Monday, May 30, 2011

ceramic lesson plans: pinch pots with animal features

Drawing of simple pinch pot ideas.
Title: Ceramic Pinch Pots With Animal Features
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 K - Uses scissors with control, Modeling with clay or a similar material to create a sphere
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 – Shapes
B. 1. Select and use elements of art for their effect in communicating ideas through artwork.
Grade K - Identify and use shapes, Categorize shapes as large and small
Grade: kindergarten and 1st
Population: At Ellisville Elementary School there are approximately 110 first graders and 100 kindergarteners. 90% of these students are white and 50% of them are female. Approximately 5% of the students in both grades is African American and the remaining 5% is either Asian, Hispanic or Indian (from India).
Length of Class Period: 55 min.
Frequency of Class Period: once a week
Time Needed: two class period
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 porcelain ceramic pinch pots
Resources Needed:
  • "Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Potters" by Rina Swentzell
  • 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) 
  • Video from theartproject by Chad Brown
  • Sample illustration for the chalkboard/interactive whiteboard at top of the page
Materials Per Student:
  • Both a large and small paint brush
  • A selection of glazes in egg carton, one carton per four students
  • 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 demonstrate the process of first making a pinch pot and then adding on animal features.
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. Divide a second lump of clay into five equal parts. Use all of the clay up until it is gone.
  11. Roll all five lumps into five smooth balls.
  12. Turn pinch pot upside down.
  13. Scratch the bottom.
  14. Fill the scratches with drops of water.
  15. Press four of the five balls into the scratches to create four feet on the bottom of your pinch pot.
  16. Turn the pot right side up.
  17. Scratch the edge of the top.
  18. Fill the scratches with water droplets.
  19. Press the fifth ball into place where ever you wish the head to go.
  20. Form tail, ears, and any other features and then attach in the same way.
  21. Carve in facial features.
  22. Your teacher will fire the pot.
  23. Glaze three coats of every color in order to properly cover ceramic pots.
  24. Try not to apply glaze to the bottom surface edges of footed pots if it can be helped.
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: The informal assessment is made during class. The teacher watches the students closely during class and grades them for their participation, dexterity  and enthusiasm.

Student rolling out "legs" for her pinch pot animal.

pinch pots in kiln after firing
all articles and lesson plans are copyrighted 2011 by Grimm


  1. There may be health concerns, just simply because I personally have an allergy to red "Terra Cotta" clay so I can only use white or gray. I know it is rare but it can happen. Mine is a contact allergy. But dust from any clay can irritate the air passages especially for those with allergies, asthma or other bronchial/nasal concerns. It is something to be aware of. I do love working with clay though. =) and I like your lesson plan.

  2. Christie B. I recommend the use of porcelain, high fire clay. There are many fewer people who seem to be allergic to this type of clay. Also, Terra Cotta is much more fragile and difficult for little ones to manipulate. I have yet to see an art teacher work with Terra Cotta in an elementary school setting. I used it in collage and enjoyed the medium, but, I would not recommend Terra Cotta for public elementary schools myself.

  3. Love your site here. it is very thorough. I have a video demonstration on pinch pots that if you like it you can post a link to it in this blog. the teachers would have a visual on how to make a pinch pot to show their students along with the written material you have now. If you are interested email me at you can view the video here: I'd love to collaborate with you in some way so if you're interested send me an email. Sincerely, Chad Brown

  4. Chad,
    I think your video demonstrations are very appropriate. Well done! Visitors, I'm sure will be able to teach children much about pottery from sharing these.,
    Kathy Grimm