Begin with the basic lines. Printing basic lines lays the groundwork for all of the activities in this program. Exploring vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines again and again in multiple ways, and inventing new lines wires the brain for learning. This basic printing process trains hands, bodies and minds to work together.
Printing basic lines introduces explorers to
The process of printing
What it means to make a clear, strong print
The importance of hand orientation, placement, and spacing
The idea of repetition
A line vocabulary
Awareness of different kinds of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines
A Few Thoughts About Vocabulary
A child’s vocabulary expands rapidly during the early years. Children want and have a right to know proper words and terms so that they can use them too. I have found that children love picking up and using the new words that they overhear. Teachers and children together can generate and enjoy using a rich, descriptive vocabulary while they explore and construct with materials. Following are other adjectives and adverbs that describe the basic lines used in this first lesson – vertical, horizontal, and diagonal.
up and down
Large straight line tools – one per person and extras
Small straight line tools – one per person (in reserve if needed)
Paper – mural paper on tables
9 X 12” copy paper at each workspace to begin
One color tempera paint in squeeze bottle
Trays for distributing paint – enough to share easily
Cover work surface with mural paper
Place smaller practice papers on top of the mural paper at work spaces
Large line printing tool at each work space
Trays with paint to pass out after students practice (in reserve)
Lines are all around us if we take time to notice. Take a moment to look all around this space – at the walls, floors, windows, furniture, and one another’s clothing, can you see any lines? This works outside too!
You might also have pictures (Where lines are clearly seen) available for discovering lines.
A small rectangle of cardboard dipped into paint easily becomes a tool for making lines.
Experiment! Print a strong line. (It can be helpful to stand up and use one’s body weight when printing.) Try vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. Extend, cross and connect lines.
Watch a Teacher
Notice that the teacher only demonstrates what concepts children need to get started. An open-ended demonstration provokes enthusiasm and ideas, allowing children to make their own discoveries.
Children intuitively understand the importance of hand orientation as they begin to experiment with line printing. Clearly demonstrate the difference between vertical and horizontal lines with your hand and a line tool and encourage children to try the above lines and to discover others.
When you hear students making connections, you know they are thinking!
While exploring lines, this 4-year-old child has figured out how to print a square. However, once she discovers that her cardboard can slide, she’s painting instead of printing.
The temptation to slide, swirl, and paint with the straight line stamps is a strong one! These are all natural, developmentally appropriate, fun and exciting ways to explore.
However, it is the act of printing with a line that opens the world of construction. It is the more controlled process and skill of line printing which lends itself to understanding and creating structures in the natural and built environment.
Practice Printing Vertical and Horizontal Lines
With young children just concentrate on vertical and horizontal lines to begin. Let the children discover as many lines as possible.
Practice Printing Diagonal Lines
Practice printing a row of diagonal lines. Try one way and then the other. Experiment with crossing lines, try a zigzag line and then a long diagonal line.
Watch the hands of these four-year-olds as they practice diagonal lines.
Consider introducing and giving out the smaller, ½ size straight line tool.
You might encourage students to walk around the room with the goal of noticing interesting lines and designs in their classmate’s explorations. Share discoveries and encourage students to go back to their prints and add one more thing to their line experiments if they like.
Common Line Configurations
Rhoda Kellogg’s research shows that a number of line configurations are common in children’s work. Crossing and radiating lines begin to appear in young children’s scribbles between the ages of three and five.
Crossing lines seem to be suggestive of ladders, fences, and train tracks. At about this same time, shapes begin to appear among other marks and scribbles. The first shape is usually a circle. Squares and triangles develop later. Often children can print configurations that they have not yet drawn.
I made a ladder. Jacob, age 4
As children gain more control over their marks, they begin to make combinations of shapes and lines.
As children explore materials and processes, they get immediate feedback. Stories often emerge from their play and experimentation. While experimenting with the zig zag line, Gabriel began thinking about lightning and used the line printing process to create a storm.
Watch Gabriel, age 4 as he describes the elements of his storm. I started with the lightning, then I made the sky and then I made another lightning. I used yellow paper for the lightning.
A group of first and second graders explores and practices the basic lines. Notice what they are discovering by manipulating the line tool in different ways. Notice their posture. In order to print a strong line you need to stand up straight!
Variations & Extensions
Choose a line card
Make a set of line cards by using a bold marker to draw basic lines on index cards or pieces of cardboard.
Use the card to search for lines in both natural and built environments. This is especially fun for young children to do with a partner.
Sasha, age 3
Drawing to music motivates even reluctant artists to draw and explore basic lines. It is a pleasurable experience since well-chosen music almost propels a variety of movements. This can be done as a group mural, or individually.
A first grader draws to music using a black sharpie marker, then adds color to her musical composition using crayons. Below, four year-olds draw on mural paper spread out on the classroom floor.
Listen to the music. Listen for high and low sounds, fast and slow, and repeating sounds. Move your arm as if you were the conductor leading each instrument. (Demonstrate and have others try this along with you. Draw a few lines to show the process.)
Choose a drawing tool and let the music move your arm.
Stop when the music stops and switch colors.
Four year olds listening to African music with a strong repetitive beat couldn’t resist clapping and dancing! Along with an invitation to draw the beat, I offered black markers and brown construction paper. To enhance the musical beats and patterns they had drawn, I offered tempera paint – one color at a time.
We use and discard line collage items every day! Start collecting linear materials such as yarn, string, thick rubber bands, straws, ribbons, etc. and cut them into usable pieces.
Choose five objects
Make some “lines” touch
Try a different arrangement
Glue your favorite arrangement
When the glue dries, paint the shapes between the lines.
As the collection grows, encourage careful looking and handling. Display representative items in an attractive way so that they are easier to see.
Experiment with different arrangements
Demonstrate drawing lines with the glue to attach linear forms.
Demonstrate holding the glue bottle so that it touches the paper. Move it so that it makes the appropriate kind of line. Place linear forms into the glue and allow them to dry. Paint the shapes between the “lines” if desired.