This year's first grade "odes to the magical masterpiece" are some of the best we have done, and we've tried many ways - oil pastel, watercolor resist, collage. I think the dark blue construction paper, painted with tempera and collaged with the cozy village, works really well.
Before starting the painting, and after an age-appropriate abbreviated biography of Vincent's life, we discuss the magic of this painting first and then get down to the nitty gritty of foreground, middleground, background - aka space in a landscape. We also answer the question "what is that big mountainy thing in the foreground?" with cypress tree being the answer - a pointy-topped evergreen kind of like a Christmas tree. We made a simple pencil drawing of the 3 parts and placed the moon, wind, and tree, then the students painted along with me as we learned many painting tips including proper brush washing, paintbrush holding, and brush stroking in the Van Gogh style. Songs by Beethoven accompanied us to set the mood of the moonlit night. It really is a wonderful moment in the art room, all those little hands painting away to the melody of Fur Elise... (this is where I am trying to upload an adorable video of a classroom full of highly engaged and well-behaved first graders at work with the song in the background, but Blogger is not cooperating tonight)
The following week we collaged on the little village scene and watched a fun video of the Starry Night built in collapsing dominoes, to wrap things up. http://youtu.be/8GWI0A9o_5E