SNAIL MAIL – Shape, Contrast, Measurement

Students use their measuring skills to create a paper plate message holder and decorate it using crayon resist technique.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Kindergarten to Grade 3


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


bodkin colour contrast crayon resist emphasis line mail pattern


Crayola Crayons - Regular NOT Washable - 24 Count Crayola Watercolour Paints - 8 Count Crayola Paintbrushes - 5 Count Crayola Scissors Rulers Pencils Paper Plates - White - 1½ per student Water Containers Paper Towels Yarn Sewing Bodkins Hole Punch

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SNAIL MAIL – Shape, Contrast, Measurement - Step One

Step One

  1. Mark the centre of the plate.
  2. Draw a straight line through it from one side of the plate to the other to divide the plate in half. 
SNAIL MAIL – Shape, Contrast, Measurement - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Cut along the line to cut the plate in half.
SNAIL MAIL – Shape, Contrast, Measurement - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Measure 2 cm spaces around the outer edge of 1 full plate and 1 half plate.
  2. Use a hole punch to make holes at each mark.
SNAIL MAIL – Shape, Contrast, Measurement - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use crayons to colour a design on the back of the half plate.
  2. Press hard to get lots of colour on the cardboard surface.
SNAIL MAIL – Shape, Contrast, Measurement - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Use watercolours to paint over the full plate and right over the 1/2 plate crayon design.
  2. The crayon will not mix with the paint and your picture will show through it.
  3. This is called crayon resist technique.
SNAIL MAIL – Shape, Contrast, Measurement - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Place the 1/2 plate on top of the whole plate to form a pocket.
  2. Paper clip the 2 pieces in place.
  3. Use a bodkin and yarn to sew the two pieces together.
  4. Make a loop of yarn at the top so you can hang it up.
  5. Snail mail is coming your way!

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a 3-dimensional message holder;
  • use contrast to create areas of emphasis;
  • use the elements of design to communicate their ideas;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • attach their message holders to their desks, or in a central location;
  • make a variety of decorated papers using resist techniques;
  • use their papers to write kind messages and questions to each other;
  • place their messages in the message holders.


  1. Gather required art materials.
  2. Gather and make available books about writing and sending mail, for example, A Letter to Amy, by Ezra Jack Keats; Dear Annie, by Judith Caseley; Dear Mr. Blueberry, by Simon James; The Jolly Postman, by Allan Ahlberg; Dear Juno, by Soyung Pak; and Dear Bear, by Joanna Harrison.
  3. Download and display the Elements of Design posters available on this website.
  4. Place students into small groups so they can share materials.


  1. Read one or more of the stories about sending messages. 
  2. Ask students about ways people send messages today.
  3. Discuss what it feels like to send and receive a message, such as a birthday invitation or Valentine's card.
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a unique 3-dimensional message holder.
  2. Use contrast to draw attention to different parts of your design.
  3. Use the elements of design to make a unique design.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a unique message holder
    - cut a paper plate in half accurately
    - measured and punched holes in the plates accurately
    - sewn the 2 plates together so they are lined up and secure
    - created a unique design using crayon resist technique
    - used contrast to make parts of my design stand out

    - kept the holder in good condition
  3. Demonstrate how to measure to find the centre of the paper plate. 
  4. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan. 
  5. Once students have measured and cut the plates encourage them to think about what they want to communicate in their design for the message holder.
  6. Ask them to make a few planning drawings before starting to colour.
  7. Observe students as they work. 
  8. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to: 
    - Compare their work and describe to each other what they wanted to communicate in their design.
    - Tell each other how they got specific effects.
    - Talk about what was difficult and what was easy for them.
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask them to tell how they felt about doing this project.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their holders – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas on the holder, 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. (Download - MESSAGE_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - MESSAGE_self-assessment.pdf)