Using Art in the Classroom

Finding the Story inside the Painting


Here’s a lesson plan I developed inspired by the ITDI sessions given by Debora Tebovich and Roseli Serra on storytelling and the use of video and images in the classroom. It is based on Tracy Chevalier’s TED talk Finding the Story inside the Painting.

Step 1. 

Tell your students they are going to watch a talk given by Tracy, a woman who suffers from gallery fatigue. Split students into small groups and ask them to think what gallery fatigue could be about. Share ideas in class. Watch the first part of the video (0:01-1:21). Get feedback.

Step 2.

Ask the students how it could be remedied. Have them think of a list of things they could do to fight off gallery fatigue. Share ideas in class. Watch the second part of the video (1:21-3:02). Get feedback.

Step 3.

Ask the students whether we all share the same perceptions whenever we see a piece of art. Tell them they would participate in an experiment. Each team would get a set of paintings and try and answer the following questions:

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer


  • How would you describe the expression on the girl’s face?
  • What does she do in Vermeer’s house?
  • How does she feel about Vermeer? What are Vermeer’s feelings to the girl?

What makes you think so? Try to spot some details on the painting proving your ideas.

“Boy Building a House of Cards” by Chardin

Detail from Boy Building a House of Cards by Chardin, 1735

  • Is the boy alone in the room?
  • If the boy is not, who could be there with him?
  • Who is the boy not willing to talk to?

“Anonymous” by anonymous


  • Is this person happy?
  • Name one thing that strikes your attention.
  • What is this man preoccupied with?

Have a plenary session – share the ideas.

As students watch the third part of the video (3:02-11:52) their task is to compare their ideas with the ideas given by the presenter. Get feedback.

Step 4.

Ask the students whether their ideas were the same or different, and if they are different, then in what way. Discuss what could lie behind these differences – “we all have different stories”. Show the last part of the video (11:52 – 14:09) and listen to Tracy’s story based on this painting.

Get feedback.

Step 5. Dictogloss.

The students listen to the story again (11:52 – 14:09), take notes and then reconstruct the story in their teams.

Home assignment:

Go to and experience a wonderful journey. Write a story based on your journey or a particular painting. Present it in class.

*Transcript –

If you’re looking for other activities related to using art in the classroom, check out these fantastic ideas for exploring art online from ELT Planning


  1. Dear Lana ,

    What an amazing lesson plan! I am really touched by your sensitivity and how beautifully you approached the use of art by using a video and such a wonderful image. I feel really honoured to be mentioned in such a great post . Congratulations ! Your ideas are really creative and adorable. Can I use it with my teenage students? I’d love to, if you allow me. And I promise you I’ll let you know the results.
    Thank you for sharing a lovely post from the heart! 🙂
    Roseli 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words and inspiration, Roseli! This plan was my way to show appreciation and gratitude for the unforgettable experience I had with amazing educators during the iTDi summer session. You are making a difference in the world! I hope the sparkle of inspiration you gave us during your sessions will spread further and more kids will untap their ability to see the beauty of art and use the power of words. Thank you once again, Lana.


  2. thank you for this material. it is very interesting and helpful, I will use in with my 5th. grade students.


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