Student Activities

War Numbers

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies


In "War Numbers" students learn how artists use positive and negative space to highlight parts of a drawing. Students will use this technique to create a timeline of significant events of the U.S.-Mexican War.  


  • Tell students that today they will learn about the events that caused the Battle of Palo Alto, the first battle of the U.S.-Mexican War. Tell them they will also learn how artists use positive and negative space, lines, and patterns to highlight parts of a drawing.
  • Give students the worksheet "Lines." Have students practice drawing each type of line.
  • Give students the worksheet "1846." Tell students this is the year that the Battle of Palo Alto, the first battle in the U.S.-Mexican War, was fought.
  • Show students the PDF "1846 Example." Tell them to only draw and color the area outside of the numbers. The space inside the numbers is called "positive space" and the space outside the numbers is called "negative space." Positive space is used by artists to make certain elements in a drawing stand out. Lines, patterns, and colors added to the negative space also help the positive space to stand out.
  • Tell students to repeat some of the lines to create patterns. Color in the patterns.


  • Tell students they will study a timeline to learn about significant events in the U.S.-Mexican War. Afterwards, they will draw the numbers representing an event associated with the U.S.-Mexican War. For example, if they are assigned the Battle of Palo Alto which was fought on May 8, 1846, they would draw the numbers 581846. Show students the PDF "Palo Alto Example." Point out that the day and month is on top and the year is on the bottom.
  • Hand out the worksheet "Timeline of the U.S.-Mexican War." Assign each student or group of students a date.
  • Hand out the worksheet "My U.S.-Mexican War Timeline." Tell them to draw the numbers bubble style with the day and month on top and the year on the bottom. Tell them to draw lines and patterns in the negative space and to color in the negative space.
  • When students are finished with the timeline, have them post their dates in the classroom in chronological order.



Download Line Samples

Download War Numbers Sample

Download Palo Alto Sample

Download War Numbers Blank Worksheet

Download U.S. - Mexican War Timeline

Download Blank Timeline Worksheet for Students

Last updated: August 27, 2015