Kanella Dimopoulos

3rd Year, Art Education, Specialization

What Happens Next? 

This lesson was designed for an after school program at the Visual Arts Centre in Westmount for the ‘Little Studio’ class offered for students ages four to six years old. The challenge was to develop a plan that incorporates the unit objectives set by my cooperating teacher at the centre. The mentoring teacher’s plan aimed to help these young artists learn to express emotions using variety of art techniques. Working with these objectives, I used storytelling as the big idea for my unit plan.  


I used storytelling to get children to tap into their emotions: happiness, silliness, fear, anger, for example. The goal was to get them to use their storytelling abilities to create a work of art with personal meaning. I used picture book stories as a springboard to bring them to a particular moment where they can access these emotions and express them in a narrative manner. It was a fun way to get them enthralled into their world of ideas, and to share their stories with each other. For this lesson I used the picture book, “This Is Not My Hat” by Jon Klassen (2012), because this story addresses the consequences of one’s actions. A small fish takes the hat of a very big fish while he is sleeping. The small fish confidently swims away thinking to himself that his action wasn’t wrong because the hat after all was too small for the big fish. He asks a crab that witnessed the scene to not tell. However, as the big fish swims by, the crab points him in the direction of the little fish. Not knowing how the story ends, the students are asked the guiding question, “What do you think happens next?”  


The students will produce an individual work using a mixed media Competency 3 For the art appreciation portion, students will be shown works of art for their narrative quality, reading especially the characters’ facial expressions of anger and fear. The teacher reads a picture book to the class and observes its illustrations. Children then illustrate an alternate ending for the story, presenting their work and providing feedback to each other.


Young children create art from their experiences, and telling stories is a huge part of how they play and make meaning. In this class, they will learn that spontaneous narrative-making can be used to make powerful images. The exercise demonstrates their understanding of a situation, allows them to problem-solve and tell the story from their perspective. The story may or may not focus on consequences, but they will be encouraged to express their feelings. It is a safe place for them to express themselves in a humorous, or dramatic way. This encouragement builds self-esteem and fosters meaningful art. While reading the story, I encourage children to look at the character’s facial expressions, as well as the colours that create the mood. Klassen’s images set the mood by using a dark background colour. Children will be asked questions about colours such as, “Why do they think the author used a dark colour for the background?” They will choose a background colour for their story depending on the mood they want to create. They will think about how to express emotion through colour, as well as drawing. What facial expressions do they want to give the characters in their version of the story? They will be using familiar materials in a different way. They will learn to create images using a variety of papers and oil pastels. They will use water-soluble tissue paper to create their background. They will discover how to mix colours with the water-soluble tissue paper and that oil pastels will resist the color. Using collage techniques, they will cut shapes from magazines and glue them onto the foreground. Overall, I hope to foster experimentation with familiar materials, expanded facility in depicting emotion, and a positive art-making experience.  


To use storytelling to express their ideas – To introduce art concepts and the use of different materials. – To awaken the children’s inner artist through experimentation of various art materials. – To learn how to express emotions and how to interpret the emotions of others through the use of different at materials.  


To empower children to tell a story that has personal meaning. – To be aware of their emotions and the emotions of others. – To be able to talk about the narrative artwork they created. – To listen to classmates’ version of the story. – To learn to use colours to express a mood. – To learn to mix colours with water soluble tissue paper. – To learn that oil pastels resist other water-coloured materials. – To learn that oil pastels can be blended, mixed, and scratched to create textures.


The materials required include 18” x 24” paper, water-soluble tissue paper, oil pastels, coloured paper, regular tissue paper, spray bottles, glue, scissors, stencils and paint pucks, JPEG projections or colour Xeroxes of the artworks ‘Surprised by the Storm,” (1886) by Ferdinard Hodler, and “The Kabuki Actor Nakamura Shikan II,” 1835) by Shunbaisai Hokuei.  


