Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries
The Arts of India, 1556-1658
June 23 - July 1, 2008
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Unit of Study:            Calligraphy

Lesson Title:             Calligraphy and the Art of Writing: *Mughal Empire* and “Me!”

Discipline:                  Art

Grade Level:             Kindergarten

Author:                      Carol Lightfoot

County:                      Montgomery County, MD

Time Period:              Five 50-minute sessions



Learning through the arts is basic. This lesson uses the Mughal Empire to explore art through a multi-sensory arts integration approach to learning including drama, calligraphy and collage technique as an avenue to self-expression leading to a better understanding of self and the world in which we live.

Conceptual Framework /Big Idea:    

"Who am I?" ... "Me!"

“At the very end of the 15th century, there also developed … a new interest in the individual, reflected in the increasing incidence, throughout the first half of the 16th century, of artists signing their work, whereas previously only calligraphers did so. Coincident with this (and in part a result of it) was the emerging practice of producing single page paintings …the central image (or panel of calligraphy) being surrounded by decorated borders, which served to unite all the disparate images of the album.” Muraqqa’ Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, by Elaine Wright, 2008, pgs. 48 and 49.


Prior to working on this lesson, students will have written their name more than a dozen times (hopefully, dozens upon dozens of times) in school for classroom work, homework, on belongings, and to identify their space in the room (cubbies), etc.


  • Tracing paper, 10” x 14”
  • Black markers, wide tip
  • Sumi-e brushes
  • India ink
  • Scissors
  • Glue   
  • Wallpaper samples, floral/geometric patterns
  • White paper, 12” x 18”

Art and Culture
Nasser D. Khalili
Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc. 2005

Arts and Crafts of India
Ilay Cooper
Thames and Hudson, Ltd.,  London, New York, 1996

The Emperors’ Album:  Images of Mughal India (MET)
Stuart Cary Welch

The King of the World:  The Padshahnama: An Imperial Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle
Mile Cleveland Beach, Ebba Koch, Wheeler M. Thackston

Imperial Mughal Painting (paperback)
Stuart Cary Welch

Indian Art
Partha Mitter
Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 2001

“Islamic Art,  Working with Pattern”
Scholastic Art, December 2005/January 2006
Vol. 36 No. 3, Scholastic, Inc.
Islamic Art and Architecture
Robert Hillenbrand
Thames and Hudson, Ltd., London, New York, 1999

The Mughal Emperors:  And the Islamic Dynasty
Francis Robinson

Muraqqa’, Imperial Moghul Albums, Elaine Wright; Art Services International 2008

Painting for the Mughal Emperor:  The Art of the Book 1560-1660 (hardcover) Susan Stronge

Painting The Mughal Experience
Som Praka Verma, Oxford Press

Online Resource:


Fine Arts Standards:
Visual Arts

Standard 1.0: Perceiving and Responding

2. Identify and compare ways in which selected artworks represent what people see, feel, know and imagine
a. Identify the subject matter of various works of art

3. Use the elements of art and principles of design to organize personally meaningful composition
b. Use color, line and shape to make artwork

Standard 2.0:  Historical, Cultural and Social Context

1.  Determine ways in which works of art express ideas about oneself, other people, places and events
a. Observe works of art and identify ideas expressed by the artists

2.  Classify reasons why people create and use art by studying artworks and other sources of information
b. Describe and share personal artworks

Standard 3.0:  Creative Expression and Production

1.  Create images and forms from observation, memory and imagination
c. Create artworks that explore the uses of color, line, and shape to express ideas

2.  Investigate a variety of ways that artists develop ideas and organize the elements of art in responding to what they see, know and feel
a. Explore ways images communicate ideas

Standard 4.0: Aesthetics and Criticism

1.  Develop and apply criteria to evaluate personally created artworks and the artworks of others
a. Observe and respond to selected artworks

Content Standards:


Standard 1.0 General Reading Process

D. Vocabulary
Students will use a variety of strategies and opportunities to understand word meaning and to increase vocabulary.

