Grade 1 art + grade 1 math = Paul Klee buildings!

Artwork by one of my 1st grade artists in the style of Paul Klee
 The art style of Paul Klee is perfect for first graders.  He painted in a flat, abstract style using bright colors and flat shapes.  His famous quote, "a line is a dot that went for a walk," can be built upon when talking about shapes--isn't a shape just a line that met itself back where it began?

We identified flat or 2-d shapes in his work depicting buildings and villages, looked at photos of a few famous buildings to find similar shapes, and then worked with a partner using wooden blocks to build structures made from 3-d shapes.  Some of these buildings are shown in the images below--so engaging for first grade artists! 

One of Paul Klee's paintings can be seen on the smart board in the photo above, and you can see more of his work at

Then we got down to the business of drawing our structures...lots of connections to grade 1 math common core standards for geometry(see them at, such as combining 2-d shapes and 3-d shapes to make new composite shapes and then creating new shapes using these composite shapes, as well as identifying shapes by their attributes (a triangle has 3 sides and 3 angles, no matter which way you rotate it).

These 1st graders from Mrs. Sanford's class at Village did amazing work on their preliminary sketches.

To get the effect of his bold shapes and bright colors, we used oil pastels and tempera cake paints for a crayon resist technique.  

Castles, towers, and skyscrapers...beautiful work, first grade artists!

The color choice for the background adds to the mood of the artwork.

Below, as an extension activity for students with time at the end of class, we used foam tracers to create drawings with combined shapes and the students' choice of subject.

They also had fun "building" with blocks on the smart board!  Paul Klee would have loved this!


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