“Art is all around us”.

My today’s post is a lesson plan built around Netherlandish Proverbs (Nederlandse Spreekwoorden), a 1559 painting with literal illustrations of 200 Dutch proverbs and idioms by the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, offering an engaging way of working with art and language.

Level: B2+.

Step 1.

Tell your students that these are pieces/details of the 1559 painting by the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel. Have them study and describe what they see. (Click the following link to download the ppt. for the classroom netherlandish-proverbs). Based on the details, get them sharing ideas what this painting might depict.


Language focus: seems to/looks like; modal verbs of deduction

Show the whole painting and ask the students to find the details on the painting.

*Students can zoom in on particular scenes of the painting in the Google Art Project here.


Ask the students if they have seen this painting before. What does it depict? Which scenes do they find particularly interesting?

Language focus: in the foreground/background; in the middle/center; at the top/bottom; on the left/right; behind/in front of.

Step 2.

Play the video and ask the students to note down what the four pieces mean.


Click the following link to download the worksheet – handout.

Language focus:


Get the students to pick a piece they find interesting and find what stands behind in the Expressions Featured in the Painting here. Have the students describe the scene and their impressions (use the worksheet as a scaffold).

Step 3. 

Ask your students to think of proverbs/sayings in their language that describe human behaviour (or get them to pick a few scenes from the painting and compare the sayings in their language) and their equivalents in English (iDiom Corner may be handy). Hand out post-it notes and ask the students to draw the proverb/saying they chose and put all their post-its together – their Topsy-Turvy World is ready.

Happy teaching!

* * *

Image: Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Looking for more ideas? Check The Best Resources For Using Art As A Way To Teach & Learn English from Larry Ferlazzo.



    1. Thank you, Adi! The Art and Ideas course is just fantastic (I think I learnt about it from one of your MOOCs for teachers lists – a huge thank you for taking the time and effort, Adi! So useful!). Got a huge boost of inspiration – contemplating a few modern art lesson ideas now.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great lesson!
    You reminded me of a very similar lesson I prepared more than 5 years ago on Brueghel”s ‘Peasant Wedding’ using Google Art’s zoom function. My lesson is based more on finding & guessing leading to descriptions. I’ll see if I can get it on my blog tomorrow! Excellent stimulating work! It”s so nice to use artwork like this so one teaches art appreciation at the same time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s