Indicator 1.  Develop and apply vocabulary through exposure to a variety of texts


  • Acquire new vocabulary through listening to and reading a variety of texts
  • Ask questions to clarify meaning about objects and words related to topics discussed
  • Listen to and identify the meaning of new vocabulary in multiple contexts
  • Listen to and identify the meaning of content-specific vocabulary
  • Read signs, labels, and environmental print
  • Collect and manipulate favorite words

Indicator 2. Develop a conceptual understanding of new words


  • Use words to describe location, size, color, and shape
  • Identify and sort pictures of common words into basic categories, such as colors, numbers, seasons

Indicator 3. Understand, acquire, and use new vocabulary


  • Use text and illustrations to identify meaning of unknown words
  • Use newly learned vocabulary on multiple occasions to reinforce meaning
  • Use word structure to determine meaning of words
  • Use resources to determine meaning of unknown words:
    Picture dictionaries


Indicator 4. Demonstrate understanding of text (after reading)


  • Recall and discuss information from text
  • Respond to questions (who, what, and where) and verify answers using illustrations/text
  • Respond to text by drawing, speaking, dramatizing, or writing
  • Compare information in text with prior knowledge
  • Validate/determine the purpose for reading
  • Retell a story using text as support

Standard 2.0 Comprehension of Informational Text    


  • Letters are symbols
  • Symbols can express ideas

Art Form(s)

  • Calligraphy
  • Drama/Theatre
  • Collage


Fine Arts Objectives:

Students will see the historical and cultural links between art techniques and the creation of their final product/project
Students will experience new art techniques and art skills                                                                                
Students will practice proper use of art materials
Content Objectives:

Students will refine their writing skills, build vocabulary, create concepts related to new words, and use symbols to express ideas

Keywords/Vocabulary including:

Mughal Empire
Border (s)



The display of a variety of visual aids in the form of reproductions and books plates will reveal qualities found in fine calligraphy work, muraqqa’s (patchwork, not unlike collage work students will be creating) and painted manuscripts from the Mughal era.

Scope and Sequence:

Motivation/Warm-Up: Day 1
(Suggestion for Background Music: Indian Classical Maetros CD by  Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Authentic Indian Cuisine produced by Kitchens of India, Vol. 2, the Sarod, 1996.

Students will use drama/props to express themselves to respond to the inquiry, "Who Am I?"

Students communicates something about themselves with the group

Students identifies themselves by name

Lesson Sequence: Modeling/Discussion/Guided Practice/Independent Practice

The teacher models how we can communicate with others and express something special about ourselves through movement or by taking a pose. Use of props optional.

The teacher will lead a discussion about people and their identity. Can the way we walk be our own special style? Can the way we talk be our own special style of talking or making sounds?  Can the way we create lines and shapes be our special style of art?

Teacher explains how during the Mughal Empire, individual artists worked to express their own special style of painting and writing, also known as calligraphy. Painting and calligraphy were so important that the king made sure the artists had their own special art studios in which to create their art.

Students assemble on the floor for a class discussion and lesson introduction.  Teacher begins lesson introduction by telling students how we are going to talk about calligraphy and the art of writing. We are going to talk about art from India (teacher identifies India on a map) and create our own art studio right here in this classroom where we can practice writing. We call the art of writing calligraphy.

The teacher will model writing his/her name. How do we know it is his/her name? What are letters? Can it be said letters are symbols that represent who we are? Students examine and identify lines (curved, zigzag, wavy, straight, etc.) and shapes (circular, triangular, square-like, and rectangular) found in teacher’s name.

Teacher poses the question, "What is your name? Does your name have letters/symbols? What are your symbols/letters?" Teacher explains how soon students will write their name on a piece of paper with large felt-tipped markers.

Students take turns standing and identify themselves by a special movement or pose, then by their favorite shape, and then by their name.

Students are excused to the work tables to explore writing their own name, looking for and identifying lines and shapes found in their name.

Students reassemble on the rug with their name written on a piece of paper and share what they know about their name.

Teacher explains:  Almost 500 years ago, during the Mughal Empire, many artists in India worked together in art studios to create books. Books were very important then just like they are today. These artists created paintings and used calligraphy to make beautiful books called manuscripts. We will use calligraphy to make beautiful writing.

