SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour

Students use tempera paint to create an abstract painting and apply mathematical thinking as they cut it up and reassemble it to construct a painting collage.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 9


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour contrast shape space texture value


Tempera Paint Paint Brushes White Glue Cereal Boxes Scrap Corrugated Cardboard Water Containers Paper Towels Scissors Markers Rulers

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SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step One

Step One

  1. Open a cereal box and flatten it.
  2. Place it face down on the desk.
  3. Use different lines and shapes to break up the space.
SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Let your imagination flow.
  2. Fill the spaces with lots of different colours. 
  3. Balance light and dark values.
  4. Paint different textures.
  5. Scratch into the wet paint to create textures.
SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use a marker to draw lines and patterns in some of the spaces.
SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Place the painting face down on the desk.
  2. Divide the back of the painting into 7.5 cm (3") squares.
  3. Draw the lines with a marker.
SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Cut out all the squares.
  2. Spread them out on the desk paint side up.
SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Place different combinations of squares together in groups of 9.
  2. Look for how the colours, lines and shapes lead your eye through the composition.
  3. Choose the 9 squares you like best.
  4. Glue them onto a piece of Bristol board 30.5 cm x 30.5 cm (12" x 12").
SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. Cut small shapes out of the leftover painted squares and scraps.
  2. Glue small pieces of cardboard to the back of the shapes.
  3. Stack several shapes together.
SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step Eight

Step Eight

  1. Use white glue to attach the raised shapes to the squares.
  2. Place them so the colours contrast with the shapes below.
  3. Make sure the lines, colours and shapes lead your eye through the composition.
SHAPE UP – Shape, Space, Colour - Step Nine

Step Nine

  1. View your finished painting collage with fresh eyes.
    - What do you like best about the work?
    - How is it different than the original painting?
    - How do the raised shapes affect the overall composition?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • apply the creative process to create an original painting collage;
  • use shapes, colours, lines and textures to compose a balanced design;
  • create a variety of mixed colours, textures and lines with paint;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • use the leftover squares to build a free standing, 3-dimensional artwork;
  • display the 2 artworks beside each other;
  • compare the 2 artworks;
  • write an expository article explaining how to create the artworks.


  1. Prior to this lesson teach/review concepts about shape, space, contrast, colour, value and balance.
  2. Use the Get Ready to Paint guide available on this website to organize paint kits for each group. 
  3. Print copies of the Clean-Up Roles - one for each group. (Downloads - CleanUpRoles.pdf)
  4. Print copies of the Critical Analysis form enough for 1 per student. (Downloads - CriticalAnalysis.pdf)
  5. Download and display the Elements and Principles of Design posters available on this website.
  6. Cover the tables with newspaper - this provides a space to try out paint colours and techniques.
  7. Place students into groups of about 6 so they can share the paints.
  8. Ask students to bring in an empty cereal box, or collect enough for each student to have one.


  1. Prior to beginning the painting lesson ask students to number off.
  2. Give each table a clean-up sheet that indicates the job each number must do. 
  3. To ensure that everyone participates in the clean-up and that they know exactly what they have to do as soon as you call clean-up go through each job, for example, 'Hands up if you are number 3 and 4? Your job is to wash the brushes and return them to the bucket at the back of the room.’
  4. Ask one student from each table to get a paint kit. 
  5. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Apply the creative process to create an original painting collage.
  2. Use shapes, colours, lines and textures to compose a balanced design.
  3. Create a variety of mixed colours, textures and lines with paint.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when my design:
    - is carefully planned and completed
    - has a variety of shapes
    - has a variety of lines
    - has a variety of colours
    - has a variety of textures
    - has some raised shapes
    - has contrasting colours and values
    - is balanced
    - moves the eye throughout the composition
    - is in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into partners.
  2. Ask them to: 
    - share their work and discuss the things that are especially effective and why
    - analyse the designs using the Critical Analysis form (Downloads - CriticalAnalysis.pdf)

    - talk about what they found satisfying about doing this project
    - talk about how they might use what they learned in a different way
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask students to tell how they felt about doing this project.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss the collages – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – PaintingCollage_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – PaintingCollage_self-assessment.pdf)