Baltimore Curriculum Project Draft Lessons

Introductory Notes

These lessons generally follow the grade-by-grade topics in the Core Knowledge Sequence, but they have been developed independent of the Core Knowledge Foundation. While the Core Knowledge Foundation encourages the development and sharing of lessons based on the Core Knowledge Sequence, it does not endorse any one set of lesson plans as the best or only way that the knowledge in the Sequence should be taught.

You may feel free to download and distribute these lessons, but please note that they are currently in DRAFT form. At this time the draft lessons on this web site do NOT have accompanying graphics, such as maps or cut-out patterns. Graphics will be added to this site later.

In participating BCP schools, these lessons are used in conjunction with the Direct Instruction skills programs in reading, language, and math. If you use or adapt these lessons, keep in mind that they are meant to address content and the application of skills. You will need to use other materials to ensure that children master skills in reading, language, and math.

Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 12 - Portraits (Review from Grade 1)


Look closely at a portrait by an American portrait painter.

Identify George Washington as subject of the portrait.

Understand the desire for historical record and exact likeness in portraits of the period.


Slide of Gilbert Stuart's George Washington

Dollar bill

A favorite snapshot of each child, or of someone in the family, brought from home

Paper and crayons for each child

Background For the Teacher

(adapted from Massey & Darst, Learning to Look)

Portrait painting as a genre is introduced in the Core Knowledge Sequence in the First Grade and reviewed at this point in the Second Grade. Since this year the Second Grade is new to the subject, we introduced the idea of American portrait painting in Lesson 10 in the context of the historical realities of the revolutionary period in this country, then setting up the new country in the period that followed. Refer to Lesson 10 for this information and review it with the children as a way of beginning this lesson.

Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) was born in Rhode island but went to London at the beginning of the American Revolution to study with the English portrait painter Benjamin West. He lived with West for five years, then went on to Dublin to escape debts he had incurred in London. In Dublin, he continued the portrait painting he had developed in London, and finally returned to the United States in 1793.

Once he had convinced George Washington to sit for a portrait, Stuart made several different portraits of the president. The first was painted in 1795; he then made thirty-nine copies of the portrait. The second time, Stuart was commissioned by Martha Washington (in 1796), and he made more than seventy copies of this portrait, which was also the basis for Washington's portrait on the dollar bill. All of these portraits had been busts of Washington, but he also did a full-length portrait, a copy of which was the painting that Dolley Madison rescued from the White House in the War of 1812, when the British burned the building.

Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, and Charles Wilson Peale were the first generation of American portrait painters to devote themselves to their art in the way Europeans had done for hundreds of years. Their very realistic style of portraiture was a great influence on the next generation of American portrait painters.


Tell the children they are going to look at a famous American painting today from the time shortly after the Revolutionary War. Review with the children the material on American portrait painters from Lesson 10, encouraging them to answer questions and contribute information to the review as much as possible. Emphasize again how different the aims of a portrait painter of that period were from our own time, since there were no cameras of any kind to record the likeness of a person. Say: Remember, only the most important people had their portrait painted in those days.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 12 - Portraits (Review from Grade 1)

Next show the slide of Stuart's George Washington without telling them the title of the painting. Ask: Who do you this portrait shows? (George Washington) What can you tell the class about George Washington? (Commander-in-Chief during Revolutionary War, first President of the United States)

Tell them the portrait was painted by an American painter named Gilbert Stuart who studied painting for many years in England. Say: Stuart painted more than one hundred paintings of George Washington. This one is in the collection of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.

Why do you think Gilbert Stuart painted so many portraits of the same person? (There were no photographs at the time. Washington was one of the most famous Americans of his day. Accept any other reasonable answer.)

Ask: Do you think Washington was a young or an old man when this portrait was painted? Why?

What kind of a person does Washington seem to be in this portrait? (very serious, unsmiling, determined, old and tired, proud)

What can you tell us about the colors in this portrait? (very dark colors in the background and for the clothing as well, except for the part of the ruffled shirt in the front)

Is there any light in this picture? (It shines on Washington's face; makes his pink cheeks very bright and noticeable.)

What is the main shape you see in this painting? (You may have to help the children see the large triangle formed by the head and body, another triangle by the wings of the hair and face, still more small triangles in the collar and the nose.)

Where else have you seen this picture? (a dollar bill) Show the children the face of a dollar bill to remind them. Ask how they think the painting was made part of the dollar bill. If no one knows, explain to them that when a portrait of a famous person or building or scene was to be printed in many, many copes as it is in a book or on this bill, the most common way to do it was to cut a metal plate with a sharp tool or with a kind of acid that eats away some of the lines on the plate. Then the engraver (the name of the artist who makes the plate) inks the parts of the plate that need to show on the copy, and presses it to paper by hand or in a press.


Give each child a piece of paper and crayons. Say: Now you are going to make a portrait of someone who is pictured in the snapshot you brought in to school. It may be a self-portrait (explain) or one of someone you know. You don't have to make it anything like the one we looked at of George Washington. It could be a portrait of someone running, sitting, or standing. You could show just the face of the person or their whole body. You could pay particular attention to what the person is wearing, their hairstyle, whether they are feeling happy or angry. You might think the person's hands are the most important thing about them and they could turn out to be the most important thing in the portrait. You might decide the person should be sitting on a horse or a lion, lying on a hammock, or any place you think of that seems to fit the person.

