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6-8: Rhythm, Patterns, Color, and Texture in Art and Poetry

by Carol Horne, Learn NC

In this lesson, students will discover the meaning of “rhythm,” “patterns,” “color,” and “texture” through the performance and modeled analysis of a class “symphony.” Students will also evaluate the impact of each element on the whole work and note personal reactions and connections to this art form. Students will then work in small groups to apply the same elements and personal evaluation and connections to a historical work of visual art. At the end of the lesson, students will reflect on ways these two experiences are similar.

A lesson plan for Grade 7 English Language Arts and Visual Arts Education

Students will:

  • 1. learn to identify examples of “rhythm,” “patterns,” “color,” and “texture” in order to analyze a whole class symphony of various sounds and movements.
  • 2. learn to apply these same elements to a work of visual art.
  • evaluate the overall impact of each element and will investigate their personal reactions and connections to both of these art forms.
  • 3. learn to reflect on the similarities of their analyses of both of these art forms.

Time required for lesson: 85 minutes


  • -Adjust space for class to “perform” assigned individual movements as a whole group standing in one long line as the teacher stands in front of students to “conduct.” If this is not possible, make sure students have enough space to “perform” as they stand alongside their desks.
  • -Write variety of individual sounds and movements on index cards to distribute to each student, e.g. "bark like a dog; make a whooshing sound as you move like a wave; high-five and yell, ‘Yeah!’; whistle like an admirer; click your heels and say, ’There’s no place like home!‘; sing the first bar of the Friskies’ ‘Meow, meow, meow, meow’ song; frog hop as you ‘ribbitt’ twice; etc.
  • -Set up a tape recorder and blank tape cued to record the class “symphony.”
  • -Make two overhead transparencies and two hard copies per student of the graphic organizer titled, “Elements of Art-Making Connections!” for analysis of the elements of “rhythm and patterns,” “color,” “texture,” etc. (See attachment of a blank copy.) You will also need a transparency pen.
  • -Pre-select a poster, transparency, or website image of a work of visual art preferrably from a historical period familiar to students and a narrative piece. (See “Relevant Web Sites” below for a suggested link to “Cleopatra and the Peasant.”)
  • -Complete a graphic organizer for the selected work of visual art to use as a suggested “answer key” for easy reference during small group facilitation. (See “Attachments” below for a suggested key of possible answers for “Elements of Art – Cleopatra and the Peasant” art image.)

Technology resources

Student computers with color monitors and Internet connection bookmarked at the site of the selected work of visual art. (optional)

A classroom computer with color monitor and Internet connection set on site of selected work of visual art and connected to an LCD projector, which projects computer image onto classroom screen. (optional)


No previous knowledge is needed for the opening “symphony” activity. However, to integrate social studies, students should be familiar with the general historical context of the work of visual art used in the second activity. If the “Cleopatra and the Peasant” piece is used, for instance, it would be helpful if students have had some background in the ancient Egyptian period prior to the viewing of this piece. If you are using another historical narrative piece, select one for which students have had some previous study.

Related Links

If your students will be accessing the Internet to view the visual art at a selected website, students should have obtained permission to use the Internet. They should also know how to go to bookmarked sites.

Students should also have had some experience with small group collaboration with their peers.

Students should have experience with writing one-sentence summaries for information presented textually or orally.


Because of the variety of activities, this lesson will work well as a block period, or it may be divided into two consecutive class periods.

Initiating Activity – Whole Class “Symphony” (40 minutes)

1. Because we want to create an atmosphere of discovery and an air of mystery, the teacher will distribute one prepared index card to each student on which some type of sound is written without undue explanation.

2. Next, line up your students in a straight line facing you, and position yourself in front of them as the “conductor,” if space permits. Explain now that the whole class will create a “symphony” using the assigned sounds while you conduct students’ coming in, out, and level of volume. Briefly teach the students the signals indicated by the conductor’s hand and arm movements for: making their sound/motion; decreasing the sound; increasing the sound; cutting the sound off; etc.

3. As a practice, point to each student individually to try out his assigned sound/motion along with your signals. Next, explain that at times there may be solos, duets, trios, etc., or times when the whole group will perform together. Those determinations will be indicated by the conductor, so students must watch the conductor carefully.

