"Sharecropper" by Marie Atkinson Hull
Marie Atkinson Hull, Sharecropper, 1947.
Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia.

A Lesson Plan Introducing the Elements of Art to Grades 4–5

This lesson plan was prepared by the National Faculty-Morris Museum of Art Professional Development Initiative participants: Wendy Kersey, North Harlem Elementary School 5th grade teacher; Connie Maxwell, North Columbia Elementary School 4th grade teacher; Deborah Young, Belvedere Elementary School 5th grade teacher.

During the first year of the three-year National Faculty-Morris Museum of Art Professional Development Initiative, thirty-four teachers came together to develop new approaches to museum-based learning that integrates the museum into the classroom. The Art of Description is one of five lesson plans created by teacher participants.

The elements of art make up the visual language of a work of art. Like the elements of literature, the basic elements of art help develop the story being told by the artist. Each of the elements can be described separately when one is viewing a work of art, but it is also important to recognize how they relate to one another. By improving students' descriptive vocabulary through the elements of art and by developing understanding of each art element, the teacher will prepare the students to articulate their first impression and to describe, interpret, and evaluate works of art.

Students will:

  • articulate their first impression of the artwork (feeling, mood);
  • use descriptive language to identify the five elements of art (line, color, shape, texture, and space) in a reproduction of Sharecropper, by Marie Hull;
  • identify basic lines, geometric shapes, and angles;
  • describe the artwork and explain the relationship of the elements to the story the artwork tells;
  • use historical information and their knowledge of elements to interpret and analyze the artwork.

Elements of art (line, color, shape, texture, space)

  • line: a continuous, slender mark made on a surface; a real or suggested tie or path joining the elements in composition
  • color: what the eyes see when light is reflected off an object
  • shape: the outline or edge of a flat image or object (circle, square, etc.)
  • texture: the feel of any real surface, or the way a surface in an image looks like it would feel if it were real
  • space: the distance or area between, around, above, below, and within things

Geometric vocabulary

  • parallel: continuous at an equal distance
  • intersecting: the point where two lines cut or cross one another
  • perpendicular: at right angles, to a given line
  • plane figure: figure on a flat, level surface
  • right angle: an angle measuring 90 degrees
  • acute angle: an angle measuring less than 90 degrees
  • obtuse angle: an angle measuring greater than 90 degrees
  • polygon: plane figure with more than four sides or angles

Historical vocabulary

  • planter: owner of a plantation
  • slave: a person held in bondage to another
  • sharecropper: one who holds property for which he pays rent, usually with a share of his crop


  • Arrangements for a field trip to the Morris Museum of Art for a tour that includes Sharecropper should be planned two weeks in advance.
  • Photocopy/print out worksheet "Looking at Sharecropper."
  • Label each chart paper with one of the five elements of art.
  • Acquire five laser prints of Sharecropper from the Morris Museum web site. (The school technology center should be able to provide these prints for you.)
  • Set up overhead projector with the transparency (available for purchase by contacting the education department of the Morris Museum of Art).
  • Determine class grouping: five teams with four students per team. (Cooperative groups work more effectively if you mix ability level within teams.)


  • Divide the class into five teams with four students per team.
  • Give each team a marker and a piece of chart paper labeled with one of the elements of art.
  • Give each team a reproduction to study in relation to the element listed on their chart paper.
  • Ask each team to make a list of objects/items in the reproduction that relates to their element (allow ten minutes).
  • Display the transparency of the reproduction and allow each team to present their findings to the class. Their chart paper list should be displayed as they guide their classmates through their element using the transparency.
  • After the team presentation, the teacher will review and introduce any new vocabulary specific to each element of art.
  • The teacher will guide the students in studying the reproduction and understanding how the elements aid the viewer.
  • The teacher will guide the students in identifying geometric elements that are observable within the artwork.
  • Students will complete the worksheet "Looking at Sharecropper."
  • The teacher will make grade-appropriate assignments for assessing skills and/or use extension activities.

Students will:

  • use descriptive vocabulary on their chart paper to identify elements of art from their reproduction;
  • write a descriptive paragraph as a team to be exchanged with other teams (teams should look for similarities and differences among the descriptions;
  • orally answer questions pertaining to geometry/geometric shapes during presentation and/or questioning session;
  • complete the worksheet "Looking at Sharecropper";
  • work with the teacher to develop a rubric for a historical report;
  • write a research paper about the historical period relating to the painting (including one student-made illustration demonstrating knowledge about the elements of art)

Visual art/social studies

  • Create artwork inspired by painting (e.g., redraw a portion of the portrait).

Field trip

  • Make arrangements through the Morris Museum of Art for a tour that includes the painting Sharecropper.


  • Visit the Morris Museum of Art web site. Activities online may include viewing artwork and listing elements observed. Teachers may create a scavenger hunt for student exploration of the web site.

» Lesson Plan (PDF)
» "Looking at Sharecropper" worksheet (PDF)
» Sharecropper, by Marie Hull

Museum Hours: Tuesday–Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. • Sunday: Noon–5:00 p.m. • Closed Mondays and major holidays
Visit the Morris at 1 Tenth Street • Augusta, Georgia 30901 • p. 706-724-7501 • f. 706-724-7612

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