Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2)
Subjects: Visual Arts
Time Required: 1–2 class periods

Author: This lesson was adapted by J. Paul Getty Museum Education staff from a curriculum originally published on the Getty's first education website, ArtsEdNet.


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Lesson Overview

This is the first lesson in a sequential unit. Students make connections between their own feelings about caring for something and similar feelings that are expressed in works of art.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• make connections between their own feelings about caring and similar feelings expressed by artists in works of art.
• explain how artists depict the idea of caring in works of art.
• create a drawing of themselves that uses the principles of design to express their feelings of caring for something.


• Pencils, crayons, and drawing paper
• Each student should bring images of something he or she cares about to class.
• Images of works of art that show a person with an object that he or she cares about (not another person). Below are suggested images. Click thumbnails for brief historical information.

Lesson Steps

Ask students to bring a picture of something that is special to them—their pet, a special toy, doll, or a small, cherished possession—to class. You can also set guidelines about bringing the actual objects in. Bring in something of your own to share, such as an heirloom.

1. Initiate discussion by sharing your cherished item first. Talk about the emotions that you feel when you think about or look at your special object.

2. Have your students discuss their feelings for something they care about. Ask questions to help students articulate their feelings about their special object. Find common threads in the children's responses and make connections between responses by recording them on the blackboard. All feelings are valid for the discussion. Choose a few students to respond to the same questions.
• What is your special something?
• How long have you had it?
• Why is it special to you?
• Does your object remind you of someone, or an event in your life?
• Does your object make you feel happy, or sad? Why?

You may want to ask questions in a way that allows students to respond together. For example: How many of you are sharing a toy with us today? How many of you are sharing a picture with us today? How many of you have happy feelings about your object? Is it also possible to have sad feelings about a special object?

3. Ask students the following questions in order to explore their emotional connection to the object:
• How do you care for your special something?
• If I took a picture of you with your special something, how would you hold it to show me you cared for it?

4. Introduce works of art from the Getty Museum's collection and have students look closely at each by asking them to describe what they see:
• What do you notice first in the picture? Why does it stand out? (Is it larger, brighter, or more colorful?)
• Look at the people in the picture. Do they look happy or sad? What do you think they are thinking? Who do you think they are?
• Use adjectives to describe the people in the painting.
• What else is in the artwork? Describe what you see.
• Do you see someone caring for something in this picture? What is the person caring for? How did the artist show that the person cares for their object?

Where appropriate, ask students to compare the works by asking:
• How is this one different from the last one we looked at?
• How is it similar?

At this point, you can also share background information such as the title of the artwork, the artist's name, where the artist lived, and when the artwork was created. You can also talk about what a portrait is—a picture of a person, usually showing his or her face.

5. Have students make connections between the images of people caring for something and their own feelings for their special object.
• Which artwork looks most like how you feel about your special object?
• Why do you think the artwork makes you feel that way?
• How do the colors, lines, shapes, and space in the painting make you feel?

Because your students will have images of their cherished possessions with them, they will be excited to share. Take advantage of this enthusiasm but keep the discussion balanced between how they feel about their own things and what is depicted in the artworks. Your goal is to relate their personal feelings to the artists' representations of similar feelings.

6. Ask students to remember how they said they would hold their object to show that they care for it in a photograph. Next ask them to create a drawing of themselves that expresses their feelings of caring for their special object. The drawing need not be a finished artwork, but should reinforce what they have expressed about caring feelings and their observations of the artworks.

Your students' grade level will determine how much direction you give in the art creation.

Maria Frederike / Liotard
Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone at Seven, Jean-Étienne Liotard, 1755–1756


Students should be able to do the following:
• Recognize the ways that artists depict the idea of caring for something in works of art.
• Verbalize connections between their feelings and those expressed in works of art.
• Create an image that depicts the idea of caring, using examples from other artists.


Have students write a few sentences answering the following questions about their own drawings to reinforce objectives.
• Who or what is in your drawing?
• How long have you had the object, or known the person?
• How did you show in your drawing that you care about your special object or person?

Have students read Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grades K–2

K.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and text with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
K.4 Describe familiar people places, things, and events, with prompting and support, provide additional detail.
1.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.
1.4 Describe familiar people places, things, and events, with relative details expressing ideas and feelings more clearly.
2.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and text with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
2.4 Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audible in coherent sentences.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Creative Expressions
2.4 Paint pictures expressing ideas about family and neighborhood.

Aesthetic Valuing
4.2 Describe what is seen (including both literal and expressive content) in selected works of art.

Grade 1
Creative Expression
2.8 Create artwork based on observations of actual objects and everyday scenes.

Historical and cultural context
3.2 Identify and describe various subject matter in art (e.g., landscapes, seascapes, portraits, still life).

Aesthetic Valuing
4.2 Identify and describe various reasons for making art.

Grade 2
Creative Expression
2.1 Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of basic tools and art-making processes, such as printing, crayon rubbings, collage, and stencils.
2.2 Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of art media, such as oil pastels, watercolors, and tempera.

Aesthetic Valuing
4.2 Compare different responses to the same work of art.

National Standards for Visual Arts Education

Grades K–4

Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.
Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

Using knowledge of Structures and Functions
Students know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas.
Students describe how different expressive features and organizational principles cause different responses.
Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas.
Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
Students explore and understand prospective content for works of art. Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
Students understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art.
Students understand there are different responses to specific artworks.