Monday, May 30, 2011

ceramic lesson plans: cupcakes

(Teacher sample ceramic cupcakes. The middle cupcake was glazed, the cupcakes on the right and left were painted with tempera paints.)
Title: Ceramic Cupcakes
Topic: learning to work with clay, sculpture
Goals & Objectives:
  •  Students will model clay with control.
  • Students will build upon past knowledge in order to craft an original, three-dimensional artwork.
  • Through observation, investigation and discipline, students will create an art object demonstrating the use of the elements and principles of design.
  • Students will use ceramic vocabulary when referring to the processes of shaping clay objects.
Strand I: Product/Performance for Sculpture, Ceramics, Other Media
A.2. Select and apply three-dimensional media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas and solve challenging visual art  problems.
Grade 2 - Manipulate paper to create low relief (e.g., curling, folding, tearing, and cutting), Modeling with clay or a similar material:, Roll coils: flatten material into a slab
Grade 3 - Manipulate paper to create forms (in-the- round), Cut a symmetrical shape from a folded piece of paper, Modeling with clay or a similar material:, Create applied and impressed textures
Strand I: Product/Performance for Subject Matter: Functional Art
B. 3. Communicate ideas about subject matter and themes in artworks created for various purposes
Grade 3 - Create a container (e.g., paper box, clay pot, fiber basket)
Strand II: Elements and Principles – Form
C. 1. Select and use elements of art for their effect in communicating ideas through artwork.
Grade 2 - Identify and use geometric forms: sphere, cube, cylinder, and cone
Grade 3 - Identify and demonstrate sculpture-in-the-round
Strand II: Elements and Principles – Texture
D. 1. Select and use elements of art for their effect in communicating ideas through artwork.
Grade 2 - Identify and use actual texture
Grade 3 - Identify and use invented textures
Grade: 2nd and 3rd
Length of Class Period: 55 min.
Frequency of Class Period: once a week
Time Needed: two class periods
Facility & Equipment Requirements:
  • One computer lap top
  • Room with good lighting
  •  Large tables, approximately ten, each seating four students
  • Two sinks
  • Dry erase board
  • Drying racks
  • Cabinets for storage
  • Projector for viewing computer video, CDs and DVDs
  • Kiln for firing ceramic cupcakes
Resources Needed:
  • Tips for beginning potters by Murry's Pottery. This video collection is appropriate for very young students. Murry shows basic techniques, child appropriate language, kind voice, secular presentations, excellent visuals and explanations. (15 videos)
  • Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks for repairs
  • Power point reviewing the works of Wayne Thiebaud
  • Two samples for the chalkboard/interactive whiteboard
First cupcake diagram

