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Art Partners Lesson©

Lesson Title:

Getting to Know You: Small Group Mandalas

Author: Lucy Andrus
Grade/Age Level: Elementary and Early Middle School
Written here for:
School #68: 3rd grade inclusion class
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Conceptual Basis For This Lesson:

Unit/Theme, Relation of Lesson to the Unit, Major Concepts to be Learned:

This is a stand-alone lesson and is meant to introduce the new student teachers to the children at this Art Partners site. This lesson precedes the first in our semester-long unit on learning about the language of visual art. The S/Ts and the children will work in their small groups and create a mandala together that promotes unity and cooperation, and expresses a synthesis of each person’s ideas within one circular space. Children and adults will get to know each other a bit through this process, and hopefully a sense of small group identity will begin as we start off on the right foot. This process will encourage respect for difference and tolerance of others’ ideas and viewpoints as it help us to continue developing our socialization skills.

In creating their mandala designs, the children will further develop their knowledge of art elements and principles and how these can be applied in symbolic representation of ideas.

Relation to Life:

Getting along with others is a crucial part of living a productive and satisfying life. The abilities to be a team player and get along with individuals are qualities needed in the work place and in establishing and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships.

Learning Standards

Goals Specific to Lesson/Unit (reflecting NYS standards, & targeted learning areas. See Abbreviation Key at end):

The students will:

  1. Develop memory recall skills (A/C)
  2. Understand universal meaning of mandala as a symbol of unification, integration, wholeness (AH, AE, Std. 4, A/C)
  3. Increase knowledge and skill in application of basic art elements and principles (AP, Std.1)
  4. Increase understanding of methods of visual symbolism (AC, Std. 3, A/C)
  5. Develop skill in use of diverse art media, mixing media (AP, Std.1, 2, M/P)
  6. Develop higher order thinking skills (abstraction, symbolic representation (AC, Std. 3, A/C)
  7. Improve socialization skills, especially group cohesion, cooperation, respect for difference (S, Pre-V, L)
  8. Improve interpersonal skills, especially peer interaction, personal responsibility and self-control (S, E, Per-V, L)

Performance Objectives for Observational Assessment (reflecting goals):

The students will be able to:


  • Name and define the Three A’s and the Three C’s
  • Name and define the term mandala
  • Describe at least one reason why group cooperation and unity are important
  • Attend to the opening activities without disruption


  • Name/describe one personal quality/contribution to the group
  • Name minimum of one characteristic of quality of their small group
  • Work cooperatively with group members to share space and materials, make decisions, arrive at consensus
  • Contribute to mandala by:
    1. tracing hand/wrist onto paper using black marker
    2. representing personal contribution to group inside hand using desired media
    3. contribute to completing mandala background using chosen media
  • Share work space with peers without disruption or arguing
  • Assist with clean-up as directed


  • Correctly recall/describe major concepts: mandala, group identity, the Three As and the Three Cs
  • Recall/describe at least one reason why group cooperation and unity are important
  • Verbally contribute to group presentation of mandala when called upon

Tools Needed For Application

Vocabulary (in student-friendly terms):

  • The Three A’s: Artmaking, Artists, Artworks, the things we will learn about in Art Partners
  • The Three C’s:
    • Caring: we show our caring about each other as well as in the way we use art tools, materials, and processes
    • Control: we control our behaviors as well as our art tools and media
    • Competence: we learn to do something well; we become good at doing something we learned
  • Mandala: a Sanskrit (ancient Indian, Hindu) word that means circle; an artform where we can explore differing ideas using art language (line, shape, color, symbol) inside of one unifying space, such as a circle.
  • Collage: an arrangement of things, such as torn paper shapes, glued onto another paper or picture surface.


  • Teacher-made: exemplar of a small group mandala; chart showing three choices for coloring background of mandala (torn paper collage; pattern of line, shape and color; use of a symbol to stand for an idea).
  • Art Resources: any examples of mandalas available

Materials and Preparation:

  • Portable display board with black marker
  • From mural or butcher paper, cut large paper circles enough to accommodate small groups of four (to draw a large circle, use a makeshift compass by cutting string the radius of desired circle size, tying pencil to one end, holding other end in center areas of paper, and drawing)
  • Black permanent markers to trace hand/wrist
  • Colored construction paper for tracing hand/wrist
  • Scissors
  • Scrap paper and pencils to sketch and try ideas on (as needed)
  • Assorted drawing/collage media: markers in assorted colors, assorted colored paper: tissue, Fadeless paper, (good time to use scraps)
  • Glue sticks
  • Oil pastels
  • Masking tape


Procedural Steps:


1. Lead teacher introduces the Art Partners program, defining the Three A’s (artist, artworks and artmaking) and the Three C’s (caring, control, competence)…these are the bedrock of what it means to be an Art Partner. The Hello Song is taught and sung (see About the Program link).

