K-1 Lesson Plan & Book Activities With “The Art Lesson” by Tommie dePaola

A Lesson in Self Discovery for Early Elementary Students

The Art Lesson is a great book to use with early elementary school students or pre-school students for a read aloud. This story can be used to teach students about their own interests, how their classmates have diverse interests, ways to cope with disappointment (and not be afraid of it,) and finally discover that everyone has to practice to get good at something.

I recommend using post it notes to highlight the pages in The Art Lesson as noted below. On these post its list one or two teaching tips you want to talk about with your students.

This lesson is one that welcomes open discussion with your students. Since these discussions can be lengthy you may want to consider limiting the number of students who may comment on each page. I also encourage you to read through the story one time all the way first without stopping. After this re-read the story using the post it notes and encouraging discussion.

You’ll have to gauge what is right for you group of students for the above. Some have longer attention spans than others alter it to fit their needs.

Page 2 Post It:

We discover on page one of The Art Lesson that Tommy loves to draw. On page two we learn that his friends also have things that they love to do. Jack collects turtles, Herbie makes cities in his sandbox, and Jeannie likes to do cartwheels.

Ask your students what it is that they like to do the best?

What do some of their friends and siblings like to do?

Point out that everyone has diverse interests that are unique to them. Explain how this is a wonderful thing about people. Just like the colors of the rainbow we are all different and beautiful in our own way.

Page 4, Post It 1:

As The Art Lesson progresses we learn that two of Tommy’s cousins are in art school to become real artists. They’ve told Tommy never to copy and to practice, practice, practice.

Ask your students why the cousins told Tommy never to copy.

Explore the idea with the class of how important it is to be true to your self in all you do. Be original, be unique. Discuss times when they went against the crowd or norm and did what was true to them. Tell them examples of when you did or someone you know did.

Page 4, Post It 2:

Ask your students why the cousins told him to practice his art.

Discuss how it’s important to practice at anything you want to be good at doing. Tell the class how although we each are inclined to do one thing or another everyone must practice. Give examples of sports figures, singers, etc. and how much time they spend practicing.

It’s important to teach kids this lesson. Many kids have the mistaken belief that you’re either good at something or not. Teach them early on to practice to be good at what you want to do.

Page 13, Post It:

After seeing on the previous pages how many people love Tommy’s artwork we now get to watch Tommy go to Kindergarten. He’s been waiting for this so he can have ‘real’ art lessons.

As he meets his teacher, Miss. Bird, Tommy’s first question is “When do we have our art lessons?” He just can’t wait!

He learns here that kindergarteners don’t have art lessons. He’s told he has to wait again until next year and first grade.

Ask your students:

How do you think Tommy feels when he learns he has to wait till first grade for art lessons?

Discuss with the class that Tommy probably feels disappointed. Ask the students if they’ve ever experienced being disappointed. When? What happened?

Find out how the students coped and felt? Were they angry, sad, didn’t care?

Then discover what they did to feel better. Discuss positive ways to move from disappointment to feeling better. This is an important life lesson.

Let kids know that they will be disappointed in life and that’s okay. It’s part of life and it’s okay to feel that way. Teach them hear (by simply beginning a discussion) that there are steps to take to stop feeling sad or bad.

Use examples of your own life and other people you know. Once again using famous figures here is a good idea. Many of them are idolized and for kids to know they too have been disappointed but kept their chins up and never gave up is important.

Finish the book and let discussion flow.

Complete this lesson by asking students to draw ways that they can feel better when they get disappointed.

Many lessons evolve into other mini-lessons if you let the students guide the discussions (with your oversight and guidance.)

Extension Activities

This lesson plan will take up the majority of a regular class time. Engaging in conversation related to the text is the most important part of this lesson.

If you need to extend it here are a few simple activities:

  • Draw it! Ask students to draw a coping skill they used in the past to deal with a let down.
  • Draw it! Ask students to draw a coping skill they learned about in this lesson that they may try in the future.
  • Write both of the above.