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.