• Now here is a black wax crayon. I can look at the window and instead of tracing the shape in the air with my finger, I can draw the shape on the paper with my crayon. I have to look very carefully at the shape of the window as I am drawing on the paper.
  • Look, there is the window shape on the paper. It is an oblong. Now you can collect the shapes of anything at all. Just look for the outline. If something looks very complicated or difficult, trace it in the air with your finger first before making a drawing on the paper."

Brainstorm some of the other objects and items that children could draw in this way. Now give children sketchbooks, or paper and clipboards. Use something to draw with that makes a clear outline shape. Hard pencils are not so good as they make faint lines. It is often a good idea to use drawing media that can not be rubbed out. Suggest to the group or class that if they make a mistake or don't like the shape they have just drawn, they can leave it and simply try something else. Encourage children to collect a number of shapes on the page. You could set them a target and remind them not to draw the first shape too large or there will not be room for others. It is best at this stage if children collect different shapes rather than spend too long on the detail of one shape.

Have an informal exhibition of all the shape drawings by placing the pages on tables and asking children to walk around to see what everyone else found. You could ask children to identify or guess what other children drew. Can they recognise an item or object from its shape?

This project can be extended in many ways. For example:

Photocopy and enlarge the shape drawings. Ask children to cut out their favourite shapes and use these to make a collage.

Ask children to do this exercise again, only this time adding shapes inside shapes (for example, the shapes of controls on a keyboard or computer or perhaps the handles and locks on a door).

Children could choose one more complicated object they liked and make a larger drawing adding all the detail.

Collect outline shapes from specific subjects. For example, outline shapes from a landscape, someone's head, the outside of a building, animals, maps... the list could be endless...

  • Adapted and expanded from pages 15 and 16 of 'Teaching Art at Key Stage 1', Nigel Meager, 1993, NSEAD.
  • Use the first few activities from this mini-project as a starting point for other introductory projects that focus on drawing shapes. For example look at the units, 'drawing buildings'and 'drawing heads and faces'. This approach could be used as a revision and warm-up exercise before drawing for children who are older and more experienced.
  • Use drawing boards, larger sheets of paper held in place with masking tape and marker pens for larger drawings.
  • It is important that children are able to move close to the shape that they are drawing. So they will need some freedom to move around the room.
  • Have you thought of drawing shapes with your finger on a steamed-up mirror for example? You can draw round your face as you look in the mirror. Something is odd with the result though. What is it? (Clue: it's to do with size)

Fibretipped pens, markers, wax crayons, individual size sheets of paper and clipboards or sketchbooks, larger sheets of drawing paper, masking tape and drawing boards.