Blessing Calligrams
Blessing Calligrams
Projects & Crafts

Project submitted by: Rae Antonoff,


  • Scratch Board materials
    • Tag board, cut into 4” squares
    • Crayons or oil pastels 
    • Black tempera paint + dish soap, mixed (1:1 ratio)
    • Bowls 
    • Foam brushes 
    • Butcher paper, especially if students are making them 
  • Strips containing one blessing each, either from the Basic Blessing Sheets or your own
  • Sample Calligrams [PDF 2] 
  • Copies of Calligram Step-By-Step, at least 1 per 2 students to share 
  • 4” square blank scratch paper 
  • Pencils 
  • Pipe cleaners, play dough, and/or modeling clay (scraps and not-drying kinds are fine) 
  • Scratch tools (toothpicks, chopsticks, paintbrush handles, dowels sharpened in a pencil sharpener, etc.) 

Set Up
Make Scratch Boards (either have students do this in an earlier session, or do it yourself):
  1. Use the long side of the crayon/oil pastel to coat one side of the tag board entirely in a solid color, or white. The most important thing is to cover the entire board in wax or pastel. Label the other side with the color you’re using.
  2. Then take a foam brush and some black paint and coat your board with a layer of the paint. As soon as the surface is dry, give it a second coat and set it out to dry completely (a few hours or overnight).
  3. If needed, add a third coat of paint – the scratch board should be entirely black, with no color showing through.
  4. Cut out blessings so each student has the Hebrew and English for one blessing. The Basic Blessing Sheets PDF is color-coded for meaning, so students can easily correlate the English words with their Hebrew counterparts, even with little Hebrew knowledge. Post the Sample Calligrams in the front of the room, or lay out copies around the room so students can see them easily. 

  1. Choose a blessing. 
  2. Read your blessing. 
  3. Pick the most important or meaningful word in the blessing, the one that is the "key" to the rest of the blessing.
  4. Now think about a simple picture or shape that could represent the beauty and meaning of that blessing.
  5. Draw your shape outline on the scratch paper square.
  6. Make the letters of your chosen word out of clay or pipe cleaners. Lay them over your shape outline.
  7. Stretch, squish, and move the letters around to fit inside the outline.
  8. Trace around the letters on your paper, making the outlines as neat as possible.
  9. Use the drawing as a guide to make the same design on your Scratch Board! Don't scratch out the main shape outline, just the letters -- the "gaps" in the shape outline are "filled in" by the viewer's mind and they can see the shape anyway.

Note: This project can be modified to focus on the blessings for any holiday, as well as general Birchot HaNehinin/Blessings of Enjoyment (like for food, unusual sights, etc.) for year-round applicability.  

Framing / Suggested Verbal Cues

Ask students to look at the sample calligrams.
  • “This page has several calligrams on it. From looking at them, who can guess what a calligram is?” (A word or phrase written in the shape of its meaning)
  • “We’ll be making our own calligrams for a blessing, highlighting one word from your blessing and presenting it in a shape related to its meaning.”
  • If students are choosing their own blessings, ask them to do so now. If you are assigning them, pass them out. 
  • “First, look at your blessing and figure out the most important word in it. What one word is the key to the rest of the blessing?” 
  • Go around helping students pick out a word in the English, then finding the corresponding Hebrew word for it. (Though the calligrams can also be done in English.) Hand students who finish the Calligram Step-By-Step [PDF] to help them visualize the process. 
  • “Once you’ve picked the word, think about a simple picture or shape that could represent the beauty of that blessing. For instance, in the samples: One is for a blessing for peace; the word is shalom, peace, in the shape of a dove, and another shalom in the shape of a circle, a symbol for wholeness. The other is a calligram for the prayer the V’ahavta, with ahava, love, in the shape of a heart. Don’t worry about fitting the words in yet: just draw an outline of your shape. Keep it as simple a shape as you can!”
  • “Now take some pipe cleaners or some clay and make the letters of your word. Once you’ve made the letters, shape them to fit into your outline – stretch them out or squish them to fit into the shape, but try to keep them readable!”
  • “Outline the letters around the pipe cleaners or clay, then pick those up off the page. You now have a template for your calligram!” Pass out the Scratch Boards to students who have finished their template. They can pick the color that will show through based on the labels on the back.
  • “Copy your design over to the Scratch Board, scratching out just the letters – not the shape’s outline! Use whichever tools will help you get the detail you need.”

Ask students to share their blessing, the word and shape they chose, and why.