It has been entirely too long since I've posted. I won't bore you with excuses. To make up for it, I'll post a yearly favorite.
This totem pole project has evolved quite a bit over the years. It was originally a painting project. The problem with that is that kids would have awesome drawings, but not have the painting skills to pull off the final artwork. I switched it over to a collage project and immediately got significantly better results. My latest improvement happened last year. I make handouts with better reference materials. I've always had my students draw from real images of North American animals. I now have them use that reference (in the form of a huge stack of books from the school library), but I also copy a reference handout with images from papertotempoles.com Students find inspiration from actual animal images as well as from the traditional shapes found in the handout.
I had some more amazing results this year. I think limiting color use does so much for the work. I have my students limit themselves to four total colors and their work shows greater maturity than I would ever expect to see from 4th grade artwork. Send me pictures if you every try this lesson. I'd love to see work from other students!
Download my lesson plan!