This lesson’s inspiration goes all the way back to the first grade. As in when I was in first grade! I did this lesson with my elementary art teacher, Mrs. Worthington. It was displayed in the school’s art show and my mom saved it under my bed forever. I student taught during the winter semester, so I dusted it off for the Chinese New Year and took a closer look to figure out how it was made so many years early.
Fast forward 8 years later, and it’s still a favorite lesson that gets better each year. Moms tell me their older students still have their dragons and a mom just told me at the Valentine’s parties that her first grade son has played with his everyday since he brought it home. I just love when kids get to play with their art!!!
I start the lesson with the eyes. The more detail the students put into the eyes, the more personality their dragon has. I spend a whole class just introducing the Chinese New Year and building the eyes. I have since updated Mrs. Worthington’s stencil and created one on the computer to print onto white tagboard or marble construction paper. Find it here.
The next class the students make the eyes 3D by cutting and folding them. I fold all the heads for the students and over the years, I have learned to help them glue the eyes to the head. Too many first graders glue the eyes on backwards to the puppet head, so I now have the kids watch a Discovery Streaming video of a Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco and I help them individually. This step saves time in the end, and the kids have more patience for holding down the eyes when they dont know the next step yet!
Then the heads get decorated with pom-poms for the nostrils, paper for the teeth and mouth, and cray-paper for the chin or beard. I use cray-paper that’s been donated. In fact, in the middle of this lesson, a new donation appeared at my door! It never fails!
After this art class, the kids start getting really exciting. They are able to use the head as a puppet and their dragons start to come to life. To end class, we have to put our dragons to sleep in their cave (a brown paper bag) to sleep!
The last art class students make the bodies and tail. They glue together to strips of construction paper that’s been cut in thirds. The paper has to be cut in thirds to fit inside the dragon head, that’s been folded in thirds. This is where I go to my bargain remenent box and let the kids decorate away! While they’re cutting and gluing I staple the body to the head. I put the staple upside down so they don’t scratch their hands when using the puppet.
To really make the dragons fly, the kids glue cray-paper or ribbon to the end and away they go!