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Teach Your Students to Paint Like an Impressionist: Free Lesson Plan Download

Grade Level: 3-5 Art Education Lesson Plan

Art Elements: Color

Art Skills: Tints, Painting Techniques, Collage

Making Connections: Art History

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Click to Download Free Lesson Plan
Click to Download Free Lesson Plan

This lesson is a great way to dip your toes into teaching Impressionism. For an in-depth look, be sure to check out, the Impressionism at the Elementary Level PRO Learning Pack. You’ll explore project ideas for beginning, intermediate, and advanced lessons that incorporate impressionist techniques and discover new ways to help your students reflect on their work and assess their learning.

Sometimes, teachers get so focused on presenting a project or artist, the actual teaching of techniques falls by the wayside. This can be especially true at the elementary level. Instead of approaching our curriculum as a set of “projects,” we should be thinking about the skills and techniques that go into those projects.

So, for example, instead of saying, “Today we’re going to do a project about Monet,” you might try, “Today we are going to learn how to paint like an impressionist.”

This approach allows students to understand why they are learning something. They value content they can use again. This is a different approach than, “Follow me, and you will have an impressionist panting.”

If you start to approach your teaching this way, you may be surprised. Students are often capable of much more than we give them credit for. Can a 3rd grader develop their own style of brush strokes and mark making? You betcha. You just need to set them up for success.

How to Teach Your Students to Paint Like an Impressionist

1. Talk about Impressionism.

First, talk about the style of Impressionism and how it’s identified by individualized brush strokes that do not blend together.

2. Emphasize the artist’s role.

Emphasize that brush strokes and mark making techniques are unique to each artist. Describe how students will develop their own styles. Show students how to hold the brush in different ways in order to make different marks and allow them to experiment. You may even want to experiment with your best French accent.

3. Talk about light.

Capturing the light is a key aspect of Impressionism. As you demonstrate, be sure to communicate this with your students. Share how Impressionists often worked outdoors to try and capture that light.

Bridge Painting

To create the lesson seen here, follow the steps below.

  1. Starting with blue and purple paint, create a series of strokes. Start at the horizon line and work your way down. Be sure to leave some paper showing in between.
  2. Demonstrate how to take white paint and go over the wet purple and blue paint to create tints. Show where the light might be hitting the water when you add white. Never wipe off or rinse your brush. The depth of color will be much better this way.

  3. Next, use the same technique to create trees above the horizon line and reflect them below in the water. Add in white to show the light hitting the objects.
  4. Design a bridge using construction paper. Then, add some construction paper water lilies and tissue paper.


Notice how no two paintings look just alike, yet all students had success at creating an Impressionist painting. Now, students will be able to describe to their families why an Impressionist painting looks the way it does. They can replicate the technique in future pieces of artwork at school or at home without a tracer, template, or demonstration. They just needed the freedom to make original marks!

In what ways do you teach techniques instead of projects? 

Any other successful Impressionist painting ideas out there?

8 years ago