Green light for creativity

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Giles Hughes suggests ways of making innovative multi-media collages for eye-catching displays

Schools following the QCA art and design scheme may by now be finding that display work around school is becoming rather predictable. Each academic year the Year 6 classrooms can be found with images of "people in action", while the Year 4 classes will show chair designs from the "take a seat" unit.

Seeing the same displays appear around school at the same time of year makes a mockery of the green light given to schools to be more creative.

Why not initiate a simple, whole-school art project that will generate new, stunning and eye-catching collage displays around school?

Following the QCA guidelines by the book ensures that all the key elements of art and design are covered - drawing, painting, sculpture, print, textiles and ICT - and are revisited regularly through the scheme. As mixed-media pieces are only covered through extension work, many non-specialist teachers may not have the time, confidence or expertise to undertake such activities.

Fish fingers

Photocopy everyday objects in order to produce remarkable collage pieces that will stimulate students' curiosity and their imagination.

Before the lesson, photocopy hands placed in different positions on the photocopier plate. Use the lightdark control to achieve the clearest image. Depending on the size of paper desired, either enlarge or reduce the size of the hands.

Working alone or working in groups, ask the children to draw a simple pencil line drawing of the shape of a fish shape, showing fins and tail.

Next, cut out the photocopied fingertips and lay them, overlapping, over the body of the fish to create a scaled effect. Fins and tail can be built up using whole fingers and even parts of the hand. To finish, add a picture of an eye.


Before the lesson, gather and photocopy objects, such as an old cutlery, tools (ie spanners and screwdrivers), clock faces, badges and circuit boards.

Ask the children to sketch a rough design before they begin. Encourage them to design creatively, considering different body shapes, limb arrangements and facial features for their robots.

Working in small groups or on their own, encourage them to make one section of a robot at a time. Start with the head, then body and finally the limbs.

Discourage the children from cutting out things, such as an eye, mouth or head shapes, from their photocopies. The pieces will need to be overlapped to carry this out successfully.


Make a fantasy monster based on Ancient Greek myths and legends.

First, find a book with illustrations of the human body. Images of the Human Body (The Pepin Press, pound;12.99) is perfect for this task, as it also contains a CD-Rom from which you can download your selected images.

Encourage the children to overlap and layer the photocopies to produce heavily-textured collages with real depth. Let more easily recognisable features - such as eyes, ears and mouths - stand alone as they add structure and form to the figures.

For high-achievers

Ask more able pupils to introduce colour to their collages. Be careful, as the whole piece can be ruined if this is not done with care and supervision.

Try applying watercolours or diluted drawing inks to the collages. This achieves effective results as long as the media is applied in thin washes using good quality fine brushes.

Take care not to smudge or dribble the paint and inks as the pieces need to look clean and precise to achieve the best results. I recommend selecting one family of colours for each collage, as using the full spectrum results in a muddled and fussy-looking piece.

* Ask the children to wash their hands after cutting out the handprints as photocopying ink may dirty their fingers. Also, use a clear-setting glue, such as Pritt Stick or PVA, to avoid making dirty smudges.

* The "fish fingers" and "robots" activities are featured in Art Sketchbook Tasksheets for details Email:

Giles Hughes is deputy headteacher at Colmore Junior School, Birmingham

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