Clay Person
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Approach: Independent Level: Year 4 and year 8
Focus: Students can use the medium of clay to create a three-dimensional form
Resources: 4 blocks of clay; 4 pointed dowel sticks; 4 A1 polythene desk covers;
4 white plastic bases; 4 ice block sticks; 4 wooden steps; 4 A4 white drawing paper;
4 4B pencils; 4 cue cards; 4 dampened sponge (NOT water)
Time: 40 mins

Arrange four independent (non-interactive) work spaces, each with its own set of materials.

In this activity you are going to work with clay. Before you start I’ll explain what you are going to do, so don’t touch anything on the tables yet.

You are going to use your block of clay to make a person on the steps. When you make the person, try to remember two things:

– Use as much of the clay as you can.
– Make your person in an interesting way so that it is touching all of the steps.

To help you to plan and think about what your person might look like, you might want do a quick drawing of your person on the steps before you start to make it. If you want, you can spend up to 10 minutes on your drawing. (Note – drawing optional?)

Now let’s think about the person. This card has some ideas to help you to think about what you will be doing.

Show card and read to students.

You can use your fingers and the things on your table to shape and design your person. You will have about 40 minutes altogether. I will let you know when you have had 10 minutes for the quick drawing. Later on we will take video photos from different angles of your person on the steps.
Remember, try to make the person look really interesting from all directions, and make it so that it touches all of the steps. You can start now.

When 10 minutes is up:

So far you have had 10 minutes, and you have another 30 minutes to make your person. If you’ve been drawing, you should stop that now, and start working with the clay. When you are making your person, turn the steps around every now and then to see what the person is looking like from different angles.

When a further 15 minutes is up:

You have 15 minutes left for making your model. Remember to turn your model around every now and then to see what the person is looking like from different angles.

When the final 15 minutes is up:
It’s time to stop making your person now. Make sure it is resting on the steps and ready for us to take some video photos of it.
When students have finished modelling:
Later on I will ask you to come back and talk about your clay person.

Clay Person on the Steps (card)
• Use as much of the clay as you can.
• Have your person touching all of the steps.
• Make it look interesting from all angles.
Things to think about:
Who might the person be?
Is the person young or old?
How will the body show that the person is young or old?
What was the person doing on the steps?
What is the person wearing?
How is the person arranged on the steps?
What is the person doing with their body,

arms and hands,
legs and feet?

How will you make the person’s position on the steps look interesting?
Is the person looking the right size for the steps?
Will the model hold together and stay the way you want it?

(not marked)
Place the clay model in front of the student.

1. Have you ever used clay for modelling before?
2. If yes: About how long ago?
3. What ideas for this model did you have when you started?
4. Were there any ideas that just came to you when you were using the clay? Describe these to me.
5. What things have you done to try to make your clay person interesting?

6. What parts of your clay person are you most happy with? Why?
7. If you had more time or could try again, is there anything you might want to change or do differently?
8. What’s easier for you – drawing a person sitting down, or modelling a person with clay?
9. Why do you think that?

% responses
2007 ('03)
[Does it look like a person?
Who might the person be?
Is the person young or old?
How has the person been made to look interesting?
What is the person doing?]
highly developed
5 (5)
23 (18)
moderately developed
29 (24)
41 (41)
slightly developed
49 (49)
30 (35)
under developed
17 (22)
7 (7)
[Have they used most of the clay? Is the person touching all steps?
Does the person look the right size for the steps?
Is the person arranged effectively on the steps?
Does it look interesting from all angles?]
highly developed
3 (3)
19 (13)
moderately developed
28 (22)
40 (43)
slightly developed
54 (56)
36 (41)
under developed
16 (19)
5 (4)
[Appropriate features, e.g. hair, facial features
(ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet, fingers and toes);
clothes and footware.]
highly developed
3 (3)
13 (11)
moderately developed
21 (19)
38 (34)
slightly developed
54 (52)
42 (44)
under developed
22 (26)
8 (11)
Structural skills:
[Is the person three dimensional rather than flat?
Will the model hold together?
Is the model stable on the steps?]
highly developed
1 (1)
10 (6)
moderately developed
17 (11)
37 (29)
slightly developed
54 (63)
43 (57)
under developed
28 (25)
10 (8)
Global rating:
0 (0)
4 (1)
very good
3 (2)
16 (13)
11 (11)
26 (26)
33 (34)
29 (37)
36 (38)
21 (20)
very poor
16 (15)
4 (3)

Total score:
2 (2)
15 (10)
8 (3)
22 (17)
19 (21)
23 (29)
36 (37)
26 (33)
35 (37)
13 (10)
Subgroup Analysis [Click on charts to enlarge] :
Year 4

Year 8

Students were fairly successful in creating clay people perched in some fashion on a set of steps. The marks for the clay sculpture were higher overall than for the other art-making tasks. This may have to do with the ease with which students can assess their work and make modifications as they go along. Students were strongest in the areas of expressiveness and composition, and somewhat weaker in details and structural skills (a number of arms fell off during the interview portion of the task). There was notable improvement from 2003 to 2007 at year 8.

[Note that some images have been digitally enhanced to ensure clarity of image and therefore meaningful reproduction]

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High Range :
Year 4
Year 4
Year 4
Year 8
[click on images for enlargements and further range of images]

The media handling is confident, joins are secure and the features of the body are built from clay rather than drawn into it. There is a clear sense of a three-dimensional person occupying space. The work may explore arrangements other than frontal symmetry. Yet, even when using such symmetry, care is taken for interesting viewpoints right around the person. Opportunities to develop personality in the model are explored through clothing and additional items. These details contribute to rich “stories” of a variety of characters paused at their common resting place: the skate-boarder, teenager “hanging out”, burdened shopper, old lady befriended by cats, and teenager reading a book.

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Mid Range:
Year 4
Year 4
Year 8
Year 8
[click on images for enlargements and further range of images]

Joins are secure and there is a clear sense of the figure occupying the given space. The coil or slab nature of the clay when left unelaborated can suggest a strong “presence” that sometimes doesn’t carry through in the details. The features may be given scant attention with attempts only to draw into, rather than model, the clay. The character and mood are approached tentatively without care to elaborate surfaces or details. Most figures are squashed into right angles and presented very squarely to a frontal viewer. The provided “steps” appear to awkwardly dominate the maker’s arrangement possibilities. Some attempts explore a more fluid pose although there are often limits to the interest from more than one viewing point.

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Low Range:
Year 4
Year 4
Year 8
Year 8
[click on images for enlargements and further range of images]

The difficulty for this range is in constructing a visually coherent figure. Dismemberment, fragmentation and the use of a coil to draw a clay line are often seen. This could be viewed as a familiarity with processes met in flat drawings and perhaps a lack of experience with three-dimensional materials. The context of the steps is just another hurdle for these makers who simply drape their shapes across them or place loosely related fragments on each level. While the maker may have a coherent story behind their character, this has not been translated into the language of form and clay.

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