Tour + Workshop = DESIGN: Texture

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, October 30, 2006

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


Texture is one of the six basic elements of design. It gives an image authenticity and ‘flavor’. It invites the audience to enter a piece and encourages each viewer to experience rather than simply observe. Texture provides the illusion of the real and is integral to creating interest and connection with the audience. The following lesson provides the elementary age student with experience in observing the real object, dissecting it on a textural level, and creating the illusion of reality for themselves.

National Standards


In this lesson students will:
  • use descriptive words to assess various textures created in visual art examples
  • recognize the textural techniques used in creating an object or painting
  • reproduce an enlarged part of the object repeating a pattern using various media beginning with drawing pencils and adding textured color from pastels or crayons to add 2-dimension
  • combine actual and visual textures to create a representation of the object studied


  • hand held magnifying glasses
  • examples of textural enlargements (see appendix 1)
  • texture worksheet (see appendix 2)
  • texture evaluation (see appendix 3)
  • objects students can observe closely (oil paintings, fabric, lace, good visual examples of various textures)


  • object/s similar to those in current 3-D exhibition or representative of current 2-D exhibition
  • soft drawing pencils
  • pastels in various colors
  • string, paper, small objects (buttons, sequins, sand)
  • glue


  • texture-an element of art which refers to how a surface feels or looks like it would feel
  • pattern
  • depth
  • magnify


Introduction - Analyzing
  • Provide students with various examples of textured material and ask them to describe what they feel (woven matting, piece of paper with textured oil painting, fabric, smooth stone, sandpaper, shell, leaf etc)
  • Provide students with magnifying glasses and ask them to describe what they see close up, how does the texture change when you see it up close? Is the silk fabric still completely smooth? Are the granules on the sandpaper all the same size?
  • Show the students examples of visual texture and ask them to describe what they see. For example–as silk robe in a painting may elicit responses such as smooth, flowing, or a ink drawing of a wooden shed may elicit responses such as hard, pointed, scratchy or a mud pool sticky, smooth …
Activity – Creating
  • Give each student their texture sheet (or book) and explain that in each box something more will be added to create texture
  • Encourage the students to think about their audience, they want to make the viewer even more involved/interested in their work (adapt this to grade level)
  • Place the 3-D object/s where each student has a clear view of a part of it.
  • Hand out pencils only and direct students to observe a small part of the object, enlarge it and begin the pattern in the first box.
  • Provide students with new media to add either to the original box or if time permits a new box each time. Limit time and materials to differentiate for grade levels.
Conclusion – Evaluating
  • Hold up an example and ask groups to use the language of design and texture to describe the finished product. Which part of the object is represented? How has the texture been added? What media works well? What could we add? Where might you place a piece of art like this?
  • If time allows ask for volunteers to hold up their work and explain their own process of creating.


Assessment will occur in the evaluating aspect of the lesson. Teachers can make notes on the back of the work transcribing students’ descriptions if they are at an early grade level. Or, teachers can encourage the students to write their own descriptions of the process and analysis of their work if they are in the upper elementary grades. Alternatively, a teacher can assess formally using the supplied rubric (see appendix 3)

Enrichment Extension Activities

For Lower Elementary (Grades K-4)–
  • Links to science observations using magnifying glasses, leaf studies, adaptations such as textures on caterpillars or birds wings for survival
  • Literacy links in the form of reading aloud about famous artists who employ texturing methods such as Klee, Klimt, Van Gogh
  • Observe, draw or analyze collage and pattern in public spaces such as NYC subways or in nature
For Upper Elementary/Middle (Grades 5-8) –
  • Links to science observations by using microscopes to observe and record different magnifications of objects linking the textures to adaptations in nature
  • Whole class/community art projects in collage or large scale art using different media
  • Groups study and report on famous artists who employ texturing methods such as Klee, Klimt, Van Gogh
  • Observe, draw or analyze collage and pattern in public spaces such as NYC subways or in nature
  • Create a series of object cards either on cards or on computer representing only a close up photograph and make a game requiring the player to guess the object based on the texture of the piece photographed
  • Use mathematic equations and scale to create enlargements of various textured objects or materials

Teacher Reflection

  • Were the objectives accurate and age appropriate?
  • What objects were successful as examples and motivators for the activity? Which objects would you not use?
  • Was the timing appropriate? Were the students given enough time to observe, discuss, and create?
  • Did the evaluation discussion with the students provide them with new insights?
  • Did the evaluation questions link directly to the objectives and activities?
  • Which aspects of the lesson need to be altered? Why?

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