4. After students understand their “assignment,” you, the conductor, will proceed to conduct a class symphony as you see fit. Before you start, explain that this production will be tape recorded. (Turn on your tape recorder when ready.) As you begin, experiment with different combinations of single, small group, and larger group participation as well as crescendo/decrescendo effects. You may also include periods of silence. Remember the elements you want to elicit in this improvised piece are: rhythm/patterns, color, and texture, which are discussed below. After several minutes of composing/performing, turn off the tape recorder. (See also another way of doing this activity described in “Supplemental Resources/Information for Teachers” section below.)

5. As students return to their seats, distribute copies of the blank “Elements of Art” graphic organizer to be used for an analysis of the class performance. (See “Attachments” below.) Using your overhead transparency and pen, prepare to conduct a whole class explanation/discussion of each element listed.

6. You will need to explain each of the specialized vocabulary terms below in the suggested ways.

Elements for Musical Composition:


These are listed together because patterns help to create rhythm. Rhythm is created with the recurrence (pattern) of varying stresses and tone lengths. These may be balanced against a steady, underlying succession of beats.


You should be accepting of students’ definitions here, but you may explain that “color” is created musically through such qualities as vitality, vividness, or interest. Musically speaking, “color” refers to the timbre, or tonal quality of the voice/instrument or the effect created by the combination of such qualities.


Explain that in music, “texture” is created by contrasts of rich, smooth, melodic, lyrical tones vs. stiff, staccato, harsh tones.

7. Before playing back the recording of the production, you may assign one-third of the class to listen for examples of rhythm and patterns, another one-third of the class can listen for examples of color, and the remaining one-third can listen for examples of texture. As they listen, they should note examples on their charts.

8. Next, ask students to share their examples of each element. Facilitate their sharing in light of the meaning of each element, remembering that your present objective is to help students to understand the meanings of all the elements and analyze examples from a musical piece. As examples are shared and discussed, model writing them on your overhead transparency; engage students by asking them to fill in examples for each element on their charts throughout the class discussion.

9. To review the elements and encourage students to engage in mental evaluation of their performance, ask students to assess which element they believe had the greatest impact on their overall performance. Did their piece seem to emphasize rhythm and pattern? Or did “color” or “texture” make the greatest impact, in their opinion? Get the students to explain and record their choices on their graphic organizers.

10. Last, to allow students to make this experience personally relevant, invite them to write single words that might describe their feelings or emotions toward their symphony. (Examples might be: exciting, interesting, invigorating, stimulating, etc.) In the last column, invite students to note something from their personal experience that the class symphony reminds them of. It could be a personal experience or feeling, or it might be one they’ve read about or seen portrayed in a movie or real life of a friend.

Second Activity: Analyze the Elements in Visual Art (35 minutes)

1. Make a transition to the next activity by arranging students for partner or small group collaboration. If you are remaining in the classroom, arrange students in small groups of three to five with desks facing one another to encourage collaboration. If students are at computer stations, pair them up to encourage collaboration.

2. The teacher will need to use an overhead projector to initiate modeling of analysis of elements on the second overhead transparency of the graphic organizer.

3. Introduce the selected work of art and artist as you display the painting or image. (Ask students to navigate to the bookmarked website, if they are at computer stations.) Initiate discussion through use of a “hook” question. For example, if you are using the “Cleopatra and the Peasant” painting by Eugene Delacroix, ask: “Why do you think there is a little snake coiling out of the basket of plums?” As students brainstorm possibilities, work in bits of historical information. For example, remind them of who Cleopatra was and the culture and time in which she lived.

(Note: Refer to “Supplemental Information” below. Also, if you access the Ackland Online website listed below under “Relevant Websites,” background information about the painting will be provided.) Through questioning and discussion, develop the story behind the painting.

4. You may also mention that the painting was created in Europe in the 1800’s. You may ask if students can locate clues in the painting to illustrate this fact. (Cleopatra was portrayed in this painting as a 19th century European woman in style of dress and ethnicity, for example, rather than an ancient Egyptian woman who lived during ancient Roman times.)

5. As you continue to develop the history of the story, initiate one possible answer under each of the first three columns of the graphic organizer for “rhythm/patterns,” “color,” and “texture.” Students may copy these onto their charts.

6. Take this opportunity to weave in a review and explanation of the terms below and how they relate to analysis of a work of visual art.

Definitions of Elements for Visual Art:


The recurrence of lines, colors, and shapes (perhaps in a pattern) to create movement within a work of art.


Qualities brought out by the use of hues (colors) and their variations.


