Kids Experience Art with a Literature Unit Study for The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola

This post is part of the 31 MORE Days of Literature Unit Studies series. You can find all of the links to the thirty-one studies in this post. If you’d like to use these ideas to create your own unit study, this post has step-by-step instructions as well as a free unit study planner. (Want to know more about what, exactly, a unit study is? This post will help.)

While you’re reading and working on your unit study, you can download this free printables pack of graphic organizers for reading. It has a plot chart, venn diagram, KWL chart, two mini book report organizers, a character analysis chart, a plot outline chart, and a reading response sheet where students can record facts while reading.

The Art Lesson Unit Study
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Tomie dePaola is one of my all-time favorite children’s book authors. I love his stories and illustrations. The Art Lesson is one I really love. It’s a story that creative kids will relate to, and it will make a great springboard for talking about art and artists with the kids. 

Extension Activities for the Book

Thinking/writing- Tommy knew from the time he was little that he wanted to be an artist. Ask kids to talk about what they love and would want to be when they’re older. Have them write or dictate a story about it. If they love to draw, have them draw a picture of what they’d like to be.
Art- If you have access to an easel, set it up and let kids paint with tempera paint as Tommy did in his kindergarten class. This post has a good idea for setting up your easels outside.
Art- This project from Five Walkers would be a fun one for kids to do after reading about Tommy and his big box of many colored crayons.
Thinking- Have kids think about these questions.
  • Why would Tommy’s class get only one piece of paper?
  • Why do you think the teacher only wanted him to use school crayons?
  • Is it a good idea for people who want to be artists to copy a picture? Why?
  • Do you think Tommy’s art teacher came up with a good idea?
History- Why do you think Tommy’s class was drawing Pilgrims and turkeys? Let kids explore this Scholastic site all about the first Thanksgiving. There are some great videos and interactive features.
Art- Do a Charlotte Mason style picture study. Tommy didn’t want to copy his teacher’s pictures because he said real artists didn’t copy. But enjoying art with Charlotte Mason’s methods does involve studying the work of great artists and replicating it. This post is a great one to get you started in doing a picture study Charlotte Mason style.

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Resources for Studying Art with Kids

KinderArt is a site that offers tons of free ideas for teaching art to kids. You can search for topics and projects by grade to easily find a project. There are also resources for learning about art history. (free)
Art Express has art activities for elementary grades. Click on the grade level on the main page to find activities. (free)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an awesome kids site with an interactive map that takes kids on a virtual tour of the famous art museum, as well as other goodies. (free) has some art lessons for kids. Click on the grade level you want- K-5 or 6-8- and choose “art and music.” There will be a list of art activities you can choose from. (free)
ARTistic Pursuits is one of our all time favorite art curricula. They have materials for Kindergarten all the way through high school. We’ve reviewed several of their books. Here’s the review for one of their elementary art books. (purchase)
The Art Lesson Unit Study

Booklist for Art Appreciation for Kids

Arnholt’s Artists Books for Children by Laurence Arnholt- Covers the lives of many famous artists

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