For second and third grade students I have developed two lessons that are inspired by some great paintings that link two completely different approaches to a very similar subject. This creates an opportunity to compare and contrast two works of art, while using ideas from them to create interesting works of our own. A good visual/organizational strategy could be to use a Venn Diagram to point out similarities and differences.
A Young Shepherd by the Chinese School, 1989
The second grade lesson, Folk Art Collage Trees, takes its cue from A Young Shepherd by the Chinese School, 1989. To start the project, paint the grass and sky with watercolor, let dry. Flowers can be added to the ground as well. Then, cut out somewhat oval shapes from spring-colored tissue paper, such as pink, yellow-green, yellow, white, etc. Collage these along the horizon line or slightly overlapping the grass. I used a glittery collage product to seal them down. When these are dry, possibly the next class, finish up with Sharpie in colors to suit the papers to create the tree trunks and branches.
William Biscombe Gardner's (1847 - 1919) Appleblossoms
The third grade lesson, Spring Blossoms Outside My Window, takes its cue from William Biscombe Gardner's (1847 - 1919) Appleblossoms. To start the project tape off the window frame (similar to those birch tree lessons that are abundant in the fall). If using masking tape it helps to remove some of the tackiness by sticking the tape to clothing first -- that way when it is removed later it is less likely to damage the paper. Then paint the entire paper with blue sky tempera (have students mix their own tints from blue and white). This will take a while to dry, so it might be a good step to do the week before at the end of another lesson.
When the blue paint has dried, paint on branches (again mix the brown using the three primaries). The branches should dry somewhat quickly. Mix tints again in spring colors -- such as pink, light yellow, light green, lavender, etc.Get out those brushes that are terrible for most painting lessons -- the ones with splayed bristles. They will work perfectly for the next step. Dip the splayed bristles gently in the mixed paint and equally gently tap them on the paper to create brush marks that resemble blossoms. Repeat with touches of a darker color and touches of white to give dimension. Let this dry completely. Peel off the tape. Use colored pencil to shade the window frame to create a three-dimensional molding effect.
And finally for kindergarten: Paper Bag Trees. This is a lesson that appears often on many art teacher blogs and in many art classrooms. It is simple enough for younger students. Simply cut off the bottom of a paper lunch bag, twist it tightly in the middle, snip the ends and twist those to create branches and roots. Hot glue to construction paper covered cardboard, use white glue to attached crumpled spring-colored tissue paper blossoms.
A possible inspiration painting could be Claude Monet's Woman In A Garden from 1867.