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Pottery Making Lesson Plan: The Coil Method

Grade Level: 
Four through six

Competency Goals: 
4 Social Studies Goal 2: The learner will assess the influence of major religions, ethical beliefs, and aesthetic values on life in North Carolina. 
4-6 Visual Arts Goal 2: The student will develop skills necessary for understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes. 
4-6 Visual Arts Goal 5: The student will understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.

Students will explore how Native American potters created their pottery.

One hour 

Damp cloth 
Rolling pin

1. Introduce the lesson by discussing the history of Native American pottery in what is now North Carolina. Native Americans often used the coil method to produce their pottery. The coil method involves rolling clay into long pieces, then laying the pieces in a circle on top of each other to take a basic pottery form.

2. Making the coils:
a. Squeeze a lump of clay into a smooth, even “rope,” or coil, about seven inches long. 
b. Place your hands in the center of the coil, moving them out as you roll the clay. 
c. Roll several coils, join the two ends of each to form circles, then put them aside and cover with a damp cloth.

3. Making the base: 
a. Flatten a lump of clay into an evenly thick slab, using a rolling pin or your hands. 
b. Cut out a round piece from the flattened slab. 

4. Attaching the coils: 
a. Attach the first coil onto the base by putting your thumb on the inside of the coil and pulling the clay into the base. 
b. Attach additional coils using your thumb  on the inside and other fingers on the outside; gently push each coil into the clay below it.

5. Finishing the surface: 
a. Carefully smooth the outside and inside of the pot with wet hands or a wet sponge so that you don’t see the coils anymore. 
b. Decorate your pot while it is still wet. You can add shapes or make indentations.

Everyday items that can be used to make indentations or to give texture are:

  • netting
  • clothespins
  • spool of thread
  • top of pen
  • thumb
  • rubber band
  • fork
  • stone

6. Drying the pot: 
a. Trim away excess clay from the base. 
b. Set your pot in a safe, dry spot so that it can thoroughly dry.


  • Clay is available from pottery and art supply houses and usually comes in plastic bags.
  • The pots do not need to be fired after drying; however, they will be much more durable if fired.
  • You may wish to contact a potter in your area or a college ceramics program that would allow the students’ pots to be fired in a kiln, perhaps in conjunction with a field trip to the pottery studio and shop.