Cubism Lesson Plan

Lesson plans are meant to support future facilitators with supplemental information needed to feel confident in running SHIFT programming. 

You can play the video tutorials on Cubism and the Soft-Skills video we have created to teach Shift content to participants.


Cubism Activity

Cubism is an early-20th-century art movement where instead of depicting objects from a single viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of perspectives to represent the subject in a greater, whole context. Inspired by these principles, the SHIFT Cubism module takes a similar approach by expanding the singular viewpoint we hold of certain workplace-related themes (ex. Community, Teamwork, Respect, etc.) into a multitude of facets, in an honest attempt to broaden the points of view of each participant involved.

The Cubism workshop has participants creating a piece of a puzzle that when assembled together, becomes whole. During the workshop, different soft skills are highlighted and utilized, in order to achieve the collective goal of creating a multi-sided box relating to a chosen workplace topic.

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The Cubism workshop is designed to provide participants the opportunity to learn how to recognize and understand other people’s perspectives through a collaborative artistic process. Through this group work, participants will develop and hone many of the 12 soft skills that enhance not only our professional work life, but our personal lives too. Participants will symbolically widen their perspectives and develop a new, more holistic, vision of their social environment with their peers. Together the group will practice making decisions as individuals and as a team, strengthening their situational awareness of the spaces they occupy.

Each Cubism workshop can be tailored to participants' needs, interests, and values simply by choosing a topic, subject matter, and content you wish to explore. For the purpose of this lesson plan, we will be using the topic of Community.

*Note: while the chosen topic can be anything, we have found it best practice to keep it in the context of work and employment. This helps keep discussion focused and avoids potentially triggering subjects*


learning goals

1. Participants will develop their understanding of 12 soft skills, and how they relate to their own personal experiences--identifying where in their lives they use each skill.
2. Participants will explore creative ways to communicate their understanding of a workplace related topic (eg. Community, Teamwork, Respect), through their own use of imagery and language, symbolically representing their own experiences with the subject.
3. Participants will practice how to incorporate other perspectives into their current understanding of the theme, and will learn how to re-define the word based on all the new data that has been offered.

Project Expectations

1. Through self-reflection, participants will determine their own definition of the workplace theme and reflect how it might be different from others.

2. Using the supplies and materials, participants will individually develop their own composition incorporating imagery that symbolizes their definition of the activity theme.

3. Upon completion of all participants’ pieces, participants will present their work to the group, one at a time, and deliver an explanation of the meaning behind it. Participants are encouraged to give constructive criticism and feedback to their fellow participants.

4. Once all pieces have been presented, they will be joined together to form one large collaborative piece, where participants will sacrifice their individual work for the greater collective good.

Session-by-session Flow

Class 1 Introductions, check-in, class norms, course outline & expectations, & “Soft Skills” video [c]or Powerpoint presentation, drawing symbols for each skill, check out
Class 2 Check-in, introduce assignment, work period, checkout
Class 3 Check-in, presentation of work, critique/feedback, assembling participants work into one collective work, discussion, debrief, check out & good-byes

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Daily Class Activities

Check-ins 1

For each workshop, the facilitator will conduct a “check-in” where participants are prompted with questions to share with the group how they are feeling, and something about themselves. This promotes communication and team building, as the check-ins are an opportune time to get to know one another. Oftentimes the check-ins can unfold slowly, however, these check-ins are integral to building a strong rapport with the participants. A strong rapport between facilitator and participants is invaluable to developing a trusting and safe environment, as well as a strong bond amongst the group, allowing participants to open up more readily, and subsequently enabling them to invest more into their program experience. The check-ins work as a way to help shape the participants’ communication skills--giving them further opportunity to both express themselves, as well develop their listening skills.


Check-ins 2

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Prompts for check-ins are left up to the facilitators, depending on what they are comfortable with asking. Facilitators might want to use a specific prompt to warm the participants up to a specific topic, for example, Community:
* Would you rather live alone or with a group of people?
* What is a community that you are considered to be a member of?
* What are some advantages of being part of a community in your workplace?
* What are some disadvantages of being part of a community in your workplace?
* What is something better done in a group setting than by yourself?

Using the check-in prompts as a way to warm-up the participants to the chosen topic for the activity can be a great way to get the ball rolling. The check-in questions should be posited as optional, so that participants don’t feel forced to answer them. It is recommended that facilitators answer the check-in questions first to set an example of pace and tone.

Group norms
Group norms

At the beginning of the course, facilitators will open up a discussion regarding “Group Norms” also known as “House Rules.” These rules should be suggested by participants themselves so that they understand their agency, autonomy, and self-determination. The collaborative effort of creating a space where all feel welcome is intrinsic to a healthy and thriving workshop experience.

Some examples of “House Rules” or Group Norms:
* Respect for everyone’s pronouns
* Respect everyone’s experiences and input
* Judgement-free zone

Group norms are essential to building trust amongst participants that will help them feel safe in engaging.


