Mother & Daughter Griots


Combine symbols and words to tell a story much like Betye and Alison Saar do in their art. Continue an ancient Asian and African tradition!


1. Betye Saar is an African American artist who uses found materials in her artwork. She was born on July 30, 1926, in Los Angeles, California. While a child, she spent summers with her grandmother in Watts, where she saw the Watts Towers, constructed by Simon Rodia. These towers, which contain many objects embedded in their surfaces, became an important memory for Betye's art, and for and her daughter Alison in their later collaborative work.

2. Saar uses found objects to create constructions that have personal meanings. Like the traditional storytellers of Africa, Betye Saar believes that her art has a message for its viewers.

3. Betye's relationship with her daughter is also more similar to African and Asian traditions. She feels that she and her daughter are colleagues, and that she is passing her artistic knowledge on to her. She describes their relationship by comparing it to a relay: "I've been running with my art all these years, and it's as if I have the baton and I reach back to Alison and she takes off. We're not in competition. Alison's not under my wing or my eye. I'm really proud of her. But you see, we're running the art relay for the art."

4. Create a drawing that has symbolic meaning for you, one which you can describe to classmates. Use Crayola® Washable Markers to draw a variety of images on lightly colored construction paper. Each image should mean something specific to you. Arrange your images so the composition is interesting.

5. Write a short description of the meaning of your drawing. Describe what each image means, and how they work together to tell your story. Display your drawing and writing together.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.


  • Work with someone in your family to tell a story in symbols that have meaning for you. Write the story in words, too. If possible, classmates share their work with families at an open house.
  • Create a 3-D assemblage of found materials, just like Betye Saar does. Use Crayola® School Glue to attach objects to cardboard or wood. When the glue is dry, paint your assemblage with Crayola® Tempera.
  • Some students with special needs may find it more meaningful to use family photos, magazine pictures, or other items as the basis for their storytelling.

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Markers
  • Construction Paper



  • Grades 1 to 3
  • Grades 4 to 6
  • Special Needs


  • Language Arts
  • Visual Arts


  • Less than 1/2 hour
  • 30 to 60 minutes


  • Students examine the artwork of Betye Saar and note her artistic relationship with her daughter, Alison Saar.

  • Children compare the storytelling qualities of the Saars' art to traditional storytelling techniques of African griots and similar Asian traditions.

  • Students create a storytelling drawing using their own personal symbols.


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