Character and Setting Dioramas

I am a huge fan of cross-curricular collaborations to make learning more meaningful. My second graders are reading The One and Only Ivan in class so I recently constructed a bulletin board to feature the book and share with the community what is happening in one of the classrooms. Check out the bulletin board post here. Needless to say, the bulletin board worked. Everyone loved it, faculty, students and visitors asked second graders about the book and were encouraged to read it themselves.

When I found out the second grade kiddos were studying character and setting, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for another collaborative project. I contacted our amazing art teacher and she showed me a 3-D diorama that her daughter created for a book and we knew it was perfect for this project. I created my example using a different book so the students could be free to create without a per-conceived piece of art in their mind:

I wish I could figure out the official name of this process, I know there are other educators out there doing this and I would love to give them credit. If you have seen this process done before, or if you’re doing it yourself, please contact me in the comments section.

The students received three pieces of thick card stock, each piece is slightly smaller than the one behind it. For example, the back piece of paper is 8.5″ x 11″, the middle sheet is 8.5″ x 10″ and the front sheet is 8.5″ x 9.” This makes it so the final product curves inward and makes the diorama stand up on its own.

I cut the papers down to size and cut the window out of the front paper prior to handing them out to students. The kiddos were instructed to thinking about the following:
  • The back page (the largest piece) is to show the setting. Where did Ivan live? What did his cage look like? What was on the walls?
  • The middle page (the medium-sized piece) is to show the character(s). What did Ivan look like? How large was Ivan compared to his cage? Were there other important characters in the story?
  • The front page (the smallest piece, already cut into a frame) is to tell others what book you’re sharing. What is the title of the book? Who is the author? Who created this diorama?
It’s important to note that I cut around the character(s) after the kiddos finished their art. The pieces that turned out the best were those that were connected to the frame on 3-4 sides (the head, the arms, the legs), this made the character stay upright when on display. You can see this in some of the examples below:
The art teacher stopped by to check in and remind students to pay close attention to their craftsmanship. What details can be included to make your art even more interesting? In beautiful paintings are the backgrounds blank or do they include colors and interesting features? These questions really helped students to create some amazing pieces.
These dioramas went on display in the foyer of the school and they were a bit hit. I love successful collaborations that work to serve our students and provide them with a wonderful learning experience!

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