• Motorcycle Riders

    Henry Clay Anderson, Motorcycle Riders. Gelatin silver print, 14 1/8 x 11 1/8 inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

  • At the South Head, Grand Manan

    Alfred Thompson Bricher, At the South Head, Grand Manan. Oil on canvas, 55 7/8 x 45 3/4 inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

  • Green Volkswagen

    Don Eddy, Green Volkswagen. Acrylic on canvas, 66 x 95 inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Our Own Graphic Alphabet

Visual Arts

Grade 1

1: Alphabet Books and Children Who Read Them

2 45-minute lessons


How can we use pictures, illustrations, and details to represent works that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet?
How do we gather information on a given topic?

I can make a letter of the alphabet in a large, creative style.
I can illustrate my letter with pictures of nouns that begin with that letter.

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

Day 1


“Artists over the years have illustrated letters of the alphabet and created alphabet books. We are going to illustrate our favorite letter.”

Direct Instruction

Discuss the vocabulary for this lesson. Reads The Graphic Alphabet, by Pelletier, and Eating the Alphabet, by Ehlert. Compare and contrast the illustrations in the two books.

Have students identify illustrations that could be used for an assortment of letters. How might you illustrate the letter J? Or the letter Z?

Display the artwork images. Discuss what the students see and which letters of the alphabet could be represented by these images, i.e., M is for motorcycle or B is for boat, etc.

Then, demonstrate the process: draw a large letter with chalk and then trace evenly around the letter to create an artistic font. The letter shape may be made with an animal posing as the letter, i.e., an S made by the body of a snake.

The inside of the letter will then be painted, colored, patterned, or outlined in other colors. The letter will be filled in with images of nouns that begin with that letter.

Images of additional nouns beginning with that letter may also be drawn “climbing” on the letter, creating frame around the perimeter of the paper, floating in the background, etc.

Guided Practice/Application

Give each student a different letter and have them use the demonstrated techniques for drawing and outlining a large letter. Make sure to give each student a different letter, so that in the end we can create a complete alphabet book.

Students select the media they will use to add details and colors.

Have students begin to design their letters.

Day 2

Direct Instruction

Demonstrate how to create a frame around the final letter.

Guided Practice/Application

Have students complete and frame their artworks.

Differentiation and Modifications:

Modification: Students who finish early may create a second letter.


Student artwork is ready for inclusion in class Alphabet Book. The artwork includes a large graphic letter, neatly colored or painted, as well as images that illustrate that letter.

Materials Needed

12×12″ construction paper in any non-white color, white chalk, art erasers, markers, color sticks, crayons, or tempera cakes


alphabet, illustrate, graphic art, nouns, icons

Artwork in this Lesson

  • Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
    • Henry Clay Anderson | Motorcycle Riders
    • Alfred Thompson Bricher | At the South Head, Grand Manan
    • Don Eddy | Green Volkswagen

Texts in this Lesson

  • Pelletier: The Graphic Alphabet
  • Ehlert: Eating the Alphabet