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A Painter for Mother’s Day: Mary Cassatt Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-ARA0202

Source: School Library Media Activities Monthly, (6:9, May 1990)

Grade Levels: 4, 5


  • Arts/Visual Arts
  • Information Literacy

Library Media Skills Objectives:

The student will try a strategy for locating information using organizational tools of the library media center, i.e. card catalog, indeces, etc. The student will use art reference books to locate reproductions of art work by Mary Cassatt. The student will locate procedures for completion of a pastel art painting. Curriculum (subject area) Objectives: The activity may be included in an art unit on different mediums for drawing and painting, line in drawing, or in a social studies unit on holidays and mothers day for students in grades four and five.

Resources: Books and Resources:
Bolognese, Don. Charcoal and Pastel . Watts, 1986.
French Impressionists. Art Institute of Chicago, 1987.
History of Art for Young People. Abrams, 1987.
Mary Cassatt. Neues Publishing , 1990. (Calendar for 1990)
Master Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago. Little , 1988.
McKown, Robin. The World of Mary Cassatt . Crowell, 1972.
Myers, Elizabeth. Mary Cassatt: A Portrait . Reilly, 1971.
Rubinstein, Charlotte. American Women Artists . Avon, 1982.
Wilson, Ellen. American Painter in Paris: A Life of Mary Cassatt . Farrar, 1971.

Art Supplies:

Instructional roles:
Either the classroom teacher or art teacher may work with the library media specialist to complete the activity. The library media specialist may help students in the location of examples of the artist’s work and the art eacher may help students identify the techniques for reproducing examples of art works about mothers. The activity may take at least two sessions, one in the library media center and one with the art teacher.

Activitiy and Procedures for Completion:
The library media specialist may prepare a small display of one or two works by Mary Cassatt. The library media specialist may explain that the students are beginning the first stage of a project to learn about a new art technique. This stage involves research. The students are going to look for examples of art which show the art technique for using pastels in order to prepare a special mother’s day work. The students must find the artist and the an explanation of the technique before visiting the art teacher. The library media specialist may suggest a number of strategies for finding the examples of the artist’s work.

Sample Strategies:

  • Check the card catalog for books about Mary Cassatt and use the books to identify the paintings.
  • Check the card catalog for Painting or Painters and use the indexes of these books to search for examples of the artist’s work.
  • Check encyclopedias for the author’s name and look for examples of the artist’s work.
  • Check special reference books about art to use the index to find the artist and examples of her work.
  • Use information found in books and encyclopedias such as the idea that Cassatt was an American and an impressionist to look for modern or impressionistic art materials. After locating materials about these subjects, the indeces may be used to find examples for the artist’s work.
  • Check the card catalog, vertical file, picture file, or indeces to the library media center’s audiovisual collection to see if any prints or posters are available showing the artist’s work.
  • The library media specialist may suggest that students divide into groups by strategy. Each group may see how successful they are at identifying examples of the artist’s work. The items located should be recorded on a record keeping sheet. The second task may not be as difficult. In the same groups, the students may decide on a strategy for finding out about pastels. The library media specialist again may suggest some strategies for finding information about the strategy.

    Sample Strategies:

  • Use the card catalog to find materials about the art technique for using pastels. (Charcoal and Pastel)
  • Use the encyclopedia to find out about using pastels.
  • Use indeces of art reference books to find out about art techniques.
  • The students may look for materials and collect all in order to visit the art teacher. The library media specialist may explain that the students have completed part of the first step in their preparation before visiting the art teacher. Citations of materials may be recorded on a record keeping sheet. Several students may be responsible for taking the materials to the art teacher at the appropriate time. The second step of the research project is a visit to the art teacher. The art teacher may help students look at the reproductions which they have found. Students may be encouraged to look at line, texture, motion, shapes, and patterns. The works which were done using pastels may be pulled out for the students to compare and contrast.

    Examples of Pastels:
    A Kiss for Baby Anne
    The Banjo Lesson
    Helene de Septenil
    Baby’s First Caress

    The art teacher may discuss the painting and ask questions which wil lead students to talk about the themes of the paintings. The art teacher may explain that the themes are similar and the medium is the same. The students may then be asked to look at the line, texture, shapes, and colors that they see. The students also may be asked to identify what they think a pastel is. The art teacher may then introduce them to the medium.

    Pastel _ a dry drawing medium, finger-like sticks made of powdered pigments The art teacher may show students how to get certain effects using the medium by applying the pastels linearly or in short strokes. The students may also be shown how to rub, smear, and blend to get different effects. The students may then discuss how they might use the technique to prepare their own version of a mother and child. Work may be displayed with the works of Cassatt in the library media center.

    Evaluation: The student will successfully locate reproductions of pastel works by Mary Cassatt and will find the methods for using pastels in order to make their own illustrations on the same theme of Mary Cassatt’s, i.e. mothers and child.

    Follow-Up: The student may:

    • Identify reproductions of works using other techniques such as oil on canvas, drypoint and aquatint, etc.
    • Find other paintings about mothers and children in order to compare the treatment and the medium used.

    These integrated lesson plans and suggestions for teaching library and information skills in connection with various classroom subject areas are provided by LMS Associates and were originally published in School Library Media Activities Monthly. Lessons may be used for the non-commercial purpose of education. All materials are held in copyright by LMS Associates for the magazine, School Library Media Activities Monthly. For more information, contact, LMS Associates; 17 E. Henrietta Street; Baltimore, MD 21230 410-685-8621.