Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: 2–Part Lesson
2–3 lessons
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education staff, with Los Angeles-area teachers in the Getty's Art & Language Arts program.

For the Classroom

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Lesson Overview

Students will learn about basic shapes in Monet's painting Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning. They then learn about light and shadows through reading and experimenting with three-dimensional models and flashlights. Students will also learn about time of day and the seasons.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• describe the shapes, light and shadows, and time of day and time of year (season) visible in a painting.
• construct a three-dimensional form of a wheatstack and see how it casts shadows using a light source.
• explain how the length and location of shadows are related to the time of day and location of the sun.


• image of Monet's painting Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning
SRA/Open Court Reading 2000. Level K, Book One, Unit 2: "Shadows." (SRA/McGraw-Hill, 2000). May substitute with the following shadow stories: What Makes a Shadow? (Harper Collins, 1994) and Nothing Sticks Like a Shadow (Houghton Mifflin, 1988)
Little Red Hen (Golden books, 2001)
• wheat realia—wheat stalks, wheat products (flour, bread), and pictures of wheat fields and wheat bales
• Worksheet: Wheatstack Template, printed on brown or tan heavy-weight paper
• scissors, glue or tape, white poster board, materials that can be used to represent wheat (e.g. shredded paper bags, raffia, shredded wheat cereal)
• flashlights

Lesson Steps

1. If you are not already using the Open Court Reading 2000—"Shadows" Unit, read shadow stories with your students. Students should understand that shadows are created when a light source is projected onto a solid form.

2. Show students the image of Monet's Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning. Have them look at the image closely and carefully. Ask students the following questions and list their observations.
• What do you see in this painting?
• What do you think these objects are? (Point to the wheatstacks.) What do you see that makes you say that? (Tell the students that they are wheatstacks.)
• What shapes are used to make up the wheatstacks? (Clarify the various shapes used in each object, such as a rectangle for the base of the wheatstack and triangle for the top.)
• What do you see behind these objects?
• Can you see shapes there? What shapes do you see?
• Where do you think this is? What do you see that makes you say that?
• What time of day do you think this was painted? What do you see that makes you say this? (Prompts such as Morning? Lunchtime? Afternoon? Nighttime? may be useful here.)
• What is the weather like in this painting? What do you see that makes you say this? What might you wear if you were here? What season do you think this is?
• Have you ever been to a place like this before? If so what was it like?

3. Give the students background information on the painting and the artist. Inform the class that this painting was one of a series made by Monet. He wanted to study the different types of light and color created on the wheatstacks at different times of the day and seasons.

4. Read students The Little Red Hen story. Help them connect Monet's painting to the story by explaining at what step in the wheat-to-flour process the wheatstacks could be. Next, activate background knowledge on wheat by using wheat realia. Pass a real piece of wheat around to students to follow-up on learning about how wheat is used in The Little Red Hen.

5. Ask students to think about the shadows depicted in the artwork. Consider the following questions:
• Where do we see shadows in this artwork? What do you see that makes you say that?
• What surface (point to the ground) do the shadows fall on?
• Where do you think the light is coming from in this painting? What do you see that makes you say that?
• Where is the sun? How does the sun affect the shadows? What do you see that makes you say that?
• What is blocking the light?

6. Explain to students that they will be making their own wheatstacks and shadows. Have students begin the art activity by cutting out the shapes on the Wheatstack Template (the template should be copied onto brown or tan paper).

7. Show students how to assemble a cylinder and cone using the shapes they cut out. Help them tape or glue the forms together, and attach their wheatstack to a square of white poster board. Next, hand out the materials that will be used to put "wheat" on the wheatstacks (shredded paper bags, raffia, shredded wheat cereal, etc.). Demonstrate how to glue this material onto the paper form. Wait for the stacks to dry enough to be handled.

8. Have students use flashlights to give their wheatstacks shadows. Ask them to predict where they think the shadows will be and then experiment with different placements of the flashlights. Ask students to share their predictions and findings with the class. Finally, help students connect their findings by explaining how time of day relates to the sun's location in the sky, and affects where shadows will be cast from the wheatstacks.

Wheatstacks / Monet
Claude Monet, Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning, 1891


Students will be assessed based on their in-class participation. They will also be assessed on their ability to complete the wheatstacks activity.


• When discussing Monet's Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning in relation to the seasons, consider showing students other paintings from Monet's Wheatstacks series and have students compare the paintings.

• Using reprints of the Wheatstacks series, have students sort and classify the wheatstacks according to time of year (season) and time of day.

• Use a CD of Vivaldi's Four Seasons to connect music that was created to evoke the different seasons, to the seasons seen in the Wheatstacks series.

• Have students continue their visual arts learning by talking more about color in the Wheatstacks image and then creating an oil pastel and watercolor painting of wheatstacks in the season of their choice. Build language arts skills by having students make a label for their work, which includes a title, their name, and the date.

Standards Addressed

Visual Arts Standards for California Public Schools

1.0 Artistic Perception
Develop Perceptual Skills and Visual Arts Vocabulary
1.2 Name art materials (e.g., clay, paint, and crayons) introduced in lessons.
Analyze Art Elements and Principles of Design
1.3 Identify the elements of art (line, color, shape/form, texture, value, space) in the environment and in works of art, emphasizing line, color, and shape/form.

2.0 Creative Expression
Skills, Processes, Materials, and Tools
2.2 Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of tools and processes, such as the use of scissors, glue, and paper in creating a three-dimensional construction.
Communication and Expression Through Original Works of Art
2.6 Use geometric shapes/forms (circle, triangle, square) in a work of art.
2.7 Create a three-dimensional form, such as a real or imaginary animal.

Language Arts Standards for California Public Schools

1.0 Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development
Students know about letters, words, and sounds. They apply this knowledge to read simple sentences.
Concepts About Print
1.3 Understand that printed materials provide information.

Written and Oral English Language Conventions
1.0 Written and Oral English Language Conventions
Students write and speak with a command of standard English conventions.
Sentence Structure
1.1 Recognize and use complete, coherent sentences when speaking.

Listening and Speaking
1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies
Students listen and respond to oral communication. They speak in clear and coherent sentences.
1.1 Understand and follow one-and two-step oral directions.
1.2 Share information and ideas, speaking audibly in complete, coherent sentences.