Grades/Level: Adult Learners
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, ESL
Time Required: Short Activity
45–60 minutes
Author: Getty Museum Education Staff

For the Classroom

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Tips for Teaching about Portraits
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Tips for Teaching about Narrative Art

Lesson Overview

Students will apply what they have learned about portraits in a formal writing exercise.

Learning Objectives

• Students write a formal letter using new vocabulary about portraits.
• Students practice public speaking skills.


• Looking at Portraits Vocabulary
• Student Activity Sheet: Formal Letter/Commission Statement

Lesson Steps

• Explain to students that they will pretend that they are hiring an artist (this can be a known artist such as the ones examined in the curriculum, or a made up artist) to create their portraits. In order to do so, they must send a formal, written commission statement to that artist. Explain to students that they will practice writing a formal letter to the artist.

• Review the elements of a formal letter with the class.

• Explain to students that they will need to include in the letter information about their preferences for their facial expression, gesture, posture, setting, attire, and props. In addition, they must include the same information about any other sitters who may be in their portrait. Ask students to prentend that the artist will never see them in person and will only have a photograph and the commission statement to use while creating the portrait. Thus, it is important to include as much detail as possible in the letter.

• Pass out Formal Letter/Commission Statement activity sheet. Review the elements of formal letter-writing again with the worksheet in hand.

• Give students enough time to work on their commission statements.

• Have students share their letters with the class.