Art and Architecture
Material Type:
High School
Lesson Plan, september22
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Education Standards

Analyzing Art: The Formal Elements

Analyzing Art: The Formal Elements


This lesson is a lesson designed for IB Visual Art Students in preparation for the Comparative Study Project. This lesson goes over The Formal Elements of Art and how to conduct a formal analysis of artwork. This goal of this lesson is for students to be able to formally analyze artwork using art vocabulary and the formal elements of art. 


NOTE: This lesson is intended to be completed using the app Keynote from Apple, but can be also used in conjunction with Google Slides if Keynote is not available. 


The following lesson was created to teach students how to properly analyze artwork using art language. This lesson focuses on looking deeper into the composition of the artwork rather than the meaning or purpose behind it. This lesson allows students to see the reasoning behind why an artist made the decisions they did. 

  • 2-3 hours of student work time. 
  • Can be done synchronous, asynchronous, face-to-face, virtual, etc.
  • Heather Reynolds from created the Formal Elements of Art worksheet provided below. 
    • Citation of Thumbnail Image: Image is free to use under the Unsplash License


Background for Teachers

To teach this lesson, you will need an understanding of...

  • You will need an understanding of the formal elements of art, and how to recognize them in artwork. 
  • Teachers will need resources to help students find a work of art that they could analyze. Here is a list of virtual art exhibits that students could choose from. They can pick an exhibit, and then do the virutal visit together in their group to select a piece of artwork. 
  • This lesson requires the use of Keynote (Powerpoint for Apple) and you can choose to use that or substitute it for another Power Presentation App. 
  • You will also need to know how to draw on top of photographs in Keynote, you can learn more about how to do that here. 


Step 1 - Goals and Outcomes


Learning Intentions:

  • Students will be able to...
    • Identify the Formal Elements of Art in other artist's work. 
    • Use Art Language to critique artwork and analyze a composition. 
    • Use Keynote to annotate a piece of artwork in a digital format thus helping them know how to do this for their Process Portfolio & Comparrative Study. (IB Visual Arts) 

Success Criteria:

  • Students will describe how and where the formal elements of arts are being used in artwork. 
  • Students will conduct research and analyze the composition of a piece and how that impacts it's success. 


Step 2 - Planning Instruction


Student Background Knowledge

  • Prior to this lesson, students will need to have an understanding of...
    • What the formal Elements of Art are, and what they look like in artwork. 
    • How to use Keynote on their Apple computers. 
    • How to work well with other members of their groups. 
    • What makes a good composition in artwork. 

Strategies for Diverse Learners

This lesson is created for students to work in groups. I would highly suggest choosing the students groups for them so that you can plan each group out according to their skillsets. I would recommend placing students with other students who will encourage them to communicate and work together. Be sure to place students in groups where each member has their own individual strengths, so that they can use their strengths to dig deeper into the learning process. 

Step 3 - Instruction


Lesson Plan & Procedures: 

1. Begin the lesson by refreshing your students about the Formal Elements of Art. Remind them of previous experiences analyzing artwork, and refresh their memory about Art Vocabulary. 

  • Handout the Formal Elements of Art Handout and the Art Glossary. (attached below) 

2. Start teaching by watching the following video on how to formally analyze artwork. 

3. Pause the video at different locations to dig deeper. Ask student's what they have learned as they listen to the video. Pause and ask students, "Which Formal Element of Art are they exploring?". 

4. After the video is over, seperate your students into groups. Explain the requirements of the project by going over the rubric and handing out the Project Requirement Form (attached below). 

5. Explain the requirements of the project with the students, and give them help to get started. 

6. The rest of the time during class will be Student Work Time, and the teacher will walk around and help guide groups to success. Student's may choose to assign tasks to each member of the team for homework. 

7. If your students would like some examples of what their project should look like, please feel free to show them the examples of student work attached below. 

8. Once students are finished with their Slide Shows, you can choose if you would like them to orally present their information as a group to the rest of the class. I often have students do this as Starters for the following weeks to help them keep their minds fresh on how to formally analyze artwork. 


  • Files:
    • Formal Elements of Art Handout
    • Student Example #1
    • Student Example #2
    • Student Example #3
    • Formal Analysis Group Study Requirements Handout
  • Links:
    • Art Glossary 
    • Formal Analysis- Youtube Link
    • Formal Analysis-Khan Academy Video
    • Rubric for the Formal Analysis

I highly recommend using the Apple Keynote Software for this assignment. It's user friendly application allows for students to draw on top of photographs easily using symbols, shapes, etc. This allows for a better project because students can create descriptive drawings with their formal analysis. If you do not have access to Keynote, you can easily use Google Slides accompanied by Google Drawing for this project. 

Step 4 - Assessments


During instruction and work time the instructor should use the following techniques to assess student learning: 

  • Questioning- Pausing and Asking Questions During the Video 
  • Feedback- Giving feedback while students are working on their assignment. 
  • Assignments- The formal assessment will be the finished slide show. 
  • Presentations- Presentations of the final projects could be a great way to assess the students ability to not only write about art, but orally explain their thoughts and reasoning. 
  • Rubric- This rubric below can be used to give students feedback and insight on ways to improve their projects. 

Attached is the Rubric used for this lesson.