Home | About the Program | Unit/Lesson Archive | Current Units/Lessons | Reading Room | Gallery |
Art Partners Lesson©

Lesson Title:

Narrative Dioramas - Part 2

(Part 2 in a 2-part series)
Authors: Tracy Augustyn and Leah Weir
Grade/Age Level: Elementary
Written here for:
3rd Grade Inclusion Class

Conceptual Basis For This Lesson:

Unit/Theme, Relation of Lesson to the Unit, Major Concepts to be Learned:

This is Part 2 of the Narrative Dioramas lesson, which continues our unit, The Language of Visual Art, with a focus on storytelling or visual narrative. Working in their small groups, the students will finish their dioramas together by developing the stories that were chosen during the last session. Students will exchange ideas and collaborate to make decisions together in the art making process. Students will use art materials to create a setting (environment), characters and plot. Students will further develop their skills in drawing, and application of basic elements (line, shape, texture, color) and design principles (repetition, pattern, overlapping), and how these are manipulated to create images. Further development of spatial ideas (three-dimensional and spatial relationships of foreground, middle ground, and background) will be explored. Exploring different techniques for creating three-dimensional objects for the dioramas will enhance the students’ understanding and experience with mixed media applications.

Relation to Life:

During this lesson students will be able to explore different art materials and processes and how to use them to make their own visual story come alive. Such exploration enhances problem-solving skills and creative thinking. Students will also begin to understand how different objects are related to each other in confined space.

Through this collaborative art experience, the children will learn important social skills such as getting along others, being a team player, and acquiring an appreciation that everyone has a story to tell as, all serving to enrich interpersonal relationships.

Learning Standards

Goals Specific to Lesson/Unit (reflecting NYS standards, & targeted learning areas. See Abbreviation Key at end):

The students will:

  1. Increase awareness of narrative in art. AC, AP, Std. 1 & 3
  2. Develop awareness of how the elements and principles are used by artists to express ideas. AH, AC, Std. 3
  3. Increase understanding of spatial relationships. AC, AP, Std. 1 & 3
  4. Develop memory recall skills. AC
  5. Improve socialization skills, group collaboration, and cooperation. S
  6. Improve interpersonal skills, especially peer interaction, personal responsibility and self-control. S/LV
  7. Develop skill with diverse art tools and media. AP Std. 1 M/P

Performance Objectives for Observational Assessment (reflecting goals):

The students will be able to:


  • Recall and define the term “narrative.” Goal 1 & 4
  • Recall and define “2D” and “3D.” Goal 4, 2
  • Define “diorama.” Goal 4
  • Attend to the discussion without disruption. Goal 5,7


  • Use art materials and tools to successfully create objects to tell their story. Goal 2, 3, 7
  • Demonstrate understanding of spatial relationships through arrangement of objects according to foreground, middle ground, background. Goal 3
  • Work cooperatively with other group members. Goal 5,6
  • Assist with clean-up as directed. Goal 5


  • Recall the term “narrative” and “diorama.” Goal 1, 4
  • Distinguish between two dimensional and three dimensional objects in the dioramas. Goal 3
  • Describe ways to manipulate art materials. Goal 2, 7
  • Describe the story illustrated in their diorama. Goal 1

Tools Needed For Application

Vocabulary (defined in age appropriate, student-friendly language):

  • Background: the area or space behind an object
  • Collage: a design of objects glued down to paper
  • Diorama: a scene inside a box that tells a story, and is made from art materials
  • Elements of art: line, shape, color, texture
  • Environment / setting: where is the story happening?
  • Narrative painting: an painting that tells/shows a story
  • Plot: what is the main idea of the story?
  • Three-dimensional: not flat like a painting, having volume/weight/thickness, able to see an object from many sides


  • Teacher-made: Diorama; materials to use for illustrating various techniques for creating three dimensional objects, such as folding cardstock to make pop-up figures, twisting and bunching tissue paper, use of wire and cotton batting to create volume, etc.
  • Art Resources: narrative artworks, other objects (2D and 3D) to be used in demonstration of arrangement.

