Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
Three 50-minute class periods
Author: Julie Lambert, Second Grade Teacher
Washington Elementary School, Burbank Unified School District


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Lesson Overview


Students will brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe two early photographs called "cyanotypes." Next they will create their own cyanotype photograph. Students will then write original poetry using the previous list of adjectives to describe their own nature-inspired cyanotype photograph.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• brainstorm a list of adjectives.
• answer in complete sentences.
• write a poem using adjectives.
• create a balanced photograph.


• Reproduction of Arrangement of Specimens by Hippolyte Bayard
• Reproduction of Leucojam Varium by Anna Atkins and Anne Dixon
• Pencils and paper
• Assorted items from nature: leaves, flowers, sticks, or transparencies of nature (e.g., butterflies)
• White paper (same size as NaturePrint® Paper)
• NaturePrint® Paper
• Cardboard
• Pins or binder clips
• Clear transparencies (to hold down items from nature)
• Timer
• Large container of water
• Paper towels
• Black construction paper
• Student Handout: "A Balanced Poem"
• Glue

Lesson Steps

Day One

1. Introduce these vocabulary words to students: nature, photography, line, shape, balance.

2. Display a reproduction of Arrangement of Specimens by Hippolyte Bayard and ask students the following questions. Direct students to respond in complete sentences (e.g., "I see a __________.").

  • What do you see?
  • What kinds of lines do you see?
  • What kinds of shapes do you see?
  • What objects do you see?
  • What would you have called this work of art if you had made it yourself? (Possibly use this as title for bubble map.)

Record students' answers on a graphic organizer (e.g., a bubble map) on the board.

3. Point to the answers to the previous question, "What objects do you see?" Now draw a tree map on the board that includes these headings: Size, Shape, Appearance, Texture, and Other.

4. Invite students to brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe the objects they saw in the work of art, using the sentence frame, for example, "Plants can be __________." Record the students' adjectives under the correct heading on the tree map.

5. Display a reproduction of Leucojam Varium by Anna Atkins and Anne Dixon. Ask students the same questions listed in step 2. Direct students to respond in complete sentences (e.g., "I see a __________."). Add adjectives describing the objects to the tree map as appropriate.

6. Point out that the lines and shapes on the left of the image are balanced by the lines and shapes on the right. Ask students to identify which lines and shapes appear balanced.

7. As a class, write a "balanced" poem, using the adjectives under one of the headings on the tree map. For example:

Leaves (title: 1 item you see)
Tiny, petite (2 adjectives related to size)
Crooked, curved, narrow (3 adjectives related to shape)
Graceful, flawless, delightful (3 adjectives related to appearance)
Crisp, smooth (2 adjectives related to texture)
Nature (synonym for title)

Point out how the number of adjectives per line are balanced if you split the poem in half (i.e., compare three lines on top to three lines on the bottom).

8. Tell students that both images they discussed are photographs that were made a very long time ago. The photographs were made with special paper that can make a picture without a camera. Tell students they will make their own photographs with special paper.

9. Assign homework to students. Ask them to bring to class at least three items from nature from around their homes (e.g., leaves, sticks, feathers, flowers) to use for their art.

Day Two

1. Allow students to choose at least three items that they brought to class. Give them a piece of white paper that is the same size as the NaturePrint Paper. Have students play with arranging their selected objects from nature on the piece of paper to create balance. Have students share with their partners how they created balance with their objects.

2. Once students have balanced compositions, tell them they will transfer their compositions onto NaturePrint Paper. Distribute to each student a piece of cardboard, to use as a base, and a piece of NaturePrint Paper. Tell them to carefully move the items from the white paper onto the NaturePrint Paper, retaining the same balanced composition. They can use pins or transparencies as needed to hold the items down and keep them from shifting.

3. Carefully take the papers with the items outside into direct sunlight and expose them for around two minutes. The paper should turn light blue.

4. Soak the papers in cool water for one minute.

5. Allow each of the students' papers to dry flat on a paper towel that is labeled with the student's name.

Day Three

1. Give each student the NaturePrint Paper composition they created, that you have mounted on a piece of black construction paper.

2. Direct students to look at their own photographs. Tell them to think of a title for their art (possibly using the most predominant item from their composition, such as Leaves or Butterflies).

3. Pass out to students the handout "A Balanced Poem,” which uses a form based on the cinquain format. Using adjectives from the Day One lesson for inspiration, guide students to select adjectives from the tree map that can be used to describe their own works of art. Have students complete the handout by writing their own balanced poem.

4. Ask students to have a peer edit their poem for spelling and for the use of the best adjectives. Then have students rewrite their poem neatly on another piece of paper. Then have them use glue to mount their poem on the black construction paper just below their print.

Arrangement of Specimens/Bayard
Arrangement of Specimens, Hippolyte Bayard, about 1842


Students will be assessed on:
• participation during discussion.
• use of balance in their photographs.
• ability to follow directions in creating their own poems.
• use of descriptive adjectives in their poems.

Standards Addressed

Visual Arts Content Standards for California State Public Schools

Grade Two
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.1 Perceive and describe repetition and balance in nature, in the environment, and in works of art.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.5 Use symmetry (bilateral or radial) to create visual balance.

English–Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

1.0 Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development
1.17 Identify and sort common words in basic categories.
1.18 Describe common objects and events in both general and specific language.

1.0 Writing strategies
1.1 Group related ideas and maintain a consistent focus.
1.2 Use descriptive words when writing.