Thinking Routine: Colors,Shapes and Lines

March 25, 2014 Lana Jelenjev

This afternoon I decided to put out the children's art books and resume our meet the masters activities at home. One of my favorite artists is Hundertwasser and his works are a joy to show to children. This book Hundertwasser for Kids is very handy to show the various works he made and to draw inspiration from them (Milos is even saying "I am inspired!"). I didn't go into detail of what the techniques are or a lengthy biography of the artist since I also had younger children with us today. Given the details and the vibrancy of his works, I couldn't help but use the Thinking Routine C-S-L (Colors, Shapes and Lines) to get the children looking at the artworks presented in the book.
Thinking Routines are based on the work of Ron Ritchart on Making Thinking Visible. It is a flexible and systematic research-based approach  to cultivate students' thinking skills and dispositions ( curiosity, concern for truth and understanding, creative mindset), and, on the other, to deepen content learning. Although these routines are taught only in schools, I have been using them to introduce art and other concepts to my children. For this afternoon we used the  Colors-Shapes and Lines Thinking Routine to explore the formalities of art. Here is how it goes:


1. Take a few minutes to look at the artwork. Look closely, what COLORS do you see? Take a few observations from your child/children. Next ask, what SHAPES do you see? Again take note of replies and then ask the last question, what LINES do you see?

2. Discuss about color and what they see. Ask the following questions:
Are they bright or dark colors?Are they primary or secondary colors? For older children you can also as the following questions: Are they warm or cool colors? Are they complimentary? Are they tinted or shaded? To get an idea of this visit the The Artist's Toolkit.
If they are familiar with these concepts other concepts to further discuss are:

Hue (is the name of a color), Saturation (or intensity is the pureness of a color),and Value (is the lightness or darkness of a color. Black and white are not part of the color wheel, but are the ends of the value scale).

Did you know that Hundertwasser believed that "a happy place to live should glow with bright colors".

3. Discuss about SHAPES and what they see.
If your child can easily identify the shapes scaffold learning by introducing the concepts of geometric and organic shapes
  • Geometric: Circle, square, rectangle, rhombus, oval
  • Organic: shapes found in nature
4. Discuss about LINES and what lines they see.
Lines vary in thickness,  in length (short, medium, long) and may expand/contract in any form or direction.Lines may be straight, curved, zigzag, twist; cross over, build on top of or weave under and through each other, etc.
A very informative site to learn about the basics of art is The ABC's of Art
Ask the child/children given the color, shape, or line that you listed, how does it contribute to the artwork overall?

• How does the artwork feels? what mood does it suggest?
• How does it contribute to how the artwork looks?
• How does it contribute to the story the artwork tells?
Combine these questions with another thinking routine: "what makes you say so?"
This thinking routine is just one of the many thinking routines that you can introduce at home. It helps direct children's attention when introducing new things (like artworks, artifacts or even new toys) and at the same time give parents an idea of the concepts that children know about colors-shapes and lines and how they can scaffold learning by adding other concepts.


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