Shading Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Shading is an important skill in art. It helps to transform simple sketches into realistic images. This lesson plan explains what shading is and why it is important. An activity gives students the opportunity to experiment with shading.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define 'shading' in terms of art.
  • Identify examples of shading in art.
  • List the elements required for creating shading in art.


30 to 60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).


Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.


Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.


Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.


Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.


Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification. (See grade 3 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)


  • Sample sketches of a basic shape, some shaded and some not shaded
  • A piece of fruit
  • A light source
  • Images of several well-known pieces of artwork that effectively use shading (e.g. An Old Man in Red by Rembrandt and so on)
  • Sketch paper
  • Charcoal or pencils
  • Erasers


  • Begin by displaying the sketches of the unshaded shapes for the class.
    • What are these objects?
  • Now show the class the sketches of the same objects, but with shading.
    • Do these images look different?
    • How are these images different than the first set that I showed you?
    • Do you know the name for the difference?
  • Write the definition for 'shading' on the board for the class.
  • Display the piece of fruit for the class, moving it around in front of the light source to cast shadows in various places.
    • How do the shadows cast on the fruit change with the light?
    • If you were to draw this piece of fruit, how might you use shading to mimic the shadows?
    • Besides indicating shadows, what else can shading be used for in art?
  • Display the images of the well-known works that use shading for the class.
  • Explain each of the works along with a bit about the artists who created them and the medium that was used.
    • What stands out to you about these pieces?
    • How do you think the artists created the shading in these examples?

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