Looking and Learning in the Art Museum (Grades 6–12) Lesson Plan

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J. Paul Getty Museum Education Department

Looking and Learning in the Art Museum (Grades 6–12) Lesson Plan

Lesson 3

Grades: Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)

Subjects: Visual Arts, English—Language Arts

Time Required: 1 class period, homework
Author: This lesson was adapted by J. Paul Getty Museum Education staff from a

curriculum originally published on the Getty’s first education website,

Lesson Overview

This is the third lesson in a sequential unit. Students review their experiences looking at an original work of art and a reproduction in Lessons 1 and 2 and address the role of the museum in society. They assess the museum’s presentation and interpretation of works of art by writing essays about the responsibilities of museum professionals to support a museum’s mission.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

- explain the roles of an art museum.

- evaluate the ability of a museum to fulfill its own mission.

- research and evaluate the role of a museum profession.

- Copies of the mission statement of the museum you visited. This can often be obtained from the museum’s Web site. View the Getty Museum’s mission statement: http://www.getty.edu/museum/about.html.

Lesson Steps


Before class, locate the mission statement for the museum your class visited. If the language is too difficult for your students, rewrite it using age-appropriate language. Make a copy for each student.

1. Review the experience of viewing an original work of art at the museum. Students should think critically about how the museum cared for and interpreted the work of art they studied. Use the following questions to prompt discussion:

- Did you enjoy the visit? Why or why not?
- Did you feel welcome at the museum?
- What about the museum’s environment (architecture, lighting, noise, presence or absence of other people, etc.) made you feel comfortable or uncomfortable?
- How easy was it to find the work of art in the galleries? Did you use signs, floor plans, staff or volunteers, etc.?
- How did the original work of art differ from the reproduction? How did the experience of looking at the original in the museum differ from the experience of looking at the reproduction in class?
- What did the museum do to help you understand the work of art? For example, did the artworks that curators placed nearby give you any new insights? Did labels, brochure(s), or other information provided by the museum help you understand more about the work? Why or why not?
- Who did you see working at the museum? (gallery educators, security guards, volunteers, shop and restaurant staff, etc.)
- What other people do you think work at the museum behind the scenes? (educators, administrators, conservators, designers, grounds staff and janitors, curators, etc.)

2. Give each student a copy of the museum’s mission statement for the homework assignment. Discuss the museum’s mission statement in class to be sure that students understand it.

For homework, have students select one of the professions mentioned during the discussion and use the Internet and/or the Occupational Outlook Handbook to research and report on the role of that profession in upholding the museum’s mission. What does the person do in a museum? What is a typical day of work like for him or her? How does the person's work help visitors enjoy the museum? How does this person’s work support the museum’s mission, as stated in its mission statement? In what ways does this person interact with the original works of art during his or her workday?

You can have students write their research findings up in a number of ways. For example, give them a creative writing assignment, an assignment to write a cover letter applying for the position they researched, or a simple expository report. Choose the writing assignment that is appropriate for your students. Here are some suggestions:

Grades 6–8:
Each student should picture them self working at that job in the future and write a one-page diary entry describing what he or she did one day at work in the museum. In this journal entry, each student should describe how each activity during the workday does the following:
- supports the museum’s mission.
- requires him or her to interact with original works of art.
- requires him or her to use knowledge of the elements of art.

Encourage students to be creative here. For example, a janitor may not use the elements of art in his or her job, but he or she does play a role in protecting the works of art.

Grades 9–12:
Each student should write a two-page paper summarizing his or her research on the profession. On the first page, the student should describe the type of education and training required for the job, and explain how that person’s job responsibilities support the museum’s mission, as stated in the museum’s mission statement. On the second page, the student should then address why he or she believes people choose that career and explain why he or she would or would not want to have that career. Both pages should address the following:
- How does the position support the museum’s mission?
- Does a person who performs this profession need to use the elements of art in their day-to-day work?
- Explain ways that a person in this profession interacts with the original works of art in the museum.
- Invite an artist to visit the classroom to speak with students about how his or her work is influenced by works of art in the museum, and about the use of the elements of art in his or her own work.
- Ask a museum staff person to visit the classroom to describe the wide range of careers available in museums.

Standards Addressed
Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grades 6–12

Key Ideas and Details

1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Craft and Structure
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Text Types and Purposes

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.


Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 7

5.0 Connections, Relationships, Applications

Career and Career-Related Skills
5.4 Identify professions in or related to the visual arts and some of the specific skills needed for those professions.
Grades 9–12 Proficient

5.0 Connections, Relationships, Applications

Career and Career-Related Skills
5.4 Demonstrate an understanding of the various skills of an artist, art critic, art historian, art collector, art gallery owner, and philosopher of art (aesthetician).

English—Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 6

2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.2 Write expository compositions (e.g., description, explanation, comparison and contrast, problem and solution):
a. State the thesis or purpose.
b. Explain the situation.
c. Follow an organizational pattern appropriate to the type of composition.

2.3 Write research reports:

b. Support the main idea or ideas with facts, details, examples, and explanations from multiple authoritative sources (e.g., speakers, periodicals, online information searches).
Grade 7

1.0. Writing Strategies
Organization and Focus
1.2 Support all statements and claims with anecdotes, descriptions, facts and statistics, and specific examples.
2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)
2.3 Write research reports:
b. Convey clear and accurate perspectives on the subject.
c. Include evidence compiled through the formal research process (e.g., use of a card catalog, Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, a computer catalog, magazines, newspapers, dictionaries).
Grade 8

1.0 Writing Strategies

Research and Technology
1.5 Achieve an effective balance between researched information and original ideas.
2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)
2.3 Write research reports:
b. Record important ideas, concepts, and direct quotations from significant information sources and paraphrase and summarize all perspectives on the topic, as appropriate.
Grades 9 & 10

2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.3 Write expository compositions, including analytical essays and research reports:
a. Marshal evidence in support of a thesis and related claims, including information on all relevant perspectives.
Grades 11 & 12

1.0 Writing Strategies

Organization and Focus
1.3 Structure ideas and arguments in a sustained, persuasive, and sophisticated way and support them with precise and relevant examples

© 2005 J. Paul Getty Trust

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