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Stay Positive!!

I call this lesson Organic/Geometric Shape Collage… and I’ve found it (for many, many years now!) to be a great way to teach Shape Vocabulary.  

Being the MEAN art teacher I am… I first make them copy down vocabulary terms for Shape.  I focus on these terms:  Positive shape, Negative Shape, Organic, Geometric, Figure, Ground, Closed and Open.  We discuss these as a group.  I also make them do the Shape worksheet where they apply what they’ve learned as a bit of a formative assessment.  I also have a fun, interactive game we play using Google Slides or MS PowerPoint.

We look at the collage art of Matisse as inspiration.  In quite a few of his works, he used geometric shapes in the background and organic shapes on top. 

Some Matisse Examples:

Panel with Mask

Nuit de Noel

Polynesia, The Sea

I give them a stack of magazines (hello old Nat Geos!) and a sheet of tagboard.  Generally, I use either 9×12″ or 12″x12″   They are instructed to fill up the WHOLE page using GEOMETRIC shapes.  I show them how to overlap them so they cover up all the background.  Most of the time students choose to use long, thin rectangle shapes, but sometimes they choose squares or triangles.  Every one in awhile as student choose to mix it up and use different geometric shapes.  We use gluesticks to glue down the magazine shapes.

I give them my (FREE) thumbnail sketch page and have them create at least 6 thumbnail sketches of ORGANIC shape designs. They need to draw CLOSED Shapes here as they will want to cut them out and glue down later.  We talk briefly about some design concepts, like how to create a “most-important part” (a.k.a. emphasis) and how they should probably avoiding putting the most important part right in the center of the artwork.   They then create at least 6 organic shape designs and I give them some feedback on them. 

Then, students select their best design.  I give them a sheet of white drawing paper that is the same size as their tagboard background.   They cut out their designs with scissors and X-acto blades and then glue down to the background with gluesticks.  

UPDATE:  I just recently added a Shape Unit Bundle of resources to my TPT store.  It includes everything you need to teach a Middle School or High School Art 1 Unit on the Element of Art: Shape. The Bundle covers information on Positive/Negative Shape, Figure/Ground relationships, Open/Closed Shape and Organic and Geometrics shapes.


  • 39 Slide PowerPoint (with Lesson instructions/video links for Lesson)
  • 1 Art Lesson (in PowerPoint): Organic/Geometric Shape Magazine Collage with student examples.
  • 1 Printable Informational Handout/Poster (8.5″ x 11″)
  • 2 Vocabulary Worksheets and/or Quizzes,
  • 1 Application Worksheet
  • 1 Application Quiz
  • 1 Interactive (self-checking) Vocabulary PowerPoint Quiz/Game

Teachers show the PowerPoint to students in class. Students complete Vocabulary worksheet 1 while you cover it to help them stay on task. Students will use the Informational 8.5″ x 11″ Poster/Page for reference to answer to complete Worksheet 2. There is an application worksheet and an application quiz. The Interactive quiz can be assigned as homework to review for the Quiz. Teachers may also use the worksheets as a Quiz, if desired. This entire unit usually takes my high school art 1 students about 3 to 4 of our ninety minute class periods to complete.


If you’d rather have the items sold separately, I also have them listed separate (these are the same products in the Bundle!)

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Hi, I’m Erin!

I’ve been a high school art teacher at a rural school in WV for the past 14 years. I teach Art 1, AP Art + Design, Art 2 and 3. 
I’m a little obsessed with my sweet husband. Together we have FOUR kids and a rescue dog named Boomer! 
I love a bad pun and terrible dad jokes. I spend time looking at MBTI memes, cooking, listening to serial killer podcasts and Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat. I also teach yoga and indoor cycling. Click the button below to learn more about me. 

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