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Lesson Plan | Red Grooms: Short Stories – MMoCA


Blewy II, 1971, offset lithograph


Visual Art, Language Arts, Social Studies


Jeanell Dailey

Essential Questions

Using their schema of urban life and observing a painting of a city scene, can students better understand the complexities of urban living?

Grade Level

3rd–5th grades


Students will make careful observations and make inferences about the people in the painting based on their prior knowledge of living in a large city. Students will write a short story with dialogue the people could be saying before and/or after the illustrated action/event and share it with classmates. Students will use adjectives and adverbs to describe the actions in the picture. Students will listen and make predictions of who the story is about.


Students will observe the actions in the painting, Blewy II, and write a short story with dialogue for the people in the city scene.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the people doing in the picture?
  2. Who might they be?
  3. How do you think they are feeling about the rainy weather?
  4. Are they prepared for the rain?
  5. Where are they going to, or coming from?


Tell students that we are going to be using a work of art by Red Grooms to help us understand what it would be like to live in a big city on a rainy day. They will need to make careful observations of the people in the painting and think about what it would be like to be one of those people. Then they will write a short story including dialogue for what that person could be saying or thinking before and after the action/event in the painting has happened.

Before seeing the painting:

  1. Ask students if they have ever been to a big city. Ask them to name some of the cities they have been to or seen pictures of. Ask students to visualize how it would look, feel, sound, smell, and taste to be downtown in a big city on a rainy day.
  2. On chart paper, make a word web with “city” in the middle. Ask students for words to describe a rainy day in a big city and record the words around the web using red to record words that are adjectives and blue for adverbs. When completed, ask students if they know what kind of words are written in red and which ones are written in blue.  If needed, remind students that adjectives describe nouns and adverbs describe verbs.
  3. Show students the painting, Blewy II. Ask students if they have more describing words to add to the city web and add them with appropriate colors.
  4. Ask students to share with a partner the different actions or events that they see going on in the painting.
  5. On new chart paper, make a numbered list of all the actions/events taking place in the painting, for examples, a man sitting on curb, hot dogs flying off the cart, people making umbrellas in the umbrella factory. Students should be able to find at least twelve different actions.
  6. Tell students that they will be working with a partner to make a short script or story about one of the actions/events from the list. Pairing can be student choice or teacher choice, but at least one student should be fluent in handwriting.
  7. Secretly assign or allow students to choose actions/events, no more than two partnerships per action/event.
  8. Ask students to spread out (but still have the painting accessible for closer viewing) and tell them they’ll have five to ten minutes to discuss what it would be like to be the person in the painting using these possible guiding questions:

What are they doing in the picture? Who are they? How are they feeling about the rainy weather? Are they prepared for the rain? Where are they going to or coming from?

Tell students they’ll have twenty to thirty minutes to write a short story about the person in their part of the painting. They need to include:

  • something the person is saying or thinking both before and after the action takes place
  • clues about the person (without specifically saying what the action is)
  • adjectives and adverbs from the web

Tell them that, when everyone is finished, they will read their short story to the class and see if their classmates can guess who they wrote about.

  1. Have partnerships take turns reading their stories, emphasizing using appropriate expression, particularly when reading the parts with dialogue. After each partnership shares their story, have the other students make predictions of who in the painting it is about.  Refer back to the painting and ask students to provide feedback based on what they have seen and heard.  If two partnerships have the same action/event, ask them to read consecutively and, after student predictions are made, discuss the similarities and differences between the stories.
  2. In closing, ask students how this activity helped them to appreciate or understand the painting better and/or urban life better.


Chart paper, markers (black, red, blue), writing paper, pencils


Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3, W.5.4, W.5.5, W.5.10 / CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.5.1, SL.5.2, SL.5.3 / CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.5.1

Wisconsin State Standards

Art and Design: A.4.2, A.4.6 / B.4.3, B.4.4, B.4.6

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