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Age Appropriateness: Toddler-Adult
Materials Needed: A Picnic with Monet by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober (or any Mini Masters title), dot markers, and paper.
In a Nutshell: Create "dot art" in the style of Claude Monet and enjoy a poem that spotlights some of his most famous paintings.
Supporting Articles: Visual Thinking Strategies and Wait! Time
Keep reading to learn more about this activity
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This simple activity is a favorite of ours and we do some variation of it, so it seems lately, on a weekly basis!
Lets start with the anchor text:
Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober created a collection of brilliant poems that weave through classic art titled Mini Masters. We have A Picnic with Monet, A Magical Day with Matisse, In the Garden with Van Gogh, and Dancing with Degas. This article is going to focus on A Picnic with Monet.
Kids love looking at pictures. The real treat in these books is the pictures are famous, classical paintings! My twins spend a lot of time looking at each picture and we talk about what we see: the people, the objects, the colors, the lines, and the shapes. They're currently two, so one of their favorite questions to ask is "What's that?"
My oldest still likes these books too, but when he looks at the pictures his comments are more in the tune of "I like how..." I notice he comments more on how the image was created, such as the shading and contrasting colors—a testament to his art teacher!
Back to the text itself.
I really appreciate how the poem uses the famous paintings to tell a story. A Picnic with Monet takes you on a train ride through gardens and the countryside, over a bridge and past sailboats, eventually ending the day back in the city. It's short and sweet, yet packed with rhyme and extremely rich vocabulary that will likely beg questions. Definitely pause to have these conversations, they will be wonderful teachable moments!
Forgive me for this digression, but the English teacher in me wants to tell you this type of writing is called ekphrasis poetry (poems written about art). When I taught middle and high school I used A Picnic with Monet and the other Mini Masters books in my poetry units. Laying the Foundation, pre-AP curriculum through the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), builds further on this skill with one of my all-time favorite lessons titled "Analyzing a Visual Text Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Peter Breughel" (2012). If you are interested, click here to go to NMSI's website and see the complete lesson plan!
Furthermore (and a tad bit advanced for young children), if you are curious about other famous examples of ekphrasis poetry, check out John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and, apropos for this post, Anne Sexton's "Starry Night."
As a teacher I loved to use really simple text to introduce a skill before diving into advanced material, and now, staying home with my littles, I find myself figuring out ways to start to introduce those same skills. That's what I'm trying to do with this activity.
Reading images like words:
My oldest is at the point where he can look at one of Monet's paintings and tell me his own story about it, and though my twins are only speaking very simple sentences, when asked "What do you see?" very simply, and in their own way, they too are able to make sense and add their own interpretation.
Kids are capable of really complex thinking at any age!
So what's one way to encourage complex thinking about images? Visual Thinking Strategies!
"What's going on in this picture?" is one of the best questions you can ask a child when looking at any image. Click here to read more about Visual Thinking Strategies. Remember, when having conversations wait time is extremely important. Click here to read more about wait time.
Try it out! Take a picture walk through A Picnic with Monet and ask your children to talk about what they see!
Then go back and read the book together.
Now the activity:
When you are ready, the formula for this activity is simple: read the book, then emulate the art.
I think the reason we love this particular activity so much is that it can be enjoyed at any age! You can note my masterpiece of a puppy imaged below.
First, get out all of the supplies. My kids love these dot markers, though any marker, crayon, or pencil will work. We are also big fans of this giant roll of paper that I found in the painting section at our local hardware store, but again, any piece of paper will work.
Realistically, after morning story time when we read through our Mini Masters and I first dreamed up this article, we played with blocks and some other toys afterward, and then a few hours later we finally got to arts and crafts time. I don't typically sit down and teach formal lessons to my children. Quite honestly, if I did, they would look at me like I'm an alien and then go put stickers on something. I try my best to incorporate all learning through real-life scenarios and play.
So when we actually got to creating, here's how we did it: I flipped to Poppies in A Picnic with Monet and told the twins to take their dot markers make a field of flowers on the paper. The result:
As I said before, my kids are two, so a bunch of dots on a piece of paper is about as far as we got. Brilliant. And also, because they are two-year-old twins who like to one-up each other and cause as much mischief as humanly possible, they put dots all over whatever else I would let them:
I see the poppies. I think they're really starting to get it...
Jokes aside, in this activity we read some great literature, we looked at some great paintings, and most importantly we were engaged in fun, learning activities for a few screenless hours in a way that brought that book to life for the kids.
...and since those markers didn't make it all over my walls I consider this one a definite success!
We mixed dots with Monet because that's what we had. If you really want to delve into pointillism, I suggest Sunday with Seurat by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober, this time of the French Masters collection.
The best part about an activity like this is you can easily adapt it and upcycle to make it work for you any way you want and you can do it for free. Don't have the books? Pull up an image on Google. Don't have paper? Use the inside of an empty cereal box. Use the markers you already have. Or even use chalk and pavement.
That said, for those who want the convenience, I linked all of the items throughout and listed them at the end of this article so you can simply add them to your Amazon cart and have them delivered to your doorstep!
I hope this makes your child HUNGRY for more books!
Comment and share your creations on social media! I'd love to know how it went and any modifications you might have made. We're all here to learn from each other, not reinvent the wheel!
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