2. The new S/Ts are introduced to their small groups, nametags are given, and all sit together in small groups for a few minutes of introductions and chatting.

3. Lead teacher suggests that today is a good day to get to know each other, and since we are artmakers, we can do this using a form of art that will help us put our ideas all together in one design: mandala

4. Lead teacher defines and describes the idea of mandala:

    Sanskrit definition of word mandala: means whole, circle

    Circle is a symbol in many cultures for wholeness, oneness, unity

    Can you think of any symbols we have in our culture that contain a circle for unity or bringing together? Olympic symbol

    Mandala form helps us to bring different things together in harmony and balance, such as different lines, colors, shapes, and/or symbols that stand for our ideas

5. Show any mandala exemplars available.

6. Explain how we will use the mandala today and for what purpose:

    to get to know each other better in our small groups

    to learn to work well together: we have to work in one space

    to establish an identity for our group that will help us feel united

7. Show teacher exemplar and explain process.


8. In their small groups, S/Ts and children begin by tracing each other’s hands a few inches beyond wrist, evenly spacing placement around the mandala circle, so that hands are facing toward the middle. Use the black markers to do this. (Hands can also be traced on colored construction paper, cut out and glued to the collage background.)

9. Once hands are traced, children and their S/T’s must discuss what the qualities of their group are and will be. Start with each person and ask, “What will each member bring to this group? What kinds of actions or behavior do we want to see from each member? What kind of a group will we be? What will be the “personality” of this group”?

10. After groups determine their “personality”, and the characteristics they wish to display and uphold, and what quality each member will bring to the group, they should discuss how to show these ideas using lines, colors and shapes and symbols. Is there a symbol that could represent your group? Colors that mean something special or that represent each member? Certain kind of line or shape? etc.

11. After discussion, S/Ts and children must find a way to work together to illustrate their ideas within the mandala in two ways:

  • Inside their hand, each member’s must draw a symbol for the most important quality or characteristic or behavior that they will bring to the group (ex., helper, peacemaker, reminder, organizer, give cheer, encourage, humor, etc.)
  • In the space outside of each hand, group members must work together to represent their group identity using lines, shapes, colors, patterns, symbols.(ex., daring group who takes chances to learn new things; group who works quickly and quietly to get things done; group who shows their caring about each other; group who remembers and uses artmaker behaviors every time; groups who is helpful; group who is not afraid of mistakes; curious group who wants to learn new things; etc.)

12. Group members must cooperate as they share space, pace, tools, materials and ideas. S/Ts can continually remind children of the Three C’s, especially caring and control as well as using artmaker behaviors (we make thoughtful decisions, we use our “artist’s eye” to look at whole design to see what it needs before we add anything else, we don't give up and we learn something new from our mistakes).

13. Groups proceed, selecting from media choices: markers, cut or torn paper shapes, oil pastels (some drawing can be done with marker and colored in with pastel; torn paper shapes can be applied with glue stick as in a mosaic).

14. When the mandala is completed, all sign the back and bring up to front of room for display. Students help with clean-up as directed.


15. All reconvene and lead teacher directs discussion and viewing of mandalas:

  • recall major concepts: mandala
  • who can tell us an artmaker behavior used today?
  • who can tell us how they used one of the Three C’s today?

16. Each group “introduces” themselves to others by showing and explaining their mandala.

17. Lead teacher gives a preview of upcoming new unit on exploring the language of visual art.

18. All sing Good-bye Song.


In addition to observation of the Performance Objectives stated above for evaluating students as well as noting what teachers may need to re-teach or do differently, questions to ask might include:

  • Did students participate productively in group discussion?
  • Did students make positive personal contributions to the group’s decision-making process?
  • Does final product visually demonstrate integration and unity of ideas and visual elements?

Abbreviation Key

NYS Standards for the Arts:
AH = Art History Std. 1 = creating, participating in art
AC = Art Criticism Std. 2 = knowing art materials and processes
AE = Aesthetics Std. 3 = responding to works of art/artists
AP = Art Production Std. 4 = knowing cultural dimensions of art

Needs Assessment Areas for Developing Skills and Abilities:
A/C    = academic/cognitive M/P = motor/perceptual  E = emotional
C        = communicative status W/S = work/study habits S = social
Pre-V = prevocational skills  L = living skills  

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