The Clay Pot that YOU Built!

Author: Doreen Diorio
Lesson Plan:

AIM: To introduce children to the art of clay pot making


Materials: Book The Pot that Juan Built about Mexican clay pot maker, Juan Quezada. one or more small clay pots, air-dried clay (red or white; broken into about an adult handful each for children to handle), water spray gun, newspapers, smocks. Optional: reproductions of different clay pots and plastic forks

If you wish, assemble the class on a rug or reading area. First, read the book to class so that children get a sense of how clay is found, shaped, painted, and fired. There are parts to the story that children can repeat aloud with each new page. Be sure to hold up the book on each page so that children can see Juan’s step-by-step process in the illustrations. When the story is finished tell children, “We are going to make a clay pot just like Juan.”

Pass around clay pot(s) for children to hold and feel. Tell them we are about to discover how this pot was made from “special stuff” called clay that comes from the earth. If you have reproductions of clay pots, show children different examples of pots from all over the world and throughout time. Point out that clay can be white (like Juan’s in the story) or red. Show them the flat bottom of the sample pot and demonstrate how it’s made like a small, flat pancake between your hands. Now demonstrate how to make a clay coil by rolling a piece of clay into a “snakey” shape between both your palms. Show how each coil is then pressed on top of the other to build a pot. You can say, “Our thumbs and fingers are important tools we use to wet, pinch, then ‘squish’ the coils together.”

Have the children return to their seats. Give each child their lump of clay (on a paper towel or newspaper to cut down on cleanup). Let them dig their hands using all fingers into the clay and move it around until it softens. This is not only fun, but a good way to get children to explore motor movement with their hands. Be sure to go around the room from time to time and spritz the air-dried clay so that it remains pliable and doesn’t dry out.

Now, have children build a clay pot with coils that go around and up from the pancake bottom. Make sure that they are pressing the coils down onto each other and at the cracks between so that their pots won’t fall apart. If the pots are to be used for a class project to grow plants, be sure to have children poke holes with the fork into the bottom of the pot. So long as they are not pressing too hard, children can also carve designs and create texture on the pot surface with the fork or with tools as simple as pencils or straws.

After the pots dry, they can be painted with acrylic paints or left unpainted. For follow-up evaluation, a few children can be called on after cleanup to describe the different stages of how they created their clay pot to the class.


Andrews-Goebel, Nancy (2002). The Pot that Juan Built. Lee and Low Books

Juan Quezada, Fine Ceramics Art Gallery:

Time: One hour or two 30 minute classes