GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture

Students compare games children played in an ancient time period with those played today, and theny use Crayola Air-Dry Clay to make a relief sculpture to communicate their ideas.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


additive clay techniques air dry clay detail form relief sculpture subtractive clay techniques tablet texture


Crayola Air-Dry Clay - White - about .5 kg per student Crayola Watercolour Paints - 8 Count Crayola Paintbrushes - 5 Count Candy Apple Sticks - 1 per student Pencils Rulers Popsicle Sticks Plastic Bags - 1 per student Paper Towels Water Containers

Shop Crayola Products


GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step One

Step One

  1. Make a preliminary drawing on a paper the same size as the clay tablet you are going to create.
  2. A good size is 15 cm x 15 cm (6" x 6").
  3. Begin by drawing a 1.5 cm (.5 ") border around the outer edge of the paper.
  4. Make the drawing fit inside the border of the paper.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Place a small lump of air dry clay on a plastic placemat. 
  2. Begin to make a slab by flattening the clay with the tips of your fingers.
  3. Roll the slab smooth with a rolling pin or dowel.
  4. Keep the thickness of the clay even and about 1.5 cm (.5") thick.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Place the drawing on top of the slab of clay.
  2. Use a ruler to trim the sides of the clay.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use a ruler to press into the clay to form lines for the border.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Use a dull pencil or candy apple stick to trace your drawing onto the clay.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Use a gouging tool, or popsicle stick to carve away clay from the background of your design.
  2. Dig about halfway down into the clay.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. Add clay to the surface to build up the forms.
  2. Add details and textures by adding clay or carving into the clay so the main forms stand out against a low background.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Eight

Step Eight

  1. Use a ruler to straighten up the outer edges of the tablet.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Nine

Step Nine

  1. Place the tablet inside a plastic bag with a piece of slightly damp paper towel to allow it to dry slowly.
  2. Leave the bag open.
  3. Remove the tablet from the bag after 2 days.
  4. Allow the clay tablet to dry in the open air for 2 more days.
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Ten

Step Ten

  1. Use watercolours to paint the tablet. 
GAMES THEN AND NOW – Clay Relief Sculpture - Step Eleven

Step Eleven

  1. Use a variety of colours to add interest and contrast to your tablet.
  2. View your work with fresh eyes.
  3. What do you like best about your tablet? Why?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • use a variety of handbuilding techniques to create a clay tablet;
  • understand additive and subtractive clay techniques;
  • design a clay tablet that communicates ideas about the past and present;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity; 
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • research some aspect of an ancient time period;
  • use clay slab construction techniques to create a box that represents the ancient time period they researched;
  • write a message from the past and place it inside the box;
  • share their boxes in small groups;
  • create a class display.


  1. Prior to this lesson you may want to have students work through the Score and Slip techniques lesson available on this site, or use the information in this lesson plan to demonstrate how to join pieces of clay and make simple tools.
  2. Have students research games in ancient times.
  3. Create a sample.
  4. Collect plastic bags for wrapping work.
  5. Make sure there is enough room for storage while the clay is drying.
  6. Have students prepare enough slip for sharing.
  7. Download images of ancient civilization art works from the Internet, for example,
    Egyptian Lintel
    Roman Medallion


  1. Compare the Egyptian Lintel and the Hero or similar images of relief sculptures.
  2. Record students' observations about these two works. One is low relief (Egyptian Lintel) and the other is high relief. Summarize characteristics of relief sculptures based on these observations. List qualities that make the relief sculptures effective. For example,
    - use of detail
    - use of texture
    - balance of design 
    - levels
  3. Discuss the overall composition of the works and the stories they tell.
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Design a clay tablet that communicates ideas about games in the past and present.
  2. Use additive and subtractive clay techniques to create a relief sculpture.
  3. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  4. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Have students plan the composition of their tablet based on their research. 
  2. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  3. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a unique clay tablet that communicates ideas about games in the past and present
    - created a design based on research
    - used additive and subtractive clay techniques to create different levels
    - created a clay tablet that is sturdy and without cracks
    - used contrast to make parts of my design stand out
    - applied paint carefully around the edges of colours
    - chosen effective colours to suit the message

    - kept the tablet in good condition
  4. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  5. Remind students they will need to use both the additive and subtractive clay techniques.
  6. Observe students as they work. 
  7. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into groups of about 6.
  2. Ask them to discuss their tablets and compare the way they are made. 
    - What do you notice about how students balanced their designs?
    - What stories do you see in these works?

    What interests you about the tablets?
  3. After the small group discussions, ask students to share something of interest from their group with the whole class.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their tablets – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas on the tablets, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - Tablet_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - Tablet_self-assessment.pdf)