Begin by choosing a class theme for this diorama project. For a study of art history, students can choose a painting to create for their diorama. For English Language Arts, students can depict a scene from a book emphasizing the setting (background), characters, and action. Students will begin the art activity by drawing thumbnail sketches of what scene they would like to create for a diorama.
If building a diorama that re-creates an artwork (see teacher example), have students label the background, foreground, and middle ground and identify the characters in the artwork. Students should measure their shoe box’s width, height, and depth. With those measurements, students will be able to place the initial background for their diorama. To do so, have students cut out sheets of paper to cover the insides of the box. Before inserting the pieces, have students color the paper as the base layer. Remind students to imagine they were inside of the artwork, noting the sky and ground color for their box background. Once colored, students can fit the pieces on the insides of the box, gluing them into place.
Once the background is set, students will begin creating the various layers of their diorama. Students can either create three layers (background, middle ground, and foreground) or multiple layers for a more detailed diorama. Students should begin by creating the middle ground of their artwork. Remind students that even though the viewer may not see what is behind a character or object, layering may expose those areas. When creating the different layers, instruct students to leave a half-inch space on the bottom of each piece. This will be bent backwards to serve as a base for their piece to help secure it.
Students may need to use X-ACTO knives to cut around and through the different paper pieces. Instruct and remind students to use the knives carefully, especially when they cut away from themselves. Hot glue may also be needed to secure pieces into the diorama. Use discretion when choosing these materials for your students.
Students should leave some space in between layer pieces to create depth. To glue the middle ground, have students apply glue to the base. Additional glue may be used on the side of the piece to attach to the box to secure it in place. Once the foreground is complete, students can cover or decorate the outside of their shoe box with paint or construction paper to give their artwork a finished appearance.
- This lesson can be tailored to focus on different subject areas or themes such as the seasons, plants, and various social studies topics.
- For collaboration on an English Language Arts diorama lesson, students can work in groups to create a “story book” of dioramas. Assign each group a different book. Each student can create one scene of the book in their diorama. When put next to one another, in chronological order, the dioramas can be “read” like a story book.