Elements of Art” Memory Game

I’m always on the look-out for cre­ative, new ways to teach my stu­dents the “Ele­ments of Art and Prin­ci­ples of Design”.  Recently, I attended a bridal shower where we played a mem­ory game.… the “put-a-bunch-of kitchen-stuff-on-a-tray-and-give-each-table-group-a-minute-to-stare-at-it-and-see-how-much-they-can-remember” game.  I was struck by how absolutely silent this room full of chatty women became when it was time to start writ­ing our lists of what we could remem­ber!  Imme­di­ately I thought, “I have to play this game with my over-talkative 5th graders!”  So, I adapted the objects on the tray (box lid) so that each item had some­thing in com­mon with one of the “Ele­ments of Art & Prin­ci­ples of Design”, and I intro­duced the game to my 5th grade stu­dents.  Then, for the first time this year, our class­room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop!  I played this same game the fol­low­ing week with my mid­dle school stu­dents with sim­i­lar results.  So, we all enjoyed a few min­utes of peace and quiet and my stu­dents got a fun refresher on the “Ele­ments of Art & Prin­ci­ples of Design” at the same time!

Here’s how we did it.…

The “Ele­ments of Art” Mem­ory Game:

1. Choose one item to rep­re­sent each of the 7 Ele­ments of Art and 7 Prin­ci­ples of Design — you’ll have 14 dif­fer­ent items in all.

2. Place your items on a tray or in a shal­low box so that each one is eas­ily visible.

3. Walk slowly around the room, paus­ing for a minute at each table group to give stu­dents a good look at the items.  Remind them not to say the names of any of the items out loud as that could give oth­ers an unfair advantage!

4. Once every­one has seen the items, have stu­dents take out a piece of paper and list as many of the items as they can remember.  

5. When you reach the point where most stu­dents have stopped writ­ing and you have about 5 sec­onds between any­one remem­ber­ing some­thing (kind of like wait­ing for pop­corn in the microwave to fin­ish pop­ping!), then tell stu­dents their time is up!

6. Now, one by one, review first the “Ele­ments of Art”, and then the “Prin­ci­ples of Design”, as you hold up the item from the tray that was rep­re­sent­ing it.  Be sure to explain how you arrived at the con­nec­tion.… the ran­dom­ness of some of the items will be half the fun!  

7. Have stu­dents give them­selves a point for every item they remem­bered.  Offer a prize to the stu­dent who remem­bered the most!

Here are the items I used and their “con­nec­tions”.… use mine or come up with your own!

? The “Ele­ments of Art” are like the “build­ing blocks” from which a piece of art is made; the “alpha­bet” of the visual world:
  • Line - (wire) lines can be straight, curvy, zig zag, etc.
  • Shape - (star cookie cut­ter) an area enclosed by a line or an edge, 2-dimensional, can be geo­met­ric or organic
  • Form - (orange) 3-dimensional, hav­ing vol­ume and mass 
  • Color - (paint chip) the hue of an object (red, blue, yel­low, etc.)
  • Value - (price tag)  the light­ness or dark­ness of a color — not how much some­thing costs!
  • Tex­ture - (sand paper) the sur­face qual­ity, how some­thing feels, or how it looks like it would feel (visual texture)
  • Space - (tape mea­sure) the illu­sion of dis­tance or depth cre­ated with shad­ing and/or per­spec­tive, or the actual space that some­thing occupies
? The “Prin­ci­ples of Design” rep­re­sent how those “build­ing blocks” (or ele­ments) are orga­nized or arranged:
  • Bal­ance - (skate board wheel) the dis­tri­b­u­tion of “visual weight” by the arrange­ment of ele­ments; bal­ance may be sym­met­ri­cal (for­mal) or asym­met­ri­cal (informal)
  • Move­ment(eye glasses) the visual path that a viewer’s eyes fol­low across a work of art, also the implied move­ment of lines: hor­i­zon­tal (calm and still), ver­ti­cal (strong, at atten­tion) and diag­o­nal (action) lines
  • Rhythm - (drum stick) the rep­e­ti­tion of ele­ments in a work of art; rhythm and move­ment work together to cre­ate a visual “beat”
  • Con­trast - (flash light) the arrange­ment of oppo­site, or dif­fer­ent ele­ments in close prox­im­ity to cre­ate inter­est (on vs. off, light vs. dark, etc.)
  • Empha­sis - (high­lighter) when an ele­ment is given dom­i­nance, mak­ing it stand out
  • Pat­tern(argyle sock) planned or ran­dom rep­e­ti­tions of elements
  • Unity - (trail mix) indi­vid­ual ele­ments work­ing together to cre­ate harmony
The “Ele­ments of Art” and “Prin­ci­ples of Design” give us impor­tant vocab­u­lary to be able to talk intel­li­gently about art and also help us to be more suc­cess­ful in our own art-making.  Try this game with your stu­dents and then share your ideas for the fun items you used!


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9 Responses to Elements of Art” Memory Game

  1. Julie, Ft Benning, GA March 20, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Absolutely love this idea! Such a fresh and new way to review or start intro­duc­ing these concepts.

  2. Lori Decoite March 21, 2012 at 4:44 am #

    Bril­liant!!! Love it! Def. going to try it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Faigie March 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    I won­der what is the youngest age you can use this activ­ity with.

  4. TeachKidsArt March 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Faigie, I’ve found that kids of all ages love mem­ory games! For lower ele­men­tary (1st thru 3rd grade) I would prob­a­bly just focus on the Ele­ments of Art and then add the Prin­ci­ples of Design for 4th and up.

  5. TeachKidsArt March 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Faigie, I’ve found that kids of all ages love mem­ory games! For lower ele­men­tary (1st thru 3rd grade) I would prob­a­bly just focus on the Ele­ments of Art and then add the Prin­ci­ples of Design for 4th and up.

  6. Suzette McBride February 13, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    I love this idea! I’m a mom (not an artist) who vol­un­teers to teach Art Appre­ci­a­tion in my kids’ school. I’m always on the look­out for engag­ing activ­i­ties that will be mem­o­rable for the stu­dents. This is per­fect for today’s pre­sen­ta­tion! Thank you!

  7. Vicki Cowger June 26, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Cheryl,
    Thanks! What a won­der­ful idea! My stu­dents and I will enjoy this.

  8. Joy Quigley April 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    Great ideas to use with my stu­dents, I will try them out immediately.

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