Use of materials, such as paint, to create the impression of a feature, (e.g. satin, glass, or fur); or the use of real materials within the work of art, (e.g. hair, leather, or metal.)

7. After students have an understanding of the information in the painting and the elements and have written at least one example of each element on their charts, direct the small groups or partners to continue with their analyses. They should also discuss and complete the last three sections in which they evaluate which element had the greatest impact on the work of art as a whole, explore their personal feelings, and note their personal connections to the art.

8. During partner/group discussion time, the teacher should circulate to facilitate the above activities.

9. Within the last few minutes of this activity, ask students to share examples of answers recorded on their graphic organizers.

Reflection Activity (10 minutes)

1. Facilitate a five-minute discussion of similarities of the symphony and work of visual art with the whole group through questioning. (Examples: “In what ways are symphonies like visual art?”) Encourage students to refer to their two charts. Assist them in making oral connections between these two art forms.

2. On a slip of notebook paper during the remaining five minutes, have students write “exit slips,” meaning they will get to exit your class after they have handed you their “tickets,” or exit slips, out of class.

3. On the slip of paper ask students to answer the following question in one concise sentence: “What did I learn today about the elements of art in music AND in visual art?” The teacher can gain insight about the kinds of things the students learned as a result of the day’s lesson by reading the exits slips. The teacher may elect to give the students some type of daily credit for completing the slips satisfactorily.


The following two types of assessments may be used in addition to teacher observation:

1. Two completed graphic organizers titled, “Elements of Art,” one for the symphony activity and the other for the visual art activity. The teacher may collect these and give credit for quality of answers or for participation (completion.)

2. Exit slip – This is the reflection the students made at the end of the lesson during which they were asked to summarize in one statement something they learned about the elements of both a musical composition and a work of visual art. The teacher can quickly assess the level of understanding by reading and assessing the quality of these answers for a daily grade.

Supplemental information

Alternate “symphony” activity:

One other way to conduct this initiating activity is for the teacher NOT to be the conductor. Instead, assign sounds on cards as previously described and tell students to begin making their sounds together and continue until you indicate for them to stop. At first, the combined sounds will not be coordinated. However, as time goes along, the students will naturally begin to add their own rhythms, loudness/softness, etc. In the follow-up analysis of this musical production, it could be pointed out how the first part lacked the elements listed on the chart; but as the “music” proceeded, these elements became evident.

Historical Background for the Life of Cleopatra:

Cleopatra became queen of ancient Egypt in 51 B.C. Though she lacked beauty, she was intelligent, witty, charming, ambitious, and concerned about the well-being of her subjects. Cleopatra developed loyal and romantic relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, great Roman leaders.

Antony aspired to rule Rome alone and, due to the wealth of Egypt, hoped to obtain financial aid from Cleopatra. They fell in love and Cleopatra had several children by Antony. Cleopatra’s ambition was for her children to become rulers of Rome. Because Antony gave preferential treatment to his children by Cleopatra, other Roman leaders became jealous. They thought Cleopatra was greedy and had too much control over Antony.

A war broke out between the two of them and Octavian, Antony’s former brother-in-law and one of the rival rulers of Rome. As Octavian came after Cleopatra and Antony, she spread a rumor that she had committed suicide. When Antony heard the report, he stabbed himself. He later died in her arms.

When Cleopatra’s attempts to make up to Octavian failed, she put a poisonous snake on her arm and indeed did commit suicide. Antony’s and Cleopatra’s love story has taken many dramatic and artistic forms through the ages.

In the painting, “Cleopatra and the Peasant,” the peasant is shown as suggesting to Cleopatra (or enticing her by his slight smile and her serious expression of consideration) with the idea of taking her life with a snake. The peasant is holding a basket of plums under his leopard pelt. A snake is emerging from the plums.

A jpg image of Cleopatra by Delacroix along with credit information has been provided as an attachment below.

Related websites

Color image of “Cleopatra and the Peasant,” by Eugene Delacroix:

Ackland Museum Online:

NC Wise Owl Research Site:


For special needs students, such as LD, the teacher may provide a hard copy for each of the two completed “Elements of Art” graphic organizers, saving time for the student in copying information onto the charts.

Enrichment can be provided by encouraging students to formulate their own questions about either work of art (musical, as in the class symphony, or the historical work of visual art,) and their elements. Allow students to conduct their own research to answer these questions using CD ROMS, Internet art sites, NC Wise Owl, a research site, which has been included under “Relevant Websites,” etc.

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