Arts Integration Lesson Plan: Shape Shifter

By |2018-10-30T11:18:06-07:00May 13th, 2011|

Overview: This lesson teaches concrete poetry through the visual art of Betsy Hawley Kelso.

Today’s free lesson plan is all about concrete poetry and art.  I adore concrete poetry for teaching because it connects both brain hemispheres immediately into one piece of art.  You really can reach all children at some level with this kind of poetry.

This lesson is geared more toward middle/high school students, but can be used with the younger grades with some modifications (which are included in the lesson).  It’s a neat little twist on an old artform, along with using the geometric artwork of Betty Halwey Kelso.  By the time you’re through with this lesson, students will have worked through geometry, measurement, poetry and visual art objectives all at the same time.  Have a great time putting this one into your repertoire!



Step 1: Have students look at art samples online by Betty Hawley Kelso. Have them create a see, think, wonder chart (I see… I think….I wonder….) comparing her various works using geometric abstract art. Discuss if the design was purposeful, the color choices, if measurement might have been involved, etc. For examples, click here.

Step 2: Then, have students do the same activity with Shape Poetry. Using the example of Old Mazda Lamp (grades 7+) or The Running Giraffe (grades 1-5 – Located in “Where the Sidewalk Ends”), show students the artistic way that some poets write their stories: as the shapes of which they are describing.

Step 3: Compare writing about the qualities of a shape to drawing a picture using these shapes together. What is the same? What is different? What skills are needed to do both activities? Create a list of these skills.

Step 4: Give students a copy of a Kelso painting. Have them measure various shapes using rulers to see if each shape is in proportion to the other, and if the measurements are exact. Discuss their findings as a class. What did this mean from the artistic point of view? From the math point of view?

Step 5: Have students create a Kelso painting using squares, triangles, circles, and rectangles only. The shapes must be measured exactly and the final picture must be of an item that they could write about.

Step 6:   Students then write a poem within their geometric painting that describes the qualities or meaning of that shape without naming it.


  1. Lucas V. April 28, 2013 at 10:39 am - Reply


    This is really kind of a neat way to teach shape/form poetry! It really asks students to connect the visual representations or pieces of art with a poem/text beyond just recognizing that the poem’s subject is its shape.

    I also like how students will also create their own “painting” of geometric shapes to mimic Betty Hawley Kelso’s style and then wrap their own words inside of it. As an extension in arts integration, I could see constructing a class painting that everyone would add text to, or maybe even using the students’ bodies to create a living picture (and thereby using movement) to involve students even more. Thanks for the idea!

    Lucas V., MN English Teacher

  2. Hannah Mazzuto July 8, 2015 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    How can I see the lesson plan with the links active? Please advise. Thanks!

    • Susan Riley July 9, 2015 at 3:53 am - Reply

      Hi Hannah – When you download the lesson, the links automatically become active. Having tested this out, it looks like some of the links are no longer working (this lesson is 4 years old and sometimes those things happen). We’ll go ahead and update it shortly, but in the meantime, a quick google search for this history of rhetoric and some examples will give you some great tools to work with.

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