Second cupcake diagram

Materials Per Student:
  • Both a large and small paint brush
  • A selection of tempera paints in egg carton, one carton per four students
  • Glitter glue
  • A large container of water, one per four students
  • A paper towel
  • Amount of clay approximating the size of a tennis ball per student is used for the modeling of this object
  • A variety of clay printing and modeling tools (wood chips, shells, pencils, clay stamps, etc...)
  • Each student will need one burlap placemat to keep his/her working space clean and also to prevent clay from sticking to their counter space while he/she works
  1.  pinch - to form clay between the fingers and the palm
  2. coil - a rope-like formation of clay
  3. slab - a evenly rolled or pressed layer of clay
  4. bisque - is clay that has been fired but not yet glazed
  5. ceramics - are objects created from stoneware, porcelain or terra cotta
  6. clay - soil, water and sand
  7. fire - is the name for the heat that is used in a kiln
  8. glaze - a glass paint used on pottery
  9. kiln - a special oven used for hardening clay
  10. greenware - pottery that is not yet fired in a kiln
  11. leather hard - the hard condition of clay when it is almost air-dry
  12. score - roughen the clay's surface so that a bond may be formed between two surfaces
  13. sculpture - a three-dimensional art work
  14. slip - a liquid clay used to glue two pieces together
  15. texture - press into the clay surface with objects to create a pattern, design or rough surface
Motivation- Looking and Talking Activity: The teacher will share a Power Point about Wayne Thiebaud and demonstrate all of the following steps along with the students.
Step-by-Step Studio Activity Specifics:
  1. Roll the moist clay ball between your palms.
  2. Use your thumbs to make a shallow dent no deeper than ½ inch into the clay ball.
  3. Remove your thumb and insert it again into the shallow hole slowly and push deeper into the clay ¼ inch.
  4. Remove your thumb and insert it again into the hole slowly pushing deeper into the clay approx. ¼ inch deeper.
  5. Remove your thumb.
  6. Hold the clay ball with your left hand if you are right-handed or with your right hand if your are left-handed.
  7. Insert your dominant hand’s thumb into the hole and wrap your four remaining fingers over the top of the clay ball. Keep these fingers together and pinch with your thumb on the inside of the hole towards your fingers. This will make the interior wall of the clay ball thinner as you gently turn the ball while pinching slowly. Teachers can demonstrate this movement also at this time by using a plastic, transparent cup to show students what they can only feel (not see) while pinching into clay. See photo just above Step-by-Step for reference.
  8. Once the hole is widen enough to fit both of your thumbs into it, switch to pinching with both hands simultaneously. Wrap both sets of four fingers around the clay ball and continue to pinch and turn until your ball looks more like a pot. (The teacher may refer to this step as “driving a car” for very young students.)
  9. Once the walls of the pot are an even thickness, (approx. ½ inch) shape the bottom of your pot by gently tapping it on your desktop to form a flat surface.
  10. Press a small slab cookie shape with the palm of your hand on the surface of your burlap mat from a second smaller ball of clay that your teacher gives you.
  11. Crush paper towels and gently but firmly stuff the pinch pot till the paper is slightly more than is necessary for filling the pot. If you are speaking with little students, I refer to this as the “batter.”
  12. You want the pinch pot “batter” to be a bit too much so that the cookie shaped slab will “dome up” a bit after it is added to the top.
  13. Scratch top edges of the pinch pot.
  14.  Add drops of water to those scratches before adhering the top cookie shaped slab.
  15. Add the cookie shaped slab to the top of the cupcake sealing it firmly on top.
  16. Now students may add more clay pieces to the top of their cupcakes to suggest icing, a cherry, a strawberry, candy, chocolate shavings, or even whipped cream. Don’t forget to scratch and fill the holes with drops of water before pressing firmly any extra clay designs.
  17. Turn your cupcake over gently and scratch in your initials with a pencil.
  18. At this time the teacher MUST poke a hole through the pinch pot’s base up through to the interior of it’s center. This whole will allow air to escape from the inside of the cupcake while it is being fired in the kiln. If you don’t do this, the cupcake will explode in the kiln.
  19. When removing the finished cupcakes from the kiln expect white ash to fall through these holes. This is normal.
  20. Students will then paint their cupcakes with tempera paints and also brush on glitter glue to give a “wet” looking surface affect to the icing on their pieces.
Special Needs Adaptations:
Modifications for the hard-of-hearing or deaf student:
  • Student will be seated closer to instructor so they will be better equipped to hear instructions or read lips
  • Student will be provided with written instructions so that they read about the discussions and demonstrations
  • The instructor may use a amplification devise provided by the school or student’s parents
Modifications for the student with limited vision or blindness:
  • Students will be allowed to observe samples of art projects with their hands and for extended periods of time
  • Students will be provided with safe tools and one-on-one guidance during a demonstration of the project
  • The project may be slightly adjusted to accommodate the student’s limitations or for safety reasons
  • Student will be given ample time to exist classroom before large crowds gather outside of the classroom.
Modifications for students with mild brain injury:
  • Students will be provided with duplicate instructions for home and school. Student will not need to remember to carry home materials to review.
  • Students will be given ample time to exist classroom with a pre-determined aid or peer before the official end of a class.
  • Instructor will provide for parent e-mail communication concerning the progress and needs of their student.
  • Student may be given special seat assignment in order to enable his participation in class appropriately. Specific peers may be better equipped to articulate projects visually for this student.
Health & Safety Concerns: There are no health and safety concerns for this project.
Cleanup Time & Strategy: Students will be instructed to put away art materials neatly in their containers, clean off their tables, and recycle their trash two minutes prior to dismissal.
Assessment: Fill out the formal scoring guide included below according to age appropriate standards.

Side view of teacher sample cupcakes.
Student ceramic cupcakes before they were fired.
Student ceramic cupcakes after firing.
Student ceramic cupcakes.
Students also painted their cupcakes with glitter glue to add a little "bling"

Student cupcakes on display
Cupcake scoring sheet by Grimm

 all articles and lesson plans are copyrighted 2011 by Grimm


  1. Amazingly detailed lesson plan. Thank you. I have done ceramics on my own but now that I am teaching young children I realize how much thought I need to put in to teaching ideas and skills I take for granted that they just know- and they definitely don't :)

    1. My little students adored any kind of ceramic lesson. I hope yours have fun with this one!