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 a family depicted in a work of art. Students practice using vocabulary related to people and families. Activities emphasize oral and written descriptions of the people portrayed in the work of art, using possessive adjectives. Students are challenged to infer what the relationships are between figures depicted and what individuals are doing, based on such clues as their pose.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• orally describe in complete sentences what is seen in a painting.
• answer questions with affirmative/negative responses.
• orally describe the relationship of figures in a painting using possessive adjectives.
• write descriptive sentences about a painting.


• Reproduction of John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and His Family by Johann Zoffany
• Information for Teaching about John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and His Family by Johann Zoffany
• Teacher Resource: "Art Vocabulary"
• Student Handout: "Who Are They?"
• Paper and pencils

Lesson Steps

1. Introduce the vocabulary words painting and portrait from the Art Vocabulary. Explain that portraits are pictures of real people. Display a reproduction of John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and His Family. Explain that it is a portrait of several people (a group portrait). (Refer to the Information for Teaching about John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and His Family by Johann Zoffany.)

2. Ask students to describe what they see in the portrait using the sentence frame, "I see ___________________." Point to the person or thing indicated, and then write the word on the board.

3. Distribute the student handout "Who Are They?" (Explain that very young boys wore dresses at the time this painting was made.) Have students look at the image on the handout as you ask yes/no questions about the figures' roles in the family, such as the following:

  • "Is John Peyto the father?" (yes)
  • "Is George the daughter?" (no)

4. Ask yes/no questions about the figures' relationships to one another. Challenge students to reply using possessive adjectives, and write examples on the board:

  • "Is Louisa the daughter of John Peyto and Lady Louisa North?" (Yes, Louisa is their daughter.)
  • "Is John Peyto the father of George?" (Yes, John Peyto is his father.)
  • "Is John Jr. the sister of Louisa?" (No, John Jr. is not her sister. John Jr. is her brother.)

5. Have students look closely at the image on the handout and write three descriptive sentences in the simple present tense using possessive adjectives. Examples: John Peyto looks at his son George. Lady Louisa holds her daughter. John Jr. plays with his toy horse.

6. Distribute paper and pencils. Ask students to make a sketch of their family members or friends doing something together at home. Tell students they can use stick figures to illustrate what the individuals are doing. Encourage students to think about adding details to their drawings that would give clues about the people's actions.

7. Have students identify the figures in their portrait and describe what these individuals do regularly. Instruct students to use simple present tense when responding. Examples: This is my son Miguel. He plays baseball. This is my brother Fernando and his wife. They eat hot dogs on Sundays.

8. Ask students to share what's similar and different between their own family portrait and Zoffany's painting. Examples: Both portraits show children. My portrait has one child. Zoffany's portrait has three children. Both portraits show the family doing something together.

Lord Willoughby de Broke/Zoffany
John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and His Family, Johann Zoffany, 1766


  • Have students look closely at the painting and write a descriptive sentence about what is happening at the moment depicted, using present progressive. Examples: John Peyto is wearing a brown coat. He is warning his son George.

  • Ask students to describe the clothing, hair, and gestures of the people in the portrait.

  • Have students describe the relationships in Zoffany's painting using an apostrophe s to form the possessive of nouns. Example: John Peyto is George's father and Lady Louisa's husband.

  • Compare the family in Zoffany's painting to the family in the photograph Ybor City, Florida by Mitch Epstein.

  • Have students use cell phone or digital cameras to take a picture of their family or friends doing something together. Invite students to bring their cell phone or digital cameras to class and share with a partner what their family or friends are doing in the picture.