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Celebrate With Silhouettes



mother's day graphic





  • Arts & Humanities
    Art History, Visual Arts



Pre-K, K-2, 3-5, 6-8


Brief Description

Students help create keepsake silhouettes, frame them, or use them to make a special Mother's Day card.



Students will

  • learn about the history of silhouettes.
  • sit patiently while a parent volunteer or one of their peers traces the outline of their profiles.
  • carefully cut out their silhouettes.
  • write special Mother's Day greetings to their mothers or a special friend.



silhouette, art, Mother's Day, May, card, gift, frame


Materials Needed

  • a light source that can be aimed in a specific direction, such as an overhead projector
  • a chair
  • black construction paper, white construction paper
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • glue


Lesson Plan

Tell students that they are going to create a Mother's Day greeting card for their mothers or special friends. The cover of the card will feature a silhouette of the student's profile.
Option: The silhouette might be framed and given as a special present.

Background Information
The art of creating silhouettes dates back to the Stone Age, when early people would carve them onto the walls of caves. The term silhouette wasn't used until the 18th century, however. According to the Web site Silhouettes, silhouette is "derived from Etienne de Silhouette, a notorious French controller general of finance who lived from 1709 to 1767. He would amuse himself by freehand cutting shadow portraits out of black paper." The art of silhouette cutting was widely popular in the United States during much of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Silhouettes of family members adorned the walls of many homes.

Many silhouette cutters cut their silhouettes freehand -- without tracing or drawing them first. (That won't be the case in this lesson!)

The lesson can be used across the grades, but the approach might vary.

  • Primary Grades: At this level, students' fine motor skills are probably not well enough developed to do the fine cutting necessary for creating a silhouette. You might use parent volunteers to pose each student, draw the silhouette, and cut it out. Students can glue the silhouettes and write the messages inside the cards.
  • Grades 4 and Above: Students can work in pairs, each student tracing his or her partner's silhouette.


  • Hang a white sheet on the wall.
  • Set up a slide projector, an overhead projector, or another light source that can be used to aim light in a specific direction.
  • Seat the student between the light source and the sheet of white paper. (Students should be seated sideways so the light shines on their facial profile.)
  • Adjust the distance of the light until the light casts a shadow of the student's profile on the white sheet.
  • Take a digital photo of the profile.
  • Print the photo on white paper.
  • Place the white paper on top of a sheet of black paper.
  • Use scissors to cut around the profile outline; cut through both sheets of paper. (You might want to read some simple cutting suggestions offered at Silhouettes Now and How They Are Cut.)
  • Fold a sheet of white construction paper (8-1/2 inches x 11 inches, or smaller) in half to create a greeting card.
  • Students will glue the black silhouette to the white construction paper to create the outside of the greeting card. (Option: Glue the white silhouette to a black sheet of paper and frame.)
  • Inside, students will write an appropriate Mother's Day sentiment.


    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World


    Submitted By

    Gary Hopkins


    National Standards

    FINE ARTS: Visual Arts

    • GRADES K - 4
      NA-VA.K-4.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
      NA-VA.K-4.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures


    • GRADES 5 - 8
      NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
      NA-VA.5-8.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures


    • GRADES 9 - 12
      NA-VA.9-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
      NA-VA.9-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
    Return to the Mother's Day lesson plan page.

    To see Mother's Day lessons we published last year, go to Mother's Day Magic: Today's Gift, Tomorrow's Treasure.


    Originally published 04/26/2002
    Last updated 03/30/2010