Arty Shapes


In this unit students participate in a variety of art based activities to develop their knowledge of 2-dimensional shapes. They use their own language to describe their works and the shapes they have used.

Achievement Objectives
GM1-2: Sort objects by their appearance.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Name 2-dimensional shapes: triangle, square, oblong (non-square rectangle), circle, oval and diamond.
  • Describe shape attributes in their own language.
Description of Mathematics

This unit begins an exploration of basic 2D shapes, their properties and the mathematical language associated with them. There is a progression from the way the students think of and see these objects to the more formal mathematical ideas and descriptions. In order to be able to communicate on any topic, there is a need for a common language. This unit takes the initial steps in the formulation of this common language.

Opportunities for Adaptation and Differentiation

The learning opportunities in this unit can be differentiated by providing or removing support to students and by varying the task requirements. Ways to differentiate the tasks include:  

  • In session 1, provide students with cut-out shapes if they have difficulty cutting them from paper.
  • In session 1, ask the students to suggest objects that they could create with the shapes available.

The contexts for the geometric pictures used in this unit can be adapted to the interests and experiences of your students. In session 1 there is an opportunity for students to identify the object that they want to create from the available shapes. It is also possible to enrich the unit by identifying the shapes being investigated in the school and classroom environment.

Required Resource Materials
  • Examples of Mondrian art. These can be found by doing an online image search.
  • Session One: Black paper, colour copies of the Shape Sheet in a variety of sizes, scissors, glue.
  • Session Two: Paper for each student, shallow containers of PVA glue, paint or food colouring to colour PVA (optional), string.
  • Session Three: Paper for each student, large stencils made of thick card in a variety of shapes, crayons and dye.
  • Session Four: Salt, flour and water to make salt dough, rolling pins, biscuit cutters in a variety of shapes, drinking straws, coat hangers or similar to hang shapes from, access to an oven to dry salt dough shapes, paint and string.

Throughout each session encourage the students to talk about what they are making and the features of the shapes they are using. Discuss the similarities and differences in shapes and encourage a wide use of a range of terms. Counting the numbers of sides and the numbers of corners each shape has is also a good way to get students to focus on shapes.

Terms: sides, corners, curved and straight lines, edges, pointed

Questions to use:

  • Do you see any ways that these shapes that are alike? How are they alike?
  • Can you see any shapes that are different? How are they different?
  • What do these shapes have in common?
  • What are some of the things you notice about the shapes you are using?
  • Do you know what we call these shapes?
  • What can you tell me about that shape?
  • Why have you chosen to use that shape?
  • Are all the sides the same? Are all the corners the same?

Session 1: Shape collage

  1. Begin the session by looking at some of Piet Mondrian’s primary coloured and cubist art works. Have students identify the shapes they can see and describe these.
    • What shapes has the artist used in their painting?
    • Can you see where the artist has used corners?
    • Where are the straight lines in this art work?
    • How would you describe the shapes the artist has used?
  2. Provide students with one sheet of black paper each, a variety of shapes in different sizes and a pair of scissors.
  3. Have students colour in and cut out a variety of shapes and arrange them in interesting ways to make a picture, this may be abstract or a familiar object such as a car or a person.
  4. Encourage students to discuss their work and the works of others and to change their designs as their ideas develop.
  5. Once they are satisfied with their pictures, students glue the shapes in place.

Session 2: String shapes with PVA

  1. Provide each student with a sheet of paper, strings of varying lengths and access to a shallow container of PVA. PVA may be coloured using food colouring or paint if desired.
  2. Students dip pieces of string into the PVA and place them onto their pictures, making a variety of shapes in their work.
  3. Encourage students to discuss their work and the works of others and to change their designs as their ideas develop.
  4. Once designs are dry they can be use as a block to create crayon rubbings if desired.

Session 3: Shape stencils in crayon and dye

  1. Provide each student with a piece of paper, some large stencils made of thick card in a variety of shapes and some crayons.
  2. Students trace around the stencils in a variety of different colour crayons, overlapping shapes to create an interesting effect.
  3. Encourage students to discuss their work and the works of others.
  4. When shapes are complete students can paint over shapes with dye to enhance their work.

Session 4: Shape mobiles

  1. Mix salt dough using equal quantities of salt and flour with enough water to form dough with good consistency.
  2. Provide students with dough and cutters.
  3. Students flatten dough using rolling pins and cut a variety of shapes using biscuit cutters. Each shape needs a hole at the top to enable it to be hung with string. This can be made using a small piece of drinking straw.
  4. Encourage students to discuss their work and the works of others.
  5. Place shapes in the oven at 100°C for 1 - 2 hours to dry out.
  6. Once shapes are dry they can be painted and hung onto a coat hanger with string to create a mobile.

Session 5

In this session students reflect on one of their art works made in the previous sessions, discuss and describe it and write about their work.

Their writing could then be published and displayed, either in a classroom display or in a large book for the book corner.

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Level One