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Lesson: Get the Point


Get the Point


A lesson about the use of pixels, points and picas in design


Because of the need for precision, visual journalists rely on a unique system of measurements to fit components together. This unit introduces students to pixels, points and picas, the importance of using these measurements in design, and how to convert from inches to picas and points. Students will apply their knowledge of conversions to calculate sizes of objects, line up components in a composition and create components of specified measurements. Finally, students will draw their own shapes based on preset dimensions.


  • Students will be able to recognize pixels, points and picas as units of measurement.
  • Students will be able to convert inches to points and picas.
  • Students will be able to convert points into picas and picas into inches.
  • Students will be able to apply picas and points by drawing shapes of specified dimensions.
  • Students will be able to draw and place shapes on graphing paper or using desktop publishing software based on preset specifications and locations.

Common Core State Standards

 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W-9-10.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of a subject.
 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills — Student Outcomes

Skills P21 outcomes
Learning and Innovation Skills Critical Thinking and Problem Solving – Analyze how parts of a whole interact with each other to produce overall outcomes in complex systems
Solve Problems – Solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and innovative ways
Life and Career Skills Initiative and Self-Direction – Utilize time and manage workload efficiently
Flexibility and Adaptability – Work effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities


90 minutes


Handout: Units of Measurement Terms

Handout: Understanding Conversion Equations and Key

Handout: Conversion Exercises and Key

Handout: 2-D Shapes

Graphing paper (or computers with software such as Adobe InDesign or Photoshop)


Colored pencils


Calculators (when specified)

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 20 minutes

After showing samples of several designs (magazine spread, website, newspaper front page), connect to the idea that any type of design is based on organizing or arranging elements. Introduce key terms: gutter, column guides, grid guides, alley, pixel, points, picas. (See Handout 1.1a). Students will use Handout 1.1b to convert inches and other measurements into picas and points. Demonstrate the conversions on the board as students follow along. After going over the steps to convert, students will try to convert the four examples in the handout. To earn credit, students must show their work.

2. Build skills — 25-30 minutes

To reinforce the concept of points and picas, students will apply their knowledge by converting numerous shapes and equations in the Conversion Exercises handout.

3. Guided practice — 30-35 minutes

Using the 2-D Shapes handout, students will draw a series of objects according to specified dimensions. Students can complete drawings using blue graphing paper or with computer software. Students will submit their completed handouts for evaluation at the end of the period.

4. Closure — 5 minutes

Exit card: Students will calculate the size of the room and convert from feet to inches, then to picas. (Prior to this activity, you will need to measure the classroom.) For a 20’ x 32’ room, the dimensions would be 240” x 384” — 1,440p0 x 2304p0 in picas.

Rubric for Handouts

Shows work on Handout Understanding Conversion Equations Does not show any work.
(0 points)
Shows some but not all work.
(3 points)
Shows all work.
(5 points)
____ /5
Shows work on Handout Conversion Exercises Does not show any work.
(0 points)
Shows some but not all work.
(3 points)
Shows all work.
(5 points)
____ /5
Labeling on Handout 2-D Shapes Does not label each shape according to specifications.
(0 points)
Labels some shapes according to specifications.
(3 points)
Labels all shapes according to specifications.
(5 points)
____ /5
Conversions correct in Handout Understanding Conversion Equations 1 point off for each missed conversion
(5 total)
____ /5
Conversions correct in Handout Conversion Exercises 1 point off for each missed conversion
(10 total)
____ /10
Shapes and Dimensions in Handout 2-D Shapes Shapes are not drawn to dimensions and shapes are not labeled according to dimensions.
(0 points)
Some shapes are not drawn to dimensions and /or some shapes are not labeled according to dimensions.
(3 points)
All shapes are drawn to dimensions and are labeled correctly with  specified  dimensions.
(5 points)
____ /5
Total points ____ / 35