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Building Foundation Vocabulary in Visual Arts

As all educators are aware, our school year starts well before the students return. Some teachers we know start mapping out lesson plans in July. While we, personally, may wait a bit longer, we do start thinking about where to begin and how to keep it fresh. This year we were inspired by a handful of new teachers in our school district and their need for room decor.

The Elements of Art are sensory components used to create and talk about works of art: line, color, shape, form, texture, value, space. These are the building blocks of art. So how exactly does room decor and foundation lesson planning connect? Well, it’s all about basic art vocabulary, the Elements of Art and Principles of Design and how to reinforce the terms with visuals. Designing is a bit of a hobby for Laura and ever since finding Canva, she’s quick to create visuals, so it made sense for her to create posters for new teachers to help them decorate and plan.

While creating the graphic posters, we considered how to liven up the “standard” vocabulary introduction. One idea we had was to use posters to incorporate into your presentation; then ask students to explore them by using their devices to take photo examples of the Elements and Principles. Students could upload photos and a short statement of how the image exemplifies the Element or Principle in a shared space such as Google Classroom. They could then take it step further and use their photos and Canva or the app Spark Post (adobe) to create their own visuals of the Elements and Principles.

We’ve included vocabulary lists and additional resources below. Please share what you create for your students with this lesson spark and we’d love to see how you use the visuals we created for your use!

Wishing you creativity (and an AWESOME school year!),

Team Grundler


  • In visual art, a delineation or fracturing of space in color or black and white. Line qualities can vary in width, length, gesture, color, direction, etc.


  • The visual sensation dependent on the reflection or absorption of light from a given surface. The three characteristics of colors are hue, intensity, and value.


  • A two-dimensional area or plane that may be open or closed, organic (free form) or geometric. It can be found in nature or created by humans.


  • A three-dimensional volume or the illusion of three dimensions; related to shape (which is 2-D).


  • The surface quality of materials, either actual (tactile) or implied (visual).


  • Lightness or darkness of a hue or neutral color. A value scale shows the range of values from black to white and light to dark.


  • The area between, around, above, below, or contained within objects. Spaces are areas defined by the shapes and forms around them and within them, just as shapes and forms are defined by the space around and within them.

Additional Resources:


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