Multiple Grades

Coil Pottery: 4th & 5th Grade


Coil pots are a staple in Elementary Art. Before my students build their own, we spend a class having a clay experience day and use my Coil Technique Sheet to help students learn a variety of options. I expect students to know the appropriate amount of water they can add, how to heal surface cracks (“Dip your fingers in the water and pet the clay. Nice clay.”), consistency in coil width, scratch and attach (‘slip and score’ leads to too many nefarious middle school jokes), clay structural integrity, and the stages of clay (Slip, Wet, Leather Hard, Bone Dry, Bisque, Glazed). I prefer to have a slab base versus the coil, but I let students create any shape they’d like. All of the projects come out different some have handles, lids, additional attachments, and color variations.

I am a ceramics enthusiast and cringe at the thought of only spending one class session on clay building. I allot one class period for practice and review, two periods to build individual pots, and one period to glaze. I truly believe that students need to have a skill base with a material before you can expect them to take risks and build creativity with a critical thought process. I also feel students get more out of clay over any other art medium. Mistakes are erased with finger strokes or pounded with delight. Failure is part of the process when they work with balance and structural integrity, leading students into hands-on problem solving through exploration.

I had a great success having the students learn how to build and attach the coils by collaboratively building a large pot for their classroom teacher. Those teachers also really appreciated a classroom made gift that was large enough to hold desk supplies or a small plant.



  1. Within a few weeks I will start teaching ceramics to my students for the first time. Altough they are older (12-13 years) a lot of them have never worked with clay before. So this is very useful and the sheets are great. Thanks for the information!

    1. Are they doing coil pottery? I need to scan it, but I have an amazing “worksheet” that I’ve been planning to upload that has my students test out 9 different coils and try to attach them.

      1. They will do coil pottery later this year. The worksheets above will be very useful to me and I’m curious about the other one. Another question, what kind of glazes do you use and how do you keep the classroom a healthy environment while using glazes?

      2. In the USA, there are regulations in public schools for materials that students can use. So we use commercial bought glazes that are lead free. I buy Stroke and Coat from Mayaco because it can be used on wet, bone dry, or bisque, the colors are mixable, and 2 coats is bright. I have sample glaze splats and see which colors students are interested in, then put glaze on plastic plates and create stations. In K-6 (ages 5-12), we stick with the paint on application. I’ll upload some more about clay in the classrooom and try and get that worksheet scanned for you. Also check out this other teacher in my county: She just blogged 4 posts about ceramic education.

      3. Thanks again Meredith for your advices, looking forward to new posts!

      4. Check out the Just for Teachers tab. I’ve added the Coil Techniques PDF Worksheets I told you about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: