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Do Something about…
School Violence Art Curricula Unit
Day 5: The Power of Language


Art, Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Do Something about…
School Violence Art Curricula Unit
Day 5: The Power of Language
By – Do Something, Inc.
Primary Subject – Art
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies
Grade Level – 9-12

Do Something about…
School Violence
Art Curricula
15-Day Unit

The following lesson is the fifth lesson of a 15-day
School Violence Art Curricula Unit from Do Something, Inc.
Other lessons in this unit are as follows:

Day 1: Shape and Feeling
Students explore the use of abstract shapes and the feelings they evoke
Day 2: The Emotional Aspects Of Color
The students learn about the emotional and physiological affects of color
Day 3: Jackson Pollack – Lines Convey Emotion
Jackson Pollack – Students explore the use of line to convey emotion
Day 4: Goya and Picasso – Shapes And Composition
Goya and Picasso – The students w explore two paintings and their use of shapes
Day 5: Power Of Language
(See lesson below.)
Students will explore the power of words in art
Day 6: Tree Of Decisions
Students explore different choices and outcomes and use the branching pattern
Day 7: Conversations And Arguments With Lines
Students learn to use visual language to have a conversation
Day 8: Keith Haring Figures Part I – Conflict Resolution
Students work together to create a mural modeling cooperation and conflict resolution
Day 9: Keith Haring Figures Part II
Day 10: Keith Haring Figures Part III
Day 11: Keith Haring Figures Part IV
Day 12: Safe Carriers Part I
Students use modern packaging materials to create a safe place
Day 13: Safe Carriers Part II
Day 14: Safe Carriers Part III
Day 15: Final Project
Students create artwork based on their knowledge of line, shape, color, words and emotion


More student resources for this cause are at:


For more Service-Learning Curricula check out:

Day 5: The Power of Language


    Students will explore the use of words in art.


  1. Artists often incorporate words in their compositions. Why and how do they do this? Artists have used words in their work since the Cubists, particularly Picasso and Braques, who began including them in collages of the early 1900s. Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Chair-Caning from 1912 is a good example. Here Picasso has used the letters ‘jou’ which could be the beginning of the word ‘journal’ which means newspaper in French or could refer to ‘jeu’ or ‘jouer’ which means to play. How has Picasso used the ambiguity of the letters to add meaning to the painting?
  2. Other artists have used words in their work. One of the first American artists to use text was Stuart Davis (1894-1964). Although he worked in a Cubist style, he eventually began to use abstract patterns into which he introduced lettering and suggestions of advertisements and posters as in Visa, 1951:
  3. Art is a visual language and adding verbal language incorporates another type of communication into the work. Visual language uses line, shape, color, and form. Verbal language uses letters and words. Words can have multiple meanings. How can you use the different interpretations of a word or phrase to add meaning to your art work?
  4. Brainstorm with your students some phrases that have to do with safety in schools, for example: safety in numbers, better safe than sorry, crossing the line, lockdown…
  5. Ask the students to pick a phrase or word and illustrate its meaning visually. They should include the words or letters in the drawing. Give each student a piece of white paper for the background. Have magazines, newspapers and letter stencils available. Also put out glue sticks, scissors, pencils, colored pencils and markers.
  6. They should consider placement of the letters. Should they be together or spread out on the page? Can their placement add or change the meaning? (If you have done the exercise on Shape and Feeling, remind them of some of those concepts.) Should some letters contain other letters? Should they include all the letters (or omit some like Picasso)? They should consider their size. Should they all be the same size? Should they increase or decrease in size? How should they be written? They should consider all the fonts that they can use on the computer and how they use different ones to convey different moods or meaning. Do they use a different font when they are typing a paper versus when they are sending a message to a friend via email or instant messaging? How can they write the letters to convey meaning? Do they want to change the shape of the letters to connote meaning? For example: how could the letters in the word “lockdown” be shaped to convey its meaning? Do they want to imply more than one meaning to the words? How can they do that? (Vocabulary: ambiguous.)
  7. Encourage them to look for different typefaces in the magazines, newspapers and stencils. They can use one typeface or cut out and collage different letters onto the page (like a ransom note!) They can use different size letters.
  8. When they are done, put the work up on the wall. Look at the different interpretations of the same words and phrases. How could they combine the lettering with image to provide additional meaning?

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