Hailstones and Halibut Bones - Block Printing & Graphic Design Art Lesson for Kids

Paint stamped fox and typography

An art lesson for kids teaching block printing and graphic design!

Students will come to appreciate the poetry of Mary O’Neil in a project that combines both the art of block printing and graphic design.

Grade Level: 3rd - 5th grade

Time Required: 3 45-min. class periods


Faber-Castell Tempera Paint


Colored and White Paper 9 x 12

Dull Pencil/Chopstick




Graphic Design


Block Print






National Core Arts Standards:

Creating: #1, 2, 3

Presenting/Producing: #4, 5, 6

Responding: #8

Hailstones And Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neil, 1906-1990, is a collection of thirteen poems, each about a different color. Written with a keen sense of visual and emotional observation, it has become a modern children’s classic.

Read aloud to students, and discuss the imagery and powerful feelings that carefully chosen words can evoke. Have each student choose a favorite stanza and from it create a block print of an image. Students then create a piece of graphic art combining their block print and the typeset stanza.

Fox on styrofoam

1. Begin. Have students choose a stanza from the poem. Using a dull pencil or chopstick, demonstrate how to draw a simple line-art image from it onto a sheet of Styroform. Angle the pencil and draw in a slow, dragging motion. This is the plate.

Painted styrofoam fox with brayer

2. Paint. Cut out the image leaving a 1/4” border. Attach it to a painting surface with double stick tape. Role a brayer in the desired color, and then role gently and evenly over the plate. The grooved line art should remain mostly unpainted.

Brayer on white paper

3. Transfer. Lay white paper on top of the freshly painted plate and burnish with the brayer, being careful to include all edges of the art. Students can also use their hand.

Fox shape painted

4. Pull. Carefully pull back paper to reveal the printed image. Let dry.


1. Typeset. Typeset each student’s chosen stanza. A simple typeface works the best; pictured here is Helvetica Bold in 24pt. and 34pt.

Cut-out typography

2. Cut. Have students carefully cut up the words. This will allow for a fun lesson in creative typography and design.

Paint stamped fox with cut out text

3. Combine design elements. Demonstrate how to cut out the image, again allowing a 1/4” border, and show various ways to arrange the type along with the printed image on matching colored paper. Encourage students to take time and experiment with fun designs before gluing in place.

Paint stamped fox with cut-out typography

4. Marvel at what students do! Children seem to have a knack for combining an image and type in very unexpected and delightful ways. This is what adds character and charm to the overall piece.

Download the entire lesson plan, here!

Artist Biography - Janis Doukakis


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