I've taught the same clay lesson for 3rd grade each year- the students hand-build pots with a slab base and coil sides based on the book The Pot That Juan Built. I demonstrate then read the book to the students while they work. (It's my quietest 3rd grade class of the year!) In the second class period when the pots are dry, the students use tempera cakes to paint. The last 2 years, I have just let the students have at it with no direction on colors. This year, we used Aesthetic Scanning to discuss some photos of Juan Quezada's pottery (seen here and here). The students noticed how he typically only uses 2 or 3 colors in the pottery and has lots of little details added with lines. So this year, the students could choose 2 colors of tempera cakes, then I put out liquid black tempera and little tiny brushes so they could add designs on top of their colored base. I like the pottery both ways but overall, they look more finished this way. (You can see a few photos from last year's project here.)
We use air dry clay because we don't have access to a kiln. You can read my tips for teaching elementary Art without a kiln here: http://artteacheradventures.blogspot.com/2012/01/tips-for-teaching-elementary-ceramics.htmlhttp://artteacheradventures.blogspot.com/2012/01/tips-for-teaching-elementary-ceramics.html and add your own tip in the comments!