Materials and Preparation:

  • Diorama boxes for each group, painted white on outside
  • Watercolor or tempera paints, brushes, cups, water containers
  • Construction or other colored paper (large pieces that for inside of box)
  • Scissors, pencils, rulers
  • Water containers
  • Paper towels or sponges
  • 2 large buckets (clean & dirty water)
  • Glue guns
  • Glue sticks
  • Scrap paper and pencils to sketch ideas and notes
  • assorted materials for creating the objects for the diorama: fun foam, wire, cotton batting, cardstock (index cards are good), craft sticks, tissue paper, string, aluminum foil, and any other needed materials determined by students and S/T’s to illustrate their story.


Procedural Steps:


1. Lead teachers open session with Hello Song.

2. Ask students to recall our previous sessions and what the term narrative means. Narrative means to tell a story. Lead teachers will repeat that every picture tells a story and artists have been telling stories in their artwork for years and years.

3. Lead teachers will review that a diorama is an art story in a box.

4. Teacher recalls spatial relationships. Who can tell us what the difference between 3D and 2D is? Lead teachers will demonstrate 3D and 2D for students by showing and comparing a 3D object with a 2D object.

5. Lead teachers will ask students if they remembered to bring any materials to class today for making things for their diorama. Lead teachers will show some of the art materials they brought to class today.

6. Lead teachers demonstrate various methods to use to make things for the dioramas. These include tissue paper collage by adding to a pre-made sky that’s taped on the board so that everyone can see the process. During this demonstration lead teachers will ask “When you look at sky what colors do you see?” Emphasize that the sky is more than one color and other things in our world deserve to be examined with the eye of an artist. Teachers also show that tissue paper can also be twisted or crumpled to make clothes, flames, or other forms.

7. Lead teachers ask if students want to make objects with other materials? Teachers ask if anyone needs to have people in their diorama? Teachers demonstrate how to make figures stand up by using cardstock and craft sticks.

8. Teachers also present other art materials such as pipe cleaners, wire, fun foam, aluminum foil, and cotton batting. Teachers then demonstrate how to make a clothes hanger out of wire pipe cleaner and show how to make a tree stand up out of fun foam.

9. Teacher suggest that we use these ideas to make the story come alive in our dioramas. Teachers encourage the students to use their imaginations in coming up with ideas for using the various objects and art materials to make what they need.


10. In small groups, S/T and students will continue working on their dioramas. Students will use the art materials to tell their story. S/T should refer to the original art exemplar that inspired the children’s stories as necessary for review.

11. S/T should assist students and suggest different ways and materials to use to help tell their group story. The students should be exposed to various techniques before making any final decisions. Their choices should represent well thought-out art making decisions.

12. When the students begin to arrange their created objects in the dioramas, spatial relationships should be reviewed and carefully considered. Discuss with the students how they can utilize all five sides of the box and be careful to not just focus on one. (the concept of 3D space).

S/T should also reinforce artmaking/artist behaviors with reminders to think about what we’re doing, stop and look at the developing arrangement, make decisions about improving the composition or arrangement of objects, etc.

13. The students will continue to work to finish their diorama. When the diorama is finished, the students will bring them to the front of the classroom for a short critique. Students will help clean up as needed.


14. All gather together to view finished dioramas, and each group is given an opportunity to “tell the story” of their dioramas.

15. The lead teachers will help facilitate the children’s discussion of unique ways in which art materials, and elements and principles have been used by each of the groups.

16. Sing Good-bye Song. Nametags collected.


In addition to observation of the Performance Objectives described above, questions to ask may include:

  • Did the students use a variety of art materials and techniques to create their objects?
  • Does the work successfully tell a story? How well do the dioramas relate to the original art exemplar?
  • Did each student contribute ideas to the art making process?

Curriculum Connections:


Abbreviation Key

NYS Standards for the Arts:
AH = Art History Std. 1 = creating, participating in art
AC = Art Criticism Std. 2 = knowing art materials and processes
AE = Aesthetics Std. 3 = responding to works of art/artists
AP = Art Production Std. 4 = knowing cultural dimensions of art

Needs Assessment Areas for Developing Skills and Abilities:
A/C    = academic/cognitive M/P = motor/perceptual  E = emotional
C        = communicative status W/S = work/study habits S = social
Pre-V = prevocational skills  L = living skills  

Back to Learning Standards

Back to Top

This is a non-commercial website and is to be used for educational or research purposes only. No commercial use is permitted without the consent of Art Partners. "Fair use" is claimed under U.S. copyright law, sections 107 and 108. For questions contact:Art Partners

2002 Art Partners Program | All Rights Reserved