ESL Taught through Art History
Prentoulis is a teacher of foreign language and ESL, now entering
the spring semester of her third year at a magnet school for
foreign languages. She has a wide spectrum of interests, particularly
those concerned with the humanities and the arts, and the
linguistic means to which one can explain a theme or idea,
or a physical image, using words in different languages. She
thoroughly enjoys collaborative work with other teachers and
looking for themes suitable for cross disciplinary infusion
in her foreign language lessons. Ms. Prentoulis also enjoys
developing through hands on experience her painting/drawing
skills (the latter are used often) as much as the intellectual,
involving any branch of the humanities -- history, art history,
art itsef -- in her lessons.
Location: Foreign Language Academy and Global Studies
Subject: ESL/Art History
If you have any questions
regarding this activity, please contact Eurydice at: email@example.com
From father to son: how can I describe the characteristics of one
artist's generation to the next?
As part of a
thematic unit, the theme of family traditions will be covered not
only literally from comparing father and son paintings (for example,
Breugel the Elder and the Younger), but how an older generation
influenced the next generation.
1. Knowledge, concepts: students are at an advanced stage
of ESL and will soon be taking the LAB test.
2. Skills: Higher reading skills, extensive and nuanced
vocabulary, able to restate a concept in different words and compare
and contrast with different words not used during instruction (their
own words.0 3. Dispositions: Most of the students enjoy reading
due to extensive
practice and have each had many experiences in class participation.
Using prior/background knowledge of the English language, students
will be able to 1. describe characteristics in painting style and
subject/theme 2. develop personal opinions about art 3. develop
comparative and qualifying language 4. develop skills for critical
thinking and critical debate They will learn and use the vocabulary
listed in their appreciation/criticism of the stylistic traits passed
down from one artist's generation to another's (usually his son's.)
Inheritance, Influence, Media, Color Scheme, Value, Mood,
Shading, Smudging, Didactic, Satirical, Ironic
Watercolor paper or card
or posters of several sets of paintings (at least two or
three) painted by a father and son artist respectively.
Phase or Do Now: (5 mins)
Write down your idea of what heredity means. What is it? Write a
sentence or two describing what it is to someone who doesn't know
what it means. Include an example in your answer.
learning phase: (10 minutes)
First the teacher should explain (using a dictionary style definition)
what heredity is, or have students, in rows for example, read the
definition on the vocabulary handout. Students' answer to the Do
Now may be used to bolster the definition.
The class then
studies two pictures produced by father and son artists (Breugel
the Elder/Younger, Holbein the Elder/Younger, or Fra Filippo Lippi/Fra
Filippino Lippi, for example. I like the first pair because it has
one clear distinction for students to notice: one is more religious
and the son's painting is more secular..) The teacher chooses one
set of paintings and models for the students some distinctions,
eliciting any responses from the students first and expounding/instructing,
using words from past knowledge/previously learned by students.
New vocabulary should frequently be applied here within a concise
and brief context in the explanation of each "difference"
/ influence/ "inheritance'" between the one painting and
that of the younger generation.
The teacher will now elicit comments on specific aspects of the
artworks and, if possiible, any opinion created by these perceived
aspects. These ideas, stated and written down, will later tie into
Part of the
exposure of these paintings to the students can include allowing
them to touch as well as look: with reproductions, one artist's
brushstroke can feel different from anothers; this can be felt as
well as seen.
kinds of questions are asked and the students are encouraged to
answer in an open forum:
- What can
you tell me about what the paint is like in each picture? How
has it been used? Thick? Thin? Are the lines precise, neat, or
is this or that (pointing to the painting's content) smudged?
the subject matter: What is the "mood" of the painting?
Is it sad or happy? Is it funny? Is it making fun of anything
-- is it satirizing/satirical? (Tthis is just one example of how
the teacher might introduce the vocabulary and have the students
say the word in their answer.)
- What are
the expressions of the characters? What are they doing? What can
you say about what they are doing? What is your guess about when
this was painted? Was it hundreds of years ago, or done more recently?
- What kind
of times are represented in these paintings? (this question is
a little more advanced -- time allowing.) The students would be
encouraged to say whatever came to mind, with the teacher's guidance
towards the similarities and the differences of the times in terms
of what the students perceive in both paintings' content (clothes,
background, architecture, lifestyle of the painting's subject.)
- The teacher
would finally ask what the students thought the artists tastes
and values were of his time and what he might have felt as a person
while painting the picture they now see.
More terms will
be encouraged by the teacher as the students phrase their responses
with their own immediate words and then use some of the vocabulary
they have just learned in this lesson during the teacher's modeling
of them using the two paintings.
should maintain a list of similarities and differences cited by
the students. During this exercise the teacher should encourage
and aide the use of specific, precise vocabulary. The purpose of
this motivation exercise is to practice speaking English using descriptive
words to compare two pieces of art. In so doing, students will also
gain knowledge of art as well as the cultural/ historical factors
that influenced its inception.
phase: (Classwork.Reading: 10 minutes)
the students are given paper and the art media listed above (or
any art media available). If possible, and under close supervision,
they can even use oil paints and canvas. They must be given a subject
in common to draw or paint. (It could be one thing that they see
from one of the paintings, like one of the character's faces.) The
students should observe each other as far as the effects of their
experimentation is concerned.
2. The students will be given a very brief historical excerpt on
the two painters in question, describing, in no more than three
medium length sentences, the painter's era, personality and style.
(Note: if this class is extended/in subsequent lessons, the students
can even compare and contrast the painters from completely different
epoch and their treatment of one and the same theme (for example,
a mythological or historical character or event) The excerpt might
be one sentence longer in this case.
The teacher offers individualized assistance with underlining the
key words for eacah sentence so that students know what to look
for in their paintings and can create opinions of their own.
arrangements would be discussion groups. This subsequent part of
the class would take 5 minutes and the writing exercise that follows
would take about ten minutes. Based on the hands on and the reading
exercise, students would then be instructed to practice attributing
similarities or differences in the works discovered during the motivation
exercise to one of two factors:
1. The influence passed on from father to son, both physically manifested
(brushstrokes, colors, value (light and dark, etc.) or mood, style,
choice of subject matter.
2. The environmental influences (ie the "fashion" of the
different times of the two generations in the clothes, architecture
etc that would influence the artist).
then write three or more sentences on these reflections. They must
write naturally but also include some of the new vocabulary. The
exercise is subjective in nature and is meant to stimulate analytical
thinking and vocabulary.
Summary/Open Discussion, 5 minutes.
The teacher can share with the class in an open discussion what
art historians consider to be the predominant influences of the
artists. The concept of intergenerational style can be broached
through the examples used in class of similarities and differences
of any two works of art.
There are many
ways to visually summarize the realized aim of this lesson: the
teacher can use a Venn diagram for comparison, contrast and influences
(those might be put in the middle where the circles overlap).
Master and apprentice
artist teams can also be used as examples. These are excellent for
the purpose of teaching the concept of heredity in ESL through art
must expound in greater detail the ideas and the examples that they
derived, developed and discussed in class. The homework should now
be three short paragraphs and it should include the new vocabulary
used for the two paintings in question as well as any more vocabulary
used in the follow up to the activity. At all times and especially
while giving instructions for the homework, the teacher should encourage
students to write using their natural "voices" but to
use the new vocabulary as well. Modeling can serve as a good example
for students to understand the expectations for this assignment.
ESL Standard #5-Students will demonstrate cross-cultural knowledge
helpful if the teacher has some basic skills with art and art media.