Second graders have been studying owls, we talked about the expression wise as an owl and 'spread our wings' to paint on an unusual paper source, books! I just happened to have an old nuerobiology book laying around and the kids had a good time choosing their papers and planning their compositions.
To give the kids lots of ideas we looked at many types of owls and practised drawing them using common shapes and lines in what we called our Owl Who? Book. Kids had lots of confidence when they drew their owls on the final paper.
I try and spend a quarter with each grade group studying a culture and the art that they produce. In fifth grade, this year we looked at Latin America. We started off the year making Molas and then moved on to String Paintings, the holiday Dia de los Muertos, and bark painting. The kids seem to enjoy creating objects that are from a culture that many of them connect with and it's a great way to review geography and involve creative writing activities.
Cutting is a huge thing to tackle for my first and second graders. Many of them come in with very little cutting experience. We took on some collage projects in the spirit of Halloween to help us practice some tricks of the trade. We learned that you could and should rotate your paper as you cut, use the back of your scissors to really take a bite out of the paper, and that amazing trick of cutting two shapes out at once. Kids were really amazed at the progress that they made and were excited to create Halloween inspired vignettes.