First Painter by Kathryn Lasky – A picture book lesson

First Painter

This is a beautiful picture book set in prehistoric times. It is the author’s imagining of what caused early man to draw in caves, gorgeously illustrated. The story itself is engaging and plausible, but it is most useful as a scene setter – an introduction to prehistoric times. You can read two useful reviews at Amazon. The book is currently out of print, but easily available online from used dealers or check your local library.

This book became the basis for a history lab.

I would read this to my students, asking them to make simple lists of: tools used, painting supplies, things drawn

We would then read an article on cave painting and see how much of what was written is based in fact, and how much did the author interpret. I also show them some wonderful sites on the internet:

Lastly, I would have my students create their own cave paintings. I’ve used manilla drawing paper or paper grocery bags (send out a call through your newsletter/class email). Students would then crumple the paper to produce a rougher “cave-ish” texture. Using appropriate colors from a water color palette, they then created their own “cave painting”. For best results, this takes either a block period or two regular class periods.


2 comments so far

  1. Stacey Baker on

    I’ve done this book/cave painting activity for years with 6th graders and they love it. Something for you to try: I have my kids bring in blankets and flashlights, and tape the paper bags to the bottom of their desks. They then lie on the blanket on the floor under their desk with a flashlight and I turn off all the lights, and THEN they do their cave art….it simulates the darkness of the real caves, working only by firelight, and how difficult it was to work on an uneven surface overhead. The art doesn’t come out nearly as “neat” but it is always something they remember at the end of the year…..

  2. Bill Gaskins on

    Another great idea! thanks for sharing….

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