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K-2: Calico Watercolor Cats

by Barbara Zimmerman and Heidi Summers, Learn NC

This two-class lesson focuses on students learning how to draw a cat using geometric shapes, learning and applying wet-on-wet technique of watercolor painting, and using crayon to create area surrounding cats. The final art product will be a mixed media painting of one cat and one kitten in an indoor or outdoor environment. Students will orally present their completed artwork using prepositions and nouns to describe the location of their cats.

A lesson plan for Grade 1 Visual Arts Education and English Language Development

Students will:

  • draw cats using geometric shapes.
  • draw from imagination a setting for their cats.
  • paint cats using wet-on-wet watercolor technique.
  • orally describe their artwork using the common prepositions and nouns taught during the lesson.

Time required for lesson: 2 hours


  • Visuals of cats in different environments
  • Word strips
  • Large watercolor or heavy art paper for each student
  • Crayons–all colors (make sure you have brown and black to outline cats).
  • Watercolor paints or liquid paints in orange, brown, black
  • Watercolor brushes-medium size
  • Paper towels to blot excess watercolor paint on painting
  • Containers with water
  • Pencils and good erasers
  • Stuffed Animal Cat

Technology resources

Teacher needs computer and color printer to print photos of cats from referenced websites below for teaching critical ESL vocabulary and for memory game assessment.


  • Students will have prior knowledge of what various cats look like through real life encounters and from books.
  • Student will have prior experience doing basic watercolor techniques earlier in the school year.
  • Students will have prior knowledge of basic shapes, ie. oval, circle, triangle.


Day l:

1. Teacher will show various examples of cats drawn or painted by various master artists, as well as teacher and student generated artwork examples. (See calico cats attachment)

2. Teacher will demonstrate how to make a cat using connected geometric shapes. A oval for the body of the cat, a circle for the head, triangles for the ears and nose, and then add the legs, tail, and additional face features. Students will chorally respond telling the teacher the various shapes as they are drawn on the board… oval! circle! triangle!

3. Teacher will again lead the students step-by-step on how to draw a cat, ie. teacher draws a big oval in center of paper, students draw with pencil a big oval in the center of their paper. Teacher monitors around the room each step of step-by-step drawing. (students sometimes have trouble drawing the initial large oval shape).

4. After students have successfully drawn a big cat as their main focus point, they need to draw another one using the same method on their own, but this time making it smaller (kitten). They can place their kitten anywhere except in front of the main/focus cat.

5. Once cats are drawn, students need to draw in pencil an environment around the cats. Ask the students where they would like their cats to be. Do they want them inside the house, outside, on the playground, etc.

Day 2:

1. After students have sufficiently detailed their foreground, middle grounds, and backgrounds they need to go over all their pencil lines with a black or brown crayon bearing down hard to cover lines well. This goes for all the lines, including the features in the cat’s face.

2. Students will fill-in the entire picture in various crayon colors of their choice, except the cats. Make sure they color in heavily and remind them not to color the inside areas of their cats (this is where they will add their watercolors).

3. Teacher will demonstrate how to do the wet-on-wet technique for watercolor in order to make the fuzzy texture of cat’s fur. First, dip paint brush in plain water and cover the area where the cats are located. Semi-dry brush and now add orange, brown, and black to wet area on cats. Colors will run due to wet surface area making colors merge and look fuzzy like fur. If paints run too much, blot with paper towels. Students will show understanding by correctly following the steps demonstrated by the teacher.

Note: Make sure students do not over-do this wet-on-wet technique by continuously layering watercolors. The idea is to put colors next to each other and let them blend automatically. Also, the crayon, if applied heavily, will resist the watercolors due to the wax in crayons.


Students will have a completed artwork that shows understanding of steps and techniques of drawing, coloring, and water coloring a painting with calico cats.

Use attached rubric to assess individual completed student’s artwork project.

Supplemental information

These search results on the Artcyclopedia website feature nice example artworks with cats as the subject matter.

Related websites

  • Pics4Learning is a great resource for animals for visuals during instruction.
  • Clipart from Discovery School is a good website with clip art depicting various art materials and supplies. This can assist the ESL student with art vocabulary. Permission is granted to download no more than 10 different clip art images for non-revenue-producing use on hard copy documents or on websites.


  • Use visuals of cats in different environments (in the house, up a tree, on the table, under the bed)
  • Use a stuffed animal cat to show use of prepositions (Cat on the book, under the desk, in the trash can, up the door frame, on the ground, outside the window etc.).
  • Create short titles for each visual on word strips. Practice choral reading of titles.
  • Review geometric shapes used for lesson by drawing on board or using cut out shapes.
  • Students can point to, touch, hold up an example of, or name the shape displayed by the teacher to demonstrate understanding.

Alternative assessments

  • Students demonstrate understanding of lesson vocabulary by selecting correct visual of various cats in their environments as described by teacher. (See referenced websites for resources to create visuals).
  • Students follow teachers directions by placing the stuffed animal cat in various places in the classroom as previously demonstrated by teacher. Teacher is careful to use only prepositions and nouns previously used during instruction.
  • Students match visuals of cats with word strip titles. Read titles to teacher.
  • Students use vocabulary taught during the lesson.
  • Teachers can create a version of the Memory Game using visuals and word strips.

Critical vocabulary

up, on, under, in, outside, inside, front, back, up, down, high, low, behind, foreground, middle ground, background, oval, circle, triangle, focus or main object, wet-on-wet technique, paint brush, paint Comments

The wet-on-wet technique in watercolor is nothing more than getting paper wet first and quickly adding paint before paper dries. It is a technique that is good for creating fuzzy effects and helps eliminate unwanted hard edges in painting.

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