We rely on presentations and videos to support this course, including the Soft Skills video or powerpoint and Cubism tutorial. The soft skills video is provided to you as part of this online guidebook, and is approximately 20 minutes in length. The video tutorials are used to show participants how to approach the Cubism activity, step-by-step, and is made available within this online guidebook as well.

The soft skills presentations are conducted through video or Powerpoint. We explore 12 soft skills that relate to assertive communication and emotional IQ. These skills are the foundation of becoming a considerate worker. They help us navigate life and its many challenges, and are an excellent toolkit in developing an understanding of our own strengths, interests, needs, challenges, and triumphs. One at a time we define each skill and discuss their characteristics and the impact that using these skills can have on ourselves, our co-workers, and our lives in general. Presenting the information requires filling in the blanks and using anecdotes or personal stories alongside other clarifying additions in order to provide context to whatever is being presented. Providing personal examples of workplace scenarios in order to illustrate a soft skill in practice is integral to the participant’s understanding and relies on the facilitator’s admission that everyone, no matter their life experience, is always working on these skills. No one is a master at all the soft skills. It also helps to encourage the participants to connect with the material on a personal level.

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Presentations 2


While the soft skills presentation is happening, participants should be asked to consider what soft skills they possess and which ones they’d like to work on developing. It is recommended that in-between presenting each soft skill, you ask participants to make quick drawings that visually symbolize what each skill means to them. Have the group present the drawings either before moving on to the next skill or at the end of the presentation. This exercise is an excellent way to prompt discussion and sharing experiences. It also prepares participants to interpret concepts into imagery and symbols, which will come in handy for the main assignment.


Check out + thanks
Check out + thanks

At the end of every class, similar to how we check-in, we also debrief and check-out with participants. During check-out, we engage participants in discussion of how the session went for them, we talk about the learning process, and how participants are feeling. We also review the table of twelve soft skills (e.g. which soft skill did you use today and which will you focus on until our next session?). When debriefing it is important to preface with the idea that there is no wrong answer. Try to offer thanks and highlight achievements at this time.

The debrief doesn’t have to be 100% related to the class activities but could also be something fun or apply to whatever is coming next in their day. It is also worth asking if a participant’s mood has changed or shifted since the check-in. If the number scale was used, a facilitator may ask what number they sit at as they exit the class.

While asking participants to reflect on the class helps retain learning, it’s important to be conscious of how participants are feeling, and if they have the energy to keep reviewing.

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Assignment Breakdowns


*Please watch the Cubism tutorial video for more information*

The Cubism Workshop provides a visual format for participants to connect their individual outlooks to the collective outlook of the group. They are tasked with creating a composition that will represent their own relationship to the topic (in this example, Community). Since art is subjective, it is up to each participant to explain and elaborate how their design symbolizes the message they are trying to convey to the viewer. Participants will each share their work, and by doing so will enlighten the others to broaden their previously more narrow perception of the topic.

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Using the materials, each participant will create a composition that represents the chosen theme (eg. Community) Each participant will work on one side of a box, which means there should be 1 box for every 4 participants. Participants will use their art materials to draw, paint, collage (or a combination of mixed media) to create an image that represents the chosen theme. You may find it more effective to give your participants tighter parameters to work under, as they might find it too overwhelming to have a “blank canvas.” You can ask them to select one of the 12 soft skills that they consider intrinsic to the chosen theme, and have them visually incorporate that skill into their work. For example, many of the soft skills could be considered intrinsic with the theme of Community, including (but not limited to) Team Building. Demonstrate to your participants that you could use different imagery to represent Community and Team Building in one composition. Start by choosing and mixing a colour (with paint or markers) that best represents the theme, and then choose another colour that best represents the theme’s adjacent soft skill. Did you pick the same colour for both the theme and the soft skill? Why? Why not?

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Discuss amongst yourselves why you chose those particular colour(s) and paint/colour the entire surface of your box/matrix to create the first layer / background. Allow this first layer of paint to dry while you brainstorm imagery that encapsulates both the theme (Community) and one of its adjacent soft skills (Team Building). Depending on the personal preference of each participant, they may want to literalize the word into picture (eg. drawing a bunch of people together in a crowd to symbolize a community group), but it should also be encouraged for participants to push their own creative habits into coming up with an innovative meaning for the work produced. So long as the participant has a meaningful explanation as to why they chose the imagery and colours to represent the theme/skill, then they have completed the assignment. If you find that some participants need more guidance, suggest that they choose an animal that best represents the theme/skill. This could be used as a parameter for their work that may lead to a more cohesive final group piece. Encourage your participants to use abstract approaches to their design/drawing. One suggestion is you could mention participants thinking of the composition as more of a sketch pad, where they can include as many ideas as they please (more like a Mood Board).

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Feel free to set the pace as you see fit for your particular group. This activity is flexible in nature, and works best when customized with specific participants in mind. Some (more introverted) participants may thrive with more parameters in place. Parameters are set to guide participants to specific conditions, and therefore establish more concrete expectations. Also, decide if you want to impose a rule: either no talking to your co-participants, or; you may talk to your co-participants to see if they together may want to coordinate a cohesive collaborative piece.

