Playing With Circles

Lesson Plan


Students will explore the shape of a circle with bubbles, Terry Winters’s painting Rhyme, and a project of their own. They will identify the different colors in Rhyme, decorate circles with similar colors, and arrange smaller circles on a larger circle template, mimicking elements of Winters’s painting.

Intended Age Group

Early childhood (ages 3-5)

Length of Lesson

One 40 minute lesson

Standards Area

Visual Arts


Students will be able to:

  • recognize the shape of a circle in various objects;
  • identify shapes and colors in Winters’s painting;
  • count the number of circles in Winters’s painting and in their own project; and
  • arrange smaller circles inside a larger circle template.


  1. Warm-up: Blow some bubbles for the children and allow them to pop the bubbles and have some silly time. Ask students what shape the bubbles make. Help the children take turns blowing bubbles as well (they’ll love it!).
  2. Show the students Rhyme and ask what colors they see. What shapes do they see? Counting out loud with the students, find the number of small circles inside one large circle (the number of small circles differs but there should be around eight or nine per large circle).
  3. Distribute a Circles handout to each student and give them time to color the smaller circles with the same colors Winters used—pink, red, black, grey, blue, yellow, etc.
  4. If your students are comfortable with scissors, let them cut out all of the circles on the handout. Help younger students cut out their circles.
  5. Invite the students to arrange their smaller circles on the larger circle, just like Winters put smaller circles in his larger circles! How many little circles can they fit on their larger circle? Have the students count their circles out loud to a partner.


  • At least one bottle of bubbles with a bubble wand (you can get as fancy as you want here!)
  • Scissors
  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
  • About the Art section on Rhyme
  • One color copy of the painting for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
  • Circles handout


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Invent and Discover to Create
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening

21st Century Skills

  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art




Terry Winters, United States

Who Made It?

Terry Winters was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949. He has a keen interest in science and scientific breakthroughs and is knowledgeable about computer simulations, genetic mapping, and electronic microscopes. Winters’ enthusiasm for science manifests itself in his art, as he often finds inspiration for his paintings in the biological forms found in nature. He has researched the sources of ancient pigments used to create color in paints and dyes, and he has even ground pigments to make his own paints. In effect, he has stretched the creative act to include making the very materials with which his art is created. Winters spent ten years focused almost solely on developing his approach to painting, postponing any exhibiting of his artwork until he had worked out his own relationship to the creative task.

What Inspired It?

“I’m interested in how to give a picture of these things we can’t see,” says Winters. Rhyme has endless possibilities for interpretations, as Winters’ paintings draw from a variety of sources at once. His early sketches of plant parts—like pods, spores, and stamens—that he found in natural history museums and books became the starting point for the subject matter of his paintings. Images of hot air balloons, soccer balls, sponges, and soap bubbles fill his sketch books and lend qualities to the forms he creates. Yet despite the real-world origin of his imagery, Winters doesn’t aim to represent specific processes or structures through his paintings. Ideas that are rooted in biology and chemistry take on a life of their own when they reach the canvas.

Winters is also interested in the forces of the natural world that fall outside human perception. At any given moment there are several—perhaps innumerable—forces at work that extend beyond the realm of what we can perceive. We cannot hear sounds that fall outside a certain range, see light at certain wavelengths, or distinguish molecular interactions with the naked eye, yet we experience the effects of these interactions and conditions. These indefinable, imperceptible, but nonetheless existing occurrences are the kinds of things Winters tries to depict in his paintings.



You can see two distinct groupings of circular shapes in this painting. Each circular shape is made of smaller cell-like clusters which enclose even more circular forms. What might these groupings of circles mimic? Soap bubbles? Insect eyes?

Incomplete Forms
Incomplete Forms

The black circular forms in the lower left portion of the painting appear to be incomplete and seem to mimic the two more defined circular groupings. There is also another vague cluster of circles outlined in yellow paint. Just as the forms in Rhyme might evoke the building blocks of life, these incomplete shapes might suggest the building blocks of Winters’ creative process.

Traces of the Paintbrush
Traces of the Paintbrush

You can see evidence of Winters’ gestures, particularly in the upper left-hand corner of the painting. Notice how the dark brown background lightens and blurs into the lower left portion of the surface.


For Winters, titles are an essential part of the creation and experience of his paintings. Like his forms, his titles do not link his paintings to the real world in any linear or logical way. As he works on a given painting, verbal associations arise in his mind, and in turn, influence the evolution of the painting.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.