Friday, May 6, 2011

Lines! (What's in a name?)

I love lines, and once my students realize how important a role lines play in their drawings, they love them, too!

When I first started teaching art, I looked and looked for a source that would tell me the "correct" names of lines. Beyond curved, straight, bent, broken, etc. I never did find one. So I pretty much made up my own.

Now, when introducing students to line types, I talk about dotted, dashed, straight, bent and curved, but I also tell them about the descriptive names I use for more specific lines.  The other art teacher at my school uses some of the same line vocabulary, but we differ on a couple of line types (my curvy/curly vs. his squiggly, for instance), so I share that with the kids, too. I worried at first that this might be confusing for them, but so far it hasn't been an issue at all. I also tell them that if they want to make up their own descriptive name to help them remember some of the lines, it's absolutely okay.  A rose by any other name may not smell as sweet, but lines come together to make beautiful art no matter their name!

This project helps students think about the ways they use lines in their drawings, both together and alone, and how different lines can represent a number of things.

Time: 1 45-minute class period

  • 12"x18" paper (of any kind)
  • crayons
The Project:

I first have a class discussion about various lines and draw and label examples on the board. Then we do the activity:

1. Have students fold a piece of 12"x18" paper in half. Do this two more times. Open up the paper to reveal 8 rectangles.

2. Students then trace the lines of the folds so that the rectangles are clearly visible and separate spaces. I have them do this using only one color.

3. I walk students through writing and drawing an example of 8 lines. They write the name of the line at the bottom of the rectangle (and draw an example, if you wish, just above the name). I also have them choose only one color for the words and line examples so these don't get lost in the drawing.

4. After going through this with all 8 boxes, students draw a picture above the name and example using that particular line type as much as possible. They can use other lines, as well, but the line of focus for that rectangle should be clearly represented in their drawing.

These are the descriptive names I use: wavy, zig-zag, dotted, dashed, curvy (curly, squiggly, etc.), looped, thick & thin (together, due to space), and scalloped. 

NOTE: It probably seems strange to be posting this at the end of the school year, but my classes change out every six to seven weeks, so I just got new groups of K, 1 and 2 classes. And since I didn't start the blog until later in the year...well, here we are. :)


  1. This is a great art lesson to teach the importance of lines. I do appreciate the step by step instructions

  2. So glad it's helpful. It's a simple lesson, but effective. :)

  3. Thank you for your comment on "For the love of sunflowers" post. I was not able to publish it because blogger had some issues. Your comment was not on my dashboard and I was also not able to retrieve it from my email.

  4. This is a great post - I have had to teach my students about proper "line" terms as well. It's hard to remember they don't just naturally know these things! Especially the younger ones!

  5. Thanks! It is indeed easy to forget that things that just make sense to us are not yet in our students' vocabulary. My biggest challenge as an art teacher has been breaking down information into manageable, age-appropriate chunks for my kids. Glad you stopped by!