When the children are finished with their portraits, have them title them with the name of the subject. If there is no more time, make another time for each child to give a little talk about the subject of their portrait and why they chose that person for the portrait. Hang the portraits where everyone can see and admire them.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 13 - Still Life


Review the elements of art.

Look closely at two late nineteenth-century still life paintings.

Be able to recognize and define a still life painting.


Slide of Childe Hassam's Vase of Roses, 1890

Slide of van Gogh's A Pair of Boots, 1887

Pictures from books and magazines of traditional still life paintings

Background Information for the Teacher

According to the plan of the Core Knowledge Sequence, the children should be introduced to still life paintings in the spring of First Grade. Since this is the first year of the Core Knowledge Sequence for everybody, no previous knowledge is presumed for this lesson.

We are taking this opportunity to review the elements of art that the children have learned individually in various lessons--color, line, shape, and texture. Light and space are two other elements we have mentioned, but not so methodically as the others. Identifying the first four elements in a still life is particularly productive, because they are relatively obvious.

Childe Hassam (1859 - 1935) is known as one of America's foremost impressionist artists. His body of work is very large--nearly four thousand oils, watercolors, pastels, drawings, and prints. The still life Vase of Roses comes from the period (from the mid-1880s until about 1916) when Hassam was deeply inspired by the flowers of an amazing seaside flower garden created by the poet Celia Thaxter on Appledore Island, part of the Isle of Shoals, which sits about ten miles off the coast of New Hampshire. Thaxter had a kind of open salon for visual artists, composers, and writers and Hassam spent most of his summers staying with her and producing many, many oils and watercolors of her garden, her house, and the sea around it. He continued to paint the island for many years after her death. Recently, a copy of the edition of the book of Thaxter's poems called An Island Garden, which first appeared in 1894 with many color illustrations by Childe Hassam, has been published.

The children have already seen some of the work of the now very famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1891), whose life was as tragic as Hassam's was sunny. Van Gogh's A Pair of Boots was painted nearly the same year as Hassam's still life. It is juxtaposed against the Vase of Roses so that the children can get an idea of what a geniused artist can do with a well understood, established form like still life to transform what is a terribly ordinary subject into a very expressive painting. Don't forget about Mike Venezia's book Van Gogh (Childrens Press, 1988) which we've recommended before and whose text and illustrations are ideal for sharing with the children at this age.


First show the children some of the pictures of still life paintings you have collected. Remind them that they have looked at many different landscape paintings and at portraits. Ask: What kind of paintings do you think these are? If no one knows, ask: What do these paintings have in common? What are the subjects of these paintings? (Depending on the examples you


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 13 - Still Life

have chosen, the children may identify various kinds of fruit, flowers, some man-made things like musical instruments, pottery vases and bowls of interesting shapes and colors. Let them identify as many things as they can.) Once they have finished naming the things, help them to arrive at a definition of still life that you can write on the chalkboard and have them repeat several times. The definition should contain the following:

an artistic arrangement of nonliving objects

many objects were once living like fruits, vegetables, flowers

man-made objects like instruments, a piece of clothing

Tell the children they may want to add to the definition after they have looked carefully at another painting.

Next, show the children the slide of Vase of Flowers. Tell the children it was painted a little over one hundred years ago by an American painter named Childe Hassam. Ask: Do you think this painting is a still life? Why? (Accept any reasonable observation, and try to bring them back to the definition you have written on the chalkboard to confirm their observations.)

Then ask the children to tell you about what they notice about the way Childe Hassam used the four elements of art they have talked about--color, line, shape, and texture. They might observe, for example:

pale shades of yellow and pink of the roses

dark, warm color of table in the foreground

straight lines and right angles inscribed in wall of background

curved lines, circular shapes of the blue bowl holding the roses

the colors in the background seem to be echoes of the colors in the foreground

texture of roses looks very soft and ruffly, especially against hard, shiny table

Say: One other important element in a still life is the way the artist uses light. Can you see anything special about light or shadow in this still life? (shadows and reflections on the shiny table)

Show the children the second slide, and tell them it was painted by van Gogh. Remind them that he is a European painter (show on map) who lived and painted, mostly in France. Say: You have already seen a painting of van Gogh called Starry Night (recall with them); this oil painting van Gogh painted at the same time as Childe Hassam was painting his still life of roses. Can you guess its name? (A Pair of Shoes) Do you think this is a still life? Why or why not? Do you think these shoes belonged to a rich lady or man? Why or why not? Why do you think van Gogh chose to paint worker's shoes when he also made many other still lifes of flowers at about the same time?

Have the children go back to the definition you first made together. Once you have established that this is a still life, go on to what they see about the way the artist uses color, line, shape, and texture to make us see what he has painted in a special way. They might notice:

the beautiful blue of the cloth under the shoes

the warm browns and orange of the shoes and how they are echoed in the background

all the curved and wavy lines of the shoes

the patterns of the nails on the bottom of the shoe

the soft texture of the blue (bed covering?) vs. the hard, rough texture of the shoes

shadows and reflections of the shoes

Show the first slide again and ask which of the two they like best and why.