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Typical type: Middle School


A lesson about different types of fonts and typography terms


  • Students will classify fonts based on four basic categories.
  • Students will identify fonts suited to a specific purpose such as headline, secondary headline, caption and copy.
  • Students will identify the font choice used in sample layouts and advertisements.
  • Students will construct a font style guide for a layout or spread to be used in a student media such as newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, news magazine, or online news site.

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.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
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.


45 minutes (2 days)


Handout: Typography terms

Handout: Typography classifications

Handout: Best practices for typography

Handout: Font style guide worksheet

Handout: Font identification

Handout: Font sample identification and name

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

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Opening – 15 min

Watch this video about typography ( While watching, students should write down what stood out to them. What were they surprised about? After the video, have students discuss with a partner or a small group about what they wrote down. Then have a class discussion.

2. Introduction — 20 minutes

Introduce the “Typography terms,” “Typography classifications,” and “Best practices” handouts to the class or post them on a classroom website/content management system where they can access them digitally. Students will learn about font categories such as serif, sans serif, script and decorative or display type. These four basic categories classify most forms of type, although there are more modern or specific subcategories. If possible, display an example of each type as you go. It is important for students to understand the concept of extending strokes, or feet, on characters so they can distinguish between serif and sans serif. Students also will learn about the types of fonts best suited to specific types of written content in a layout.

3. Build skills — 20 minutes

Students should use the handouts to create a style guide for a layout/spread for the newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, news magazine or online news site.

They should complete the “Font style guide” handout by choosing a headline font, secondary headline font, body copy font and caption font. For each font, students will give an explanation about why they chose the fonts for each part of the style guide. Students may use typography websites on classroom computers or mobile devices to look up different font choices or may use computer software such as Adobe InDesign or Photoshop, Microsoft Word (Google Docs) or whatever is available. All students will turn in their font style guide at the end of class, or you could assign it for completion at home. Students can complete this activity with a partner or in a small group.

Day 2

1. Opening – 5 min

Review the style guide from yesterday by having a class discussion or passing out style guides to different groups and have them provide feedback on someone else’s work. Clear up any confusion about which fonts are appropriate for each element on a spread.

2. Application — 10 minutes

Distribute the “Font identification” handout. Assign students to classify each font example from the typography classification worksheet. Do this individually as a formative assessment. Students will receive extra points for classifying the font samples with their modern classifications as well as the four basic categories. You may choose to collect their worksheets or go over the answers together and allow students to correct and keep them for their own reference.

3. Skill development – 30-45 minutes

Students will find five examples of advertisements, sample layouts or websites that use different font choices for body copy, captions, secondary headlines and headlines. They can capture screenshots of examples online or provide hard copies from print publications. Students can use classroom computers or their own devices.

Using the examples they found, students should classify the fonts used for headlines, secondary headlines, body copy and captions and record the information on the “Font sample identification and name” handout.

After classifying the fonts, students will attempt to find the font name/family used for each category by using computers with Internet access, mobile devices and/or software such as Adobe InDesign or Photoshop (or whatever is available). This also works well as a small group activity. Groups of three can select among the examples they found and can work together to use five total; this also helps if computer access is limited. You could also have some samples already selected to give to different groups. This could save time or create more structure.