Friday, August 12, 2011

Mastering Easel Painting

My new class came for the first time last week. I watched them explore and discover what's around the room. We had easel painting, of course, with just blue paint. As one little girl painted, she said, "Where is the pink paint?" "We'll have pink paint another time," I said. That exchange reminded me of a similar discussion last year. Here's a repost of how we become masters at easel painting.

"L" was first in the classroom and began to build with the blocks. He looked around the room as he built and saw the easel. "We have yellow paint today?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "We had red paint last week and yellow paint this week."

"I wonder if we'll ever have blue paint," he said wistfully.

"I'll tell Mrs. Cindy and we can have blue paint next week," I said. I smiled and we continued to build together.

My new class is helping me see things in my room again through fresh eyes. They remind me that some things are new and different for them, things that have become familiar to me. One of those things is the easel. An easel has become one of those indispensable things for my classroom. We use it every week, usually for painting.

For these young 5s at the beginning of the year, we offer one color of paint. That allows us to practice and master the skills of using the easel:
  •  Put on a smock before painting
  • Tap the brush along the edge before using it on the paper (to remove the extra paint drips)
  • Control the brush to make the marks just like we want them (even though we end up covering the entire paper with paint)
  • Paint only the paper (and not the clips, paint can tops, and so forth)
  • Ask for a turn so our names can go on the waiting list; and being patient, knowing that we'll get a turn (even if we must wait until next time for a turn)
In a couple of weeks, we'll add an additional color of paint. By then we'll be easel painting experts.

(The original post has some other ideas for using the easel. We use it every week in some way.)

I can't wait to see how this new class will help me see things in a new way - and remind me of all those lessons I thought I learned but need to learn again. 


  1. Can you say more about your decision to introduce one color of paint at a time? I've not thought about this and would be interested to know more.

  2. We have only one color of paint at the beginning so that we have only one cup and one brush. Kids can concentrate on pulling out the brush, wiping it on the side (if needed), and getting the brush to the paper. They learn control of the brush - making the brush do what you want on the paper. Kids can focus more on process than on using both/all of the colors. After a few weeks, kids are much more comfortable with the entire easel-painting process so we have 2 colors at a time. This has really worked for us to help the kids feel comfortable with using the paint at the easel before giving too many other choices.

  3. I may try this too Scott! I haven't made my easel introduction plans yet:) We start a week from next Tuesday!

  4. Hmm. I hadn't thought of using the easel as a "skill," but you're right. It absolutely is! I just try to always have paint available. Sometimes that's not always possible, but I've learned a few paint stretching tricks over the years. Hmm...You've got me thinking. Thanks!