(F.Y.I. Quote found in Scholastic Art: “Calligraphy is considered an art form in itself… Most Islamic art contains some type of calligraphy. The message of Islam was spread through Arabic writing, so calligraphy may be the most important Islamic pattern of all.” Scholastic Art,  December 2005/January 2006, Islamic Art: Working with Pattern, page  3 and 4.)

Teacher displays reproductions of Great Mughal manuscripts/books including calligraphy/images.

Teacher returns to work tables to demonstrate how to use India ink on tracing paper to paint her name using lines and shapes.

Students are given time to create their own names creating calligraphy on tracing paper with India ink and paintbrushes. Students are encouraged to move around the tables to see the calligraphy of their classmates.

Students place artwork on the drying rack and line up for class dismissal.
During line-up, students are asked to identify: calligraphy (equity sticks).


Day 2

Teacher highlights major focus of Mughal work: collage, decorative elements, representation of nature, bound aspect of papers into a book (historical, preserved) (people preserve art in books)

Teacher demonstrates collage technique to cut-out names/calligraphy to paste onto a finished paper (later to be bound with other pages to create a class book, if so chosen). Students share the notion, we "preserve" ourselves in books.

Students cut and paste names/calligraphy onto finished paper.

Teacher recalls use of decorative elements which embellish manuscript papers/pages and again demonstrates use of collage technique to paste strips of decorative paper to and around the students' names on the finished paper (use of pre-cut decorative strips of paper are very helpful to young artists).

Students cut and paste decorative strips of paper around the calligraphy.

(OPTIONAL: Lesson Extension: time permitting, teacher may elect to compile all finished  into a bound "class" book.)  Additionally, an extension of this lesson plan may include illustrations (self-portraits) by each student to display with the calligraphy to further embellish the completed book or manuscript contents.)

Students clean-up and assemble around the tables to discuss the collage work completed. Students discuss the term collage and express how we created collages in our studio similar to collages made by artists during the Mughal Empire in India.

Assessment (informal questioning with students):

Did the student create a likeness of Mughal art in the form of a manuscript page utilizing calligraphy as well as collage technique?
(Questions can be posed individually through conversations with individual students or with the use of equity sticks when addressing a whole group.)

Can the student …identify decorative paper? …identify how letters are symbols? …describe the importance books play in a culture? …describe collage technique? …identify the term manuscript? …describe the use of different lines and shapes to form a written name? …identify India ink? …describe the term calligraphy?

Suggestions for Future Display of Work:
Gallery walk – to see all work on public display so as best to emphasize the inherent value of each artist’s work and the benefit of displaying the works collectively.

Score Rubric:

3, 4 represents a "P" (passing) score
Student can accurately respond to 3 or 4 elements of the lesson

1, 2 represents an "I" (in the process of acquiring) score
Student can accurately respond to 1 or 2 elements of the lesson

0  represents a "N" (not yet acquired) score
Student cannot yet address any elements of the lesson


This lesson on calligraphy is inspired by the art of the Mughal Empire and draws on diverse themes, motifs, and styles. The lesson provides a sense of a Mughal atelier (studio) experience and the recognition of the work of individual artists, properly acknowledged for their work. In a comprehensive manner, this lesson offers young students an historical as well as a cultural art experience.

Essential Questions Include:

  • Are letters made from lines and shapes?
  • Are letters symbols?
  • Is your name made up of lines and shapes?
  • Can names be written with letters?
  • Is our written name symbolic of who we are?
  • How does your name tell us more about you?
  • How can symbols (letters) tell others something about you?
  • How can we learn more about others using these symbols?
  • Does each person have a special "style"?  What evidence do we have of that?
  • Can writing be an art form?
  • Can art forms be combined to create a work of art?
  • Does art express something about who we are?

Key Concepts Include:

  • Identity and the role arts play in securing that identity
  • Identity and the arts community
  • Calligraphy is an art form.
  • The Mughal Empire is historically significant.
  • India is a country.
  • Our names are made up of letters.
  • Letters are made from lines and shapes.
  • Writing is important. Books are important.
  • Books preserve thoughts.
  • Books are essential to a culture.
  • Cultures represent people.
  • People create art.
  • People and their thoughts are essential.

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Sponsored by
the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
and the Maryland State Department of Education