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Lesson 2: Arranging Shapes and Text


Students will prepare for upcoming art-making lessons using close-looking, speaking, writing, and/or sketchbook prompts.

Grade Level



Mixed media collage

Theme/ Big Idea

Artists can use mixed-media collage to explore the impact of design on visual language.

Essential Question

How do artists use the elements of art and principles of design to express themselves and their ideas?

  • Unit & Lessons
  • Slide Deck
  • Teaching Guide

Materials and Tools

  • Pencil 
  • Sketchbook or one to two pieces of paper


Note: The following activities are written with sample language you may use with your students. Following the art-making lesson, you may choose as many reflection activities as desired for students to work on in class or independently.

Lesson Introduction (2 minutes)

Hello, artists! In this lesson, we are going to apply what you learned about arranging shapes to working with text. Just as artists use the arrangement of shapes to convey meaning, text can be arranged to convey a message. By arranging words and letters in different ways, artists can express different meanings.

Step 1: Close Looking: Faith Ringgold (15 minutes)

Note to Teachers: Before teaching with a work of art, spend some time looking closely at it on your own. Familiarizing yourself with the artwork will prepare you to guide the close-looking activity. 

If your students are new to looking at art together, you can introduce the activity to students in the following way:

Today we are going to spend some time looking at and discussing a work of art together. When we look at art, there are no right or wrong answers. I’m going to ask you to look closely, share your ideas about what you see, and listen respectfully to each other’s ideas. Everyone’s ideas are important. We all see things differently, and when we look at art, we can learn to see through each other’s eyes. 

Faith Ringgold. Woman Freedom Now. 1971, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Let’s look closely at this artwork by Faith Ringgold. 

Give students a full minute to look on their own. 

  • What words do you see? What do those words mean to you? 
  • What do you notice about how the artist arranged the text? 
  • What do you think is the message of this artwork? 
  • How do you think the arrangement of the text expresses that message? 

Step 2: Sketchbook Activity (15 minutes)

Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned from the previous lesson and from looking closely at Faith Ringgold’s poster design.

Create a list of words that express how you are feeling today. Try to write at least 10 words in your sketchbook.

Choose three of your words and “draw” them by changing their shape, size, and position. 

  • How can you draw the word in a way that expresses its meaning? 

You might want to draw each word several times until you find the right fit.

Step 3: Writing Activity (5 minutes)

Look closely at the word drawings that you created, and respond in writing to the following questions: 

  • Which word drawing do you think best expresses the meaning of the word?
  • How does the shape, size, and position of the words impact the meaning?


Faith Ringgold, Woman Freedom Now. 1971, Museum of Modern Art, New York

More work by Faith Ringgold the Museum of Modern Art, New York.