ALEX Learning Activity

Producing A Starry Night Using Color, Line, and Shape

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: John Davis
System:Limestone County
School:Cedar Hill Elementary School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1744
Producing A Starry Night Using Color, Line, and Shape
Digital Tool/Resource:
Mati and Dada Meet Van Gogh
Web Address – URL:

Van Gogh’s masterpiece, The Starry Night, is a great tool for teaching the elements of art including line, shape, and color. In producing their own version of The Starry Night, students can learn about overlapping, primary and secondary colors, how line shows movement, and color value. In this activity, students will recreate The Starry Night using oil pastels.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
Arts Education
ARTS (2017)
Grade: 2
Visual Arts
6) Integrate art vocabulary while planning and creating art.

a. Elements of art: line, shape, neutral colors, value, texture.

b. Picture compositions: overlapping, background, horizontal, vertical orientation.

c. Colors in the color wheel: primary, secondary, warm and cool.

Learning Objectives:

Students will learn art vocabulary by recreating Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night. Vocabulary words include: line, shape, neutral colors, value, overlapping, background, primary colors, secondary colors, warm colors, cool colors.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

Students will begin by learning color theory. The teacher will discuss the following vocabulary words with the students:

  • Primary colors- colors that cannot be made by mixing two other colors.
  • Secondary colors- colors that are made by mixing two primary colors.
  • Warm colors- red, yellow, and orange. Colors that make us think of something warm.
  • Cool colors- blue, green, and violet. Colors that make us think of something cool.
  • Neutral colors- black, white, gray, and brown. Colors that do not show up on the color wheel.
  • Value - the lightness or darkness of a color.
  • Overlapping - to extend over or cover part of something.
  • Line - a mark made by a tool such as a pencil or brush.
  • Shape- an outlined object that identifies something.
  • Background- an area of scenery behind the main subject. 

Introduce Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night by showing the video "Mati and Dada Meet Van Gogh." The teacher will display The Starry Night on the board. We will break the painting down into three specific parts – the town, the sky, and the tree. In the town, discuss with students about line, shape, and composition. The church and the houses are drawn showing line and shape. The mountain is added showing overlapping. The sky is shown using primary and secondary colors. Violet for the top, blue receding, and red and yellow for the bottom. The moon and stars show contrast to the dark void of space. Finally, the cypress tree is added showing texture, by layering the colors and lines using the oil pastels. 

Allow students to recreate The Starry Night using drawing paper and oil pastels. Display The Starry Night throughout the process to inspire and encourage students to follow a basic guideline but also add their own unique vision to the piece. Students will learn about primary and secondary colors through mixing blue and violet on the mountains. In the stars, they will mix yellow and orange. The warm colors of the stars and moon will contrast with the cool colors in the sky. 

Students will overlap the sky with the mountains and the mountains with the church. Then the tree will overlap the sky and mountain. Students will use line to create the tree along with neutral colors. 

Assessment Strategies:

Students will compare their work of art to the original to evaluate how well they followed directions. At the conclusion, students should be able to identify various types of lines, primary and secondary colors, and points of composition. 

Students should be able to apply the appropriate vocabulary to their artwork and demonstrate:

  • Primary Colors
  • Secondary Colors
  • Neutral Colors
  • Warm Colors
  • Cool Colors
  • Value
  • Overlapping
  • Shapes
  • Background
  • Line

Advanced Preparation:

Students will need some background knowledge of primary and secondary colors. Students will need to know how to properly mix primary colors to create secondary colors.

The teacher will need to be able to display a copy of The Starry Night.

Students will need drawing paper and oil pastels. To assist the students in breaking the page down into the three segments, a line drawn on the paper where the top of the mountain goes will assist in getting students off on the right track.

Variation Tips (optional):
Notes or Recommendations (optional):
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