Thursday, May 17, 2012

Memorial Day Flags

With Memorial Day very quickly approaching, it's time to plan some projects to nurture patriotism in our young students. Although I'll admit I'm not a big fan of painting (yes, I know how good an experience it is for kids, but I'm really not a huge fan of the afterschool clean-up, floor-scrubbing, etc. that it always seems to bring), I always like to paint American flags at this time of year. Needless to say, the kids absolutely love doing this!

Here are two of my boys from last year's class, hard at work on their flags.

Because I was blessed to be working with a literacy intervention class, we had a small group and so were able to spread out on the floor.

I like to give the children a choice of painting tools: foam pads, which give more control and are probably easier for many kids, and large paint brushes, which are preferred by others because they are simply cool.

We use tempera paint for the red stripes and the blue field. I love reusing the little dishes from frozen lunch entrees as paint dishes - hard to tip!

After all of the painting is done and dry (usually the next day, for some it might have taken more like two weeks without the benefit of a fan to speed the drying!)) , the children have a choice of two ways to add the stars: rubber stamps in white paint or drawing stars (or star-like things, which is fine!:) with white chalk. We even have a mini-lesson on star-drawing for those who want to participate! Although of course we talk about the number of stars and the reason for the number, I assure the children who worry about such things that it's not likely that anyone looking at their flags will actually count the stars, so precision is not that crucial! I cruise the room while they're painting and if anyone's star count looks crazy low, I just tell them they need more. More often than not , they're having so much fun making the stars that it seems like the USA has gained some new states! :)

I've done this project for a number of years and although I'm all for artistic license, it seems that most kids benefit from some structure in this project. I pencil in the field on each flag ahead of time, and the children align their papers with the field at the top left. Next they paint the field blue.

After that, here's the structure I follow. Kind of controlling, I know ( okay, very) , but the results are often quite good approximations of the flag that still retain the charm of first grade artwork.

Obviously, the red and white stripes on the diagram are out of proportion and ideally will be approximately the same width.

Now, I've had children in my class who had trouble painting the alternating red stripes on a white candy cane background even though the stripes had been penciled in for them!  But a few months later, every one of those children was successful when we used this strategy. Give it a try!

I'd love to know how this works for you, or if you've got another strategy for flag-painting that you'd like to share. Please leave a comment!

Happy Teaching!



  1. You are a braaaaaaave woman! I am so nervous of paint cause like you said I'm scrubbing the floor for weeks lol

    Jessica Stanford

  2. Ooooh, Jessica - you made me laugh, and breathe a big sigh of relief! I thought I was the only one! :) Now I'll confess the 2 other things I don't like about using tempera paint: 1)that moment when a little guy turns to you with brush poised up in the air and swipes it across your arm (or worse), 2)how even the washable paint embeds itself in my cuticles and under my nails for days.

    I really admire those K teachers who have an easel and cups of paint set up as as a center every day. Wow. We usually use tempera 4 times a year. Long live watercolors.

    I am so grumpy and controlling. Hey, there're lots of ways to have fun besides painting, right? :)



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