Creative Clay Houses

Submitted by: Marcia Lavery - Lincoln Junior High, Skokie, Illinois
Theme/Unit: Architecture - Ceramics
Grade Level: 6th (adaptable for grades 4 through 8)
Time: approximately seven 50 minute class periods


Art Concepts: Architecture

Art Processes and Techniques: Slab construction, decoration with coil and pinch additions, incising, carving, painting.


Rationale: Throughout history, people have created architecture for functional and decorative purposes. Through this lesson, students will have the opportunity to design their own creative house and build it using slab construction. Students will be introduced to the idea that art is a part of their everyday lives.


Learner Outcomes: Individual expression, problem solving, make decisions, understanding spatial qualities, build vocabulary.



1. Students will create an original clay house incorporating at least three architectural elements from the architecture reference sheets. Demonstrate craftsmanship in using slab technique.

2. Students will draw at least three preparatory sketches of ideas for their house.

3. Students will be able to explain what an architect does and will be able to define the given clay vocabulary.



Architecture handouts, various pictures of styles of architecture, Moist Clay., Clay Modeling Tools., Canvas Rolls., Rolling Pins., guide sticks, boards, newspaper, Tag board. (optional), plastic bags, Colored Pencils.., Sketchbooks. paper.





Architect: a person who designs and makes plans for buildings
Slip: muddy, liquid clay used to attach two pieces
score: to make marks on the clay to attach two pieces
Slab: a flat, rolled out piece of clay
Coil: a rope of clay, rolled out with your fingers
Kiln.: used to heat the clay to make it permanent. It is over 2000 degrees hot!
Firing: heating the clay to make it permanent.
Sculpture: a three-dimensional work of art




ceramic houses

The image above is from Swanson Middle School Arlington, Virginia



Encourage students to make their houses as creative and imaginative as they want. The houses need not look realistic or like any house they've ever seen.


Student Pre-requisite: Some prior experience working with clay is recommended, but not necessary.

Instructional Methods: Discussion, demonstration, individual practice


Set Induction: Ask students if they know what an architect does. If students do not know, explain that an architect is a person who designs and makes plans for buildings. Some of the buildings that an architect designs are houses, churches, schools, restaurants and castles. Tell students that today, we are going to pretend to be architects and we are going to design a house and make it from clay.


Day One:

Demonstrate how students can make their houses by using slab construction. Show students how they can add decorations by carving, coils, and incising. This demonstration should take about 20-25 minutes. For the remaining class time, students will design their houses. They should draw at least three ideas. Hand out an architectural elements reference sheet. A good one to use is from The Art Teacher's Book of Lists, by Helen D. Hume (List 7-4, Architectural Elements). Tell them they must use at least three of these architectural elements in their design (for example, columns, windows, towers, arches, domes, doors)

Day Two:

Draw at least three ideas. Use an architectural elements reference sheet. Use at least three of these architectural elements in their design (for example, columns, windows, towers, arches, domes, doors)

Day Three through Six:

Students finish their three house designs and work on building their clay houses. Select the best drawing for construction. Make Tag board. templates for sides of architecture if desired.

1. Roll out slab of clay to uniform thickness on canvas cloth - using guide sticks. Lay template on slab and cut with needle. Gently lift so as not to warp the clay. Layer on board between newspaper.
2. To assemble: Score and Slip. sides to base. May cut base larger than building to include landscaping elements around the structure if desired. Score and slip sides together. Fuse a thin coil into inside seams.
3. Cut roof (allow to get leather hard) - score and slip - Provide a way for air to escape on structure (cut window opening)
4. Add architectural elements - cut relief slabs - carve and pierce doors and windows.

(Allow at least one week for drying and firing)

Day Seven and Eight:

Demonstrate painting techniques. Remind students how to mix paint to achieve the desired color. Allow students to paint their house in imaginary and creative colors if they choose to. (may be glazed as another way of finishing)


Assessment and Evaluation:

Rubric: Based on creativity, concept (did students use at least 3 different architectural elements), work ethic, craftsmanship, and painting
Concept: The student created a clay house at least 3 inches tall.
Creativity: The student added at least 3 unique design elements (windows, doors, etc) to their clay house and used the sample architectural element sheet for inspiration
Craftsmanship: The clay parts have been properly attached and the clay has been smoothed
Glaze (or painting): the student applied glaze evenly and neatly and has thoughtfully chosen colors
Work Ethic: The student worked hard every day and was responsible for cleaning and storing materials properly

Quiz: include vocabulary words on final quiz

Sketches: check that each student drew three ideas for their clay houses



The drawings of their design could even be a finished artwork. Encourage them to use watercolors or colored pencils to color their designs and add background and landscaping to their houses.

Maps: students could also draw an imaginary map of the location their house would be built

Adaptation: For students who have a lot of trouble building their houses from clay or fall behind due to absences, I allow them to simply construct the form and then paint on the windows and doors.



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