Elementary Drawing: Body Tracing

Crime Scene Tracing Picture

MonaAdapted by: Ken Rohrer from African art lesson
College Faculty / Freelance designer
Grades K-4


NOTE: This lesson was given to students who live in constant violence in Africa. For some, art is the only outlet they have in a violent society. This lesson may not be appropriate to your situation. If you don't like it, move on to another lesson or adapt this one so it fits.


Students may get bored easily with contour line drawings. Typically art teachers will have students draw contour line drawings of their hands or still object displays. Some may be done as "blind" drawings with students not looking at the paper while drawing, while others are done while looking back and forth from object to paper. This project makes contour line drawings more motivating by using kinetic energy (by moving around on the floor while they trace) and social energy (by interacting with the student they are drawing on the floor).


Anticipatory Set / Introduction

There are several ways this lesson can be introduced. For this lesson I'm going to use the "crime scene" angle. If you work in a conservative community or school that is very sensitive to violence, then you may have to tone it down a bit.


body tracing

An example of a crime scene body tracing

The teacher sets up the lesson by asking students if they watch TV shows such as CSI where they investigate crimes. The teacher asks them what some of the things the police do to investigate a crime scene. After a variety of answers, if the body chalk tracings aren't mentioned, ask, "What do they do before they take a body away from a crime scene?" They trace a line around the body with Chalk.. "Why do they do this?" They do this to show investigators where the body was found and in what position. At this point, the teacher then says something like, "Today we are going to become crime scene investigators and trace around our partner on a large sheet of paper."


Alternate Lesson

This is an opportunity to show work by Keith Haring. Keith has work that is similar to crime scene figures.


(WARNING: Some of the images on the Keith Haring website are inappropriate for elementary student consumption!) Crime scene positions can become works of art. You can show several poster prints of his work. The poster, Keith Haring: One Yellow Kicker,. has the figure in a creative position. The figures in the Keith Haring: Against Family Violence. are in an action pose. You can also put multiple figures on a very large mural such as what you find in this Keith Haring, Retrospect, 1989.. Finally, there is this colorful poster, Untitled (1858-1990) by Keith Haring..




  • Texture

  • Pattern

  • Contour

  • Outline



body tracing

This is an example of how NOT to trace the body. There is no creativity in simply lying on the paper. Click on the image for full size.

After students have had an introduction to contour line drawings and perhaps have drawn a few contour line drawings, the lesson is introduced. Students should have also been exposed to the idea of texture and patterns in art. Students will pair up either on their own or with help from the teacher. Large roll paper or butcher paper has been pre-cut to the average height of elementary students. Tell students to have one person lay down on the paper and have the other student trace their bodies. The easy way out would be to simply lay down on the paper and trace the outline. However, we are going to be more creative and do it like a crime scene picture where the body could be in all sorts of positions. Tell the students to be as creative as possible. More advanced students can do two tracings on one paper in different positions. This allows for more creativity as evidenced by the example images below.


Students may use pencils or markers to trace but it should be the choice of the person being traced because they are the ones who will be filling in the outline. After the student is traced in one or two positions, the students will then reverse positions and the partner is then traced. Because of the large area of floor that is needed for these tracings, you may have to take students outside, in the gym, or anywhere you have a lot of floor space.


Once the tracings are complete, students then fill in the inside of the figures with patterns an textures- lines, forms, shapes, colors, found objects, etc. They must fill in the entire figure. When speedy students get done early, have them also do the background around the figure. There must be evidence of pattern and texture within the figures.


Below there are samples of body tracings as done by students in South Africa:


1 2

Click on both images for a larger view-


Upper left: This student has one figure with a baby. Both tracings also have hand and feet prints.
Upper right: One of the figures represents the violence that they have been exposed to in South Africa. The body is riddled with bullet holes and you can see the lungs.



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