Planning a School Visit
Teacher Programs & Resources
Search Lesson Plans
For Kids
College Students and Professors
TeacherArt Exchange

Museum Home Education Search Lesson Plans All Curricula Art & Language Arts: Ideas for the Classroom Lesson Plans Postcards from the Wilderness
Postcards from the Wilderness

Grades/Level: Upper Elementary (3–5)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: Single Class Lesson
2 hours
Author: Julia Joslin, 3rd Grade Teacher, Bret Harte Elementary, Burbank Unified School District

Curriculum Home
Lesson Plans
See All Student Work

Lesson Overview

Postcard / MacDonald

Students create a postcard featuring a landscape that incorporates rubbings to create texture. Students write a letter on the back of the postcard describing the landscape.

Learning Objectives

Students should be able to:
• identify and create a foreground, middle ground, and background in a landscape.
• describe and use color (value), size, and detail to show distance in a work of art.
• write a letter describing the drawing that includes a greeting, closing, and address.


• Images of landscapes from the Getty Museum
• 9 x 12 in. sheet of white art paper
• Pencils and crayons with the paper peeled off
• Lined paper for first draft of letter
• 9 x 12 in. pieces of paper with a template for the back of a postcard photocopied onto them
• Various postcards with images of landscapes
• Different textured materials such as burlap, sandpaper, corrugated cardboard pieces, netting material, quilted fabric, brick, rock, etc.
• Dictionaries
• 10 x 13 in. pieces of construction paper

Lesson Steps

1. Display an image of the Poussin painting for 30 seconds and ask students to look carefully at it. After the 30 seconds are over, take the image down and ask students to describe what they noticed in the artwork. List student responses, even "incorrect" ones. Display the artwork again and ask, "What else do you notice this time?" "What do you think is happening in this painting?" List students' responses. Have a more in-depth discussion with the class about the artwork. Questions to ask include: What is this a picture of? What feelings or mood does the picture convey? What is the first thing your eye is drawn to when you see this picture? What is more important, the landscape or the figures? Why?

2. Show images of additional landscapes. Discuss what features they have in common, such as outdoor scenes, physical features, few or no people depicted, and few or no buildings. Elicit descriptions of the landscapes' physical features, such as hills, mountains, plains, lakes, clouds, trees, rocks, and so on.

3. Have a discussion about atmospheric perspective. Begin by asking, "How did the artists make some things look close up and others look far away?" Ask students to speak in complete sentences and to give reasons for their opinions. Point out that the objects in the front are said to be in the foreground, that objects half-way back are said to be in the middle ground, and that objects at the back of the composition are said to be in the background. Things up close are larger and have more details and brighter, warmer, more vivid colors. Things farther away are smaller and have fewer details and cooler, more muted colors. Explain that these techniques create atmospheric perspective.

4. Discuss the use of texture in various landscapes. "What would it feel like if you touched this rock/tree/pond/dirt/sand?" (smooth, rough, splintery, scratchy, silky, sharp, pointy, ragged, sandy, crunchy, etc.). Ask students to discuss how the artist made certain objects look like they have a texture. Questions to ask may include: What type of marks or brush strokes did the artist use to make the grass or trees look soft, prickly, etc.? What colors or shapes did the artist use to depict certain textures in the landscape? Where do you see examples of this?

5. Ask students to imagine that they have gone away from home on a trip. Ask them to discuss where they would go and what they would see. Steer the discussion to landscapes—and natural physical features—by having the students describe what the land would look like at their destination. Students should describe areas such as forest, coast, lake, river, mountains, desert, etc.

6. Direct students to lightly sketch the landscape they just imagined in pencil, paying attention to foreground, middle ground, and background. The teacher should circulate through the classroom, giving reminders and suggestions about using differences in the sizes of objects, in bright and muted colors, and in amount of details to show distance.

7. After students' initial sketches are complete, demonstrate how to create textures in drawings using rubbings. Put practice paper over a texture sample, such as a piece of corrugated cardboard. Rub the side of a peeled crayon on the paper. The texture will show through (like rubbing a crayon on a piece of paper with a penny underneath). Give students practice paper and peeled crayons. Allow them several minutes to try different textures. Remind them to use the sides of the crayons rather than the tips. Now ask students to apply texture to their sketches. They should use different textures for different objects in their sketches. For example, they might use sandpaper to create the texture of sand on a beach. They can outline the various objects in their pictures with the colors already used, or with black crayon. Remind students to use the entire sheet of paper.

8. Ask students to share their sketches and introduce the idea of a postcard. Ask: Have you ever received a postcard from someone? Have you ever sent a postcard? When does someone send a postcard? (When they are away from home, on vacation, etc.) What does someone usually write about on a postcard? (What they've seen or done.)

9. Using an overhead projector, the board, or chart paper, model how to write a letter for a postcard. Think aloud as you write: "Dear Mom," etc. Write a short letter describing a fantasy vacation or adventure in one of the landscapes. Use descriptive language. Demonstrate the greeting, closing, and address, using proper punctuation.

10. Give students lined paper to write a first draft for their postcards. Instruct students to pretend that they are visiting the place in their sketch. Students should write a postcard to someone back home. They should describe what they have seen and done at this location. Distribute dictionaries to help students with their spelling. Students should have a peer read and edit their first draft. Students will revise their letter based on the edits of their peer.

11. Distribute pieces of paper that have a template for the back of a postcard photocopied onto them. Students should neatly copy their letters onto the postcard paper. They should include the mailing address of the person to whom the letter is being sent. The teacher should then mount the landscapes to one side of a piece of construction paper (10 x 13-in.) and the letter to the other side, to create a larger-than-life "postcard."

Landscape / Koninck
A Panoramic Landscape, Philips Koninck, 1665

Standards Addressed

Visual Arts Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 3

Artistic Perception
1.3 Identify and describe how foreground, middle ground, and background are used to create the illusion of space.
1.5 Identify and describe elements of art in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape, texture, space, and value.

Creative Expression
2.3 Draw a landscape or seascape that shows the illusion of space.

Aesthetic Valuing
4.1 Point out differences and similarities in selected works of art and describe them, using appropriate vocabulary of art.

Language Arts Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 3

Listening and Speaking Strategies
1.3 Respond to questions with appropriate elaboration.

Writing Applications
2.3 Write personal letters.

Written and Oral Language Conventions
1.5 Punctuate city and state correctly.
1.6 Use commas in addresses.

"This lesson works best when you do the discussion and art production in one session and the letter writing in a second. I learned that it is very important to discuss foreground, middle ground, and background thoroughly and demonstrate it to them before they do it. Students will find many textures in the classroom—the rug, the textured wall, the speaker of the CD player, etc. Be prepared to tell them what is off-limits. It is also important to model the letter-writing slowly, asking them for suggestions and discussing why you should or should not include these suggestions in the letter." —Julia Joslin

Back to Top