“BAM!” This onomatopoeia pop art project is by far one of my favorite 5th grade art lessons. It might be because I like to pepper my teaching with constant sound words like, “BOOM!” A student will ask, “Can I have a piece of paper?” And I’m like, “BOOM! There ya go!” as I’m handing it over.
Pop Art Lesson
We start the project by watching, “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Andy Warhol.” Both myself and my students love the cool beatnik way Andy talks in the movie, “Mmmm yeahhhh!”
This is one of those lessons where I have the students answer a “video viewing sheet” while the movie rolls on. Gotta keep ’em on their toes!
At the end of the movie, we discuss the roll of assistants in the artmaking process. Whenever possible, I want them to discuss and debate aspects of being an artist. Andy Warhol’s mom (and many others) acted as assistants in the creation process.
I ask questions like, “Whose art is it anyway?” and “How much control does an artist need over the work to claim it as their own?” This is how we flex our critical thinking skills! I use this conversation as a conduit to discuss the idea of having others do parts of their work in art class. (Johnny, you know I’m looking at you!)
On the next day of class, I show them a slideshow comparing and contrasting Andy Warhol’s and Roy Lichtenstein’s artworks. We discuss benday dots and how they can be used to create value (shading). And we look closely at some of Lichtenstein’s comic strip art that utilizes onomatopoeia words. Somewhere in there I work in Todd Rundgren’s, “Onomatopoeia” song which is…there’s nothing like it, ha! It’s safe to say the kids think these two artists are pretty groovy by the end of it. “BOOM!”
Onomatopoeia Art Project
Each student is required to visually illustrate one onomatopoeia word using a limited color palette. They are to select two rainbow colors and can use any of the four neutral colors freely anywhere in their design. The colors they choose need to tie in with their word choice, if applicable.
So if it’s a word like, “Ho-Ho-Ho!” – red, green, and white.
Or “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” – tan, red, brown, and white.
Some words are not specific such as, “Tick Tock!” In situations like this, I suggest students think of colors that they personally feel are most associated with their words. So yellow can be reminiscent of the color of brass like the hands of a clock.
Or bright yellow and blue feel active for, “Zig-Zag!”
Or “Yell!” has a jagged edge and is illustrated in a vibrant red and gray.
Part 1: Project Ideation
Every student is given a list of onomatopoeia words. I have them circle any word that “Ding-Ding-Ding!” instantly gives them a project idea.
They are required to write down the name of their word and an object that’s best associated with it.
So “Woof!” reminds me of a dog and dog bones.
Or “Oooze!” conjures up a picture of slime.
Or “Meow!” makes me think of a cat’s head, tail, and ears.
I have them do this for all the words they circled. This helps them narrow down their choices.
Part 2: Drawing
Once they’ve selected one, we sketch out the words in bubble or block letters. Then I have them brainstorm how they’re going to add in that object(s) to their word. It’s at this point that I’m checking over each and every project so that the word choice and drawing are aligned; if they have a great idea but can’t articulate well enough or the drawing isn’t clear, they need to keep sketching.
So “Chomp!” should feel like it’s been chomped. The use of color as well as the shape for the letter “C” suggest it could be a lion doing the eating.
And “Roar!” can show that it’s been scratched by a lion. Same creature, but different approach!
After their drawing is approved, I cut them long strips of paper the color of their word. If it’s a short word, I give them paper that’s taller so each letter is larger. If it’s more than 5 letters, I decrease the height of the paper.
I pre-fold the paper for them so I know they have boxes of a certain size that will fit the overall design. I instruct them to draw each letter to fill the box. Otherwise, there’s always that one kid whose letters are super thin and small and wondering why his or hers doesn’t look right.
The last step of drawing is outlining the letters in permanent marker and cutting them out.
Part 3: Talk Bubbles
So once they have their word, they need something to overlap it on. Most students will use a typical speech bubble shape. Those who did something like, “Drip,” “Splat,” or “Splash” tend to so something shaped like that object.
We rip up magazines searching for parts with only black and white text. And friends, have you heard? Kids like ripping things! It’s rather cathartic.
They glue down the scraps on many angles. Then they cut it out and glue it to a new construction paper that coordinates with their color palette. I instruct them to leave about a half inch edging around it and cut it out again. This will make it so that when they overlap it on the background, it’ll really, “POP!”
Part 4: Bubble Wrap Printing
Folks, I’m so in love with this part. I used to give the students ink dabbers and they’d have to line up the benday dots in rows. Read: what a pain!
The bubblewrap method is way quicker and a whole lot more fun. I pinky swear. Just do it. The results are awesome sauce!
Just put out sheets of bubblewrap (I bought it at the store so I could have enough until eternity) the size of your background paper. I use 12″x18″ paper for this. I give them all a quick instruction on rolling the paint over it in both directions for quick coverage. And to not overdo it because the paint will just dry out on the bubblewrap.
I also make mention not to push too hard when they’re working the print because they’ll break all the bubbles.
Once they have all the parts, they just glue it all together. Some will choose to adhere the letters on an arch, an angle, a curve, or zig-zag-like.
Those with longer, hyphenated words will arrange them on two separate lines like, “Choo Choo!”
The Wrap Up
For the last several years, I’ve done a Keith Haring project immediately after this onomatopoeia project. Pop Art is the tie in here with Haring’s work having some similar elements to Andy and Lichtenstein. Think: bright color, thick black outlines, simplified forms/shapes. Make me say, “BAM!”
What fun Pop Art projects do you do with your students? I’d love to hear and see. Drop a link below if you’ve blogged about it!