Monet with chalk and tempera

Monet paintings are always popular.  For several years, our Denver Botanic Gardens boasted a Monet garden, complete with water lilies and the Japanese bridge.  It was a beautiful, quiet place to sketch and paint.  My daughters and I spent many happy times there. Many of my students were also able to visit the Monet gardens.  Monet is an artist whose “palette” is easy for students to understand.  By palette, I mean a selection of colors.  He kept a clear palette, never muddy, with a lot of light colors and white.  By using white tempera and pastel chalk in this lesson, students were able to keep a clear palette.Together, we looked at Impressionism, primarily Monet.  Students were able to produce some interesting looking “brush strokes” with the moistened chalk.   Students created some beautiful “watery” paintings.  When dry, the paintings have an impasto look and appear more painting-like than chalk-like. The kids loved working with it.

PS – be prepared for mess!

Our objectives

▪  Vividly communicate a deep understanding of Impressionism

▪  Accurately reflect upon learning

▪  Explore color mixing and blending of chalk (or pastels) – work with tints of colors – learn a little about color planning (complimentary colors – related colors

▪  Find beauty in nature

The Big Questions:

Who is Claude Monet?

What is Impressionism?

What are tints?

What is a color plan?

Resources & Materials

Poster images of Impressionism and artwork by Monet

“Le Pont Japonais a Giverny Art Styles” by Claude Monet,

Claude Monet “Garden at Giverny” Print 

“Impression Sunrise” by Claude Monet

Calendar Prints of Impressionism – various artists – post card prints Landscapes and garden photographs

Claude Monet Water Lilies Wall Calendar

Monet’s Passion-The Gardens at Giverny Wall Calendar

Monet Paintings: 24 Art Cards

Video: Linnea in Monet’s Garden

Greg Percy’s Songs in the Key of Art Volume 4 “Monet’s Mom”

Supplies: Oatmeal paper or 12″ x 18″  -any textured paper will work, pencils, colored chalk pastels, white tempera paint, plastic dishes, water cups, and brushes.


•View video and discuss artwork

•Display posters and discuss Impressionism – Show PowerPoint®

•Review/demo Instructions on PowerPoint®

•Choose what you will paint.  Here are some ideas: Garden scene, water lilies, the Japanese garden, and water garden.

•Draw a rough draft on your paper.  Keep it “coloring book simple”.

•Have several cups of white tempera on table. Each child may have his/her own water cup

•Paint area (fist size/baseball size) with white tempera

•Dip chalk into water dish and draw into the wet paint. If paint dries – brush on a bit more.

•Blend some related colors together for interest within shapes.  Notice what happens to the colors as they mix with the paint.

*Have a class critique and “show opening” when all are finished. Display all work and admire the beauty.

Suggestion: Have a student panel select the ones they like best and make cards for Mother’s Day. They make a wonderful gift. Staff members will buy several sets, as will parents. Make them to order and have parent volunteers help with the printing.


Monet’s Japanese Bridge

This beautiful painting was created by my one of my first graders. Everyone had great success, simply by following along, step by step, while adding their own touches. This project also combines several painting techniques, so students get an introduction to various painting media and experiences.  Favorite quote from this project: “I feel like a real painter!”


9″ x 12″ white construction paper, pencils, tempera paint in the following colors: yellow, green, blue, orange, yellow, pink, violet, and white – we discuss a “clear” palette similar to the one Monet would have used, paint brushes, and ragged edged torn sponges.

Art History:

Show the students various visuals, posters, and books about the artist Claude Monet. Here is a good site that shows his gardens: Monet’s Garden at Giverny

I also show them this video:

They LOVE this video and I highly recommend it! It tells the story of a little girl who travels to Monet’s gardens. It is animated with shots of the real gardens interspersed. There is a book version, but the video is so much better!

Studio Activity:

Hand out white paper and pencils. Pencils are for name and other information on the back. Have students fold a horizon line across the paper.

Step 1:

Put out some white and shades of blue and violet tempera in a tray and have students “hop and dab” their big brushes from the the horizon line and up to the top of the paper.  I remind them that they do NOT want the entire area solid. Some white showing through is fine, as are flufffy white clouds. Also, remind them to keep the sky light.

Step 2:

Add some blue green and darker blues paint to the tray and have the students repeat step 1 from the horizon line down.

Step 3:

Add some bushes above the horizon line, using the sponge. I have the students leave an open area for the Japanese bridge.

Step 4:

Put some thinned down turquoise paint (the bridge could be any other color) on a plate and show students how to paint a rainbow line.  Jump the brush down and paint another rainbow line.  Then they add the vertical lines that create the railing slats.  This step needs to be done quickly.

Step 5: 

This is the magical step for most students.  They refold their paper and gently press.  When they open the paper, they’ll see the reflection of the bridge!

Step 6:

Put some blue and white paint in a bowl, side by side. I tell the kids NOT to mix the colors. Rather, they pick up a little of each color to paint the pond. I have them make “waves” in their pond by making small brush strokes. By not mixing the blue & white, they get the effect of the light hitting the water.

Step 7:

While the pond dries, I show the kids examples (photos) of lily pads and water lilies. We also discuss that we are seeing the side of the lily pad rather than the top, so the shapes will be a flattened circle, or ellipse.  They then add about 3-5 lily pads to their ponds using two colors of paint.  They also add some small flowers to their gardens by dipping the WRONG end of their paintbrushes in various colors of tempera and then dabbing them on the paper.

Step 8:

I place some yellow, pink, and white paint in a cup and demonstrate how to make the water lilies. Have the students dip their brushes in all three colors (without mixing them all together) and then make four brushstrokes as drawn in the diagram, making sure that the strokes connect at the bottom to form the flower petals.

Enjoy Susanna’s gorgeous garden. Monet would be proud!