“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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13 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 #

    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.

  9. Jacel February 18, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    I stumble across this article. I am tickled to try this out with my students. Thank you for sharing!!


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