Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2), Upper Elementary (3–5), Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12), Adult Learners
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, ESL
Time Required: Single Class Lesson
1-hour class period
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Language through Art Contents

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Art Vocabulary (PDF, 3MB)

Lesson Overview

This lesson focuses on artworks that depict things people use for a meal. Students will build vocabulary and enhance language arts skills while learning about still life in a painting. Activities emphasize prepositions of location—through discussions about objects depicted in the featured work of art.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• orally describe the relationship of objects in a still life using prepositions of location.
• write prepositions of location and directional phrases that describe the relationship of objects in a still life.


• Reproduction of Still Life: Tea Set by Jean-Étienne Liotard
• Information for Teaching about Still Life: Tea Set by Jean-Étienne Liotard
• Teacher Resource: "Art Vocabulary"
• 8½ x 11-inch paper
• Student Handout: "Objects"
• Scissors
• Student Handout: "Where Is the...?"

Lesson Steps

1. Show the image of Still Life: Tea Set and introduce the Art Vocabulary words still life, natural, and man-made. Inform students that an artist carefully thinks about where he or she is going to place each object in a still life. (See the Information for Teaching about Still Life: Tea Set by Jean-Étienne Liotard.)

2. Generate a class list of objects students notice in the painting. Point to the object referenced in the image as each student shares his or her response, and then write the word on the board. Introduce new vocabulary as appropriate.

3. Instruct students to look at where the artist placed particular objects and how he grouped objects. Inform students that this type of arrangement is called a composition.

4. Pass out one 8½ x 11-inch sheet of paper and "Objects" student handout per pair of students. Distribute pairs of scissors and have students cut out the objects on the handout. Demonstrate how objects can be placed in various configurations on the paper, and then have students try arranging the objects in different ways.

5. Inform students that prepositions of location are words that indicate the relationship of objects to one another. Pass out the "Where Is the…?" student handout. Go over the list of common prepositions of location. Provide some examples of sentences with prepositions of location, using objects from the class-generated list. Examples: The tea is in the cup. A piece of bread is on the tray.

6. Have students complete the Prepositions of Location part of the "Where Is the...?" student handout by writing two sentences using prepositions of location.

7. Next discuss directional phrases with students. Using objects in the classroom, have students complete the following sentence frames:

  • Where is/are the _______________?
  • The _______________ is/are to the right/left of the _______________.

8. Have students complete the Right or Left? part of the "Where Is the...?" handout.

9. Repeat the exercise by having students ask each other about objects in the painting.

  • Student #1: Where is/are the _______________?
  • Student #2: The _______________ is/are to the right/left of the _______________.
  • Student #2 then asks Student #3, and so on.

Tea Set/Liotard
Still Life: Tea Set, Jean-Étienne Liotard, about 1781–83


  • Pass out magazines, supermarket flyers, or other advertisements that have objects people use for a meal. Have students choose objects from these materials to cut out for the creation of their own still lifes. Distribute sheets of
    11 x 17-inch paper and glue sticks, and instruct students to experiment by placing items on the paper in various relationships with each other. When students are satisfied with their compositions, have them glue their objects onto the paper.

  • Have students present their works of art in an oral presentation to the class. Have them describe where they placed the objects on the paper, using prepositions.

  • Have students work in pairs with the cutouts from the "Objects" handout. Instruct one of the students to orally direct his or her partner by telling him or her where to place the objects on a sheet of paper, using prepositions or directional phrases.