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Lesson Plan

Locating Purpose in Allusion through Art and Poetry

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Locating Purpose in Allusion through Art and Poetry

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Amy Williams

New Berlin, New York


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students examine juxtapositions of a series of paintings by Kehinde Wiley and various Old Masters to which Wiley's paintings allude. Students will observe that Wiley transforms these older works by replacing white, powerful figures with African men and hip-hop artists, and will consider the implications of these changes. Students will then apply their knowledge of allusions to a comparison of Pieter Bruegel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus," W.H. Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts" and the myth of Icarus. Students will observe differences in tone and will explain each work's take on human suffering.

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Interactive Venn Diagram: Facilitate the comparison of two or more artistic works using this Venn diagram.

Portrait Gallery Graphic Organizer: Students use this organizer to record their observations about artwork on the London Portrait Gallery and Kehinde Wiley websites.

Inquiry Chart: On this chart, students create their own questions about various texts to share.

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Chris Gilbert discusses the importance of promoting visual literacy, or "the ability to comprehend the image as a constructed medium inscribed with multiple narratives that inform identity," in the English classroom (89). He goes on to argue that "because of the prevalence of images in contemporary society, it is imperative that ELA instructors teach visual literacy to students so they become better able to reveal and rewrite the narratives of race and class that are inscribed in the innumerable images they unquestionably consume" (89). This lesson helps students develop the ability to analyze and evaluate critically messages sent through art works; during this lesson, students are asked to consider how art may be raced and classed. Teachers have the opportunity to engage with students in important conversations about literary and artistic canons, and about tone conveyed in pieces of art work.

Gilbert, Chris. Changing the Lens: The Necessity of Visual literacy in the ELA Classroom. English Journal, 102.4 (2013): 89-94.

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