at all.  Many students do not even realize how close to the city we actually are.

I like to begin this lesson by showing a bunch of different photographs of unique buildings and landmarks in Chicago.  I purposely choose buildings and sculptures that I know the students have seen before or have an fascinating story behind them.  The buildings are not always the most interesting architecturally.  One objective is for the student to be able to name buildings they otherwise never thought of.  I secretly hope that one day they are on their way to a Cubs game when they call out from the back seat “Hey!  That’s the Harold Washington Library!  We learned about that in Art Class!” 

While looking at the photographs we discuss some architectural characteristics.  We talk about the height of the skyscrapers and the differences between the 100 year old buildings and the modern buildings.  We also talk briefly about the ornamentation and we even discuss buildings that are currently being built.

We begin the art production portion of this lesson by reviewing our parts of composition.  I explain to the class that our cityscape is going to be broken down into three parts; a background, middle ground and foreground.  We begin with the background.  Each student is asked to draw four recognizable buildings from the city of Chicago on a 12” x 16” piece of blue construction paper.  Usually we draw small things in the background, because they are so far away, but I explain to the class that with our cityscape we are going to draw the largest items in the background because they will appear small.  Students are able to look at photographs of the Chicago buildings for reference as they draw.  Those drawings are then traced with black or silver permanent marker and colored with color sticks.

Next, we start our middle ground. Each student receives a slightly smaller piece of violet paper, 12” x 14”.  They are then asked to choose four more recognizable buildings from the city of Chicago.  These buildings shouldn’t be skyscrapers but rather medium in size.  Theaters, Sports Stadiums and smaller Students once again trace with marker and color.  I encourage the students to use bright “crazy” colors and not get hung up on making the cityscapes colors look real.

Now students are ready for the foreground.  These objects are closest to the viewer and appear large.  However, for this lesson in reality they are the smaller things found around the city. Students receive a 12” x 6” piece of green construction paper and they need to draw four recognizable buildings or landmarks found in Chicago.  There are so many wonderful small landmarks, outside statues and parks, I must admit the foreground is my favorite part!  Once the foreground is colored we get out the silver permanent markers and add a little shine to our layers.

Finally, we are ready to assemble each piece.  Students will very carefully cut out their buildings and then glue their layers to a 12” x 18” piece of black construction paper.  Starting with their blue background, violet middle ground, then green foreground.

I know not all cities have an exciting architectural birth like a ravenous fire that engulfed nearly every single building in the 1870s.  Started by a cow no less!  But all cities have buildings and landmarks that have an interesting story behind them or are recognizable easily by the students.  I figure that is how this lesson is adaptable for classes anywhere learning about cityscapes and tying in local architecture. 

I have taught this lesson for many years and it remains a staple  or a favorite.  Students always have great success and are surprised at how well they can draw the buildings.

Here are some artsonia galleries from previous years:

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