JAPANESE NOTAN – Positive/Negative Shapes

Students can create a Japanese Notan design using black and white paper to show the difference between coniferous and deciduous trees.

Required Time

60 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 6

Subject

Mathematics
Science
Visual Arts

Vocabulary

coniferous deciduous negative shape notan positive shape shape

Materials

Construction Paper - Black and White Glue Stick Scissors Pencils

Steps

JAPANESE NOTAN – Positive/Negative Shapes - Step One

Step One

  1. Draw a tracer in the shape of a coniferous tree on the 4 cm x 9 cm (2" x 3.5") piece of paper.
  2. Draw a tracer in the shape of a deciduous tree on the 5 cm x 5 cm (2.5" x 2.5") piece of paper.
  3. Remember to check the list and sketches that the class made with your teacher.
JAPANESE NOTAN – Positive/Negative Shapes - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Cut out both tracers.
JAPANESE NOTAN – Positive/Negative Shapes - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Place the deciduous tracer on opposite sides of your black paper.
  2. Line it up so only half of the tree is on the black paper.
  3. Trace the shape so that the trees are a mirror image of each other. You should have half a deciduous tree on opposite sides of your black paper.
  4. Next, use your coniferous tracer to trace two trees on the other sides of the black paper.
  5. This time trace the whole tree. 
  6. Trace them so that the trees are a mirror image of each other.
JAPANESE NOTAN – Positive/Negative Shapes - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Carefully cut out the four trees.
JAPANESE NOTAN – Positive/Negative Shapes - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Glue the large piece of black paper to a piece of white construction paper.
  2. Place each tree beside the matching cut-out space.
  3. Check carefully to be sure that you have placed each tree beside its matching shape and that it is facing the correct direction to be a mirror image.
JAPANESE NOTAN – Positive/Negative Shapes - Step Six

Step Six

  1. When you are pleased with the way your trees are placed use your Crayola glue stick to carefully glue each shape in place.
  2. Glue your design to a piece of black construction paper to frame it.
  3. When you are finished look at your design with fresh eyes. See if you can see a different object instead of trees.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Create a Japanese Notan design representing coniferous and deciduous trees;
  2. Use black and white construction paper to create contrast;
  3. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity, and
  4. Support their ideas with evidence found in their Notan design.

Extensions

  1. Have students create textured paper using Crayola finger paint on finger painting paper that is no larger than 15 cm x 15 cm (6" x 6"). 
  2. When paper is dry have them use their finger paint design to create a Notan design.  
  3. Encourage them to make more cuts or designs than they made on their first Notan.

Prepare

  1. Download  images of coniferous and deciduous trees from the Internet, for example,
    Tree Types
    Coniferous
  2. Download the Shape poster available on this website.
    Shape
  3. Prior to this lesson introduce or review positive/negative shapes and light/dark designs.
  4. Gather and make available books such as, Notan:The Dark-Light Principle of Design, by Dora Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield; Black and White, by Tana Hoban; and Black on White, by Tana Hoban.  
  5. Cut black construction paper 16 cm x 16 cm (5.5" x 5.5") enough for each student.
  6. Cut white construction paper 27 cm x 27 cm (11" x 11") for each Notan design.
  7. Cut drawing paper for tracers, 4 cm x 9 cm (2" x 3.5") and % cm x 5 cm (2.5" x 2.5").

Introduction

  1. Share a book such as Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids, by Gail Gibbons to review the variety of trees.
  2. View images of coniferous and deciduous trees and use a T-chart to list the characteristics of the two types of tree.
  3. Sketch the basic shapes of the two types of tree to model sketching for your students.
  4. Share a book such as Black and White, by Tana Hoban to discuss the designs. Use the terms positive and negative shape, light and dark.
  5. Place the edge of a small rectangular mirror along the edge of one of your sketches to show the mirror image.
  6. Introduce the challenge.

Activities

The Challenge

  1. Create a Japanese Notan design representing coniferous and deciduous trees.
  2. Use black and white construction paper to create contrast.
  3. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  4. Support your ideas with evidence found in your Notan design.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge. 
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    careful cutting
    - careful gluing
    - correct details of coniferous trees
    - correct details of deciduous trees
    - contrasting positive and negative shapes
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work.
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.

Sharing

  1. Once all the Notan designs are complete display them together for a group discussion. 
  2. Ask students to:
    - Look closely at the different Notan designs.
    - Choose one that you like and be ready to tell why.
    - Share your thoughts about the work. 
    - Look for different objects in the design and share what you find with the class.
  3. During the discussion encourage students to include references to positive/negative shapes and light/dark relationships.

Assessment

  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting
  2. Observe students as they discuss their Notan design – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – Notan_tracking.pdf)  
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – Notan_self-assessment.pdf)