Lesson Plan: Content and Style – Corresponding or Contradicting?
“Creative Literacies: Expanding our View,” UMMA Workshop for Educators, March 14, 2015
Lesson based on poet Scott Beal’s conversation in the UMMA galleries
Students will practice interpreting and responding to different styles of paintings, which they will use in writing various types of poems
National Core Standards
- Perceive and analyze artistic work
- Develop and refine artistic work for presentation
- Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience
One class period
- paper and pencil
- a bowl or basket filled with slips of paper with themes written on them (such as sports, love, death, beauty, villainy, music, etc.).
- images from the University of Michigan Museum of Art, such as Goya and Heda
- Discussion: All visual, literary, musical arts consist of a message (content) and an envelope (style). Sometimes the style is consistent with the message but sometimes it seems curiously at odds with it. For example, Goya’s suite of prints, “The Disasters of War,” (1810-1820), display Goya’s response to the horrific brutalities of the Peninsular War of 1808-1814, in etching and aquatint. The black and white line and velvety dark background of these prints correspond to the grim content. On the other hand, UMMA’s “Vanitas Still Life” by Willem Claesz Heda, showing upended goblets, extinguished candle, and skull, evoke the passage of time and the transience of life but the meticulous care and jewel-like finish of the execution would indicate, contrariwise, a great connection to life and luxury.
- Have students look at the Goya and Heda and discuss the content and style with them. Let them talk about how the style reflects or contradicts the subject.
- Each student should pull a slip of paper out of the theme basket. Let them jot down some ideas about the theme.
- On the board, list poetry styles such as haiku, sonnet, free verse, limerick. Ask the students to pick a style that compliments or contradicts their theme and write a poem in that style and explain why the style does or does not reflect the theme.