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Flipping Butterflies: Triadic Colors and Symmetry Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-ART0003
Submitted by: Tim Drey
Email: tadrey@students.wisc.edu
Date: February 17, 1999

Grade Level(s): 2


  • Arts

Description: Students will view various different butterfly wing shapes noticing a difference in every one. Primary color mixing will be reviewed. Explanation of folding paper to create a symmetrical design will be presented. To motivate, a flipbook will be shown to have them understand what the project will become in visual terms.

Goals: While all children know what butterflies are, the difference between wing patterning is an important way to have them express their individual differences. This lesson is also geared toward learning how to mix color in a triadic color scheme and emphasizes such vocabulary as symmetry. Placing all of their artwork together in one unified book will show how a common project can be created into a class achievement. I hope it will give them a sense of class unity and a book to return to in their later years of schooling. Color mixing is an important skill children will need to know to produce art on a more advanced level and by knowing terminology let them communicate their ideas more thoroughly.

Key Concepts:
Contour drawing
Mono printing
Color mixing
Paper division


1. Students will examine different butterfly shapes and create their own
2. Students will print two sides exactly the same learning symmetry.
3. Students will understand controlled color mixing with primary colors to create secondary colors.


  • sheets of 8×10 white construction paper
  • bottles of red, yellow, blue, black tempera paint
  • mixing trays
  • brushes
  • paper towels
  • water buckets
  • water cups

Procedure: TIME: 25 min.
TEACHING METHOD: Lecture, demonstration, student acquisition, scaffolding
CLASS ORGANIZATION: Students meet by table in front of room on the carpet by table as I call them off and put supplies on their table, after lecture they are excused by 3’s to closest table for demonstration.

I enter the room wearing 2 different sets of large butterfly wings and antennae. The children’s reaction will start conversation on the similarities and differences of a butterfly’s wings.

-Similarities: same both sides (symmetrical), 4 sets of wings, segmented, antennae, veined

-Differences: colors, shapes, size, pattern

While discussing, I tell them about the pictures of my friends (photocopies of other butterflies) and ask them to tell me what they observe. At the end I will draw the conversation back to how butterflies are all different, but every one of them is symmetrical. I will first show them the color wheel of primary colors telling them that those colors are the only colors that can never be mixed. Then I will ask them what colors they think they would get when the two are mixed. After their answer I will show them the right color. The group will now be moved to the main table where I will show them how to make their own butterfly that is symmetrical. First I will fold the paper into 4 square and unfold it to show the 4 different parts of a butterfly’s wing. Next I will lightly draw in with pencil the outline of the head segment, thorax (middle segment), abdomen, top right portion of wing, bottom right, and last the antenna respectfully. The next step I will do is to paint in the top right wing with a mixed color and printing to the other side of the paper by folding down my previous crease. I will then thickly add another pattern of color and repeat fold. This will be continued for the rest of the butterfly.

TIME: 30 min.
TEACHING METHOD: Peer tutoring, individual consultation, and re-demonstration.
CLASS ORGANIZATION: Students will be called back to tables one table at a time. All materials will be at the desk except for the paint. It should be mentioned that they should not cry when they come to class next time and their butterfly is cut into pieces for the book.

If folding seems to be a central concern it will be reviewed for the whole class.

Buckets will be in the sink, once they finish the outline of the butterfly they will be asked to get paint from me at a station.

Questions to ask while students are drawing: How big is your butterfly? What kind of colors would you like to see a butterfly? If students finish early they will be encouraged to make another or add to the background of their existing drawing.

Assessment: Once their table is done they will be asked a fact about butterflies or color mixing for line-up privileges. Assessment will be seen in students’ final rendering of secondary colors.