Aboriginal Art for Kids

Aboriginal Dot Painting is a popular art lesson classic suitable for learners of all ages as it features an irresistible combination of music, art, culture and history.

The beauty of this subject is that the lesson engages learners on a number of different levels – practical painting technique, cultural understanding, linking art with music, dance and storytelling, and getting their fingers nice & dirty in the process!

For beginners through to advanced level learners

3~4 hours contact time in class, extra time for research/homework

Lesson Aims:

* Students will be able to select colours, mix paint, make a preliminary sketch, complete an authentic aboriginal artwork.

* Students will understand the origin of motifs, colours, storylines in aboriginal art.

* Students will be able to connect aboriginal art with its other cultural traditions of music, dance, and storytelling.


* Aboriginal music or video.

* B/W photocopies of aboriginal symbols.

* B/W photocopies of a real aboriginal painting.

* Sketching paper or thin card for B/W draft – about 40cm x 25cm.

* Watercolour paper for final draft artwork – about 60cm x 40cm.

* Black marker pens, watercolour or acrylic paints, sponges for dab effects etc.

In Class Lesson Stages:

1. As a lead-in my students respond really well to closing their eyes as they listen to real aboriginal music and imagining they are an eagle flying over the Australian Outback. What did you see? How far did you go? What animals came into your mind? In the course of introducing the people, the country, and their traditions you can reveal how each sound from the didgeridoo depicts the sound of a distinct animal – a snake, a fish, a crocodile, an emu. This visualisation exercise will help when they come to start their first draft sketch.

2. A short video of aboriginal dancing features at the end of this lesson plan.

3. Students speculate in groups on the meaning of common symbols in aboriginal art as per ‘Aboriginal Symbols’ worksheet pictured below. Which symbolize a kangaroo, a boomerang, a waterhole, footprints, and the sun, rain, and moon?

4. At the end of the first session students annotate a B/W copy of a real aboriginal painting and identify which lines/dots/patterns symbolize what. Students should also understand the following elements of design – contrast, colour choice (how did the aborigines find paint? why are coours of nature prevalent?) Show other examples of aboriginal paintings.

5. The next session begins with a first draft in B/W. Students should select a unifying ‘theme’ for their artwork – the hunt, the dance, animals, nature, tools & weapons, food are all good subjects. Allow students to progress to their final larger colour draft when they have clearly demonstrated an understanding of colour, line, pattern, contrast, theme.

6. Two sessions should be devoted to the final draft. Show students how to use sponges, fingertips, brushes, and combs to create authentic painterly effects. Monitor students as they work – paying careful attention to the ‘tightness’ of their patterns and the relatively ‘minimal’ use of colour. I find that my students really get into it when there’s some music blasting out – which in this case should be funky didgeridoo.

* Depending on the level of the students you could set a short essay on one of the following subjects: 1. The things I learned from creating an aboriginal artwork, 2. My critique of an aboriginal artwork, 3. How aboriginal art reflects the cultural and historical background of the aborigine people.

Evaluation and feedback should take place throughout each session in the form of peer evaluation (what do you think of each other’s work?) and final evaluation in the form of a clear grading scale. For a project of this nature you could include such criteria as:

* Originality 1-2-3-4-5

* Authenticty 1-2-3-4-5

* Elements of design – colour/line/pattern 1-2-3-4-5

* Participation and level of completion 1-2-3-4-5

Total – /20