Critical Response: Elementary Adaptation

Expressing Ourselves Inside and Out

Andy Warhol, Liz, 1965, ©AWF

This lesson adapts material from the five Critical Response Lessons for elementary students. 

Suggested Time Frame:

2-4 class periods 


  • Students will define what a critic is
  • Students will identify and discuss critical opinions found in newspapers, art, music and television
  • Students will compare and contrast the work of Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning
  • Students will create works of art in the style of Warhol and de Kooning
A referee is a critic of the game as it is played. He or she makes judgments and opinions about fair play. Photo by A.F. Sheehan
A referee is a critic of the game as it is played. He or she makes judgments and opinions about fair play. Photo by A.F. Sheehan

Introduction: What is a critic?

  1. Discuss what a critic does. A critic gives opinions on things like movies, books, food and art. Their opinions are in newspapers, magazines and on television shows.
  2. Define and discuss opinions. Critics support their opinion in a review by giving facts and descriptions about the book, movie, food or artwork.
  3. Ask students if they have seen a critic’s opinion in a newspaper or on a TV show? (Examples: Children’s book or movie reviews in newspaper, commentary on T.V. such as judges on a cooking show)

Looking at Art (Intuitive Response)

Have the students look at the Warhol and de Kooning paintings and answer the following questions:

  1. Write five words (2 nouns, 2 adjectives and 1 verb) that come to mind for each painting.
  2. Describe what you see in each painting. Do you know who these women are?
  3. If not, then who could they be? What do they do for a living? Do they remind you of anyone? Who?
  4. If these women could talk, what would they say right now? 
  5. What do you think this painting is about? What story does it tell?
  6. Have the students explain their answers by referring to what they see in the painting. For example, if a student thinks the woman in Warhol’s Liz is a famous country singer, then ask them what line, shapes or colors in the painting make them think this. Have them point to these elements on a reproduction or projection of the painting.


Read and discuss with your students the following information about both artists:

de Kooning: 

Willem de Kooning was a Dutch artist who moved to the United States in the 1920s. He was an Abstract Expressionist artist, which means he did not paint what things look like, but how he felt about them inside. de Kooning used lines, colors and shapes to express feelings. In this painting he combined abstract lines and shapes with the figure of a woman. de Kooning used drawing and painting to make his art and sometimes cut out pictures of women’s mouths from magazines and pasted these onto his pictures.


Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1920s. He was a Pop artist, which means he painted people, places and things that people in America see everyday and are popular, such as movie stars, food and pictures from the newspaper. Warhol was different from de Kooning; he painted things that are outside in the world we live in, not what we feel inside. He wanted to make art about things that we love to look at or have around us everyday. Warhol used pictures of these things to make his art, and then added his own colors and lines to make his paintings a little different from the original.

Final project exploring inner feeling created by an elementary student at Wesley Highland School
Final project exploring inner feeling created by an elementary student at Wesley Highland School

Project: Expressing Ourselves, Inside and Out

The following two art projects will help students to understand each artist’s creative process.

de Kooning: Each student will make an abstract artwork that expresses an emotion they feel “inside” that represents them.

  1. Discuss different types of lines (active/passive gestures, short/long strokes, soft/hard pressure); colors (warm/cold, bright/somber); and shapes (organic, geometric). Make sure to give examples.
  2. Students select a particular feeling. For this example we chose “happy.”
  3. Hand out 3 pieces of white paper and drawing and/or painting materials to each student.
  4. Label each sheet of paper with one heading: “happy lines,” “happy colors” and “happy shapes.”
  5. On each sheet of paper, have students experiment making different lines, colors and shapes that express their emotion. These are sketches for their final artwork.
  6. Hand out a larger piece of white paper. Students combine their different lines, colors and shapes to make a finished artwork that expresses their feeling. They can combine collaged elements from their sketches with newly painted and/or drawn lines, colors and shapes.
 Student acetate project using George Washington's portrait found on the dollar bill
 Student acetate project using George Washington's portrait found on the dollar bill

Warhol: Each student will make a Pop Portrait with a focus on what is “outside,” including people, places and things in popular culture that they like.

  1. Students make a list of the things in popular culture they like. For example, their favorite: candy bar, cartoon character, pair of shoes, place to go, pet or picture of themselves.
  2. Students bring in a picture of one item on their list to make a Warhol style portrait. Pictures can come from magazines, printouts from the Internet, etc.
  3. Photocopy these images onto a piece of acetate. When photocopying the image, enlarge the picture to the desired size and try to make the image high contrast. That means taking the grays out. To do this, experiment on plain copy paper with the lightness and darkness function on the photocopy machine. Usually, when you make it lighter some of the grays will drop out.
  4. Hinge the acetate with tape onto a sheet of construction paper.
  5. Students collage paper onto the construction paper to make their Pop portrait. The image on the acetate acts as Warhol’s final printed image.  

Warhol Education Rubrics

Click the Warhol Rubric headers below to reveal associated rubrics to which this lesson applies.

Media and Related Items
Critical Response PowerPoint
Critical Response PowerPoint