Seeing Geometry in Art

  • Seeing Geometry in Art

    Geometry in the World of Art
    Grade: 3rd to 5th
    Periods: 1
    Author: Maggie Williams


    Instructional Plan

    To assess students' prior knowledge, read aloud Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban or The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns. Focus students’ attention on the use of shapes in the environment.

    Ask students to recall the different geometric shapes (triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon, hexagon, octagon, decagon, trapezoid) and list the properties they have studied in previous lessons. Ask them to describe the different types of lines (parallel, perpendicular, intersecting).

    Select a Kandinsky painting from the web, and project a copy of it so that each student can easily view the painting. Have students identify different geometric elements of the painting.

    To begin the lesson, have students locate one of the paintings discussed in the previous lesson. Have them work independently to study and list all of the geometric shapes in one painting. Ask them to work with a partner to compare their results. Remind them to check for figures within figures and lines that might serve as sides of figures.

    Continue the lesson by having students repeat these steps with four more paintings. This activity helps develop observation skills required for science activities.

    Have students record and compare the different geometric concepts used in the set of paintings. This will help students see the repetition of certain shapes for specific purposes.

    Have students write a response to the following prompts:

    • Which shapes did Kandinsky use most frequently in his paintings?
    • What properties of these shapes make them adaptable for his paintings?


    • Burns, Marilyn. The Greedy Triangle. New York: Scholastic, 1994.
    • Hoban, Tana. Shapes, Shapes, Shapes. New York: Greenwillow, 1996.

    Assessments and Extensions

    Assessment Option

    At this stage of the unit, students should know how to:

    • Identify geometric shapes in a piece of art
    • Have an understanding of the consistency of geometry in Kandinsky’s artwork

    Collect the student work samples and review them to measure the knowledge students have gained about geometric shapes since beginning this series of lessons. This information will be helpful as you determine the performance of each student in meeting the objectives of this lesson.


    Move on to the next lesson, Mirroring Kandinsky.

    Questions and Reflections

    Questions for Students

    1. What geometric figures do you see in the paintings? Which figures recur more frequently? Why do you think this is true?
    2. What types of lines do you see in the paintings? What function do they serve?
    3. What shapes are in Shapes, Shapes, Shapes, The Greedy Triangle, and in Kandinsky’s art?
    4. Which shapes did you see that have more than four sides?
    5. Select a Kandinsky painting. How do you think Kandinsky selected the name of the painting?
    6. How does he use color to connect shapes in his paintings?

    Teacher Reflection

    • Why was it important to examine more than one painting?
    • What indications were there that students observed the effective use of geometric shapes to create art objects? What insights did students share that were surprising? Why?
    • How does this lesson accommodate the range of learning styles among my students?
    • Which examples were the best for teaching the objectives in this lesson?

    Objectives and Standards

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • Identify geometric shapes in a piece of art.
    • Compare the use of consistency of geometry in several pieces of Kandinsky’s artwork.

    Related Resources


    Working with Shapes

    Geometry / Measurement

    Grade: 3rd to 5th

    Explore geometric terms and concepts.

    More Work with Shapes

    Geometry / Measurement

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    Explore more geometric terms and concepts.

    Finding Lines of Symmetry

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    Paper cut and model on the Geoboard.

    Who Was Wassily Kandinsky?

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    Study geometry in famous artwork.

    Mirroring Kandinsky

    Geometry / Measurement

    Grade: 3rd to 5th

    Write about geometry in artwork.