Lesson plan

The Adinkra Cloth: An Art and Math Lesson for Black History Month

In this Black History Month lesson, students will learn about the traditional cloths and adinkra symbols from Ghana. Students will combine shapes to create symbols to decorate their own version of the adinkra cloths.
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Students will be able to create their own symbols by drawing and combining different shapes.

(5 minutes)
  • Tell students that in honor of Black History Month we are going to learn about the adinkra, which is a printed or stamped traditional cloth that is made by the Ashanti people of Ghana, a country in West Africa.
  • Explain to students that the adinkra is covered in symbols, which are images that represent something, such as an object or an idea.
  • Tell students that traditionally people decorate the cloths to tell a story and to express their thoughts.
  • Project the Adinkra Cloth image onto the board and ask students to describe what they see.
  • Optional: Read students The Talking Cloth by Rhonda Mitchell.
(5 minutes)
  • Project the Adinkra Symbols onto the board.
  • Tell students that these are the symbols the Ashanti people of Ghana stamped onto their adinkra cloths.
  • Explain that each symbol has its own meaning, such as family and independence.
  • Call on students to share their observations about the symbols. For example, what do they think each symbol means and what shapes are used to create each symbol?
  • Support students to see that the symbols are created from different lines and shapes. For example, the symbol for "fence" is made up of four diamonds and the symbol for "five tufts of hair" is comprised of five circles.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that before they make their own cloths they are going to create their own symbols.
  • Ask students if they can think of examples of symbols they have seen (i.e. the recycling symbol, the no smoking symbol, and a peace sign).
  • Write and draw students' ideas on the board.
  • Tell students that they can create their own symbols using different shapes.
  • Model for students how to create a symbol by saying aloud, "I want to create a symbol for power, so I will use a circle and lines to create a sun because I think of the sun as being powerful."
  • Distribute blank white paper to each student and give them time to work on their symbols.
  • Come together as a group to share their ideas and address any questions or concerns.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that they are now going to use their symbols to create and decorate their own cloths. Tell students they can use as many different colored markers as they would like to decorate their cloths. Also, they can use as many symbols as they would like to decorate their cloths.
  • Explain to students that they can also incorporate some of the adinkra symbols onto their cloths. (Tip: Project the Adinkra Symbols onto the board while students are working).
  • Distribute blank white paper to each student and give them time to work on their cloths.


  • For extra support, give students a copy of common symbols to use during Independent Work Time.


  • Tell students that in Ghana the adinkra cloths told a story through their symbols. To challenge students, ask them to write a story that goes along with their cloths.
(5 minutes)
  • Distribute whiteboards to each student.
  • Tell students that you are going to name some shapes, and you want them to create their own symbol using those shapes. For example, tell students, "Create a symbol using one circle and two triangles."
  • Instruct students to hold up their whiteboards after drawing so that you can check their work to see that they are drawing the correct shapes.
  • Ask students what each symbol could represent.
  • Repeat this activity with at least five different symbols.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to leave their cloths on their desks facing up.
  • Tell students to walk safely around the classroom to look at their classmates' cloths.
  • Ask students to think about what they like about their classmates' cloths and how their symbols are similar to theirs and how they are different.
  • Optional: Play music from the Ashanti people of Ghana as your students are walking around observing one another's work (see Related Books and/or Media).

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