Using literacy as a "jumping-off" point for a lesson is wonderful, especially when you have a self-contained class of ESE students. These students often want to know WHY they are doing something and how it relates to the world (as in "the big picture"). Part of my National Board portfolio focused on how to make art relevant to a student's life, which makes Faith Ringgold's book Tar Beach such a wonderful catalyst for creating artwork!
On day one we talked about the book and where we would go if we could fly. I love how much the answers varied! I gave each of them an 8x14" sheet of white paper (cut into that particular size- you will see why in a minute!) they folded it in half. On the top half they painted a sunset sky (an idea I got from MaryMaking and I just loved how they turned out!) and on the bottom half they used crayon to draw speckled reflections in the "water" using orange, yellow, and pink.
They painted over the crayon in resist-style with watercolor a stripe of yellow, turquoise, blue, and purple. This made the water. Let them dry for a day!
I had some great pads of scrapbook paper and other sheetsof fun papers collected from various places. I chopped them up into 2x2" squares and the kids glued them onto a 12x18 white sheet of paper. The pieces fit perfectly around the edge. I had them do this first. This will be their "patchwork" around their citiscape and also frames it out so nicely!
Using black tempera (and NO PENCILS! Gasp!) they painted their citiscape in black. They used the back end of their paintbrush to stamp the white and yellow lights in the windows.