Contributed by Leigh Wells
This mosaic activity can be used with multiple visual arts media and can be scaled in size, complexity, and difficulty level. Using same-size tiles (whether ceramic, cardboard, or paper), each student designs their own tile, then the group installs them together as one tile mosaic on a flat surface.
- Provide each student with their own square tile.
- Scale the size of the tile based on how much time you have and the size of the surface you’ll install your mosaic on. Try starting with a 5” x 5” or 6” x 6” tile the first time.
- The tiles could be made of just about anything. Keep in mind that they should be the same size and think about what medium you’re going to use. Anything from glaze on ceramic tile to crayon on construction paper can work and give the class an interesting result.
- Introduce any instructions, constraints, themes, and connections to what they’ve been learning about for their tile design. Below are some example prompts you could try:
- Working only with washi tape and crayons, create tiles inspired by stained glass.
- Create your own abstract pattern using only simple geometric shapes (e.g. circles, squares, straight lines).
- Draw a single-cell creature.
- Choosing one word from your reflection, design a tile that represents that word visually. Consider how you can use scale, color, and shape to help convey that meaning.
- Distribute materials to students for designing/adding to their tile.
- When work time on the design is over, students will install their tiles as a mosaic on a wall, tabletops, or floor. How this installation works will depend on the size of your group, the space you’re working in, the weight of the tiles, and the flow of your classroom. Below are some options to try:
- If your group is large, consider asking a small group of volunteers to install the mosaic.
- Call up a few students (or a row or table group) at a time to install within the allotted space.
- If your group, space, and tile size allows, students might be able to install together and discuss as they work.
- Students install their tile in the allotted space as they finish their design.
- Once all of the tiles are installed, give students gallery time to look at this first draft of the mosaic.
- Note: Depending on the shape of the mosaic you want to make, you may need a few extra tiles. These could be solid colors, or if students finish quickly, they may want to create another one.
- Ask students 1-2 reflection questions about their first draft to help support the editing process.
- Provide students an opportunity to edit their first draft. Below are some options to try:
- Ask for a volunteer who will handle the tiles carefully to make the edits (moving tiles) while the class provides input.
- Ask for an editorial group to choose and make the edits together.
- Once the mural is complete, take pictures so that their mosaic is preserved digitally and can be shared with students as an image.
- Ask students 1-2 reflection questions about the process as a whole. Below are some possible examples:
- How did your design change when it was added to the mosaic?
- What was it like to create a piece together as a large group?
- What prompts or media could make this an even better collective art-making project?
- Some additional ways to approach this activity:
- Include or swap in quiltmaking as the art form. Similarly, quilt blocks could be made from a range of materials. This also opens up another world of art history that could be introduced.
- Introduce ideas related to reuse and repurposed materials. Both tiles and quilts are great projects for using scraps and small pieces.
- Expand on collective art-making projects, histories, and conversations.
Transition into Activity
- Students will need a surface to work on, so it may be helpful to invite them to take a moment to tidy up their work space. If they’re outside or in a gallery setting, provide students with clipboards that are large enough for them to work on with the tile size they have.
Transition out of Activity
- If cameras are available and permitted (phone camera or otherwise), students can take pictures of the mosaic to share.
- The reflection questions can be journal prompts that volunteers share back with the whole class.
- Share some examples of mosaics from around the world.
- The classroom arrangement is flexible. Students can work outside, in a gallery, or in a classroom.
- Choose your materials to suit your space.
- If students need support with fine motor skills, consider what material options will be suitable for the skills they’re working on. Below are some examples:
- Use a visual timer for design time.
Possible Roles for Classroom Professionals
- Create a tile to be included in the mosaic. These tiles could be based on the same prompt students are working on or could be used as a signature tile for the class number or name. This is especially helpful if you don’t quite have the number of tiles to complete the mosaic.
Adjustments for Remote Instruction
- Digital design: Provide digital platform options (e.g Jamboard, Photoshop) for students to create their tiles. These platforms could be as simple or advanced as you like, depending on what students are working on. Provide clear instructions for the tile size (if it’s not something fixed like Jamboard), what can be included (e.g. Can students include photographs?), and how you want them to share their tiles with you.
- Analog design: Students create their own tile at home to manipulate. Provide clear instructions for the tile size, any constraints on what media can be used, and how to document their tile to be shared.
- Digital tiles, once shared, could be assembled live in class using sites like Jamboard or Mural.