SPRING BIRDS – Colour, Texture, Shading

Students research information about a Canadian migratory bird and use oil pastels on black construction paper to draw it.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour composition contrast texture


Crayola Oil Pastels - 16 Count Crayola Black Construction Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Sketchbooks - 1 per student Pencils Erasers

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SPRING BIRDS – Colour, Texture, Shading - Step One

Step One

  1. Use your sketchbook to record information and test ideas for drawing your bird.
    - glue a picture of the bird into your sketchbook
    - make a sketch of the bird
    - glue a small piece of black paper into your book and use it to experiment with ways to blend and match colours using the oil pastels
SPRING BIRDS – Colour, Texture, Shading - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use a pencil to lightly draw the composition on the black construction paper.
  2. Refer to your sketch and make sure the composition fills the page.
SPRING BIRDS – Colour, Texture, Shading - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Refer to your sketchbook notes and pictures.
  2. Try to match the colours of the bird by blending different colours.
  3. Use a tissue to clean the tip of the oil pastel if it gets another colour on it.
  4. Make short strokes to create texture. 
SPRING BIRDS – Colour, Texture, Shading - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Add shadows with black and highlights with white.
  2. Once the drawing is finished, hold it up and look at it with fresh eyes.
  3. Check to see if you need to add more shadows, highlights or colours.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create an oil pastel drawing of a bird they have researched;
  • use contrast to make the drawing seem 3-dimensional;
  • blend colours and use line to create texture;
  • create a composition that moves the viewer's eye through the picture plane;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.


Have students:

  • work in small groups to create a media text about some aspect of migratory birds in Canada, for example, brochure; poster; video;
  • use oil pastel techniques as part of their work; 
  • share and discuss their work with their peers.


  1. Prior to this lesson have students explore oil pastels using the Exploring Oil Pastel lesson plan available on this website.
  2. Gather and make available a variety of bird books, for example, National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America: The Best Birding Book for Kids from National Geographic's Bird Experts, by Jonathan Alderfer; Birds, Nests & Eggs, by Mel Boring; and Birds: Explore the world of our feathered friends, by DK.
  3. Download and display the Contrast, Texture and Colour posters available on this website.
  4. Download images of Canadian birds from the Internet, for example,
    Blue Bird
  5. Provide sufficient time for students to choose and research a Canadian migratory bird. Encourage them to keep all their research in a sketchbook.


  1. View one of the bird photographs, for example, Sparrow.
  2. Draw attention to:
    - colours 
    - textures 
    - highlights
    - shadows 
    - proportions 
    - composition 
  3. Demonstrate and/or ask volunteers to demonstrate a technique on a large piece of black paper.
    - colours - blend colours to mix new colours to match bird
    - textures - small strokes in contrasting colour over base colour
    - highlights - white oil pastel blended into base colour
    - shadows - black oil pastel blended into base colour, small touches of black along outer edges 
    - proportions - size of head relative to body
    - composition - placement of bird on paper, what to include, what to leave out so viewer's eye travels through the picture plane
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create an oil pastel drawing of a bird you have researched.
  2. Use contrast to make your drawing seem 3-dimensional.
  3. Blend colours and use line to create texture.
  4. Create a composition that moves the viewer's eye through the picture plane
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created an oil pastel drawing of a bird
    - used contrast to make the drawing seem 3-dimensional
    - created a composition that 
    moves the viewer's eye through the picture plane
    - blended colours
    - used line to create texture
    - kept the paper in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Display the drawings as a ‘body of work’.
  2. Ask students to gather in front of the display and look at the works thoughtfully.
  3. Ask them to find 3 things they find interesting about any of them.
  4. During the discussion include references to:
    - composition - placement of bird on paper
    - details - things that add to the overall effectiveness of the drawing

    - textures - that have been created using different strokes of oil pastel
    colour - how it has been blended to create new colours that match the bird
    - highlights and shadows - how different values create the illusion of depth 
    feelings the works evoke
    challenges they may have had and how they solved them
  5. Ask them to tell how they felt about doing this project.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their drawings – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the drawing, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - Birds_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - SpringBirds_self-assessment.pdf, or SpringBirdsPrimary_self-assessment.pdf)