Basic Collage with Positive and Negative Shapes

Colorful Collage with Positive and Negative ShapesI do this project with my first graders every year to help them under­stand the con­cept of pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive shapes.  This project also teaches sym­me­try and offers impor­tant prac­tice in cut­ting on a fold and apply­ing glue.  First graders are often sur­prised by the shapes they see when they unfold their papers — they are some pretty cute kids!


  • 9x12 black (or white) con­struc­tion paper
  • 3x3 col­ored con­struc­tion paper — 6 each, assorted colors
  • Scis­sors
  • Glue stick


I like to begin by cut­ting a cir­cle from a folded paper, then hold­ing up both papers and ask­ing, “How many cir­cles do you see?”  (answer: “Two!”)  Then I explain that one is a pos­i­tive shape and the other is a neg­a­tive shape.Positive and negative shape circles

  1. Fold each of your 3x3 squares in half.  (My stu­dents like to stand them up like lit­tle tents as they make them!)
  2. Cut a dif­fer­ent shape from each of your folded squares, begin­ning and end­ing on the fold(You’ll want to empha­size cut­ting on the fold, and have some extra 3x3’s on hand for those inevitable mis-cuts!)
  3. Lay out all your shapes on the black paper, before you do any glu­ing.   Fol­low the dia­gram below, plac­ing all your neg­a­tive shapes first, lin­ing up cor­ners and straight edges.  Then place their match­ing pos­i­tive shapes in the spaces next to them. Order for placing negative shapes in collage
  4. Have an adult check your work and then start glu­ing.  (I don’t even pass out the glue sticks until stu­dents show me their shapes cor­rectly laid out on their black paper… oth­er­wise they tend to glue as they go and for­get to leave room for all their shapes!)  

Tip for suc­cess­ful glu­ing:  Always apply glue to the smaller paper, then stick the smaller paper onto the larger one.  Oth­er­wise you can’t be sure exactly where to put the glue, and you’ll have glue marks show­ing when you’re finished!

Collage 2 w/Positive and Negative Shapes



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One Response to Basic Collage with Positive and Negative Shapes

  1. Lorna February 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Love this. Thanks for the idea. :)

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