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Lesson 5: Press and Smooth


“Children often respond to the suggested forms by making up stories and talking to themselves while they are working.”

– Cathy Topal

Grade Level

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



Essential Question

How can we make pieces of clay stick together?

  • 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. 
  • What do you think would happen if I turn this sculpture upside down? Hold it upside down—it falls apart. How can we make these pieces stay together?
  • Look at the lines between the pieces. We have to make them disappear. How do you think we can do this?
  • Demo pressing and smoothing until the lines between separate pieces disappear. Hold the sculpture upside down again to show that it now sticks together.
  • Let’s make clay sculptures that stand up and pass the upside-down test!

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 two clay sculptures for reflection.

Step 3: Reflection

  • What do you see that is the same about these two sculptures?
  • After reflection, have the students 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