Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?

Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling? lesson plan

Who is she and why is she smiling? Delve into this art question as students paint their interpretation of the Mona Lisa.

  • 1.

    Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of the most well know paintings in the world. It has also been the source of many interpretations as to who is in the portrait and what the mysterious smile on her face represents. The painting has been stolen and recovered, admired and debated. Encourage a discussion with the class. What are their interpretations of this art icon? Think of serious or whimsical; classical or modern responses. Be creative.

  • 2.

    Ask each student to come up with their own reason for the famous smile. What happened before the portrait? Where was she headed after it was complete?

  • 3.

    Use a colored pencil to sketch the Mona Lisa on a piece of construction paper. Add props in her hands and add details in the background to help illustrate why the mysterious smile is there.

  • 4.

    Paint the portrait with Crayola® Washable Kid’s Paints. Use a variety of techniques to create the masterpiece. Vary the painted lines width by pressing down harder during the middle of a brush stroke to create a "thick and thin" effect. Try a hard-edge style of painting by using a flat watercolor brush loaded with paint to create even strokes and to build up an even bead (thick edge) around the color. To keep colors from blending, allow an area to dry before applying wet paint to adjacent areas.

Standards

  • LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  • LA: Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
  • LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
  • LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
  • SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.
  • SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.
  • SS: Identify and describe ways family, groups, and community influence the individual's daily life and personal choices.
  • VA: Select media, techniques, an processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.
  • VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.
  • VA: Analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry.

Adaptations

  • Possible classroom resources include: Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas by Janis Herbert; DK Eyewitness Books: Da Vinci And His Times by Andrew Langley; Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd
  • There are many stories, or theories, about the Mona Lisa. Encourage students to write a journal entry to accompany the display of their paintings. The individual student will take on the persona of the Mona Lise on the day the painting was created.
  • Challenge students to research Leonardo da Vinci apart from his work as a painter. What else is this Renaissance man known for?
  • Take a virtual tour of the Louvre in Paris, France, where the Mona Lisa is currently housed. What other famous works of art are housed there? Who are the painters behind the paintings? How do their works compare to that of Leonardo da Vinci?