What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

From the beginning of third grade to the end of fifth grade, children go from carefree childhood to the brink of adolescence. This is a great time to introduce art projects that engage their imaginations and provide an outlet for self-expression. The following is a quick look at some of the behaviors you’re likely to encounter within this learning level.

Third graders

At this grade, eight- and nine-year-old artists tend to use exaggeration to express strong feelings. For example, one person may be drawn much larger than others; a simple flower may dwarf a person standing next to it. Socially, third graders enjoy interacting with others and appreciate humor. In the midst of being social, they may also exhibit competitive behavior. Fairness becomes a prominent issue in students’ daily lives. When planning collaborative art activities, allow for same-gender groups or partners, as students at this age are more comfortable with this arrangement.

Fourth graders

In their art projects, fourth graders often display attention to detail. Their attempts at realism, however, may not necessarily be accurate. Instead, students’ artwork often reflects their experiences with a certain object or person. Nine- and ten-year-olds at this grade typically are not risk-takers. They benefit from having you model what is involved in an activity. Because they are frequently concerned about neatness, make sure that you allow enough time for artwork to be completed with the care and attention students desire.

Fifth graders

Students at this grade often begin to show a self-awareness in their art-making that leads to increased sensitivity and self-criticism. At this time, many students become aware of their artistic limitations or lack of ability to depict objects realistically. As a result, their work can appear less spontaneous than in previous grades. Because fifth graders are often a mix of ten- and eleven-year-olds, you’ll find that some students are still very childlike, while others are maturing quickly—especially girls. Allow for the natural differences in these two groups. For example, to foster teamwork pair students of the same age or who exhibit a similar level of maturity. Create a safe and sensitive environment that allows all students to feel worthwhile as they navigate this transitional phase.

What Students Can Do at This Level

The learning outcomes below are based on the Scope and Sequence, which builds instruction sequentially across these levels. Keep in mind that students of different ages may be at the same level.
Grade 3 Students Can… Grade 5 Students Can…

create prints on textured surfaces using brayers and paint trays

create relief block or silkscreen prints

compare and contrast continuous and broken lines

analyze artists’ use of lines to create one-point perspective

analyze how formal elements communicate a message

analyze how formal elements create naturalistic imagery

develop essential questions from a formalist perspective (What are the qualities of a work of art? Do they make the art “good”?, etc.)

develop arguments when viewing artwork from a moralist perspective (Can art teach a moral lesson? Does that make it “good”?, etc.)

explore tools, processes, and subjects of prehistoric art

make artistic choices based on personal values or sensory impact

explore the artistic tools, processes, and subjects of Etrusan/Mycenaean, Han Dynasty, and Ancient Greek civilizations