Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Incredible Flexible Line

Lynne Locke
Polk County Schools


Swirly, curly, or straight as an arrow, lines can be whatever you want them to be. Students discover the excitement of working with one of design's most flexible elements, the line.


The student writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes (for example, journals to reflect upon ideas, reports to describe scientific observations).

The student knows the effects and functions of using various organizational elements and principles of design when creating works of art.


-9” x 12” drawing paper – white and colored
-Notebook paper
-Glue or paste
-Watercolor markers
-Colored pencils
-Optional: Tempera paint or watercolors
-Optional: 36 inch length of yarn (one per student)


1. Gather necessary supplies. Arrange materials to allow for students to choose easily.
2. Write the following definition on the chalkboard (or chart paper or overhead projector) so that the students will be able to copy it easily.
Line- A long, thin mark made with a pencil, pen, or other tool or object on a surface; the track of a moving point. Lines used as design elements may be thick, thin, straight, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, curved, curly, spiral, open, closed, etc.


Note: This lesson addresses only one element of design and could be used as part of a unit on the elements and principles of design. The final product of this lesson could be used as one page in an Elements and Principles of Design Journal.

1. Introduce the term [design]. Most students recognize the word as it relates to patterns they see everyday on their clothing or other objects around them. Explain that every object they see around them was once an idea in someone’s mind before that person took the time to make sketches and plans to produce their idea for sharing with others. The noun [design] can mean a pattern, but the verb [design] describes a process. There are seven elements of design and seven principles of design. The elements of design are line, shape, direction, size, texture, color, and value. The principles of design are balance, gradation, repetition, contrast, harmony, dominance, and unity.

2. Explain that the element of design to be discussed today is line.

3. Give each student a sheet of unlined practice paper and a pencil or crayon. Ask them to draw a line. Compare the lines drawn by different students. Are all the lines the same? Ask the students to look around them and point out different types of lines in their immediate environment. Discuss the effect that different kinds of lines can have on a work of art and how lines can convey emotion, such as gentle, wavy, horizontal lines can convey a feeling of calmness; sharp, angular, zig-zag lines can convey a feeling of anger or fear. (Imagine lightning or your EKG during a scary movie.) Discuss how different kinds of lines could be used to give your artwork emotional impact or to emphasize important elements. Heavy, thick lines can function as attention getters, while wispy, gentle lines can be used to make something seem imaginary or far away. Optional activity: If students seem to need more concrete experience, have them put their papers away for a few minutes (or move to another location, such as the floor beside their desk). Give each student a length of yarn approximately thirty-six inches long. Instruct the students to manipulate the yarn to illustrate various types of lines. Can you make the yarn line look sleepy? Can you make it look scary or afraid? Can you make a shape like a circle or a flower? (Make the ends of the yarn touch to form a closed shape.) Can you make a shape that looks like a sideways face? (If the ends of the yarn do not touch, that is an open shape.) After manipulating the yarn for a few minutes, have students return to their desks.

4. Allow a few minutes for students to practice making different kinds of lines on their practice paper– straight, curved, zig-zag, curly, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, open, closed, etc. After five minutes, allow students to choose a sheet of drawing paper (any color) and one or two sheets of lined notebook paper. Explain to students that an important part of any project is student effort and their projects will be evaluated on how well they show how the lines they use function and the effect they have on their overall work of art. (Avoid the term [picture] as students should not be limited to producing only representational art, especially when the final goal is to convey emotion or mood.)

5. On a piece of notebook paper, students copy the definition of the word [line].

6. On the colored drawing paper previously chosen by the student, the title Line should be written artistically at the top of the paper. The definition of the word [line] should be cut out and pasted or glued on the top half of the paper, under the title Line.

7. The student then chooses the materials he or she desires (watercolor markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc.) to use to produce a simple illustration using line as the predominant element of the design. This illustration can be done directly onto the back of their paper or on a separate paper, then pasted or glued into place.

8. The student then writes a brief statement on notebook paper, telling what kinds of lines were used in their illustration, how those lines functioned within the overall design, and the effect the different kinds of lines had on their artwork. (Did the lines convey emotion? Were they scary lines? Did the lines convey a feeling of peacefulness or calmness?) This statement is then cut out and pasted or glued onto the paper below the definition.

9. Make an assessment of the activity. (See Assessment.)


The student will produce an original illustration with line as the predominant element. This illustration will be accompanied by the definition of the term [line] and a brief statement telling what kinds of lines were used and how they functioned within the design.
Student product will be assessed by the presence of the following items. Point value may be assigned if desired or omitted for a more informal assessment.
-Title (0-15 points)
-Definition (0-15 points)
-Illustration (0-40 points) Student must have [line] as the predominant design element but not necessarily a number of different kinds of lines. The goal is to produce a work of art that shows the effect and function of lines, not to show how many different kinds of lines you know how to make.
-Written statement (0-30 points) Student must tell what kind/s of lines he/she used, how those lines functioned within the overall design, and the emotional effect the lines had on the overall feeling of the artwork.


This lesson could be modified for younger students by having the definition and title pre-printed so that the students could just cut and paste. If the functional level of the student is very low, the written statement could be omitted and a verbal response from each student recorded by the teacher.

This lesson could be extended by having this page become part of a Design Elements and Principles Journal or portfolio. Also, a PowerPoint Presentation (or other Multi-Media format) could be designed to present this design, with others to be added as they are studied.
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