Visual Art Classes: Upper Elementary Examines the Elements of Art

Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grade Classes Shine a Spotlight on Shape

Shape is a natural component in the study of art. It is one of the 7 basic elements, along with color, line, texture, space, value and form. I often think of shape as a two-dimensional staking of space on a page (like placing a flag on piece of land!). It takes a bit more bravery than making a dot or even a line.

The 7 Elements of Art

In many ways, when you commit to making a shape you have begun your work of art — and beginning is the most difficult part of the entire process. How many times have you become paralyzed staring at a blank piece of paper? Making sure my students are comfortable sketching that first shape is my main goal as an art teacher.

Breaking Down the Artistic Process: Observation and Making a Shape

Most weeks we begin class with a seven-minute draw. An object or group of objects is placed on the table (tiny dinosaurs, stuffed animals, a daisy in a vase). The first thing students are taught to look for are simple shapes. All complex images can be broken down into simple shapes — the stem becomes a long rectangle, the petals are tear shaped. Before they know it, the image is assembling itself on the page.

Geometry, Nature and Art: Looking at Existing Shapes in the Real World

Making art is only part of the process. Recognizing art, studying it and interacting with it are also key ingredients to a creative life. When considering shape, I ask students to discuss whether it is “organic” or “geometric.” In the Spring it is fun to have the students search outdoors for a perfectly round rock. Inevitably they come back empty-handed and we marvel at the perfect imperfection of nature. Alternatively we may use a ruler or compass to practice geometrically precise shapes.

Optical Illusion — Art by an Upper Elementary student

Abstract Thinking and Manipulating Shape in Upper Elementary

Recognizing a shape and making a shape become the groundwork for manipulation of shapes in one’s own art.  

Upper Elementary students are capable of abstract thinking and enjoy the academic challenge of making mirror images, tessellating and even using a single-point perspective to shrink a shape in space.

Abstract thinking, the ability to think about things that are not actually present, is sparked through creative exercises in the Art room and by making connections between art inside and outside the classroom. Examining modern art in books, galleries and museums can open up new ways of thinking and imagining; while studying objects in nature through a magnifying glass can illuminate fascinating connections between art, math and science.

The Value of Studying Shapes and Art Appreciation

Over the years students have studied “shape” artists such as Calder, Matisse, Miro, Kandinsky and Mondrian. To receive a fully rounded art education it is important to learn about artists and the movements they inspired. By studying the elements of art and works by famous artists, students develop the skills, understanding and confidence to create and manipulate shapes of their own.

In Conclusion: Shakespeare said, “The object of art is to give life a shape.”

I would argue that the object of life is to make space for art!

Learn More About the Art Program at Inly School:

Visual Art Curriculum | Elementary

The Inly Visual Arts program seeks to foster creativity, problem solving, and self-expression as it relates to each child’s level of development from Toddler House to Middle School. Art lessons use a variety of auditory, kinesthetic, and visual components. Students are encouraged to experience the art process as each concept is presented, utilizing a variety of 2-D and 3-D materials to help them truly absorb and understand the lesson’s objectives. Lessons include drawing, painting, sculpture, collage making, and print making.

Students will recognize and understand concepts of line/shape/form:
• how a connection of point becomes a line
• how a 2-D shape becomes a 3-D shape-as in sculpture
• how a closed line of points becomes a line-showing movement, edges and expressing feelings.

Click here to read more about the full Upper Elementary Art curriculum!

The Arts at Inly School Learn about Visual Art, Music, Movement Arts, Drama and Theater for all ages.

Fun Art References for Parents and Kids:

Elements of Art: Shape | KQED Arts

Tate Kids: Who Is Alexander Calder?

Tate Kids: Who is Henri Matisse?

Annemarie joined the Inly faculty in 2006, after having taught in Cohasset High School’s Art Department. She received a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and her M.L.A. from Harvard University, Ext. School. Her master’s thesis was titled, “Using a Visual Dialogue Approach to Art Education” (Harvard University Press). A member of the South Shore Art Center and the Cambridge Art Association, Annemarie is an active artist who enters her works (drawing, painting, printmaking) in yearly shows. Besides art, her interests include her three children, ashtanga yoga, and enjoying a good laugh.

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