Zillij Patterns

Zillij Patterns lesson plan

Study the complex, geometric ornamentation of Islamic art. Discover intricate, authentic Zillij designs using math and aesthetic principles.

  • 1.

    Muslim mosques are rich with geometric ornamentation called Zillij. These patterns reflect basic Islamic beliefs as well as mathematical truths. Muslims see these patterns as being "discovered rather than created."

  • 2.

    Have students look at photographs of mosques and other Islamic art. Study the patterns of the tiles in wall and floor mosaics. The designs are endlessly repeating in elaborate complexity. Looking at the whole, you see no center but rather an even, total, and unending aesthetic.

  • 3.

    Islamic designs convey spirituality without iconography (drawings and statues). Although they are intense and brilliant in color and design, they are impersonal and anonymous. Nowhere do you see the artist’s hand, only the pure form and color.

  • 4.

    Islamic artwork is not made using random, free-choice designs, but is drawn within the constraints of symmetry and the laws of proportion. The basic component is a simple shape, repeated in patterns following bilateral or radial symmetry. Ask students if they are ready for the challenge of discovering these designs?

  • 5.

    On white paper, lay out a grid using Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils and a straight edge. On the grid, construct a repeating pattern with plain square shapes.

  • 6.

    Make patterns in the grid by alternating light and dark schemes using Crayola Twistables or Crayola Color Sticks to color in shapes.

  • 7.

    By rotating squares, more complex patterns emerge. Increase the design possibilities by introducing a diagonal element. When overlapping and interlacing shapes, you can discover endless variations on an isometric grid.

Standards

  • LA: Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
  • LA: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in grade level text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
  • LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  • LA: Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
  • MATH: Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit.
  • MATH: Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve real-world and mathematical problems.
  • SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.
  • VA: Select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.
  • VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.
  • VA: Integrate visual, spatial, and temporal concepts with content to communicate intended meaning in artworks.
  • VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

Adaptations

  • Possible teacher resource includes: Zillij: The Art of Morroccan Ceramics by John Hedgecoe & Salma Samar Damluji
  • Encourage students to study several examples of Zillij patterns to see if they can uncover patterns within patterns. Students attempt to replicate the patterns using decorative borders that parallel the main design under study.
  • Organize a field trip to tour a local mosque. Encourage students to bring a clip board and a copy of the coordinate plane to sketch interesting patterns that they see while on the trip. Upon returning to the classroom, students post learning to a class blog.
  • After drawing a repeating pattern, students adjust the degree of the angle or joining points and redraw the design. Discuss how the change affects other elements of the design.