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After the activity, it’s very enriching and impactful to debrief with the group about their work,both individually and collectively,to encourage them to share why they chose that particular soft skill, and why they chose the imagery they did to represent the chosen theme. Encourage them to share personal examples of how the theme looks different for them than it does for other participants. It is important here to emphasize the need for diversity and that it makes for a richer team when there is a wide breadth of life experiences.

This debrief could get personal, maybe even emotional. This is one of the main reasons why we spend the time doing in-depth check-ins and check-outs. Getting to know participants, and allowing them to get to know each other, fosters their bravery to open up and communicate assertively to the group. While not shying away from these conversations is important in building trust, if you find the discussion moving too off course, find ways to bring it back to the course content.


CUBISM steps

Broken into steps, the Cubism Workshop asks participants to:

Step 1: Ask questions you may have about any of the Soft Skills or Communication Styles
Step 2: Create emojis that represent each of the four main Communication Styles
Step 3: Present emojis and discuss how they represent the main styles of communication
Step 4: Discussion: What is Cubism and how can it be related to topics beyond art?
Step 5: Brainstorm session--what does the theme mean to you? (more brainstorming questions below)
Step 6: Using the materials, each participant will create a composition that represents the theme (eg. Community) Each participant will work on one side of a box, so there should be 1 box for every 4 participants
Step 7: Presenting each participant’s work individually
Step 8: Providing feedback and constructive criticism
Step 8: Assembling all the pieces together to form one collective piece
Step 9: De-brief: what did you observe to be different or similar between the pieces? Is the work stronger as one or as individual pieces?

CUBISM brainstorm

Brainstorming Questions:

Facilitate group brainstorming on the chosen theme (eg. Community)
• What does the theme mean to you?
• What experiences shape your concept of the theme?
• What message do you want to focus on?
• What do you want your image to say?
• What do you think the viewer will know after they look at your piece?
• What is important to you?

CUBISM de-brief

De-Brief Questions / Critique Prompts:

• Did you pick the same colour as each other to represent the chosen theme and soft skill ? Why?
•Discuss amongst yourselves why you each used the imagery that you did.
•Discuss the parameters set, and whether they think it helped them achieve a stronger or weaker piece.
•Each participant can have a turn to share what the theme means to them, and why they chose the soft skill that they did.
•Did any of you discuss with each other ahead of time? Did you plan with each other in any sense of the word? Or collaborate? If so, how? What was the outcome?
•Did you like the pieces better in cohesion or as stand alone individual pieces of art?

List of Materials:
List of Materials:

* Markers
* Pens
* Crayons
* Scissors
* Paint
* Paint brush
* Pallette
* Magazines (to cut for collage)
* Glue
* Tape
* 1 cardboard box for every 4 participants (each participant will use one side of the box as their ‘canvas’)

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Sample Lesson Plan Model

class 1

The following lesson plans are based on a 2 hours x 3 sessions workshop model. The timelines are only suggestions - pace yourself with the group’s needs and make adjustments where necessary.

It is important to be flexible with the time frame, as not all groups move at the same pace.

Cubism Class 1
15 mins
Introductions: facilitators and participants will introduce themselves by sharing their name and pronouns, anything they’d like to say, and by answering the check-in questions
Questions for check-ins/icebreakers
45 mins
Soft Skill video or presentation, pausing for discussion, sharing anecdotes/examples, and drawing a symbol to represent each skill
(continue after break)
Soft Skills video
15 mins
30 mins
15 mins
Check-out: ask participants to determine which soft skills were used during class and how
class 2
Cubism Class 2
15 mins
Check in with the group (e.g. what did you get up to since the last class?)
45 mins
Work period
* Discussion on topic (eg. Community)
* Brainstorming on topic
* Work period to create composition on the sides of boxes, that represents the topic at hand (eg. Community)
Cardboard Boxes (1 for every 4 people)
Magazines (to cut for collage)
15 mins
30 mins
Work period (continued)
Participants will create composition that represents the topic
15 mins
Check-out: Using the soft skills table, ask participants to name which skills they used today. Thank participants for their effort and creativity!
class 3
Cubism Class 3

During this class you will check in with students, introduce the Stop Motion activity and host a work period.

15 mins
Check in with the group (e.g. if you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and who would you bring with you?)
45 mins
Participant presentations of their work, as well as a critique (feedback and constructive criticism)
15 mins
10 mins
Dis-assembling the boxes to exhibit the participants work side-by-side
15 mins
De-brief discussion:
Did your perception of the theme (eg. Community) shift or widen through this exercise?
Do you think this artwork is more powerful in a group or individual?
Do you believe this exercise strengthened any of your soft skills? If so, which ones?
25 mins

Participants demonstrate their understanding of the soft skills by addressing which ones were used most during the course, as well as which one were used least.

Do they think they improved upon their skillset?
Do they think they raised their awareness of soft skills?
What are some ways in which they can practice the skills?
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