Positive/Negative insects

Grade: 8

Artist: MC Escher

Materials: Pencils, erasers, scissors, index cards, newsprint paper, black Sharpie markers, white drawing paper

Teacher Prep: Make an example for each step ​

Day 1: Introduce positive and negative space using Prezi. Have students sketch 3 different symmetrical insects, with a symmetrical pattern. Once students have sketched 3 designs, have them choose one insect that they will use for their drawing. Students will fold an index card in half and then draw 1/2 of the insect to create a stencil. They will cut the stencil out. (Make sure they write their names on their stencils once they cut them out!) After this, students can begin tracing the insects on their white paper. I have done this lesson with two variations. Variation 1: Students trace the insects with at least 6 overlapping insects. Variation 2: Students trace the insects with no overlaps, and use a single geometric shape (that they create with an index card stencil) to overlap. I prefer variation 1. 

Day 2: Students continue to trace their insects from the stencils. Have students trace the outline of the insects WITHOUT the pattern drawn, in Sharpie. Students will then draw the symmetrical pattern inside of the insects in Sharpie. When the student completes their patterns, they will label what is positive and what is negative with pencil using “B” for black and “W” for white. Remind students that when they are using the Sharpie markers, they will NOT trace over the “B”s and “W”s. Keep in mind, that whenever the insects overlap with another insect(variation 1), or the geometric shape (variation 2), the positive and negative flip flop. What would normally be white in their design will become black for that overlapping section only, and what would normally be black becomes white in that overlapping section. ​

Day 3-4: Students continue working on their designs. When everything is labeled correctly, (encourage students to have you check over their labeling before working with Sharpies), the students will begin shading in any areas they labeled as “B” and leave the “W” empty. Once completed, students erase any “W” marks, and stray pencil marks. Students fill out self-evaluation rubrics. ​

Tips: Do EVERYTHING in baby steps! I tried demonstrating the entire lesson together in one day and it was a complete disaster…students rushed to get Sharpies and we wasted a lot of ink and paper that semester 😦 You live and you learn. I was proud of the students’ work the semester after once the lesson was revamped. Also, remind students that they will be using Sharpie markers to color in their designs, and that the Sharpies are thicker than a pencil tip…I had several students who came up with intricate designs that were gorgeous, but not realistic for this project as the Sharpie would not be able to show the detail, and it would be difficult to show the reversal of positive/negative space. I have a downloadable copy of the steps and instructions on my TPT Page HERE (great for students who were absent on instruction day)

I also have these steps written out and laminated for students who may have been absent and missed some directions, or just need to view them at their tables, which has been a huge help!

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