Creating a Universal Design for Learning in Art

*This assignment was written as a group. I’ve indicated below which sections were written by my classmates. We discussed the activity before writing up the assignment to make sure we were all on the same page.

Background: (Written by me)

Matisse was already a well established artist by the time he was diagnosed with cancer in 1941. After he survived an experimental surgery, Matisse became wheelchair bound. Yet, it was during this period of his life that he developed some of his most famous works, with the help of several assistants. Matisse’s cut outs went through several stages. First, his assistants would paint large sheets of paper using watered-down douache. Then he cut these sheets of paper into a variety of shapes. Next, Matisse’s assistants would pin these shapes onto the wall by following the artist’s verbal directions. The pieces were pinned in order to allow Matisse to adjust the spacing of and/or add more cuts to any given shape. When a piece was sold, it was mounted to a page using “glue-spotting” in order to retain the same illusion of dimension as when the pieces were hung on the wall.

Special Need: Cerebral Palsy (written by Katherine D)

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a group of conditions affecting movement and muscle coordination. There are three types of CP: Spastic, Ataxic, and Athetoid. The most common type of CP is spastic, which causes the muscles to be spastic or stiff. A student with CP may have difficulty with arm and/or leg movement and speech, depending on which part of the brain or spinal cord is affected.

Our student: Tim has spastic CP and is in a motorized wheelchair due to limited movement in his legs. He has some spasticity in his arms but is able to control his wheelchair independently. He has no difficulty with his speech.

Lesson Plan: (Written by Josie)

A Collaborative Collage Inspired by Henri Matisse using Principles of Universal Design

Grade: 6

# of Students: 21

Time Needed: 1+ hours. This activity is a 2 step process (time needed for painted items to dry before cutting and arranging)

Materials Needed:

  • Examples (books or internet) of Henri Matisse’s work
  • 63+ pieces of 8.5×11 newsprint or white paper for painting
  • 21+ pieces of 11×17 (or larger) cardstock white paper (to mount cutouts)
  • Paints, paintbrushes, water
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Tacky Putty


Introduce Mentor Artist: Henri Matisse

  • Briefly share about Henri Matisse, his work, his story
  • Show some examples of his art work

Explain & Do Activity:

  • Students assigned into 7 groups of 3
  • Each group decides on:
    • 1 person to paint 3 pieces paper (time will be needed for paint to dry, so this will need to be a 2 step process)
    • 1 person to cut shapes
    • 1 person to give instructions for the arranging

The person giving instructions for the arranging can voice his or her preferences for paint colour and for the size and types of shapes to be cut. However, he/she must refrain from doing any of the painting or cutting. The other 2 group members will need to inquire and listen to the preferences of the arranger. Once the painting and cutting is complete, the arranger will give directions to the two other group members as to how to arrange the pieces. The arranger can ask for feedback and advice, but the ultimate decision is up to the arranger as to how the pieces get arranged. The other 2 students will use tacky putty to place the pieces on the cardstock so that they can be moved around until the arranger is satisfied with the design. Once satisfied with the design, the pieces can be glued down.

How is this activity incorporating Universal Design?

This activity meets needs for various sensory preferences (kinesthetic, visual, auditory, tactual). It accommodates for students with a variety of different special needs due to its collaborative nature. This activity could work for and could be inclusive of students with visual or hearing impairments, students who are nonverbal, and students who have limited fine & gross motor skills.


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