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Lesson 3: Hands as Tools


Students will further explore and formalize words for working with clay.

Grade Level

Pre-Kindergarten (Three- and Four-Year Old’s)



Essential Question

How can we use our hands as tools?

  • Unit & Lessons


  • Deli container with clay
  • Tray with damp sponge
  • 8 x 10” cardboard base


Step 1: Invitation to Explore

  • What did we do last week?
  • What do you see on my tray?
  • What did you do with the clay last week?
  • As students say they rolled, pinched, or poked, model each action using a small chunk of clay, and place each modeled piece in front of you so the students can see them. 
  • The clay feels dry and it’s getting hard to work with — how can I make it softer?
  • Show the students how to press their hands on the sponge to wet their hands so that they can soften the clay. 
  • Explain that the sponge never, ever leaves the tray!

Step 2: Work-time

  • Have 3-4 students come to the art center. 
  • Have the students work directly on the table. 
  • Do not give them any instructions. 
  • As they work, ask them what they are doing, and help give words to their actions — roll, poke, pinch, pull, press, etc. 
  • Take photos as students explore for documentation. Record their observations as they work.
  • After students have had ample time to explore, ask them to press or roll their clay into a chunk and place the clay into deli cups with lids.
  • Save one clay creation for reflection.

Step 3: Reflection

  • Choose one child’s work and put it on a cardboard base to bring to the meeting area. 
  • How do you think ________ made this? What do you think _______ did with his/her hands?
  • Be sure to rotate the sculpture so students can look at all sides.
  • After reflection, have the student whose work was shared roll it into a ball and put it in the deli container in the art center.


Clay, soft, hard, cool, wet, silky, roll, squeeze, poke, twist, flatten, break, pinch