Colors: Yellow + Blue = Green, Red + Yellow = Orange, Resist Story, Narrative Emotion.


1. As a warm-up and cool-down activity, I lay 9’ long kraft paper on the floor for students to stencil in fish, so that children have something to do at all times. Not everyone shows up to the class at the same time, and some children finish the main art activity faster than others.

2. For the main art activity, everyone sits together in a circle. I show the artwork “Surprised by the Storm,” by Ferdinard Hodler and ask questions about the work: “What do you see in the painting?” “Describe the emotions you see” “What are the people feeling?” “How do you know this?” This activity gives participants a chance to read the imagery and build on the story suggested by the painting. I also show the painting, “The Kabuki Actor Nakamura Shikan II,” (1835) by Shunbaisai Hokuei, in which the single figure depicted is clearly angry, and direct similar questions to help focus the students and get them thinking.

3. I then read Klassen’s book, “This is Not My Hat,” except for the ending.

4. There will be a discussion about the story. The children will be asked, “What do you think will happen next?” I then ask them to draw an imagined ending and show how the characters are feeling.

5. I demonstrate how students can work with pastels, by rubbing and blending the pastels and scratching the oil pastels to add textures. Students will draw their scene with oil pastels.

6. I demonstrate how students can use the watercolour soluble tissue paper to put in a background colour that matches the tone of their ending. The paper is sprayed with water and small pieces of tissue paper are placed on top. You may need to spray more water on top of the tissue paper. You wait a few minutes and remove the tissue paper that reveals the coloured stains it has left behind. Students should be given the chance to experiment with the materials before starting.

7. Students can place foliage or other elements on the foreground using magazine paper, coloured paper or regular tissue paper. They can also build up textures with the tissue paper and glue.

8. When everyone has completed their work, the class will sit in a circle and encouraged to share the story behind his or her image. The exercise of continuing the narrative of the painting makes the painting more memorable to the children. This increases the chances that the children will remember and form a stronger bond with the work of art.

9. Gallery walk for the parents.  


The children will put away any paper they did not use and clean their work area. All children who finish cleaning up will receive a sticker as a reward.  


Cutting bigger pieces of tissue paper will help children with dexterity issues to be able to finish the work within the allotted one hour an a half time of class.  


What is wonderful about asking a question such as, “What happens next?” for motivation is that that there is no right answer (Levine, 1976, page 32). Zander quotes Egan in her article and says, “telling a story is a way of establishing meaning” (Zander, 2007, page 192). The students in this class were encouraged to draw their own story ending. All five stories endings were different. One boy drew a picture where the little fish stabbed the big fish in order to keep the hat and the other boy had his big fish eat the little fish. The girls had more positive stories. One drew the little fish getting away, another hid the little fish behind a leaf, and another drew a store where the little fish could get another hat to end the conflict. Within this small group there were gender differences in how the conflict in the story was resolved. The boys tended to have more negative consequences for the little fish that stole the hat, while the girls tended to find solutions that were not harmful to the little fish. I found the results from this approach were very powerful, because it tapped into the intrinsic motivation of the students to express their thoughts and effortlessly problem solve. The children were very motivated to express their opinions. Using storytelling made the art lessons richer as the stories brought laughter, intense interest and understanding of the themes. “When we help students recognize the communicative value of their own art or use narratives from the artists’ lives or works to discover how to deal with concepts such as heroism and fear or dreams and reality, we teach students more than skills and facts about art. We connect them with the reasons artists make art”, (Zander, 2007, page 200).  


Klassen, J. (2012) This is not my hat. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press Levine, E. (1976). Teaching painting in a multi-age group. School Arts, 71 (1), 32-34. Micklethwait,  L. (1996). A Child’s  Book  of  Play  in  Art: Great  pictures great  fun.. NY:  ADK   Publishing Book. Zander, M.J. (2007). Tell me a story: the power of narrative in the practice of teaching art. Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research, 48(2), 189-203.