Teaching about Optical Illusions is so much fun. I have been doing the following lesson for as many years as I have been teaching. The ones I have here aren’t quite finished, but I thought I’d share some in-process with you.
I recommend this project for students as young as 4th grade and as old as 6th. I have done with 3rd-6th. . . And, my 6th graders are working on it currently.
One of the great things about this project is that it is very math-relevant. If you like, you can use rulers and compasses to help students practice. In my experience, I usually offer the compasses and also offer various circle templates. If you are a new teacher (or a circle-frustrated one) here is a quick tip: spend an hour tracing and cutting out various circle sizes on heavy paper. I did this about two years ago, and I find them to be one of my most useful assets. How often do you hear: “Do you have something circle-like I can trace?” I don’t necessarily want my students tracing all the time, but there are moments when it is appropriate and these little templates are a time-saver!
I also do not have a classroom set of rulers. Instead, I made several different widths of heavy cardboard “straight-edges” and we use those instead. . .Nearly free and perfect for use!
Below is the (super fun) presentation I use to introduce students to optical illusions. Easily a student favorite!
The traditional way to create an op-art sphere is to use measurements with your compass to “swing” an arc across your circle to create the needed illusion lines. For many (okay most) of my students using a ruler is a challenge. When my 1st quarter Art students used compasses it was too challenging for a few students. Several got so frustrated they shut down and felt as if they had failed. It is important to be sensitive to the needs of your classroom community. I want to introduce new tools to my students, true, but I don’t want to overwhelm them either. In my classroom, we use a mix of circle templates, compasses, and this handy-dandy little “cheat” that I made up (check out my .gif below)
I love this shortcut! And, this is a great little video to upload to your classroom blog. Not only can students view it at home, but you can play it during class for an added visual reminder.
Here is a quick break-down of the product process:
1. students use the template circles or compasses to create 2-3 circles on their papers
2. students follow me using the steps show above to create a grid for 1 op-art sphere
3. I demonstrate how to color the sphere in a grid
4. I demonstrate how to use the “straight edges” to create a background grid
5. students work and color
6. I demonstrate how to add a drop shadow
7. students add a drop shadow and finish their work
-You can use anything from crayons to markers to colored pencils to paint to create these great little projects.
-For students who need modifications: you can rely on the circle templates and aid them in coloring by labeling their grids with the appropriate colors and/or helping them to label their grids.