Teachers Network
Translate Translate English to Chinese Translate English to French
  Translate English to German Translate English to Italian Translate English to Japan
  Translate English to Korean Russian Translate English to Spanish
Lesson Plan Search
Proud New Owners of teachnet.org... We're Very Flattered... But Please Stop Copying this Site. Thank You.
Our Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Popular Teacher Designed Activities
TeachNet NYC Dirctory of Lesson Plans

Teachers Network Leadership Institute
How-To Articles
Videos About Teaching
Effective Teachers Website
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Teacher Research
For NYC Teachers
For New Teachers

TeachNet Grant:
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
Other Grant Winners
Math and Science Learning
Impact II
Grant Resources
Grant How-To's
Free Resources for Teachers
Our Mission
   Press Releases
   Silver Reel
   2002 Educational Publishers Award


New Teachers New York:
Lesson Plans by New Teachers, For New Teachers
Tracing Family Traditions
ESL Taught through Art History

Eurydice 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.

Created by:
Eurydice Prentoulis

Location: Foreign Language Academy and Global Studies High School


ESL/Art History

If you have any questions regarding this activity, please contact Eurydice at: ep238@columbia.edu 

Aim: From father to son: how can I describe the characteristics of one artist's generation to the next?

Instructional Objectives:

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.

Content Objective:
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.

Language objectives:
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.)

Vocabulary, key words:
Inheritance, Influence, Media, Color Scheme, Value, Mood,
Shading, Smudging, Didactic, Satirical, Ironic

#2 pencils
Watercolor paper or card
Good reproductions or posters of several sets of paintings (at least two or
three) painted by a father and son artist respectively.


Preview 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.

Focused 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 an exercise.

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.

The following 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?
  • Regarding 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.

The teacher 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.


Extension phase: (Classwork.Reading: 10 minutes)
1. First 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.

The grouping 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).

Students would 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.

Final Evaluation: 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 and history.

Web Resources:


The students 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 and understanding

It is helpful if the teacher has some basic skills with art and art media.


Come across an outdated link?
Please visit The Wayback Machine to find what you are looking for.


Journey Back to the Great Before