Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2), Upper Elementary (3–5), Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science, Science, Mathematics
Time Required: Single Class Lesson
1 to 1 1/2 hours
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff
Step 1: Select a theme
Why have a theme?
- It focuses your preparation by helping you make choices about content and structure.
- It helps students consider how works of art are related.
- It helps students connect new experience to their own lives.
- It focuses the tour experience and keeps you and your students on task.
Qualities of a good theme:
- It's accessible and interesting to the students, the chaperones, and you.
- It can connect to students' past experiences.
Examples of themes
Use the Image Bank pages, linked from the Materials section, above, to find images mentioned here, which are appropriate for teaching each of these themes.
Stories in Art—Ancient Stories (Trojan War, The Odyssey, Ovid's Metamorphoses), Love Stories (Venus and Adonis, Telemachus and Eucharis), Stories from Mythology (Leda and the Swan, Medusa), Stories from the Bible (Noah's Ark, Joseph and Potiphar's Wife)
People—Portraits, daily life, children, families, mythological gods and heroes (Hercules, Achilles), people from history (Mary Seacole, Louis XIV)
Creatures—Insects, pets, dragons, griffins, sirens
Nature—Landscape, weather, plants, habitats
Architecture & Interiors—Buildings, cities, and rooms
History & Culture—The Italian Renaissance, 17th-century Holland, the French Revolution
Elements of Art—color, line, shape, texture, form
Art Making—Sculpture, vase painting, drawing, mosaics, photography, manuscripts, glass
Step 2: Pick galleries or artworks.
1. Pick a limited number of galleries or artworks for students to visit during a 1 or 1 1/2 hour period. Use the Itinerary Sheet to schedule different chaperoned groups of students. Different groups should not be in the same gallery at the same time.
2. Get inspired by different works of art by using the "Subjects: Browse by theme or topic" feature in the Getty Museum's online collections: Explore Art. Be sure the artworks you wish to view are on display; objects are sometimes removed to be repaired or go on loan to other museums. Suggested works of art are available in themed image banks—follow links in the Materials section above.
3. Choose works of art from different parts of the collection. For example, you can explore the theme of animals by looking at paintings, photographs, decorative arts, and sculpture. Consider using the architecture and gardens in addition to works of art in the galleries.
4. Gather your chosen works of art using Getty Bookmarks. Using this tool, you can save works of art for reference, and print out an itinerary listed by location.
Step 3: Plan activities.
Students should do one activity in each gallery, or with each work of art, with their teacher or chaperone.
- Vary the format at each stop and ask students to work alone, in pairs, or as a group.
- Challenge students with different types of activities at each artwork. Ask students to:
- do creative, critical, or analytical writing.
- sketch from an artwork, looking carefully at the details.
- work in pairs to compare artworks, noting their similarities and differences.
- divide into two groups and hold a debate (for example: each side looks at a painting and takes a position based on visual evidence).
- Find more activities that you can use for various grade levels in our Self-Guided Visit Activities pages:
Getty Center Self-Guided Visit Activities for Grades K–5
Getty Center Self-Guided Visit Activities for Grades 6–8
Getty Center Self-Guided Visit Activities for Grades 9–12
- Create a packet for your students and chaperones. Include the following:
- Itinerary with stops and times (see Itinerary Sheet in Materials section above)
- Getty Bookmarks itinerary map
- A Map of the Getty Center
- One copy of each worksheet
- Instructions for Chaperones for each activity
Assess your students' work based on the activities you develop and the specific learning objectives you have for those activities.