4th Grade Weeks 3 – 5: Sketchbook Exercise in Shape ~ Exploring Radial Symmetry


  • 1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art (e.g., color, shape/form, line, texture, space, value), emphasizing form, as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.  (This activity occurs with each lesson)
  • 2.6 Use the interaction between positive and negative space expressively in a work of art.
  • 4.3 Discuss how the subject and selection of media relate to the meaning or purpose of a work of art.  (When looking at artwork from various artists.)
  • 5.2 Identify through research twentieth-century artists who have incorporated symmetry as a part of their work and then create a work of art, using bilateral or radial symmetry.

Student Objectives:  Use various lines, creating interesting positive and negative shapes that radiate from a central point to create balance in an original work of art.

We studied artist M.C. Escher’s works of art to look at positive and negative shapes.  The students commented that they like works of art that reveals more the longer that they look.  In many of Escher’s artworks, there are many things to see and understand.  The artist’s use of  patterns, amorphous shapes and radial symmetry are some of the most interesting and engaging for me.

Students have been exploring line and shapes in their sketchbooks while problem solving.  Most days, I start off with an exercise in their sketchbooks that looks at an element of art (or several) and give students a problem to solve without giving any information on solutions.  For instance, after discussing kinds of symmetry, I asked the 4th graders what letters of the alphabet are examples of bilateral symmetry.    This way, the students are engaged and thinking – then we will share results and ideas that have formulated from these various tasks with our class using appropriate vocabulary.


Materials:   8 1/2″ x  8 1/2″ paper, pencils, black permanent markers, windows

1.  Students were given a square piece of paper and asked to fold the paper in half to make a triangle and again to make a smaller triangle.  This small triangle is where we will begin our radial symmetry design.

2.  Students selected an original line that they created previously in their sketchbooks.

3.  Using their selected line and  creativity, students were asked to fill their small triangle with interesting lines and shapes using a pencil.  I let them know (showed my example) that they would repeat their original design in the other three triangles to complete the piece.

I warned them against too many small lines or details.  I showed them prior how part of a shape that is a line at the top of the triangle can become a lovely center – similar to Escher’s artwork, Shells and Starfish

4.  We shared our designs with other students, discussing their original patterns and shapes.


1.  Students should trace over their pencil lines using black permanent markers.

2.  Now, unfold the triangle to the larger, half sized triangle and using a window, trace their design onto another small triangle using pencil.  It looks something like this:

Radial Symmetry Step 2 on the window 2       Radial Symmetry Step 2 on the window      Tracing Pencil Lines Radial Symmetry 2


Some students accepted the process and challenge with intrigue and effort.  I explained to them how taking your time can really pay off!  The final pieces surprised the students for the most part – they were thrilled with the results.

Here are several final pieces:

Radial Symmetry Finals 1              Radial Symmetry Finals 2             Radial Symmetry Finals 3



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