Art Lesson Plan: Tar Beach - Faith Ringgold

Tar Beach & Faith Ringgold

Lesson Plan Submitted by: Stephanie M. Ignazio
Underwood School, Newton, MA

Grade Level: 3rd Grade



1. Read and discuss Tar Beach.

2. Discuss with the children Faith Ringgold's artistic background, including her use of fabric as medium.  Explain how the images you see are actually scenes from her childhood.  Family was/is very important to her.  This is where she draws her INSPIRATION.

3. Ask children what building they would like to own if they could fly over it.  Brainstorm a list together of the answers and add new alternatives.

4.  Explain that we are going to create a piece of art both on our own and as a group.

5.  Everyone will be creating their own building and a picture of themselves flying.  Everyone in the small group will create one side of the fabric border around the edging of the image, using pattern.

6.  One or two in the group will draw and glitter the bridge for the group's background.  Buildings will be placed over the bridge; flying bodies will be glued in the air.

1 7.  Before splitting into groups of 3-4, have them close their eyes and imagine flying.  How does it feel?

8.  Everyone can stand up and fly around the room and back to their seats, to get the artistic juices flowing.


Objectives and Concepts:

  • To introduce the artist Faith Ringgold and her story Tar Beach..

  • To discuss the closeness of family and wishes for the future.

  • To focus on a work of art created out of paint and Fabric. rather than paint and paper.

  • To explore pattern by overlapping color and design.

  • To foster cooperation within the class dynamic by creating both individual and small group work.



Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Oak Tag board. cut 24 x 36" (46 x 61 cm)

Blue Construction Paper.
18" x 24" (46 x 61 cm)

Glue Sticks.

Crayola Overwriters Markers (Discontinued - Crayola says on their website that the replacement for these is Crayola Color Switchers)

Regular AquaMarkers.

Elmer's Glue.


Scrap paper















See the quilt version of this lesson here.



  • Students will understand that artist Faith Ringgold was inspired by her family heritage to create her artwork.

  • Students will understand that artwork does not have to be created on paper to be considered "art."

  • Students will create their own individual piece of art that exhibits their sense of inspiration.

  • Students will successfully work both independently and cooperatively on a large mural.

Suggestions from Susan in Oregon:

We did a unit on Quilts. My 4th and 5th graders are each making a quilt block inspired by Tar Beach:
1. They draw a picture that tells a story on white paper.
2. They trace the picture (or parts of it) on 6" squares of white muslin (99c a yd @ Fabricland;
    1 yd=36 squares) with colored pencil.
3. They paint the pictures with acrylics.
4. They choose a border from fabric scraps.
5. They learn a basic backstitch.
6. They sew the border on the square.
7. They write a story about their block.
8. Each student presents the project to the class.


Note from Catherine in Hong Kong:

I introduced Faith Ringgold to my grade 6 students and they loved her. Before and after the video we had a discussion about identity. We talked about Faith being a mixture of her African heritage and her European/American experience. This is a wonderful topic for all students but of particular relevance to international students as many have lived and traveled in various parts of the world. They are called third culture kids because they often don't feel like they belong in either the culture of their heritage or the culture(s) they are experiencing and growing up in.


We discussed how Faith's search for her own style of art was really a search for how she could visually say who she was. For homework they had to go home and ask their parents about their most vivid memories of friendship from their growing up years. We then compared them to their own memories of friendship and then the students selected a memory to illustrate, with text at the bottom of the picture. We then made our class quilts but putting patterns around the outsides of these pictures and joining them together. This was truly a worthwhile project. Thanks to this list (Getty TeacherArtExchange)... it's because of you great people that I was introduced to the work of Faith Ringgold and purchased the video and what an inspiration it was!

- Catharine in Hong Kong



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