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Chasing Vermeer: A DaVinci Code for Children
By Lori Langsner, Art Teacher   
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“Chasing Vermeer” by Blue Balliett is a mystery adventure led by a boy and girl who attend the University of Chicago's Laboratory School, a school for the gifted. The two sixth graders join forces to solve the theft of a painting by 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer.  Teacher will set the stage for students to continue reading this novel on their own. Students will listen to read aloud of Chapter 1.  Students will observe and explore famous paintings by Vermeer. They will do online research about the history of this artist and his paintings, noting the particular use of his light, shadow and interior settings.

Through careful observation and discussion, students will note the subject of each of the painting to depict daily life in portraits and interiors.  They will create pencil sketches of a painting of their choice to develop the genre style of portraits indoors, with light coming in from a window on the left. Students will model at the classroom window to simulate a Vermeer interior today, using props and costumes. Students will draw their subject using charcoal and pastels to achieve the deep light focusing our attention on our subject and their daily task. Using drawing skills and study of tonal values and shading, students will create a Vermeer style portrait.


Major Goals and Aims  

To further enhance my students’ understanding and appreciation of art and literature:

Students will visit a variety of web sites about the novel “Chasing Vermeer”




Students will investigate the 17th C Delft school of painting, Vermeer and his art, using classroom books, magazines, photos and Internet research.

Students will compare and contrast the work of Vermeer to that of Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

Students will recreate Vermeer interiors, as they sketch student models in genre painting poses.

Students will explore the challenges of pentominoes, (5 squares used to join together to make plane shapes).

Students will interpret and appreciate the unique paintings style of each of these artists and solve design problems as they explore perspective, scale, and point of view.

Through the use of technology and the Internet, students are given the opportunity to visit the art collection of famous museums without leaving their bedroom! By exploring the following web sites, students are provided a wealth of knowledge on the history of Vermeer as well as reading book reviews and playing games presented from these collections.




By reading this novel, and viewing images on the web, classroom posters, books and magazines, students become familiar with a variety of Vermeer’s artworks and are able to share their knowledge with their classmates. They learn to interpret and appreciate his unique painting style, as well as compare and contrast his works.  They were now able to express themselves using his genre technique, new vocabulary, methods, and art mediums. Hopefully they will recognize the art of the 17th C helped set the stage for much of what we know today as modern art and photography. 


Target Students

This lesson has been created for seventh grade major art talent class.  However, it is easily adaptable to all age groups:

-          K-12

-          After school classes

-          Community organization groups

-          Scouting

-          Senior citizen groups

-          College level courses

The class meets for three forty-minute periods per week in the art classroom.  This unit can usually be completed in six weeks.  Library visits and computer lab visits aid in the exploration of this artist.  Students have Internet access at home, which lends itself to my assigning homework to gather additional research and background information at home.


Standards Addressed

This unit fulfills the New York State Learning Standards for the Arts, English Language Arts, Math, and Technology, as well as the New York City Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts.

 The Arts:

Standard 1. Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts.

Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation in the visual arts.

Standard 2. Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources.

Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts.

Standard 3. Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art.

Students will respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to aspects of human endeavor and thought.

Standard 4. Understanding the Cultural Contributions of the Arts.

Students will develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.

English Language Arts:

Standard 1. Language for Information and Understanding.

Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding.

Standard 2. Language for Literary Response and Expression.

Students will read, write, listen and speak for literary response and expression.

Standard 3. Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation.

Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.


In disseminating the math standards, non-math teachers also are expected to demonstrate to their students the connections between math and other areas of daily life. "Although mathematics should be emphasized, the connection to all the disciplines should be stressed," said Dr. Judith Rizzo, deputy chancellor for Instruction.

The New York City edition of the math standards is being distributed with Sł -- Students Setting Standards, a brochure created by New York City public school students that helps explain to their fellow students the need for higher standards in mathematics and why it is essential for their future success.


Standard 5. Technology. Students will apply technological knowledge and skills to design, construct, use and evaluate products and systems to satisfy human and environmental needs.

NYC Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts

Visual Arts Benchmarks Grades K-12 / Grade 8: Through close observation and sustained investigation, students develop individual and global perspectives in art, utilize the principles of art, solve design problems, and explore perspective, scale, and point of view.



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