Lined Pottery

Children will explore lines and use lines to decorate their own pottery.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

Children will explore line as an element of art, and then use lines to decorate their own pinch pots.


What You'll Need

  • Air-dry clay (available in craft stores) – 1 baseball-size piece per child
  • Acrylic, poster, or tempera paint – enough for each child to paint their pottery
  • Craft sticks, plastic spoons, toothpicks, or plastic clay tools – 1 per child
  • Clear acrylic sealer or decoupage medium (available in craft stores) – enough for each child to completely cover their pottery
  • Paintbrushes – 1 per child
  • Images from the Barnes Foundation:

What To Do

Note: This lesson is best taught after the lesson, Exploring Line, found on this website. The pottery will take 3–4 days to complete.

  1. Tell the children that they will explore lines in Native American pottery, and then they will make their own pinch pots and use lines to decorate them.
  2. Display the artwork, and have the children “observe” (look closely) at the decorations on each jar.
  3. Have the children share what they noticed about the lines on the jars (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  4. Ask them to think about and then share the types of lines that they could use to decorate their own pottery.
  5. Demonstrate rolling the clay into a ball, and then push your thumb into the center of the ball until your thumb is about ¼" from the bottom of the hole. Slowly widen the hole by pinching the walls outward and up. Turn the clay continuously as you pinch to keep the walls an even thickness.
  6. Distribute the balls of clay.
  7. Help the children as they form their pinch pots.
  8. Flatten the bottoms gently by pressing the clay against a flat surface.
  9. Use craft sticks, plastic spoons, toothpicks, or plastic clay tools to create lines as decorations.
  10. Set the pots in an area where they will not be disturbed, so that they can dry completely. This usually takes 2–3 days.
  11. Once the pots are dry, have the children paint their finished work. Allow paint to dry.
  12. Apply two coats of sealer, allowing the first coat to dry before applying the second.
  13. Allow pottery to dry completely, and have children describe the decorations that they made on their pottery.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me the number of lines you see on the jar.
  • Describe the direction of the lines – horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.
  • Describe the way the lines are made – straight, bent, curved, or zigzag.
  • Explain how you made your pottery.
  • Describe the decorations on your pottery.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Place craft sticks, plastic spoons, toothpicks, paper, and paint in the art area. Allow children to continue their exploration of lines using the tools, dipped in paint, to draw lines on the paper.
  • Create a display of line art using child-created artwork mounted and fastened to a wall or bulletin board.
  • Make a web of lines by having the children sit in a circle, and take turns rolling a ball of yarn to a child sitting across the circle. Have children lightly wrap the yarn around their finger before rolling the ball of yarn to another child. As the web of lines grows, discuss the decoration the lines have made. 

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe the direction of the lines in the pottery as horizontal, vertical, or diagonal?
  • Could children identify the lines as straight, bent, curved, or zigzag?
  • Could children explain how they manipulated the clay to create pottery?
  • Could children use the tools to create line decorations on their pottery?


Did You Know?

Line is one of the major elements of art. The late Dr. Albert Barnes of The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, discussed the use of lines in artwork as one of the defining functions in a composition. He felt that the rhythm of lines had the important function of defining the contour of the objects in the artwork. His view was that artwork is bound together by the elements of line, light, color, and space. 

The focus works of art for this lesson are from The Barnes Foundation. Pottery is a decorative art form that dates back to prehistoric times. Decorative details on pottery can be in the form of lines and shapes. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • line – a continuous mark made by a moving point.
  • clay – a kind of wet earth that becomes hard as it is heated.
  • pinch – to press something between two hard surfaces, such as between the finger and the thumb.
  • pottery – a container made of clay.
  • pinch pot – a clay container made by pressing the clay between the finger and thumb.
  • decoration – something used to make something else more beautiful.

Lesson Tips

  • This is a fun and messy lesson; have the children wear smocks.
  • Be sure to label each child’s pottery with his or her name.


  • The Pot That Juan Built by Nancy Andrews-Goebel
  • A Potter by Douglas Florian
  • The Line by Paula Bossio
  • Polka Dot Penguin Pottery by Lenore Look
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS