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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans

Chasing Vermeer: A DaVinci Code for Children

Project URL: http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/is24/vermeer/

How it works:
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett is a mystery adventure that revolves around a boy and girl who attend the University of Chicago's Laboratory Schools, a school for the gifted. The two sixth graders team up to solve the theft of a 17th century Johannes Vermeer painting. The teacher sets the stage for students to continue reading this novel on their own. Students listen to a read-aloud of the first chapter, observe and explore famous paintings by Vermeer, and do online research about the history of the artist and his paintings while noting the particular use of light, shadow, and interior settings. Through observation and discussion, they note the depictions of daily life situations in each painting in preparation for setting up similar scenes in the classroom. They create pencil sketches of a painting of their choice to develop the genre style of portraits indoors, with light coming in from a window on the left. Students model at the classroom window to simulate a Vermeer interior, using props and costumes, and draw their subject using charcoal and pastels to achieve the deep light focusing our attention on our subject. Using drawing skills and the study of tonal values and shading, students create a Vermeer style portrait.

Standards addressed:  
Through close observation and sustained investigation, students develop individual and global perspectives in art, utilize the principles of art, solve design problems, and explore perspective, scale, and point of view. Students read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding and for literary analysis. They solve mathematical problems relating to the geometric concept of pentominoes, and use Internet resources to gather information to produce written responses.

Materials used: 
Required materials include a computer with Internet access; relevant books, magazines, and posters; pencil and charcoal drawing paper; charcoal and ebony pencils; and chalk and pastels.

The students:
Originally intended for a 6/7th grade major art talent class, Chasing Vermeer: A DaVinci Code for Children is easily adaptable to all age groups: K-12, after-school classes, community organization and senior citizen groups, and college-level courses.

Overall value:
Through the use of technology and the Internet, students visit art collections throughout the world. They study 17th century Dutch genre painting and Vermeer the artist, and compare his works with those of his contemporaries. Their research provides valuable information on the lives and works of many artists, and is a wonderful motivational tool for students to explore their art objectives as well as a way for them to achieve their objectives of ELA/Math in the art room.

Using a book that is soon to be a major movie release is a great motivational tool. Students are given an incentive to read more and play math games while having fun learning.

About the teacher:
Lori Langsner continues to excel in the TeachNet professional development program. She is one of the founding members of the group and has published twelve curriculum units on teachersnetwork.org, many of which have been adapted for classroom use by teachers around the world. Lori's work was again recognized in November 2005 at TeachNet’s annual awards ceremony where she addressed an audience of 75 education professionals and showed examples of her students’ work.


Subject Areas: 
English Language Arts

Grade Levels: 


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