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Lesson 4: Making Clay Stand Up


“One of the chief pleasures for young children is clay’s ready responsiveness; it obeys the children’s wills. It can be knocked down and stood up again or broken into tiny pieces and reconstituted, but it never appears to diminish.”

– Naomi Pile

Grade Level

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



Essential Question

How can we make clay stand up?

  • Unit & Lessons


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


Step 1: Invitation to Explore

  • What did we do with the clay last week?
  • Let’s make pieces using what you learned last week.
  • Make 4 pieces by rolling, pinching, etc. 
  • Invite a student to put the pieces together.
  • How can you make these pieces stand up? Stack them?
  • Let’s make clay sculptures that stand up! Each sculpture needs to have a front, back, and sides.

Step 2: Work-time

  • Have 3-4 students come to the art center.
  • Have 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

  • Look at the sculpture from all sides. Slowly turn the clay sculpture around.
  • What do you notice about this sculpture? How do you think ______ made this sculpture stand up?
  • 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, sculpture, three-dimensional, front, back, side