Arcimboldo, a naturalist or a joker?

Copertina Arcimboldo

Everyone knows the benefits that picture prompts bring to the learning process of a foreign language. So, why not use a masterpiece painting as a visual aid to revise lexis? We all know how difficult it can be to remove paint stains; very often, they are persistent, and no matter how much we try to get rid of them they remain throughout time.
Every teacher would like their pupils to retain what they have learnt and remember how to do things - etched in their memories as if they were paint stains. Not an easy task, as we well know, but we can select classroom tasks that go some way to helping us reach this objective.
In order to revise lexis, select a painting and some pictures. Choose a task – this could be culture based -that students will find interesting and that will elicit the desired vocabulary.

Aims
learn how to

  • use the word set for vegetables and fruit
  • use the word set for body parts
  • use the word set for jobs
  • present personal details about someone
  • complete a biographical fact sheet

Language Level A1 + CEFR level 
Time: 2 two-hour lessons

Stages


First lesson
The teacher contextualises the lesson by writing a word on the IWB (interactive white board) and using some pictures to create the students’ interest (worksheet 1).
The teacher tells the class the aim of the teaching unit and how this will be achieved: 
by using a painting to mainly revise vocabulary, but also to write a biographical fact sheet. Students are told that after the revision stage, the painting will be used by the Art teacher to teach collage making.

The students are put into groups. The teacher, then, shows the class some pictures to elicit the vocabulary which needs to be revised. The use of visual aids in the classroom can help students, especially those students who have special educational needs.
Each group has to write the names of the vegetables and fruit in the pictures shown by the teacher (worksheet 2). Some of the vocabulary will be unknown to the students. The teacher will not pre-teach this vocabulary, but the words will be written on IWB and the students will have to match them to the correct pictures.
Once students have revised and learnt the relevant lexis, the teacher shows the students a picture of Arcimboldo (worksheet 3) and tells them that it is of a sixteenth-century Italian painter. The teacher gives no further information as it is not one of the aims of the lesson. They do add, however, that Arcimboldo (born in Milan in 1526 and died there in 1593) is a very imaginative artist who loved painting portrait heads made up of vegetables, plants, fruit, fish and books. Students are shown an example of one of Arcimboldo’s paintings, the portrait of Rudolf II (worksheet 4). This visual aid serves to arouse the interests of the students, and to introduce a new painting, The Vegetable Gardener, which will be used at this stage of the learning process (worksheet 5). 
Every painting has a name and the teacher does not tell the students what the painting is called, but encourages them to find out by writing some ideas on the IWB; one of which is the actual name of the painting. Each group must choose one name and give reasons for their choice. They also have to name all the objects used by the artist in the painting. They’ll discover that he has used vegetables and fruit. They can use the lexis from the list of words presented at the beginning of the lesson to help them. 
The answers given by the students during the plenary are written on the IWB. The teacher does not tell students if they are right or wrong.


Second lesson
The vocabulary activity continues using other visual aids (worksheet 6). The teacher does not pre-teach any lexis, but uses the pictures to elicit the job vocabulary by asking pupils the simple questions on the worksheet; to help students, the teacher provides them with a list of jobs to select their answers from. Once the pupils have matched the places to the people who work there, they take turns to come out and write, next to each picture, the name of the vegetable or fruit which is grown there.
Once corrections have been completed, the teacher looks at The Vegetable Gardener by Arcimboldo again (worksheet 5) and writes the nouns suggested by the students next to it. After, the teacher uses one of the IWB functions to turn the picture upside down, whereupon the pupils discover that the artist has painted a portrait of a man by using fruit and vegetables.
Each group suggests an appropriate name for the painting again, and the majority suggest The Vegetable Gardener because it is The Vegetable Gardener who grows vegetables in the vegetable garden.

During a plenary, pupils are asked to match the face parts of the picture with the vegetables or fruit used by Arcimboldo (worksheet 7)
Pupils’ answers are checked. In the last part of the lesson, pupils are asked to work in pairs to complete The Vegetable Gardener’s biographical fact sheet which will be presented to the class.

The collage

Arcimboldo Librarian Stokholm

 

The Art teacher helps pupils to work on chiaroscuro and collage techniques used by the artist. These techniques can then be employed to create strange portraits, transforming pupils into surreal artists!!

Download the worksheets

Download the solutions

Written by Anna Maria Crimi

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